P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Jathedars put off parallel meetings in ‘Panth’s interest’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, and Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar, Patna Sahib, today postponed the meetings of the Sikh clergy scheduled for February 5 and 6, respectively, in the “larger interest of the Sikh Panth”.

This development is likely to pave the way for resolving the Panthic crisis. Challenging the supremacy of Akal Takht, Giani Iqbal Singh had claimed that the meeting of Akal Takht was convened to take stringent action against him . However, the issues raised by Giani Iqbal Singh had virtually divided the Sikh Panth. While one section of the Sant Samaj, headed by Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, chief of Damdami Taksal, and many Sikh organisations had come out in support of the Jathedar, Patna Sahib, the other faction of the Sant Samaj, headed by Baba Ghala Singh and Baba Ram Singh, chief of breakaway group of Damdami Taksal, and the SGPC supported the supremacy of Akal Takht.

The Sikh Panth was also divided over the issue of the Nanakshahi calendar which was rejected by Takhts of Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib.

Though the meeting of Sikh intellectuals convened by SGPC chief Avtar Singh had demanded the summoning of the Jathedar, Patna Sahib, at Akal Takht for rejecting the Sikh maryada, the Sant Samaj, headed by Baba Khalsa, had warned that the move would be opposed. Jathedar Iqbal Singh had also threatened to summon Jathedar Vedanti and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal if any action was initiated by the Sikh clergy.

However, Giani Iqbal Singh said though he had postponed the meeting of the Sikh clergy, scheduled to be held at Patna Sahib indefinitely, yet the meeting of the Sikh clergy which had summoned Mohinder Singh Romana, president, management of Takht Damdama Sahib, could be postponed if all went well. Romana was summoned for suspending Jathedar Iqbal Singh without taking other office-bearers into confidence.

Deputy Jathedar of Takht Hazoor Sahib who was invited for the meeting also declined to attend the meeting of the Sikh clergy at Akal Takht which had put Takht secretariat in a fix.

Takht Hazoor Sahib and Takht Patna Sahib had already rejected the Nanakshahi calendar.

SGPC chief Avtar Singh hoped that the current Panthic crisis would be resolved shortly.

The cause of the war among Jathedars was presenting of “Hari Singh Nalwa award” to dismissed SGPC secretary Raghbir Singh at Takht Patna Sahib, much to the chargin of the Shiromani Committee and Akal Takht.


Funds for Urban Renewal Mission Projects
Improvement trusts told to sell property
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The Local Bodies Department is in a hurry to sell the property held by Improvement Trusts in cities and towns. Express orders have been issued by the authorities to the trusts at Ludhiana, Amritsar, Bathinda, Hoshiarpur and other places to collect money to fund the schemes to be implemented in Punjab under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Even the Ludhiana Improvement Turst has been told to sell the multiplex worth Rs 400-500 crore, which has not been completed yet in existing shape if possible and to offer 7.5 per cent rebate, if the highest bidder for the complex agrees to make entire payment in a month from the date of offering the bid. The multiplex spread over 2.2 acres is in Ghumiar Mandi, a prime area, in Ludhiana.

The union government has selected Amritsar, Ludhiana and SAS Nagar under the urban renewal mission to improve infrastructure of these cities. It will provide Rs 5,000 crore for these cities.

However, the state government and municipal corporations and committees concerned are to contribute 50 per cent share of funds for the infrastructure projects to be covered under the mission. Besides, infrastructure in 40 towns, including all remaining district headquarters, is to be improved under the centrally- sponsored urban infrastructure improvement scheme for towns with less than 10 lakh population. To implement this scheme also, certain shares of funds are to be contributed by the state government and municipal committees.

For want of funds and other administrative reasons, implementation of projects under the mission is held up in Punjab whereas in 63 cities in other states these projects have already been implemented.

Sources said the decision to sell properties was taken at a recent meeting under the under the chairmanship of local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia.

Officials of trusts have been told to get approved the reserve price of the properties to be put under the hammer. Officers concerned had been told to revoke the decision of cases of properties which were to be sent to the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB). At the time of holding auction, officers concerned had been told to video graph the entire process and wide publicity should be given before putting the properties on sale.

Amritsar and other trusts have been told to sell the properties given on lease through open auction. Tursts have been directed to maintain registers with regard to their properties.

The Amritsar Trust authorities informed the minister they would prepare the programme to sell the properties through auction or draw by March 31.

Sources said Hoshiarpur trust had sought loan of Rs 50 lakh to pay bank loan. However, the government told it to sell its properties at the earliest to pay the loan. Moga Turst authorities have been told to prepare detail of the properties held by it.


Minister-NCB official row
Speaker summons DSP before privileges panel
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha Nirmal Singh Kahlon has issued notice to Balwinder Kumar DSP , Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), for allegedly misbehaving with health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla on January 31 , during an operation against a heroin smuggler.

Talking to The Tribune on telephone Kahlon said it was a matter of great concern an official of the NCB had misbehaved with woman minister from Punjab. He said he had also written a formal complaint to the government of India for taking stringent action against Balwinder Kumar.

An unsavoury situation arose on January 31 evening when an official of the NCB who caught a smuggler here clashed with the health minister .The minister had received minor injuries in the melee.

Balwinder Kumar , however, had alleged the minister tried to interfere in the working of the NCB. However, Chawla claimed the official of the narcotics cell without any provocation misbehaved with her. It was her gunman who saved her from being run down by the car of the NCB official. The NCB official had also alleged he was detained by the local police for some time and was let off after giving written apology .

The minister, who was going to her house when she heard shrieks of a person who was being beaten up in a running vehicle. She stopped her car and asked her driver to follow the other vehicle thinking the smuggler to be a common man. Chawla alleged the NCB official misbehaved with her even though she disclosed her identity to her.

Though the health minister lodged a written complaint with the local police , yet no FIR had yet been registered so far despite the fact that the police had launched a project to allow commoner to lodge own FIRs . On the other hand , the NCB official had already sought a written apology from the health minister and promised not to repeat such actions in future . Meanwhile , senior NCB officials have been persuading Chawla to withdraw her complaint .

In her complaint , lodged with the police , Chawla had written ‘Kindly give me justice by punishing the NCB official who had used abusive language , pushed me back and tried to run down me under his official car”, reads a written complaint. However, when contacted , the district police chief said he was looking into the complaint. The Bharatiya Janata Party had also taken serious view of the incident and decided to take up the matter with Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal.


Case of Corruption against Badals
I acted on DIG’s orders: Vigilance SSP
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
Like several other witnesses in the corruption case against Badals, investigating officer of the case and SSP Vigilance Surinder Pal Singh today also maintained before the court that he was acting at the behest of others.

In his statement before the court today Surinder Pal Singh shifted the onus of preparing maximum report on then DIG Vigilance B.K. Uppal. He said he along with other officers involved in the case carried out the inspection of property of Badals in the country.

The initial report submitted by the technical team accompanying them was rejected by the DIG. After having consultations with chief director vigilance A.P. Panday and other officers a team of private evaluators, including Bharath Shah from Bombay, Sunder Pal Mitra from Calcutta and Gagandeep from Chandigarh was shortlisted by B.K. Uppal.

The property was then revisited and the DIG handed to me assessment reports taken into possession on his directions.

The statements of technical team which revisited the property were given to me by the DIG and was directed to sign these.

Similarly statements of other key witnesses in the case, including Kuldeep Singh, Harminderpal Singh, Gurinder Pal Singh Grewal DIG, Ajit Singh, Satinder Mohan Singh and others were recorded by the DIG and passed on to me for signatures. The investigation regarding bank accounts of Narrotam Singh Dhillon and Kamaljit Singh Sidhu was conducted by Tarsem Singh DSP and no report regarding that was submitted to me.

The investigations into foreign property of the accused were conducted by S. Chatopadhya then DIG. The source report submitted by him was placed on record.

No property of the accused could be located in foreign country, Surinder Pal Singh stated.

In another submission the investigating officer said he had come to know Balwant Singh main complainant in the case was power of attorney holder of Bharat Inder Singh Chahal former media adviser of Amarinder Singh then Chief Minister. The other witnesses, including Kuldeep Singh, Harminder Pal Singh, Gurinder Pal Singh, Ajit Singh, Satinder Mohan, Amalok Singh, Jatinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Surinder Singh, Gurjatinderpal Singh, Sukhbir Singh, Mehar Singh and Satish Kumar Malhotra were sent to the DIG by B.I.S Chahal.

He also stated B.K. Uppal prepared the report on his computer and then passed it on to me for signatures. He also stated he could not say weather any fraud was committed with Balwant Singh.

The court grilled Surinder Pal Singh asking him he knew Balwant Singh recorded the statement at the behest of Chahal. To this he said,’ he came to know of it later on.’

The next date of hearing in the case has been fixed on March 8.


SAD to change youth president
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
The SAD would soon change its youth president Sharanjit Singh Dhillon. This was stated today by Sukhbir Singh Badal while talking to newsmen.

He was here to appear in court in a corruption case registered against Badals by the previous Congress government.

It has been alleged in some quarters that while Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is 46-year-old, is president of the party, Dhillon, who is 56 and SAD MP from Ludhiana, is the president of the Youth Akali Dal.


Panel finds cleanliness, facilities at railway station poor
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
Unhappy over lack of hygiene and mismanagement at the Railway station here, the Passenger Services Committee (PSC) of the Railway Ministry (Railway Board) has pulled up the authorities.
A seven-member board headed by Parmeshwari Prashad Nirala, chairman, PSC, was in the city to inspect cleanliness and facilities at the railway station. The team found railway tracks, platforms, washrooms, benches and areas near the drinking water taps stinking. 

The team will submit its report to the Railway Board after visiting railway stations at Ferozepur and Ludhiana.

Besides Nirala, the other members of the team include Mohammad Shahabuddin, Abodevi, Raghunath Gupta, Ramashish Yadav, Rameshwar Prasad Gupta and Mohammad Nihal Fakrudin.

Though the railway authorities had tried to clean the station for three days, they could not answer queries of the inspecting team. Even the benches on the platform had droppings of the birds. The station authorities had to face embarrassment when one of the members asked them to sit on the benches.

Nirala said the condition of the local railway station where thousands of passengers reached daily from across the country to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple was shocking. He said they would submit their comprehensive report to the Railway Board and action would be taken against the erring officials. He said the PSC would also give necessary suggestions like providing woman ticket booking clerk and separate line for old persons and freedom fighters. He said they had powers to get even the general manager of the Railways dismissed.

The members came to the city after a complaint last month in this regard from Jaspal Singh Sachdeva, member, Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee.

Nirala also said on way to Amritsar from New Delhi the team was shocked to see poor quality and quantity of food being provided by contractors in the pantry car of the Golden Temple Express. He said the contractors were also overcharging for various food items.He said they had faxed their report to the Railway Board in this regard for action.

Later, the PSC team also visited the Attari railway station. The team also visited the Attari/Wagah joint check-post and witnessed the Beating the Retreat ceremony.


Speaker supports demand for new district
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Nirmal Singh Kahlon today said that he was supportive of the demand made by Hargobindpur MLA Balbir Singh Bath and Batala MLA Jagdish Sahni to create Batala district.

Kahlon said Batala was a big industrial town and it deserved to be the district headquarters. With the creation of the new district, better development of the four Assembly segments falling in its jurisdiction would be possible. 


Probe report against Poohla by Feb 20
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
The investigation report by the SSP, Amritsar, into the case against Nihang Ajit Singh Poohla will be submitted in the Punjab and Haryana Court by February 20 in a case involving the killing of seven persons of a family.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, Col G.S. Sandhu (retd), chairman, Majha Ex-Servicemen Human Rights Front, said the writ petition was filed by Ranjit Singh in the high court on June 23, 2006. Justice Surya Kant had ordered a re-investigation.

“A former police cat, Poohla, used to enjoy police protection and rubbed shoulders even with former ministers. Till about four years back, no one dared to raise voice against Poohla and his men,” said Colonel Sandhu. The investigation team, which had two other officers, not below the rank of inspectors, was asked to go into two old cases involving Poohla. In these cases also the Punjab Police was “shielding” him, he said.


UK offers to open visa centre in state
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
To check the growing trend of illegal immigration, the United Kingdom minister of state, Home Office, Liam Byrne today offered to open a visa centre in Punjab to facilitate Punjabis to immigrate to the UK legally.

Byrne made this offer at Punjab Bhawan here during a meeting at a lunch hosted by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in honour of visiting delegation led by Byrne.

The visiting minister said his government would initially open a visa centre either at Chandigarh or Jalandhar, and later it would be converted into a full-fledged consulate.

Appreciating the initiative of Byrne for opening a visa centre in Punjab, Badal said it would prove to be a milestone in improving the bilateral ties between the economies of the UK and India, besides strengthening the bonding between the Punjabis here and their brethren settled in the UK.

The Chief Minister sought Byrne's cooperation for improving the teaching skills of English teachers in government schools through imparting special training from the UK- based teachers.


Foreign nationals earn more, admits UK minister
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
Foreign nationals not only earn more than Britons, but also contribute significantly to the economy of the United Kingdom, says Liam Byrne, its minister of state for Borders and Immigration, holding that “jobs, wages and productivity have been going up” in his country.

“Immigration has been an important component of our economy. Foreign students and tourists are an immense boost to our economy. That is why in more than four decades, we have decided to change the immigration system to make it simpler, faster and fairer,” adds the minister, currently on a visit to India. He is accompanied by an all-party delegation.

“This is my first visit to India. I am excited to be here and look forward to meeting, listening and responding to people who are interested in our plans to reform the UK’s immigration system. Our ties with India are immensely strong, and the fact that so many people travel between our two countries, means that it is absolutely right that I come here at this time,” says Byrne, who had meetings with the Governor, Gen S.F. Rodriguez, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and the Director-General of Police N.P.S. Aulakh.

Bilateral trade has been growing at 10 per cent annually. There are 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK and three lakh visas were granted last year. Besides, there are 20,000 Indian students in various British universities and institutions.

“It is for the first time that we have come looking for ideas and suggestions for our new immigration system. Migration is now a global phenomenon. It has changed a lot since the ’60s and it is extremely important for countries like Great Britain to change the system so as to facilitate genuine immigrants,” says Byrne adding that a comprehensive point system for immigration will be in place soon.

“We realise that youngsters who cannot produce evidence of their financial stability face problems in getting visas. The visa system is outdated and we are taking this massive exercise to review it,” he adds.

“Our effort is to make the system secure, safer, faster and fairer. Finger scans and digital photographs are steps in making the visas secure,” he said maintaining that the British system was perhaps the quickest of all European countries as a decision is taken within 24 hours of making of an application for a visitor visa.

Talking about reducing the period of visitors’ visa from six to three months, he held that reducing the period for family visitors was unlikely.


Police for steps to check antecedents of errant NRI grooms
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
Punjabi women, who find themselves duped in marriage and are deserted by NRI-husbands, can look up to have some safety before entering the alliance. The Punjab Police has asked the Government of India to take up the matter with various countries and seek stringent action against errant grooms.

Today the Punjab Police also took up the issue with Liam Byrne, minister of state of home, UK, saying the country should have a legislation to curb activities of such grooms who first come to India to marry and then desert their wives. Byrne met Punjab officials here today. The plight of such women has been highlighted in the media.

Sources in the police said a memorandum of understanding to bring errant husbands to book was needed and this was stressed to the UK team. Also the UK needs to take legal action against such men.

Since the matter concerns India and other countries, it will require formal understanding at the international level. The Punjab Police has also formally asked the Government of India to draft a legislation by which a groom can be verified in real time by the bride’s parents by seeking information from the country of groom’s residence. Also have a follow-up action if the woman is aggrieved or deserted. This needs to be done with major countries like the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand where the diaspora resides.

Meanwhile, the UK delegation discussed the feasibility of having a video-conferencing link between London and the Punjab Police headquarters for fast-track verification of national status of illegal immigrants with Punjab Police chief N.P.S Aulakh. The verification of national status is required in cases where the illegal immigrant has no document but claims that he or she is from India. The Punjab Police verifies the antecedents of such persons by physically visiting the local address.

The minister expressed desire for the resumption of exchange visits of police officials of India and the UK. Aulakh apprised the delegation of the efforts being made by the Punjab Police to check illegal immigration and informed about the proposed Punjab Human Trafficking Act.

Creon Butler, deputy high commissioner, Judith McGregor, director migration were among the UK delegation.


70-year-old woman’s wish fulfilled
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 5
In February 2007, Kushalaya Devi (70), a local resident and wife of late Roop Chand, got an affidavit prepared to donate her body after death to a medical college for research. 

Her desire to donate the body was fulfilled today when her sons Suresh Bansal and Kewal Bansal, both employees in the courts at Sangrur and Patiala, respectively, donated her body to the Homoeopathic Medical College, Abohar. She died today morning after a prolonged illness. She is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Kewal, who is a member of the Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum, here said today evening that as per the desire of their mother they donated not only her body to a medical college, but also her eyes to the Netra Samiti, Sunam. The body was received by a team from the Abohar college.

President of the forum Dr A. S. Mann said by donating the body of their mother to a medical college for research, the brothers had set an example for others. 


Moga Sex Scandal
Punjab plea adjourned sine die
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
Punjab’s application for recalling, amending or modifying the orders passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the Moga sex scam was today adjourned “sine die”.

The direction to hear the matter, after the apex court’s final decision in the case, was issued by a High Court Division Bench after taking on record a news-report carried in these columns on Punjab moving the Supreme Court against the orders of CBI probe in the sex scam.

The Bench, comprising Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Harbans Lal, had earlier reserved orders in the matter. Taking up the application, the judges observed: As per the news-item reported in The Tribune, dated February 5, a special leave petition has been filed before the Supreme Court against the orders.

Since the Supreme Court is now seized of the mater, it will not be justified and proper for us to adjudicate on this criminal miscellaneous application. The same is adjourned sine dine till a final decision is taken on the special leave petition pending before the Supreme Court, the judges added.

The court, on December 11, had handed over the investigations of the matter to the CBI after taking suo motu cognizance of news-reports carried in these columns.

A public prosecutor contended that the order was liable to be modified as "the core issue regarding the jurisdiction of the High Court to refer a matter for investigation to the CBI without the consent of the state government was pending consideration before a larger bench of the SC.

The direction, he added, needs to be reviewed, as there was no cogent material on record to even remotely show that the investigation in the case was not fair or proper. 


Consumer forum sought for Mohali
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The Punjab State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has moved an application to the government to set up consumer forums in Barnala, Mohali and Tarn Taran districts.

Considering the request and a writ petition pending in the High Court, the state government had sanctioned about Rs 1.19 crore to the commission for the purpose in October. The commission has surrendered Rs 87 lakh out of the total amount released as nothing was finalised regarding the new forums. It took two years after Barnala was declared a district for commission and government to realise that separate forums are to be set up in each new districts.

As per the Section 9-A of the Consumer Protection Act every district should have a forum.

After getting the permission from the government, an official of the food and supply department was shouldered the responsibility of selecting the members for the forums. The official assigned the job to certain persons after which the matter was held for a while. Thereafter, another official was given the job to pursue the matter.

According to sources, the commission had asked for applications for various posts but nothing has been finalised as yet. Sources said the commission had requested the deputy commissioner of Barnala to allot a plot or shop for the forum. The deputy commissioner had suggested that a godown of the food and supply department can be renovated into a courtroom.


Punjabi varsity opens regional centre at Jaito
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 5
President of the Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal laid the foundation stone of the regional centre at Jaito village at a function presided over by Punjabi University vice-chancellor Dr Jaspal Singh. 

According to university spokesman, the Jaito centre happens to be the eighth centre set up by the university in rural areas of the state, comprising the southern belt of the Malwa region.

The university has such regional and neighbourhood campuses at Jhunir, Rampura Phul, Karandi, Sardulgarh, Joga Rallah, Delha Sihan and Talwandi Sabo, catering to the needs of rural students in an attempt to provide them quality education.

The Jaito village panchayat has donated 4 acres of prime land for opening the regional centre there. Earlier, the panchayats of the six villages had donated 300 acres of land to the university for opening such centres to start job-oriented, professional and technical courses in various streams of management, computer applications, engineering and education.

According to vice-chancellor Dr Jaspal Singh, the Jaito centre will start with BCA, PGDCA and CCA courses from the coming academic session, to be followed by other courses, depending upon the response, needs and requirements of people of the area.

As in other centres, the students belonging to Jaito sub-division would be given preference and reservation for admission to various courses, he said.


Ropar DC resigns
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
Deputy commissioner of Ropar A.K. Sinha has submitted his resignation to the government. Sources here said that Sinha, a 1996-batch IAS officer, had cited family and personal reasons for his decision to quit the prestigious job in the resignation letter forwarded to the government.

When contacted by The Tribune, the deputy commissioner admitted that he had tendered his resignation. He, however, refused to elaborate on the matter.

According to sources, the mother of A.K. Sinha had recent undergone heart bypass surgery.

However, her health was stated to be deteriorating. This might have prompted him to quit the IAS and return home in Ranchi in Jharkhand, they said.

Sources close to Sinha said he was contemplating taking up a job in private concern after leaving the IAS. Sinha was working in a public sector bank before joining the IAS.

His resignation would be forwarded to the Union government by the Punjab government, the sources said.


Three DCs transferred
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, February 5
The Punjab government today transferred three deputy commissioners among the nine IAS and two PCS officers.

Megh Raj becomes DC, Ferozepur, N.K. Wadhawan goes as DC, Hoshiarpur, Ashok Kumar Singla is the new DC, Fatehgarh Sahib, while Baldeo Purushartha will hold the change of DC, Roopnagar, till further orders.

D.K. Tiwari is now special secretary, Finance, Bhagwant Singh has been posted as additional director-cum-special secretary, local government, and Alaknanda Dayal will take charge as additional secretary, Finance.

Manashvi Kumar becomes chief administrator, GLADA, Paramjit Singh-II becomes SDM, Dhar Kalan, Sandeep Rishi will be SDM, Amritsar-I, and Hussan Lal will now be additional charge of the post of special secretary, Tourism.


Accused, kin attack police party

Tarn Taran, February 5
The SHO who had gone to arrest an accused wanted under the NDPS Act was held captive for an hour.

According to police sources, a six-member police team, headed by Dilbagh Singh, SHO, Sarai Amanat Khan (Amritsar), raided residence of Buta Singh of Dhotian village, 12 km from here last night. He was wanted under the NDPS Act and in a theft case.

When the police party entered the house, Buta Singh and nearly 20 of his family members attacked the policemen with kirpans and sticks, causing serious injuries. 


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