P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Shortage of staff, equipment, poor infrastructure
MCI raps Faridkot medical college
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, February 24
The decision of the Punjab government to transfer the control of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot, to Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences has failed to deliver the desired results. The medical college was brought under the control of Baba Farid university in November 2006. A report from the Medical Council of India (MCI) issued on February 12 signed by Davinder Kumar, deputy secretary, MCI, highlighted serious lapses in the running of the hospital. The report carries observation of an MCI team that inspected the college on November 30.

Covering letter of the report stated: "You are requested to send the observation of the university on the remarks made by the council inspectors and their inspection report in three months for further consideration in the matter".

While its subject stated continuance of recognition of MBBS degree granted by the Baba Farid university in respect of students being trained at the medical college.

The Tribune had highlighted discrepancies in the college in the July 30 issue.

Dr Ravinder Singh, vice-chancellor, Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences, said he was not aware of any communication from the MCI received by his office and added that an exchange of correspondence between the two was normal.

According to him, shortage of teachers in medical institutes was a national phenomenon and the Central government had also acknowledged it. Hence, the age for the retirement of teachers in dental colleges had been raised to 70 years subject to annual certification of physical and mental fitness.

The vice-chancellor said the MCI had forwarded its recommendation for approval to the government for the same in branches of medical institutes. He said availability of gadgets depended upon funds.

The report maintained that essential equipment was not available in casualty ward; even a CT scan was not available. All six operating theatres are without air-conditioners, and other relevant equipment was inadequate, it said and added that post-operation ward too was missing.

Besides, it pointed out the unavailability of trained technicians for auto-claving while ICCU and ICU did not exist. A special room for patients has been turned into an OPD, while the original OPD building was being used by the university for administrative block.

Meanwhile, the college administrative block and classrooms were being run from sheds. An array of inadequate infrastructure does not end here and it stated that neither audio-visual nor auditorium were available in the lecture theatre.

As per MCI norms, there must be 478-bed hospital attached to the college.It has 418-bed hospital. Staff shortage was pegged at 52 per cent and the bed occupancy was said to be 37 per cent.


No move to hike milk prices: Kanwaljit
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 24
Punjab minister for cooperation Capt Kanwaljit Singh said today there was no move to hike prices of milk in the state. He said rates of Verka milk would remain the same though private players selling packaged milk were expected to increase their prices.

Talking to The Tribune, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said Punjab was on the brink of white revolution. “Punjab farming has got embroiled in the overarching designs of the Union government to restrict it to being India’s food bowl. The Punjab farmer has become a victim of its vote policies to keep food prices low. Returns from food crops have been dwindling and escalating costs have resulted in serious agricultural crises,” he said adding that the farmer needed to be taken out of this dependence on food crops and encouraged to diversify into dairy farming.

The Milk Federation has been declared as the “point” organisation to bring this transformation from foods crops to milk production for which conditions globally were conducive. He said all diversification plans by previous governments had failed because they could not ensure a market for the diversified crops. “Marketing, procurement system and new price structure for farmers and consumers have resulted in 35 per cent increase in milk procurement in the past six months,” he said.

“During my recent visit to Australia, I was told that their dairy cooperative exports is to 56 countries around the world. Why cannot we do it in Punjab?” he said.

He added that priority agenda for Punjab was the restoration of the economic growth of the state. “Increased generation of wealth will contribute towards higher living standards as well as create employment. However, there is no magic potion to stimulate growth in all sectors, but requires detailed planning and application of sweat and toil,” he said.

Pointing out that the Cooperative Department is slated to play a major role in reviving the state’s economy, he said primary agriculture cooperative societies were being rejuvenated to not only promote agriculture economy, but also play a larger role in social and economic spheres of rural life.

“We have devised a model cooperative society which enlarges the scope of their economic activities. Other than providing supplies and services to agriculture sector, these can delve into rural credit as well as operate as cheap retail stores of goods. For this we will leverage with producing companies offering over 50 lakh membership in the state at a captive demand,” he said.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh had recently met the union minister for Agriculture and advocated the blending of ethanol in petrol and diesel. “The percentage of mixture will increase from the current 5 to 10 per cent. But we should aim at 22.5 per cent mixture to open new avenues for our sugarcane industry. A comprehensive plan to rejuvenate and increase the financial viability of Sugarfed has also been given to the Cabinet for approval,” he said.

Housefed, he said, had taken up the responsibility of providing housing to the low and middle-income groups in the state. “The recent increase in urban real estate housing has hit the economically weaker sections hard. Pilot projects have been launched and flats ranging from Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 6.5 lakh will be allotted in urban and rural areas,” he said. 


Fixed Tenure for IAS Officers
Government in a dilemma
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Months after the Central government asked the Punjab government to have a minimum of two years of fixed tenure while postings IAS officers, the state is still pondering over it. This even as the Central government is insisting that fixed-tenure postings for IAS officers be notified soon. Rather the state officialdom itself is not keen to have a fixed tenure for officers at the field level. However, it is comfortable with senior officers having a fixed tenure.

Few states in the country, including neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, have notified fixed tenures for officers.

Sources in the government said Punjab in the past had stuck to its stance that was conveyed to the Central government exactly an year ago by the then Chief Secretary, K.R. Lakhanpal. The government was still of the opinion that it was not practical to have a fixed tenure for field-level officers. This, if done, would mean that officers who do not have influence would be shunted around.

Moreover, posting out an officer before the completion of his or her tenure would carry a stigma in official circles.

The government, however, is keen to have fixed tenures at the senior level for a chief secretary, financial commissioners (development, revenue and taxation), secretaries (finance and home), among others.

The idea not to have a fixed tenure stems from the changed political climate in the state in the past few years. Officials are targeted and either given inconsequential postings for their alleged political affiliations whenever power changed hands.

Meanwhile, the Central government while responding under the RTI Act to a query by Sangrur-based Kamal Anand has said the Centre in consultation with the state government may determine the tenure of any cadre post for a state.

The IAS cadre rules, 1954, have already been amended to fix tenures.

The new Punjab Police Act also lays down fixed-tenure postings for various IPS officers.


SAD’s Feb 26 Rally in Delhi
All state roads lead to Delhi
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
All roads in Punjab are leading to Delhi. This will hold true at least for the next two days. The first batch of Congress leaders from Punjab left this morning to reach in time for the “scheduled date” with the party high command. Their political rivals in saffron and blue representing the SAD-BJP alliance too will start converging on Delhi from tomorrow for what is being termed as a “historic” “Insaf Rally to persuade the Centre concede more doles for Punjab”.

Senior Akali leaders, including party general secretary Dr Daljeet Cheema, today took a round of the Ram Lila ground to oversee the arrangements for Tuesday’s rally. He said Delhi would be “flooded with SAD and BJP flags”. Every pillar, roundabout and intersection would see SAD-BJP flags, banners and posters.

The SAD-BJP alliance has become more organised. Specially trained boys with custom-made jackets will be deployed all over Delhi to guide visiting party cadres to the venue, tell about parking lots, besides help the Delhi Police to control traffic. The main parking has been provisioned near the Raj Ghat.

Cheema said the workers would start arriving in Delhi from tomorrow evening. All the way from Punjab, the Grand Trunk Road will have stalls offering samosas, tea and other goodies to BJP and SAD cadres. Besides this, there will be ‘langars’ (community kitchens) starting at 9 pm on Monday and will continue till the end of the rally. Special langars will be put up at Ambala, Anaj Mandi, Karnal, and Gurdwara Majnu Ka Tilla, Delhi.

The pandal in the Ram Lila ground will have separate enclosures for VVIPs that include several SAD and BJP national leaders, VIP and media galleries. The SAD-BJP has arranged for putting up 400 toilets and facility for clean drinking water at several places en route to the venue.

Meanwhile, the Congress is all set to meet the party high command during morning hours and will thank the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for what it calls Rs 50,000 crore worth of projects given to Punjab, hike in wheat and paddy bonus and the proposed package for Punjab farmers.

Meamwhile, Congress president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has criticised the SAD-BJP leadership for using employees of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee (SGPC) for the Delhi rally. She told The Tribune, “The SGPC is run by the offering made by people for religious purposes and not to be used for drawing political mileage as the SAD is doing”.

For the next two days the entire Punjab Cabinet, senior officers and leaders from the districts will be away from Punjab to participate in the rally. It is expected that no official work is likely to be conducted in various offices of the government at the state and district headquarters.


Buses go off road, rural passengers worst hit
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
The public transport system, especially on rural routes in the state, has been seriously hit with private buses vanishing from the roads after Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) leaders allegedly adopted legal and illegal methods to arrange the vehicles for ferrying people to Delhi for a massive rally there on February 26.

The situation is all set to worsen in the next three days. General public will have to use other means of transport to reach their offices. Bus operators also fear losses of lakhs of rupees.

As per an estimate, there are 3,650 mini and large buses operating on various routes in the state. Out of these, more than 2,500 are likely to be arranged.

With such a large number of buses required for transportation, the government machinery swung into action today and directed many private bus operators to park their vehicles in the Mini-Secretariat complex for further orders.

As a result, the buses on various routes could not operate causing huge harassment to the general public. Reports from Jagraon, Ahmedgarh, Khanna and Samrala towns said the passengers had to wait for hours for the buses.

Maneesh Kumar of Ahmedgarh told The Tribune that he had to wait at the Jaghera bridge for over an hour to get a bus for Khanna.

The bus operators were also not happy. They said after the change of government, it was the third time that they had been summoned in such a manner. Their sufferings were the same during the Congress regime also.

“Apart from paying for fuel from our own pockets, we will be suffering daily losses with buses remaining off the routes,” confided a local private bus operator, whose 10 buses have been summoned and parked in the Mini Secretariat complex.

The operators were not mincing words or hiding their bitter feelings. “We have no buses even if you offer us double or triple the usual amount for taking a marriage party,” said a local operator.


Dense fog forces CM to cancel visit
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 24
Dense fog in this part of the region forced Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal to cancel his visit to the Dera Baba Nakak area, thus disappointing a large number of residents of the area.

Badal had to cancel his visit to Dera Baba Nanak following non-clearance of air route by the Civil Aviation authorities.

He had to visit the area to console family members of Raspal Singh Cheema, Shiromani Akali Dal (NRI wing) general secretary, in Dera Baba Nanak, near here, today.

The thick fog also put area residents into a great hardship, disrupting vehicular traffic.


Woes of PAU pensioners
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 24
Woes of pensioners of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) do not seem to have any solution in the near future. Rather, the woes are on the increase as they (pensioners) have not received pension for the past four months.

Resentment prevails among the retirees of PAU as the university authorities have depleted the pension fund and the state government has not come out with any relief to them so far.

The university authorities have been telling the state government for the past two years that the pension fund was depleting and the university was facing financial crunch. So the government should extend special financial package to the university to solve the problem.

The PAU authorities approached the present government immediately on its formation, but so far even this government has not done anything to meet the pension fund.

The university needs at least Rs 27.70 crore every month to pay pension to its retirees. They have not received pension since November and the university authorities have expressed helplessness.

The confederation of the PAU pensioners has decided to start an agitation against the state government. They will start a weeklong protest on the university campus tomorrow.

The pensioners also plan to move the high court seeking direction to the state government to release funds to PAU for the disbursement.


Solar power: Rs 10 per unit subsidy offered
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
The Union government has offered a liberal subsidy on producing solar energy. Sources said the Union government would offer Rs 10 for addition of each unit in the power grid from the energy produced.

There is a lot of scope in states like Punjab to produce solar energy.

The sources said the state government had a plan to utilise the big structures on various dams to produce solar energy.

The authorities concerned had been told to prepare a detailed report in this regard. The state government would keep the production of solar energy in its hands and it would not be given to the BBMB, it is learnt.


Community Policing Officers leave the scheme

Tarn Taran, February 24
The Community Policing Officer (CPO) scheme launched in this district one and half years back can be termed a failure as most of the CPOs have left the job.

The local administration under this scheme had recruited 113 CPOs for this town and at the same time it was implemented in other townships of the district.

Under this scheme every CPO was allotted 100 shops/homes to keep a watch on during night. He was to collect Rs 30 per shop/home every month and deposit it with his in charge. In return he was to be given Rs 2,300 per month. The remaining amount was to be used either on their uniform of on other related things.

The CPOs had been facing a tough time from the very beginning as people were either unwilling or were unable to pay them.

Now there are only 25 CPOs here of the 113 recruited. At Patti there are 27 of the 44. At Bhikhiwind 13 CPOs have left of the total 22 while six have left at Khemkaran of the total 12. At Harike, Sarhali, Chohla Sahib and Naushehra Pannuan all 13 CPOs have left their jobs without giving the charge to anybody.

Gian Singh and Jasbir Singh, the representatives of the CPOs, said they had been demanding that they should be treated as employees of some department but the administration was not ready to address their problems.

Deputy commissioner Ajoy Sharma confirmed that a deputation of the CPOs had met him and told him about their demands. The DC told that the administration to look into the demands.


Tributes paid to Bularia
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 24
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, along with SAD president Sukhbir Badal and leaders of various political parties, today attended the bhog and antim ardas ceremony of Raminder Singh Bularia, MLA of Amritsar (South), here today.

Terming the demise of the Akali MLA as an irreparable loss, the Chief Minister while addressing the gathering said, “He could not witness his dreams about holistic development of Amritsar coming true. Nevertheless, we would continue working in the direction desired by him and make Amritsar a model city.”

Sukhbir also paid homage to the Akali leader. He presented a siropa to Inderbir Singh Bularia, his son.

Among others who paid tributes to the leader were Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Avtar Singh, president, SGPC, BJP national secretary Balbir Punj, Rattan Singh Ajnala, Rajmohinder Singh Majitha and Navjot Singh Sidhu, all MPs, Bikram Singh Majithia, information and public relations minister, Gulzar Singh Ranike, animal husbandry minister, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, health minister, Mohinder Kaur Josh, chief parliamentary secretary, Anil Joshi, Harmeet Singh Sandhu, Amarpal Singh Boni, Virsa Singh Valtoha, all MLAs.


Bathinda boy plays Ash’s fiance in ‘Jodhaa Akbar’
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 24
The Malwa area of Punjab has a reason to feel proud. A son of the soil, Amandeep Dhaliwal, whose family hails from Ghumman Kalan village in Bathinda and presently resides at Mansa, has made a mark in Bollywood by acting in the blockbuster “Jodhaa Akbar.”

Aman has played the important role of Aishwarya Rai’s fiance, shehzada of Ajabgarh, Rattan Singh.

“I had a long and significant role in the movie. But because of the long duration of the movie - 5-and-a-half hours - and the Rajput controversy, a huge chunk of my role had to be cut. Before I was signed by Ashutosh Gowarikar, Abhishek Bachchan had been cast for this role. But he left the movie for some reason,” Aman told The Tribune.

Now, he is also starring in a movie “Coffee House,” which has been directed by Gurbir Singh Grewal of “Mannat”-fame, which will hit cinema halls in a few months. Last year, he worked in a movie, “Dying Men’s Statement,” for Mel Gibson’s production house in the US, in which he played the role of an Afghan leader.

Aman, a dashing 26-year-old, who holds a degree in radiology from Santosh Medical College, Ghaziabad, started his career with modelling.

“I also did some music videos for Romy Gill, Balkar Sidhu, DJ Vix, besides others. But it was only two years back that I went to Mumbai and started struggle in Bollywood. I was fortunate that in my very first attempt Ashutosh cast me for this role,” Aman said.

The young actor also informed that before Abhishek left the movie, “Jodhaa Akbar” was planned as a love triangle between Abhishek, Aishwarya and Hrithik Roshan.

“More scenes in the movie were filmed on me and Aishwarya alone, but they had to be cut due to the film’s increasing length. The whole chemistry of my role with Aishwarya was changed at the last minute. Even the role of Birbal was cut. 


Maharashtra incidents condemnable: RSS leader
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 24
The Maharashtra incidents, in which workers and supporters of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) attacked north Indians after alleged instigation by its chief Raj Thackrey, was unfortunate and should be condemned by one and all.

This was stated by Indresh Kumar, senior RSS leader, while talking to The Tribune here today. Founder of the Forum for the Integrated National Security (FINS), Indresh was here to deliver a lecture on a seminar organised by the Panchnad Study Centre on “Internal and External Security of India”.

“This is bad character of nationalism and all senior leaders should resist from such type of vote bank politics,” he said. Indresh said India was a secular country and every citizen was free to go and work anywhere in India. He said the country’s security faces a grave danger from the gun culture groups, including terrorists, Naxalites, Maoists and insurgent groups in the North-East. He claimed that more than 200 such groups were operating throughout the country. While only a strong-willed response from the establishment and society could pose a serious challenge to this culture, he rued that the reaction from powers that be had been meek.

Indresh said there was an utter lack of vision and will among politicians at the national level, which had resulted in failure to firmly deal with these situations. 


Poll: IDP starts awareness programme
Our Correspondent

Nabha, February 24
With an eye on the coming civic body elections, the International Democratic Party (IDP) has started an awareness programme in the state. The party organised an interactive seminar here on Friday to educate people about the rights and duties of elected representatives in municipal councils and the role of voters in improving filthy politics.

Addressing the gathering of educationists, councillors and prominent persons, Hamir Singh Lubana, spokesman and central committee member of the IDP, appealed to them to campaign among masses to select a candidate on merit.

Educationist Amarjit Verma said the corrupt political system needed a revolutionary change. Former MC presidents Prem Gagat and Rajesh Babla and councillors Hari Seth and Pramod Jindal also shared their views.


Improve civic amenities in Zirakpur: Assn
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Miffed at the apathetic attitude of the authorities concerned, the Commercial Welfare Association (godown area), Zirakpur, today sought the intervention of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to stem the rot in the area housing the godowns of multinational companies.

“The state government’s ambitious plans on the industrial front would come to naught if the commercial zones such as the godown area, which contributed crores of rupees to the state exchequer per annum, are given a step-motherly treatment,” F.S. Nagra, president of the association, said.

In fact, the civic amenities, including sewerage, drainage, water and power supplies, in the area were in a sorry state with the Zirakpur Nagar Panchayat turning a blind eye towards even the genuine problems.

To top it, the civic body was least bothered about its basic duties.

For instance, though the association had challenged the levy of house tax in April 2002, the civic body was yet to respond to its representations.

Now the association would seek the help of the state information commission to know the actual status of the case, Nagra said.

Meanwhile, the following have been elected office-bearers of the association: working president -Rakesh Bhardwaj; senior vice-president - S.D. Rampal; vice-president - V.B. Jain; general secretary - Shalender Verma; secretary - B. Bhardwaj; and secretary (finance) - Ashok Arora. 


Farmers told to reduce area under paddy
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 24
The Department of Agronomy, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, and the Farm Advisory Service Scheme (FASS), Sangrur, organised a convention on “Alternative cropping systems to rice-wheat in saving of irrigation water” at Majhi village near Bhawanigarh, under the leadership of Dr Mandeep Singh, district extension specialist, Sangrur, yesterday. 

Dr Nachhattar Singh Malhi, director, Extension Education, PAU, was the chief guest.

Dr Malhi called upon the farmers to reduce area under paddy to save Punjab from becoming a desert. He stressed on timely transplanting of paddy and cultivation of varieties especially PAU-201 and PR-118 to check receding underground water table. He suggested sowing of water-saving crops like groundnut, Bt cotton and maize etc as their irrigation requirement was less compared to paddy. He also motivated farmers to launch village-wise campaign for the eradication of weeds so that mealy bug could not harm cotton crop during the next kharif season.

Dr Krishan Kumar Vashist, senior agronomist, PAU, said central Punjab with 400-800 mm rainfall and coarse textured soils was not fit for paddy cultivation. The local population was not rice eating. The alternative cropping systems to rice-wheat, therefore, could play a great role in saving water by replacing the area under paddy, he added.

ADC (Development) Harnek Singh laid emphasis on kitchen gardening model and adoption of subsidiary occupations by farmers to augment farm income. Presiding over the function, Dr U.S. Walia, head, Department of Agronomy, PAU, stressed on diversification by bringing more area under pulses and oilseeds.

Dr A.S. Sohi, Dr Surjeet Singh, Dr G.S. Rattan, Dr T.S. Dhillon, and Dr Jagdish Grover, deputy director, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Kherri, also spoke. The FASS and the KVK held an exhibition for the farmers.


Malwa region agriculturists rue dry canals
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda), February 24
Dry irrigation canals in the Malwa heartland of Punjab have made agriculturists weep. Most of the canals and tributaries in the area have been lying dry and causing drinking water crisis for the past two months, farmers cry.

The farmers also lament that they are forced to buy drinking water as the filtration tanks are almost dry.

Karnail Singh of Jajjal village said: “It is unfortunate that residents of this area in Punjab, known as the land of five major rivers of the country, are now quenching their thirst by buying water from neighbouring Haryana.”

Another resident of the area Gurmail Singh said a tractor owner of Takhatmal village was selling 5,000 litres tank of water to them for Rs 450.

The farmers cry that their crops will be affected in case steps are not taken to immediately release water in the canals. The canal water is the main source of drinking water in many of the villages in the area.

They point out that the underground water in the area is not fit for consumption because of heavy content of pesticides. The water being procured through private sources is unfiltered that lead to many diseases.

The filtration plant constructed with foreign knowhow near Talwandi Sabo township is also lying dry.

The small farmers in the adjoining Malkana, Gyana and Lalewal villages are also facing acute shortage of drinking water.

Gurmail Singh said residents of Jajjal village did not get adequate supply of drinking water even during normal times as no overhead tank had been built by the Water and Sewerage Board in the area. The water pumped by the filtration plant did not reach the tail-end residents, he added.


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