P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Enhance retirement age to 60, assn to govt
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
There is resentment among Punjab government employees over the delay in the enhancement of retirement age from 58 to 60 years.

The Excise and Taxation Officers Association, Punjab, and many other associations have written to the Chief Minister and finance minister, drawing their attention to the fact that though the national Pay Commission had finalised its recommendations, Punjab was yet to finalise the terms of reference of the state pay commission.

Balkaur Singh Gill, president of the association, has demanded that “either the state government should fix the terms of reference of the commission or it should enhance the retirement age to 60”. Contrary to the belief that enhancement of age will lead to extra financial burden on the government, the association has said the enhancement of the age will save the government several crores of rupees spent in training of new recruits.

A senior member of the association, O.P. Verma, has said the Central government took a decision on this in 1999, followed by Rajasthan, which also enhanced the retirement age to 60 in 2003.

The Uttar Pradesh government has gone a step further and put the retirement age of teachers at 62. But the Punjab government is yet to take any decision in this regard, he added.

The association has pointed out that all Central government employees retire at 60, but all Punjab government employees retire at 58. Only the Class IV employees of the state government retire at 60.

A high powered committee constituted under principal secretary B.R. Bajaj had also recommended the enhancement of age by two years.


CM asks Revenue Dept to clear backlog of cases
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday announced that the state Revenue Department would soon organise mutation fairs (intkaal melas) at all block and district headquarters to clear the entire backlog of pending mutation cases by January.

Badal said the state government was seriously contemplating bestowing ownership rights on agricultural tenants who had turned government's barren land into fertile tracts near river banks in the state.

This entire process would be completed after due verification of the tenants at the earliest. The Chief Minister also said all farmers would be issued pass books of land records to enable them to update their revenue record whenever they do any transaction pertaining to sale or purchase of land.

Addressing a seminar on the issues relating to revenue, power and irrigation organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union here at the Kisan Bhawan, he directed revenue minister Ajit Singh Kohar to issue a circular to all deputy commissioners stipulating guidelines to dispose of pending mutation cases in a time-bound manner.

Badal pointed out that the state government had opened skill development centres in every block for the rural youth.

To lessen the burden of debt on farmers, Badal said the state government had introduced a novel scheme for providing soft loans with a subsidy component of 30 per cent to assist them for buying tractors and other agricultural equipment.

President and general secretary, BKU, Balbir Singh Rajewal and Onkar Singh Agol, respectively, and Bikram Singh Virk read the papers at the seminar.


Looking Ahead — 2008
New police Act: Will it help change colonial mindset?
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Armed with new police Act — the change coming after 147 years — the Punjab Police will have its hands full in 2008.

New rules and regulations to be framed will govern the police and may be the cops get more powers.

Implications of the new Act notwithstanding, the Punjab Police needs to be “educated” people are not be cane-charged like stray cattle while the allegations of “political vendetta” synonymous with police functioning in a few years need to be ruled out.

That Punjab cops have been ‘mis-used’ to settle “political scores” by the Congress and also the SAD-BJP combine, is a stark reality. In the year ahead, the new Act will provide for fixed tenures.

This, in a way, promises immunity from political interference in deciding postings and transfers. The top brass faces a challenge in educating the men in the field that they have to act independently and not as representatives of the ruling party of the day.

To make a good start, the police chief can very well order action against the cops acting on “secret information” and registering false cases against people. In some cases an inquiry has already proved the complicity of SHO-level officials.

The trust of people has to be earned and for this the habit of “taking sides” at the behest of the powerful or the politically connected, has to be curbed.

The police Act will provide for separate intelligence cadre rather than deploying men from the existing force.

The law and order wing and investigation wing will be separated so that citizens can hope for better conviction rates. The Act provides for posting SHO-level officers who have “clean record”.

And the forthcoming year could see the ones having bad record removed from posts. The immediate focus of the police needs to be on traffic management and vehicular movement. More people die in accidents than in murders.

More than 3,000 people die annually in road accidents in the state while murders average out to about 900-1,200 a year. Traffic management remains archaic despite increasing number of cars on the roads.

It seems routine “traffic awareness camps” have not helped. The police needs to crack down on drink-driving, especially on the highways.

The time has come to make a start to instill fear of stringent action among traffic violators - people who overspeed, drive around recklessly and drive after a few drinks.

Police modernisation is an issue on which Punjab has lagged behind other states. The government of India provides matching grants.

Punjab has not been able to match up and the plans remain on paper. On the positive side computersiation of police stations under the POLNET scheme has started.

Administratively, the police needs to send more officers on central deputation. It needs to sort out issues like promotion of PPS officers to the IPS and also posting of IPS officers against cadre posts. Both matters are causing heartburning at the middle level of the officialdom.


Pak crisis casts shadow over Ahmadiyya meeting
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Qadian, December 29
A thin gathering at the 116th annual Ahmadiyya congregation here today was perhaps due to the emergency-like situation in Pakistan after the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Over 2,000 members of the Ahmadiyya community failed to join the congregation. According to Ahmadiyya leaders, the Indian government had issued visas to over 7,000 delegates from Pakistan to attend the congregation at Qadian, the sect’s headquarters.

Nearly 4,200 persons had arrived from Pakistan via the Wagah border till Saturday. The organisers had been expecting 15,000 delegates from 28 countries.

Mohammad Nasim Khan, secretary, External Affairs of the Ahmediyya community in India, admitted that the thin presence of the delegates was due to violence and curfew-like situation in various cities in Pakistan.

Since Pakistan has a population of over 70 lakh Ahmadiyyas and are in a minority, they are living there fearing witch-hunt from fundamentalist forces .

"Many Ahmediyyas dropped their plans after news of Benazir's murder broke out on Thursday," he added. He condemned Benazir's assassination on behalf of the community.

The annual congregation of the sect began with the speech of Ahmediyyas' spiritual head Khalifa Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed exhorting his followers to follow the path shown by God.

He said Muslims who did not follow the teachings of the Holy Quran were in fact insulting their religion.


700 fail to reach venue
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Attari, December 29
The suspension of Samjhauta Express and bus service between India and Pakistan has cast its shadow over cross-border marriages, even as more than 700 Qadian Muslims could not reach here today to attend the annual gathering of Ahmadiyyas, which began at Qadian (Gurdaspur), due to trouble in Pakistan.

Amtal Hadi, who belongs to Qadian community here and whose nikah was performed with Pervez Ahmad of Jhang (Pakistan) in December, could not go to Pakistan due to suspension of rail and road service.

Though Pervez was currently in India to attend the annual gathering of the community, he could not take her (Amtal) to Pakistan due to denial of visa.

Abdul Salam Tari, a TV journalist and brother of Amtal, said at least 16 Pakistani girls married in Qadian have not been able to get Indian citizenship so far.

In December 2003 in Qadian. Tahira Hazur, who hails from Faislabad in Pakistan, had married her Indian cousin Maqbool Ahmad. But she has not been able to get Indian citizenship so far.

While the Government of India has granted visas to more than 22,000 Pakistani Qadian Muslims to visit the country since December 2003, Pakistan has given less than 100 visas to Indian Qadian Muslims.


Exporters worried over disturbed conditions in Pak
Don’t worry, says commerce chamber secy
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
The disturbed conditions in Pakistan, after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has caused a lot of concern among city-based exporters as the current shipment has been put on hold.

Rajesh Setia, secretary, Amritsar Chamber of Commerce, talking to The Tribune here yesterday said there would be no impact on the exports if the situation prevailed for two or three days.

He said he was in constant touch with his counterparts in Pakistan who had asked him to put on hold all consignments till the situation improved in their country.

He said the traders across the border had not made any fresh orders. He said if the situation prolonged it would badly affect the exporters in the region.

Another exporter Rajdeep Uppal said his agro-based business would suffer considerably as his company had been exporting fresh vegetables to the neighbouring country.

He said more than 30 trucks laden with tomatoes and other fresh vegetables were stuck at the Attari joint checkpost.

President of the local unit of the CII Gunbir Singh said he hoped normal conditions would return soon in Pakistan.

Dalip Singh, secretary, Clearing House, confirmed that no truck from India and Pakistan had crossed the joint checkpost on Friday.

However, 71 wagons laden with cement and other articles had arrived at the Attari International Railway station, he added.


Bachchans pay obeisance at Golden Temple
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
Mega superstar Amitabh Bachchan offered ardas for the eternal peace of his mother Teji Bachchan at the Golden Temple in the wee hours here today.

He was accompanied by family members and friend and Samajwadi Party leader
Amar Singh.

Tight security was provided by his personal guards, the local police and the task force of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).

Amitabh arrived at the sanctum sanctorum at 6.30 am and remained in there for about 10 minutes and listened to the kirtan “Asa di vaar”.

The ragis also presented Sant Kabir’s baani, “Ab ke baar baksh bande ko…,” specially recited for the bereaved family.

The Bachchan family, along with Amar Singh, and accompanied by more than two dozen personal bodyguards had arrived in the city last evening by a chartered plane.

As soon as Amitabh Bachchan arrived at the Golden Temple complex, along with his family Jaya, Abhishek, Aishwarya, Naina, Namrata and friend Amar Singh, the personal security guards encircled them before entering the complex.

SGPC officials requested the chief security guard of the superstar to hand over the security to the committee’s Task Force, but he declined the offer and continued to give protection to the filmstar.

The local police, headed by SP, City I, Kaustaubh Sharma, had also made elaborate security arrangements and deployed the policemen in mufti.

There was chaos as the personal guards kept on pushing the star’s family towards the sanctum sanctorum and as a result the task force and the police had a tough time in controlling hundreds of fans of the Bachchan family who had arrived at the Golden Temple as early as 4 am to have a glimpse of their favourite actors.


SGPC may increase retirement age
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
The SGPC is likely to give a New Year bonanza to five senior functionaries who are retiring on December 31 by increasing their retirement age from 58 to 60 years.

The decision to increase the retirement age may take in the forthcoming meeting of the executive committee proposed to be held at Anandpur Sahib on January 1.

According to sources in the SGPC, the five senior employees, who were given “last extension” by the executive committee meeting held at Ludhiana about four months ago, have already got their applications recommended by members. The proposed beneficiaries include Harbeant Singh, a “tainted” secretary dismissed by Gurcharn Singh Tohra.


Tehsildar’s powers withdrawn in PM’s property case
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
The district administration here yesterday withdrew the powers of Rajesh Sharma, sub registrar/tehsildar, who was allegedly found responsible for registering the power of attorney of the Prime Minister’s property in New Delhi.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu taking serious cognizance has recommended stern action against the tehsildar for his gross negligence, besides lodging a case against him under Sections 420, 419, 468 and 120-B, IPC, and Section 82, Indian Registration Act, 1908.

The district administration has also cancelled the licence of the deed writer who had written the deed regarding the registry of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s property.

He has also removed the numberdar, who had attested the identification of the holder of the power of attorney.

With a view to avoid such kind of cases of fraud and impersonation in future, the district administration has also made it mandatory for establishing the identity of the person seeking power of attorney under the IR Act, 1908.

The administration has also announced a reward of Rs 5,000 to those deed writers who will bring any foul play to the notice of the registering authority.


Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan
A treat for classical music lovers, December
chill notwithstanding
Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 29
Even December chill couldn’t deter classical music lovers, who sat till late on Friday night to enjoy performances by classical artistes at the 132nd Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan here yesterday.

Started by Baba Harballabh in 1875 as a tribute to his teacher Baba Tuljagir, the event is held at Devi Talab Mandir every year. Being “mahakumbh” of the Indian classical music, many noted classical artistes have been here to perform.

This time too, several noted artistes are here to perform. On the first day a competition of vocal was held for the senior category in which Aditi Sharma of Delhi got the first prize, while Gaurav Kumar Pathak of Chhattisgarh and Pankaj Sharma of Jalandhar were adjudged second and third, respectively. A special prize was awarded to Arnav Chatterji of Kolkata.

The competition was followed by a performance by last year’s winner Shilpa Suri, who once again made the audience feel the essence of music.

After her famous shehnai player Ustad Ali Ahmad Khan, accompanied by his two sons and other members of his troupe, gave a performance starting with Raga Madhuwanti. After him, Nirmalya Dey of Kolkata presented the dhrupad, which seemed to be a treat for those who had come especially to hear him.

The Sabri Parivar, well-known for sarangi, was there too. It was for the first time in the history of Harballabh that three generations of a family performed together as Ustad Sabri Khan played along with his son and grandson.

The tabla performance by Ghulam Sarvar Sabri and 19-year-old Yusuf Khan left the audience spellbound.

After the family performance, famous vocalist Upendra Bhatt started with Raga Malkaus and presented bandishes “Mukh mor muskat jaat” and thumari “Sang raat guzri re.” However, his bhajan “Baje re muralia” was real charm for the audience. Sitar player Ustad Nishat Khan made his presence felt by jugalbandi with the tabla player.

The festival too had performance by vocalist Ustad Mubarak Ali who had come all the way from Pakistan to participate in it. Though it was late in the night, but Ustad Mubarak through his Raga Vageshwari kept the audience interested.

The three-day event, concluding on Sunday, would have performances by many other artistes like Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma (santoor), Pt Rajan Misra and Sajan Misra (vocals), Suvir Mishra (rudra veena) and famous Pakistani tabla maestro Ustad Sattar Khan ‘Tari’.


Power bills not to be collected in advance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The Punjab government has decided not to collect electricity bills from existing units in advance.

A clarification issued on behalf of the government by media adviser to the CM Harcharn Bains here this evening stated the government's decision came in the wake of its policy to provide relief to the industrial sector.

Bains also referred to a clarification by the PSEB through advertisements.

He said the government had assured the representatives of the industry that the first review of security (consumption) would be undertaken for the existing consumers by the PSEB in 12 months after the issue of tariff order for 2008-09.


Decision on 3 new SEZs in Punjab on January 2
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 29
The union government’s Board of Approvals is meeting on January 2 to consider three fresh proposals worth over Rs 1,000 crore for setting up of special economic zones (SEZ) in Punjab.

The Punjab government has already approved these proposals and their case has been forwarded to the Department of Industries and Commerce for final approval.

While two of these SEZs are going to come up in Mohali, another has been planned for Ludhiana.

An information technology-specific SEZ is being set up in Mohali on 57.89 hectares. The entire land has been arranged by the company, which proposes to invest Rs 205 crore in the project.

The Punjab government has approved another IT-specific SEZ called Sukhm Infrastructure Private Limited. Spread over 16.86 hectares, the company proposes to invest Rs 745 crore in the zone. Both these companies expect to employ 10,000 persons.

Malhotra land developers private limited propose to set up an SEZ in Ludhiana on 121.41 hectares. The proposed investment in the project is Rs 213 crore and expected to employ 12,000 persons. The union government has already approved 10 SEZs in Punjab.

IT-specific Quarkcity India in Mohali and another SEZ for pharmaceutical industry to be developed by Ranbaxy Laboratories at Mohali have been notified by the union government.

In addition to these, the centre has granted approvals to Vividha Infrastructure, a company promoted by Fred Ebarhimi and Mary Patricia Ebrahimi for an SEZ spread across 100 hectares in Rajpura for engineering. The proposed investment is over 770 crore and employment potential 20,000.

Another company promoted by the couple, Mridul Infrastructure, has been granted formal approval by the centre for another 100 hectare SEZ at Rajpura for textiles. The investment in this case is expected to be about 900 crore and employment potential 18,000.

Approvals have been given for a multi product SEZ to be developed by DLF at Amritsar. Rockman Projects is setting up a textile SEZ on 100 hectares at Ludhiana with an investment of Rs 250 crore.

Shipra Estate, a Delhi-based company, has also been granted an approval by the centre to set up an IT SEZ in Mohali on 20 hectares.

Delhi-based Lark Projects intend to set up an IT and information technology enabled services SEZ on 30 acres in Landran village, Mohali.

The company is offering to spend Rs 540 crore here and would employ 4,500 persons. Sukhmani Towers propose to set up an IT SEZ on 14 hectares at Dera Bassi with an investment of over Rs 700 crore.


Rs 142-cr package for better education in rural schools
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Tibba (Kapurthala), December 29
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced a Rs 142-crore package to upgrade and modernise school education in rural areas of the state.

Under the package, 351 rural senior secondary schools in various districts across the state will be upgraded.

Unveiling the foundation stone of a school here today, Badal said three schools from every one of the 117 Assembly constituencies would be equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure, including additional classrooms, science laboratories, furniture and drinking water facilities.

Under the scheme, 2,209 new rooms would be built in 351 schools, including those housing 726 science laboratories. Each school would have a boundary wall and toilet facilities.

He said education had suffered criminal neglect at the hands of governments at the Centre and in the state.

Taking a dig at the Congress, he said primary and secondary education in the state had collapsed in five years.

"Had our earlier regime been serious on this account, the education would not have deteriorated, " he pointed out.

The CM added that 14,000 teachers would be recruited, of which 1,000 would be for teaching English, he added.

He also received a cheque of Rs 21 lakh from NRI Nanak Kohli as a contribution for the scheme.

Media adviser to the Chief Minster Harcharan Bains, chief parliamentary secretary, education, Mohinder Kaur Josh, MLA Mohan Lal, former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur and former minister Raghubir Singh, principal secretary, education, K.B.S. Sidhu, chairman, Punjab School Education Board, Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon, Bhai Baldeep Singh and Kiranjit Singh Bawa, besides local SAD, BJP leaders and workers and SGPC members were also present on the occasion.


Panel to verify affiliation of private schools
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 29
The chairman of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB), Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon, yesterday made surprise visits at the district offices of the board located at Ludhiana, Moga and Muktsar.

At Moga, Dr Dhillon was informed by a district board official that police personnel were living on the office premises and the staff was facing shortage of space. Dr Dhillon took up the issue with the Moga SSP who assured to vacate the office within few days.

In Ludhiana, Dr Dhillon gave instructions to the district manager of the board to make arrangement for the storage of books so that the demand by students can be met. Dr Dhillon also talked to the parents of affiliated private schools.

Many parents complained against some private schools for overcharging fees and forcing them to buy the books published by the private publishers on a high price.

Dr Dhillon assured the parents that action would be taken against the private schools who were found guilty of violating the affiliation norms.

He said a special committee would be formed to check whether these schools fulfilled the norms laid down by the board at the time of the affiliation.

The chairman also verified the stock of books available in the office. At Muktsar, the chairman found that the building of the office was in a dilapidated state, furniture was decaying and wall plaster was peeling off.

The chairman also found many of the staff members absent. He suggested that leave be given to the employees on a rotation basis.


Persian teachers’ conference concludes
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
Persian scholars from India and abroad, who gathered here to participate in the 28th international conference of Persian teachers, were unanimous that Persian be made part of syllabi compulsory in Indian universities and other educational institutions.

They also resolved that a council for the promotion of Persian be constituted by the union government.

The Amritsar conference also resolved that the posts of Persian teacher in different educational institutions be filled immediately. Short-term courses in Persian should be introduced for advocates.

These were the important resolutions passed at the academic session of the conference and read out at valedictory function in Conference Hall of Guru Nanak Bhawan of Guru Nanak Dev University.

Sikhism scholar Prithipal Singh Kapoor, former pro-vice-chancellor of GND University, presided over the concluding session. Prof Shashi Bala, coordinator of the conference, presented a vote of thanks.

The conference was organised by the Guru Nanak Studies Department of the university in collaboration with the All-India Persian Teachers Association, New Delhi.

More than 150 Persian scholars from India, Iran and Afghanistan participated. More than 25 papers were presented on the relation of Persian with Sikhism and also on the importance and relevance of Persian language.

Scholars favoured making Persian course compulsory for students of MA (history), especially at GND University.

They wanted the central government to provide a special grant for the publication and reprinting of existing Persian literature and translate it into other languages of the country.

They resolved that posts of Persian in the Department of Archaeology, museums and universities be filled.

They urged the government to establish a council for the promotion of the Persian language and literature because most of the manuscripts were available in Persian.

Persian posts in the Department of Oriental Studies in Arabic and Persian hanging in court since 1993 should be mobilised through advocates to fill the posts early.

Persian interaction programmes of students, researchers and other active groups be encouraged between India, Iran and Afghanistan.

Prof Prithipal Singh Kapoor highlighted the importance and relevance of Persian language and its placement in Punjab. Professor Kapoor said the interaction of the language started with Guru Nanak.

He went to Puri, Mathura, Hardwar, Mecca, Madina and Baghdad and interacted with great men of the area. Guru Nanak used words of Indian and foreign languages like Persian in his baani.

He expressed concern over the rich Persian cultural heritage’s rotting in Dyal Singh Library and Public Library in Lahore. He said steps be taken to preserve this valuable literature.

Prof Azarmi Dukht Safavi, president, All-India Persian Teachers Association, Prof A.W. Azhar, general secretary, AIPTA, Prof Asgar Dad Beh from Iran, Prof Ahmad Ansari from Mumbai and Prof Ali Mohammad Moazzni of Teheran also spoke.


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