P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


PSEB defers advance bill deposit scheme
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 12
Lakhs of power consumers in Punjab need not panic over the much-publicised directions of the Punjab State Electricity Regulation Commission (PSERC) that they will have to deposit their bills in advance under the advance consumption deposit (ACD) system, as the board has seemingly deferred the implementation of the new system.

The total number of power connections in Punjab, including tubewell connections, is around 62 lakh. Of these, more than 52 lakh are in the domestic, industrial and agricultural sectors, who are paying their bills post power consumption.

The system is in place there for decades. But the PSERC had created ripples by stipulating recently that all these consumers would have to deposit their bills in advance under the newly devised advance consumption deposit (ACD) scheme.

As per the PSERC electricity supply code and related matter regulations-2007, all consumers are required to maintain with the board an amount equal to the consumption charges for three months where, bi-monthly billing is applicable. It was for two months in case of monthly billing.

This had created a panic among consumers and the PSERC step had invoked wide-ranging criticism of a cross section of people in the state. So much so, that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had to come out with a clarification by stating that the government had nothing to do with the proposed new system and that it was devised by the PSERC.

Badal had also made an effort to pacify agitating consumers by saying that he was going to take up the matter with the PSERC.

But what might be seen as a big relief for the power consumers, even if for a short period in the near future, is that the PSEB has deferred the implementation of the proposed new advance bill system, atleast for the time being.

PSEB chairman Y.S Ratra said it had wrongly been projected that the PSEB would implement the new regulation from January 1.

He clarified that as per clause 16.1 of the regulation, the review of security for the existing consumers will be undertaken by the board within 12 months after the issue of tariff order for 2008-09.

In simple words, board sources said, it implied that the consumers need not worry about the implementation of the new much-despised scheme till atleast March 2009.


Monitoring Bhakra Mainline
BBMB to use underwater cameras
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 12
The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) is planning to use underwater cameras to monitor the condition of the Bhakra mainline canal.

Chairman of the BBMB U.C. Mishra in an exclusive interview with The Tribune said the Bhakra mainline canal was being used without any closure for the past 50 years. Ideally, the irrigation canals were closed every alternate year for repairs.

However, since the Bhakra mainline was the main source of irrigation in Punjab and Haryana, it had not been closed.

In the recent past, the Railways had also demanded the closure of the canal to monitor the condition of the pillars in the canal supporting their bridges.

However, the canal could not be closed due to the persistent demand of water by the partner states.

To solve the problem, the BBMB is planning to adopt the latest technology in which underwater cameras can be used for detecting the condition of the canal. By adopting the technology, the canal can be repaired by stopping water in it for a very short time.

The BBMB is also hiring consultants for the job, the chairman said.

He also said the power generating turbines in various projects of the BBMB had also outlived their life. The BBMB was planning to either change their damaged parts or to get them renovated.

The work for renovation and modernisation of left wing turbines of the Bhakra Dam had been allotted to Sumotomo Company of Japan.

The company, besides renovating the turbines, would also increase their generation capacity from 108 MW to 126 MW.

When asked about the lease issue that had become bone of contention between the traders of Nangal and the BBMB, the chairman said he was ready for talks on the issue.

He, however, lamented the agitation path adopted by the traders. He said the BBMB was ready to solve the problem, but would not succumb to pressure tactics being adopted by them.

He also said many traders’ had raised illegal multi-storyed unsafe buildings in the BBMB market due to which they were forced to start legal proceedings against them.

A few of the illegal occupants of the BBMB land moved the Supreme Court that ruled against the traders and ordered the removal of the illegal buildings.

In 1995, the BBMB offered regularisation of lease to the traders at rates fixed by the deputy commissioner, Ropar.

However, at that time none of the traders came forward. “Now, I have referred the matter to a committee of three chief engineers who will look for a solution to the problem,” he said.

The traders of Nangal for first time since the formation of town in 1955 had observed a complete bandh a few days ago to protest against the BBMB’s move to evict them from the places where they had been doing business for more than 50 years.


Cherie gives Rs 50 lakh  to Dhilwan school
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Dhilwan (Kapurthala), January 12
Punjabis, in particular, and Indians, in general, are contributing much to British life. This is what a former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair thinks about the Punjabis settled in England.

Performs giddha

The former British PM’s wife was so delighted to visit the rural heart of Punjab that she performed giddha with village girls when she was invited to do so. She also tried to recite Lohri songs with them for a couple of minutes during her 45-minute visit to the school. She especially got herself photographed with the teachers, girl students and boy students separately. Trustee Lord Dholakia, school principal Kewal Singh and DEO (secondary) Pritpal Singh’s joy knew no bounds on the occasion

Talking to The Tribune during her maiden visit to Punjab, Cherie said she was pleased to be in Punjab from where so many people live in England. “The Indian community, especially Punjabis, are well settled and very successful in England,” she added.

Cherie said India and England had strong relations and these would further improve.

Cherie, also ambassador to UNICEF for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, paid a short visit to Jagiri Lal Loomba Memorial Government Senior Secondary School in the sleepy town of Dhilwan near the Jalandhar-Amritsar national highway in Kapurthala district in the morning. Later, she went to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The UNICEF ambassador came here to pay a cheque for Rs 50 lakh to Kapurthala DC J.M. Balamurugan for improving infrastructure and providing clean water and sanitation facilities in the school on behalf of the Loomba Trust, of whose Cherie is the president for the past about four years.

An NRI Raj Loomba (65), a successful importer of clothes in London who hails from Dhilwan and studied in this school, founded the trust in the memory of his late father Jagiri Lal Loomba in 1997.

Cherie reached Mumbai on her five-day India visit on Raj Loomb’s initiation on Thursday. She reached Chandigarh on Friday, where she signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for improving infrastructure in the school, in which presently 250 students are studying.

The state government will also pay the matching grant of Rs 50 lakh for the same. Cherie will fly back to her country on Monday after attending a seminar being organised by the Trust in Delhi on Sunday, said Raj’s wife Veena Loomba while talking to The Tribune.

Cherie said, “I know there are no good sanitation conditions in this school. That was why the founder chairman trustee of the Loomba Trust decided to repay in the shape of financial aid to the school where he had studied.”

Cherie expressed hope that she would come back to see how the school would be developing with the money given to it.


Parvasi Diwas
State wakes up to ‘employability’
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
On the sixth Parvasi Punjabi Diwas today, Punjab talked big on employment generation. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal declared 2008 as the year of employability in the state. But as he listed, his government’s efforts to ensure work for four lakh unemployed in Punjab, one wondered what the talk was all about. So did some NRIs in the gathering, who felt:

While the CM, after inaugurating the event at Hotel Mountview, urged the diaspora to adopt some of his Adasrh Schools and contribute in education improvement in Punjab, some NRIs were honest enough to admit that no one will come back for charity alone. “We want business opportunity. We have been asking for effective single-window system and concrete agenda,” said S.S. Chawla, fifth generation NRI from Thailand, who has been investing in China where projects roll easily. Over Punjab, he prefers Haryana.

For their part, K.S. Thakral, entrepreneur from Singapore, and A.S. Marwaha, NRI from the USA, made no major announcements, though they gave company on the dais to Punjab chief secretary R.I. Singh, secretary, Employment, Punjab, N.S. Kalsi and former Mizoram Governor A.R. Kohli, who is patron of the International Punjabi Chamber for Service Industry (IPCSI). The IPCSI organised today’s event with the Institute of Tourism and Future Management Trends (ITFT).

Badal spoke of Punjab’s plans to tie up with 18 industries to run skill development centres. Larsen and Toubro, he said, had made a commitment to train youth in construction. Other big players expected were the HPCL, Punjab Tractors and Airtel, said Kalsi. Punjab has plans to upgrade 20 ITIs in partnership with the industry.

Sharda Prasad from the Ministry of Labour told The Tribune that 72 per cent registrants with employment exchanges had no skills.

On employment generation in Punjab, main agenda for the day, no big commitments came, though the agenda was set. Gulshan Sharma of ITFT for his part felt Punjab needed to boost tie-ups with Central Asia to improve employment markets. That explained Uzbekistan’s participation in the conference. There were, however, few big NRI players, with a potential to advance Punjab’s employability aim for 2008. 


Assembly voter lists for panchayat poll
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 12
The Punjab government has decided to take voter lists of previous Assembly elections as base for forthcoming elections to panchayats, zila parishads, panchayat samitis and municipal committees.

Earlier, separate voter lists were prepared for the said elections of local bodies. However, the practice had drawbacks.

The contesting candidates used to get votes of their supporters made in their wards to tilt numbers in their favour.

This created an ambiguity in which voters were enlisted in different areas in local bodies and Assembly elections.

Deputy commissioner, Ropar, A.K. Sinha said the Assembly election voter list updated up to January 1, 2008, would be used as base for preparing voter lists for local bodies’ elections.

People can monitor new voter lists in their polling booths on January 14.

The voters can submit objections to current voter lists by January 21.


SAD ready to contest from redrawn LS constituencies: CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has endorsed the union government’s decision on the report of the Delimitation Commission to redraw the parliamentary constituencies in the country except Jharkhand and four north-eastern states.

The report that was submitted by the commission was awaiting nod of the union government.

Badal said the SAD-BJP combine would not be affected by the redrawn parliamentary constituencies. It was good the union government had decided to implement the report of the commission, he said.

With the implementation of the report, Badal family, that has been contesting Lok Sabha elections from Faridkot constituency, will have to switch over the Bathinda constituency.

Badal’s son Sukhbir Singh had been elected from Faridkot constituency a number of times.

At present, Bathinda is reserve constituency. However, when report is implemented, Bathinda will become general constituency and Faridkot reserve constituency.

Lambi Assembly constituency, from which Badal has been elected several times, will become part of the Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency with the implementation of the report. Earlier, Lambi was part of the Faridkot Lok Sabha constituency.

For some months, Sukhbir has been concentrating on Bathinda areas. He has been talking about making Bathinda most modern region in the state.Recently, he got the foundation stone of a cricket stadium of international standard laid at Bathinda.

Obviously, the Badal family is that soon it would have to shift from Faridkot to Bathinda for contesting the Lok Sabha elections and it had started preparing accordingly in advance by taking important decisions with regard to the development of Bathinda area.


Rights Violations in France 
Badal writes to PM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to tell the French government to ensure that there was no violation of human rights against the Indians, especially Punjabis and the Sikhs, in that country.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh said cases of racial discrimination against the Indians, in general, and Punjabis and the Sikhs, in particular, had been on the rise.

In his letter, Badal spoke about several recent incidents of racial discrimination in France, pointing out especially case of ban on turban in educational institutions in that country. He urged Dr Manmohan Singh to take up the issue with the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, who would be visiting India on January 26.



City Centre Scam
Congress MLA’s mother denied bail
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 12
The court of Sessions Judge G.K.Rai today dismissed the regular bail application of Gurdial Kaur Khangura, former trustee of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT), in the alleged multi-crore city centre project scam. The Vigilance Bureau (VB) had accused her of accepting bribe of Rs 15 lakh from officials of Today Homes company.

She is the mother of sitting Congress MLA Jassi Khangura, who is also the owner of five-star hotel Park Plaza in the city.

However, the VB cannot arrest her, as the Punjab and Haryana High Court had already ordered that despite any adverse orders on her bail applications, she could not be arrested for a week. She was never arrested in this case.

But she was chargesheeted by the VB. Thereafter, the Sessions Court had ordered her to appear before the court.

Meanwhile, the same court allowed the bail applications filed by S.A.H.Naqvi, Sanjeev Gupta and Sourav Gupta, officials of Today Homes company.


Rs 19.74 cr released for Shagun scheme
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 12
The Punjab government has recently released Rs 19.74 crore for the Shagun scheme, of which Rs 61 lakh has been given to Sangrur district, Rs 30 lakh to Barnala district, Rs 114 lakh to Patiala district and Rs 94 lakh to Mansa district.

This was stated here yesterday by director, Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, Punjab, Husan Lal after a meeting of district welfare officers of Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa and Patiala districts, which was convened by him here to review the performance of various welfare schemes.

The director further said Sangrur district had sanctioned 409 applications of the Shagun scheme while Mansa and Patiala districts had sanctioned 627 and 731 applications, respectively. 


Women without ID proof being sent back
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 12
The Punjab government has directed civil surgeons to check the identity proof of women who undertake ultrasound tests in government hospitals.

The Health Department has issued a notice to all civil surgeons in this regard. However, in case of emergency patients the condition has been waived.

Patiala civil surgeon Avtar Singh Jarewal today said if a woman had no proper identification papers then she should produce proof like a ration card or driving licence to satisfy the doctor concerned.

Scores of women coming to the local Government Rajindra Hospital for an ultrasound are being turned back as they fail to produce proper identification papers.

Many of them who arrived at the hospital during the past couple of days were even carrying recommendations made by their respective doctors. However, almost all of them were not entertained.

Gurdial Kaur, who arrived at the Rajindra Hospital today for an ultrasound, was seen complaining against the decision, terming it harsh and unneccessary. She was having a doctor’s recommendation slip.

However, the doctors concerned at the hospital asked her to furnish proper identification proof. A peeved Sohan Singh, her husband, urged the authorities that he would be taking his wife to a private doctor.

However, doctors at the Government Rajindra Hospital said the ultrasound report of private doctors would not be valid.

A top woman gynaecologist said the government should be more lenient towards people coming from faraway places. 


Principal’s murder: Bid to know source of money
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 12
The district police is trying to know the source of huge cash of Rs 37 lakh recovered from the residence of the murdered KMV College principal Rita Bawa.

The cash was found in a brief-case lying near Bawa’s body on the floor of her bedroom at her Veer Aastha Bhawan residence near the main gate of the college.

DIG Jalandhar range Narinder Pal Singh said the police was trying to ascertain from which bank or banks the wads of 500 currency notes were withdrawn.

The DIG said the police was concentrating on the financial dispute theory behind the blind murders of the principal, her cook Kishore Mandal and two security gaurds Tarsem Lal and Shamsheedin.


CM’s sangat darshan time changed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will now hold sangat darshan at his residence on every Tuesday from 11 am to 12.30 pm instead from January 15.

Adviser to the Chief Minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said today change in schedule had been done for the convenience of people.


Transfer of teachers banned
For cops, boss will forward it 
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
Probably tired of attending to requests seeking transfers to choicest postings, instructions have been issued in Punjab to ban the transfers of school teachers. Policemen seeking transfers will now have to route their request through their immediate bosses and will have to do so in person.

Ten months after the SAD-BJP combine came to power, officials say this was waiting to happen. In certain departments, it seemed, seeking a transfer was the only work that employees had on their minds. Things had reached such a level that teachers were requesting for transfers even now when the annual school examination were to start in the next few weeks. Last week, the government issued instructions, saying that no request of transfer of a teacher would be entertained till the academic session was over.

Sources in education sector said in case of teachers, transfers were carried out in the past few months and some of the teachers who had been comfortably ensconced in schools nearer to their homes had been shifted. Now these teachers wanted to come back.

The sources in the government said the situation of transfers seekers was such that the departments of school education, police and health were deluged with requests in the past 10 months.

In the Police Department DGP N.P.S. Aulakh issued a letter a few days back that any policeman seeking transfer would have to first approach his immediate boss i.e. the SSP or the commandant of the battalion. This means a recommendation of a powerful person will have to be backed by a recommendation made from the filed units. Police officials said discipline in the force was suffering due to this.


2 research scholars fined for plagiarism
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 12
In the first-ever case of plagiarism on the Guru Nanak Dev University campus, two research scholars enrolled in the Department of Commerce and Business Management for PhD have been found guilty of “copying their synopses from other sources and claiming it to be their own.”
University sources said Balwinder Singh has written a letter to the dean, academic affairs, contesting the charge of plagiarism against the two research scholars. “The two students are not plagiarists as they have duly cleared research fellowship tests and their research papers have been published in reputed journals. Cancellation of the synopses is not the right solution. I have scanned other synopsis cleared by the Research Degree Board and to my surprise these synopses have committed the same lapses to a greater extent,” reads the letter.

Asking the candidates to tender a written apology for the lapses committed by them, the university has slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 each on the research scholars, Shikha Sehgal and Sarika, who were doing their doctorate under the guidance of Dr Balwinder Singh, a reader with the same department.

The university has ordered an inquiry into the matter, which took a year to come out with its report earlier this month, finding the candidates guilty. Apart from the fine, the synopses have been rejected and the two have been asked to resubmit their synopses from a fresh date after making the requisite changes in keeping with the issues raised by the inquiry committee.

Registrar R.S. Bawa said he was not aware of the penalty decided by the Dean concerned.

The university authorities have also asked the establishment branch to issue warning letters to the two candidates. Besides, the research scholars have also been asked to pay fresh registration fee, said university sources.

A letter issued on January 1 by the registration branch has asked the scholars to fulfil these conditions before they submit their fresh synopses, added the sources.


6,100 SC/ST students to get scholarships
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 12
Under a Central government scheme involving post-matric scholarships for students belonging to minority communities, the department of welfare of Scheduled Castes and backward classes, Punjab, will provide scholarships to 6,100 students, including more than 1,800 girls, of minority communities for the year 2007-08.

Husan Lal, director, Department of Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, Punjab, today said that to get the scholarship, the income of the family of a student should not exceed Rs 2 lakh per annum. The main aim of this scheme was to give scholarship to the meritorious students of economically weaker sections of minority communities. The selected students would be given scholarships from this year. It was expected that the government would have to pay about Rs 6 crore to 6,100 students as scholarships.

Stating about another scheme, Husan Lal said the Central government had launched a new scheme “Babu Jagjiwan Ram Chhatrawas Yojna” for constructing hostels for the SC students, studying in schools, colleges, technical/medical institutions, and universities.

The director further said that the department of welfare of SC and BC, Punjab, had written to the DPI (colleges), Punjab; DPI (schools), Punjab; director, technical education, Punjab; director, medical and research, Punjab, and registrars of all universities of the state to send their proposals regarding the construction of hostels for SC boys and SC girls in their respective educational institutions. After receiving proposals, the same would be sent to the Government of India for the release of funds.


Dharna by aided school staff on Jan 22
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
The Punjab State Aided School Teachers and other Employees Union has decided to organise dharna against Punjab government here on January 22.

It will protest against the non-release of arrears of DA etc to employees and non- implementation of other demands.

Manohar Lal Chopra, adviser and Gurcharan Singh Chahal, president of the union, here said yesterday the DPI office had sanctioned release of arrears in October, 2007.

The union leaders said verbal orders had been issued to state treasury officers bills of the arrears of aided schools be not cleared till further orders.

Ashwani Kumar, a spokesman of the union, said while arrears of all other employees had been cleared, the employees of aided schools were being given unfair treatment.

He said grant- in- aid for July to December 2007 had not been released by the DPI (Schools) , causing hardship to 9,000 employees working in 484 aided schools.

Posts of two sections officer, who deal with the release of grant- in- aid, had not been filled.


‘PAU must share blame for farm sector crisis’
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
“Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), which has got a lot of credit for a green revolution in the country, should now be prepared to share the blame for the crisis being faced by the state on the agriculture front,” said Dr Devinder Sharma, a Delhi-based food and agriculture policy analyst.

Why was PAU silent with regard to suicides by farmers, environmental and health crisis created by the over use of pesticides and other agriculture-related social and economic issues, asked Dr Sharma, speaking on behalf of the Kheti Virasat Mission. Has PAU held any convention on these issues? It would have to change its model of agriculture. It would have to tell farmers that use of pesticides and chemical based fertilizers would have to be stopped to save Punjab from further sinking into environmental and health crisis, he added. The reckless use of pesticides and fertilizers had to be stopped and ecological farming would have to be promoted, he said.

He said farmers should be conscious with regard to the promotion of floriculture, which he described as a dirtiest form of agriculture, by Holland-based companies in Punjab, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and other parts of the country. In Holland the authorities concerned were discouraging floriculture and it was being shifted to countries like India with a view to importing the same, he said.

Floriculture had become bane for that country because farmers were using pesticides to grow flowers recklessly and at one stage the use of pesticides in that country had touched the 700 kg per hectare mark. However, now Holland had adopted a policy of low external inputs sustained assessment( LEISA) to continuously monitor the use of pesticides on various crops, he added.

In Punjab, pesticides were being found in foodgrains, vegetables, drinking water, buffalo milk and other edible stuff, Dr Sharma asserted. Cancer, which was earlier confined to the Malwa belt, was now being detected in a large number of people in the Majha and Doaba regions also. Vouching for organic farming, Dr Sharma said farmers should revert to natural farming that used to be practiced 60-70 years ago.

Dr Sharma had come here accompanied by Kheti Virasat Mission activists including, Umendera Dutt and Dr Amar Singh Azad. Dr Dutt said environmental crisis should be made part of syllabus and students should be imparted education with regard to harms caused by use of pesticides to grow various crops.


Maghi Mela
Badal focuses on dairy farming, poultry
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 12
With agriculture no more remunerative for the poor farmers, and a few jobs for the unemployed youth, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today appealed to both these aggrieved lots to adopt dairy farming, with the promise that the state government would provide subsidy in this regard.

"Dairy farming, poultry, fisheries, piggery farm and keeping of good breeds of horses and dogs are the alternative for the unemployed youth and the farmers with less land holdings to become self-employed and self-reliant," the Chief Minister said while speaking at the first state-level animal fair, which was organised by the administration on the occasion of Maghi Mela here.

He suggested the small dairy owners to collectively form a group of at least 10 milk-yielding livestock and avail opportunity to get the subsidy and other financial assistance for which the state government was committed.

Lok Sabha member Sukhbir Badal said that this fair would now become an annual feature at the beginning of the Maghi Mela here, and for this, the government would make efforts to popularise the event at the national level.

He also announced that the cash prizes worth Rs 25 lakh, which were distributed among the winners at today's event, would be doubled at the next year's event.

He said that two semen banks would be established, each at Nabha and Ropar, and Rs 30 crore would be invested to establish five hi-tech polyclinics at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Kaparthala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Mohali to facilitate animal breeders. 


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