P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Govt not to seek hike in power tariff
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
The Punjab government has decided not to seek hike in power tariff for next fiscal year starting from April 1. A decision on new power tariff, will be left to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC).

The commission, headed by former chief secretary Jai Singh Gill, after studying the demands of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) ,like price of buying power and others costs will announce its tariff order.

However, sources said in view of the high price of power purchased from outside, it is unlikely the consumers will escape a hike. Or else, the commission could curtail the budget of power purchase of the PSEB so much the residents of the state would have to bear with longer power cuts. Either ways residents will have to either pay more or make do without adequate power.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has okayed the annual revenue requirement (ARR) that the Punjab State Electricity Board is scheduled to present before the commission in the next couple of days. In the ARR, the PSEB will present a gap of Rs 5,200 crore between the revenue earning from all sources and actual spending on running the power supply system in the state, said sources in the electricity board. A large chunk of this will be due to the high cost of buying power from outside and supplying 
it for free to farmers and also other subsidies to families of the Scheduled Castes.

Sources in the PSEB said they expected a huge cut in money to be budgeted for buying power from outside at peak rates and by overdrawing. These peak rates for overdrawal were hiked in November last year when the Central Electricity Regulatory Authority jacked up rate to Rs 10 per unit. With such high rates in place the PSEB has already been asked to abstain from overdrawing in peak hours. This means there will be more power cuts.

Last year the government committed to pay Rs 2548 crore subsidy on power. Out of this 1470 crore has been paid out till now and the Finance Department has been asked to ensure all payments are made by March 31.

During the last fiscal year the PSEB had not even filed the ARR and the commission had suo motu increased the tariff in urban areas by 10 per cent. This had led to a furore between the ruling alliance partners - the BJP and the SAD. The former had demanded the hike be rolled back and the CM was forced to do so.

The commission, however, has so far refused to roll back the hike saying the state was yet to pay up previous subsidy. The matter is being heard by the commission separately.


Ashwani against free power
Tribune News Service

Kila Raipur (Ludhiana), February 10
Bad economics cannot be sound politics said Ashwani Kumar, union minister of state for industry, while addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the Kila Raipur sports festival here today.

Ashwani argued that the Punjab government should end its free power sop to the farmers. “Personally speaking, I can guarantee that free power sops cannot stay forever in the current economic situation. The state cannot even dream to initiate new power schemes till its board is further stripped of its funds through free supplies. Uninterrupted and not free power supply is the need of the hour,” he said.

The minister said one should rise above political interests of populism and give a new direction to the power generation and distribution sectors.

He said, “Clearly speaking, the success of the Indo-US nuclear deal is very important in context of development for future needs.”

The minister said, “Interestingly, the country has approximately 50 lakh jobs but we don’t have the required skilled labour, particularly in the emerging markets. The other big challenge before the government is to fight addiction, both drugs and alcohol.”

Replying to the question of the rising steel prices and unrest in the industrial sector, he said it was a simple question of demand and supply. Currently, there was a great demand for steel and cement because of the growing infrastructure. So certain companies were playing smart. The government had approached the MRTP in this regard.

Ashwani was accompanied by Jasbir Singh Khangura, local MP.


KAC march foiled; workers detained
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bhai Rupa/Mehraj (Bathinda), February 10
Hundreds of activists of the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC) were detained today after they tried to take out a march near Salabatpura, the headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda in Punjab. The police had made tight security arrangements to prevent the march but the KAC activists changed the venue of the march at the last minute from Bhai Rupa village to Gurdwara Chota Gurusar in Mehraj village.

When the KAC activists tried to take out the vehicle carrying Guru Granth Sahib from the Chota Gurusar Gurdwara premises, the police intercepted them. The Panj Piaras were detained and the Palki was taken in possession by the police personnel who blocked their way by parking a police bus and a jeep in the middle of the way.

Despite the police having turned the villages in the area into a fortress, and motorists being thoroughly frisked, around 70 KAC activists arrived on a tractor-trailer and joined the activists already present there. After some time, around 20 more KAC men arrived at the venue on a jeep. The police arrested them.

Showing resentment over the denial of permission to take out Guru Granth Sahib in a procession, hardliner Sikhs delivered speeches and raised anti-government slogans outside the gurdwara. They accused that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal of supporting the Dera Sacha Sauda chief for political gains.

Meanwhile, in Dhapali village, about 10 km from Mehraj, another religious march was attempted. However, the police stopped the religious procession near Bhai Rupa village. But, after discussions with the leader of the KAC group, Bhai Boota Singh, the police allowed only the Panj Piaras and the holy Beer to proceed to Gurdwara Mansarovar in Bhai Rupa village with four other KAC leaders. The police refused permission to other KAC activists assembled there to join the march.

Sadhu Singh of Gumti Kalan village, along with 20 KAC activists, was arrested as he lodged a protest in Bhai Rupa village against the detention of the activists by the police. They wanted to join the march.

The KAC activists at Gurdwara Mansarovar deferred the march in the afternoon and placed the Bir inside the gurdwara. After passing a resolution to boycott Badal, the KAC activists moved towards the village. But, immediately, the police, under orders from district magistrate Rahul Tewari, arrested the KAC activists, including some women.

Convener of KAC Bhai Mohkam Singh, who was arrested, said: “The march was not attempted from this place only. Our activists started the march from various other places, but the police detained them. Despite the tight security arrangements, many of us gathered here which indicates the failure of the administration.”

Jathedar Bhai Kumikar Singh, the member of the presidium of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) (Panch Pardhani), said: “The police personnel themselves wanted to disturb peace. When we asked them to remove the bus from near the gurdwara, a senior police official suggested that we break its window panes.”

About the arrest of the KAC activists, the district magistrate said: “They have been detained as a preventive measure. Moreover, they defied the order issued under Section 144 of the CrPC. A case would be registered only against those leaders of radical Sikhs who did not pay heed to our instructions.”

When SSP Naunihal Singh was asked about the intelligence lapses, he said: “Earlier, we had the information that the march would begin from Bhai Rupa. So, we concentrated on the roads that lead to that village. But, they changed the venue. The KAC activists got only that much time which we took in deploying the force.”

Mediapersons obstructed

Vehicles of mediapersons, bearing the Press sticker on the windshields, were deflated and parked in a field some distance away from Gurdwara Chota Gurusar in an alleged attempt to prevent mediapersons from reaching the venue of the march. On being asked, district magistrate Rahul Tewari passed the buck on to the police officials and expressed regret.


BJP to develop places linked with freedom struggle
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune news Service

Ajnala, February 10
In order to highlight the contribution of the people of Punjab in the freedom struggle, especially the Gadar Movement of 1857, the BJP has decided to identify and develop places associated with the freedom struggle.

Rajinder Bhandari, state BJP president, stated this while addressing a massive rally of the party organised at Ajnala to pay obeisance to the 1857 martyrs of Kallianwala Khu here today. Bhandari said there was a general notion that the people of the state had almost no role in the freedom struggle of the country and for this reason the Britishers had been able to establish their bases in this part of the country. He said there was need to publicise the sacrifices made by the martyrs of the state like Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Chandershekar Azad, Udham Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabha.

Lashing out at the Congress for ignoring the people of this border area who had made significant contribution during the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu announced Rs 1.25 crore for the construction of two memorials at the Kalianwala Khu and the old kachehri and development of the border area.

Sidhu said he, along with other MPs of the state, would raise the issue of extending rail freight corridor from Ludhiana to Attari in the next session of Parliament. He said the SAD-BJP combine would also hold a “chakka jam” in New Delhi on the first day of the session to pressurise the Union government for waiving the loans of farmers in the state.

Rajindermohan Singh Chhina, district BJP president (rural), Shwet Malik, mayor, Bakshi Ram Arora, former district president (urban), Ramsharan Prashar, were among those who participated in the rally. 


Pulse Polio II launched
Tribune Reporters

A health worker administers polio drops to a baby in Amritsar on Sunday.
A health worker administers polio drops to a baby in Amritsar on Sunday. — Photo by Vishal Kumar

Amritsar, February 10
The second phase of the Pulse Polio programme started today with the health department vowing to administer polio drops to more than 35,000 children below five in the city.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu, while launching the campaign by administering polio drops to children in the Darshani Deori area, near Golden Temple here, stated that there was no case of polio reported in the city. He said the state government, along with the health department, had succeeded to eradicate the disease in the area.

He said the health department, with the help of various non-government and social organisations, had put up 1,399 booths in various areas of the city to immunise 358,011 children. As many as 5,596 volunteers besides 144 mobile teams would carry out the task.

TARAN TARAN: As many as 38 lakh children will be administered drops under Pulse Polio programme in Punjab and the health department has established 16,000 polio booths for the purpose.

It was disclosed here today by minister for health and family welfare Laxmi Kanta Chawla. She was here to inaugurate polio camps in the area. The minister addressed gathering at Patti, Kairon and Ghariala and called upon the people to extend their cooperation to make this national programme a success. Dr S.P.S. Sohal, director of the department, Dr Amrit Kaur, civil surgeon, and other officials were also present. The department has set up 612 booths in the district to administer polio drops to 167,647 children.


Suspected Abortion Possible, says medical board
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 10
In a suspected abortion case, a three-member medical board of the civil hospital here last evening submitted medico-legal report to the police. It reportedly has mentioned “possibility of abortion is there”.

On February 7 on a tip-off that an abortion was going to be conducted in a house of a private nurse in a mohalla here, the police raided the house and found a 21-year-old married woman of a village 10 km from here.

After the raid a team of two doctors from the local civil hospital took the woman in an ambulance to the hospital for examination to ascertain whether an abortion had been conducted or not.

Surjit Singh, a member of the medical board, said the final medico-legal report had been prepared after receiving the ultrasound report of the woman from the Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala. He added they had prepared the report on the basis of three aspects, study of the ultrasound report, history of the patient, and medical examination of the patient.

He added in the report they had mentioned “possibility of abortion is there”. It seemed the abortion was incomplete, so the patient would now be managed by a gynaecologist of the hospital, he added. Senior medical officer of the local civil hospital H.S. Bali confirmed that the report had been submitted by the medical board to the local police this evening. 


Farmers seek enhanced price of land
Tribune News Service

Attari, February 10
Over 24 farmers, whose land is being acquired for an integrated check post on the Attari border, today held a protest against “inadequate payment” for the land.

Manjit Singh, one of the farmers, said the state government had decided to give Rs 45 lakh per acre to farmers for the land located along the GT Road and Rs 24 lakh per acre for the land along link roads. Farmers demanded a uniform price of Rs 70 or 80 lakh per acre to each farmer irrespective of the location of the land in the vicinity of the border.

The protesters threatened to launch an agitation in case due compensation was not paid to them. They made an appeal to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to intervene in the matter.


Excessive smoking can be primary cause of stroke: Expert
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 10
Excessive smoking can damage inside of blood vessels by thickening their inner surface and making them so narrow that clots start appearing, thereby becoming the primary cause of stroke.

Dr Geoffrey A. Donnan (Australia) president of the World Stroke Organisation, said today the toxic effects of smoking are emerging as major cause of stroke across 
the world.

“Interestingly, passive smoking has been found to have the same effect on the blood vessels as direct inhalation of tobacco. The World Stroke Organisation is committed to spreading awareness about the damage caused by smoking,” he said.

Besides, he said, faulty lifestyle, with junk food also increases the chances of high blood pressure and diabetes, which can result in obesity and eventually lead to paralysis and stroke.

“Healthy lifestyle is an important component of stroke prevention and the high-protein traditional diets should not be blindly replaced by the western culture of junk and canned food,” said Dr Donnan, who was in Amritsar to attend the third National Congress of Indian Stroke Association.

Commenting on the incidence of stroke in India, he said, “The situation is alarming to say the least and it could soon take epidemic proportions. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) proportions, there could be 20 to 50 per cent increase in the number of stroke patients in 20 years and most of this could be in regions like south Asia,” he said.

“Setting up of key units, which are inexpensive to put together could be very useful in reducing causalties due to stroke. In the broader sense, early diagnosis of the disease through irregular heart pulse and treatment of high blood pressure in the broader sense is crucial to avoid cases of stroke,” he said.

“Thirty years ago, there was hardly any proven treatment for stroke. However, in 10 years, numerous proven forms of therapy have come up and more and more methods of treatment are being evolved every year. Research for affordable and easily accessible treatment is on the right path and it is expected to be a reality soon,” he said.

Experts at the conference pointed out that historically, cases of stroke were higher in western countries, while India was on the lower side, but in recent years, India has started suffering more cases because of faulty lifestyle and lack of proper preventive measures.

Most of the studies carried out in India, showed 10 to 15 per cent cases of stroke occurred in population below 40 years, which is higher compared to other countries. Recurrence may be higher in India due to poor compliance with treatment and control of risk factors.

It is noteworthy 16 lakh Indians get stroke every year, which means 4466 people get stroke everyday or three persons every minute. In India, one person gets disabled every minute, and at the same time, one person dies every minute due to stroke. More than 80 per cent of the strokes are preventable. Alarmingly, 58 per cent Indians do not know that stroke occurs in the brain, said the experts.

Papers were presented by Dr Ashok Uppal, director, Uppal Neuro Hospital, Dr J. P. Mohr, director Stroke Programmes, New York along with Dr Arjun Das, Dr M. V. Padma, Dr Sudesh Sharma, Dr Lehember Singh and Ramesh Uppal on the last day of the conference today.


Ordinance to check early sowing of paddy
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Malooka (Bathinda), February 10
Tocheck falling water level in the state, the Punjab government, plans to come out with an ordinance imposing fine of Rs 10,000 on farmers found sowing paddy before June 15. His crop would then be ploughed by the government itself.

“Even the cost of ploughing his field would be recovered from the farmer. We have been urging the farmers to stop the early transplantation of paddy as it leads to depletion of groundwater, but now, the time has come when there is need for an ordinance which would restrict them from doing so,” Sucha Singh Langah, state agriculture minister, informed while speaking to TNS at village Malooka here today.

Langah was on a visit to this village to attend a sports festival on the invitation of ex-minister, Sikandar Singh Malooka, today.

Langah said that the Agriculture Department has been persuading the farmers not to sow paddy early, as this affects the groundwater sources. “If a farmer sows paddy around May 10, the groundwater level goes down to the extent of 60 cms per year. If it is sown around May 20, the level goes down by 50 cms and if on May 30, then the level goes down by 30 cms. If a farmer sows paddy after June 15, which is recommended by the PAU, the water loss is nil, because by then, the monsoon is near and the need for is fulfilled by the rainy season and the water table does not get affected during the rest of the year.”

According to PAU experts, as many as 100 out of 141 blocks in Punjab have been categorised as ‘dark blocks’. The worst affected area is central Punjab, where the depth of the water is below 30 feet in 95 per cent of the area and the water table is falling at the rate of 54 cm per year on an average.

Last year, the PAU had launched a statewide campaign, ''Save Water, Save Punjab'', aimed at creating awareness among the farmers to delay the sowing of paddy to save the depleting water resources. 


Development: Centre, state govt ‘ignoring’ Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 10
Amritsar, which has been rated as the fifth most-sought-after destination in the world as per a BBC survey, is not being given adequate attention for its overall development by the state and Central governments.

Amritsar, being the second largest city of Punjab with nearly 1.5 million population, has been receiving nearly one crore tourists annually from all over the world.

In a detailed missive sent to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Badal, the Amritsar Vikas Manch has sought their immediate attention for taking corrective measures to ensure the overall development of the city.

The extent of discrimination with Amritsar is evident from the fact that the Amarinder government even shifted the National Institute of Biotechnology from Amritsar to Mohali. The institute was announced for Amritsar by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September 2004 to mark the quad-centennial celebrations of Guru Granth Sahib.

At least one university among the proposed three universities proposed for Punjab should be set up in Amritsar, they added.


3 Trident employees shot at

Barnala, February 10
Unidentified assailants shot at three employees of Trident group, injuring two of them seriously, near Rangian village, in this district last night, the police said today.

The three employees were on their way from Dhuri to join the night-shift at their factory in Barnala, when two unidentified youths, riding a bike, fired three shots at them.

While Amarjit Singh of Meerheri village, who was driving the bike, fell down, pillion riders Dharampal of Manawal village and Amit Bhardwaj of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh sustained bullet injuries.

Amarjit took the victims to the Barnala Civil hospital and later to the CMC, Ludhiana. According to the police, Amarjit has denied any rivalry with anyone.

An FIR has been registered under Section 307 of the IPC for attempt to murder against unidentified persons. — UNI


Spurned lover shoots at girl
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 10
Unable to reconcile himself with the fact that the girl of his dreams has married someone else, Jaswinder Singh fired at her with a .12-bore rifle at her residence in the Darshan Avenue area here in the afternoon today.

Though the victim, Navdeep Kaur (25), did not suffer any serious injury, bullet pellets hit in her leg. She was taken to a neary hospital by members of her family.

Police sources said Jaswinder, who is a resident of the Sultanwind area, was upset over the fact that she had married someone else in Faridkot in December.

When he got to know that she had come to meet her parents in Amritsar, he reached there and shot at her and fled from the scene.

Police official Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh said the police parties had started investigations and raids were being conducted to nab the attacker.


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