P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Birds’ Death at Bathinda Farm
Samples fail bird flu test
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 9
Twentyone special teams have been constituted by the Animal Husbandry Department to check further spread of the unidentified disease that has killed nearly 3,000 poultry birds in a farm near here. Top officers said the department had been put on high alert. However, the department has ruled out the possibility of avian influenza virus behind the birds’ death.

Meanwhile, state animal husbandry minister Gulzar Singh Ranike said: “All samples taken from the farm have failed the bird flu test, but still we do not want to take any chances. Until we get the final report from the laboratories at Jalandhar and Bhopal, we would be on high alert. Our department is capable enough to handle any such situation.”

In the past one week, these birds died due to an unidentified disease in a poultry farm in Gehri Bhagi village. The department has started inspection of all poultry farms within a radius of 3 km of the farm hit by the disease.

Talking to The Tribune today, Dr Baljit Singh Sidhu, director, animal husbandry, Punjab, said: “To check the spread of the virus to other areas, we have directed the poultry farm owner not to sell any of the dead birds. We have also asked him not to let move any person or vehicle from that farm to any other poultry farm. We have deputed an official from our department at the farm. All dead birds would be buried under the guidance of the official”.

“Our doctors have collected samples from the farm and sent them to Regional Diagnostic Lab, Jalandhar, as well as to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal. We would get all results in maximum two days’ time,” Sidhu added.

Dr Darshan Singh, deputy director, animal husbandry, said: “To check all poultry farms in and around Bathinda for any viral infection, special teams, comprising two doctors, two pharmacists and one or two class IV employees each, have been constituted. In case of any emergency, our department is fully equipped with all kinds of vaccinations and medicines. Besides, we also have ample reserve staff to deal with the situation.”


Decision on Budget date today: Manpreet
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9
Keeping in view the enforcement of the election code of conduct by the state Election Commission with regard to the panchayat elections, the Punjab government will take the final decision on the date regarding presenting the Budget in the state Assembly tomorrow. As per the schedule of the ongoing session released by the Vidhan Sabha secretariat a few days ago, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal was to present the Budget in the House on March 17. However, with the enforcement of the model code of conduct on Friday, the situation has changed.

The model code of conduct will continue till April 17, the day the election process is to be completed.

During the enforcement of the model code of conduct, the state government çannot announce any concession for any section of the society or make any announcement that may directly or indirectly influence voters.

The commission has already informed the state government that the poll code had become operational and it should be enforced in letter and in spirit.

Asked in this regard, Manpreet said he would meet Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday to discuss the Budget issue with him in the light of the new development of code of conduct. He said after meeting the Chief Minister, he would be able to say whether the Budget would be presented on the due date or not.

Meanwhile, senior officers feel that it will not be appropriate to present the Budget in the House during the enforcement of the poll code. As the state government has to make policy statements while presenting the Budget, such statements can influence voters and violate the code. However, ruling political circles say the presentation of the Budget is a regular annual feature and should be treated as such and not as violation of the code of conduct. However, Opposition parties may not agree with this stand.

As announcement to hold the municipal elections is expected at the end of this month, the holding of those elections will also require the enforcement of the model code of conduct that may continue till the first week of May because the municipal elections are likely to be held in the last week of April. Hence, the presentation of the Budget may be delayed till the second week of May.

Sources said before taking any decision, the government is expected to approach the state Election Commission to seek opinion whether the Budget can be presented or not.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has criticised the state government for notifying the elections at the time of the Budget session. She said the elections had been deliberately announced during the session to run away from making announcements regarding concessions to people of the state as promised in the election manifesto by the ruling combine SAD-BJP.

She said, “We fail to understand the hurry in notifying the elections when the Budget session is in progress and the harvesting season is also around”.


Conclave blames SAD for Panthic crisis
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 9
Representatives of various Sikh organisations at a conclave, jointly organised by the Dal Khalsa and the Khalsa Action Committee, here today expressed unanimity that ignoring merit while appointing Sikh high priests of various Takhts had created a crisis of sorts in the Panth. They held the ruling Akali Dal and the SGPC responsible for the present Panthic crisis which was a result of “arbitrary” decisions taken by the Sikh clergy who frequently succumb to the pressure of political leaders at the helm of affairs.

Sikh intellectuals, representing various Sikh bodies like the Khalsa Panchayat, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Damdami Taksal, Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Delhi Sikh Management Committee, AISSF (Pir Mohammad) and Akal Federation; besides certain SGPC members and certain former Jathedars, alleged that the Sikh high priests had failed to come up to the aspirations of the Sikh Panth.

They said the ruling Akali Dal had been appointing Jathedars from “circuit house” etc, thereby denigrating the institution of Akal Takht.

The debate was initiated by veteran SGPC member Manjit Singh Calcutta, who said it was unfortunate that the authority of the Sikh high priests was being questioned. Hence, it was the need of the hour to take corrective measures to restore the glory of Akal Takht.

Senior advocate of the Supreme Court H.S. Phulka suggested that a supreme Sikh council be formed, comprising representatives from various Sikh bodies of the world so that Panthic decisions could be taken in the most democratic way. Chief Khalsa Diwan’s secretary Bhag Singh Ankhi,said it was unfortunate that some so-called Sikh intellectuals had been creating division in the Sikh community.

Bhai Mohkam Singh, spokesman for Damdami Taksal, former Jathedar of Damdama Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, former Granthi of the Golden Temple, Bhai Jagtar Singh Yajak, Dr Gursharnjit Singh and Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, Chief Damdami Taksal, criticised certain Jathedars for having failed to come up to the expectations of the Sikh community. They said the present Panthic crisis was the result of the appointment of “ineligible” persons as Jathedars. 


MLA objects to new syndics
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 9
Even as the secretary (Education), DPI, and an Akali MLA were conspicuous by their absence at the senate/syndicate meetings, Guru Nanak Dev (GND) University has decided to spend 50 per cent of its total budget (Rs 110.22 crore) on teaching, research, improvement of education.

All new syndics, Rajmohinder Singh Chhina, secretary, BJP, Hardas Singh and N.S. Rattan, former IAS officer, were present at the meeting. However, Akali MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha, talking to mediapersons after the meeting, alleged that the previous senate meeting had not authorised the vice-chancellor to nominate them. The Akali MLA alleged that the syndics and senate members had no “voice” in the meetings and he would bring it to the notice of the state government. 


Approval to Housing Colonies
Depts of housing, local bodies at loggerheads
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 9
A tussle has started between the Department of Local Government and the Department of Housing in Punjab over the issue of approving colonies in the state.

While minister for local government Manoranjan Kalia is said to have sent a strongly-worded letter to the Housing Department authorities warning them not to interfere in his department’s functioning, the Housing Department has also replied that the Local Government Department had virtually ruined towns by allowing unbridled colonisation and causing loss to the state exchequer.

It began with a move of the Housing Department to amend the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act 1995 (PAPRA). The department wanted the group housing apartments approved by the Department of Local Bodies included in the definition of “colonies” given in the Act and the regulations and charges applying to colonies applied to these.

The proposal was approved by the Council of Ministers on February 8, 2008. However, before the approved amendment could be taken to the Vidhan Sabha, Kalia wrote a stinker to the Housing Department objecting to the amendment. He wrote approving these apartments was in the jurisdiction of the Local Bodies Department and there were enough rules to regulate these in the Municipality Acts.

He warned the Housing Department not to interfere in the functioning of his department as it would lead to confusion. He also objected to the fact the Housing Department had not taken the views of his department on the proposed amendment in view of the overlapping jurisdiction.

In a reply to the minister’s communication, the Housing Department said the amendment was in the interest of the consumer and for earning revenue for the state. They pointed out that PAPRA was applicable to the entire state, including municipal areas. But despite this, the Local Bodies Department was sanctioning colonies in the garb of group housing schemes under its own rules.

They added that PAPRA-approved colonies were paying substantial development charges and had to follow strict rules to ensure that the consumer was not taken for a ride. However, in municipal areas, there was absence of strict regulatory control and the group housing colonisers were paying only peanuts as development charges.

The Housing Department communication further pointed out that in Zirakpur many group housing colonies had been approved by the Municipal Council and yet it had to beg for money for infrastructure development. The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority recently gave Rs 10 crore from its funds to the Zirakpur MC.

Facts relating to the issue revealed PAPRA-approved colonies had paid crores to the Housing Department as external development charges. The Zirakpur MC on the other hand had earned only Rs 5 crore from April 2007 to February 2008 from the group housing schemes it approved during this period. These colonisers on the other hand were charging anything between Rs 20 lakh to Rs 35 lakh for a flat.

Similarly, while the Housing Department had laid down regulations regarding provision of certain basic facilities to the consumers, including community centres, schools, parks etc, there were no such regulations that bound the group housing promoters in municipal areas. The regulations laid down by the Local Government dealt only with the building infrastructure. Even the regulation the approach road to such a group colony should be 40-foot-wide was added only last year. 


Marriage registration Bill to be tabled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh,March 9
The Punjab government will bring a Bill on the registration of marriage in the ongoing session of the Punjab Assembly. Sources said its draft had been sent to the legal authorities concerned for vetting.

To avoid any controversy, the state government has drafted a general marriage registration Bill. There will be no mention of Hindu, Muslim or Sikh marriage at the time of registration, it is learnt.

The couple that will apply for registration will be given a certificate by the authorities concerned after registering the marriage. The district magistrate will be the competent authority to register the marriage. However, there will be provision to further delegate the powers to a tehsildar or naib tehsildar by the district magistrate in this regard.

There will be a provision to get the marriage registered in 90 days. 


Groom, baratis attacked for desecration
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 9
Five members of a marriage party, including the bridegroom, were allegedly attacked and injured by members of a community in the Islamabad area of the city here today for desecrating a religious site.

The injured were identified as Rinku (bridegroom), Deepak, Buta Ram, Jia Lal and Sudesh Kumar. Rinku received a deep cut on his face, while relatives got deep cuts on arms, hands and heads.

According to police sources, some members of a particular community attacked the bridegroom and his relatives with swords when they stopped a few hundred yards from the marriage palace to pass water on the roadside near a religious site. Members of the opposite party objected to this as a religious flag had been hoisted nearby. The group asked for forgiveness stating that they did not know about it. But the opposite party asked them to clean the place. And following arguments, some members of the opposite party came out armed with swords and attacked them and damaged a car.

SSP Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said a case had been registered in Islamabad police station and nvestigations were on.

The accused escaped after the police reached the site and shifted the seriously injured to the Civil Hospital. After giving first aid, they were shifted to Guru Nanak Dev Hospital for further treatment.

Father of the bride, Bodh Raj, and his other relatives reached the hospital and made arrangements for medicines and other articles for the treatment of the baraatis. Meanwhile, the bridegroom was taken to the marriage palace for the wedding after treatment. 


Marriages of 98 girls solemnised
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Kherri (Sangrur), March 9
Ninetyeight girls of poor families were married off at a mass marriage ceremony held under the supervision of Sant Baba Daler Singh Ji Khalsa at Gurdwara Gurparkash Kherri Sahib, 7 km from Sangrur, here today.

The girls were from various areas of the state, including Longowal, Handhiaya, Mangwal, Borawal (Budhlada), Lalto Kalan (Ludhiana), Harnam Singh Wala (Rampura Phul in Bathinda), Ikolaha (Khanna), Bhudan (Malerkotla), Budhlada, Kherri, Bhllarherri, Mehlan, Kanoi, Kularan and Mander Kalan. Two girls were from Haryana, one from Sandola village in Kurukshetra district and the other from Bans village in Jind tehsil.


Khalra Murder
KMC tried to eliminate me: Prime witness
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 9
In a startling revelation a prime witness in the Jaswant Singh Khalra murder case today alleged that members of the Khalra Mission Committee (KMC) had tried to eliminate him by forcibly giving mercury a year ago.

SPO Kuldeep Singh Bachre, prime witness, alleged that KMC members had admitted him in a private hospital for treatment.

He said it was there that they, in connivance with some staff of the hospital, had tried to kill him by giving mercury. He said KMC men had taken this step as he had developed differences with the committee on certain issues.

However, Surinder Singh Ghariala, patron, KMC, refuted the allegation of Bachre stating that he (Bachre) had great expectations from them to get him reward from the Sikh community for his courage to speak out against the Punjab police.

He said Bachre had become a drug addict as earlier the police had provided him drugs so as to prevent him from speaking against them and had lost his patience and hence annoyed with leaders of the KMC.

Meanwhile Jabir Singh Padri, chairman, KMC, talking to Tthe Tribune on the phone said that Bachri had lost his mental balance and was now getting treatment from at mental hospital in Amritsar. 


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |