P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Kiosks outside DTO office raided, 9 held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 22
The police today raided kiosks outside the district transport office (DTO) and arrested nine persons issuing of documents unauthorisedly.

The police seized driving licences, registration cards and stamps which they were not supposed to have as they had permission to sell forms and do type work for clients. As the police entered the premises, kiosk owners fled from there.

Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, SSP, said the accused indulged in making registration certificates of vehicles and giving original receipts of the DTO office with fake signatures to people. The arrested include Baldev Singh of Azad Nagar, Jagdish Ram of Bhawani Nagar, Varinder Kumar of Kirpal Colony, Sunita of Rani Ka Bagh, Rajwinder Singh of Court Road, Kashmir Singh of Ajnala, Kuljit Singh of Gole Bagh, Mukesh Kumar of Toba Bhai Salo and Vivek Kumar.

Nine separate cases have been registered against them under Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471, IPC, at the Civil Lines police station here.

Involvement of some employees of the department could not be ruled out, said the sources. However, the SSP said the matter would be probed and the documents seized checked.

Meanwhile, Vimal Setia, DTO, said there were complaints against these “agents” and they had reported to the department concerned in this regard. He said these agents were allowed by the deputy commissioner to sell forms and type only. 


Lehra Mohabbat plant cleanest in India
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 22
The Lehra Mohabbat-based Guru Hargobind Thermal Power Plant has earned the distinction of being the cleanest in India from the environmental point of view. The plant recorded the lowest suspended particulate matter (SPM) emission in the country.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has fixed the emission limit of 150 mg per Newton cubic metre (mg/Nm3). The SPM level of unit-I of the plant is 21-54mg/Nm3 and of unit-II 22-89 mg/Nm3 in 2005-06, whereas the same has been 25-87 mg/Nm3 for unit-I and 30-59 mg/Nm3 for unit-II in 2006-07.

PSEB chairman Y.S. Ratra stated that in spite of high-ash content coal received at the thermal plant, the emission levels were kept well below the norms. He added that the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant, Ropar, had been awarded ISO certification.


Forest Corpn Official-contractor Nexus
Embezzlement of crores alleged
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 22The Punjab Non-gazetted Forest Officers Union (PNFOU) has alleged that Forest Corporation officials, in connivance with contractors, have embezzled crores.

Demanding a high-level probe Balbir Singh Dhillon, general secretary, PNFOU, said if the government did not disband the corporation there would be a heavy loss to the exchequer.

On recent bids by the Forest Department and of the corporation, Dhillon said the scandal came to light when the Forest Department held an auction in Sangrur. He said the department generated revenue of Rs 12.32 lakh from the auction of 264 trees out of the 2,800 trees auctioned on December 29. He said if the corporation had auctioned the trees it would have earned only Rs 16.50 lakh from the cutting of 2,800 trees which had exposed corrupt practices of officials in the corporation. He said the state government would now be able to get more than Rs 32 crore from the sale of these trees.

The PNFOU general secretary said recently the secretary, Forest Department, had constituted a committee under M.P. Rai to look into the functioning of the corporation and the huge gap in the sale of trees by the department and the corporation.

However, principal chief conservator of forest B.C. Bala could not be contacted for comments on the issue.

Balbir Singh said the corporation had auctioned the trees on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway for the six-laning of the G.T. Road for a meagre of Rs 1 crore while the company which had undertaken the project of widening the road had offered Rs 4 crore. He said similarly the state government suffered a loss of crores by auctioning trees on the Amritsar-Jalandhar G.T. Road by the corporation. He said if there was a higher bid in any auction, the corporation officials to oblige contractors had changed the bid value later by amending the documents.


Minister backs demand for dist status to Pathankot
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 22
Giving an impetus to the Punjab BJP’s move for providing district status to Pathankot, Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal Sharma today lent his support to the Pathankot Zila Banao Sangharsh Committee. The district BJP unit is, however, tight-lipped on the issue.

The minister hailed the initiative of the Punjab BJP chief in this regard and claimed that the party was firm on getting district status for Pathankot.

"Pathankot has been given a step-motherly treatment by the previous governments, thus, blocking its development at every front. The formation of a district is the only solution to the overall development of Pathankot and its surrounding areas like Dhar, Sujanpur, Dina Nagar and Narot Jaimal Singh", claimed Sharma.

On the other hand, up in arms against the BJP’s demand for district status to Pathankot, the Gurdaspur committee today staged a dharna for over two hours in front of the office of the deputy commissioner.

The committee has been opposing the move claiming that there was a need for developing infrastructure in the existing district than creating a new new one.The committee has threatened to intensify its agitation.

Meanwhile, Rakesh Kumar, president of the committee, kicked off a public awareness programme to educate people about the benefits of a district.

To obey party orders on parliamentary poll

Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal, who is MLA from Pathankot, has said being a committed warrior of the BJP, he will obey the directions of the party if the responsibility to contest the parliamentary election is given to him.

Political analysts are of the opinion that being “son of the soil”, Master Mohan Lal Sharma could prove a better representative of the area rather than a “paratrooper” from Gurdaspur. Being aware of the ground realities of the area, Mohan Lal will be able to take the local issues more effectively in the Lok Sabha than anyone else, they feel. 


Badal meets Sibal, Reddy 
Seeks eco, forest clearance for projects
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today met science and technology minister Kapil Sibal to seek early environment and forest clearance (EFC) for national agri-food biotechnology institute and bio-processing unit and the national institute of nanotechnology. Badal said the state government had fulfilled its commitment of acquiring 381.38 acres at Mohali for the knowledge city.

He said three colleges in the state - Satish Chandra Dhawan Government College, Ludhiana, Government Mohindra College, Patiala, and Government Science and Research College, Jagraon - should be upgraded to “Star life science colleges”.

Badal said detailed proposal on these colleges had been sent to the Department of Biotechnology for approval.

According to a Punjab government spokesman, the Chief Minister sought linking of state's telemedicine project, including primary health centre, Badal, in Muktsar and community health centre, Machhiwara, Ludhiana, with the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

He urged the ministry to work expeditiously for setting up the Centre of Excellence for Veterinary and Animal Science at the Guru Angad Dev University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Ludhiana.

Sibal said the ministry had cleared state’s four pending proposals, including the Centres of Excellence in bio-pesticides, medicinal and aromatic plants, genetic engineering and technology assessment and transfer.

The Chief Minister, who also met urban development minister Jaipal Reddy, sought approval of the detailed project reports (DPRs) for the augmentation of sewage treatment plant at Ludhiana under JNNURM.

The projects include 50 million litre per day (MLD) capacity enhancement of Jamalpur at Rs 17.24 crore and 100 MLD each at Bhattian and Balloke at Rs 34.86 crore and 34.97 crore, respectively.

Badal also paid courtesy call to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at his residence.

The Chief Minister has sought early clearance of various pending irrigation projects concernign the state and implementation of study conducted by the Central Ground Water Board for water-logging problem in Muktsar.

The Chief Minister, who met water resources minister Saiffudin Soz today, urged him to recommend concept note on ground water management and eradication of water logging in the state to the Finance Ministry so that Punjab government could avail of non-lending technical assistance from the World Bank.

Badal, who also met Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, urged the Centre to revise the norms and criteria for identification of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the country. 



Separate SGPC for Haryana
Move to divide Sikhs: Badal
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 22
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has expressed anguish over the move for a separate gurdwara parbandhak committee in Haryana for which a committee was formed to report to the Congress government and it will table a Bill in this regard in the Haryana Assembly in the Budget session.

The SGPC was the only national-level body of the Sikhs on religious matters and the proposed committee in Haryana was only to weaken the Sikhs .

Addressing reporters at Badla village, 20 km from here, yesterday Badal said as per the Sikh Gurdwara Act, any matter related to the Sikh religion had to get resolved by the two-thirds majority of the SGPC. The proposed committee was an interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. Sikhs were against the formation of a committee for them in Haryana, he said.

Later, the Chief Minister laid the foundation stones of 66 KV sub-stations at Ajjowal and Harta Badla villages with Rs 6.5 crore. He addressed a public rally at Ajjowal village. He also laid the foundation stone for government high schools of Ajjowal and Phambra Bhunga with Rs 50 lakh each under a new scheme of the government.

Badal also participated in the bhog ceremony on the 10th death anniversary of Arjan Singh Josh, MLA, father of chief parliamentary Mohinder Kaur Josh at the local gurdwara Kalgidhar.


Mann for round table conference
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 22
President of the SAD (A) Simranjit Singh Mann today asked Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to hold a round-table conference of all major Akali Dals to discuss move of separate gurdwara parbandhak committee in Haryana, besides the issues of Chandigarh international airport and the Orbit.

Mann with party general secretary Jeet Singh Alloarkh was here today to appear in court in connection with a case. The court today fixed June 22 as the next date of hearing in the case.


Turban Issue
Sikhs to hold marches world over 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
The International Sikh Confederation, an umbrella body of various Sikh organisations, today gave a call to Sikhs the world over to hold peaceful marches on January 24 to seek the removal of ban imposed by the French government on tying turbans or “ patkas” for Sikh students in government schools in France.

Lieut Gen Kartar Singh Gill (retd), spokesman for the confederation, addressing a press conference said Sikhs in Chandigarh would hold a march from gurdwara in Sector 34 to Alliance Francaise in Sector 36. Likewise, Sikhs in Delhi would hold a march up to French Embassy, he added. Gill said the Sikhs settled abroad had been requested to hold marches on the issue.

The confederation urged the Prime Minister to take up the issue with the French President who has been invited as a guest of honour for Republic Day. “We have met Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and have also written to the Prime Minister PM and Leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani on the turban issue”, said Gill.

The confederation has urged the Prime Minister not to sign any trade or other agreement with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy till he agreed to withdraw the ban on turban.

Gill, who was accompanied by Bhai Ashok Singh, president, Institute of Sikh Studies, Sikander Singh of Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha and other eminent Sikhs, said a meeting had been sought with the Prime Minister and the appointment was awaited. He said earlier in steel baron Lakshmi Mittal’s case, the Union Government had given threat to the French Government to stop it from creating hurdles in the take over of a steel company in Europe.


Government all set to survey sex ratio
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
The Punjab Health Department is ready to conduct a survey to determine the current sex ratio and health indicators in the state. Long castigated for the poorest sex ratio in the country - the standing figure is 863 as per 2001 census, the health authorities now want to find out if past interventions have helped.

Although marginal improvements in the sex ratio have been reported in some parts of the state, the exact position is not known. The survey, which will cover 25 per cent of the population, will study the sex ratio and all other health indicators from the perspective of regions, communities and area profiles. Other major health indicators sought to be determined are MMR (maternal mortality rate) and IMR (infant mortality rate). For both these indicators, Punjab does not yet have district-specific data.

As per the latest available figures of the sample registration system (SRS) 2005, Punjab’s IMR is 44 per 1,000 births as against the national average of 58, its MMR is 178 per one lakh births, whereas the national average is 302. District-wise ratios are sought to be studied.

On the front of sex ratio, the state is still lagging far behind. The problem is perhaps a uniform health policy, which does not allow health authorities to focus on problem areas. The survey, to be conducted by a private body, seeks to locate district and block-level gaps in the sex ratio to devise new strategies for intervention. Tenders for the survey are about to be called.

As regards the sex ratio data, the authorities feel there’s an urgency to find out the latest. “We can’t wait until the next census,” says V.K. Goel, who looks after the maternal and child health in the department.

Punjab had improved its sex ratio at birth (0 to 4 years) from 796 as per the 2001 census to 818 as per the SRS data of 2005. In the 0 to 6 years category also there has been some improvement from 798 in 2001 to 801 in 2005. “This ratio would have fallen to 767 had we not implemented better strategies. The idea now is to go after the sex ratio imbalance and correct it effectively. For that, this survey is needed,” Goel said.

As per the 2001 census, seven of the 10 districts with the lowest child sex ratio 
in the country (0 to 6 years) are in Punjab. 


Take over vacant BBMB land: MLA
Tribune News Service

Nangal, January 22
Congress MLA from Nangal K.P.S. Rana has written to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to take over vacant BBMB land. In the letter, a copy of which was provided to newspersons here, he stated that the BBMB had acquired the land for setting up colonies for its employees.

Accordingly colonies have been set up and the surplus land remains vacant. People residing in surrounding areas as well as oustees have occupied surplus land for setting up their business and residential infrastructure. The BBMB does not require this land.


Quota for Poor Housing projects to be checked
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 22
All housing projects in the state will be surveyed for compliance with the mandatory condition that 10 per cent of the project area is used to house the economically weaker sections.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal was today speaking to mediapersons after unveiling the foundation stone of the TDI City housing mega project here.

When pointed out that none of the promoters, which had set up colonies in the area, had built houses for the poor, Badal said action would be taken against such promoters after the survey report was received. “It is mandatory to keep 5 per cent (sic) of the area for the construction of houses for the poor. It has also been suggested that the promoter should first construct houses for the poor before launching other houses,” he said.

He said a metro service connecting Mohali and Panchkula to Chandigarh was also being planned. “We will try to include Dera Bassi and Zirakpur also in the metro routes,” he said.

Cabinet minister for cooperation Capt Kanwaljit Singh who was also present at the function added that his department would construct houses for the poor, which would be available in the range of Rs 3 to Rs 5 lakh. He said the department would also give loans to buy these houses.


Notice of motion issued to A-G
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Taking up a petition by Punjab’s former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in Ludhiana city center case, Justice Mahesh Grover of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice of motion to state Advocate-General Punjab for January 31. The judge also directed against his arrest in till the date fixed.

The directions were issued on Monday after the former Chief Minister’s plea was fixed for same-day hearing. Appearing before the court, his counsel had expressed apprehensions that in case the former Chief Minister’s bail application was declined, he would be faced with the prospect of arrest, as he would be without any protection at that point of time. 


Private players keen to set up universities in state
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Punjab is all set to become a hub of specialised universities for different academic streams. At least 10 private players, including the Reliance Industries group led by Anil Ambani, Bharti telecom (Airtel group), Lord Diljit Rana, Chitkara group, Ryat and Bahra group and the SGPC are keen to set up their universities in Punjab.

In fact,they have already sent their proposals to the Punjab government which has almost finalised the draft of the Bill and the policy to be put in place to allow the setting up of universities in the private sector in the state. Earlier, the state government had allowed the setting up of the Lovely University near Jalandhar and the state government had then enacted a law with particular reference to that university.

However, as more and more groups are showing interest in setting up universities, the state government has decided to put in place a broad policy framework and law in place to enable the opening of universities in the private sector.

The entry of private players in the education sector at such a large scale in Punjab is a new development. Whether these groups will be able to set up educational institutes of excellence or not is the million dollar question. Punjab is already burdened with mediocre kind of educational institutes. It has not a single educational institute of national repute. Punjab needs high quality educational institutions of international standards. Before allowing the setting up of private universities, the state will have to ensure that these are not the run of the mill stuff.

Sources said the Chitkara group, which has opened a number of educational institutions at a complex near Banur on the Chandigarh-Patiala road had moved the application to set up Chitkara University. The SGPC has applied to set up Guru Granth Sahib University, near Fatehgarh Sahib. The UK-based Lord Diljit Rana, who has made huge investment in setting up a group of educational institutions near Khamano, is keen to set up Sanghol University. Sanghol is related to ancient civilisation and said to be a seat of learning of Budhism.

The Institute of Finance and Chartered Analysts of India( IFAI) is keen to set up a university near Gurnekalan village in the Lehragaga area of Sangrur district. Educom is interested to set up a university. Bharti Telecom had sought 500 acres of land from Punjab to set up its university. Reliance Group is keen to set up an IT university near Chandigarh either at Fatehgarh or in Ropar district. A high- level team of this group had visited a number of sites in both districts, it is learnt.

The Ryat and Bahra group, which has set up a chain of educational institutions in the Kurali and Ropar belt, is keen set up a university near Kurali, it is learnt. Another group has proposed to set up a university in infrastructure and yet another aviation university. The government itself is trying hard to set up a Defense University at Patiala. Already, Punjab, a small state, has Law University at Patiala, Health Sciences University at Faridkot, Animal Sciences University at Ludhiana, Punjab Agriculture University besides deemded Thapar Technical University at Patiala and Punjab Technical University at Jalandhar. Then there is Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University. 


PCCTU to resume agitation
Our Correspondent

Doraha, January 22
The executive committee of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) has decided to resume its deferred court arrest agitation from February, and February 5 will be marked as complete educational bandh in Punjab.

Stating this in a press statement, Kuldip Singh, general secretary, PCCTU, said the executive committee, along with 21 teachers from the Punjabi University area, would present themselves for court arrest.

These teachers will take mass casual leave and the remaining teachers of two universities will send teachers for protest rally at Chandigarh. An equal number of delegates will hold campus rallies after attending first period in their respective colleges. Singh added that the EC of the PCCTU had decided to take this step, as around four months had passed when the union had decided to defer the agitation after two rounds of discussions with education minister on August 31 and October 1, but not even a single demand had been implemented from the accepted demands.

Meanwhile, a delegation of the PCCTU met special secretary, Higher Education, at Chandigarh on the issue of resolving the deadlock on the amendment of the Security of Service Act, 1974.


Ground frost hits crop export 
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 22
The export of perishable cargo from Rajasansi international airport has run into rough weather, with business of the perishable cargo complex dipping by over 50 per cent over the last week, all due to ground frost destroying crops in the region.

The sudden dip in night temperature has destroyed almost the entire fields of baby corn, sugar snaps and peas, across the “majha” region, putting brakes on the export of these vegetables.

Talking to The Tribune, Sanjay Budhraj, deputy chief executive officer, perishable cargo complex, said ever since the export of perishable cargo to the UK started on May 1, 2006, baby corn, sugar snaps and peas had found a regular market in London and other adjoining cities.

“The season had only begun for these produces from December-end. Ground front has played a spoilsport even before the exports could peak, as expected by the end of this month. The export volumes have been reduced to 50 per cent of the figures recorded earlier this month,” he said.

“We have got reports from producers that almost the entire fields of these vegetations have been destroyed. It is a very disturbing trend for exports of perishable cargo from Rajasansi airport,” he added.

Requesting anonymity, a producer said he had made investment of Rs 9 lakh in baby corn and had got only two harvests so far. “I was expecting to make six more harvests but the entire crop was destroyed. I have now ploughed the fields,” he said.

Ground front is worse than mist or fog as it forms droplets on the surface of the plants, leading to massive drop in temperature. Consequently, the crop is deprived of proper sunlight and the photosynthesis process is affected to a large extent, eventually killing the entire produce.

Sham Singh Bains, a farmer from Adampur in Jalandhar district, which is infamous for recording the coldest temperature in the state, besides Amritsar, said his crop of French Beans and peas had been completely destroyed because of ground front during the last two weeks. “The only solution to counter front is watering the fields but it is not viable to do it on a daily basis, as has been the situation this month,” he said.

Budhiraj said restaurants in the UK had been using a lot of as baby corn, sugar snaps, snow peas and okhra from Punjab, adding an Indian flavour to the western cuisines

These commodities are a big hit with the British who relish these Indian ingredients in soups, continental cuisine and even some Chinese recipes much more than the local varieties, he said.

Ludhiana-based companies, specialising in export of okra, a variety of lady finger, green chillies and baby corn, was the pioneer company in the export of perishable vegetables from this centre. Soon to join in the exports was a Bangalore-based company which operates in parts of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh exporting snow peas, sugar snaps and baby corn.


2 undertrials escape
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 22
Two undertrials lodged in Central Jail Ajay Kumar of Munpur village in Jalandhar and Sunil Kumar of Rani Tal village in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh managed to escape from the custody of the district police from the district courts complex here this afternoon.

The police had brought the two, residing in Gurjepal Nagar in Jalandhar, in connection with hearing of a theft case. Head constable Pargat Singh was suspended for negligence.

SP City (I) S.K.Kalia said the two undertrials managed to escape by jumping on the roof of the adjoining under construction building from the first floor of the district courts when they were taking their lunch there.


Dalit youth beaten to death
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 22
Three persons, including chief of a dera, situated on the Machhiwara road on the outskirts of Samrala town, near here, allegedly beat a Dalit youth of Kullewal village to death this afternoon.

The police has registered a case under Section 304 of the IPC against the accused. No arrest had been made so far.

Amar Dass, chief of the dera, and two of his accomplices were booked for allegedly causing the death of Kulwant Singh (38) of Kullewal by beating him this afternoon.

According to the FIR lodged at the Samrala police station, Amar Dass and his accomplices had allegedly dragged Kulwant Singh inside the dera when he, along with his wife, stopped in front of the dera while returning to his village. Before Sinder Kaur could call someone to rescue his husband from the clutches of the accused, they allegedly beat him to death and threw his body on the road.

A police team examined the spot in the evening and took the body in custody. "After finding a prima facie case in the matter, we have booked the chief of the dera and his two accomplices for allegedly causing the death of the youth," said the police. The postmortem would be conducted on Wednesday. 


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