P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Chawla burns drugs, leaves behind hazardous waste
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Nangal (Ropar), January 11
The Health Department’s move to attract publicity by burning confiscated psychotropic drugs and disposable syringes is causing pollution. By burning the medical waste in open public places, the department is also violating the provisions of the Bio-medical Waste Handling and Management Rules, 1988.

Minister for health Laxmi Kanta Chawla today burned a heap of medicines and disposable syringes confiscated from traders in the heart of Nangal town near the Navalji temple. The fumes of medicines spread in the area causing pollution.

The new method being adopted by the Department of Health to dispose the medical waste left behind a residue of burned medicine, melted plastic of syringes and broken glass bottles. By evening only stray cattle were feeding on the hazardous waste.

It was strange that while the Pollution Control Board had made it mandatory for all nursing homes to hand over their bio-medical waste to agencies for proper treatment and destruction, the Health Department was openly burning it at public places.

The civil surgeon, Ropar, when asked said the practice of burning medical waste is being followed in other districts also. The practice is being followed at the directions of the health minister.

He, however, added that most of the medicines were expired and so no pollution is caused by burning them.

However, doctors seemed to be ignorant about the harsh provisions laid under bio-medical waste handling rules by the pollution control board.

The health minister was here to preside over an awareness camp against female foeticide organised under the aegis of the Union government program. Skits were presented by artists in the camp against female foeticide. Hoshiarpur MP Avinash Rai Khanna was also present at the program.

The doctors running ultrasound centres also met the minister and told her about the difficulties being faced by them due to new strict provisions adopted in the state to check female foeticide. They alleged that the photo identity card had been made mandatory for conducting ultrasound test on pregnant women. In many cases the migrant labourers, especially those working on brick kilns do not have any photo identity card. They are being bereft of medical treatment. They also alleged in some of cases the patients get sex determination done from one place and ultrasound from other place. However, in case of entrapment, the doctor who had given the report gets involved in the legal wrangling. 


Operation Bluestar
Brig fears for life, stays away from court

Brigadier Rao did not turn up in the court today on the plea that he felt threat to his life as certain unidentified persons had clicked his pictures in the court premises yesterday. S.S.Sood, lawyer for the complainants, said Brigadier Rao in his application had added that for the next hearing he would come with security from Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, one of the plaintiffs, Jasbir Singh Ghuman, also filed a complaint in the court, accusing Brigadier Rao of stealing files relating to the case and taking them to his lawyer’s chamber. The complaint also accuses him of perjury. The court has given Brigadier Rao notice for February 18, said Sood.

Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
Brig D.V.Rao (retd), who executed Operation Bluestar in 1984, came on record here yesterday that three tanks had entered the Golden Temple complex, from the entrance near the Langar Hall.

During cross-examination in the court of Harjit Singh Khalsa Civil Judge-cum-Judicial Magistrate (First Class), Brigadier Rao said the tanks entered around 5:15 am and the operation lasted till 6 am. This was in continuation of his earlier statement that heavy arms and ammunition, including hand grenades, were used in the Army operation and the local administration and the SGPC were not consulted before executing the operation.

The Brigadier was also quizzed on why the Army “effectively” fired at the sangat inside the Golden Temple complex without prior warning as devotees holding kirtan could not be blamed for illegal assembly.

Asked why this was done in contravention of the Army rules, Brigadier Rao said he was not in total command of the operation. He said he was only following the directions of his seniors, who gave directions about every move the Army made.

Brigadier Rao told the court that he was in constant touch with his three seniors on his radio set, Gen K.S.Brar, Gen K.Sunderji and Gen R.S.Dyal, who were closely monitoring the activity his troops during the course of the operation on June 5 and the actual operation started at 10 pm.

In June 1984, Brigadier Rao was posted commander, 350 Infantry Brigade in Jalandhar, which was part of the Ninth Infantry Division. He was roped in to assist the civil authorities to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple complex and recover illegal arms and ammunition. He said though he was aware that there were serais in the complex, he did not have a complete picture about the presence of a number of small gurdwaras within the complex.

In an affidavit earlier submitted to the court, Brigadier Rao had said special instructions were given to the troops that no weapons should be fired at Sri Harmandar Sahib and heavy machine guns should not be carried inside.

The suit has been filed by some Jodhpur detainees, who were taken into custody after the operation, against the Union of India and others for compensation.


Sex scandal suspected behind principal’s murder
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 11
Though the Punjab police has failed to get any specific lead in the murder of KMV College principal Rita Bawa, some sex scandal is suspected as one of the probable reasons for her blind killing.

Confirming this, DIG (Jalandhar range) Narinder Pal Singh told The Tribune that the police was concentrating its investigation on two to three theories and one of them was a sex scandal.

Earlier, SSP Arpit Shukla had on Tuesday said the killers might have taken some CD or document with them as several documents and CDs were found scattered at Bawa’s “Veer Aashta Bhawan” residence. The police reached there on Sunday morning.

It is suspected that one or more CDs had been kept at Bawa’s residence in which shots of at least one VIP were captured in a compromising position and the pre-planned murders might have been committed to acquire these CDs.

Sources said either the divorcee principal had illicit relations with some persons or some girls were being supplied to VIPs and their shots were recorded in the CDs in a compromising position to blackmail them.

Police officials have been suspecting the angle of illicit relations or a sex scandal behind the murders from day one. They have been saying this while talking off the record since Sunday, when the police came to know about the brutal murders.

That was why, it had also sent the vaginal swab of the principal to the forensic laboratory in Patiala.

Besides, the other theory on which the police is working to find out if there was any financial dispute behind her murder, the DIG added.

Actually the unaccounted huge cash of Rs 37 lakh found in a briefcase lying near Bawa’s body on the floor of her bedroom raised several suspicions. However, the police reportedly did not find much money and jewellery in her known bank accounts and lockers.

To a query, the DIG said the police would get the script of the two SMSs sent to her by film actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar at 9.46.43 and 9.46.47 am on January 5, just about 12 hours before her murder.

He said the police would also confirm whether he had sent SMSs of wishing happy Gurpurab to all persons he knows in Punjab as he told the police when the latter had quizzed him on the telephone after finding his mobile number on the list of call-details of Bawa’s mobile number.

Narinder Pal Singh said the police was taking the help of computer engineers to read the messages sent and received through her personal e-mail to get any clue about the main person behind the killings.

There are also unconfirmed reports that the police had barred some suspected persons, including a Jalandhar-based industrialist, to leave the country without prior permission.

Earlier, the police had questioned several prominent persons, including a former senior PSEB official H.M. Jain, a Jalandhar-based industrialist Rajan Thukral, owner of Prince Rubber Industries, and his partner O.P. Seth.

Jain was considered to be close to Bawa, the sources said, adding her late wife was a lecturer in the college.

Similarly, some financial dispute had arisen between Bawa and Thukral soon after the death of the latter’s father, who was also reportedly close to Bawa.

The police suspected from the gathered evidence that some contract killers from outside Punjab had been hired to commit murders and at least one person who came with the contract killers was very well known to Bawa.

The police sources said no entry in the register at the college gate was made as the principal might have directed the security guard at the gate to let the visitors in without any entry. 


Forum notice to Priyanka Chopra
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum has issued notices to Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra, CEO/chairman, Spice India Ltd, and four others to appear in the court on February 13 on a petition filed by Syyed Iqbal Jafree, a Pakistan artiste.

Jafree, who is also a human rights lawyer in Pakistan, in his petition alleged that during his visit to India he got a SIM card from a Spice outlet opposite the Guru Nanak Dev University gate, which did not functioned properly. He said he was carried away by the endorsement of the Spice company by Priyanka in advertisements.

The petitioner said he also handed over two letters to the Spice office at Hall Bazar, sent eight letters to their Mohali and New Delhi offices and also spoke to their local man Tanvir Sondhi. He added that despite all this he was charged for calls. He further said Spice never made him aware that its services were not available outside Punjab and one has to manually redirect the telephone.

The petitioner claimed damages of Rs 7.86 lakh. Interestingly, Jaffri also roped in Vodaphone as co-respondents as they had allegedly charged the petitioner also by deducting from his pre-paid SIM card. 


Seized milk was not synthetic: Report
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
Lab examinations have revealed that the 15,000 lt of ‘adulterated milk’ seized by the Punjab Health Department was not synthetic and was of inferior quality. The department was yet to launch a case against the persons behind the supply of this milk.

Meanwhile, health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla has asserted that the seized milk was adulterated and that anybody found guilty would not be spared. Patiala civil surgeon 
Avtaar Singh Jarewal said the milk was found to be substandard.

The seizure was made by a team of health officials from a tanker from Rajpura-based Gur Kirpa Vaishno Dhaba on November 22. A number of politicians, health department officials confided, allegedly made an effort to influence the departmental proceedings.

“Test reports have come from Chandigarh and Chennai and these indicate that milk was laden with less fat. Samples have failed,” said Jarewal, adding that his department was going to launch a case against those responsible.


‘Raising crop yield’ with help of music
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehpur (Nabha) January 11
Music may have certain healing properties for human beings, but for Varinder Singh, a progressive farmer of this village, music also works as ‘super nutrient’ for crops and he makes use of classical music for raising crop yield.

Varinder claims to be the first farmer in Punjab to have introduced ‘music nutrition’ technique for more yield and foliage of crops. His experiments of music on crops, claimed Varinder, had been encouraging. However, he was still testing his unique method hitherto unheard of in Punjab. Farmers of Dehra Dun, Saharanpur and Maharashtra have been using music for better yield of crops like mangoes.

Varinder (35), a follower of Osho, was practising a combination of bio-dynamics and organic farming at his Fatehpur-based 33 acre-farm for more than two years. He has installed more than six specially made speakers in 2 acres and routinely played music for crops for at least two hours a day.If Varinder is to be believed, crops responded to classical music better than to pop version. For this reason, he has been playing classical music created by Pt Ravi Shankar.

“The outcome has been very positive. My study shows not only foliage turns out to be good with music, but per acre yield also registered a considerable rise. Last season, I tried music for paddy sown in 2-acre patch. The average yield out of this portion was about one quintal more per acre compared to the crop sown in the part of the field which was not ‘fed’ with “food of music,” said Varinder, alias Ravi.

He said though he had not subjected his experiment to evaluation by experts , he was sure music had a positive effect on crops just like on human beings. “I have read music had immense power and heavy stones were moved with its help during the making of the Egyptian pyramids in an era when there were no cranes or other machinery to lift heavy objects. Moreover, I have seen use of music by farmers in Saharanpur, Dehra Dun, Maharashtra and Gujarat and they have been successful. I am witnessing a vast difference in the growth of wheat crop nowadays. I feel crops are like human beings and these also enjoyed music,” said Varinder, who was also a member of the Kheti Virasat, an organisation of farmers dedicated to organic farming.

Varinder said he had been making his patch of wheat crop listen music for at least an hour in the morning and for the same duration in the evening. “Since power remains elusive in rural areas, we have been playing our music system with the help of an inverter,” said Varinder Singh.


UNWTO to put Punjab on world tourism map
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Punjab government today inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for the formulation of a Tourism Development Master Plan for the state.

Principal secretary, Tourism, Geetika Kalha and executive director, UNWTO, Harsh Verma signed on the behalf of the Punjab government and World Tourism Organisation (WTO), respectively, in the presence of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Speaking on the occasion, Badal said it was a historic day when the state government had signed an MoU with the WTO to prepare a blueprint of tourism plan.

He said the state government had identified tourism as one of the major economic sectors and was committed to achieve a high degree of sustainable development with optimum utilisation of a rich and wide variety of tourism resources.

As a result, the state government had entered into an agreement with the WTO, a specialised agency of the UN and leading international organisation in tourism, to formulate a master plan, Badal said.

Explaining the details of the project, Verma said the plan would be prepared for the next 15 years i.e. 2008-23, which would define the tourism policy and strategy, identify tourism products and services and develop these in a persisting manner.

Punjab's tourism resources cover an extensive range: religious, heritage/cultural, natural, medical and commercial. When combined with warm and hospitable people and a wide variety of folklore, these resources provide Punjab with an outstanding opportunity to develop and sustain a major and diversified tourism sector with resultant economic and social benefits for people of the state.

As the birthplace of Sikhism, visitor flows are dominated by Sikhs from within the state, elsewhere in India and from an estimated 10-million strong Sikh diaspora around the world.

They are drawn by devotion to the Golden Temple at Amritsar, other gurdwaras around the state and on pilgrimage routes, such as to the site of the first Guru's enlightenment at Sultanpur Lodhi.

The rivers, the Beas, Satluj and Kanjli, along with the extensive canal system serve to attract migratory birds in winter (in particular at Harike, Kanjli and Ropar wetlands). The natural beauty of the areas at Ranjit Sagar Dam and Talwara Lake (Pong Dam) offers strong prima facie opportunity for the development of an upscale resort, boating opportunities and eco-tourism activities.

Prominent amongst those who were present on the occasion included Tourism and Cultural Affairs minister Hira Singh Gabaria, chief secretary R.I. Singh, secretary, Tourism, D.P. Reddy, special principal secretary to Chief Minister and MD PIDB S.S. Sandhu, Parveen Kumar and Gagandeep Singh (both additional principal secretary to Chief Minister) and director, Information and Public Relations, Tejvir Singh. 


‘Shingaar blast accused was trained in Pak’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Punjab director-general police N.P.S Aulakh, yesterday said the number of Punjab policemen booked for corruption had increased in one year.

Aulakh, flanked by the top brass of the Punjab Police, was addressing the annual press conference after year-end review of the working of the police in the just ended year.

For the first time, proposals for the seizure of property of 261 drug smugglers were made under Section 68, NDPS Act. Property worth Rs 50.76 crore was seized last year, said Aulakh. Confirmation of 114 more cases had been received from the Government of India, while 121 others were pending, he added.

On cases of corruption, the DGP said 76 cases were registered against policemen in 2007 under the Prevention of Corruption Act, while 46 cops were booked under the PC Act in 2006.

On terrorism, the DGP made it clear that Gurpreet Singh, one of the accused in the Shingaar cinema blast, was trained in Pakistan last year. Threat continues from across the border, but investigations had revealed modules were directed at heads of various religious deras and claimed that the Punjab Police had geared itself up to handle the situation.

The DGP said the cops who were complainants in cases which turned out to be false would face action. He denied that the police provided any escort to buses of the Orbit Transport company when the Simranjit Singh Mann-led SAD (A) wanted to stop buses from plying. Orbit Transport is said to be owned by the family of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Also the police is planning to provide cell phones to NGO rank officials in police stations. Aulakh presented data in which he claimed that numbers of murders had come down from 817 in 2006 to 760 in 2007 while kidnapping and abduction had increased from 600 cases in 2006 to 760 in 2007. Rape cases also went up from 442 in 2006 to 519 in 2007. A special cell had been set up to identify proclaimed offenders .

The DGP said 230 wards of deceased police officials were provided employment in the Punjab Police. 


XEN transferred five times, moves court
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
In a petition depicting utter disregard for the Chief Minister’s word, an executive engineer with the Public Works Department has alleged that he had been transferred five times in two years.

In fact, he was shifted from Ferozepore to Pathankot allegedly at the behest of Jalalabad MLA Sher Singh Ghubia.

To make the matter worse, the Chief Minister’s adviser agreed that the application for the cancellation of transfer was apparently genuine and should be considered sympathetically, still nothing was done, forcing him to move the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Taking up the petition filed by Darshan Singh Shahi of Ferozepore Cantt, a Division Bench of the high court, comprising Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, disposed of the matter for decision within a week.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Gill observed that the mater was disposed of as “counsel for the petitioner states that he will be satisfied if the representation made by him to the Chief Minister - where he has recommended that the application be considered sympathetically - is decided within a week from the date of receiving the order.”

Shahi, in his petition, had earlier sought the quashing of an order dated January 2, vide which he was transferred to Pathankot in an “illegal and arbitrary” manner “without any reason or justification”. Directions were also sought to the state of Punjab against transferring him again and again as it was contrary to the policy and instructions on general transfers of employees issued by the authorities concerned from time to time.

Giving details of the circumstances leading to the filing of the petition, Shahi claimed he submitted a representation to the Chief Minister for the cancellation of transfer or adjustment at the same station.

The application was duly recommended and forwarded by the adviser to the Chief Minister to the authority concerned for sympathetic consideration. Yet no action was taken.

The counsel for the petitioner added that Sahi came to know that “it was only at Ghubia’s behest that the petitioner’s transfer from Ferozepore to Pathankot was ordered to adjust executive engineer Paramjit Singh, as he was close to the MLA. He added that Ghubia had been interfering in the department’s day to day functioning.


Virk Case
VB can continue probe: HC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Just over a fortnight after the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed further proceedings in two FIRs against Punjab’s former DGP S.S. Virk, Justice H.S. Bhalla today clarified that the investigating officers would be at liberty to carry on with the probe, but would not file a charge sheet in the matter till the final disposal of the top cop’s plea.

Taking up Virk’s petition seeking the transfer of the case to the CBI, Justice Bhalla also fixed January 16 as the next date for hearing in the matter for allowing the state’s present DGP to file a reply regarding the second FIR registered against Virk.

Virk has two cases registered against him on the allegations of doing business while in service, misusing his official position and harbouring a person wanted by law and giving him a fake identity. Virk is claiming that the FIR is a result of political vendetta. He has also questioned the role of SSP Surinder Pal Singh on the ground that he was the complainant and also the investigating officer. Besides, his wife was a beneficiary because of her involvement in the housing society on the land allegedly sold by Virk in form of plots. Virk was present in the courtroom during the hearing.

After hearing the arguments in the case, Justice Bhalla verbally expressed the desire to know why “one of the investigating officers” Surinder Pal SIngh did not opt out of the probe, or why the Vigilance Director did not change him as his wife was directly or indirectly involved in the matter.

Are there no other officers or Surinder Pal Singh thought he was indispensable?, the Judge questioned state counsel Reeta Kohli in the open court. Justice Bhalla added: “He may be a good officer. But once finger was raised, like an honest officer he could have backed out. Why did he not recuse himself? He should have gone to the Director, Vigilance, and got rid of the accusing finger. There are other officers also. He is not the only one.”

Taking note of submissions by Virk’s counsel R.S. Cheema on Surinder Pal Singh’s role in the investigations, the Judge told the state counsel: “He is in the team that arrests Virk, he goes seeking police and judicial remand and you say he has nothing to do with the investigations!”

Earlier during the proceedings, Cheema directed his arguments to prove the point that Surinder Pal Singh was the complainant-cum-investigating officer in the case, and the entire team of officers, including IG Sumedh Singh Saini was handpicked. Also, the Vigilance Act, 2006, was repealed by the present government to pave the way for Saini and others to take control.

Addressing the court, Cheema said Surinder Pal Singh’s name was mentioned in the column to be filled by the complainant in the FIR. As such, he was the author of the FIR.

Claiming that the state’s reply was galore with misstatements, Cheema added: “Surinder Pal Singh was heading the team that arrested Virk and all documents were being routed through him. His wife’s address in the sales deed made identification difficult, and the contention that only the vendees had formed the society and had nothing to do with the sales transaction was patently false.”

Referring to letters by Virk in March and April last year, Cheema said the former DGP had expressed apprehensions that the new government had deputed a group of officers to fabricate evidence against him. He added that the Vigilance Act, making the Vigilance Bureau independent, was in force when the group was brought in, showing their determination. Subsequently, the Chief Director, Vigilance Bureau, and the ADGP was removed and Saini was made the director. It was first time in 20 years that an IG-rank officer was heading the bureau.

Cheema added that Saini was Virk’s enemy as he was unhappy with the former DGP’s stand in the Nayagaon matter. Saini was in favour of subjecting a journalist, picked up in the matter, to custodial interrogation, while Virk had addressed a letter to him saying it was unethical to become personal.


Mann, Mand granted bail
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday granted bail to Shiromai Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, former Lok Sabha member Dhyan Singh Mand and over 40 others arrested by the police on January 7, 2008, under Section 107/151, IPC, for allegedly disturbing public peace. They were arrested while protesting against “illegal” plying of buses belonging to ‘Orbit’ company of Badals.

Taking up the matter, Justice Nawab Singh directed the Sub Divisional Magistrate or the Executive Magistrate to ensure the release of the petitioners lodged now in Faridkot and Bathinda jails.

Petitioners’s counsel Ranjan Lakhanpal had earlier contended that they were picked up by the police and arrested for political reasons and were sent to jail. The petitioners were being kept in the custody as the government did not want them to take part in the rally at the Maghi fair to be held in Muktsar, the counsel contended.


Officers transferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Punjab government today ordered postings of five IAS and one PCS officers.

J.R. Kundal is the new financial commissioner, Appeals, while B.C. Thakur has been posted as secretary, Cooperation, P.S. Aujla as secretary, Water Supply and Sanitation, and Dr Arvinder Singh as additional registrar, Cooperative Societies.

Raj Kamal Chaudhury is special secretary, Water Supply and Sanitation, and in addition project director, World Bank-Assisted Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, and Mohinder Singh is ADC, General, and in addition ADC, Development, Hoshiarpur.


900 quintals of inferior quality gur seized
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
After synthetic milk and ‘khoya,’ it is the turn of inferior quality ‘gur’ to make inroads in Punjab.

About 900 quintals of gur, not fit for human consumption, was seized by the Punjab Health Department authorities at the Shambhu border entry point today while the consignment was being carried into Punjab in five trucks.

The seized ‘gur’ was being transported to Punjab for making ‘rewaris’ and ‘gachak’. It is for the first time that such a huge quantity of inferior ‘gur’, not fit for human consumption, has been seized in Punjab. Earlier, about a month ago, a truck full of ‘synthetic milk’ was seized by the health authorities from Rajpura on the instructions of the Punjab Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla.

Sources in the health department, however, said though, such lower quality ‘gur’ was being brought into Punjab for making sweets but, a major part of the low quality commodity was being used for making illicit liquor in border districts. In fact, the demand of ‘gur’ increases manifold in Punjab during winters as people prefer sweetmeats like ‘rewari’, ‘gachak’ and ‘bhugga’ in which, ‘gur’ figures as a major ingredient. In view of the enhanced demand, unscrupulous traders of other states try pump in low quality ‘gur’ which, comes cheap and which, cannot be distinguished after sweets are made out of it. “In fact, such traders get the low quality commodity at half the price of good quality ‘gur’. So, they try to make the hay while the sun shines,” said an official of the Health Department.

Besides, ‘gur’ samples have also been taken of commodities of daily use like ‘haldi’, milk powder and even wheat flour. “In fact, such low quality commodity was brought into Punjab from the Saharanpur area where a gur- like substance is made after extracting sugar from sugarcane ,” said Civil Surgeon Dr. Avtaar Singh Jarewal.

Jarewal said drivers of trucks carrying ‘gur’ and other items use mobile phones to caution their companions. “Mostly they move in a cavalcade. If one of the truck drivers moving ahead of others senses trouble he informs others following him,” he said. He added that samples of seized ‘gur’ and other commodities had been sent to the Chandigarh-based laboratory of the Punjab Health Department for examination.


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