P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Recruitment of Naib Tehsildars
PPSC chairman under Vigilance scanner
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
Moving further to bring transparency and accountability into the system, the Punjab Chief Minister has signed the order to nail another public servant.

He has directed the Punjab Vigilance Bureau to investigate a case of alleged irregularities in the appointments of naib tehsildars by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) chairman Sanjit Kumar Sinha, during his tenure as commissioner, Patiala division.

Since Sinha took voluntary pre-mature retirement in May 2006 and was appointed chairman of the PPSC, he is no longer governed by the service rules. But based on the recommendation of the Punjab advocate-general’s office, the Vigilance has been asked to investigate the matter pertaining to the “illegal and irregular” appointment of eight naib tehsildars, throwing government rules and instructions to the wind. The Vigilance brief is to investigate and initiate criminal prosecution of Sinha.

Despite a lukewarm response from the Punjab bureaucracy and suggestions to the effect that nothing much can be done at this stage “even though the an inquiry has held Sinha guilty of irregularities in the appointments”, Badal has chosen to follow the recommendation of the advocate-general’s office that says, “As the officer was a public servant and all allegations of corruption, misconduct, etc against a public servant are dealt with by the vigilance department, it would be proper if this aspect is looked into by the director vigilance”.

The case pertains to the appointment of naib tehsildars during the period August 1990 to March 1997 when Sinha was commissioner of Patiala division. After the matter came to light, the then financial commissioner, K.S. Janjua, was asked to conduct an inquiry. Janjua held Sinha guilty of violating government instructions in these appointments. Subsequently, Sinha was asked for his comments but he chose to not to reply till February 2002 and even then he denied any irregularity in appointments.

In a classic case of bureaucrats trying to shield the wrongdoings of each other, the matter did not move further till May 2006, when the revenue department accepted that the appointments “are wrong”.

In the mean time, the officials did not even bother to pay any heed to the assurances committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha which had directed the government to inform it about the action taken in this regard way back in October 1999.

MLA Hardev Arshi raised the issue in the House several times, but the bureaucracy failed to come up with any reply.

The notings on the file suggest a strong bureaucratic nexus. But for the AG’s intervention the case is made out to be a hopeless one for penal action at this stage.

The AG’s office has, however, reacted sharply by saying, “from the point of view of ensuring accountability and transparency and promoting the rule of law the facts of the case makes distressing reading… the delinquent officer was able to stall the progress of the enquiry for four years”.

Opinion regarding initiating criminal action against the officer, is “unlike departmental proceedings there in no limitation for initiating criminal action”. Based on this, the Chief Minister has sent the case to the vigilance.

At the same time the AG has recommended that the Chief Secretary must personally look into why no action was taken against Sinha even as an inquiry by the then Financial Commissioner, K.S Janjua had found Sinha of having committed irregularities in the appointments, way back in 1998, while he was still in service.


Power panel sitting on important cases
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
As things are moving at a snail’s pace in the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission, it has been causing concern in the Punjab government as well as in the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

There are reports that the commission sits on cases for months even on matters of important concern for the state and the power sector.

Sources said bid documents were submitted to the commission about a year ago for scrutiny and approval for the purchase of power on a long-term basis from independent power producers (IPP) for the state. However, the commission has not yet taken any decision on these documents.

Likewise, the tariff application with regard to GVK, that will install a thermal plant at Goindwal in the private sector, and the power purchase agreement entered with it was sent to the commission about a year ago by the authorities concerned.

And, now after one year, the documents have been forwarded by the commission to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for verification of cost parameters, it is learnt.

If cost parameters were to be verified at the CEA level, these should have been forwarded to it at the earliest possible. And then there is the issue of determining tariff for the power available from non-renewable sources of energy like solar power etc.

The commission sat on this case too for about a year. However, it has to be given policy directive under Section 108 of the Electricity Act-2003 to decide the matter immediately. After the notice, the commission decided the case.

The most interesting issue is with regard to the setting up of thermal power plants near coastal towns and coal pit-heads.

The Punjab government is keen that private parties or the any other agency should set up thermal plants of about 2000 MW dedicated to Punjab near coastal towns or coal pit-heads because that will not only make power available at a cheaper rate but also save Punjab from pollution that is created by thermal plants by burning coal.

For this purpose, the authorities concerned had approached the commission for finalising the tender documents.

However, sources said the commission had questioned the justification for setting up such plants, making the demand for power the basis of the query. It had asked that earlier Punjab had projected its demand for power to reach 11,000 MW till the end of current five-year plan (2012). However, with the proposed thermal plants near coastal towns and coal pit-heads, the generation of power would touch 13,000 MW.

What was the reason behind enhanced generation of power. Where would it be consumed. However, sources said that demand for 11,000 MW of power would be in normal circumstances. But in case of drought-like conditions etc or with the coming of concessions to industry in hill states to end, the demand for power in Punjab can go suddenly up after 2010, the year till concessions continue in hill states.

Then there others issues which are bothering the state government as well as the PSEB. The commission is not calculating the cost on the basis of actual strength of employees in the PSEB but goes by its own logic as far as determining requirement of employees in the board is concerned. Can the employees, which are surplus in the eyes of the commission, be retrenched from the PSEB?

The commission’s decision to convert to the revenue account the capital (loan amount) provided by the state government to the PSEB has also caused concern in the state government. Whereas earlier the commission had acted suo motu to decide the power tariff last year, this year it wanted specific proposals from the PSEB for doing so.


Forest cover: Punjab at bottom
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 16
Despite massive investments in plantations for the past more than 10 years, Punjab continues to have one of the lowest forest cover in the country in terms of percentage.

It has just 3.09 per cent area under forest as per the latest report of the Forest Survey of India.

As per the last one also Punjab was at the bottom in terms of area under forests. As per the latest survey just Delhi had the lower forest cover than Punjab in terms of area under green cover.

However, that was due to the small size of Delhi vis-à-vis Punjab. In terms of percentage of area under forest cover Delhi was far ahead of Punjab as it had 11.87 per cent of its total area under forest cover.

As per the latest report Rajasthan and Haryana have performed better than Punjab. Rajasthan has 4.63 per cent of its total area under forests while Haryana has 3.59 per cent.

In terms of area of also Haryana has 1,587 sq km under forest cover against 1,558 sq km in Punjab. Rajasthan has 15,850 sq km under forest cover.

Further, there is no dense forest cover left in the state. The state has 723 sq km moderately dense forest, 835 sq km of open forest and 15 sq km of scrub forest.

The only consoling point is that the report has indicated 13 sq km increase in forest cover in the state.

The increase, according to the report, has, however, been attributed to poplar and other commercial plantations by farmers on private lands.

The report has also brought up interesting data that may help those opposing abolition of Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) in the state.

A strong lobby of politicians and influential bureaucrats, who have bought large tracts of lands in forest areas, have been demanding removal of the Act.

However, as per the report of the 1,558 sq km left with the state 55 per cent is under the ownership of panchayats, committees and individuals in the Shivalik hills and is managed by the Forest Department under the Act. If tit is abolished then the state forest cover would almost get finished.

The forest cover has failed to increase in the state despite the fact that hundreds of crores have been spent by the Department of Forests on afforestation programs under a Japan Bank-aided scheme.

Chief Justice, Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Varinder Jain in a PIL filed against felling in the state had observed that at least 17 per cent forest cover was required for sustainable development of any state.

To add to the woes, the Forest Department has decreased the felling period of trees in forests from 10 years to just five.


Police dept top defaulter
PSEB goes tough, to cut 100 connections
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) is going to disconnect more than 100 connections for non-payment of outstanding dues.

The departments which are going to face the axe of the electricity board include some sensitive organisations dealing in law and order and health services, district administration, besides municipal commissioner and revenue collecting agencies.

According to the figures available with The Tribune, the police department is the biggest defaulter and owes roughly around Rs 40 lakh on account of power usage.

The other major defaulters are the office of XEN, construction, division No. 2, Batala Road, which owes Rs 14 lakh, a senior bureaucrat living in the government accommodation on Taylor road owes Rs 6.80 lakh, Government Medical College Rs 4.27 lakh, land scape fficer Rs 2.76 lakh, an XEN Rs 2 lakh and office of assistant engineer, zone II, Rs 1 lakh.

The departments concerned pointed out that they were prepared to pay the outstanding amount if funds were released.

A senior board official on the condition of anonymity said the outstanding amount was more than Rs 20 crore of the past many years and the board had now decided to take action.

He said they had received directions from the board to go ahead with the drive. The board was already facing a severe financial crunch.


Passport holder misses flight due to
irregular page series

Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
Check pagination before collecting the passport, lest your flight to foreign lands be grounded before taking off.

An unsuspecting retired employee of the Punjab Housing and Urban Development Department did not do so. His journey ended before destination.

On way to the US, he had to return from Indira Gandhi Airport after the airport authorities objected to “asymmetrical numerical order of pages”.

The fault was not his. Narender Parkash Sharotri’s complaint against the Regional Passport Office and the Union Ministry of External Affairs, filed before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum at Chandigarh, had to be withdrawn due to jurisdiction issue. But, he has been granted “liberty to seek remedy before the appropriate authority as admissible under the law”.

His is not the only case. Only recently the daughter of a senior officer in Punjab Civil Secretariat was subjected to “harassment”. The ground:

The passport had been tempered with. She had to return to Chandigarh for getting the passport reissued.

Back to Sharotri: In his complaint, he has alleged that on July 25 last year, he reported at the airport on the way to the US for meeting his children. But, the emigration authorities suggested correction in pagination. As a result, he missed the flight scheduled to take off the next day.

Sharotri adds he picked up tickets again for the US for August 29, 2007, after the issuance of a new passport. But, by that time, the fares had gone up by about Rs 6,000.

In fact, he had to pay something like Rs 63,109 as against the previous fare of Rs 57,109. Besides financial loss, he missed the chance of attending a function organised to celebrate the completion of his son’s post-doctoral studies in medicine in the US.

As such, the serious lapse on the part of the passport authorities caused “emotional setback and mental harassment” to him.

However, the authorities, in their reply to a legal notice issued by him, refused to pay compensation for making him run from pillar to post.

Rather, they tried to blame him for the lapse, saying that he should have checked the passport thoroughly as he was an educated person and a retired government employee.

Claiming that the act amounts to deficiency in service, he has asserted that the conduct showed an attitude of irresponsibility and casual approach towards public dealing.

Such an attitude not only resulted in waste of time, but also money. As such, these practices need to be nipped in the bud, lest these should turn chronic.


Grant of package on farmers’ loans
Haryana may score over Punjab
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
While the Punjab government is looking towards the union government for resolving the issue of loans taken by farmers from money-lenders and commission agents, the Haryana government, sources said, was ready with a proposal to earmark Rs 1,000 crore for the purpose.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had sought a package of Rs 20,000 crore from the Union Government to deal with issues related with agriculture, and he had also told the Union Government to free the farmers from the loans taken by them from money-lenders and commission agents.

Badal had stated that Punjab farmers would not be benefited much with the loan waiver scheme announced by the union government in its budget proposals for the next financial year.

On the other hand, sources said the Haryana government was considering to deposit Rs 1,000 crore in cooperative banks to enable its farmers to take loan from that amount at an affordable rate of interest to return the loan taken from commission agents at a higher rate of interest.

The Haryana government may announce this scheme of loan swapping in its budget that is due to be presented in the Haryana Assembly on March 18.

In Punjab, it is estimated that the loan advanced by money-lenders and commission agents to farmers is in the range of Rs 14,000 crore though there no authentic figure is available in this regard.

Agriculture experts say that without getting farmers freed from the loan taken by them from private sources, there could be no solution of the crisis being faced by the agriculture sector in the state.

The Union Government has already told Punjab and other states governments that they should deal with the loan advanced by commission agents to farmers at their own level. The Union Government will confine itself to the loans advanced by various banks to small and marginal farmers.

However, if Haryana announced the earmarking of Rs 1,000 crore for farmers for swapping their loans taken from private sources, states like Punjab will come under tremendous political and other pressure to follow the neighbouring states. Already, Haryana has been scoring over Punjab on many fronts.


Farmers panic over anomalies in
land acquisition notice

Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, March 16
The recent notification issued by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for acquiring land along the Kurali-Kiratpur Sahib road stretch has made farmers panic.

The NHAI has issued acquisition notice for the four-laning of the Chandigarh-Kiratpur Sahib stretch.

The farmers here are alleging that the nature of their land has been changed in the declared notification. The direct implication of the change in the nature of land would mean that they would get lesser compensation for their land acquired by the government.

Mohinder Singh, a farmer from Sirsa Nangal village, said his entire land along the road was either agriculture irrigated land or residential. However, in the notification it had been declared barren.

The price of agriculture land as per government-approved rates was about Rs 20 lakh per acre, whereas the price of barren land was just about Rs 2 lakh per acre.

The farmers alleged that the NHAI had taken about10-year-old record to declare the acquisition of lands in the notification. Since then, the Revenue Department of the state had done demarcation two times.

The department should take the latest land records into consideration while deciding the price of the acquired land, they demanded.

They said the land acquired had been calculated in bigas and biswas. This system of measurement of land had been abandoned in Punjab, where the land was measured in marlas, kanals and acres. The use of bigas and biswas parameters in the notification had only perplexed the farmers. They were not being able to apprehend how much land had been acquired from them.

The farmers also alleged that they had filed a large number of objections before respective SDMs regarding the acquisition of their land. However, in the notification, it had been stated that just two objections were received that had been rejected by competent authorities.

The farmers also alleged that they did not have any knowledge as to which office they should approach and enquire about the status of their land under acquisition.

SDM Ropar Kavita Singh, who received objections from farmers, said she had received about 90 objections. Most of the objections related to the price fixation of land.

There were just two to four objections regarding the acquisition of land. The objections regarding the compensation of land would come up during the price fixation committee meeting.

When asked about the change in the nature of land in the acquisition notice, Kavita Singh said it would not have any implication. She said at the price fixation committee meeting, the district administration would make it sure that the latest land record was taken into consideration. The farmers would be paid the market price for the acquired land as per the government policy, she added.


AISAD to expand
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
The All-India Shiromani Akali Dal (AISAD) will set up its offices in Delhi, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and eastern and western India by April 13.

Jaswant Singh Mann, president, AISAD, stated this after setting up its first district office (rural) here today.

Mann said they had also decided to unite all those “forgotten and discarded Taksali Akalis who had put in great sacrifices for the glory of the Sikh community and Panth at large”.


Cong fears rigging in panchayat poll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Punjab Congress on Friday submitted a memorandum to the state Election Commission (EC) apprehending fears that the April 7 panchayat polls may not receive adequate response due to wheat harvesting season and the annual examinations of the universities of the state, making the whole exercise undemocratic.

Led by MLA Partap Bajwa, the Congress delegation told state Election Commissioner A. K. Dubey that the Congress had been consistently of the view that panchayat elections should be held at a time when the voter is not engaged in any other unavoidable and important socio-economic activity.

The Congress expressed the fear that there could be large-scale bungling and distortion in the roaster that provides for reservation for women and Scheduled Castes in accordance with the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act.

The memo urged the commission to hold the election of sarpanches on the polling day itself and at the same polling stations where votes for electing panchs were cast.

Congress leaders also expressed the fear that there could be large-scale bungling and violence during the elections.


Sister-city status for Amritsar, Bakersfield on cards
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
With the local bodies of Amritsar and Bakersfield in California clearing the first stage for grant of sister-city status to the two cities, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation is already looking forward to taking vital cues for developing a master plan for systematic development of the city.

Talking to The Tribune, Frank Tripicchio, who is on the board of directors of the Sister Cities International, said it was the sizeable Punjabi population settled in Bakersfield which has been instrumental in setting the ball rolling for the finalisation of the proposal.

“Once the status is granted, an agreement will be finalised, which will facilitate exchange of cultural, educational and artistic values between the two countries. Exchange of students from schools and colleges on both sides can be a great opportunity to learn more about the two cultures,” he said.

“Even though the agreement will have no financial or political implications, officials of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation have already expressed keenness to seek know-how on the beautification and developing a master plan for the city,” he said.

After the visit of Harvey L.Hall, mayor of Bakersfield, in November last year, the proposal has been virtually accepted by the Bakersfield administration and now the ball is in Amritsar Municipal Corporation’s court. “The mayor and senior deputy of Amritsar will visit Bakersfield in April before an agreement is officially signed and an agenda worked out,” he said.

Tripicchio, who is ex-president of the Bakersfield Sister City Project Corp, said he had also visited some of the educational institutions in Amritsar, like the Miri Piri Academy, which would be a prospective active member of the exchange programme. He said there were many similarities between the two cities like open fields and similar weather conditions.


Hotel for Kapurthala Palace opposed
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
Taking exception to the reported move to convert the Kapurthala Palace into a heritage hotel, Dr Sukhdev Singh, state convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, here said on Friday that the proposal was impractical.

He said the present use of the building for running Sainik School was the best use, as it required minimum changes in its structure and those changes had already been made.

Secondly, every year new students entered the school and experienced its imposing structure, architecture and large area. Its playgrounds served as open space and were necessary for sporting activities. If converted into a hotel, it would require many new alterations and encourage new construction around it. Besides, it would encourage traffic congestion in the city.

Above all, a heritage hotel was not always a viable proposition and that too in the public sector when the government was selling its rest houses and hotels. Kapurthala town was away from the main rail line and had no airport; it was not an industrial town.

Keeping these factors in view, the proposal to convert the palace, which was a specimen of beautiful French architecture, should be withdrawn.

If the government was seriously interested in preserving the building, it should provide maintenance grant and the school should be encouraged to create light-and-sound programmes for students to make them aware of history, art, architecture and culture, he said.


Seminar on AIDS
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
Laxmi Kanta Chawla, minister for health and family welfare, addressed a seminar on HIV/AIDS under the government of India scheme ASHA organised here today.

More than 6,000 volunteers from Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts participated. The minister exhorted them to help save the youth from the disease.

She said 40 per cent of the AIDS affected people were women and there was need to create awareness among them about the disease.

Secretary health and project director Punjab State Aids Control Society T.R. Sarangal said the government had planned a comprehensive AIDS education programme.


Parveen’s arrest decried
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 16
The Dal Khalsa took exception to the way Parveen Kaur was arrested and portrayed as “human bomb” by the Haryana police.

Party leader Harcharnjit Singh Dhami today condemned the Karnal police for unleashing a reign of terror on Sikh youths.

He decried the police for torturing Parveen after rounding her up from Patiala. He urged the Haryana Chief Minister to check the misuse of state machinery.

"The Chief Minister should take stringent measures against the police officials who used brute force against the college-going girl during interrogation," he said.

He contested the claim of Karnal police that the girl had agreed to become a “human bomb” to “kill” the Sirsa Dera head.

Instead of nailing the alleged pseudo-sant, the Haryana Police was bent on creating a fear psychosis among Sikhs demonstrating against the blasphemous acts of the so-called Baba.


Unesco Report
Fears on Punjabi baseless: VC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
The 24th International Punjabi Development Conference was held at Senate Hall, Punjabi University, here today.

“All institutions created for the furtherance of Punjabi should make optimum utilisation of limited resources by identifying areas of specialisation and working in unison than isolation with each other”. Upinderjit Kaur Punjab’s minister of education stated this while inaugurating the conference.

Expressing concern at the falling standard of Punjabi language, art and culture, the minister said neighbouring states of Haryana and Himachal had turned a blind eye towards accepting Punjabi as their mother tongue which was theirs before the division of Punjab.

While in Singapore, Punjabi had been accorded the second language status, Haryana had given this “honour” to Telugu and Himachal to Urdu, she said.

She said Western culture was eating into the value system of Punjabis. Punjabis abroad, she said, were showing more concern about the promotion of Punjabi, while in India it was facing “step-motherly” treatment at the hands of its own so-called well-wishers.

She urged the scholars to use the digital and multi-media technologies to pave the way for the development of Punjabi.

Dr Jaspal Singh, vice-chancellor, Punjabi University, said all fears shown towards Punjabi losing its base and disappearing were baseless.

He urged Punjabis going abroad to carry along with them values of Punjabi culture to save it from the onslaught of Western culture. He said the university would soon start job-oriented courses to generate employment for students of Punjabi. To begin with, it will start a job-oriented course in Punjabi journalism from the next session.

Dispelling doubts about the Unesco report that Punjabi will be one of the languages that will vanish from this planet by 2050, the VC said it was an unfounded report. He said the need was to work honestly adopting a positive approach.

Sidhu Damdami, editor, Punjabi Tribune, in his keynote address, said Punjabis should realise the urgency of facing challenges in the fast-growing world of free market economy. Ironically, the number of media audiences was decreasing while the number of media institutions was on the increase.

Dr Dhanwant Kaur, head, Department of Punjabi Language, talked about the progress made by her department.


Institute of Studies in Guru Granth Sahib
Scholar resents scaling down of proposal
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, March 16
Prof Prithipal Singh Kapoor, a Sikhism scholar, has taken exception to the Union Human Resource Ministry scaling down the proposal of a national institute of studies in Guru Granth Sahib and favouring the Centre for Research on Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to Amritsar on September 1, 2004, for the 400th year celebration of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib had declared the institute of studies in Guru Granth Sahib.

Rejecting the proposal of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and formation of a committee headed by Dr G. K. Chadha, former vice-chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Professor Kapoor has said the composition of the committee constituted by the chairman, UGC, surprised him.

Scholars on the committee, except Prof Pritam Singh, a former professor of Guru Nanak Studies, Amritsar, have no grounding in Gurmat Studies or Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Professor Kapoor, who helped prepare a draft for the institute, has pointed to the chairman, UGC, in a letter.

"Following the anouncement by the Prime Minister, the UGC, the HRD Ministry and GND University have started action. They constituted experts’ panels to deliberate on the issue. The UGC acted as a nodal office. A brainstorming session of scholars and educationists like Dr J. S. Neki, Dr Amrik Singh, Dr Mohinder Singh and Prof Pritam Singh was held. At a meeting of one such committee, it recommended an autonomous institute with a distinct character on the lines of other autonomous institutes established and funded by the UGC. The HRD Ministry gave nod to the proposal. Thereafter, the whole exercise remained in the hands of the Human Resource Ministry."

Professor Kapoor wants the scope of study to be widened for an identity of its own as the research methodology followed in our universities is traditional.


Degrees conferred on 892
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
Degrees were conferred on 892 postgraduates and graduates by former Chief Justice of India R.C.Lahoti at the 50th convocation of DAV College here yesterday.

Delivering the convocation address, Justice Lahoti exhorted the pass-outs to develop scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry to make India a corruption-free nation.

Justice Lahoti said education was not the amount or information stuffed into the brains of students so that it runs riot there, undigested, but the means to character-building, which led to the overall development of personality.

Principal R.S. Sharma, general secretary, DAV Managing Committee, New
Delhi, presided.


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