P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Draw of Liquor Vends
Govt mops up Rs 1,728 cr
Nod to big stores to sell liquor
Tribune Reporters

Jalandhar/Ludhiana, March 12
The Excise and Sales Tax Department earned a revenue of Rs 1,728 crore from the allotment of liquor vends in the state, draw of lots for which was held today in various districts. This is an increase of Rs 72 crore against the previous financial year.

Over 57,000 applications were received in the state and the department has already earned Rs 38 crore as application fee, Rs 10 crore more than what it received last time, A. Venuprasad, excise and taxation commissioner, said, who was in the city to supervise the draw of vends.

“Last year the department had received 47,000 applications and this year the number of applications increased to 57,000 for a total of 6,900 liquor vends in the state. Barring 10 vends, all liquor vends in the state have already been allotted for which the draw held in a very transparent manner,” he added.

Going by the demand of the people last year, a little change was adopted in the policy and instead of allotting the vends to the individuals, groups of liquor vendors were formed for the vends within corporation limits this year, he said.

Claiming that the monopoly was allowed for five liquor vends in corporation areas, three in district headquarters and two in the limits of municipal councils and nagar panchayats. Besides, this year the quota of 3 per cent was increased for liquor vends, he added.

He revealed that this year changes have been made to allow big stores, having annual turnover of more than Rs 100 crore, to sell Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL), imported and foreign liquor.

Such stores would be given an option to sell liquor by obtaining mandatory license from the department and quota and rate of liquor of such stores would be fixed at the license fee applicable to the stores in all over the state would be at par with the fee applicable in area of Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, he added.

Asked whether there was application received by the department for license by any store in the state, Prasad said that till now no application was received but the since the provision would be implemented with effect from April 1, a good response was expected in the days to come, he said.

Maximum applications were received from Sangrur, followed by Gurdaspur, Ferozepur and Ludhiana. In terms of revenue, Ludhiana tops the chart, followed by Sangrur.

The department also tightened its noose around those indulging in unfair market practices like selling liquor below the minimum retail price. Of the 200 such cases detected in the state, 40-50 came from Ludhiana alone, which is also the highest per capital liquor consuming district in Punjab.

SANGRUR: As many as 515 liquor vends (368 vends of Punjab medium liquor and 147 of India made foreign liquor) of the Sangrur district were today sold for Rs 90 crore through draw of lots for the current financial year. Last year, the vends were sold for Rs 81 crore in the district.

Excise and taxation officer S.P. Pahuja said by selling liquor vends for Rs 90 crore this year, the Sangrur district had topped the state in earning revenue. He also said the department had received 1247 applications for 515 liquor vends from the aspirants.

Amritsar: Lack of enthusiasm compounded by huge losses suffered by contractors have added to the woes of the Excise and Taxation Department in Amritsar district which went for the annual draw of lots here today. Out of 22 groups, which were put to draw today, the department received only 14 applications while eight groups of five shops each in the corporation area were kept pending in view of the poor response.

However, the rural areas which have been separately put to draw of lots has received overwhelming response in the Tarn Taran segment in the 39 groups as 1,400 applications were received. 


Poll code comes in way of price plan for wheat farmers
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
A plan by the Punjab government to ensure that farmers get higher prices for their wheat produce by selling these in the off-season, has been withheld, with the model code of conduct for the panchayat elections coming into force.

The government had decided to promote the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act, 2007, which entails that farmers can store their grains in central and state warehouses. The warehouse receipts, which mention the quantity, quality and cost of foodgrains, can then be used as negotiable instruments to avail bank loans. When wheat prices soar in October, the farmers can later sell their produce, stocked safely in the warehouses.

Official sources said they were planning to create awareness about the Act by holding farmers’ meetings, so they could get better price for their produce. As against the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1000 per quintal, the existing wholesale price is Rs 1100- Rs 1150 per quintal as against the international price is Rs 1600 per quintal. Though the Punjab government has now asked for the MSP to be hiked to Rs 1400 per quintal, the government of India is likely to give a bonus of only Rs 100 per quintal on the MSP. On the other hand, wheat prices are expected to go up further as the winters set in. “But with the model code of conduct coming into place, we cannot propagate this scheme,” said a senior official in the Agriculture department.

He said that over the past three years, it has been observed that the prices of wheat shoot up by 10- 15 per cent before the onset of winters. “Generally, farmers hold back their stocks and store foodgrains on their premises, to sell these at remunerative prices later. Under this scheme, the farmer can get some loan at the time of harvest, which will see him through till he decides to sell his produce,” he added.

Though the Act has been in place for a long time, it has had few takers in Punjab. In the past, as the price of wheat remained almost stable throughout the year, farmers in Punjab preferred to sell their produce after harvest, and have not been availing themselves of the benefits of this scheme. The Act was amended last year to allow for the warehouse receipts to be granted the status of a fully negotiable instrument and increase liquidity in rural areas. This means that a farmer can sell his warehouse receipt to a private party as and when required. A farmer can get around 70-75 per cent of the crop value as loan from the bank. With the new amendments, no bank can refuse to grant loans on the warehouse receipts.

Another benefit of the scheme is that food grains are stored in a scientific manner in the 27 central warehouses and 114 state warehouses and are also insured against calamities. Officials said while the capacity of 114 warehouses owned and hired by the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation is 51.96 lakh metric tonnes, while the total capacity of the warehouses owned and hired by the Central Warehousing Corporation is 7 lakh metric tonnes. 


Bids for female foeticide survey received
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Punjab is all set to count its missing daughters. The survey of female foeticide it proposed a month ago is ready to be commissioned with the health department receiving bids from interesting parties.

The state government is keen to know the exact status of sex ratio considering available figures are old and to some extent “misleading.”

That’s not to say the state can sit pretty, given its notorious reputation in the area. The reigning sex ratio in Punjab is about 798 -- the lowest anywhere in the country. A senior Punjab Health Department official yesterday said the female foeticide survey would be the largest of its kind in the state and would indicate vulnerable areas district by district, block by block.

Meanwhile, the state health department again vowed to improve RCH (reproductive child health) indicators in Punjab. At a meeting of NGOs, additional deputy commissioners and civil surgeons from Amritsar, Bathinda, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Sangrur, held here yesterday, concern was raised over the poor infant (IMR) and maternal mortality rates (MMR) prevailing in the state.

Punjab right now has an infant mortality rate of 41 per 1000 live births, as confirmed by the National Family Health Survey III. Though the all-India average is 58, target of Punjab is to bring IMR down to 30 by 2010.

Maternal health indicators in the state are no better, with MMR resting at 178 per one lakh live births, as against the all-Indian average of 304. Health secretary and mission director, National Rural Health Mission, T.R. Sarangal reiterated the government’s stand to improve RCH indicators at the earliest possible.

“The broad objective behind the workshop is to strengthen the partnership between government and non government organisations. This synergy is important to ensure smooth delivery of healthcare services and to meet the desired goals under RCH programme,” Sarangal said.

Punjab health department has in the recent past organised many workshops and orientation programmes for its deputy commissioners, civil surgeons and district family welfare officers. The most recent such meet was organized to prepare bureaucrats and health professionals to meet the challenge of injecting drug use in Punjab.

A UNAIDS study has shown Punjab’s vulnerability to HIV on account of massive exposure to IDU. HIV positivity among Punjab’s IDUs is a whopping 13.80 per cent, whereas India’s average is 10.16 per cent.


Revenue areas being redrawn
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Just weeks after the national delimitation commission submitted its report to carve out new assembly and parliamentary constituencies, the Punjab government has started work on redrawing the revenue boundaries of the subdivisions and the area of jurisdiction of police stations.

This is being done to bring the revenue area of the villages and the police stations more in consonance with the new assembly constituencies.

This means the addresses of people could change as the villages will be part of some other tehsil after the new demarcations are done. At the police station level, villages will be adjusted from one police station to another to make the area part of one constituency.

Sources in the government said without this exercise, it will be an administrative nightmare. The area of a police station could be part of two assembly constituencies, which in turn could be part of two revenue districts. In such a case scenario, the retuning officer could be dealing with multiple DSPs or SDM or even SHOs which could be counter-productive during elections.

People will get used to new tehsils, or subdivisions and also the areas of the police stations, said officials. Ample time and publicity will be given to residents to get used to the changes.

Under the Punjab police rules, the area of a police station cannot be outside a revenue district.

The government will invite objections from people who are to be affected by the move. 


4 killed in car-bus collision
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 12
Four persons were killed when a Maruti car collided head-on with a private bus on the Amritsar-Batala road near Sohian Khurd here today.

According to details available, four occupants of a Maruti car travelling from Batala to Amritsar died in the accident with a bus ( PB 02 AL 9913) belonging to Nishat Malwa.

The four persons were identified as Ashok Kumar, Ravinder Pal and Sudesh Kumar from Batala and Vijay Kumar from Amritsar. The car was crushed and all of them died on the spot.

According to eye witnesses, the accident occurred as the car driver was trying to save a cyclist and collided head-on with the bus at 3 pm. The driver of the bus ran away from the site of the accident.

The police has sent the bodies for post-mortem examination.


Assembly Session
CAG lauds Cong rule on fiscal front|
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has not only received support, but also accolades for good financial management from the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) of India that has reported that Punjab fiscal health improved during Congress rule.

When Amarinder Singh made this claim on the floor of the house two days ago, there were not many takers for his claims. But the CAG report tabled in the house today leaves no ambiguity -- making it difficult for the SAD-BJP alliance to play the blame game without rebuttal.

Commenting on the financial position of Punjab for the period ending March 31, 2007, the report is direct. It reads, “The fiscal position of the state viewed in terms of trends in fiscal parameters - revenue, fiscal and primary deficit/surplus has shown a noticeable improvement during the last two years, especially 2006-07”. It goes on, “The emergence of revenue surplus along with sharp decline in fiscal deficit and a steep increase in primary surplus during 2006-07 apparently indicates towards robust health of the state”.

But, the report has expressed displeasure at the state’s revenue increase of only Rs 28 crore over the previous year. The credit for the robust fiscal health is mainly on account of a credit entry of Rs 3903 crore on account of waiver of specific term loan (Rs 3772 crore) and debt waiver (Rs 131 crore) under the Debt Consolidation and Relief Facility during 2006-07. The report goes on to say, “The state’s tax revenue at Rs 9017 crore for 2006-07 remained significantly lower than both the projections made by the Twelfth Finance Commission”.

The report reveals that the state spent 71 per cent of its total revenue on salaries, pensions, interest payments and subsidies, leaving little resources for spending on social and economic services. It also highlights the return on Rs 3,762-crore investment in statutory corporations, joint stock companies and cooperatives was a dismal less than 1 per cent.

The audit finding further reveals instances of embezzlement of government money, losses and unfruitful expenditure to the tune of Rs 88.71 crore in various government departments. This includes a suspected fraud of Rs 16.62 lakh in animal husbandry department and loss of Rs 53.45 lakh due to wrong fixation of price for allotment of plots in agriculture department.

It reports is a case of undue financial aid and avoidable expenditure in the public works department (Rs 16.03 crore), housing and urban development (Rs 1.25 crore) and irrigation department (Rs 44.27 lakh).

The report further points out that the 15-loss making working public sector units (PSUs) in Punjab have accumulated losses aggregating to Rs 685.53 crore. Again, three loss-incurring corporations had accumulated losses aggregating Rs 674.50 crore which had exceeded their aggregate paid-up capital of Rs 159.57 crore.


Panchayati Raj: Cong walks out 
World University Bill passed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Describing it as a murder of grassroot democracy, Congress MLAs today staged a walkout from the Punjab Assembly to protest against the Punjab Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2008. However, the Bill was passed in the absence of Congress MLAs. The Assembly also today passed the Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University Bill-2008.

Opposing the amendment in the Panchayati Raj Act, Congress MLA Makhan Singh said the SAD-BJP combine had taken away the right of rural people to elect sarpanches directly. With the amendment taking effect today, now the Sarpanch will be elected by panches from amongst themselves. However, panches will be elected directly by voters in the village. Earlier, the sarpanch was elected directly and not from amongst the panches. The new provision will be applicable in the coming panchayat elections.

However, the state government, justifying the amendment, said chairpersons of other panchayat bodies such as zila parishads, block samitis were elected by members from amongst themselves. The same formula had been applied in the case of sarpanches.

Makhan Singh said as the SAD-BJP was apprehending defeat in panchayat elections, it amended the relevant law to ensure victory of candidates backed by the ruling combine. Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Ripjit Singh Brar, Congress MLAs, also spoke on similar lines. Brar said the panchayat would be captured by the ruling combine by using the official machinery and resorting to horsetrading.

The assembly also passed the Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University Bill-2008. The issue of World University has been hanging fire for the past several years. It was also passed in the absence of any opposition and without holding any discussion.

The president of the SGPC will be the chancellor of the university who will appoint the vice-chancellor and other officials in the university on the recommendation of the trust to be set up to run the university. The vice-chancellor’s tenure will be five years. Reservation rules of the state government will be applicable to the university. But there will be no discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, creed and gender.

There is also a provision to get affiliated educational institutions falling in the jurisdiction of other universities. Educational institution run by the trust or the SGPC in any part of the country can also be affiliated to it.

The objective of the university is to undertake study,teaching and research in the domain of Sikhism and other world religions, languages, cultures and civilisations, besides courses covered under arts and humanities, social sciences, pure sciences, applied sciences, medical sciences etc.


Cerebral palsy patient breaks fresh ground
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Manhar Singh Sandhu is not the one to be cowed down by disability. Born with cerebral palsy, he has seldom let medical jargons rule his life. And his zeal for excellence has finally paid off.

For a while now, Manhar has been helping to save the dying farmlands of Punjab. He set a trend recently by bagging the position of assistant manager at the Organic Farming Council of Punjab, a Punjab government undertaking, which inspires farmers to shift from conventional to organic methods of tilling. It was a defining moment of his life, when he faced the interview board and landed himself in a job, aspired by hundreds.

For once, the disability quota promised under the Persons with Disabilities Act came to life, and a success story was scripted. Manhar proudly rested at the heart of this story, making it even more interesting as he went by. “I always wanted to do something related to the fields,” says the young man, whose grandfather Sardar Mohinder Singh brought Punjab to the world citrus plantation map. In his times, Mohinder Singh owned a sprawling 350-acre citrus farm, placed second only to a celebrated citrus farm in California, which has a history of such plantation.

Love for the fields naturally ran in Manhar’s family; no wonder he enjoys every bit of his job, touring farms across Punjab and convincing farmers to go for organic production. “We are preparing them for international certification, which comes after three years of complete conversion from fertiliser-based production to organic. We have achieved a lot of success and have managed to bring more and more farmers under our fold,” says Manhar, whose life wouldn’t have been what it is, but for his stint at the Youth Technical Training Society (YTTS) in Chandigarh.

For three years from 2004, Manhar worked for YTTS in different capacities, providing basic computer training to slum children, monitoring day-to-day activities at the society’s 12 rehabilitation centres and coordinating the working of Pustak schools and crèches for the underprivileged sections. When he had time, he organised training workshops for YTTS staff.

The beneficiaries were at a loss, when Manhar left them to join the Organic Farming Council of Punjab. “But I continue to be in touch with them, helping them where ever I can,” he says, recalling his days of struggle, when YTTS members Ravi Bedi and Sangeeta Jund hand picked him for difficult jobs, including coordination for Childline, a 24-hour toll-free service for children in distress. “They trusted me like they would have trusted a normal person. That’s what gave me the courage to move on and conquer my weaknesses,” says Manhar, filled with pride over milestones conquered.


Poultry birds died of bacterial infection: Lab 
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 12
Complex respiratory disease (CRD) and colli bacilosis (E Colli) were the main causes of death of the about 3,000 poultry birds at Gehri Bhagi village, near here.

Regional Diagnostic Laboratory, Jalandhar, has pinpointed this.

Both these diseases are common in poultry and mainly caused due to bacterial and viral infections in the birds.

“However, both diseases do not affect humans,” Dr H.S. Sandha, joint director, Animal Husbandry and in charge of the Jalandhar laboratory told The Tribune over phone today.

The Tribune had reported on March 8 that 3,000-odd poultry birds had died at Gehri Bhagi due to an unidentified disease over a period of seven days.

Ever since, tests on bird samples were going on at the Jalandhar lab.

On Monday, High-Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal, had ruled out the possibility of avian influenza virus in the samples taken from the dead birds.

Dr Sandha said, “Both these diseases are common in poultry and there is no scare of them affecting humans. They occur due to many reasons.

It can be due to an extreme change in temperature, wrong feed, bad management, bad quality water given to the poultry, unclean environment inside the shed of the poultry farm and many others.”

Sandha added, “We have also taken the samples of the feed being fed to the birds at the poultry farm at Gehri Bhagi. We suspect the presence of fungus (aflatoxins) in the feed and these results would come in the next few days.”

“Had the poultry farmer taken prompt action after his birds started dying, and had contacted veterinarians of the Animal Husbandry Department, the mortality rate would have been less. It would have even resulted in less loss to the farmer,” Sandha said.


Jails to come under police scanner
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
The Punjab Police will now focus on jails as undesirable activities of undertrials and hardcore criminals lodged in different jails are a matter of concern.

Punjab DGP N.P.S. Aulakh made it clear at a high-level meeting that issues like recovery of mobile phones and alleged nexus of criminals lodged in jails was a serious matter. DGP, Prisons, Mohammad Izhar Alam pointed out some vital issues, including foolproof police escort for undertrials during court hearings and installation of close-circuit cameras in visitors’ room. He also assured the DGP of every possible help from the jail administration in monitoring activities of the undertrials.

Aulakh told officers that arrangements should be foolproof for ensuring peaceful conduct of panchayat elections on April 7. Additional force could be mobilised by withdrawing additional security officers attached to various protected persons.

The police chief also took a serious note of the delay in prompt and correct reporting of important incidents. Regarding illegal use of red lights and hooters atop vehicles, the DGP asked field officers to enforce rules by launching special drives against traffic violators throughout the state. 


Rs 10-lakh relief sought for freed detainees
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 12
The Jodhpur Jail Nazarband Murr Vaseba Committee, consisting of those who had spent several years in the Jodhpur jail after arrest during Operation Bluestar in the Harmandar Sahib complex in 1984 and were released years ago, has sought compensation from the Centre, on the pattern of anti-Sikh riots victims, to families of the released detainees. The committee made this demand at a meeting in the Nankiana Sahib Gurdwara complex, near here, on Monday.

Satnam Singh Kahlon was made president of the committee, while Ajaib Singh and Tarsem Singh Khela were made vice-president and general secretary, respectively.

The committee asked the SGPC to regularise the services of temporary employees, who were appointed in the SGPC after release from the Jodhpur jail. 


Mishaps dominate zero hour
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Punjab has become highly accident-prone recording over 5,000 accidents in 2007, out of which 3,363 were fatal. These facts were revealed by the transport minister in response to a question highlighting 17 deaths in two separate accidents yesterday.

As soon as Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the Congress raised the issue of a Pathankot -Amritsar bus accident in which 11 persons were killed, there was near unanimity on the issue that rising number of road accidents needed immediate attention, as did the improvement in traffic conditions. The entire proceedings of the zero hour remained confined to the issue.

Khaira demand forming a House committee to look at various aspects of the road accident and review traffic rules and regulations in the state. In response Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon deputed industries minister Manoranjan Kalia to apprise Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was not in the House today, about the sentiments expressed by the legislators and come up with a reaction on the demand tomorrow.

Health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla said drunken-driving caused nearly half of all accidents that took place. Many people remain unattended on the roads after the accident because people did not want to help out of fear of being troubled by the police later. She observed if terrorist killed 5 persons, the entire nation was worried, but last year over 1 lakh people died nationwide in road accidents, but “we have shown no concern”.

Cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh said, “We must reduce accidents and provide safety for which the ruling SAD-BJP alliance has no objection to forming a committee of members of the House, but let the Chief Minister take a final call”.

Transport minister Master Mohan Lal disclosed that the Road Safety Council was being set up for which a Bill would be introduced shortly. There would be a provision for compensation of Rs 2 lakh to every road accident victim’s family.

PWD (B & R) minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa revealed that the World Bank Road Project for Punjab would identify accident-prone areas, spend Rs 5 crore on safety equipment and training of officials.

Brahm Mohindra stressed the need for reflectors on stationary vehicles parked on the road.

Jassi Khangura, Congress MLA from Quila Raipur, has meanwhile written a letter to the Speaker saying, “I join you in offering deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased and injured in the Amritsar-Pathankot bus accident.”


Moga sex scam
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today adjourned sine die the hearing in Moga sex scam.

As the matter came up for hearing before the Division Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, advocate Sant Pal Singh Sidhu, appearing on behalf of two persons, claiming implication in the scam due to political reasons, said the Central Bureau of Investigating (CBI) probing the matter should specify when the challan would be filed.

Counsel for CBI Rajan Gupta, on the other hand, contended the exact date of filing the same could not be specified. He added the investigations in the matter were going on.

The Bench, after hearing the contentions, observed the Supreme Court was hearing the matter. As such, the petition was adjourned sine die till the apex court’s final decision in the matter.

In a related development, Justice Mahesh Grover of the high court fixed March 14 as the date of hearing a petition filed by Barjinder Singh, son of senior Akali leader and former minister Tota Singh. He was seeking the grant of pre-arrest bail.

Barjinder Singh had earlier expressed apprehensions of his arrest and implication in the matter at the behest of local MLA Joginder Pal Jain. He had alleged the entire case was politically motivated and he was “being made an accused at the behest of Jain, sitting MLA of Congress party at Moga”.

Bathinda MC

Taking up a petition for restraining the authorities concerned from going ahead with the sale of 22,000 square meters belonging to Bathinda Municipal Corporation, a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Vijender Jain today issued notice for July 8.

The Bench also directed that the land sale, if it takes place, would be subject to outcome of the writ petition. The land is situated next to the Rose Garden on the national highway that connects the town with Barnala. The petitioner contended the land should be put to public use as originally planned like establishing an effluent treatment plant etc. The auction would bring much needed cash not for the municipal corporation, but to Punjab Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).

Embezzlement of public funds

In a public interest litigation, Mansa’s former municipal council member Shiv Charan Dass and a social activist Amritpal Nangal have sought probe into alleged colossal wastage and embezzlement of public funds allotted under the Integrated Development of Small Towns (IDST) scheme implemented at Mansa.

The petitioners have sought directions to register criminal case against those found guilty in the investigations, and to proceed against hem departmentally and legally, besides recovering the amount, along with penal rate of interest.

Additional judges appointed
Justice Sabina, Chief Justice Vijerder Jain and Justice Jora Singh after the oath ceremony in Chandigarh
Justice Sabina, Chief Justice Vijerder Jain and Justice Jora Singh after the oath ceremony in Chandigarh on Wednesday. A Tribune photograph

Judicial officers Sabina and Jora Singh were today administered oath as additional judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court by Chief Justice Vijender Jain.

At a ceremony attended by sitting and retired judges of the high court, bureaucrats and 500 advocates, the judges swore to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by the law established”.

The judges also swore to “uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India” and “duly and faithfully and to the best of ability, knowledge and judgement, perform the duties of the office without fear or favour, affection and ill will”.

The ceremony started with registrar-general Ram Chand Gupta reading out the warrants of appointment of the two judges.

Prior to her elevation, Justice Sabina was posted as Bathinda district and sessions judge. While Justice Jora Singh was posted as Fatehgarh Sahib district session judge. The High Court now has, for the first time in its history, three women Judges.

The number of judges has also increased to 43, against the sanctioned strength of 68. The shortage is likely to reduce with the appointment of eight more advocates as high court judges. Their names have already been forwarded by the high court and are under consideration. 


Jagjit appears in Virk case
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 12
Former Congress minister Chowdhury Jagjit Singh presented himself before Patiala SSP S.K Asthana who is also the inquiry officer in the case relating to former Punjab DGP S.S Virk.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered the setting up of one-man commission to look into the disproportionate assets case against S.S Virk.

Chowdhry Jagjit Singh came to the mini-secretariat office of the SSP. According to sources, Asthana handed him over a seven-point questionnaire. Jagjit Singh also reportedly pleaded for some time to reply to the questionnaire. The SSP said he would call the former minister again only if required.

Jagjit has been granted interim bail till April 2 in the case relating to the Ludhiana City Centre Scam case.


Kisan Mela begins today
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 12
Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has shortlised four farmers from different parts of the state for the Chief Minister's Award for Excellence in agriculture and horticulture using innovations and getting good results. Award money of Rs 50,000 will be shared among the four winners during the two-day kisan mela which starts tomorrow.

The awardees include Sukhpal Singh Hayer from Chakk Kala Tibba village in Ferozepur district, Sukhpal Singh from Dyal Pura Bhaika village in Bathinda district, Sarwan Singh Chandi from Bool Pur village in Kapurthala district and Baldev Singh Brar from Sighanwala village in Moga district.

The awards are decided by a committee of the university, including the dean, Extension, and dean, Agriculture, besides a panel of experts. Applications are sought in December. The committee shortlists the names and visits farms to evaluate the claims.

Hayer started farming more than two decades back on 30 acres of family land. He has done pioneering work in green manuring.

Sukhpal Singh has shown creditable work in growing vegetables scientifically.

Sarwan Singh Chandi is a leading bee-keeper of the state. He has done commendable job towards recharging ground water.


Ex-militants take to drug smuggling
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 12
Militants who had taken refuge abroad are allegedly abetting international drug smuggling.

Investigations by officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) into the seizure of 230 kg of ephedrine made from NRIs reveal that they were former terrorists and were resorted to drug smuggling now.

Amandeep Singh, NRI from UK, was arrested here last morning with ephedrine, popularly called Ecstasy drug, worth Rs 4.6 crore in the international market. He has reportedly revealed that he worked for absconding militant Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi of Moga district, who is now settled in Canada.

Dhiraj Rastogi, joint director,DRI, here said Amandeep, a resident of Bhinder village, said he had been lured by Sukhi for smuggling the drug. He was paid Rs 3 lakh for the work.

Rastogi revealed this was the fourth case where an ex-militant was found abetting drug smuggling.


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