P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Cabinet nod to liquor price hike
13,998 teachers to be appointed on contract

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
Punjab’s new Excise Policy approved by the Cabinet here today provides for generation of a total revenue of Rs1,728 crore (approx), which is an increase of Rs 72 crore over last year. This will be made possible by an increase of Rs 5 per bottle of country liquor and Rs 10 per bottle of Indian Made Foreign liquor (IMFL).

As per the new policy, the quota of Punjab Medium Liquor (PML) has been increased by 3 per cent over last year, but there will, however, be no increase in quota of IMFL. This will take the quota of PML to 618 lakh proof litres (PLs) for PML, while retaining the IMFL quota at 325 lakh PLs. The licensing units will be allotted by a draw of lots.

No maximum retail price of IMFL was fixed for 2007-08 which will be fixed by the ETC both at L-1 and L-2 stages. Also, the rate of VAT on molasses will be decreased from 22 per cent to 4 per cent and rate of VAT on liquor will be increased from 4 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

Among the other important decisions take by the Cabinet are filling up of 13,998 vacancies of school teachers on contract basis. Out of these, 9,998 and 4,000 teachers will be appointed in primary and secondary education cadres, respectively. Punjab School Education Board Act, 1969, will also be amended.

The Cabinet also approved in principle to establish Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University sponsored by the Sri Guru Granth Sahib 4th Centenary Memorial Trust through introducing the Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University Bill, 2008, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha for enactment. The trust will be established under the Indian Trust Act, as a constituent unit of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

It also decided to introduce the Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Bill, 2008, in the forthcoming session of Punjab Vidhan Sabha for enactment. Likewise, it was also decided to convert the Punjab Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008, into an Act through the presentation of Bill in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

Further, the Cabinet approved to raise the borrowing limit of the PSEB from Rs11,000 crore to Rs15,000 crore to meet with the crash-crunch position. It approved amendment in the Punjab Value Added Tax Act, 2005, provisions for VAT at source on petroleum products. This would generate Rs. 20 crore per annum without any enhancement of VAT.

The Cabinet also approved the acquisition of the 120-acres-3 kanal-16-marla land for Wagah (now Attari) Border. 


Tribune Special
UPSC declines to recruit PCS officers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has declined the Punjab government request to recruit officers for the Punjab Civil Service (PCS) and allied services.

“Our hands are full and we cannot spare time to recruit officers for various state cadres.” This is what the UPSC authorities concerned have conveyed informally to the Punjab government.

Sources said the UPSC would convey in writing its inability to recruit officers for the PCS and allied services soon.

Asked in this regard, chief secretary, Ramesh Inder Singh, said, “Though we have not got any response in writing, it appears that the UPSC has no spare time to make the recruitment on behalf of the state government”. He added, “Now we have to make our own arrangements for recruitment.”

When the Badal government took over, it had written to the UPSC to make recruitments on its behalf. And at the behest of the UPSC, the Punjab government had also effected certain changes in rules to enable the UPSC to make recruitments for the state.

For the recruitment of officers for the PCS and allied cadres, the state government has the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), which is a constitutional body. However, the Badal government does not want to make recruitment through the PPSC, that has its headquarters at Patiala, because most of its members were appointed by the previous Amarinder Singh government.

However, now the Badal government will have to make recruitment through the PPSC or withdraw the posts of officers of PCS and allied cadres from its purview by effecting changes in the relevant rules. However, withdrawing the posts from the purview is not an easy task.

Whereas other states have been making recruitments to the state cadres regularly, in Punjab recruitment has not been made in PCS and allied cadres for the past eight years. A large number of posts of PCS officer and in allied cadres such as tehsildars, ETOs etc are lying vacant for the past several years. Even in most important districts like Amritsar, slots meant for PCS officers are vacant and to run the show additional charges have been given. Sources said the state government needed about 100 PCS officers to fill posts at the junior level.

In fact, for three decades the PPSC has remained a condemned institution in the public eye. It has been mostly making recruitment to premier services like the PCS at the bidding of influential politicians for the past several years. Only a few lucky ones have been recruited on the basis of merit. However, the scam in the recruitment of PCS officers by allegedly charging money was exposed for the first time a few years ago. That scam not only rocked Punjab, but also the entire country.

Rejection of the PPSC for recruitment of PCS officers is no solution. The government should set up a system that ensures transparency in recruitment and make drastic reforms in it.


Akal Drug De-addiction Centre
A boon for addicts
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Cheema (Sangrur), February 27
The local Akal Drug De-addiction-cum-Rehabilitation Centre has been proving to be a boon since July, 2004, for drug addicts of not only the Malwa belt and other parts of the state, but also for drug addicts of neighbouring states like Delhi and Haryana. The de-addiction centre is being run here by the Kalgidhar Trust, Baru Sahib (Himachal Pradesh). Indoor patients are being looked after by two doctors, six pharmacists and nursing assistants and two ward boys at the centre.

The centre started its functioning from the local Gurdwara Janam Asthan Sant Attar Singh ji, but in September, 2007, it was shifted to a newly constructed building built for it. Though the building has a capacity to accommodate 35 drug addicts as indoor patients, there are 31 drug addicts under treatment nowadays. The indoor patients are normally treated here for a period of six weeks for medical, psychiatric, nursing and psychological care.

A 16-year-old boy from Bharri Mansa village (near Dhuri) started taking smack during the last Assembly elections and became a habitual addict of the smack. He started spending Rs 500 daily on smack, which he got from family members by quarrelling with them. He said he had been purchasing smack from a nearby village. Whenever he failed to secure smack, his body felt restlessness. He said after coming to this centre, he had gained 8 kg weight during the past five weeks.

Another 35-year-old married man who came from Chottian village (near Lehragaga) to the centre, said he had been consuming excess liquor for the past 20 years, besides consuming poppy husk for some time. In June last year, he was admitted to the centre as a drug addict and he remained there for about two months. Now he was in good health, he added.

Baba Jaivinder Singh, chief manager, Akal Academy, Cheema (near Sunam), said since July, 2004, about 700 drug addicts had been treated as indoor patients by the centre, while about 1,500 drug addicts had taken treatment as out-door patients till now. He further said the centre had benefited patients, who had come here from the areas of Muktsar, Delhi, Nabha, Phagwara, Moga, Mansa, Sirsa, Barnala, Fatehabad, Patiala, Bathinda etc.


News Analysis
Rally brings Sukhbir ‘insaaf,’ Centre trouble
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
The SAD-BJP Insaaf Rally that mobilised an unprecedented gathering in the national capital has serious ramifications both for Punjab and the Centre. Originally intended to draw the union government’s attention towards issues of grave concern to Punjab, it ended as a watershed for the state and for national politics.

For Punjab, the message is loud and clear - the state should now be prepared for “generation next”. The regional MP is now a dynamic leader with national concerns, elevated from “Kakaji” to “Sardarji”, a logical step after Sukhbir Singh Badal’s recent appointment as president of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

It was this rally, carefully planned to be a success, which has made Badal junior take over the psychological reigns of the party. It is now only a matter of a convenient timing before the elder Badal steps down into the role of Bhisham Pitama (read mentor).

The huge cutouts of Sukhbir Badal, deliberately dwarfing his father, along the roads of Delhi and the symbolism in the words of Parkash Singh Badal speaks volumes. “I congratulate Sukhbir Singh Badal and the Akali workers on the success of this historic rally and hope he will carry on the crusade,” he said, implying regional autonomy (read as envisaged in the federal set-up of the Constitution).

BJP president Rajnath Singh more than made up for the absence of other national leaders who claimed to be busy in Parliament with the Railways budget or even BJP leaders from Delhi and its cadres from Punjab. Rajnath minced no words in accepting Sukhbir as the future leader of the Akali Dal and at the same time gave him “aashirwad” for his political career and conveyed the BJP’s acceptance of the young Badal as the new head of their alliance partner.

There is, however, a word of caution here for the Akali Dal. Despite Rajnath Singh’s endorsement, the BJP both at the national level and in the state has shown signs of reluctance to go whole hog with SAD. Perhaps, it is apprehensive about the fallout of SAD’s posture in other states, being a national party. Also, this means that the first-rung BJP national leadership like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K Advani had better bonding with senior Badal, making them less comfortable with the new investiture.

At the national level, the “Insaaf Rally” has once again brought into focus the centre-state relationship. Political insensitivity among national leaders not withstanding, logically the rally may just be the catalyst for a debate and re-look at the Centre-state relationship. It is possible that other regional parties across the country may take a cue from SAD and hold similar rallies in the national capital to force the Centre to listen to them.

Growing provincial discord is an indication for the Centre that each state has different needs and aspirations; uniform national policy may not really be the best way to address regional issues. Though Punjab, at present, is only seeking greater financial autonomy, if the central government chooses to ignore the voices of discontent, more states could organise “insaaf rallies” in Delhi. Again, if dissensions are not resolved, such “insaaf rallies” may prove to be the beginning of serious trouble between the Centre and the states.


Ads: MLA disputes govt claims
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
Congress legislator from Ludhiana Jassi Khangura has written a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal questioning the authenticity of the claims made by the Punjab government with regard to SAD’s fight for a higher minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and paddy for farmers.

Giving data of MSP and bonus thereon, Khangura has said that the advertisements released by the Punjab government following the “Insaaf Rally” in Delhi are incorrect.

Khangura’s letter to the Chief Minister today reads, “Noting the large colour advertisements in various newspapers promising to fight for MSP for wheat and paddy of Rs1500 per quintal, I cannot but feel that the Delhi air that you have recently enjoyed may have caused you to depart somewhat from reality.”

In what can be seen as a hard-hitting rebuttal to the government advertisements, the Congress legislator has said, “I would like to remind you of the MSP enhancements for the 10 harvests you campaigned for last time and with which you rewarded the heavily in debt farmers of Punjab with in your last term as CM was as follows 1997 (wheat Rs 35, Paddy Rs 35), 1998 (wheat Rs 40, paddy Rs 25), 1999 (wheat Rs 30, paddy Rs 50), 2000 (wheat Rs 30, paddy Rs 20) and 2001 (wheat Rs 10, paddy Rs 20)”. This he said averaged to an increase of Rs 29 per quintal for wheat and Rs 30 for paddy.”

Calling the advertisements misleading, the only NRI legislator in the Punjab Assembly said the issuing of advertisements after the “Insaaf Rally” were not only grossly misleading, but also wasted precious government funds.


Sops for mega projects
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
In a significant move to boost urbanisation and industrialisation in the state, the Punjab Government’s Empowered Committee on mega projects, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, here today approved a standard package of incentives and conditions for super mega mixed-use integrated industrial park projects.

The integrated industrial township projects have been categorised into “A”, “B” and “C” with 750 acres or more, 500 acres or more and 250 acres or more of land, respectively. The projects have been granted exemption from stamp duty and registration charges on first sale, lease of developed area and build-up spaces, exemption from change of land use charges on industrial component of the project and reduction in external development charges and licence fee on all components of a project.

Departmental exam

The Central Committee of Examination, Punjab, is organising the next departmental examination for certain categories of officers and officials from March 24 to 28 at Lajpat Rai Bhawan. The examination will be held in two shifts.

CM pays tributes to Gurdev

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday described the Bains family as one of the most respectable and finest families in the state which had made outstanding contribution to strengthen the SAD through their selfless service and dedication.

He was addressing the gathering at the bhog of Gurdev Singh Bains, elder brother of the media adviser to Chief Minister, Harcharan Bains, here at Gurdwara Santsar, Sector 38 (West).


Speaker seeks Amritsar DC’s appearance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon wants that deputy commissioner of Amritsar K.S. Pannu should appear before him on February 29. Secretary of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Madan Mohan has written a letter in this regard to chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh.

The speaker has pointed out that Pannu did not come to receive him or see him off during his official visit to Amritsar in connection with a function in a college on February 23.

He has held that advance information regarding the visit was sent to the district administration of Amritsar.

However, Pannu said he had high regard for the office of the speaker. But because of a communication gap, he was unable to receive him.

Pannu said he would explain the circumstances that led to the communication gap.


Vigilance visits Nabha MC
Our Correspondent

Nabha, February 27
On the complaint of Nabha MLA Kaka Randeep Singh, a Vigilance team, led by chief vigilance officer Vijay Kanwar, today visited the local Municipal Council office and investigated the irregularities in tenders related to development projects.

Randeep and his Congress councillors had written to the Vigilance Department of the local bodies that work tenders were being allocated illegally after the completion of the records.

A couple of months earlier too, this team had visited the council on the complaint of the MLA and seized records to verify the allegations.

Former MLA Romesh Singla and former chairman, Block Samiti, Randeep told reporters that the Municipal Council had become a den of corruption.

He alleged that without specifying the works and preparation of estimates, tenders were being allocated by the council authorities for personal interests.

He said in the coming MC elections, the councillors involved in such malpractices and shielding the accused officers would meet their fate.

He said the Congress had always upheld the cause of common persons in the state contrary to the SAD and the BJP, which believed in pomp and show only. Promises made in the election manifesto by the SAD-BJP combine remained mere assurances, he said and added that it was the Congress Prime Minister who agreed to waive loan of the farming community of the state with land holdings up to 5 acres.

Singla termed the Insaf Rally organised by the SAD-BJP a thankless gesture. The ruling partners should name the rally as “shukrana rally”, he said.


Miller exposed scam
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 27
It was the presence of mind of businessman Ranjit Singh Baghike that helped take lid off the Moga sex scandal involving police officials. Baghike, who owns a rice mill at Nihal Singhwala, received a call from inspector Amarjit Singh, SHO of police station (city I) for making available Rs 50,000 otherwise his name would be entered in the FIR No. 82. Making an excuse for being preoccupied, he promised the inspector to call back soon.

Later, he recorded his conversation with the inspector on his mobile phone, which became an important evidence in building up the case against the nexus of police officials and criminals. However, Amarjit soon came to know his conversation with the rice mill owner had been recorded.

Baghike said a case was registered against him along with five others for attempting to abduct Manpreet Kaur from Chandpurana on her complaint. The moment he learnt about the filing of the case, he went to Chandigarh and submitted his complaint with evidence to ADGP (law and order) Chander Shekhar.

Earlier, the police station, on a complaint of Manpreet had registered a case against Simran Kaur, alias Indu, and Ajay Kumar for pushing her in flesh trade. The FIR No. 82 became a dreaded number among the who’s who of the town who had received extortion calls. The callers used to threaten them in it if they failed to give extortion money.


2-day remand for Garcha, Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 27
The special CBI court here today remanded in CBI custody for two days former SSP Davinder Singh Garcha and SP Ropar, Paramjeet Singh Sandhu in the Moga sex scandal case.

The two police officers were produced in the CBI court amid tight security. The prosecution counsel sought two days’ remand for them, saying it was necessary for the interrogation of the two accused. The CBI had arrested Garcha and Sandhu from their residences in Chandigarh yesterday.


Mobile connection scheme for farmers
Chitleen Sethi

Tribune News Service

Rajpura, February 27
The Punjab government today launched a scheme of marketing mobile phones, its connections and recharge coupons by the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies (PACS) in the state.

Launching the scheme at a state-level function here Punjab Cooperation minister Captain Kanwaljit Singh said the scheme, which is venture of Iffco Kissan Sanchar Limited a joint venture of IFFCO and Airtel, would prove helpful for second green revolution in the state. He said under the scheme farmers would be provided technical assistance in way of 5 voice messages per day besides having a helpline to ascertain anything connected with their profession. He hoped that the helpline would become lifeline for the peasants in near future.


Panchayat poll to be over by April 17
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
The Punjab government today notified to complete the election process of all panchayats, zila parishads and block samitis by April 17.

A copy of the notification has been sent to the state’s Election Commission for holding elections. The date for filing nominations and polling etc will be decided by the commission. Most probably polling will be either on April 11 or 12.

There are about 12,300 panchayats for which elections will be held. There are about 142 block samitis, besides 20 zila parishads.


High Court
44 petitions filed by PSEB allowed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) today saved liability of about Rs 400 crore after the Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed a bunch of 44 petitions filed by it.

The PSEB had challenged the order of the appellate authority constituted under the Payment of Gratuity Act. In the order, the authority had allowed the claims of the employees and had directed payment of gratuity to them in accordance with the provision of Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.

It had held that the exemption granted by the state of Punjab through its notification dated January 8, 2004, was improper as PSEB had branches in more than one state and the appropriate government in the matter was the Central government.

Taking up Punjab’s plea, High Court Division Bench, comprising Justice Ashutosh Mohunta and Justice K.C. Puri, settled a vital question of law on the appropriate government to grant exemption under the provisions of Payment of Gratuity Act.

The decision assumes to be significant as earlier a Division Bench had held that the appropriate government to grant exemption was the Central government as the PSEB had not contested that it had branches in more than one state.

It was contended by Punjab advocate-general H.S. Mattewal that the PSEB was constituted under the Section 5 of the Electricity Supply Act, 1948, vide a notification of 1959. As per the act, each State has its own Board, which had jurisdiction only within the state.

Consequent on the re-organisation of Punjab, by the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, the assets and liabilities of the existing Board's/Corporations were apportioned between the successor states. In 1967, the Shanan Hydro Electric Power Project was given to the state of Punjab. Shanan Power House only produces and transmits electric power for its use and for distribution by the Board in Punjab. This power house was registered as a factory under the Factories Act. Thus, it could not be said the PSEB had a branch in more than one state. Thus, the appropriate government for the grant of exemption was the state government.

Rly bridge

Taking up a public interest petition alleging seven-year delay in constructing railway overbridge in Ludhiana, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion for May 20 to the state of Punjab and other respondents.

The bridge is to replace demolished wooden bridge popularly known as ‘Lakkar Pul’ connecting areas around the Clock Tower with Civil Lines in Ludhiana. The petition has been filed by Ludhiana-based NGO Resurgence India.

Applications in Hindi under RTI

Ludhiana-based NGO Resurgence India today challenged the refusal of Ludhiana deputy commissioner’s office to entertain applications in Hindi moved under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Arguing on the behalf of the petitioner, Anil Pal Singh Shergill said the respondent authorities by putting up a formal notice on its board in this regard, violated the provisions of Article 350 of the Constitution and the Punjab Language Act, 1967.

After the preliminary hearing, High Court Division Bench of the Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia issued notice of motion for May 7 to the respondents, including Ludhiana’s deputy commissioner.

Men purchasing sex punishable

Purchasing “sex” can now prove to be costly. “Customers” purchasing sex, or found in brothels, are also liable to be punished - at least this is what the provisions introduced in the proposed bill on immoral trafficking says.

A copy of the proposed bill, in which the provision has been introduced, was today placed before a High Court Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice K.S. Ahluwalia, during the hearing of a public interest litigation.

It had sought the quashing of certain provisions of the “Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956”, which provide for punishment to woman involved in prostitution, but not to men purchasing sex.

Section 5-C, now being introduced: Any person, who visits or is found in a brothel for the purpose of sexual exploitation of any victim of trafficking in persons shall on first conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine that may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both, and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.


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