P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Sarabjit Case
‘Fresh plea after Mush steps down’
Pak rights minister ‘unaware’ of plea rejection
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 6
Pakistan human rights minister Ansar Burney, who had traced Kashmir Singh during a visit to Lahore's central jail and ensured his release purportedly feigned “ignorance” about the rejection of mercy petition of Indian citizen Sarabjit Singh on death row in jail in Pakistan for alleged bomb blasts, by President Pervez Musharraf.

Dalbir Kaur sister of Sarbjit Singh claimed here today Burney, Brig Abid Hamid Rao and Rana Abdul Hamid (lawyer of Sarbjit Singh) told her on telephone rejection of mercy petition was “ not in their notice”.

On the other hand, BJP member of Parliament Avinash Khanna who had sent all record of Kashmir Singh to Burney that led to his release after 35 years said fresh mercy petition would be filed after the removal of Musharraf as President . He said senior journalist from Pakistan Hamid Mir had also hoped fresh petition of Sarbjit Singh could be moved to the new President of Pakistan in the coming days.

The sister of Sarbjit Singh reiterated her brother was a victim of mistaken identity and the person who carried out series blasts in 1990, was Manjit Singh . She said all proofs, including copies of ration card , voter list and revenue record , establishing credentials of Sarbjit Singh had already been sent to Pakistan . At the time of arrival of Kashmir Singh , the Pakistan’s human rights minister had assured Punjab’s public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia to ensure release of Sarbjit Singh .

The sister and daughter of Sarbjit Singh are going to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi , president Indian National Congress . Dalbir Kaur said t she was already in touch with the PMO and president of the Indian National Congress . She said she would urge the PM to take up the case of her brother with government of Pakistan for release like Kashmir Singh.


CM seeks PM’s intervention
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take up with Pakistan the issue of clemency to Indian citizen Sarabjit Singh, who is on the death row. Badal is likely to take up the matter with the Prime Minister whenever he visit New Delhi next time, said media advisor to the Chief Minister Harcharan Bains. 


Pension: Govt to bail out PAU
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, March 6
At last, the government seems to have been moved by the plight of the pensioners of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) who have not received their pension for the past four months.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has asked the Finance Department to find ways to help the university in tiding over the problems of the pensioners and issue some special grant to the university.

This correspondent today came to know that the Chief Minister held a high-level meeting last week to discuss the issue of the non-payment of pension to the retirees of the PAU. The meeting was attended among others by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, chief secretary Rameshinder Singh, financial commissioner (development) R.S. Sandhu, principal secretary (finance) D.S. Kalha and Dr G.S. Kalkat, chairman, Punjab Farmers Commission.

The Department of Agriculture is sending a proposal to the Finance Department seeking special grant for the PAU to disburse pension among 26,700 retirees.

The government is expected to release a special grant to the PAU and make some provisions in the state Budget to meet the pension needs of the university. The university needs Rs 2.70 crore every month to meet its pension liabilities.

Vice-chancellor of the PAU M.S. Kang had also sent an SOS to the Chief Minister last week in view of the agitation launched by the pensioners.

Meanwhile, the pensioners have been on a relay fast since February 25 on the university campus to press the government for the release of special funds.

Dr S.S. Parihar, executive member of the Confederation of Pensioners of PAU, they would continue the agitation till the demands were accepted and the relay fast would continue till the Kisan Mela scheduled for March 13 and 14.

The agitators staged a dharna at Rauni in Patiala yesterday at the venue of the Kisan Mela, he said.

Dr Parashar said five pensioners of the PAU had died in the past two months. The plight of some of the Class IV employees and widows in particular is miserable, as the pension is the sole means of living for them.


Diversification talks come hollow
Hit by worst winter, owners digging up their orchards
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
Digging up of orchards hit by worst winter in their neighbourhood has been no dampener for UK-based development economist S.P.S Sohi and his British wife, who have been nursing their 10-year-old 10-acre guava-mango orchard like a child.

“We want to preserve it at any cost irrespective of financial losses we have been incurring on this project year after year,” say the Sohis who frequent their native village Nanowal Kalan in Khamanon tehsil at least twice 
a year.

“No one, neither the government nor the agricultural university, has been of any help. It is why many orchards, which came up in and around Khamanon tehsil and in the periphery of our village, have been dug up.

“An NRI from Canada has already dug up all fruit plants he had been looking after for the past eight or 10 years. Another orchard owner, a teacher from Punjab Agricultural University, also dug up all fruit trees from his agricultural land, before migrating to Canada,” reveals Sohi.

The reasons given by the Sohis speak volumes of apathy of the governments, agricultural research institutes, political leaders and also the NGOs towards fruit plantation in the state.

“This year, we had one of the worst winters. It was not only an extended and unprecedented winter, but it also wreaked havoc on fruit trees. Though we intend to be back here in June for a month, I am sure we are going to get nothing from our mango crop this summer,” asserts Sohi.

There is no marketing support available for the fruit orchards produce. This is one reason that the Sohis also decided to dig up 1,650 of 2,000 guava trees on their orchard. “Our guavas were selling for only Rs 2 a kg and cost of picking, packaging and transportation worked to be much higher than that. We were burying our guavas. Now, we have decided to revert to eucalyptus plantation on the land under guava earlier.

“Not only that, horticulture experts have no time or solution to problems farmers or orchard owners like me faced because of the worst winter. No one ever bothered to visit us or ask reasons from those who had to dig up their fruit plantations. It is why all talks of diversification and the National Horticulture Mission appear fake to me,” he rues.

“I have still not given up. We are committed to rural life. Even in London, we live in a village on the outskirts of London. But, things look dismal here. There is no agency available which can preserve and look after our orchard,” the Sohis add.


Need of the hour: Policy on groundwater
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 6
Punjab needs to seriously formulate a policy to deal with the problem of fast receding groundwater table. The matter gains importance in the light that the latest data collected by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre here reveals that only 51 per cent of the total land in the state has quality groundwater for irrigation.

As much as 37.7 per cent of the state has marginal or poor quality of groundwater. The centre collected samples from 5,160 tubewells in all 20 districts and 142 blocks. Before compiling the preliminary report, the centre also took into account the analytical data of 588 groundwater samples collected by the National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning and 359 samples collected by the Groundwater Cell of the Punjab Directorate of Agriculture.

Confirming the report, Dr P.K. Sharma, director the centre, said the best quality of groundwater was present along the floodplains of the Sutlej, Beas, Ravi and the Ghaggar rivers because of easy recharge of groundwater acquifers. The districtwise extent and distribution of quality groundwater in the Upper Bari Doab and Bist Doab plains was 87.4 per cent (Gurdaspur), 78.7 per cent (Jalandhar), 74 per cent (Hoshiarpur), 67.9 per cent (Amritsar) and 63.5 per cent (Nawanshahr).

In the Sutlej and Ghaggar basins, covering eight districts of Ropar, Mohali, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Barnala and Moga, the area with quality groundwater varies from 16.7 per cent in Moga to 73 per cent in Ludhiana. As much as 36.4 per cent of the state area is identified to be having marginal quality of groundwater. The marginal quality is further divided into three sub-categories of saline, sodic and saline-sodic nature of groundwater.

The poor quality water occupies 6.3 per cent of the total area in the state and is located mainly in the Malwa region, mainly in Patiala and Sangrur districts. As much as 5.9 per cent of the total area is under non-agricultural use (settlements and water channels, besides others)

It is pertinent to mention that earlier Punjab Agricultural University estimates had indicated that at least 100 blocks, out of 141, in the central districts of Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Sangrur and Moga had been declared dark zones.

Experts feel that over-exploitation of groundwater continues unchecked. With power available for free, farmers tend to over-exploit tubewell water.

A report on “Dynamic Groundwater Resources of Punjab” prepared by the Water Resources and Environment Directorate of the state Irrigation Department and the Central Groundwater Board points out that “the number of shallow tubewells in the state has increased from approximately 50,000 in the 1960s to more than 11,70,000 in 2005. Free water from the canals and free power supply to tubewells is one of the major reasons for the situation where more than one fifth of the ground water acquifers are being over-exploited.

The irrigation department has pointed out that the groundwater availability has decreased from 2.44 Million Acre Feet (MAF) in 1984 to 0.22 MAF in 1999, largely because of over-exploitation of groundwater. Continuous fall of groundwater table has been observed in 94 per cent of the blocks in the state.


Bail out debt-ridden farmers, Kanwaljit to experts
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Rauni (Patiala), March 6
Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh yesterday called upon agricuture experts of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, to adopt a new approach to develop means to increase crop production and subsequently strengthen the monetary conditions of farmers.

He was addressing a gathering while inaugrating a regional kisan mela of the PAU at Rauni, near here.

The minister added that farmers of the state had fully used the potential of underground water and fertilisers to the best possible level for the country but had gained nothing except huge burden of loans. He said the result of contributing more than 60 per cent to the national food bowl was that the farmers were suffering a loss of about Rs 1,500 crore annually. He urged the agriculture experts o take immediate steps to bail out farmers. He disclosed that more than 2 lakh farmers of the total 11.5 lakh had left farming in the last decade and 80,000 among them were now working as labourers.

Referring to the loan waiver of the Central government, Capt Kanwaljit said it was for the first time that the Centre had acknowledged that the food producer of the country was in a crisis.

Advocating continuation of subsidies for the farmers, he said every major country was providing subsidy to the agri sector, directly or indirectly. He called upon the farmers to adopt dairy farming or start producing fruits and vegetables on a large scale. He endorsed the views of former VC S.S. Johal on producing basmati on a large scale in the state.

Johal said in order to bail out farmers international markets were needed for their agricultural produce. Manjit Singh Kang, vice-chancellor of PAU, appealed to the farmers to adopt only those varieties which were recommended by experts of the PAU. N.S. Malhi, director, extension, also spoke on the occasion.

The minister honoured farmers and winners of different events. Those present on the occasion included J.S. Chandi, agricultural expert, a group of learners from Russia, Surjit Singh Rakhra, former MLA.


From taxi driver to Brampton councillor
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 6
Vicky Dhillon , who hails from Rampura Phul in Bathinda, has become the first Sikh councillor of Brampton city in Canada. From driving taxi to managing affairs of a Brampton ward in Canada, Dhillon has covered a long way.

He was 21 in 1991 when he went to Canada in search of greener pastures after graduation from Punjabi University Patiala. Then he had not imagined of such an achievement.

Dhillon (39) said when he reached Canada 17 years ago, he started driving taxi for livelihood. He was honoured with the Punjab Rattan Award at Jalandhar on Monday for his services to the Punjabi community in Brampton by Punjabi Media Academy chief Baljit Singh Brar.

Dhillon added after some years he thought of fighting for the rights of Asians settled in Brampton in a large number. He contested from ward Nos. 9 and 10 as an independent candidate in 2003, but lost by 47 votes.

Dhillon tried his luck in 2006 again and was victorious.

He brought to the notice of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal the problems being faced by NRIs of his wards during his meeting with them in Chandigarh last week, he added.


Moga Sex Scam
CBI officials quiz Tota Singh’s son
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today questioned Barjinder Singh, son of former Punjab education minister Tota Singh, in connection with Moga sex scam.

Sources in the CBI said Barjinder was quizzed for about an hour by the investigating officials during the preliminary session.

He has again been called to join the investigation on March 8. Senior CBI officials refused to divulge the details of the investigation saying it would hamper the course of the probe.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday granted “limited” protection to Barjinder Singh till March 10 and ruled that “If the petitioner (Barjinder Singh) fails to join the investigation to the satisfaction of the respondents (CBI) 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 11”.

The CBI had earlier arrested two senior Punjab police officials besides Raman Kumar, the SHO of a police station in Moga, in this case.



Laungewala Battle
AOP overreacting, says Ex-services League chief
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, March 6
Lt-Col Chanan Singh Dhillon (retd), president, Indian Ex-Services League, Punjab and Chandigarh, recently described as unfortunate the controversy over the Laungewala battle of 1971 Indo-Pak war.

Colonel Dhillon felt that even after four decades there was a lack of understanding in the media about the actual battle scene and the AOP (supporting arm), bravery of which was also recognised, was overreacting. "That the company stood its ground despite its inferior arms and against the strength of one armoured brigade, itself is a proof of the brave and strong leadership. Had the company abandoned the post, the Indian Army could not have blunted the advance without deploying 3-1 (one full-armoured division and mechanised battalion to dislodge the enemy?" he said.

Colonel Dhillon observed that the matchless courage of Major Chandpuri won the day as he kept up the tradition held by young officers who remain the cutting edge of all battles.

There was some controversy between the Army and the Air Force over the Laungewala battle in 1971 Indo-Pak war and the Air Force had taken a strong exception to the alleged downplaying of its role.


Regularisation of power connections to tubewells
PSEB invites applications
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 6
The poor families which have built or intend to build houses or renovate ancestral property with high tension wires passing through their land and property, the PSEB has decided to release connections in these cases provided the the SDO’s clearances as required for 11kv or higher voltage are available at the site.

In a press note here, it said the applicants would have to furnish indemnity bond they would not carry further construction near power lines and in case of fatal/non-fatal accident on account of power lines, responsibility will be of the consumer.

The board has sought applications from farmers seeking regularisation of their temporary tubewell connections released during paddy season of 2005. All such applications will be processed up to March 31.


Suspended IG to move court
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
Suspended IG of the Punjab Police Rajinder Singh today said he was suspended in retaliation to his filing of a case seeking promotion.

He said he would take legal recourse and was examining all possibilities in the case. He said the suspension was an excess committed by the government.

Rajinder was placed under suspension on a complaint by the management of a private engineering institute.


Attack on Banker
Police accused of inaction
Our Correspondent

Nabha, March 6
The family of a bank employee who was beaten up by the SOI men here has accused the police of inaction. Mohinder Singh, who is working with the ICICI Bank in Mohali and a resident of the town, was attacked on the Cantonment road by 12 youths belonging to the SOI on Tuesday. He was on way to his uncle’s house when the incident happened.

Recuperating at the civil hospital here, Mohinder said the police was under pressure as the assailants belong to the ruling party. He said despite his disclosure of the accused’s identity, the police had not arrested anyone. Showing bruises on his body, he said his car collided with a person belonging to the SOI in December last year and added that since than he was getting threats on his mobile phone.

He said on Tuesday evening he was stopped by the youths and thrashed.

Coming down heavily on the SOI and its patron Sukhbir Badal, Jaswant Singh, uncle of Mohinder, said the SAD-BJP government was a terror in the state.

Jaswinder, the investigating officer, said the police had registered a case against Yadvinder Yadu, Noni, Sidhu, Bablu and some others. Brushing aside the charges of not acting against the culprits, he said the police had conducted several raids to nab the accused.


10 injured in accident
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 6
The diversion of entire heavy traffic to the Nangal-Nurpurbedi-Ropar road has led to many accidents. In the past two months eight persons have lost their lives and hundreds have been injured in accidents on this road.

Today 10 persons were injured, two of them seriously, in a head-on collision between a Tata Sumo and a Punjab Roadways bus. Those injured were travelling in the Tata Sumo. They were coming back from Jatwahar temple after attending religious ceremonies on the eve of Shivratri when the bus coming from the opposite direction hit them.

Sudesh Kumari and Kamaljit were serious and had been referred to the PGI, Chandigarh.

The traffic has been diverted on the road due to a toll barrier put up by a private company, Rohan Rajdeep, near Kiratpur Sahib. 


Ugrahan asks CM for addl loan waiver
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 6
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) has asked the Badal government that if it really felt that the loan waiver, announced by the Centre, was not enough, then it should announce a separate loan waiver for the state farmers to bail them out of loans taken from moneylenders and arhtiyas.

State president of the BKU (Ugrahan) Joginder Singh Ugrahan said today there was no use to make a hue and cry by the Badal government that the loan waiver, announced by the Centre, was incomplete till it also announced an additional loan waiver for the farmers of the state. 


Tribune journalist bereaved
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 6
Mrs Urmila Sinha (66), mother of Sandeep Sinha news editor of the Bathinda edition of The Tribune, today expired at Asansol.

She leaves two sons and a daughter. Journalists and senior government officers based here have mourned her death. 


Govt staff to hold rally in Ludhiana
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 6
Government employees will hold a state-level rally at Ludhiana on April 10 in protest against the anti-employee policies of the state and unfulfilled poll promises.

A 12-point charter was drafted by delegates attending a convention at the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here today. It was organised by the Punjab Mulazam Sangharsh Committee. The committee represent six employee federations and 10 unions.

Sukhvinder Singh, Sucha Singh Tohra, Hari Singh Tohra, Ranbir Dhillon, Sucha Suingh Ajnala and Bhupinder Singh Waraich, conveners of the body, said their first demand was the fulfilment of all poll promises.


Keeping them busy and fit
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 6
The authorities of Shiv Shankar Birdh Ashram here yesterday made arrangements to train inmates in making incense sticks, detergent powder and ‘pappad’. The training was given by in charge of the Ahinsa Prashikshan Kendra, Sherpur, Sanjay Bhai, who is from Nalanda district in Bihar.

Elderly persons took part in the training programme with interest and wanted to keep themselves busy in doing something. They are of the view that spending the entire day without doing anything is difficult for them, but after learning making of detergent powder and incense sticks they will be able to pass time meaningfully. The material for these items will be provided to them by the ashram.

They can also start pappad-making on their own with only Rs 100, detergent powder Rs 500 and incense sticks Rs 200. This effort may grow for the development of the ashram if these elderly persons involve themselves in the making of these products as the authorities of the ashram are ready to make arrangements for the marketing of these

Trainer Sanjay Bhai said he had been imparting training since June 2006 to people in many villages of the Sherpur area, like Katron, Ina Bajwa, Barri, Kherri and Sherpur. He said he and his colleagues provided training daily to people without charging any money at the Sherpur centre and other places in sewing, painting, candle making, pappad and agarbatti-making, detergent powder and teddy bear-making. He said the Sherpur centre was being run by the Rashtriya Anuvrat Shikshak Sansad, Rajsamand (Rajasthan).


PF Bungling
Punjab, PSEB get High Court notice
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
Taking up a petition, seeking inquiry into the circumstances leading to cancellation of a case pertaining to alleged bungling of over Rs 1 crore in provident fund of employees of Ropar-based Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant, Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwlia of the Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab and PSEB for July 17.

In his petition, state’s former director-general of police Lalit Bhatia had earlier contended that the case was cancelled despite order of the state police chief to file the charge sheet in the matter. Bhatia was posted with PSEB as vigilance chief.

He said the case pertaining to criminal misappropriation of the provident fund had been given a burial despite directions of the DGP to present the charge sheet against the accused, which included 21 officials of PSEB and private contractors.

The case pertained to the misappropriation of money, which took place allegedly in connivance of Ropar SSP and other police officials. The cancellation of the case was filed in the court without orders of the DGP. It implied that a station house officer (SHO) negated the previous orders of the DGP.


Punjabi varsity to start job-oriented courses
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 6
Punjabi University here has decided to introduce some new courses. A decision to this effect was taken at the Senate meeting held today.

Presiding over the meeting Dr Jaspal Singh vice- chancellor stated “Punjabi University is all set to start a good number of short-term, long-term and add-on and job-oriented courses from the next academic session. Number of such courses will touch the three-figure mark from the present around 25 in different disciplines. A high-powered committee has already been constituted to formulate policy to look into the viability and utility of these courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.”

Five former vice-chancellors, noted journalists and litterateurs, principals of various colleges, deans of various faculties, heads of departments and other faculty members attended the meeting. The meeting authorised the vice-chancellor to select from amongst the Senators, three members for the university’s Syndicate for one year, two for the Finance Committee for two years and co-opt three members for the next term of the Senate.

He also urged the scholars to focus on quality research which was utilitarian in nature.


2 female foetuses found
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, March 6
Two female foetuses were found at separate places here today.

The incident is being considered a setback to the ambitious “Pangurra” scheme, launched by the district administration and Red Cross Society recently to tackle the rising problem of girl child abandonment.

One of the foetuses was found on the outskirts of Verka township near a pond. The other foetus, a developed one, was abandoned in Bhalla Colony in the Chheharta area. People noticed it when they saw dogs fighting for a piece of it.

The police has registered separate cases.

The city was first to launch the “Pangurra” scheme in the state. However, it has failed to tackle the social menace of female foeticide for lack of awareness programmes, especially in rural areas.

The district police had registered five cases of child abandonment, two of infanticide and one case of female foeticide previous year.

Senior superintendent of police Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh said getting rid of the female child was the common reason behind abandonment cases. Illicit relations was one of the major reasons forcing a mother to abandon a newborn baby, he added.


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