P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


9 of mariage party killed in road accident
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 3
A pall of gloom descended over Moonak village, about 60 km from here, today when the news about the killing of nine persons, who were members of a marriage party, in a road accident, reached Moonak. Seven of the killed baratis were cremated at Moonak this evening, while one was cremated at Rampura village (near Moonak). The ninth killed person was from Manaksar (Rajasthan).

The barat had departed from Moonak today morning for Manaksar to get Nand Lal’s son married. When the jeep of the barat reached a village near Sirsa, it collided with a truck. Eight persons were killed on the spot, while the ninth person died on the way of hospital. In the accident, four baratis sustained injuries.

Those who killed in the accident were Nand Lal (father of the bridegroom), Atma Ram, Rakesh Kumar, Teju Ram, Amrit Kumar, Mahvir, Gurpreet Singh, Krishan Kumar and Kartar Singh.

Meanwhile, MP from Sangrur Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and area in charge of the SAD for the Lehra Assembly constituency Prem Singh Chandumajra also reached Moonak to attend the cremation of the deceased persons.


24th Annual Day Function of Dashmesh Academy
Panchayat elections before April: Badal
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, February 3
The panchayat elections will be held in the state before the end of April this year. Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal gave this information while talking to newsmen here today.

The Chief Minister said the decision to hold indirect elections to the posts of sarpanch had been taken to reduce group rivalries in villages that hampered development works.

Responding to a query on according district status to Anandpur Sahib, the Chief Minister said the decision regarding it could be taken when the issue of carving out new districts in the state came to the fore.

He also said the work of various pending development works at Anandpur Sahib would be completed at the earliest.

He promised to aid the prestigious Dashmesh Academy that was now reeling under the reduced strength of students.

While presiding over the 24th annual function of the academy here today, the Chief Minister said the government would invest in the institute to take it at par with other prestigious schools of the country such as Sanawar or Dehradun-based schools.

He declined the possibility of handing over the school to the Army or any other organisation.

The Dashmesh Academy was at one time one of the most prestigious schools of the state affiliated with the ICSE. The school campus is spread in about 300 acres and has hostel and housing facilities for students and staff.

However, over a period of time, the number of students coming to the school has declined due to the apathy of managements. Now most of the students coming to school are local. A portion of the school was converted into a marshal arts academy during the tercentenary celebrations in 1999. The academy, however, is still not functional.

Badal, who is life chairman of the governing body of the school, gave away prizes to students at the annual function.


Another Scam
Funds for forestry and soil conservation works misused: Report
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 3
An inquiry marked by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has found gross irregularities in the funds released for forestry and soil conservation works in the Hoshiarpur forest division.

In the interim report that has been submitted to the Chief Minister, inquiry officer Harsh Kumar has stated that under the JBIC project the financial powers of a DFO were restricted to Rs 1 lakh. From 2002 to 2007 Rs 26 crore was released for Hoshiarpur forest range to carry out the said works.

The inquiry officer has alleged that the Punjab Financial Rules were violated in the usage of these funds. The then DFO, Hoshiarpur, R.R. Kakkar, split the amount for afforestation works into Rs 1 lakh or less illegally. As per rules, a DFO should have gone to the government to seek approval of major works of more than Rs 1 lakh liability. The government would have then issued open tenders to get these executed. The inquiry officer has also indicted higher officials of the department, including the then conservator, for failing to check the misuse of funds.

The violation of rules has also been alleged in the joint forest management plan funds. Quoting an instant, the inquiry officer has alleged that as per rules a DFO is empowered to issue a direct order of Rs 8,000 only. For amounts exceeding that, open tenders have to be issued. In this case also, bills were split and payment of Rs 6.90 lakh was made to M/s Amar Promoters, Solan, for angle iron purchase.

Interestingly, the inquiry officer has also indicted the Department of Forest officials, including former DFO Kakkar, former conservator, Shivalik hills, Swaran and other lower forest officials for criminal conspiracy against Gunraj. A case was registered against Gunraj after body parts of a sambar were recovered from his farm house in Hoshiarpur in April, 2006. However, the inquiry officer had alleged that from circumstances it seemed that the remains of the sambar had been planted there.

DFO, Dasuya, Amit Mishra, who had no territorial jurisdiction over the area, was made to lead the raid and make a damage report. In his statement before the inquiry officer, Mishra has stated that the labourers at Gunraj’s farm house Nanku Munda and Hari Ram never gave any statement that he had killed the sambar. Their statements in the damage report could be concocted. He has also attached an affidavit of eye witness Alfudin, who has stated that he saw some forest officials burying sambar parts at Gunraj’s farm.

Gunraj had been complaining to various authorities against the misuse of forest funds. This seems to be the motive for implicating him in the case, the inquiry officer stated.


Rs 500 cr for cooperative credit system
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
Punjab cooperation minister Kanwaljit Singh has managed to persuade the union government to give Rs 500 crore to the state to revive the cooperative credit system. The decision to extend the grant to Punjab was conveyed to Kanwaljit Singh by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and finance minister P. Chidambaram, whom he met in Delhi last week.

The announcement has come as a relief to many who look at the grant as a positive move to revitalise the short-term credit system as per the recommendations of the A. Vaidyanathan report for the revival of the cooperative credit system.

It is learnt that Punjab had sought a higher share in Rs 20,000 crore earmarked by the Centre for the revival of the cooperative credit system across the country.

It goes to the credit of the cooperation minister to persuade the Centre to allocate Rs 500 crore to Punjab as the latter had initially decided to give Punjab only Rs 82 crore, while Haryana had got over Rs 600 crore. Pawar’s own state Maharashtra has been promised Rs 6,400 crore.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh argued with Pawar and Chidambram that by giving Punjab only Rs 82 crore, the Centre was pushing Punjab farmers to the mercy of money-lenders. These farmers already owe arhtiyas close to Rs 24,000 crore.

According to Capt Kanwaljit Singh, the disbursement of rural credit in Punjab had dropped from around 65 per cent in 1990s to a mere 35 per cent at present.

The cooperation minister is reported to have told the Centre that it should evolve a clear cut formula on the allocation of funds to the states as a discriminatory attitude towards the state was not only pushing the state’s farmers towards suicides, but if they were not helped, this would lead to upsetting the contribution of Punjab to the national food reserves.


National status for Nangal wetlands
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
The ministry of environment has included Nangal in the national list of wetlands. With the inclusion of these wetlands, Punjab has now five wetlands of national importance including Harike, Ropar and Kanjli.

Talking to The Tribune at a national-level function held to mark World Wetlands Day in Kangra district yesterday, N.S. Tiwana, executive director, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, said the Nangal wetlands was declared a national site at a meeting of the ministry held on January 31 in Amritsar. The ministry in this regard would issue a formal communication soon.

Nangal wetlands are significant in terms of flora, fauna and hydrology. These days fields, swamps and marshy areas around the Nangal reservoir are home to thousands of birds from the trans-Himalayan region.

The Nangal reservoir was formed with the construction of a barrage over the Sutlej in 1961. The water is spread over an area of 650 hectares, including 375 hectares of the reservoir.

During a recent visit to the area, a number of brahminy ducks, pintails, black-necked grebes, red-necked grebes, large cormorants, mallards, coots, moorhens, darters, terns and ruddyshell ducks were spotted.

The influx of birds, both local and migratory, in this border area of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh has been on the rise for the past many years.

Besides the resident birds, including the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank myna, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler and the crested bunting, one can watch a large number of birds from far-off hills roosting and feeding in the area.

A team of wildlife officials, comprising Dr Vibhu Prakash, principal scientific officer (ornithology), Bombay Natural History Society, visited areas near Nangal to study their avifauna last year. The team was satisfied with the presence of migratory and resident birds.

The catchment along the reservoir is an important habitat for some threatened species like the scaly anteater and python. It is also an important breeding place for the smooth Indian otter, the hog deer, the sambhar and the pangolin.

Prabhat Bhatti, a Nangal-based bird watcher, while welcoming the decision, demanded that the Centre should declare the area as a wildlife sanctuary to protect flora and fauna.

The state, with an area of 50,362 sq km, has 12 natural wetlands (spread over 8 sq km) and 10 man-made wetlands (147 sq km). The Harike wetlands, the largest man-made wetlands, supports 361 bird species. These include 13 rare, eight threatened and nine vulnerable species.


‘Punjabi mothers lagging in breastfeeding’
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 3
Superstitions coupled with false beliefs and compulsions are making young Punjabi mothers lag way behind women of rest of India in healthy as well as much-needed early initiation of breastfeeding of their babies.

It is, however, a matter of some consolation that Punjab has slightly lower child mortality rate as compared to most of the other states with Kerala topping the list, boasting of the highest infant survival rates.

If the average annual child mortality rate is 57 kids per 1,000 live births, as many as 41 of 1,000 infants die in Punjab within one year of their birth owing to improving socio-economic conditions in this northern state.

Kerala is much ahead of Punjab in infant care as just 17 of 1,000 kids below the age of one year die there. This is primarily due to early initiation of breastfeeding.

The figures of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) reveal that a whopping 2.5 lakh infants can be saved from death every year if breastfeeding is introduced to them within an hour of their birth.

“In Punjab and neighbouring states there are several superstitions and wrong beliefs such as breastfeeding should be started only after seeing a star, it can be initiated only after the arrival of a ‘bua’ (aunt) of the child, or that a mother cannot breast-feed a baby at least until after three days of its birth which are hindering the habit of starting breastfeeding early. Ideally, mothers should start breastfeeding of their newborn within an hour of the birth. Early initiation of breast-feeding could guard infants against a number of diseases and even death,” observed Dr Anil Sud, president of the Punjab unit of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP).

“A large number of urban women can not afford breastfeeding for they are office-goers and lack time for their kids. In rural areas, the position is slightly better as a considerable number of young mothers even resort to exclusive breastfeeding. Nuclear families are also to be blamed for the malady,” says Dr Gurdev Singh Parmar, an Adampur-based paedetrician and a member of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).

Citing the NFHS study, Dr Sud said, “If 24 per cent mothers start breastfeeding in the first hour of the birth of a child in India, just 12.7 per cent of Punjabi women make their infants have breast milk in the first hour.

Similarly, on an average, while 46 per cent Indian women provide exclusive breastfeeding to their newborn till the age of six months, just 36 per cent Punjabi women follow them. So, a lot has to be done to educate the public and save a lot of newborn babies in the country as well as Punjab,” said Dr Sud.


At 64, this scientist is still raring to go
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 3
Described as “literary scientist” or “multi-faceted” writer Dr Faqir Chand Shukla (64), who retired as professor of Food Technology, Punjab Agricultural University, in September 2004 after 35 years of service, believes life starts at 60.

Recipient of nine national awards and 15 awards of states, Dr Shukla said creativity did not dip at 60.

Dr Shukla said today that he found new ideas coming after his retirement, four years ago. He has written books on literature and science since then. He is a scientist, a teacher, science and creative writer and an actor, all rolled into one.

As a teacher in PAU, Dr Shukla did research on yoghurt, paneer, soya paneer, soya milk, beverages and paneer pickle etc and guided 18 students for postgraduate degrees in food technology. He was awarded Dr J.S. Pruthi Award for his paper on research and development in food technology. He has more than 100 research and scientific papers to his credit.

His recently published book, “Rogan Ton Bacho” (Save yourself from diseases), written in simple Punjabi has been well received. This book has touched upon subjects like obesity, fast foods , high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and tension, anaemia, dieting, vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods and food adulteration etc. He has also written on the significance of medicinal plants.

He has authored 32 books on food and nutrition, short stories, plays and literature for children and received awards. His works have been translated and published into Kannada, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Sindhi, Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu and Bangla.

He was a recipient of Shiromani Award in 2000 for popularising science in Punjabi. The award, the highest literary award given by the Punjab government, carried a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a gold medal. He is also a recipient of the Punjab Rattan Award.

Two of his books in Punjabi, “Khuraak ate Sehat” and “Sasta Bhojan-Vadhiya Bhojan,” got two national awards. Dr Shukla was also bestowed the National Award for Children’s Literature for his book, “Sachi Khushi”. He has been a recipient of Mohan Rakesh Award for his book on Hindi plays, “Jot Se Jot Jaley”.

When many feel 60 years is the time to say good-bye to active and fruitful life, Dr Shukla has been writing, translating Punjabi literature into Hindi. He has also written for children, considered a difficult job. One has to think on the wavelength of children while writing poems , plays and prose for them . It is this challenge which drew a scientist to this genre of literature.

Dr Shukla has written a number of plays in Punjabi on scientific themes of general interest. His primary concern is nutritional aspects. Junk food is playing havoc with the health of the children.

Similarly, in his play Daal nibhay Zindagi nall (pulses set the pulse of life), he has emphasised nutritious value of pulses, apart from the significance of eating green leafy vegetables.

Dr Shukla was born at Khizrabad in Ropar district. He received early education at the village school and then joined Arya High School, Ludhiana, for matriculation. Later, he did his graduation in agriculture, post-graduation in biochemistry and Ph.D in food technology from PAU, Ludhiana, where he served as lecturer and professor for 35 years . 


Marriage of Rana Gurjit’s nephew
Akal Takht orders probe
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 3
Akal Takht has reportedly handed over the issue of the “anand karaj” of the nephew of Rana Gurjit Singh, a Congress MP from Jalandhar, to the SGPC’s Dharam Parchar Committee, which was held at a marriage palace recently, in violation of the hukamnama pronounced by the Sikh clergy on March 16, 1998. The edict had directed not to arrange “lawan” in hotels or marriage palaces.

The clergy may take up the issue at their forthcoming meeting scheduled for February 5, provided Akal Takht gets the fact-finding report by then.

A clarification may be sought from the brother of the Congress MP, in-laws of his nephew and “raagis,” on the basis of the fact-finding report, to be conducted by the committee.

On the other hand, the Congress MP had already stated that he was not at fault because the arrangements for the wedding were made by the in-laws of his nephew.

The meeting of the Sikh clergy has been convened to discuss the matter of Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar, Patna Sahib, who had challenged the supremacy of Akal Takht. A section of the Sant Samaj, led by Baba Ghala Singh, is likely to hold a meeting with Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, here tomorrow.


Release of Grants to Aided Colleges
Govt violating court’s directive
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 3
The government is violating orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court of evolving a mechanism to ensure that employees of aided colleges get their payments for its own convenience. The quarterly grants to the aided colleges of Punjab are being released by the state government without taking the certificate that says "the retiral benefits of all retired employees have been paid" as directed by the court.

According to sources, the grants now are being disbursed to colleges after getting a certificate from colleges which says "retiral benefits will be paid to retirees before March 31, 2008 (or any other given date)". In a gross violation of the court's orders, the Punjab government, in connivance with aided-colleges, has released grant to 12 colleges in Ludhiana, Moga, Khanna, Faridkot, Patiala and Rajpura etc.

"They are making a fool of us. There is a lot of difference between ‘paid’ and ‘will be paid’. The court had given such strict instructions after pensioners like me filed a writ for our retiral benefits, including gratuity and leave encashment. Following this, an affidavit was filed by the chief secretary on behalf of the state government that grants will be released to colleges only after getting a certificate showing that dues of pensioners have been cleared. It is unfortunate that some of our fellows have already died, but they were never paid their dues till the end of their lives," complained Tarlochan Singh, a retired college teacher, who has not been able to get the benefits even after five years of his retirement.

It is learnt that in a number of cases, the aided-colleges are regularly receiving grants from the government without providing retiral benefits to their retirees. There are about 140 aided-colleges, which get a quarterly grant of Rs 20 crore.

According to a directive of the director, Public Instructions (Colleges), to the principals of aided-colleges on January 2, the latter had to submit a certificate counter-signed by a chartered accountant that retiral benefits have been paid, before getting its quarterly instalment.


Net House Technique
Hope for small farmers
Anuradha Shukla
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 3
Small farmers in the state have much to cheer about with the new Net house technique initiated by the Punjab State Farmers Commission a few months ago. The commission targets as many as 500 farmers to grow vegetables using this technique in a year and has so far set up unique structures in the fields of as many as 131 farmers.

With applications pouring in to be adopted for the scheme, the commission has put these unique structures to grow vegetables in fields of 131 farmers in various districts of the state so far. The technique brings the use of pesticide sprays to near zero. Commission chairman Dr G.S Kalkat says, “We have received 180 applications so far and the Net house structures have been put up in the fields of 131 small farmers.”

The technique was developed at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, when Kalkat was the vice-chancellor, but was adopted in October last year after he took over as the chairman of the commission.

“Vegetables grown by using a special UV ray-protection net controls damage from weather as well as stops entry of infection from bacteria,” says Kalkat. The produce is nearly like organic vegetables as the use of pesticides is negligible thus bringing down the cost.

Farmers can grow crop earlier than the season and can also double the yield by elongating the maturity period of the crop, says Dr Kalkat. “Talks are on with companies like Bharti Airtel, Reliance, Godrej and ITC to market these vegetables, but nothing has been finalised so far,” says Dr Kalkat.

In charge of the programme, Dr Buta Singh Romana says 1 kanal of the land is used for the crop by covering the area with a UV ray-protection net to create a closed structure where vegetables are grown inside under monitored climate. The net controls growing conditions of the crop, says Dr Romana.

The scheme has adopted Mudh and Kot villages in Jalandhar. As many as 35 villages in Moga, 70 in Sangrur, 13 in Bathinda, five in Nawanshahr, four in Hoshiarpur and 17 in Ludhiana are reaping rewards of using the new technique, informs Dr Romana. Small farmers are not charged any application fee by the commission. The commission provides Rs 20,000 as subsidy to farmers for setting up of the net house which costs Rs 48,000 per kanal says Dr Romana.


Father suspects woman’s hand in son’s death
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 3
The Premjit Saini suicide case has taken a new turn with his father seeking reinvestigation of the case. Premjit Saini, a resident of Kothe-Sainia in the Parmanand locality, was found hanging in a room in his brother-in-law Satpal Saini's house at Adhunik Vihar Colony in Pathankot on October 1.

Hardial Chand Saini, father of the deceased, in a complaint to the DIG, Border Range, has alleged that his son was murdered and then hanged at Satpal's house in the absence of the owner.

The complainant also provided a video CD and certain photographs of the hanging body to the DIG.

Talking to The Tribune, Hardial Chand suspected that a widow having illicit relations with his son accompanied him to Pathankot on September 30 and murdered him in connivance with her accomplices.

The assailants later hanged the body from the ceiling leaving both legs touching a dining table. He questioned if the legs were touching the table how could he have committed suicide. He also alleged that the police was trying to hush up the case.

Taking a note of the evidence provided by the complainant, the DIG has asked the the SSP, Gurdaspur, to look into the matter, who subsequently marked an inquiry to the SP, Pathankot.


Woman’s hair cut; husband booked
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, February 3
A woman’s hair was chopped off by her in-laws, including husband, for not meeting their demand of dowry.

Valtoha police station has registered a case under Sections 295, 498A, 342, 354 and 323 of the IPC against the in-laws of the victim here today.

According to a complaint to the police, Paramjit Kaur, said her in-laws, including husband Partap Singh, a resident of Jodh Singh Wala, had been pressurising her for bringing more dowry. She alleged that she used to be beaten up by her in-laws.

She alleged that on February 1, the accused, her husband’s father Dyal Singh, mother Preet Kaur and brother Major Singh, beat her up when she failed to arrange money from her parents. She said a quarrel followed and they chopped off her hair in the dispute. She was married six years ago. 


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