P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Power Crisis: The two sides
Level at Pong dam lowest in 10 years
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 27
With the state experiencing power cuts coming months may face more more crisis. Water level at two major projects of region, the Bhakra Dam and Pong Dam, is considerably low.

The water level at the Pong Dam on the Beas has been the lowest in the 10 years at this time of the year. As per data collected by the BBMB, the organisation managing the projects, the water level at the Pong Dam yesterday was 1,314 feet. This is the lowest water level recorded at the dam in the 10 years on December 25. The inflows into the dam are also low. The inflows in the dam yesterday were just 2,166 cusecs. In the 10 years only in 2000 the water level at the Pong Dam dipped to 1,318.8 feet at this time of the year. The authorities of the BBMB blame the low water level at Pong Dam to less rain in monsoon and early winter.

The inflows into the Pong Dam are mostly dependent on monsoon in the catchment areas of the Beas.

At Bhakra the water level yesterday was 1,617 feet. It is 22 feet less than last year’s water level of 1,638.85 feet recorded on the same day. The water level at Bhakra this year among the lowest levels recorded in the10 years at this time of the year.

The inflows at Bhakra also continue to be low at 3,861 cusecs against the last year inflows of 4,456 cusecs at this time of the year.

Due to low levels the hydro projects are not in a position to bail out the state from power project. The power is being generated from the project only due to minimum water discharges from the dams. Yesterday the total generation from the said projects was just 227.27 lakh units that is 10 per cent of the total installed capacity.

Due to concern by member, finance, of the PSEB and other bureaucrats in the Department of Power the board has not been able to enter into agreements for power purchase with other states in advance this year. The member, finance, of the PSEB had maintained power from other states was costing Rs 6 per unit. Purchase of power at such high price was driving the PSEB into financial mess.

However, the engineers ridiculed the claims of the member finance. They maintained the power from other states if purchased in time costs just Rs 3 per unit on an average.

Since the state is deficit in power purchase of power from other states is the only viable option available to save people from power cuts, they maintain.

This year since the state failed to enter into power purchase agreements in advance the residents are being forced to face power cuts in lean periods. To add to it low water levels at dams would only add to power problems of the state.


PSEB likely to get more power
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 27
The existing grim power scene in Punjab may get better at the very outset of summer or in the next four months as the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) is expected to enhance its power generation capacity by nearly 500 MWs by then.

As part of its power generation enhancement drive, the PSEB is making all-out efforts to add two more units at the Lehra Mohabbat-based Guru Hargobind Thermal Power Plant.

Each of the two existing units of the thermal plant at Lehra Mohabbat generates 210 MWs while the state’s total power shortfall was estimated to be around 600 MWs. With the addition of two new units the total power output from the Lehra Mohabbat plant would come to be around 920 MWs as the two new units would be contributing roughly about 500 MWs to the existing capacity of 420 MWs.

The PSEB has already conducted a dry run for the commissioning of one of the two units and excercises such as steam blowout of the steam pipes was completed on December 15. “One of the two units or stage III is expected to be commissioned by January-end while the fourth unit would be made operational by April-end,” said PSEB chairman Y.S. Ratra.

With addition of the two units the shortfall of power supply was likely to get reduced to just about 100 MWs in place of the existing 600 MWs, board officials said.

In fact, the unit was scheduled to be recommissioned on December 28 but the re-commissioning was preponed by 14 days due to advance planning and hardwork put in by a team of engineers. The reduction in the maintenance period would contribute 50 lakh units to the grid everyday.


Advance Power Bill
CM to meet panel chief
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 27
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today laid the foundation stone of a diwan hall at Gajewas village near Samana. He also inaugurated a hospital set up with the efforts of Baba Hardev Singh at Namadaan village.

“Expansion of the existing airports at Bathinda, Adampur and Sahnewal is on the cards. Moreover, all states have given their nod for the proposed Guru Gobind Singh Marg, linking Anandpur Sahib and Nanded. The Centre has agreed to provide an amount of Rs 200 crore for the development of Talwandi Sabo and Anandpur Sahib,” he said.

Referring to the advance power bill issue, the Chief Minister said though it was a decision of the Electricity Regulatory Commission, the state government was trying to sort it out. “I am going to talk to the commission chairman shortly,” said Badal, who was accompanied by former SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar, MLA Surjit Singh Rakhra, Commissioner, Patiala division, S.K. Ahluwalia, deputy commissioner D. S. Grewal and some senior Akali leaders.


Trials, changing political equations may dominate 2008
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Though the unsavory debate on politics of vendetta versus corruption by people in high places may continue unabated for years to come, some of the ongoing cases against a former Chief Minister and the present incumbent and a possible future leader of Punjab Vidhan Sabha may head for final adjudication in 2008.

Besides the trials in corruption cases, New Year promises major political fireworks and upheavals in Punjab besides putting all parties in active mode for the next general elections.

  • Trial of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Parkash Singh Badal, Amarinder Singh in corruption cases will continue in 2008
  • Sukhbir Singh Badal may be elevated and declared president of the SAD on January 12 (Maghi Mela)
  • Panchayat elections in February/March will be first major test of strength for Akalis
  • The BJP will continue to be a hard bargainer

Another issue in which developments will be watched with tremendous interest not only in Punjab but elsewhere also will be elevation of Sukhbir Singh Badal, working president of the SAD. Speculations about his succeeding his illustrious father midway during the current Assembly term notwithstanding, he may step in his fathers' shoes as the full-fledged president of the party on Maghi in New Year.

As of now, cases against former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and the present Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, are either in final stages of adjudication or are awaiting judicial promulgation. Also awaiting acquittal is Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Beginning next year, the trials of Capt Amarinder Singh will start in the infamous Ludhiana City Centre scam.

Though the Amarinder Singh government before, bowing out of office, had moved a petition to seek withdrawal of a case against the then Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the court is yet to pass its final order.

Evidence in corruption case against Parkash Singh Badal and his family may close in a couple of month's time to pave way for the final verdict. Once the case is decided, many who were named as accomplices of Badals and had gone underground, are likely to surface.

The SAD-BJP regime would have an uphill task on hands with the general elections due by the end of 2008 or in early 2009. Besides accelerating infrastructure development and growth in various areas, including education and health care, the alliance will have plethora of challenges on its hands to cater to different sections of society.

The economic growth and fiscal health of the state would be areas of focus where the alliance partners have to look beyond their strongholds among rural and urban voters to plan projects for improving civic amenities and living standards in the state.

Though the BJP would continue to demand a major say in all major political decisions in its run for the general elections, it may also bargain for more seats than it holds in the Lok Sabha now.

The SAD will have its major test of strength in the panchayat elections that it intends to hold immediately before Budget session in February or March. Though decentralisation and giving more powers to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) was high on the manifesto of the party, a little has been done to improve either fiscal health of the Panchayats or launch new projects for rural development.

Chances of subsidies gradually paving way for other incentives, including quality supply of farm inputs, increased focus on incentive-laced diversification plans and overall infrastructure development to attract investors, both in manufacturing sector as well as agro-processing, may be new thrust areas for the SAD-BJP government to focus on in the New Year.


Punjab not to give airport land for free
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
The Punjab has a 49 per cent equity in the international airport for which an MoU will be signed by the state government with the Airports Authority of India on January 4.

The state government is not giving the land to the Airport Authority of India for free to set up the airport, it is lernt.

There is a purpose behind signing the MoU on January 4 by the Badal government. On January 5, the NRI conference, which is being hosted by the Punjab government, will begin here. Clearly, the Punjab government wants to send a message to the NRIs that it is doing something for them.

For the NRIs, belonging to this region, the news of the international airport will be worth celebrating. The international airport will be among the most modern airports in the world, sources said.

The sources said as the land would be provided by the Punjab government for the airport, it would be taken as capital to make the state equity holder in this project. The state government is keen to acquire about 300 acres for the airport adjacent to existing Chandigarh airport. To acquire the land, the state government will have to spend about Rs 600 crore. Earlier, the land used to be provided free of cost by the state government, it is learnt.

The government has plans to set up another airport near Machiwara.

The sources said the international airport would be linked with four laned roads from Zirakpur side and also from the Tribune chowk side.

Not only Punjab, but people of Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, the Ambala-Karnal region of Haryana will be benefited by the project.


Textile mill fined Rs 2.28 cr
Tribune News Service

Kharar, December 27
The local market committee has slapped a penalty of Rs 2.28 crore on a Kharar textile mill on charges of evasion of market fee and rural development fund (RDF).

Secretary, market committee, Kharar, Gurmohan Singh said Kharar Textile Mill had purchased cotton bales worth about Rs 30.10 crore from 1995 to 2006. However, it did not pay market fee or RDF to government on this. This amounted to an evasion of market fee worth Rs 60,20,049. For evading market fee, 100 per cent penalty had also been imposed on the it.

The company officials had also evaded RDF worth Rs 97,93,394, the demand note for which had been issued by the committee.

From the record provided by the company it was calculated that 13,281 cotton bales worth Rs 11.44 crore were purchased from within Punjab and 20,808 bales worth Rs 17.68 crore from outside the state. The company officials had been maintaining that they were not liable to pay market fee for cotton purchased from other states. Moreover, they had also maintained that they had paid the fee to institutional buyers.

However, Gurmohan said the market fee was state tax and company was liable to pay it even if cotton was purchased from other states.

He also said the mill officials were not providing the records of purchase despite repeated reminders to them.

The Kharar textile mill owners had been directed to pay the penalty amount by January 15, after which recovery proceedings would be started against them. They are however, free to file appeal with secretary, mandi board.

The general manager of the company was not available for comments despite repeated attempts.


Ludhiana Acid Attack
Victim may never see again
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 27
He was nurturing a dream of marrying her. When she got engaged to somebody else, he thought of a sinister idea of throwing acid on her back so that her alliance was broken and her way to marry her was cleared.

But 37-year-old Gurcharan Singh’s sinister design turned gory when the acid thrown on 24-year-old Ritu Bhandari fell on her face and chest last evening.

Ritu is struggling for her life at te local CMC hospital and may not be able to see ever again as the doctors attending to her have stated that her eyes got burnt by the acid.

This innocent nurse works at Sant Clinic, Sekhewal. Gurcharan was arrested today.

Ritu, who has sustained severe burns on her face, eyes and chest, has not been able to give any statement to the police so far.

The police has registered a case against Gurcharan and his 17-year-old accomplice, Sahil, both residents of Gagandeep Colony on Sekhewal Road under Sections 307 and 326 of the IPC on a statement of victim's father Ashok Bhandari, a resident of Sekhewal Road.

Gurcharan had lives alone in Gagandeep Colony and works as a cutter master at a hosiery unit. Addressing media here today, DSP P.S. Pannu and SHO, Basti Jodhewal, Gurbans Singh Bains said Gurcharan had been following the girl for the past many months. Her father had got her engaged to somebody and she was to get married on January 18.

Gurcharan hatched a plot. He lured Sahil, his neighbour and plus two student, with a Rs-10,000 reward to throw acid on the girl.

Pannu said before carrying out the attack, they studied effects of various acids and finally bought sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid and acetic acid. They mixed these to enhance the burn effect.

The duo, carrying the mixture, had been following Ritu for the past many days on their motor cycle bearing a fake number plate. Yesterday, her father got late to pick her up and the duo got the chance. As she was walking down to her house, both came close to her and threw acid on her face. Ritu’s father saw them from a distance and identified them this morning. Both accused were arrested on Tibba Road.


Rebel alleges threat from SAD leaders
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 27
Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala and his son Amarpal Boney, SAD MP and MLA from Ajnala, respectively, were allegedly involved in felling of poplar trees on 20 acres cultivated by his son and the police has failed to take any action against them.

Stating this here today, rebel Akali leader Mohan Singh Matiya, president of the SAD (1920) (Rural), added that the SHO and the DSP of Ajnala had failed to comply with the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court giving the decision in his son’s favour to sow/harvest crops on the land. Matiya said on December 22, certain persons came to their fields and got poplar trees worth Rs 2.5 lakh felled. He complained to the police and also showed them the truck laden with poplar sleepers, but instead of taking any action against the leaders, the two police officers let the truck go, he alleged.

Fearing threat to his family, he alleged that false cases were being registered against them by the police on behalf of the SAD leaders.

Meanwhile, Amarpal did not respond to the calls made by this reporter. However, SSP Iqbal Singh said he had marked the enquiry to the DSP concerned. He would be able to take action against the guilty police officials only after the receipt of the report.


Ludhiana Metro unlikely to see light of the day
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
The proposed Rs 4,000-crore Ludhiana Metro Project will be unviable and require an annual subsidy of at least Rs 500 crore unless it is supported by a self-supporting revenue generating infrastructure. Stating this on the floor of the House, Congress legislator Jassi Khangura said the government was going ahead with the project without studying the viability of the project thereby threatening the already precarious fiscal health of the state.

Khangura, who was making his maiden speech in the House, said this while initiating a debate on the Punjab Infrastructure (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2007, on the concluding day of the winter session. He said being a legislator from Ludhiana District (Qila Raipur) he had studied of Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) in 172 cities across the world after the government announced the project. He learnt that only four cities namely Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo had metros that were making profits, all remaining metros, including those in cities like London and New York, required a subsidy to run.

He said the project was merely an eyewash for the public as no private company would be able to pump in Rs 4,000 crore and get 14 per cent returns on the investment that amounts to about Rs 1 crore per week. “Will the government assure the private enterprise that it would give an annual subsidy of Rs 560 crore for running the metro? With its present state of financial health will the government be able to afford the subsidy”, he questioned.

Making his point, Khangura said, “ While developing the infrastructure in Punjab we must keep in mind that private companies will come here willingly only if they are sure of making profits”. He brought to the notice of the House that the Punjab Industrial Development Board (PIDB) was making small accumulations through imposition of levies. But the Punjab Roads and Bridges Development Board (PRBDB) that had accumulated Rs 800 crore by floating bonds would soon face a serious financial problem as this money had been spent and with no income the government would have to generate this money to pay back the bond that were maturing soon.

He further said with the commissioning of small power projects, proposed by the government, the losses of the Punjab State Electricity Board would increase as the government was signing Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) that bind the power producers to sell to the PSEB.

“The agreement should have been that the power generation companies would sell to PSEB if the board can afford to buy power”, he pointed out. The PSEB was already suffering huge loses would be in a further mess unless structural improvements were brought in there, he told the House.

Though many legislators on the treasury benches tried to make fun of Khangura’s British accent, he was the only legislator whose talk made sense to finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal for which Badal not only thanked Khangura, but also acknowledged the seriousness in his talk for safeguarding the financial interests of the state. “I thank him for his valuable suggestions and appreciate his perception on the financial and developmental issues that are so clear”.

Public-Private Partnership Projects
Plan panel guidelines to Punjab
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 27
The Planning Commission has issued guidelines to Punjab for the implementation of the public-private partnership (PPP) projects in the state.

The commission secretariat has written to the Punjab Chief Secretary that the Planning Commission has added PPP projects in its already existing facility that assists in project preparation. The “Planning Commission’s project preparation facility (PCPPF)” provides grants to finance the cost of engaging professional consultants for the preparation of detailed project reports, specifically for projects proposed to be funded from external and institutional sources.

Pointing out that the existing deficiency in infrastructure services and rising demand for additional services to support the projected growth rate in the GDP have been recognised as critical areas to be addressed during the 11th Five-Year Plan, the commission secretariat conceded the requirement of private capital in public infrastructure projects.

“The investment requirements in infrastructure sectors are very large and require a significant flow of private capital through PPP,” states the secretariat’s memorandum to the state.

Keeping in view the need to attract investment in infrastructure sectors through PPP, the commission has decided to include such projects for grants-in-aid by the commission.

The sectors eligible for technical assistance under this scheme would include all the PPP projects undertaken for the development of roads, bridges, railways, seaports, airports and inland waterways. Other than these, PPP projects can be undertaken in the power sector, urban transport, water supply, sewerage, solid waste management and other physical infrastructure in urban areas.

The scheme also applied to PPP infrastructural projects in special economic zones, international convention centre and other tourism infrastructure projects.

Health sector project authorities, educational and institutional authorities, including schools and colleges and training institutions, are also eligible to apply for this assistance.

The commission would provide up to Rs 25 lakh per project to the project authority that needs technical assistance for deploying professional consultants for the formulation and award of PPP projects.

All projects authorities are eligible for assistance under this scheme and assistance would be provided grants for technical assistance. This assistance could be in the form of engaging technical, financial or legal experts and consultancy firms.

The commission has, however, laid down strict eligibility criteria for a project authority for assistance under this scheme. In order to be eligible for assistance under this scheme, the PPP project would be implemented that is financed, constructed, maintained and operated by a private sector company to be selected by the project authority through a process of open competitive bidding.

The Planning Commission would also choose the consultants for the projects, which receive assistance under this scheme and also monitor the preparation of the reports.


‘Door Kinare’ highlights illegal migrants’ plight
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Ahead of the non- resident Indian (NRI) meet being organised by the Punjab government in the beginning of January 2008, two Congress legislators have highlighted the plight of thousands of illegal Punjabi migrants through a film “Door Kinare” (Shores far away), alleging the Punjab government had done precious little for thousands illegal Punjabis overseas.

Qila Raipur legislator Jassi Khangura and Nishan Singhwala legislator Ajit Singh Shant who were invited by the British government to participate in two seminars on illegal migration in the UK at Birmingham and in London said the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates one in three international migrant is from India. A majority of these are from Punjab, Khangura said adding Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal accepts this to be a critical issue but took no action to help the migrants so far.

Khangura said illegal migration had very serious security ramifications as Pakistan’s ISI agents were finding easy recruits among illegal immigrants stuck on foreign shores and needed help to return to their country or move ahead to the promised countries.

After a joint screening of the film by Savyasaachi Jain that highlights plight of illegal Punjabi migrants in Europe, the two legislators said whilst the Punjab government was getting ready to spend crores on wining and dining a handful of legal privileged NRIs at Chandigarh and Jalandhar next month, the government had forgotten the illegal Punjabis overseas, who needed help of the government. This they said included an estimated 15,000 in prison, of which 1500 alone suffer in the harshest conditions possible in Kiev, Ukraine.


Govt releases list of holidays
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Besides all Saturdays and Sundays, the schedule of holidays released by the government says public offices will remain closed for Sri Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday (January 5); Republic Day (January26); Basant Panchmi and Satguru Ram Singh’s birthday (February 11); Sri Guru Ravidas’s birthday (February 21); Maha Shivaratri (March 6); Good Friday (March 21); Holi (March 22); Shahidi Divas of Bhagat Singh (March 23); Baisakhi, Ram Navami and Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s birthday (April 14) and Mahavir Jayanti (April 18).

The May Day holiday will be observed on May 1; Parshuram Jayanti (May 8); Guru Arjun Dev 's martyrdom day (June 16); Kabir Jayanti (June 18); Shahid Udham Singh’s martyrdom day (July 31); Independence Day (August 15), Janamashtami (August 24); Baba Sri Chand’s birthday (September 9) and Agarsain Jayanti (September 30).

The Mahatma Gandhi's birthday and Id-ul-Fitr (October 2); Dussehra (October 9), Maharishi Valmiki’s birthday (October 14), Diwali (October 28), Vishwakarma day (October 29), Guru Nanak Dev's birthday (November 13); Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom day (November 24); Id-ul-Zuha (Bakrid) (December 9) and Christmas (December 25).

Apart from this, the government has released a list of 18 restricted holidays from which an employee can choose any two days to take restricted holidays.


Dalbir gets award posthumously
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Bharat Sahit Akademi has selected a novel translated by late deputy editor of Punjabi Tribune Dalbir Singh for the Sahit Akademi Award in the translation category. He had translated the book authored by Narender Yadav.

Its title in Punjbi is “Damu Achut and Uhdi Aulad da Jeevanama”. Dalbir Singh, who passed away a few months ago, had a command over Punjabi language. His all translated works are known for linguistic flow. He had translated around 12 books. He was also selected by the Punjab Languages Department for Sharomani Patarkar Award in 2005.


Centre buys Adarsh School concept
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Though the Congress, main opposition party in the state, has ridiculed the Badal government for its concept of “Adarsh School” in Punjab, the union government, led by Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has decided to set up such schools in each of 6,000 blocks in the country.

The union government has already released the first instalment of Rs 75 crore to the Punjab government for the scheme.

Sources said the union government had not named it as Adarsh Schools as such. However, it would follow the Punjab government pattern to set up these schools. Earlier, the union government had launched the Navodaya Vidayalya scheme across the country that has not proved so successful.

The sources said Badal had urged the Prime Minister and the Planning Commission authorities that instead of one school at least two such schools should be set up in each block of the country to provide opportunity to bright students from the countryside to get quality education at affordable fee.

Punjab and Andhra Pradesh were the two states to launch the scheme. Andhra Pradesh has named schools under the scheme as residential public schools and these are being opened with the help of industrialists in a public-private partnership.

Recently, the head of the famed Doon School at had sent a copy of the model adopted by the Andhra Pradesh government to finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Manpreet is a former student of that school.

The sources said the Punjab government had got Rs 75 crore for the current financial year to set up Adarsh Schools. With this amount, around 25 schools would set up. Each year, this much of grant would be given to the state government by the Centre till the end of the 11th Five Year Plan, it is learnt.

“We have already released Rs 75 crore to the state education department to open such schools. Besides, Rs 12 crore had been released for setting up similar schools on a priority basis in border areas.

The Punjab government has three models under the scheme. Already, nine such schools are being run by the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). And some of these schools will be set up in public-private partnership for which industrialists had been approached. And thirdly, the state education department will also set up these schools where industrialists participation is not possible, it is learnt. Each of the blocks in the state will have at least one such school.

And most of these schools will be set up close to urban areas, it is learnt. Besides, the state government has also decided to upgrade three existing government schools in each of the Assembly segments. The government would provide funds to upgrade infrastructure in these schools.


Seminars: Teachers may get compensatory leave
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Teachers attending seminars under the Sarav Sikhiya Abhiyan during vacations will be considered for a compensatory leave with effect from this year.

A spokesman for the government today clarified that a decision, in principle, had been taken to this effect and necessary procedural formalities would be completed at the earliest.

President of the Panchyati Raj Elementary Teachers Union Nirbhai Singh Mallowal today met the representatives of the government in this connection. An assurance to this effect was given to him on behalf of the government, the spokesman said.


Woman travel agent in police net
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
To save herself from police clutches, a fake travel agent found a novel way by filing a complaint against her victims to the additional-director general of police.

However, her plans fell flat after an inquiry conducted by the DSP, Amritsar rural, found her guilty.

Harcharanjit Kaur, the travel agent, had alleged that she had borrowed Rs 1.50 lakh to Nazar Singh of Dhardeo village. Later, he refused to return the amount.

The DSP found that in fact it was Harcharanjit and her husband Kashmir Singh who had taken Rs 3 lakh from Nazar to send her son to Australia in 2000 and 2002. However, instead of sending him Australia, they sent him to Indonesia illegally from where he was deported back to India.

The couple returned Rs 1.25 lakh but failed to give back the remaining amount.


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