P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


3 Pak spies unharmed in jail rioting
Most records burnt, eyewitness makes startling revelations
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 9
None of the three Pakistanis prisoners lodged in the Central Jail here sustained any injury during Monday rioting.

Confirming this, AIG (Prisons) Jagjit Singh told The Tribune that none except one of the total 1,391 inmates, including the three Pakistani prisoners, had been injured in the violent protest.

The three Pakistanis lodged in the overcrowded jail are Khuram Shehjad, son of Tarik Ali, resident of Riazul Musamlmeen locality of Okara city, Mohammad Iqbal, son of Khalil Ahmed, resident of Nurpur village in Pakistani capital Islamabad, and Atta Ullah, son of Inayat ur Rehman of Moradabad, said highly places jail sources.

They have been lodged in the jail fot the past several months after their arrests from the sensitive Jalandhar Cantonment area. They were caught on different dates on the charge of spying for Pakistan and some secret documents were also recovered from their possession, the sources added.

Khuram and Iqbal were nabbed on November 9, two years ago, whereas Atta Ullah was caught in April, last year.

Separate first information reports were registered against them under the relevant provisions of the Officials Secrets Act at the Jalandhar Cantonment police station concerned, the sources said, adding that the hearing of their cases was in the city courts.

The sources said the three Pakistanis prisoners were kept in the same special cell of the jail and they did not take part in rioting as they were not unlocked for routine `bandi khol’ at 7 am on Monday.

Meanwhile, national vice-president of the Shiv Sena (Hindustanti) Vinay Jalandhari, who was released from the jail on bail last evening, held delay in action by the authorities responsible for rioting in the jail.

Jalandhari, who was arrested on December 27 under various sections for making `objectionable’ remarks against Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, said some prisoners had started making speeches at 8.30 am from the gurdwara loudspeaker instigating inmates to start protest against the jail authorities.

Soon most of the inmates gathered outside the gurdwara, he said, adding that the authorities could not force them to re-enter their barrack.

The authorities let the situation go out of control and entered the jail only at 2 pm when several parts were put on fire and at least four gas cylinders were burst, he added.

Making startling revelations, Jalandhari said smack, charas and other drugs were easily available inside the jail. Some of the prisoners were also seen using mobile phones, he added.

Meanwhile, principal of Patiala-based jail training school, G.S. Sidhu has taken over his charge as superintendent of the jail today.

It is learnt most of the jail records had been burnt in the Monday fire. Further, none of the CCTV cameras installed in the jail during militancy over a decade back was operational at the time of the rioting, the sources said. Had the CCTV cameras been operational, it would have been much easy to control the situation before it took an ugly turn. Besides, CCTVs would also have helped in identifying the rioter prisoners.

Meanwhile, ADC S.P.S. Marar again visited the jail today in connection with ongoing magisterial probe.


Clean Chit to Diljit 
SGPC chief’s removal sought
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
Two SGPC executive members, Karnail Singh Panjoli and Gurvinder Singh Shampura, in a memorandum to jathedar Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, today asked him to remove Avtar Singh, president, SGPC, and members of the inquiry committee, for reinstating Diljit Singh Bedi, a former assistant secretary, after giving him a clean chit in a moral turpitude case. They demanded that the Akal Takht jathedar should summon the SGPC chief and members of the inquiry committee and punish them as per Sikh tenets.

Earlier addressing mediapersons, Shampura said he had urged the SGPC president that they had ample proof against Diljit regarding the case, but he (Avtar Singh) had ignored the warnings. He said if Avtar Singh had heeded their warnings at the executive committee meetings held December 7 and 25, the Sikh community living across the world would not have faced such humiliation after objectionable photographs of Diljit appeared in some newspapers.

He alleged that the SGPC president had reinstated Diljit to give him benefits in service worth over Rs 7 lakh as the assistant secretary was on the verge of retirement.

Shampura alleged that the SGPC chief was also misutilising the Guru ki Goluk, SGPC funds for promoting his selfish interests. He said the SGPC chief had moved a resolution at a recently held meeting of the executive committee for the purchase of a luxury car as he had abandoned the car purchased by former SGPC president Jagir Kaur.

They said they would also meet jathedars of Takht Damdama Sahib and Keshgarh Sahib next week in this regard. 


City Centre Scam
Capt, kin to appear before court today
Jupinderjit Singh and Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, January 9
Punjab polity would unfold a new chapter tomorrow when former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, along with his relatives, former ministers and leaders, would in all likelihood appear before the sessions court as accused in the alleged multi-crore City Centre scam.

He would be the first Chief Minister to attend a local court as an accused.

It would be the second visit of Capt Amarinder Singh in the local courts complex. Earlier, he had visited the court complex in May, 2006. At that time he was the chief guest of a function organised by the District Bar Association to lay the foundation of stone of proposed lawyers’ chambers complex.

The Bar had named the lawyers chambers in the name of his father Yadavindra Singh. Capt Amarinder Singh had announced a grant of Rs 50 lakh for the complex. But, the grant never reached the Bar authorities.

Punjab has already seen Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal undergoing trial in an alleged case of corruption.

Apart from Capt Amarinder Singh, his sons Raninder Singh and Raminder Singh, alias Richi, would also appear before the sessions court, revealed sources close to his family. They are likely to move applications for getting regular bail during the pendency of the trial.

Former local bodies minister Chowdhary Jagjit Singh, an accused in this case, would also appear before the court tomorrow, sources close to him confirmed.

Meanwhile, sources in the Vigilance Bureau revealed that they would strongly oppose the bail application of all accused. Senior bureau officials remained busy in their office holding consultations with the special public prosecutor.

A senior bureau official said they had collected sufficient evidence against the former Chief Minister and his kin to oppose their regular bail pleas.

Capt Amarinder Singh had himself ordered an inquiry into the scam during his previous tenure. Later, he was made an accused in the case by the ruling SAD-BJP regime.

A case was registered against 18 persons, including him. The bureau had filed a challan including names of 36 persons in the court of sessions judge G.K. Rai in December last year.


Plans to produce power from closed sugar mills 
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 9
The state government has embarked upon an ambitious project to convert the closed sugar mills in the state into profit-making entities by producing power and ethanol at these units.

Stating this here today, Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh said at present six sugar mills out of 15 in the state, were closed and Sugarfed was running into a loss of over Rs 650 crore. He said once the proposed project was put in place, these losses would soon be transformed into profits. The government was also considering a proposal to give away these mills on lease basis to generate additional income for Sugarfed. This would ensure that the services of the employees of these mills were not terminated, the minister added.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said three government-owned distilleries in the state were lying shut even as Sugarfed was giving an annual charge of Rs 10 lakh to the excise and taxation department, which was adding to the losses being suffered by the corporation. He said the corporation would suggest to the state government that instead of an industrial alcohol licence, a distillery licence be given to Sugarfed which would help save wastage of resources.

The government was aware of the shortage of power in the state and it had already initiated measures to overcome the crisis. Power plants to generate an extra 10,000 MW of power were in the pipeline and these would be commissioned within a stipulated time frame. The minister said the government would soon fill the posts lying vacant in various government offices.

Special parliamentary secretary (Finance) Raj Khurana said a new phase of development would be ushered in this sub-divisional headquarters with the commissioning of a thermal power plant at Nalash village besides setting up of a special export zone at Chamaru village.

Jasjit Singh Bunny, chairman, Punjab Co-operative Banks, who accompanied his father Capt Kanwaljit Singh, said that the co-operative department considered it to be its moral duty to make available financial resources for the continuous development of the rural areas. 


Anti-drug drive pays off, two shun intoxicants
Tribune News Service

Behman Deewana (Bathinda), January 9
After giving up intoxicants, Gurjant Singh and Harnek Singh have become icons of the de-addiction campaign launched six months ago in this village which had earned a dubious distinction of almost every household being under addiction. The menace has gripped the village and adjoining areas like an epidemic.

Both said they had succeeded in giving up the habit by dint of determination. This has restored them respect among village folk.

The campaign has gradually started showing results as a large number of addicts visited the camp organised in the village yesterday to motivate them into shunning intoxicants.

The village earlier produced national-level sportsmen, but now has earned notoriety of being a sanctuary of addicts. Village boys, Gurbant Singh and Shivraj Singh, who were national-level players of handball and kabaddi, were dismissed from the police service because they had turned to addiction and abstained from duty.

Gurjant and Harnek were among the 10 persons who have said goodbye to intoxicants. They were presented with cheques of soft loan for rehabilitation by Jitendra Jain, deputy inspector-general of police, Faridkot range. Jain has taken initiative of launching the de-addiction campaign. Other 66 persons, who have responded to treatment, will be provided vocational training in various trades to prevent relapse. The village has been adopted for de-addiction purposes for one year. Sports and cultural clubs have also been involved in the campaign.

Jain said the aim of holding the camp was to provide a composite package to those who had positively responded to the drive. They have to be provided an opportunity to earn livelihood with dignity they had lost by resorting to addiction. De-addiction campaign would not succeed till rehabilitation package was built in.

Gurjant (63) said he was consuming liquor and poppy husk in a large quantity for over 30 years and he realised having become physically weak. Now that he has left the bad habit he is respected at home and outside. He showed his purse full of notes and said this money would not be misused for buying intoxicants.

Harnek (42) said he started consuming poppy husk at the age of 12 and would even steal money from his home for this purpose.

Mahant Sarupanand of Dera Tapp presented packets of almonds to the former addicts advising them to consume healthy food rather than intoxicants.

Most of the addicts in this village and surrounding area were consuming poppy husk smuggled from neighbouring Haryana and Rajastahan. Teja Singh, Buta Singh and Budh Singh were in the grip of poppy husk and were desperate to shun it. They were among the 175 persons who have started taking de-addiction tablets.

The victims were mostly daily wage workers who would spend more than half of their earnings on purchasing poppy husk or lomotil.

Dr S.K.Verma, a psychiatrist, who has volunteered to treat the addicts, said many of the victims resorted to consuming lomotil, a crude form of opium, as a packet of 100 tablets was available from chemist shops for around Rs 15.

He said addiction had spread like an epidemic in the area involving men and women of all age groups. As many as 370 addicts had reported to him for treatment in six months.


Gherao of Orbit Buses
Remand for 17 SAD (A) activists 
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 9
The Sunam police today produced 17 Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) activists, including two executive committee members of the party Shabaz Singh Daska and Pargat Singh Gaga, in a court at Sunam, which remanded them in police custody for one day.

Sangrur SSP Arun Pal Singh said today they were produced in the Sunam court today under Section 395 (dacoity) of the IPC, added to the old FIR registered against them on January 7, as the conductor and checker of the Orbit bus had given a supplementary statement that these persons had snatched conductor’s bag, containing money and tickets, on January 7.

The Sunam SHO said after adding the Section 395, IPC, to the already registered FIR, these 17 persons, already in jail, had been produced in the court today after obtaining production warrants from the court.

He said the police had sought remand of these persons to know the whereabouts of the “snatched” bag of the conductor. And the court remanded these persons in police custody for one day, he added. 


Party seeks international airport in Malwa
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 9
The Sangrur district unit of the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) today asked the state and central governments to set up an international airport in a backward area of the Malwa-belt.

A meeting of the district unit of the party here today under the presidentship of district president Sardar Ali, also said with the setting up of international airport in any backward area of the Malwa-belt, the area concerned would develop in a big way as hundreds of houses, shops, showrooms, banks, markets would establish there.

Sardar Ali said thousands of unemployed youths would get jobs while agriculture and industry would also flourish in the Malwa-belt.



Guv for quality education 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
Punjab Governor and Administrator, Union Territory, Chandigarh, S.F. Rodrigues , presiding over a meeting of the Board of Governors of Punjab Public School (PPS), Nabha, here today called upon its management to take leadership role in the implementation of a programme to produce good and complete citizens committed to the cause of the nation and society. He called upon the academics, members of the corporate sector and social activists to play a pro-active role as catalysts of change and contribute through their commitment, knowledge and time, for developing the potential and capabilities of our students to make them competent and confident individuals.

Rodrigues added our education strategies must be directed to give equal opportunities for quality education to the disadvantaged and poor sections of society, to meet their legitimate aspirations. He appreciated the steps being taken by the Punjab government in improving the quality of education in rural areas through the Adarsh School Scheme and said our goal must be to move much faster than ever before.

Licence to wood-based units

The Punjab government after taking a series of outreaching steps, today finally cleared the decks to issue licence to wood-based units in the state benefiting over 5271 units.

Disclosing this here today Punjab forest minister Tikshan Sud said the department today issued orders to all divisional forest officers (DFOs), competent authorities, to grant licences to the applicants in accordance with the Punjab Regulation of Saw Mills, Veneer and Plywood Industries Rules, 2006.

The government had taken the approval of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for issuing licences to the wood -based units.All 4929 units established before 30-10-2002 and 342 units established after 30-10-2002, which had deposited one time payment as ordered by CEC are entitled for licence. All owners of wood-based units should apply to the DFOs with the prescribed licence fee for obtaining licence.


One calendar, seven Sukhbirs
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The manner in which the Punjab government has virtually devoted its official calendar of the current year to the acting president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, he certainly appears to be the most powerful man in the state at the moment.

In all, there are 16 photographs in the calendar. Of these, Sukhbir has a commanding presence in seven of the photographs. However, in all photos he is in the company of his father, Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister. Obviously, the photos have been chosen to project Sukhbir as a dominating personality in the state’s political and administrative set up.

The president of the Punjab unit of the BJP, Prof Rajinder Bhandari, figures in one photograph. Interestingly, Navjot Singh Sidhu figures, though not that prominently, in four photographs. The Punjab Public Relations Department has published the calendar that is meant for all government and semi-government organisations. Official count of public holidays is given in the calendar.

Photographs of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee too figure prominently in the calendar.

Commenting on the calendar, a BJP leader said, “Those who have selected the photographs should have given more space to the BJP which is, if not equal, at least is a significant partner in the Badal- led government in the state”. 


State of Prisons: Reform and modernisation only on paper 
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
Three days after prisoners at the Jalandhar Central Jail virtually “took over” the jail and started a fire in an attempt to break free, the Punjab government is waking up to the stark realities that prison reforms and modernisation of jails exist only on paper in these overcrowded and decaying jails.

Meanwhile, separately, the state plans to bring in a new Act to manage the prisons to replace the archaic British-era prison manual of 1895. The new Act will be the Prison and Correctional Home Act that will be called a “sudhar ghar”.

Not just reforms, the issue of human lives is being probed by the National Human Rights Commission. An inquiry is on into the mystery deaths in prisons. These deaths are attributed to poisoning, but nobody is addressing the issue that how did poison reach the jails when each visitor is screened. Are people inside jails being “bumped -off” by greedy relatives in connivance with the jail staff to usurp property, is a question which has been raised before the commission.

Sources in the government said plans to modernise the jails had remained on paper as central funds running into crores of rupees for jail modernisation had not been used. Rather the Centre had even stopped paying its share seeing Punjab’s attitude and lack of commitment to the cause.

The jail modernisation plan was launched by the Government of India in 2002 and was to end in 2007. The Central and state governments were to fund it in the 75:25 ratio. The Central government sent its share of Rs 11 to the Punjab government in the first year of the project. The Punjab government paid a matching grant of Rs 4 crore.

From then on Punjab just forgot that a jail modernisation programme was on in the state. The Centre sent Rs 23 crore in 2003-04 but the state government never used the same and never paid its share the Centre discontinued the payments. Later Punjab pleaded that the programme should be extended till March 2009 and the same was agreed upon subject to Punjab giving its share. The Government of India released about Rs 11 crore in June. The money will be used to fund the construction of new jails in Punjab - at least two at Faridkot and Kapurthala are under construction.

The issue of prison reforms is such that the report of A.P. Bhatnagar, who headed the Prison Reforms Committee is yet to be implemented. Three years after the Bhatnagar committee submitted its report, Punjab plans to bring in a new Act to manage the prisons, if passed the state’s jail officials will need an attitudinal change. So far the prison manual aims at just detaining the person and there is no skill development. 


Baby serial killer shifted to Patiala jail
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 9
While serial baby killer Darbara Singh has been shifted from the riot-hit Jalandhar jail to the Patiala Central Jail for hanging, six other jail inmates have been awaiting the gallows in the jail which, has witnessed no hanging for the past about 19 years.

Darbara Singh, who was awarded death sentence by Jalandhar Additional District and Sessions Judge I.S. Bajwa on Monday for killing over 20 children, was shifted from Jalandhar to the jail here today. He was brought here by a police party from Jalandhar and subsequently was put in a special cell by the jail authorities. His shifting was attributed to the strife in the Jalandhar Central Jail and to the fact that there were no hanging facilities in the Jalandhar jail.

Six other convicts, Swaran Singh, Sushil Kumar, Mohinder Singh, Jasbir Singh, his wife Sonia and Bikramjit Singh, are awaiting death in the Patiala jail. Jasbir and his wife Sonia were awarded death sentence in the Abhishek murder case of Hoshiarpur.

“Except for Darbara Singh, who has been brought here today, all other convicts have filed mercy petitions in higher courts,” said jail superintendent Jeewan Garg. Jail sources revealed that 99 per cent persons who were awarded death sentences did not reach the hanging stage as generally their mercy petitions were accepted by the higher courts, including the Supreme Court, and their sentence was converted to life imprisonment.

Though the Patiala Central Jail is said to be the only jail in Punjab which has the hanging facilities, yet the jail has not witnessed any hanging since June 16,1989, for the reason that all death sentences were converted into life imprisonment,” said Garg.


Bir-Talab park deer feel space crunch
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 9
Violating the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority, the wildlife wing of Punjab has overcrowded enclosures in the deer park at Bir-Talab near here. The number of various species of deer in the four enclosures is far more than that recommended by the authority.

The norms laid by the authority prescribe that the number of animals in the deer park should not be more than one animal for larger ungulates and three animals per acre for smaller ungulates. But, during a visit to the park today, this correspondent found that 10 sambars were kept in a small enclosure that was sufficient for only a pair.

As many as 30 Black Bucks were caged in an enclosure measuring about 12,000 sqft while another 25 were also sharing the adjoining enclosure of almost same size.

The enclosure of Chitals was also overcrowded with 16 inmates.

The park, established in 1978, has an area of 161 acres but only about 21 acres have been utilised for the deer park. Seven cages of birds and one of monkeys are also part of the area, which also has a recreation space for the visitors.

The authority has laid down that to safeguard against inbreeding, periodic exchange of animals, specially males, should be done with other zoos. However, investigations revealed that no such exchange had been made for the past several years. Moreover, all Sambars were offshoots of one family. Only three Hog Deer were brought from Ajnala.

The authority says that arrangements for round-the-clock supply of potable water should be made in the enclosures. However, canal water was generally being supplied in the enclosures in the deer park.

The park has four species of deer and the proposal to construct a deer safari here has been in the cold storage for the past several years.


Mill workers to launch stir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The Cooperative Sugar Mills Workers Federation has convened its meeting at Jalandhar to launch an agitation against the Punjab government which had failed to fulfil the promise of making operational cooperative sugar mills located at Patiala, Tarn Taran, Zira, Faridkot, Jagraon and Budhlada.

Addressing a press conference, president of the federation Karnail Singh said here yesterday that before the Assembly elections, the SAD-BJP political combine had made several promises with regard to operationalising the closed cooperative sugar mills. Mention of these promises was also made in the election manifesto. However, all those promised had not been fulfilled yet.


Give notice before arresting Mann

Chandigarh, January 9
Acting on a petition filed by SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann for advanced notice if he was to be arrested by the police, Mr Justice H.S. Bhalla of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the issuance of a seven-day prior notice in writing.

Asserting that he already had 60 cases registered against him, Mann in his plea had earlier stated that he was apprehending arrest in a false case.

Referring to a case recently registered, Mann said an FIR was lodged under Section 153-A of the IPC at Patiala on the ground that he had made a statement on refusal to accept Bhagat Singh as a hero as he had “killed innocent persons”.

Mann, in his plea, further added that he apprehended implication at the behest of the present government. As a result of the cases, his political functioning had become difficult.


Seechewal for organic farming
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, an environmentalist, called upon people of Punjab to be determined for initiating steps to keep air and water free from pollution in the state.

Baba Seechewal stated this here today on the concluding day of the yoga camp organised by the Police Department in association with the Patanjali Yog Samiti, Amritsar.

The environmentalist said, “We should keep environment pollution-free. The advancement we talk of would be hollow for the future generations if the environment is allowed to be degraded”. He favoured organic farming and waste water management. He said Punjab was passing through a critical phase of environmental imbalance and the successive governments in the state were responsible for this.

He said not only rivers and other natural water sources were polluted in the state, but the underground water was also polluted alongside depletion of forest cover.

He said every person in the state should plant trees on every auspicious occasion in their lives to give green cover to the state. He said he was pained to see water selling at Rs 14 per bottle where even selling of milk was considered a sin. He said we should try to initiate steps for making water and air pollution free so that future generations could be provided safer environment.


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