P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Pakistan Disturbance
Only 100 arrive by Samjhauta Express
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Attari, December 31
Disturbed conditions in neighbouring Pakistan has taken its toll as only 100 passengers from Pakistan arrived here today by Samjhauta Express and as many boarded the train for Lahore at Attari railway station.

Usually, on an average 600 passengers arrive by the the train at the station on every Monday and Friday and the same number of passengers boards the train for Pakistan. The platform gave a deserted look after the train arrived at 12.30 pm and most of the passengers were Indians. Around 106 passengers, most of them Pakistanis, after getting immigration clearance, were waiting on the other side of the platform to board the train for Lahore.

The Indian government had suspended the train in view of the disturbed conditions across the border after the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27. The decision of resumption of service of the train service was taken by the Union government after consultations with the ministry of home affairs, ministry of external affairs and railway officials of Pakistan.

Juniara (23), a resident of Agra, talking to The Tribune, said she, along with her family, had gone to Lahore on one-month visa to attend the marriage of her cousin. They had to cut short the stay due to the disturbed conditions in Pakistan. Another passenger, Vijay Sharma, who, along with his wife, had gone to meet their relatives in Pakistan, said they had got stuck at a hotel in Lahore for more than three days. He said they were worried as their visa was going to expire tomorrow.

Feroze Khan, a resident of Agra, said people of Pakistan seemed to be confused as they didn’t know whom they should vote for. They were looking for a leader with a vision to make Pakistan free from subversive and militant forces.

President of the Jewellers Association, Lahore, Rana Mazhar Hussain, who led a 30-member delegation to Jaipur, said the rail and bus service between the two countries should continue as it was the only mode of transport for poor people of the two countries. The other members of the delegation, mostly youngsters, hoped that the peace would return to the country soon.

However, Mohtab Shamshi, a resident of Lahore, said the government should postpone the elections and hold it till the normalcy returned in the country. She said though the Pakistan Peoples Party had chosen Bilawal, son of slain Benazir, as its president, he was too young to handle the situation. She said Bilawal should continue his studies for four years in Oxford, London, before jumping into politics. 

  • Stones pelted at train !

Intelligence agencies were baffled over the alleged stone-throwing incident at the Samjhauta Express as a windowpane was found broken in one of the boggies of the train. According to agencies, a woman passenger Nasreen of Muzaffarpur had complained that a boy had pelted stones at the train a few minutes before it crossed over to this side of border. However, the other passengers accompanying her and driver of the train feigned ignorance about the incident


Amritsar, Chandigarh to have more 5-star hotels 
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
Keeping pace with infrastructure development and accelerated rate of economic growth in the region, the tour and travel industry in Punjab and Chandigarh is also poised for an unprecedented growth with the start of work on a series of new hotels, besides upgradation of some of the existing ones.

Chandigarh has the highest per capita income in the country while Punjab is placed seventh.

Leading the initiative is the hospitality management company, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, which recently signed an MoU with Vipul Hospitality, a part of Vipul Infrastructure Group. The alliance plans to invest Rs 350 crore to Rs 400 crore in the region on new and existing ones in two years.

The new alliance has taken in hand a new three-star 120-room property in the Industrial Area of Chandigarh (Hometel) besides renovating and upgrading the Sector 44 Park Plaza to make it five-star hotel.

This will be the city’s third five-star hotel after Mountview and Taj. The Uppal group is also coming up with a five-star hotel in Sector 35 here, which will be ready in two years.

The alliance also has planned a 100-room Sarovar Portico in Mohali, which will be a part of a multiplex.

This will be located near the Quark city. It will have an ultra-modern shopping complex in addition to the hotel with 100 rooms. It may take a couple of years to become operational.

Another major project coming up in the periphery of the city will be a three-star Hometel at Baddi in Himachal. The group has resubmitted building plans to the government as earlier it was asked to change the site of the 50-room hotel.

The group has also taken over Ludhiana’s City Centre hotel, which is now being upgraded and will be re-christened as Park Inn. Another project of the group is building of a mall-cum-five-star Sarovar Premiere hotel in the city centre of Amritsar for which it has already acquired two acres.

"We are desirous of setting up independent, stand alone hotels and resorts as also a part of retail and commercial developments in various cities in the region," says Punit Beriwala, managing director of Vipul Hospitality. “With its necessary expertise and scale at which it operates Sarovar Hotels is an ideal choice,” he added.

Ajay K. Bakaya, executive director, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, considers this association as befitting match that would complement the technical know-how, finesse, and professionalism synonymous with the two partners.

As part of the understanding, Sarovar Hotels will provide technical assistance for all these projects besides managing and marketing the hotel operations.

Sarovar Hotels, one of the pioneers in the mid-market segment, has been growing rapidly since its first hotel opening in 1994.

It currently manages 35 hotels across India under the brands Sarovar Premiere, Sarovar Portico, Hometel, Park Plaza and Park Inn.

Park Plaza and Park Inn are operated under Master Franchise for the territory of India.  


PCS Recruitment
UPSC has not replied to state plea
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
The Punjab government is in a fix as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has neither accepted nor rejected its plea to make recruitment for the Punjab Civil Service (PCS) on its behalf.

Punjab has been facing shortage of 100 PCS officers. It has not adequate number of junior PCS officers to man posts meant for this cadre in the field. Even at certain places, the post of sub divisional magistrate and certain other officers, who are considered important, are said to be vacant and additional charge has been given to some other officers, it is learnt.

No recruitment for PCS officers has been made for eight years or so.

Several young men in the state have become ineligible due to age factor, waiting for recruitment in this cadre. Neighbouring states like Haryana, Himachal etc are making recruitment to the provincial cadre almost every year.

In fact, earlier this recruitment in the state used to be made by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). However, as most of the members of the commission were appointed by the previous Congress government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh, the present SAD-BJP government is not inclined to hand over the recruitment for the PCS, which is the most important premier service in the state, to the PPSC. Because of this the government had approached the UPSC.

Sources said there was no positive response from the UPSC with regard to the recruitment to the PCS and allied cadres.

A few months ago, the state government had approached the UPSC requesting it make recruitment for the PCS on its behalf. And at the behest of the UPSC, the state government had also effected required amendment in the rules to enable the UPSC to make recruitment on behalf of the state.

Though the UPSC was conveyed the amendment in the rules effected by the state government long back but after that there was no response from the UPSC on this issue, it is learnt.

The sources said by conceding the request of the Punjab government, the UPSC did not want to open Pandora’s box. There are certain other state governments which, because of political reasons, wanted that the UPSC should make recruitment for their provincial cadres also. If the UPSC conceded Punjab’s request, then it would have to concede the request of other states also.

The UPSC’s understanding, the sources said, was that with the change of political government in a particular state or at the national level, any legally established institution such as the PPSC could not be condemned by that government even if appointments of members or others concerned may have been made by the previous government. Such a condemnation of an institution can lead to far-reaching consequences in a democratic set- up.

If one institution is condemned by any party’s government today, the next government can resort to the condemning of some other institution. And then writ of institutions, which are part of constitutional scheme of the country, would stop prevailing leading to chaos in the country.

In the absence of recruitment to PCS cadre, Punjabi youth are facing problem. Their dream to join this service remains unfulfilled. 


Looking Ahead-2008
Ropar awaits political promises to be fulfilled
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 31
The year 2007 can be clearly termed as one of unfulfilled promises for Ropar district. The district has been reduced to political and geographical oblivion, with Mohali being carved out of Ropar.

Areas, having industry Mohall, Kharar and Kurali, have been carved out of Ropar. The present district of Ropar now extends just from Ropar to Nangal. There is hardly any industry in Ropar now.

The Ropar town has just three MLAs and no representation in the state cabinet.

Geographically, the district is a sub-mountainous region along the Shivalik hills.After Mohali was carved out of Ropar, an agitation erupted in Ropar, led by philanthropist Dr R.S.Parmar.

Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, during his election campaign, promised to convert Ropar into divisional headquarters with a new revenue division in the state. The promise was reiterated during the Hola Mohalla celebrations by him.

However, till date, the promise has not been fulfilled. Dr R.S. Parmar, while talking to The Tribune, said the proposal to raise revenue division at Ropar has been cleared by the Punjab cabinet. However, nobody knows why the notification has not been issued. Whenever we meet the CM, he tells us to have faith in him.

The Ropar bypass is another project that has been lingering for the past over one decade. The Ropar town is surrounded by Sirhind canal and the Sutlej. There is just one over 100-year-old bridge connecting the town with the main national highway. The bridge has potholes and has been declared unsafe by the PWD. The Ropar bypass project was conceived to provide an alternative route to the town and divert heavy traffic. Promises have been made many times by Parkash Singh Badal to bring up the Ropar bypass. However, nothing has materialised.

The Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex at Anandpur Sahib and Theme Park at Chamkaur Sahib are two major projects that can boost religious tourism in the district. The work of Khalsa heritage complex has been going on since 1999. However, even after nine years, even the structure has not been completed. The work on the project was stalled due to the non-availability of funds. Now with the consortium of banks extending a loan of Rs 100 crore, the work has started. The Larsen and Turbo company, which is carrying out the work of bringing up basic structure of project, is claiming that it would be completed by March 2008. After that the work on interiors of the project can be started.

The work of theme park at Chamkaur Sahib was started by the previous Congress government. However, since the present government took over, the work has come to a standstill due to the paucity of funds.

Nangal was upgraded to a sub-division by the previous government at the fag end of its stint. However, neither an SDM nor a DSP has been posted at the new sub-divisional headquarters. The building of sub-division office complex has also been left incomplete.

The polytechnic and ITI building were brought up at Anandpur Sahib in 1999. The buildings have been lying incomplete since then. Recently, the government handed over the half-built building to a private educational society. However, it may take another year before educational courses can be started in the buildings.

Ropar residents are demanding that the government should earmark some mega project to the district so that the economy of the area could be sustained. 


Badal greets people on New Year

Chandigarh, December 31
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today wished a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to Punjabis living all over the world.

In a message here, the Chief Minister said the time had now come for the state to make a decisive leap into the era of development and all-round progress.

“Punjab belongs to all of us... let us all move together to take Punjab into a brave new world”, he said.

The Chief Minister also wished all countrymen a happy and prosperous New Year. —PTI  


CPM-mooted third front opposed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
The Communist Pary of India(CPI) is opposed to the third front proposed by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. “We do not agree to the formation of the third front suggested by Karat,” said Dr Joginder Dayal, a member of the national council of the CPI, here yesterday.

Dr Dayal said the third front should not be an opportunistic assemblage of political parties or groups to contest the elections. It should evolve from the collective struggle of Left and democratic forces against communal and imperialistic forces.

He said the third front should not emerge from the meetings of political leaders, but it should be thrown up by the struggle of people in various parts of the country against the BJP-led communal alliance and pro-imperialist policies of the Congress. He said the Congress was by and large a secular party and it had been playing sometime pro-imperialist and sometime anti-imperialist role in the country. That was why the Left parties were supporting it.

However, of late, the Congress leadership had been tilting towards the imperialist forces led by the USA. It was a matter of concern and the Left parties would never support the Congress on the policies which pushed the country into the US camp, he added.

Dr Dayal said the national council of the CPI would meet in Chennai from January 17 to 19 to prepare a draft of its political resolution to be discussed at the meeting of the national council of the party in Hyderabad from March 23 to 27. He said before that the Punjab council of the party would meet here from February 22 to 24.

On Punjab, Dr Dayal said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal should lead an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister to seek a special package from the union government to provide relief to farmers and landless labour in the state. 


Low water level at hydel reservoirs
PSEB resorts to long power cuts
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 31
Low water level reservoirs at hydro power plants of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has hit power generation from the plants by 40 per cent, forcing the board to order heavy power cuts for all categories of consumers.

In view of the constraints faced by the PSEB, people of Punjab will have to live with power cuts till fall in demand after the winter season.

Y.S. Ratra, chairman, PSEB, said today that power generation by the hydel plants of the board had registered a steep fall due to the poor inflow of water in the reservoirs. The board had been returning power, under barter system, to Himachal, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, besides some southern states.

Ratra said the board took power from these states under the loaning system between May and October this year as a result of which it could supply uninterrupted power to different categories of consumers across the state.

However, now it was obligatory for the PSEB to supply power to above-said states, hence, the problem had been compounded.

Ratra said in view of these constraints the cuts being imposed on different categories of consumers would continue and there was no respite in sight as of now.

The board could not make any overdrawals from the national grid because the frequency had fallen up to 49 per cent.

The PSEB was, therefore, left with no option but to resort to power cuts, Ratra said.

Sources in the power board said the board had clamped a cut of three hours in the four big cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala.

The cut on the domestic and other feeders in other towns of the state was of four hours.

The cut on domestic consumers in the rural areas ranged from six to seven hours while the motors in rural areas were being supplied power from six to seven hours.

The present availability, according to the sources, was 750 lakh units against the demand of 950 lakh units leaving a shortfall of 200 lakh units while the board was returning 80 lakh units of power to the states from which it had borrowed power in summer .

The sources said one unit each of the Bathinda and Ropar thermal plants was also closed for maintenance saying it was an annual exercise to undertake maintenance work in winters so that generation was not affected in summers.  


Ratra dispels rumours on advance payment of bills
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 31
There is a good news for electricity consumers of Punjab. Putting to rest, the speculation among consumers that electricity bills have to be paid in advance from January 1, 2008, the PSEB chairman said today that no such advance payment had to be made by any consumer.

Chairman of the board Y.S. Ratra told The Tribune that the advance payment, already being made by new consumers, was an existing phenomenon.

“Its juts like security. Since electricity is supplied to the consumer before he is billed, an average bill of consumption for three months in case of a bimonthly billing cycle and an average bill of consumption for two months for a monthly billing cycle is charged from a consumer,” said Ratra.

This amount couldl, however, be increased once the new tariff order is passed by the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission. “In which case the difference between the advance consumption deposit already paid by the consumer and the one due following an increase in tariff would be charged from the consumer,” he said.

He added that this increased “advance consumption deposit” would be required to be paid by the consumers only when the new tariff order is announced, which could take another six months to one year and “certainly not from tomorrow.”

“The board has to first finalise a tariff order for 2008-2009. This would then be sent to the PSERC, which would consider it, hold public hearings and then decide on it. Once this tariff order is passed by the regulator (PSERC), the enhanced advance consumption deposit of each existing consumer would be calculated and letters sent to the consumers,” said Ratra.

The confusion regarding the payment of this advance consumption arose as revised tariff orders are normally finalised by the first of the New Year. Ratra added, “The board was to finalise the order by January 1, but we have not been able to do it as the nod has to come from the government. A similar delay had occurred last year also.”

“All consumers, including domestic, commercial and industrial, can rest assured, no advance bills are to be paid till the announcement of the new tariff order which would take some time,” said Ratra. 


Rs 3 cr to develop Dera Baba Nanak
Langah not seen at CM’s function
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Dera Baba Nanak, December 31
Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal today announced a plan for the development of Dera Baba Nanak and Fatehgarh Churian. He was here to attend a state-level convention organised by the Christian community.

Addressing a gathering, Badal said the government had planned phased development of these historical townships. He also announced the construction of new buildings for tehsil complex at Dera Baba Nanak and a sub-tehsil building at Fatehgarh Churian.

To meet power shortage in Shahpur Gauraya and Dharamkot, the Chief Minister announced setting up of electricity sub-stations in these villages shortly. He also announced that the custodians of land, who had completed all formalities to stake claims to their occupied land till December 30, would be allotted to them.

Badal also laid the foundation stone of a link road - Darbar Sahib Dera Baba Nanak to Khasawalia.He said development had taken a backseat in the 50 years of the Congress rule.

Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Nirmal Singh Kahlon, said the government was committed to overall development of Dera Baba Nanak. A sum of Rs 3 crore had already been sanctioned for the purpose. He also submitted a list of demands of the area to the Chief Minister.

Water supply and sanitation minister Bikram Singh Majithia, transport minister Master Mohan Lal and local MLAs Lakhbir Singh Lodhi Nangal, Gurcharan Singh Babehali, Balbir Singh Batth and certain others also spoke. Agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah, however, was not seen at the function.  


SGPC decries murder of 2 Punjabi youths in US
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 31
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) today condemned the murder of Punjabi youths - Paramjit Singh and Ravinder Singh, in California (USA) a couple of days back.

Paramjit and Ravinder, both brothers, were gunned down by some unidentified persons.

Avtar Singh , president, SGPC, in a press note today expressed grief over the incident with the families of the victims and said such incidents were a matter of great concern. He said he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and urge him to raise the issue of security of NRIs with other countries using diplomatic channels.

He said the Punjabi community had been stunned by the incident. He said Punjabis had played great role in the development of respective countries where they had been living for years. 


Traffic report on Ludhiana metro soon
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 31
The year, 2008, will see some good action as far as the much-awaited Ludhiana metro is concerned.

The Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) will submit its inception report in January followed by the Detailed Project Report (DPR) on the project by the Delhi Metro.

Delhi Metro spokesman Anuj Dayal confirmed to The Tribune today that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) would submit the Ludhiana DPR by May or June, 2008. After the DPR is ready and accepted, actual work on the ground can begin.

The Punjab government had asked the DMRC to prepare the DPR for Ludhiana Metro on July 30. Based on a preliminary feasibility study conducted by RITES, originally, the DPR envisaged the approximate length of the Metro to be 25 km.

Dayal said the RITES report was conducted around five years ago. “The report said the Ludhiana population, currently around 13.5 lakh, was expected to grow up to 32.96 lakh by 2021. However, for projects of such magnitude, fresh study was required. This was the reason that the CRRI was given contract for preparation of traffic and transportation study for horizon years 2011, 2021 and also 2031,” he added.

The CRRI has already submitted inception report on the methodology to be used for traffic and a transportation study. It will submit the final report by January or February, 2008.

Dayal said it was possible that after the traffic study one or more corridors totalling 25 km or more could be suggested for the Ludhiana Metro corridor. However, right now it could not be said which likely areas could be covered by the Metro.

After the CRRI study is submitted, topographical survey plans, geo-technical investigations, utility diversion plans, environmental impact assessment, location of stations would be carried out. 


Thermal plant authorities to remove illegal huts from premises
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 31
The administration of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP) has finally moved to remove over 200 illegal huts inside plant premises.

The security agencies have been warning the plant authorities time and again about the security threat posed by labourers living illegally inside the plant premises.

The authorities of GGSSTP have now issued notice to illegal inhabitants of thermal plant to move out of their premises by January 15th pending which force could be used to remove them.

The huts have been developed inside the plant premises by contract labourers working with labour contractors of the plant. The huts are located near the coal handling plant of the GGSSTP. The contract labourers have the advantage of free power drawn through kundi connections and free coal available in plant to burn in the illegal hutments in plant. So despite repeated warning they have resisted the efforts of authorities to move them out.

However, the recent incident in which some miscreants tried to shut of a turbine that could have led to a grid collapse prompted the authorities to take decisive steps to move the labourers out.

The officials of the plant alleged that contract labourers were not moving out despite the fact that the PSEB has already built temporary shelters for them outside the thermal plant premises. The security agencies have also warned that illegal hutments might also provide shelter to outsiders, which was detrimental to the security of the plant.

However, the move by the plant authorities is likely to create a tiff between the union of contract labourers. The contract labourers are alleging that they have been living here for the past two decades and nothing untoward has happened. So there was no need to move them out.

The contract labour union of the plant is already at loggerheads with local administration as their leaders have been transferred to far flung areas of the state after the incident of a sabotage attempt.

The administration of the GGSSTP has sought the help of the district administration to remove the illegal hutments forcibly in case the labourers do not yield to their directives.


Chandraswami visits Golden Temple
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 31
Controversial godman Chandraswami,who allegedly was involved in cases including his links with foreign intelligence agencies paid obeisance at the Golden Temple here today.

Chandraswami said he had come here to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple as he had been acquitted in almost all cases registered against him. He said he had come to Punjab to attend the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar. He also visited Durgiana temple.

On the Ram Setu controversy he said he was convinced with the stand of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) that the issue was related to the religious beliefs of Hindus in the country. He said we should keep belief and history separate for the betterment of our younger generation.

Commenting on the parliamentary polls Chandraswami said the elections for the Lok Sabha were likely to be held in the middle of 2008. 


WSF Plan Patti denies attending meeting
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 31
Kashmir Singh Patti, chairman, Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission, today said he was neither consulted nor did he attend the meeting organised by the World Sikh Foundation (WSF) to co-ordinate work of committees under the Save Youth, Save Future programme.

Jaswant Singh Mann, president, WSF, to streamline and organise the programme had announced the name of Patti at a press conference here on December 29. 


Tribune Impact: Immolation bid by woman
2 cops sent to Police Lines, 2 held, 5 booked
Gurbaxpuri/ P. K. Jaiswar

Tarn Taran, December 31
Chohla Sahib police post in charge Kulwant Singh and munshi Hardeep Singh have been sent to the Police Lines for alleged negligence of duty and failing to provide justice to Harjinder Kaur who had set herself on fire yesterday after alleged humiliation at the hands of the police.

T. S. Maur, SP (Operations), said a case under Sections 306, 506, 511 and 34, IPC, had been registered against five relatives of the victim, including her mother-in-law Puro. Hansa Singh and Partap Singh, grandsons of Puro, and her two daughters-in-law were among others who had been booked in this regard.

Harjinder Kaur (35), a resident of Chohla Sahib under border in Tarn Taran district, who was allegedly harassed by her relatives, tried to immolate herself when she was denied justice by police officials of Chohla Sahib.

She was admitted to the Tarn Taran Civil Hospital with 80 per cent burns. She was referred to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital at Amritsar. Her condition is still stated to 
be serious.

Maur said the matter had already been given to DSP, Goindwal, Baljinder Singh Chhapa for investigations as Harjinder had alleged that she had approached the SHO, Sarhali police station, for action against her relatives who had assaulted her, but returned in vain. He said after investigations action would be taken.

Meanwhile, the police has arrested Puro and Hansa Singh.

Amarjit Singh Asal, a CPI leader, threatened agitation against the Tarn Taran police, if it tried to save the police officials responsible for the incident. 


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