P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CM promises proprietary rights to landless farmers 
Anirudh Gupta

Zira (Ferozepur), January 24
The Punjab government will grant proprietary rights of over 40,000 acres of government land to the landless farmers who have been tilling the same since long on Republic Day, revealed Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while addressing a public gathering at Mastewala village under Zira subdivision here today.

Badal was here to lay the foundation stone of a 220 kva grid sub station. He was accompanied by irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Zora Singh Mann MP,Hari Singh ex-MLA, Subhash Chander Aggarwal, member ( transmission) besides a number of senior SAD-BJP leaders, SGPC members and officials of various government departments.

Badal said after the commissioning of the substation, more than 250 villages of this Assembly segment would get uninterrupted power supply.

To improve power scenario in the state, the state government had embarked upon several new measures, including the construction of three new thermal power plants at Talwandi Sabo, Rajpura and Balluana.

Badal announced a grant of RS 5 lakh for development of the Mastewala and said the Railway Ministry would be approached for the construction of ROB at Ghidderwandi on the Ferozepur-Jalandhar road.


Resentment among dam staff
Deduction of special increments, refixation of salary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
There is resentment among employees, serving and retired, of the Ranjit Sagar dam project as the Punjab government has ordered refixation of their salary and pension, deducting special increments given to them in reward .

The government has decided this on instructions from the accountant general, Punjab.

T.R. Sharma, chairman, RSD Retired Employees Welfare Association, said the government was doing injustice to them by ordering deduction of special increments to refix the pension of retired employees. He said the special increments were given to them under the departmental financial rules for which provision had been made by the government. He said the chief engineers posted on the project were competent to grant special increments to employees.

He said provision for special increment was also made in case of employees who built the Bhakra dam. He said the AG, Punjab, had given wrong instructions to the government. Sharma said one of the senior officer now posted in the AG Punjab was earlier posted at the dam project. At the time of his posting at the project site, he did not object to the awarding of special increments.

Sharma said though pension for 2,000 employees was approved by the authorities concerned and pension order was also issued but actually they were not paid pension for four years. He said some of the retired employees died awaiting pension and now their families were facing financial hardships. Sharma said the government was retaining Rs 300 crore as their pension money.

He said employees were agitated and they would resort to agitation in case the order to lower the salary and pension was not revoked.


Patna Sahib Jathedar suspended
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 24
The Takht Patna Sahib management today suspended Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar of the Takht, for the second time for rejecting the Nanakshahi calendar and Maryada (Sikh tradition) approved by the SGPC and Akal Takht.

Earlier, Giani Iqbal Singh was suspended in September last year by Raje Singh, officiating secretary, Patna Sahib management, Takht Patna Sahib, on the charge of misappropriating Rs 95 lakh collected during his visit abroad. Mohinder Singh Romana, president of the management, confirmed that the suspension letter had been sent to the Jathedar. He was accused of summoning Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, SGPC chief Avtar Singh and eminent Sikhs at the behest of certain forces. He said Giani Iqbal Singh has so far not floated a trust with the Rs 95 lakh he had collected from US-based Didar Singh Bains. He said the Jathedar had no locus standi to challenge Maryada or Nanakshahi calendar prepared by Sikh leaders.

However, Giani Iqbal Singh claimed president of Takht Patna Sahib had no right to suspend him. “Moreover, Romana is out of station, so he could not pass such orders,” he said.

The Jathedar, Akal Takht, had taken serious view of the controversial edict pronounced by the Sikh clergy of Takht Patna Sahib. Former SGPC secretary Gurbachan Singh Bachan urged the Sikh clergy to ex-communicate Giani Iqbal Singh from the Sikh Panth for challenging the Sikh institutions. Akal Takht Jathedar said Giani Iqbal Singh had no right to take arbitrary decisions.

The SGPC chief, Avtar Singh, has described the controversial edict taken by the Sikh clergy of Patna Sahib as unfortunate. The Chief Khalsa Diwan has also said Giani Iqbal Singh had no locus standi to challenge Maryada and Nanakshahi calendar.

The Sikh clergy of Takht Patna Sahib yesterday took serious view of changing the dates of Gurpurbs as per the Nanakshahi calendar (a solar calendar). Giani Iqbal Singh had claimed that SGPC chief Avtar Singh, Vedanti and the creator of the separate Sikh calendar could be summoned at Takht Patna Sahib if their reply was found unsatisfactory.

Akal Takht had not sent any invitation to Jathedar, Patna Sahib, to attend its meeting on February 6 that reportedly provoked him to issue an edict, challenging the separate Sikh calendar.  


Free entry for rural students to science city 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The Punjab government has decided to make a budgetary provision of Rs 1.25 crore to enable free entry to the students of the rural government schools in the state to the prestigious Pushpa Gujral Science City (PGSC). A decision to this effect was taken by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while presiding over a high-level meeting. Badal directed the science and technology department to formulate an action plan for advertising this venture in a manner to elicit maximum participation of the youth.

Hospitals to be upgraded

The Punjab government has chalked out a plan to restructure the complete network of veterinary hospitals and polyclinics in the state.

A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the Chief Minister.

It was informed at the meeting that five new polyclinics and 20 hospitals would be constructed, besides upgrading 10 existing polyclinics and 850 hospitals.Expressing deep concern over the nuisance caused by stray cattle, the Chief Minister directed all deputy commissioners to establish at least one “gaushala” in their respective districts to tackle this menace efficiently.

College gets star status

The Government of India has accorded Star Status to Khlasa College, Amritsar, a prestigious educational institution.

Stating this here today, science, technology and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia said the college would be provided assistance by the department of science and technology, Government of India, for upgrading its infrastructure.


Misuse of Funds in MCs
Govt introduces spot verification
Tribune News Service

Nangal, January 24
To check the misuse of public money in municipal councils and corporations, the government has made spot verification necessary before the agenda for a development work is passed.

As per a new order of the government, it will be mandatory for local governments to hold at least two meetings to discuss the viability of any development project that should be documented. Besides, spot verification of development work to be carried should also be held by the committee formed by the House before the agenda for the work is passed.

Minister for local government, industry and labour Manoranjan Kalia gave this information while talking to The Tribune here yesterday. He, along with former minister Madan Mohan Mittal, was here to lay foundation stones of various development projects.

The minister said orders had been passed after numerous complaints were received regarding the misuse of money in laying premix on good condition roads and frugal use of concrete flooring.

He said the councils would be recruiting sweepers on a permanent basis all over the state. He said the government was considering various options for revenue generation and octoroi re-imposition or withdrawing free power to farmers could be one of these options.

The minister also announced that the elections for the Nangal municipal council would be held along with other councils in future. The elections for the Nangal Municipal Council have not been held for the past two years, as bloc president of the BJP from Nangal has filed a writ in high court challenging the wards’ demarcation.

Kalia left no stone unturned to consolidate the position of his old friend and senior BJP leader Madan Mohan Mittal during the visit. He said for the BJP Mittal was still in command at Nangal despite his defeat. This assumes significance in view of the fact that in the recent past, Mittal was not invited by his rival group led by Hoshiarpur MP Avinash Rai Khanna at a function presided here by health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla.


Arts Council to hold heritage fests; Intach sidelined
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
A high- level meeting, the Punjab government today decided to hold heritage festivals at Patiala, Kapurthala and Amritsar under the supervision of the Punjab Arts Council which would be assisted by respective district heritage societies. The Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (Intach), which used to play a major role in organising these festivals earlier in Punjab, has been sidelined this time, it is learnt.

Sources said the festival at Patiala will be held in the middle of February. Earlier, the festival at Patiala was held under the command of the then Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in 2004,2005 and 2006. It was made a big show. At one of the function even models from Mumbai were invited for fashion parade. However, this time fashion parade has been removed from the programme.

Main focus will be on Punjab folk items, exhibitions, classical dances etc, it is learnt. At each place, festival will be held for about a week.


He donates Rs 2.16 cr per year to 3,600 students
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Dhilwan (Kapurthala), January 24
His mother Pushpawati’s life of stuggle during 38 years of her widowhood made NRI Raj Loomba repay India generously in the shape of donations of Rs 2.16 crore per annum to as many as 3,600 fatherless students across the country.

Hailing from Dhilwan, Loomba (65) was not only donating Rs 500 per month to each of the 3,600 students, but also repaying his country by making other donations from time to time.

He recently gave Rs 50 lakh for improving infrastructure and providing clean water and sanitation facilities to Dhilwan-based Government Senior Secondary School, where he had studied till class VIII in the ’50s.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair had specially come here on January 12 to pay a cheque for Rs 50 lakh to the Kapurthala DC on the behalf of the Loomba Trust of which Cherie is the president for the past four years.

Talking to The Tribune, Raj Loomba, now settled in England, said his mother Pushpawati’s life had become a misery after the death in 1954 of his father Jagiri Lal Loomba, a successful businessman of Dhilwan at that time.

When his father was alive, he used to value education. His mother followed his path after his death by keeping aside her own comfort, he said, adding that his father’s business came to an end after his death and his mother did whatever she could to continue his and his six other siblings’ studies. That time Raj was just 11 and studying in class VI.

After completing middle class in Dhilwan School, he studied till class X at Labhu Ram Doaba School in Jalandhar. Subsequently he went to the USA for higher studies in 1960 after doing FSc from DAV College, Jalandhar.

Narrating his rags-to-riches story, he said he went to England in September 1962 and did petty jobs. Then, in 1964, he set up his business of importing clothes and after that there was no looking back. Now he himself is manufacturing clothes in his factory set up in India, besides setting up office in China.

After his mother’s death in 1992, he set up the Loomba Trust in 1997 in her name. The trust is donating regularly to at least 100 fatherless students of each Indian state, including 500 tsunami victims of Tamil Nadu. The donation is being given to those students whose widow mothers’ income is below a dollar per day (Rs 1,500 per month), a parameter of poverty set by the UNO.

In Punjab, 30 students from Dhilwan, 20 from Phillaur and 50 from Ludhiana are getting donations every month.


Conviction rate in Punjab at 60 pc
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
There has been barely 1.56 per cent increase in conviction rate from 2004 in the different courts all over Punjab.

Presently, the conviction rate in Punjab is 59.84 per cent according to the data released by the Punjab Police.

Interestingly, the number of accused convicted by judicial courts in the year 2004 is 16,529 while 11,832 were acquitted, making the percentage of convictions to 58.28.

By the end of last year, the number of convictions was counted to 18,736.

As per the figures released by the Punjab Legal Services Authority (PLSA) the maximum number of cases pending is in the Jalandhar Sessions Division counting to 19,000. Utmost figure of cases pending for more than five years in the courts are in the Ferozepur Sessions Division.

The concerned authorities have been making efforts to increase the staff in the courts to tackle the number of cases pending.

The PLSA data says that the strength of judicial officers in Punjab has risen from 16 in 2000 to 37 last year.

Meanwhile, the number of criminal cases has doubled in one year. In February last, the number of criminal cases pending for 20 years in Punjab was 16 as compared to 64 criminal cases in the city.

By the end of the year the count of criminal cases in Punjab has risen to 47 while in the city the number of criminal cases is 162.

The Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Vijender Jain said the pending court cases are eroding people’s faith in the judiciary.


High alert at rly stns
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 24
The General Railway Police (GRP) has sounded a high alert on all railway stations falling under Punjab after getting a threatening letter from the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Confirming this, SP (GRP) Shamsher Jang Bahadur Sharma told The Tribune that the GRP along with teams of the Punjab police was keeping a close watch on all railway stations especially Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Pathankot and Amritsar falling under his jurisdiction.

Sharma said the GRP had already been on alert in view of Republic Day but now the surveillance had been further strengthened after threat by the Lashkar-e-Toiba to blow up different railway stations.

Similarly, Jalandhar SSP Arpit Shukla said security had been tightened at all public places and high alert had been sounded.


Women bus conductors soon
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 24
Punjab is likely to have women bus conductors soon. Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal gave an indication to it here yesterday. Master Mohan Lal said he was not averse to recruitment of women as bus conductors. The job was not a male preserve., he said.

In fact, he had asked Manvesh Sidhu, managing director, Pepsu Road Transport Corporation, to invite applications from women candidates for posts of conductor in the PRTC.

The minister said the PRTC had turned a corner and started coming out of financial crisis. He said he would direct officials of the district administration to ensure the encroachments around the entry of the bus stand were removed .


Justice Aggarwal chairman of VAT Tribunal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Nearly three years after Value-Added Tax (VAT) Tribunal was constituted in Punjab, the state government today appointed retired Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Justice M. M. Aggarwal as its chairman.

The development is significant, as the tribunal has so far been functioning without a chairman. Two members were appointed to the tribunal by the previous Congress government. One of the members was acting as the officiating chairman.

The state government this evening issued the orders appointing Justice Aggarwal as the chairman. The appointment follows strong recommendations made by Punjab Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal in Justice Aggarwal’s favour. Punjab Government sources said Mattewal had reportedly written a letter to state Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal suggesting the name of Justice Aggarwal for the appointment.

The High Court advocates gave Justice Aggarwal a warm send off on Wednesday after he retired upon attaining the age of superannuation on January 19. He was elevated to the High Court Bench on November 5, 2004.

Justice Aggarwal, when contacted, said he had so far not received a copy of the orders. He added that he would join the office on Friday in case the copy of the orders was handed over to him well in time. The tribunal, constituted under Section 4 of the Punjab VAT Act, 2005, has the powers to hear appeals under the Act. It came into existence after Capt Amarinder Singh Government in Punjab introduced VAT from April 1, 2005, following the coming into effect of the VAT regime in the country.

The tribunal was initially headed by former bureaucrat S. S. Dawra. A former member of the customs, Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, constituted by the union ministry of finance, P. S. Bajaj, was also appointed a member of the VAT tribunal. In the very first year of VAT’s introduction, 1,450 applications for the claim of Rs 78.84 crore were received in various districts of the state for refund. It was found that 667 applications were incomplete and so deficiency memos were issued to the dealers in those cases. Out of 783 complete applications, 592 were finalised by allowing a refund of Rs 25.22 crore. Besides, 62 applications were rejected as they were not eligible for refund.


2,100 computer teachers to be recruited
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The Punjab government yesterday approved to recruit 2,100 computer teachers for classes VI to XII in government schools.

It was decided at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here yesterday evening. these teachers would be recruited through a procedure laid down by the Punjab Information Communication and Technology Education Society (PICTES).

The school education department will send a detailed proposal in the next meeting of the Cabinet for seeking clearance in this regard. The PICTES has already procured hardware on lease, maintain and transfer basis at a cost of Rs 60 crore. Financial implication involved in the recruitment of these teachers will be Rs 63 crore annually. 


UK faculty to train English teachers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The British academic faculty will soon start training Punjab teachers of government primary, secondary schools and colleges teaching English. The British Council yesterday gave presentation to chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh in this connection here.

Sources said two senior officers of the council, including Alison Barrette, gave the presentation and outlined programme prepared by it for training teachers concerned in Punjab. The state government is keen that apart from training teachers, the British authorities also advise the state Education authorities on updating syllabus of English at school, college and university level.


Details of syndicate meeting distorted: MLA
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 24
Akali MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha, who is also a member of the Guru Nanak Dev University syndicate, has raised objections at the minutes of the proceedings of the last syndicate meeting, which give the impression that he was in favour of authorising vice-chancellor Jai Rup Singh for electing three remaining members of the syndicate from the university senate.

In a letter to the chief secretary, higher education, Punjab, Valtoha has pointed out that the details of the syndicate meeting held on October 31, 2007, released this week, had been distorted.

“It is wrong to say that there was consensus in the house on authorising the VC on the issue of electing/nominating three syndicate members from the senate. Even though this was definitely the opinion of certain members, I along with other MLAs, were against giving the authority to only the VC,” reads the letter.

“I had suggested that a committee, consisting of the VC, chief secretary, higher education, and DPI (colleges) be constituted for this purpose. A section of the syndicate members had sought proper election of the three members,” adds the letter.

Earlier, in a letter to the registrar R.S.Bawa on December 30, 2007, Valtoha alleged that the VC’s view that no member of the syndicate was authorised to reconsider the powers of the syndicate delegated to him without his prior approval was a proof enough of the dictatorial attitude of the VC.

Supporters of the VC, including Gurnam Singh, a former dean academic affairs, and Amarjit Singh of GNDU termed the demand of Valtoha and his supporters as a “threat to the autonomy of the university”.


IAS officers transferred 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The Punjab government today transferred some IAS and PCS officers. R.P.S. Pawar, principal secretary, sports and youth services, will also look after the work of principal secretary, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, in addition to his duties till further orders.

Dilraj Singh, joint secretary, tourism, has been posted as SDM, Ajnala, while Sandeep Rishi, SDM, Batala, has been transferred to Dera Baba Nanak in the same capacity. Tejinder Pal Singh, SDM, Ajnala, has been posted as SDM, Jalalabad.


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