P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Congress MLAs’ walkout marks session opening
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
A subdued protest, including a walkout by Congress legislators, notwithstanding, the Budget session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha commenced with Governor S.F. Rodrigues talking about achievements and future plans of the Punjab government here this afternoon.

Even before the Governor rose to address the House, Congress legislator Avtar Singh Brar was on his feet and started reading out a parallel address. While Treasury Benches repeatedly thumped their desks throughout the 70-minute address of General Rodrigues, Congress legislators trooped out of the House after 13-minute address of Brar.

And when the Congress legislators walked out, anti-government slogans picked up volume. At no stage neither the Speaker nor any one from the Treasury Benches appealed to Brar or Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to maintain sanctity of the House.

The Governor started by referring to incidents that attempted to disrupt peace in the state. He said that these challenges were not incidental “but were pre-meditated, pre-planned and dangerously executed.” He also referred to the serious law and order aberrations in other parts of the country, including attempts to outrage modesty of women in broad daylight by senior and responsible officers inside police stations. “Punjab, however, stands out as an oasis of peace and civilised behaviour amid all this madness.”

Choosing the podium to blast the previous Congress government in the state, General Rodrigues said a lot was heard of Punjab getting an investment of Rs 1 lakh crore before the last Assembly elections in 2007. “It distresses me to tell you that far from the Rs 1 lakh crore claimed investment, not even 10 per cent of this was actually invested till February last year,” he said, maintaining that this investment was even below the normal rate of investment which Punjab had always been getting since Independence.

Talking about agriculture, the Governor referred to three agri-mega projects with an investment of Rs 250 crore being approved, besides referring to various other new schemes introduced.

Establishment of a dairy science college at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University and a regional diseases diagnostic laboratory in Jalandhar were the major initiatives on the animal husbandry front. He also referred to Mohali International airport and Flying Training Institute at Faridkot. The Governor also mentioned about setting up of Municipal Development Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of Rs 360 crore, primarily for the Metro Rail Ludhiana project.

Coming to health and family welfare, the Governor announced a scheme to recruit 100 medical officers every year for three years was under active consideration. Super-specialty cancer hospitals with public-private participation were planned for Bathinda and Mohali.

A new industrial park in Kapurthala, textile parks at Barnala and Ludhiana and two SEZs for IT and pharmaceutical industries at Mohali has already been notified.


Waiver of loans: Follow Centre, Bhattal to SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
Punjab Congress president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has welcomed the waiver of bank loans announced in the Union budget to farmers and at the same time demanded that the Punjab government waive loans of farmers, who had borrowed from arhtiyas. Bhattal, who claimed credit for presenting the case of Punjab farmers before the UPA government, said, “Dealing with arhtiyas was a state subject, so the state government should announce a complete loan waiver on money borrowed from the arhtiyas.”

She said, “On January 1 I met the UPA chairperson, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, along with a group of party leaders, and presented the case of state farmers. Convinced with our plea, these farmers were included in the package for the community and the amount of relief enhanced.”

Meanwhile, the Congress has decided not to observe March 1 as Black Day, saying that the farmers were busy celebrating the loan waiver and it does not want to be a spoilsport. “We will observe the day a week later.”

Meanwhile, reacting to the Budget, Punjab Youth Congress president Vijayinder Singla said the allocation of money to all 596 districts in the country for implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme would go a long way in elevating poverty in the rural areas of the state.


Maharaja’s birthplace: Badal forgets promises
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

A view of the dilapidated building of the veterinary hospital at Badrukhan village.
A view of the dilapidated building of the veterinary hospital at Badrukhan village. Photo by writer

Badrukhan (Sangrur), February 29
It seems that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has forgotten almost all promises made to the residents of this village (birthplace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the Maharaja at a state-level function on November 13 last year.

Badal had promised the installation of a statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by developing a park on an acre here, but no official has contacted the village panchayat in this regard so far. This is despite the fact that the panchayat is ready to provide land for developing a park on an acre and installation of the statue there.

It was also promised to the village that a grant of Rs 10 lakh for the buildings of primary and senior secondary schools would be provided, but even after the passage of three-and-a-half months, no money has been received by the administration.

The chief minister had also promised to send Rs 3 lakh for the renovation of the building of the veterinary hospital, which is in a dilapidated condition. The veterinary hospital is being run from the panchayat ghar for the past more than one year. The grant of Rs 3 lakh has also not reached to the district authorities so far.

Besides, he had also announced a grant of Rs 2 lakh for the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Youth Sports Youth Club, Badrukhan, for the setting up of a gymnasium and a room. However, the club is still awaiting the grant.

Badal had also assured the villagers that he would send sufficient funds for the development of three cremation grounds and bus stand of the village, but nothing has happened in this direction also.

The construction of a pucca road from Ubhawal village to Badrukhan village was also announced by Badal, but no such road has been constructed on this route so far.

Another significant announcement for starting the construction of an Adarsh School after Maharaja Ranjit Singh in three months in the village has not been executed so far, as the village panchayat is reportedly reluctant to give land for the school on the plea that the land is costly.


The search for original Baba Farid ends after 60 years
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 29
Pritam Singh (90), a recipient of President and Bharatiya Sahit Academy awards, after 60 years of research has established that Punjabi language is more than seven centuries old.

The research, “Search of the original Baba Farid of Guru Granth Sahib”, has also challenged the research done by European and Indian scholars who believed that the hymns of Baba Farid were actually authored by Sheikh Brahm (Ibrahim). It was Farid, the second, whom Guru Nanak Dev met on two occasions.

The noted scholar has concluded that the hymns of Baba Farid were included in Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Arjan Dev, 333 years after the former’s death. He says the rare verses in Persian script supplied by US-based scholar helped in “clearing up one of the most troublesome problems in Indian literary history, the problem of the authorship of the Baba Farid verses in Guru Granth Sahib”.

Earlier, Max Arthur Macualiffe and some other scholars had stated that the hymns ascribed to Baba Farid were compositions by the latter, whereas others ascribe them to Farid Shakarganj. There are others who believe that the hymns were composed by different Sufis of the Pak Pattan Centre, all using the poetic name Farid.

The recent research, which runs into 368 pages and brought out by Singh Brothers, Amritsar, has pronounced that Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj is actually the founder of Punjabi literature and pioneer of modern Punjabi culture and concept of Punjabiat.

This research also makes Punjabi culture older than other languages of current times. Pritam, who has quoted rare Persian and Indian language primary sources in his voluminous research, said the search for the actual Baba Farid stood completed with the new findings. He has also reproduced some transcriptions to corroborate his painstaking research.

In the foreword of his research, Pritam claimed that the finding of the frescos on the tomb of Baba Farid at his birthplace - Multan (Pakistan) and hymns/couplets of Baba Farid in Persian scriptures had set at rest all speculations about the authenticity of his hymns incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib. It is for the first time that Pritam published some parts of the rare manuscripts, which were in the personal library of the author.

Pritam, who retired as head of the Department of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, in 1981 had started his research on Baba Farid in 1950 when he was teaching postgraduate classes at Mohindera College, Patiala. He said the book of Mohan Singh Diwana, “A History of Punjabi Literature (1933)”, became a source of inspiration for him. In his DLit thesis Diwana had claimed that Patpatan-born Baba Farid was the actual founder of Punjabi language whose hymns were incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib.

However, Macauliffe was the first foreign scholar, who in his research book “The Sikh Religion” had concluded that it was Sheikh Brahm who had composed the hymns bearing the name of Baba Farid in Guru Granth Sahib, though he used the name of the founder of the spiritual line. Another foreign scholar from Paris Denis Matringe also endorsed the view of Macauliffe. However, Pritam established contact with US-based Carl W. Ernst, who gave him some invaluable references of some rare manuscripts in Persian kept in Maharashtra purportedly belonging to Baba Farid.


Day before exams, students plead for roll Nos.
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
A day before the commencement of the Punjab School Education Board’s open-school exams, a group of 12 plus II students spent the whole day trying to get their roll numbers. They got none despite having knocked the doors of all officers they could, including the chairman and secretary of the board.

The problem is that these students deposited their fee and forms with an open-school study centre in Mirzapur, which the Board says it de-notified for the current academic session. The students for their part had no idea of the de-notification (as it was not properly publicized). They allege that the centre, Little Flower Senior Secondary School, Mirzapur, never deposited their fee and forms which they submitted in September last.

The matter is already in the knowledge of the Mohali SSP, who was given a complaint in the connection on February 19.


Kashmir Singh’s family breaks into celebration
Ravinder Sud

Hoshiarpur, February 29
The countdown has begun for the reunion of Kashmir Singh of Nangal Choran village in Mahilpur block of this district, who was arrested in 1973 on espionage charges in Pakistan, with his family. The wait will finally end for Kashmir Singh's family after 35 years.

They broke into celebration when they were told about the news regarding his release today and his arrival in India tomorrow. A large number of people rushed to his house to congratulate the family as the news of his release spread in the region. They distributed sweets and danced.

According to official sources, Kashmir, who had languished in different jails of Pakistan for 35 years, was released following the acceptance of his mercy petition on humanitarian grounds by the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf. Secretary of the Union Ministry of External Affairs has asked deputy commissioner, Hoshiarpur, N. K. Wadhawan to ascertain the identification of Kashmir from his family.

Wadhawan had deputed the SDM, Garhshankar, and instructed him to immediately send complete information on Kashmir so that it could be sent to the Union Home Ministry to complete the formalities regarding his landing in the country tomorrow.

Kashmir was arrested at Rawalpindi in 1973 and was sentenced to death by an army court. Later, it was converted into life imprisonment.

Narrating the hard days of her life, tears rolled down the cheeks of Kashmir Singh’s wife Paramjit Kaur when she said she had led a very hard life for bringing up her children Amarjit Singh, Shashpal Singh and Manjit Kaur, who were seven, three and one year old, respectively, at the time of his arrest.

Her elder son Amarjit is earning livelihood in Italy, whereas his wife Amarjit Kaur, along with her daughter Amneet Kaur (16) and son Gurminder Singh (10), are living with Paramjit. Her younger son Shashpal Singh is a farmer and his wife Manjit Kaur, son Gurpinder Singh (7) and daughter Archpreet Kaur (8) are also living with her.


Bedi’s googly, builds wall to restrict entry
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 29
Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi has taken a leap forward by constructing a wall to restrict the entry of the tenant to the demolished structure. Besides blocking the entry point to the demolished shed, Bedi has also removed the steel girders which were part of the roof of the demolished structure.

Bedi in order to get part of his ancestral house vacated had got demolished the structure on February 24 where his tenant Anil Dilawri had been running a small-scale industry for the past more than 35 years. Even though the district police chief had ordered a probe into the case, the cricketer went ahead with his mission to get hold of the demolished structure.

However, Bedi said he had constructed the wall to block the entry of trespassers and there should be no objection as the house belonged to him. He refuted the allegation that the machinery had been sold to a junk dealer. He said it had been kept inside the complex and the tenant could take it any time.

Meanwhile, Anil said he is yet to lodge a complaint in this regard with the police as he was busy in getting bail in a case of theft registered against him by Bedi. He said Bedi had lodged a case against him and his worker Ram Baksh for stealing domestic items from the house.


Re-appointed engineers in PSEB to be removed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
The Punjab government has decided to dispense with the services of all those engineers who have been re-appointed on important positions after retirement in the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

There are about 15 officials, including chief engineers and superintending engineers etc, who have been appointed as advisers or on other positions after retirement.

A senior government functionary said that after the Vidhan Sabha session, all such officials would be asked to submit their resignation.

The PSEB authorities would be told to implement its decision, that was taken at a meeting of the Board, of not giving re-employment after retirement to any person.

A few days ago, The Tribune had highlighted that while no job opportunities were being provided by organisations like the PSEB to young qualified engineers, retired officers were being re-appointed in the PSEB under political influence.

Moreover, what has been questioned is the PSEB authorities’ right to give such re-appointment. There is no provision in the service rules to give re-appointment to any employee on “ pick and chose” basis.


PSEB to hold meeting on subsidy dues
Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Y.S. Ratra is expected to convene a meeting of whole-time and other members of the Board soon to put before it the issue of subsidy dues that the Punjab government claims to have cleared as per the direction of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC).

After the board’s meeting, the chairman will have to inform in writing to the PSERC whether the state government has cleared the entire subsidy dues or not.

With the concurrence from the Finance Department, the state government has informed the PSEB that it should deduct Rs 1,361 crore, including Rs 292 crore, which are to be paid as part of the rollback in the recently hiked tariff from Rs 2,300 crore of the loan amount which the PSEB has to return to the state government. However, the commission had passed an order asking the state government not to recover the loan dues and interest on it from the PSEB.

“Though there was a total loan worth Rs 4,800 crore advanced by the state government to the PSEB, of it over Rs 2,300 crore is due to be returned by the PSEB to the state government. Besides, the PSEB is to pay Rs 48 crore per month as interest on this loan for the past one year,” said a senior government functionary.

“It is now duty of the PSEB to inform the PSERC with regard to clearance of the subsidy dues,” he said.


Panel for zero discharge from units
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
A committee headed by a secretary to the Punjab government wants the Pollution Control Board to ensure zero discharge of harmful chemicals, metals and effluents from units in the state. The Industries Department does not agree to the proposal.

Zero discharge means not setting up any unit in Punjab and closure of all existing units. This is what the Industries Department has told the authorities concerned. A meeting of senior officers of the Board and of other departments was held here on Wednesday.

The Industries Department argued that every unit needed water to run it. Zero discharge of effluents from its premises meant no discharge at all. How would units absorb effluents within the premises?

However, sources said the failure of the Board to check pollution had become a big problem for people of the state. Because of pollution, incidence of various diseases in the state was on the rise.


Cheques distributed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
S.K. Aggarwal, regional provident fund commissioner, Punjab and Chandigarh, today handed over cheques to six employees of the Punjab Financial Corporation, Hartron, Milk Plant, Chandigarh, and Punjab Agro Industries Corporation on the day of their retirement. According to a press note, one cheque each was handed over at Ludhiana and Jalandhar and three cheques at Amritsar to the retiring employees.


Extension granted for unbundling

Chandigarh, February 29
The Union Power Ministry has given another extension to the Punjab government for the unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). Official sources said the extension had been given till the May-end. The government had sought the extension for six months starting from March 1.

An intimation regarding the extension was sent to the Punjab government from Delhi this evening.


Moga Sex Scandal
Remand of two extended
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 29
The special CBI court of H.S Madan here today extended remand of two police officers Davinder Singh Garcha (SSP) and Paramjeet Singh Sandhu (SP) in custody by one more day.

Both accused named in the Moga sex scandal will be produced in the court tomorrow.

Prosecution had asked for a three-day remand saying they wanted some more time to question Garcha and Sandhu about their ill-gotten wealth. On the other hand, the defense counsel opposed the prosecution story by claiming that both police officials were unnecessarily being dragged into the case and that both were law-abiding citizens.

The defense further contended that their was a deep-rooted conspiracy to nail the police officials.

Meanwhile, accused Sandhu today filed an application in the court alleging that some vested interests in the case were trying to put pressure on him to change his stand and become a government approver.

The Moga sex scandal had hit the headlines in November, 2007, when two girls arrested by the police for flesh trade exposed the racket involving extortion by police officials from influential people who were found involved in the sex scandal.

Taking suo motto notice of reports appearing in the press, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had entrusted the case to the CBI which has been challenged in the HC and the SC.


Cleaning of Kala Sangha Drain
High Court directs combined meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 29
Continuing with its efforts aimed at the cleaning of Kala Sangha drain in Jalandhar, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the holding of a combined meeting between authorities of the Sewerage Disposal Board, PSIEC chief engineer and joint commissioner of the Jalandhar Municipal Council.

Issuing the directions in an open court, a Division Bench of the High Court, headed by Chief Justice Vijender Jain, directed the meeting should be held for finalising a mechanism “so that industrial discharge and discharge from the tanneries can also be put, after some preliminary treatment, into the sewerage line” Fixing March 24 as the next date of hearing in the matter, the judges also directed that all reports should be filed within two weeks.

Earlier during the hearing, Punjab’s additional advocate-general said a fax from the Jalandhar Deputy Commissioner had stated that sewerage lines had been cleaned by the PSIEC by taking on rent the machines from the Jalandhar Municipal Council.

After recording his contention, the judges observed: Since the area of sewerage lines is controlled by the PSIEC and that it has to keep clean the sewerage, which carries sewage ultimately to the treatment plant, they should have their own machinery for clearing up the sewerage.

The judges added: “Let chief engineer, who is in charge of the leather complexes, be present in the court on the next date of hearing so that a permanent mechanism by PSEIC can be maintained for getting the sewerage line cleaned so that the same can take the inflow of the sewer”.


Eight booked in rice shelling scam
Rs 5-cr misappropriation alleged
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 29
Eight persons, including four officials of different paddy procurement agencies of the state and owners of two rice mills, have been booked by the vigilance bureau here for an alleged Rs 5-crore rice shelling scam.

The accused, booked for cheating and defrauding the government, include district manager Punjab Agro Industries Limited Sham Sunder Bassi, inspector Mela Singh of the same purchasing agency, inspector Subash Chander of PUNSUP and inspector Manjit Singh of Pungrain.

Besides, Amarjit Singh, Hardyal Singh and Sukhdev Singh, all partners of Kuber Rice Mills, Mullanpur, and Vikas Kumar of Guru Kirpa Rice Mills have been booked under Sections 406, 429 and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

A vigilance spokesman said the case was registered after a search of the rice mills was conducted early this month. The search found that Kuber rice mill had misappropriated over 60,000 bags of paddy given to it for shelling rice.

The loss to the government exchequer was estimated to be over Rs 3 crore.

In another case, Guru Kirpa Rice Mills had taken good quality paddy but was allegedly preparing to give sub-standard rice after shelling. Vigilance sources said all the accused were absconding.


Heroin worth 25 cr seized
Our Correspondent

Ferozepur, February 29
The Ferozepur police got a shot in the arm today with the arrest of two wanted Indo-Pakistan smugglers and the recovery of a huge consignment of heroin worth Rs 25 crore in the international market, which was being smuggled inside the Indian territory.

In a joint press conference held at the CIA staff headquarters here today, DIG of Police, Ferozepur Range, R. P. Mittal and Dinesh Pratap, SSP, told mediapersons that this was one of the largest recoveries made by the police in the border district.

Mittal said the police had also arrested two wanted Indo-Pakistan drug peddlers identified as Sukhpal Singh, alias Sukha, of Machhiwala village, and Sukhdev Singh, also called Sukha, of Preetuwali village.


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