P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Rural women sign their way to dignity
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, Fenruary 6
It all started last year with Dalit women from North India assembling in Chandigarh to discuss issues concerning their dignity. At the heart of the meeting, called by the Mahila Ekta Manch, a combine of 13 NGOs working for gender equality, was a law for inclusion of women’s names in their husbands’ and ancestral properties. At that time the idea was in the nascent stage and women were not prepared to take on their men.

One year hence, they are ready not just to ask for what is their right, but also to find ways for securing that right. In the Sector 19 Catholic Church at Chandigarh yesterday, the same women reassembled to join a unique signature campaign that promises to restore their respect. As many as 7,000 women from rural Punjab signed the text of the law that seeks for them a share in their husbands’ properties. The law is already in operation in Maharashtra, where it works simply. A newly married woman gives an application to a tehsildar intimating him of her marriage. The law guarantees the woman an equal part in her husband’s property.

For the Dalit women of Punjab, where farmers’ suicides and declining sex ratio is further exacerbating the situation, the law is no less than a necessity. As Jaswant Kaur from Khandala village near Ropar points out, “We work like dogs, feeding our families with love and money. But what return do we get for our labour? We suffer maltreatment; many women in my own village, who have failed to bear sons, have been thrown of their home. Financial security will at least ensure them some measure of security.”

For these women, the case of Dayawanti, a Dalit woman from Rohtak, who attended last year’s meeting, has become representative. Dayawanti lost her husband to tuberculosis and was turned out of the house by her in-laws. They gave her no share in family property. With no support, Dayawanti had to suffer exploitation as a farm labourer at Bahuakbarpur village in Rohtak. Then one day, her minor daughter was allegedly raped by a middle-aged neighbour while she was away to the fields. With arrests yet to be made in the case, Dayawanti still endures a life of pain and desperation.

That’s precisely the lot of many women who have now joined the movement. Father Soosai Raj of the Manav Vikas Samiti, a voluntary organisation working in Punjab, says, “It took long for us to convince them of the purpose of such a law. They are now ready to fight the battle.” Raj has been inspiring the movement for equal property rights for women in the region for over a year now. He and the 100 women present in Chandigarh have forwarded the formal representation to the Punjab Governor and the Chief Minister. A national rally in New Delhi is in the pipeline, where all 7,000 Dalit women and their mother NGOs will present a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India.


Truck union chief takes charge amid row
Lali contests Hardev’s election as union chief through unanimous vote on Dhindsa’s ‘orders’
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 6
Though he took over as president of the local Dashmesh Truck Operators Union today, controversy over Hardev Singh’s election continue to rage as opposition group’s Kulwinder Singh Lali met Sangrur SSP Arun Pal Singh and SDM Amandeep Bansal to stake his claim over the post. He has claimed to have support of majority truck operators.

Lali showed a register, containing signatures of truck operators, to the SDM claiming that majority of truck operators elected him new president of the union.

Meanwhile, the administration deployed policemen at the union complex. However no untoward incident took place.

Hardev had been declared elected president of the union on February 4 by Parkash Chand Garg, a staunch supporter of secretary-general of the SAD Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and area in charge of the SAD for the Sangrur Assembly constituency. According to Garg, the leaders of truck operators and candidates had asked Dhindsa to decide the union president through a unanimous vote. Consensus went into Hardev’s favour, he added.

When Hardev was declared elected, many truck operators started raising slogans against the election. On February 5, they reportedly elected Lali as their president. Lali reportedly has the support of more than 450 operators of the union comprising 530 members.

After taking the charge, Hardev told The Tribune that the outgoing president had sent his (Hardev’s) attested signatures to the banks to operate the bank accounts of the union.

Sangrur SSP Arun Pal Singh said Lali had told him that he had support of majority union members. He said he had told Lali that he should inform the district administration in that regard.


Quail breeding raises hackles
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 6
A row has erupted here, with environmentalists crying hoarse over white quails developed by the Guru Angad Dev University of Veterinary Sciences.

University scientists are claiming that the white quails developed by them are mutant species and not protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. They are claiming that the quails developed by them can be bred like poultry by farmers to cater to market of quail meat.

The university authorities have made the claim, as only the indigenous species of birds and animals are protected under the Act. The university is also selling white quails to farmers interested in breeding them after the Punjab government approved their commercial use.

However, the environmentalists are alleging that under the Wildlife Protection Act, the word quail is mentioned as protected species. The Schedule IV of the Act, under which the bush bird species is protected, does not mention the colour of the species.

Dr Sandeep Jain, nominee of the Committee for Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) and honorary wildlife warden, said the question is which species the university authorities used to develop the said quails. The university authorities had to take permission from committee on animal experimentation of Chennai to conduct experiments to produce the mutant species.

However, sources said that no such permission had been taken. Jain alleged that white quails are likely developed from Japanese quails.

Earlier also, the issue of the illegal sale of Japanese quails (Coturnix japonica) in the name of poultry was reported in many states. However, it came to halt when the matter was reported to the wildlife authorities.

The handbook of Birds of India and Pakistan by Dr Salim Ali has mentioned the existence of Japanese quails in nature in India. He has reported their presence in the wild in north-eastern states.

S.C.Sharma, then joint director, wildlife, Government of India, has mentioned in his letter (No.3-22/84-WL-I) dated 2.11.1988 to all- forest secretaries and chief wildlife wardens that the species has been covered under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and, therefore, any breeding in captivity or trade in the species is prohibited.So even if the university authorities have developed while quails using Japanese quails, their act is illegal.

The quails are a delicacy among the elite families of Punjab. The indiscriminate hunting and reducing habitat has alarmingly reduced its population.

All white specimens can breed with careful selective breeding. However, some experts warn that white is regarded as a recessive gene, but in recent years, an incomplete dominant albino gene has also been reported. 


World Bank funds water project 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The Punjab government will provide clean drinking water and improved sanitation to 588 villages under the World Bank-aided Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project by 2008-09. This was disclosed after a meeting held to monitor the progress of this project by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here yesterday.

Under the project, 3,044 villages will be provided with basic civic amenities of safe drinking water and sewerage at a cost of Rs 1280.30 crore.The meeting said at present 88 villages had been identified as a pilot batch to implement the project by September, 2008, and the remaining 500 villages would be taken up for a similar project subsequently. The basic objective of the water scheme component under this project was to ensure 70 litres of water per day per person in rural sector.

Badal directed the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation to procure high-quality water pipes keeping in view durability and hygiene. He also appealed to local MLAs to motivate the general public to contribute their share of 10 per cent for the project. At present 10 per cent contribution had been received in 36 out of 47 villages in Malwa, seven out of 14 villages in Majha and 25 out of 27 villages in Doaba for the implementation of the scheme under the pilot batch of 88 villages. It was apprised in the meeting that 9,419 villages were being covered under 3,602 drinking canal water supply schemes. 


Cong set to revamp district-level leadership
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The Punjab Congress is all set to reorganise district level set-up following delimitation of the Assembly and parliamentary segments. Besides, the party high command is reported to be unhappy with six district presidents, who remained sluggish for over a year, since the party lost to the SAD-BJP alliance.

Office-bearers will be changed in one week. “All organisational revamping will be complete before the start of the Budget session of the Vidhan Sabha on February 19,” a senior party functionary said. “We are preparing our leaders and cadres to be vigilante Opposition members to safeguard interest of the state and check the SAD-BJP alliance from pursuing anti-people and anti-state policies”.

Confirming the developments, president of the Congress and leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said delimitation of the Assembly and parliamentary segments had necessitated a change. “It makes no political sense to leave new areas of strategic importance uncovered or represented by inappropriate leaders”.

Bhattal refused to confirm or deny political speculations, but party circles are abuzz with talk many sitting members of Parliament will have to shift to other constituencies. After Jalandhar parliamentary seat became reserved, the sitting MP Rana Gurmeet is likely to move to Tarn Taran or Amritsar, though he has also shown some interest in contesting from Ludhiana - which the party high command feels will be inappropriate given the fact that Congress candidate Maneesh Tiwari, who lost to the SAD nominee in the last poll has nurtured the constituency well. Similarly, it is expected Santosh Chaudhary will have to move to Hoshiarpur from Phillaur.

Bhattal, however, confirmed that the Punjab Congress had approached All-India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Ambika Soni to contest from newly created the Anandpur Sahib parliamentary seat in place of the Ropar (Reserve).

Meanwhile, according to senior party functionaries, Rahul Gandhi is likely to visit Punjab on March 23, the proposed visit of Sonia Gandhi to the state had been put off, at least till next summer owing to various factors including her indisposition and forthcoming Vidhan Sabha and Parliament sessions.

A senior Congress leader ruled out possibility of a change in leadership in the state or even divesting Bhattal of one of the two charges she held, at least till the next parliamentary elections.


Schedule for RIMC entrance test 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The entrance examination for admission to the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehra Dun, for the January 2009 term will be conducted at Lala Lajpat Rai Bhawan here on June 1 and 2, 2008.

A spokesman of the Directorate, Sainik Welfare, Punjab, informed that only boys were eligible to apply for the admission. Candidates appearing for the test should not be born earlier than January 1, 1996, and not later than July 1, 1997. The written part of the examination would consist of three papers namely English, mathematics and general knowledge and the viva-voce test would be held for only those candidates who qualified in the written exam.

Aganwadi centres closed till Feb 9

Aganwadi centres all over the state will remain closed from February 6 to 9 because of the ongoing intense cold wave in the region.

Stating this here today, Swarna Ram, Social Security and Development of Women and Children Minister, Punjab, said the decision had been taken to protect children admitted in the centres.


AC buses: Dept soft towards manufacturer
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
All is not well with the Punjab Transport Department. The fleet of air-conditioned vehicles introduced recently continues to inconvenience commuters, the department is understaffed and despite transport minister Master Mohan Lal’s assurance, inspectors and sub-inspectors see no hope of promotion.

Employees of the Punjab Roadways had served an ultimatum on the department to address the issue of frequent breakdown of luxury buses introduced recently. But, besides meetings and assurances from the department and the bus manufacturer, the problem remains. According to the Punjab Roadways Action Committee, which met with director, Transport, Mandeep Singh to discuss the issue, eight buses have left passengers stranded during the past seven days.

The action committee, that had served the ultimatum on the government, held a meeting with owner of the bus company Amarjit Singh and the director, Transport, who was accompanied by deputy director, Transport, Narinderpal Singh. Amarjit assured the drivers and conductors operating the de luxe buses that the entire fleet would be got overhauled within the next week.

President of the action committee Baldev Singh, secretary Devinder Singh and conductor union representative Sukhdev Singh say the buses, which have components and machinery from different companies, are unreliable and suffer from inherent defects that cannot be rectified. “Why does the government not scrap the deal with the company that owns these buses? Is there an ulterior motive?” they question the non-serious approach of the government pertaining to the issue.

During the past five months, there have been 160 breakdowns since the fleet of buses was pressed into service, the action committee said. The department does not challenge these figures. Also, as per the agreement with the private company, every time a bus breaks down, the company is liable to pay a day’s earning from the bus to the government. But, no penalty has been imposed on the bus company so far.

The committee has served yet another ultimatum on the government, saying that if within one week, the issue is not resolved to their satisfaction, they will stop to drive the buses.

At the same time, there is growing dissatisfaction among the inspectors and sub-inspectors in the department, who were promised to be promoted by January 31, 2008, by the minister. He has not only failed to ensure the due promotions, but the department has also failed to recruit more drivers and other staff despite having sought permission from the government in this regard.

Other issues causing discontentment among the roadways employees include promotion of workshop employees, deduction from salaries of drivers in cases of accident, recruiting drivers and conductors on a permanent basis and to complete the fleet of 2,407 buses in the roadways.


Jathedars decide to bury the hatchet 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 6
Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedars of Akal Takht and Patna Sahib, respectively, have decided, in principle, to bury the hatchet in Panth’s interest.

According to sources, Jathedar Vedanti had talked to Jathedar Iqbal Singh on telephone and assured him that the latter would be invited in the forthcoming meeting of the Sikh clergy at Akal Takht secretariat. Earlier, Jathedar Vedanti had not invited him for the meeting held here yesterday. Though Jathedar Vedanti was under pressure to summon Jathedar, Patna Sahib, at Akal Takht for challenging the supremacy of Akal Takht, Sikh maryada and Nanakshahi calendar, yet he had told everybody that such an action would set a wrong precedent .

The Jathedar, Patna Sahib, has also agreed to cooperate to defuse the crisis. Earlier, he had warned of summoning Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, the SGPC chief and certain Sikh intellectuals, if any action was initiated against him by Akal Takht. Jathedar Iqbal Singh had claimed that Takht Patna Sahib was supreme since it was linked with the birth of the10th Sikh Master Guru Gobind Singh .

Mohinder Singh Romana, president, Takht Patna Sahib Management Committee, has sent a telegram to Jathedar Iqbal Singh, expressing inability to appear before the Sikh clergy at Patna Sahib due to ill health. However, talking to The Tribune on telephone, Jathedar, Patna Sahib, said the meeting would be postponed if he received telegram before February 8. The Sikh clergy had summoned Romana on February 8 on the charges of approaching the media. He had placed Jathedar, Patna Sahib, under suspension for challenging the Sikh maryada. Jathedar Iqbal Singh said Romana had no authority to place the Sikh high priests under suspension as per constitution of the Takht Patna Sahib committee.

Jathedar Iqbal Singh said he had postponed today’s meeting following a decision by the Sikh clergy of Punjab. Both warring Jathedars had postponed their respective meetings on February 5 and 6 in the “larger interest of the Sikh Panth”.


Admn mum on tree felling on forest land
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 6
A notorious person from Jogi Cheema village, near Kahnuwan, who enjoys political patronage, has felled trees as old as 35 years on the forestland allegedly in connivance with police personnel.

The incident came to light after Gurdaspur divisional forest officer Chamal Lal Sharma complained to the SSP and deputy commissioner seeking registration of an FIR against Malook Singh, a confidant of an Akali leader from Kahnuwan.

Malook allegedly felled around 10 full-grown trees of shisham and eucalyptus on the forest land adjacent to the Kasul branch canal and dumped them in a dera. Forest ranger Jarnail Singh, along with local police personnel, seized wooden logs from the site on January 25.

The Gurdaspur divisional forest officer (DFO) lodged a complaint at the Kahnuwan police station that Malook felled around 10 trees. Though the complaint was filed on January 26, no action has been taken on it till date.

The DC said the case had been taken up with the SSP. The SSP was not available for comments. 


SSP Virk has disgraced force, say pensioners
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 6
The U-turn by Surinder Pal Singh Virk, SSP, Vigilance, and investigating officer in the corruption case against the Badal family during the previous Congress regime, earned flak from senior retired police officers here today.

S.S. Chhina, chairman, Punjab Police Pensioners Welfare Association, who is a former IPS officer alleged that Virk had brought a bad name to the uniform by shifting the onus onto his seniors. He said being a member of the disciplined force, Virk should have owned responsibility for registering a corruption case against members of the Badal family. He said if a senior officer like Virk could come under pressure while dealing serious cases of corruption, then he had no moral right to continue to be in the service of the force.

While deposing in the court yesterday he claimed that he was acting at the behest of others. In his statement before the court Virk had shifted the onus of preparing maximum report onto then DIG Vigilance B.K. Uppal. He had said he, along with other officers involved in the case, had carried out the inspection of the property of the Badals in the country.


Move to waive stamp duty on property transfer
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
A proposal has been mooted to waive stamp duty on the transfer of commercial property from parents to their wards and other immediate blood relations during their lifetime. Sources said after the death of parents, the ancestral property could be transferred to their wards without charging stamp fee as it is considered a case of natural succession.

The file in this regard had been moved to the CM.


Raise in retirement age sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
A delegation of the Federation of Heads of Punjab Government Employees Associations here today met Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to urge him to enhance the retirement age to 60.

Badal assured the federation team that he would place the matter before the Cabinet.

The federation urged Badal to remove disparity between state and central government services by enhancing the retirement age to 60.

In Punjab also, Class IV employees and non-teaching staff of various universities retire at 60. Teachers working under the UGC retire at 62. PCS (judicial officers) retire at the age of 60, whereas PCS (executive) retire at the age of 58. Punjab PCS officers and PPS officers, after elevation to IAS and IPS, retire at 60.

Balkar Singh Gill, president of the federation, said the liability of Rs 1,600 crore in form of pension and other benefits, which were given to retired employees of Rs 1,600 crore, would be deferred for two years with the enhancing of the retirement age.


Trust Land Scam 
House panel begins probe
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
A Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee head by Harish Rai Dhanda today commenced inquiry in connection with alleged scandal involving 32 acres of premium improvement trust land at Amritsar. The committee sought relevant records and other details in this regard from the Local Bodies Department.

Sources said next hearing would be held on February 14. Former MLA Bir Devinder Singh had raised the issue of land in question in the Punjab Assembly about two years ago and had prayed to set up a committee of the House to probe the matter.

On February 14, Bir Devinder Singh may be called to supply information, if he has any, with regard to the alleged scandal. 


Father, son hurt as revolver goes off 
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 6
Raj Kumar, constable of IRB, Patiala, and gunman of an Akali leader, and his son Happy Sharma (11) were injured at Bhawanigarh on Tuesday night when the revolver of the former went off accidentally when he was cleaning it.

DSP Pritpal Singh Thind said on Wednesday that the bullet first hit a hand of the gunman and then entered the abdomen of his son.

The boy had been admitted to a Patiala hospital, where he was operated upon.


Punjab first to set up dist panels
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 6
Punjab has become the first state in the country to constitute district level committees for ‘adverse events following immunisation’.

Tilak R. Sarangal, secretary health and director of the National Rural Health Mission, stated here today. He said Punjab had constituted these committees in accordance with the Central government guidelines and the purpose of these committees was to ensure all safety measures under the programme.

He further said the union ministry of health and family welfare had appreciated the efforts of the State Health Department in this regard.


Murder Case
HC upholds trial court order
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
Less than seven years after a Mansa district resident killed his mother on the apprehensions of being excluded from the property, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has upheld the trial court’s order sentencing him to life imprisonment.

Pronouncing the orders on an appeal filed by accused Amrik Singh, a High Court Division Bench, comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice S.D. Anand, said: Mere absence or non-proof of motive on the part of assailant would not entitle him to claim exoneration from liability on a criminal charge. In this case, however, the prosecution has been able to prove a precise motive on the part of the appellant in murdering in his own mother”.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Anand added: “The inference culled out from the discussion is indicative of putrefied moral hygiene of the appellant and the circumstances decoded are revelatory of the appellant being a man of debased mind set”.

The accused, Amrik Singh, was convicted by the trial court on the charge of having murdered his mother Angrej Kaur as he was apprehending that she would hand over agriculture land to her daughters.

The prosecution had claimed that Angrej Kaur owned around seven “killas” in Gharangana village. On August 27, 2001, Amrik Singh fired two shots, one out of which hit Angrej Kaur. Accused Amrik Singh also kicked Angrej Kaur’s abdomen, while hitting her on face and other body parts with pistol butt. Thereafter, appellant Amrik Singh and his wife Swaran Kaur fled the spot; while Angrej Kaur died at the spot itself.

Denying the allegations, Amrik Singh had stated: “I am innocent. I had no dispute, whatsoever, with my mother Angrej Kaur. She was killed by some unknown persons at about 5/6 am on August 27, 2001. I was weeping and wailing by the side of body of my mother and was picked up by the police from there and this false case was foisted upon me.”

The allegations were, however, upheld by the trial judge by placing reliance upon the testimony on oath prosecution witnesses Jagtar Singh and Labh Singh.

Challenging the orders in an appeal before the High Court, counsel for the appellant G.S. Gill had contended that the prosecution had failed to prove any fact, which may have motivated him to do away with his mother.

Before parting with the appeal, the judges held: We are of the opinion that the prosecution had indeed proved its case beyond shadow of reasonable doubt. The appeal merits dismissal and it is so ordered accordingly. 


Khaira moves HC against ‘errant’ police officials
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
If Punjab MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s contentions in an application filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are to be believed, out of 30 cases registered by the police in Bholath constituency of Kapurthala district, just six were found to be genuine by the Kapurthala SSP. The others were registered only to implicate innocents due to political considerations.

In the application seeking prosecution of police officials and individuals found to have implicated innocents in criminal cases, Khaira has also asked for directions to the State of Punjab to place on record copies of the SSP’s report in the matter.

He has asserted that mere perusal of the report was enough to indicate that 10 cases out of the 30 were cancelled as an inquiry had proved them to be false. In seven matters, the cases were rightly registered, but certain persons were falsely involved. In three cases, untraced report had been forwarded following compromise, while four cases were still under investigation.

Going into the background of the matter, the petitioner contended that the state DGP created a cell after his representation was forwarded to him by the Governor. The matter was referred to the Jalandhar range DIG, who handed over the matter to the SSP.

Taking up the application, a High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia issued notice of motion to Punjab Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Police chief for April 22.

Notice to union home secy

Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia of the High Court on Wednesday issued notice of motion for April 9 to the union home secretary, Army authorities and others on a petition for disposal or destruction of explosives lying at Dhandari Kalan Dry Port in Ludhiana since October, 2004.

Petitioner H.C. Arora claimed the stock of explosives included 55 stick bombs, 365 grenades, 54 boxes of bottle bombs, one box of ballistic cartridges. The petition in public interest was filed after securing information through RTI Act.


Baba Dayal Singh’s plea dismissed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
A petition filed by Baba Dayal Singh and three others of Baba Budha Dal, seeking CBI probe into a “false” murder case against the followers of their head Baba Santa Singh, was today dismissed as withdrawn by Justice R.S. Madan of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In the petition filed through counsel R.K. Handa, Baba Dayal Singh and others had sought directions for handing over to the CBI the investigations of murder case registered at Civil Lines police station in Patiala district.

Describing himself as “mukhtiar-a-aam” of Baba Santa Singh, Baba Dayal Singh had claimed that two persons -- Balbir Singh and Darshan Singh -- were removed from the sect as they had “evil eyes” on the dera property.

The followers of Baba Santa Singh had advised the two and their companions against entering the dera. But they raised “lalkara” and started firing. The dera followers acted in self-defence, which resulted in killings. Followers of Baba Santa Singh also sustained gunshot injuries. Instead of acting on their complaint, the police registered a false case against them.


State fails to utilise benefits of citrus fruit production
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
In spite of accounting for over 10 per cent of total citrus fruit production, Punjab has failed to avail benefits under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM). Over the past three years, a majority of schemes under the mission have not been implemented and money sanctioned for other projects has not been utilised.

Officials in the Agriculture Department, Punjab, said of the Rs 62 crore that had been sanctioned to Punjab under the NHM, only Rs 32 crore has been spent. With the state government failing to propagate the scheme to farmers and banks, the state could not benefit much from the scheme, though the neighbouring states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have done quite well under the NHM.

The officials said one of the main reasons for Punjab faring poorly under the NHM was a lackadaisical approach on part of the Horticulture Department. “In the first year, when the mission was launched by the government of India, Punjab sent its proposals much after the last date fixed by the government. As a result, the state did not get any grant for implementation of the welfare schemes for giving horticulture a boost,” said a senior official.

It may be noted that citrus fruit production in the state accounts for 10 per cent of the total citrus fruit production in the country. The area under fruit crops is 57,309 hectares, with annual production of 8.31 lakh metric tonnes. The area under vegetable crops is 1.68 hectares with production of 25.36 lakh metric tonnes, while Punjab has 600 hectares under floriculture and produces 30,000 quintals of fresh flowers.

Though the state government had adopted a cluster approach by distributing different parts of the state in three commodity-specific clusters for different fruits and vegetables, not many schemes were introduced in these clusters. While Ferozepur, Muktsar and Bathinda have been clubbed together for the cultivation of grapes and citrus fruits, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur have been clubbed together for cultivation of peaches, guava and mango. The third cluster has been created for cultivation of medicinal plants, flowers and vegetables in the districts of Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib.

S. S. Dhillon, secretary, Agriculture, Punjab, said the performance of the state under the NHM was dismal. “We are now trying to restructure the entire set up and prepare an action plan for implementation in the next fiscal. Though earlier we had made clusters of 11 districts in the state, four other districts, Sangrur, Faridkot, Nawanshahr and Mohali, have also been included. We propose to set up at least four terminal markets across the state and promote floriculture in a big way,” he said.


2 DIGs, 4 SSPs shifted 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The Punjab government yesterday shifted 13 IPS officers, including two DIGs and four SSPs of districts. Separate orders have been issued for shifting 11 Punjab Police Service (PPS) officers.

R.P. Mittal will be DIG, Ferozepur Range, and Parampal Singh DIG, Border Range.

The four new SSPs will be Kaustubh Sharma at Fatehgarh Sahib, Shashi Prabha Dwivedi at Nawanshahr, Sukhchain Singh at Hoshiarpur and Harinder Singh Chahal at Tarn Taran. Out of them, Chahal and Parampal Singh were at one point of time seen close to the previous ruling regime of the Congress. Chahal’s son had been selected DSP under the sports quota.

Other IPS officers to be shifted are: Nilabh Kishore will be commandant, 36th Battalion, Punjab Armed Police, B. Chandra Shekhar AIG, Provisioning, and Anita Pun AIG, Administration.

Tejinderpal Singh will be commandant, 75th Battalion, PAP, Jalandhar, Kartar Singh commandant, IRB, Patiala, Ashish Chaudhary SP City-1, Ludhiana (City), in the rank of ASP and Babu Lal Meena SP City-1, Amritsar (City), in the rank of ASP.

Among the PPS officers to be shifted are: S.P.S. Basra will be commandant 4th Commando Battalion, Mohali, Surinderpal Singh commandant 9th Battalion, PAP, Amritsar, Charanjit Singh assistant commandant 27th Battalion, PAP, Jalandhar, Satpal Joshi assistant commandant 5th IRB, Amritsar, Kuldip Singh SP, Detective, Muktsar, Chaman Lal SP Headquarters, Kapurthala, Charanjit Kumar assistant commandant, 7th Battalion, PAP, Jalandhar, Ravinder Kumar Bakshi SP, Crime against Women, Kushi Mohammad SP Operations, Barnala, Narinderpal Kaushal SP Investigation, Lok Pal and Ramandeep Singh SP, Vigilance Bureau.


Children’s Abduction Police yet to register FIR
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 6
The police apparently is not taking seriously the matter of abduction of two children from the Ladowali road in last week of December as it did not register an FIR of kidnapping even after the recovery of the body of one of the children, Lokesh, from the railway track near Bashirpur crossing on January 22.

The Government Railway Police (GRP) registered an FIR of murder under Section 302, IPC, on January 24.

DSP (City I) Mukhwinder Singh feigned ignorance about the incident. However, he said, the DDR would be converted into an FIR of kidnapping after checking the matter from the SHO concerned.

Actually Lokesh (5), son of Prahlad, a resident of Kota, Rajasthan, now living on the Ladowali road, went missing along with his cousin Amariya (7) in December. A DDR of missing was registered at police station No. 4 on December 29.

While Lokesh was found murdered on January 22, the whereabouts of his cousin Amariya, son of Prahlad’s elder brother Shudhpal, are still not known.

Prahlad’s wife Kanya said they suspected the hand of a sadhu behind the kidnapping of both children and Lokesh’s elimination. 


Sand, gravel quarries to be auctioned afresh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
After dithering for 11 months, the Punjab government has decided to hold a fresh auction of sand and gravel quarries. The Cabinet sub-committee set up for this purpose under industries minister Manoranjan Kalia held a meeting here yesterday to decide on fresh auction.

Others who attended the meeting were Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Adesh Partap Singh Kairon. chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh and financial commissioner, Excise and Taxation, S.S. Brar.

Kalia said sand and gravel mining contracts might be granted for two years instead of three. The committee has decided to club the quarries while auctioning, keeping in view their economic value. The rates of royalty of all minor minerals would be enhanced on the Haryana pattern.

The minister said the notice for auction would be issued by February 20 and the process of auctioning of quarries would be completed by March 31.

In the current year’s Budget, the state government had provided for collecting Rs 200 crore from the auction of the quarries. However, collection during the current year will be hardly Rs 12 crore.

Sources said the department was ready to auction the quarries as per directions given by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In fact, the department was already holding auctions in two districts on the khasra number basis, the pattern which the high court had directed to follow in the remaining districts also.

The department has already collected khasra numbers of quarries to be auctioned. It is just awaiting a nod from the Cabinet sub- committee to go ahead for fresh auction. The sources said the issue of the auction of quarries had come up at a recent meeting of administrative secretaries.

Certain politicians have interest in the sand and gravel business worth crores in the state. Sand and gravel lifted from riverbeds of the Sutlej, Ghaggar, Beas and other quarries is used for construction purposes.


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