P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Budget: Chaos in Amritsar MC
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 5
Unruly scenes were witnessed in the General House of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation here today with the Congress and a section of the SAD councillors alleging that the budget for the financial year 2008-09 was passed without a detailed discussion.

Soon after the presentation of the budget, a couple of Congress councillors, besides those of the SAD-BJP alliance, said the proposals were acceptable to the House and should be passed unanimously. Projecting this as the will of the House, mayor Shawet Malik, wrapped up the proceedings without discussion and walked out along with municipal commissioner D.P.S. Kharbanda.

This led to ruckus in the House, with Congress councillors Gurjit Aujla, Raman Bakshi and Kuldeep Duggal, supported by Independent Arun Mehra Pappal, accusing the mayor of scuttling the democratic process. Surinder Singh Sultanwind of the SAD echoed their views.

They alleged that the move was aimed at avoiding discussion on the contentious issues such as the possibility of levying additional house tax and increasing water tariff under the reforms proposed under the National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) schemes, the move to sell MC lands which have been encroached upon and detailed account of the spending of the fund received from the state government for development.

“The mayor walked out even before the councillors could mark their attendance. There was a need for discussion on a host of financial issues and the budget should not have been passed in a hurry,” he said.

Pappal said passing the budget without discussion was contempt of the House and demanded action against the mayor and commissioner. He pointed out that though the approval for buying the Rs 11-lakh official car for the mayor had been got in no time, the fire brigade vehicle was lying in the garage for want of payment.

SAD councillors, including Sultanwind, added that though they stood by the party leadership, they should have been given the chance to voice the problems of their areas.

Former mayor Sunil Datti said no councillor had sought passing of the budget without discussion. “But with the SAD-BJP in majority, their will prevailed. Had a chance been given, we would have opposed the proposal for sale of corporation land,” he said.

Senior deputy mayor Ajay Pal Singh Randhawa (SAD) appreciated the budget and said there was no lack of co-ordination between the two alliance partners. The mayor said the issue had been blown out of proportion as the budget was duly passed by the House, with councillors of all parties endorsing it.

Earlier in the day, the House paid tributes to MLA Rominder Singh Bularia.


Many more Kashmirs still in Pak
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 5
Rano, wife of sepoy Jagdish Lal of Kathua (Jammu and Kashmir) and Nirmal Kaur, wife of Subedar Asha Singh of Nanak Nagar, Jammu, whom husbands had been arrested during the Indo-Pak war in 1971, have urged the government to take up the issue of release of their husbands languishing in Pakistan jails.

They were talking to mediapersons at Kashmir Singh’s native village Nangal Choran yesterday. They had gone to the village to enquire from Kashmir about the whereabouts of their husbands.

They said on October 2, 2005, they, along with MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, met then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in this connection.

Baldev Singh and Harcharan Singh, both sons of Subedar Asha Singh, said they had also visited Pakistan to know the whereabouts of their father. A Pakistani official told them there was no record of Asha Singh with any of the jails in Pakistan.


If only he could advance his release
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 5
Kashmir Singh, who was released from Pakistan’s high-security jail after 35 years of rigorous imprisonment yesterday, felt unfortunate on learning that his mother Swarn Kaur had died only three months ago. His father Sansar Singh had died awaiting the release of his son.

Tarlok Singh, brother-in-law of Kashmir, said he was bold enough to bear the shock though it was a great loss to him.

Meanwhile, the All-India Gareeb Party has come forward to help Kashmir and his physically challenged son Shishupal Singh in their rehabilitation. President of the party G.S. Sewak and vice-president Major Atma Singh (retd) have said the party would take up the matter with the state and Central governments for to get adequate financial help to the family.


‘Allot him bus routes’
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 5
The release of Indian soldiers from prisons of other countries should not be politicised for petty gains. Monetary help should be provided by the Union as well as state governments to patriots .

Anti-Terrorist Front chief Maninder Singh Bitta stated this to mediapersons at Nangal Choran village of this district. Bitta had come to Nangal Choran to meet Kashmir.

He urged CM to allot some bus routes to the family of Kashmir Singh.


Clash: Deepa alleges police high-handedness
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 5
A prominent leader (with Congress background) of the Sunam area Rajinder Deepa today claimed that he had not fled from the Sunam Civil Hospital the previous day as he had gone from there with the permission of the doctor on duty. He also alleged that he had left the hospital due to the high-handedness of the police against him as the police had registered a false case against him and his wife Sonia Arora (daughter of ex-minister late Bhagwan Dass Arora), in place of his brother-in-law (wife’s brother) Aman Arora and his supporters.

Sangrur SSP Arun Pal Singh this evening refuted the allegations levelled by Deepa against the police by terming the same as baseless. He said instead of ‘absconding’, Deepa should have appeared before him or the investigating officer to present his point of view.

Deepa said he would now approach the court of law to get justice. He also demanded an inquiry into this case by an independent agency.

On the other hand, organising secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and Deepa’s brother-in-law Aman Arora told The Tribune over the phone today that it was not a case of property dispute. He said the said piece of land was in his mother’s (Parmeshwari Devi, wife of former Punjab minister late Bhagwan Dass Arora) possession and Deepa wanted to take possession of this land. He said when his mother got constructed a wall in the plot in her side, Deepa and others started beating up his mother. He went there to save his mother, but was also beaten up. 


Ropar Development
SAD MLA threatens fast
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 5
Desperation is creeping among SAD leaders of the district. The SAD MLA from Anandpur Sahib, Sant Ajit Singh, while talking to newsmen in the presence of adviser to CM Dajit Singh Cheema said he had contested elections for the people of Ropar. He had no interest in any post.

If the government fails to pay proper attention to the development of Ropar, I can even sit on an indefinite fast or contemplating quitting as MLA. The assertion of the MLA was endorsed by senior leader of SAD R.S. Parmar.

The desperation of SAD Ropar leaders is increasing due to stoppage of many development works in the district. They are finding it difficult to face people. The previous government had laid the foundation stone of Saran Pattan bridge over the Sutlej. However, just before the tender could be allotted the SAD-BJP government took over.

The present government stopped the allotment of tender and shifted the finance for constructing the bridge to Sangrur, represented by the PWD minister. It is now being proposed that the bridge would be built on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis.

The kandi area that would be benefited with the bridge is one of the most poor areas of the state. Already a lot of hue and cry is being raised over the toll road to Anandpur Sahib. Another toll bridge in the district would further put financial burden on the people.

The SAD had promised divisional status to Ropar to compensate for loss of area due to creation of Mohali district. Though the government had issued notification earlier, it had not been implemented. At Nangal the previous government had started the construction work of a tehsil complex and government hospital. However, now both works had come to a standstill. The government has already spent crores on these. The Ropar bypass was another long-pending demand of the district.

The Ropar district now has just Sant Ajit Singh as ruling party MLA. There is no big leader to represent the case of district in the government.

Cheema, while sensing desperation among the ruling party leaders, tried to assuage their feelings. He said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is likely to announce a surprise package for the district in the forthcoming Hola Mohalla celebrations.

Despite assurance from Cheema, Sant Ajit Singh said he was with people and if government failed to deliver he would not hesitate to come onto roads.


Cong’s Delhi-chalo call
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, too, is going the SAD-BJP way. The party has announced a trip to Delhi for the “who’s who” in the party setup and its workers later this week. 

The purpose for the Delhi Chalo Rally is very different. The party wants to make it a “thanksgiving” wherein leaders and workers from Punjab will join party-fellows from other states to tell UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh how they have acted as a “messiah” for the farmers by announcing the loan waver.

The party has deliberately chosen the coming Sunday (March 9) as the “big” day as it will make movement through Delhi easier on a public holiday. “This is a follow-up to our February 25 visit to Delhi”, PPCC cguef Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said. 


MC wards to be reserved afresh
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
As the elections to municipal committees will be held before April 30, the Punjab Local Bodies Department has decided to reserve municipal wards for various categories afresh in the committees going to the polls. Sources said the department had devised a new formula to reserve the wards for SCs and women.

The sources said wards would be reserved on the basis of population. The wards, where population of SCs was maximum, will be reserved for them, it is learnt. If a ward with maximum population was reserved earlier, it will be rotated with the ward having the highest percentage of SC population.

Earlier, official sources had said the formula devised to reserve the wards was faulty. It had created resentment among people concerned. “We are following the pattern adopted by the National Delimitation Commission in connection with reserving Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha constituencies for reserved categories”, said a senior officer. The commission has rotated those constituencies, which were reserved earlier about 25 years ago, with those having highest percentage of population of SCs now, an officer said.

The sources said officers concerned had been told to carry out the exercise to reserve the wards afresh in the next a few days. “This exercise will be carried in all municipal committees afresh”, said the sources.

The elections in municipal committee, where it is due, and in the Bathinda Municipal Corporation will be held in the last week of April, it is learnt.

The elections to panchayats, block samitis and zila parishads will be held before April 17. There are about 12,000 panchayats. The number of municipal committees and nagar panchayats is about 110.


Nanded to be air-linked with Chandigarh, Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 5
The Sikh devotees across the world, especially from North India have a reason to cheer. Takht Hazur Sahib, Nanded, would be air-linked with Chandigarh and Amritsar before the tercentenary of the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib to be celebrated from October 31 to November 3 at Nanded.

This was disclosed by chairman of the Takht Hazur Sahib Management Committee P.S. Pasricha while addressing a function organised by Chief Khalsa Diwan here today. The function was organised to discuss the arrangements for Guru Manyo Granth Yatra scheduled to reach here in April to mark Baisakhi.

He inaugurated the “Simran Centre” ar Sri Guru Harkrishan Senior Secondary School.


Of missing 23-year-old son, hapless father, police apathy
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
Fear of unemployment and not being able to live up to the expectations of parents made a 23-year-old youth walk away from home. His father, a former Army subedar, is desperate to find him. Concern for his son’s well being has led him to every corner of the state, including gurdwaras and industrial units. The Punjab Police too has failed to help him find his son. 

Ram Singh of Kurali said he was virtually left with no faith in the Punjab Police, which had dubious track record of not finding a single person reported missing in Kurali.

In a quivering voice Ram Singh said since October 28, 2007, when his son Amandeep left home for tuition, he had no clue to his whereabouts.

“He was a good student and a very caring son. After doing B.Sc from Sector 11 Government College for Men here last year, he was doing his B.Ed from Rayat and Bahra College, Sahoran, Mohali. After reading about B.Ed teachers struggling to get job from the Punjab government, he went into depression and used to say he had no future as he would not get a suitable job,” said the hapless father.

Amandeep’s mother had fallen silent ever since her son had gone missing and his younger sister was also in a shock. Amandeep had a bicycle with him on which his name was painted and was wearing black trousers and a light yellow shirt the day he went missing. 


Safe Water
Rs 24.11 cr for 7 dists
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The Union government today released Rs 24.11 crore to Punjab for better safe drinking water in seven districts.

These funds are part of first instalment of 45 per cent of central share of Rs 7,077.91 lakh under the Revised Submission Programme of Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (quality) during 2007-08. Bikram Singh Majithia, water supply and sanitation minister, has lauded the Water Supply Department for getting funds released in one month of sending proposal to the Union government.

According to a Punjab government spokesman, the state-level scheme-sanctioning committee meeting held in January this year had approved projects for tackling problem in 779 water quality-affected habitations, through 588 water supply schemes in seven districts, namely Amritsar, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Ferozepur. Water in these villages was found to be contaminated due to the presence of excess iron, saline or fluoride salts. It was proposed to tap water from deeper layers where it was found to be potable in these villages by sinking deep tubewells. 


Dist-wise weather forecast soon
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
From June this year, Punjab will be able to issue district-level weather forecasts for the benefit of its farmers. Right now, only state-level weather advisory is issued which can’t fully cover the risks involved in the planning of agricultural operations.

At a high-level meeting of officials of the Indian Meteorological Department and the Punjab Agriculture Department held yesterday in Sector 26, it was decided that Punjab would issue five-day weather forecast to farmers, twice every week. Data collection will be done by the Met Department, Chandigarh, which will then send the weather data to PAU experts for inclusion of agriculture-related inputs. The final advisory will be sent out to farmers.

District-wise weather stations are being set up under a national scheme that has envisaged 2,500 such centres across the country. “The idea is to have one automatic weather station in each district. That will help us collect real-time data, which will further strengthen district-specific weather forecast. We have always been in the need of real-time data to work out many things like weather-based crop insurance,” said director, agriculture, Punjab, B.S. Sidhu.

Officials attending the meeting also agreed to upgrading the infrastructure required for making improvements in the Agrometeorology Advisory Services (AAS) by developing advisories for new sectors like horticultural crops, livestock, wasteland and forest fires, post-harvest and storage.

Director, Met Department, Chandigarh, Surinder Pal said his department would facilitate data collection for improved weather forecasts to farmers. “In the recent past, there was a significant change in the climate leading to weather changes. This, coupled with extreme weather conditions, has led to an increased risk in agriculture. There is an urgent need to develop a smart AAS to tackle the problem. And we have just started doing that,” Pal said.


Rs 5 cr for growth of Punjabi sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
Noted journalist Kuldip Nayar’s revelation about Unesco report predicting the disappearance of Punjabi language in 50 years, should serve as a wake-up call for Punjabis all over the world, and the Punjab government committed to Punjabiat, said Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, president, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation.

It is high time for the Badal government to prepare a perspective plan to save Punjabi from extinction, as also for its development and widest possible use in the administration. The state government should earmark at least Rs 5 crore in the budget for the development of the language and preservation of heritage, since the 12th century enshrined in Punjabi which, being spoken by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, has cultural links between India and Pakistan.

Through an enactment, it should be mandatory for the State Languages Department to ensure that different departments, corporations, boards etc use Punjabi in administration, and the annual report of the Languages Department should be tabled in the Legislative Assembly; officials not doing work in Punjabi should be debarred from getting annual increment for disregard for the state language. It should also be made obligatory for all state government educational institutions as well as state-aided institutions to purchase for libraries at least two copies of each of Punjabi books published in a year to boost the Punjabi publishing industry which is now almost non-existing.


Demand for Punjabi papers in trains
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 5
Punjabi author and president of the Punjabi Sahit Sabha Patiala Mohan Singh Prem has urged the Railways to supply Punjabi newspapers along with English and Hindi papers in trains.

He added that the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), which was responsible for catering service in trains, has been discriminating against the Punjabi 

A Patiala-based frequent traveller Ishar Singh also complained that the staff of the IRCTC of the Kalka-New Delhi Shatabdi Express has not been providing any Punjabi newspaper to passengers.


3-day Urs of Sufi saint begins
Our Correspondent

Bassi Pathana, March 5
The three-day annual Urs in the memory of Sufi saint Sheikh Ahmad Farooqui Sirhindi started at Rauza Sharif yesterday. Earlier, a jatha of more than 200 pilgrims from Pakistan used to come, but this year only 48 pilgrims from Pakistan, led by Sayeed Musharar Husain Alipur Saheedan, have come to pay obeisance.

Thousands of Naqushbandi Muslims from India and abroad come to pay obeisance. Didar Singh Bhatti, local MLA, and Ashok Singla, deputy commissioner, recieved the Pakistani jatha. The place is regarded as the most holy all over the world by Sunni Muslims. 


Expedite matters involving Punjab Speaker: HC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed Ropar Special Judge to expeditiously proceed with matters involving Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, while dismissing two petitions filed by him.

As many as two cases under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act are pending against him.

Pronouncing separate orders on his petitions, a High Court Division Bench, comprising Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice T.P.S. Mann observed in the open court that the directions for proceeding with the matters expeditiously were being passed in view of the fact that the same had remained stayed.

In one of the petitions, Kahlon had challenged the notification dated November 17, 2003, appointing Special Judge to try offences under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act registered at police station, Vigilance Bureau, Flying Squad, Mohali.

Kahlon had also contended that directions should be issued to Ropar additional sessions judge to explain under which legal authority he was acting as Special Judge for trial of offences under the Act in all cases registered at the Vigilance Bureau police station, including FIR number 13, dated June 14, 2002.

Giving details, he had contended that no offence alleged in the FIR fell under the jurisdiction of the Ropar court. As per Section 4 (2) of the Act, the normal rule, however, was that only Special Judge, appointed for area within which the offence has been committed, has the jurisdiction to try the offence.

As such, on the day the challan was filed, the Ropar court had no jurisdiction to take cognisance of the case.

In the other petition, Kahlon had sought the quashing of an order dated May 7, 2007, whereby the trial court had dismissed his application for dropping the proceedings in the case arising out of FIR number 11 dated May 16, 2002, at Vigilance Bureau police station.

He had contended that the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the matter. After going through the contentions and the records, the Bench held there was no merit in the petitions.


Moga Sex Scam
HC breather for Tota Singh’s son
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today granted “limited” protection till March 10 to Barjinder Singh, son of Punjab’s former education minister Tota Singh. He was seeking directions to the investigating agency to release him on bail in the event of his arrest in the Moga sex scam.

Pronouncing the orders in the open court on Barjinder Singh’s petition, Justice Mahesh Grover of the High Court ruled, “I deem it appropriate to grant him protection till March 10 when the petition before the Special Court is likely to be taken up for hearing.”

The judge also ruled, “Thereafter, the Special Court shall decide the application in accordance with the law after considering the entire matter. The interim protection, which has been granted to the petitioner in the set of circumstances for a brief and limited period shall not be a factor, which shall weigh on the court while determining the pre-arrest bail of the petitioner.”

The judge further ruled, “If the petitioner fails to join the investigation to the satisfaction of the respondents and does not co-operate with the investigating agency in this interregnum, the same shall be taken into account by the Special Court which shall deal with the application on March 10.”

“This period of five days shall be deemed to be a notice to the respondents (the CBI and others), who shall, thereafter, appear with all necessary material against the petitioner so as to enable the Special Court to have the benefit of the same in order to enable it to decide the matter on March 10.”


City Centre Case
Ex-CM seeks court nod to attend House
Ou Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 5
Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, an accused in the City Centre scam, has moved the Sessions Judge, Ludhiana, seeking permission to attend the state’s Assembly session on March 10.

The City Centre Scam case is fixed before the Sessions Court on the same date. Capt Amarinder Singh has requested the court to exempt his personal appearance on the next date of hearing.

Sessions Judge G. K. Rai today issued notice to the prosecution for filing a reply on March 7.

In an application moved through his counsel, it has been averred that he was to address the Assembly on March 5 and 6 on behalf of the Congress.

But due to Shivaratri holidays, the session had been adjourned till March 10 and he would participate in the Assembly proceedings on that day. 


MoU to boost urban coop banks
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The Punjab government will sign an MoU with the RBI on March 7 to strengthen urban cooperative banks and their economic revival.

The signing of the MoU will pave the way for creation of a state-level task force on urban cooperative banks (TAFCUB), which will devise measures to be undertaken for the economic revival of the urban cooperative banks, informed the regional director of RBI, Dr J. Saddakadulla. While the regional director of the RBI will be the chairman of the committee, the other members of the force include a representative each from the state and the National Federation of Urban Cooperative Banks, a nominee of Punjab government and a representative of Urban Banks Department, RBI, Central Office, Mumbai.

Dr Saddakadulla said as part of its developmental role, the RBI would also be assessing the training, computerisation needs of the urban cooperative banks in Punjab, with the objective of upgrading their human resources skills and technological infrastructure, so that they improve their operational efficiency and quality of management information systems.

The move follows the Mid-Term Review of Annual Policy announced in October, 2004.


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