P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Compulsory Use of Punjabi
House passes 2 resolutions
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha has unanimously passed two resolutions that will help promote and preserve Punjabi language. By the first resolution, the house sought making use of Punjabi mandatory for all government officials, including IAS and IPS officers working for the Punjab government.

The second resolution has sought that teaching of Punjabi should be made compulsory in all schools up to class X, irrespective of their affiliation to any board.

State education minister Upinderjit Kaur initiated the resolution after Congress MLA Ajit Inder Singh Mofar brought up a calling attention notice drawing the notice of the minister for languages towards the resentment among the people due to the non-implementation of the use of Punjabi language in the offices of the Punjab government.

The minister was quick to respond by saying that it was mainly IAS and IPS officers who did not follow the legislation on the use of Punjabi, suggesting that the Act in question be amended to make non-use of Punjabi punishable.“I recommend that the house brings a resolution making the use of Punjabi mandatory in all government offices and provide for disciplinary action against those who do not conduct regular work in Punjabi.”

The resolution was passed by voice vote. Subsequently, the second resolution to make teaching Punjabi compulsory till class X was also passed unanimously.

The government is now expected to bring an ordinance to implement these resolutions. Prior to bringing the resolution, the minister said instructions on the use of Punjabi in official work in government offices already existed. "However, it is the attitude of officials towards the Punjabi language that matters," she said while pointing towards the state’s bureaucrats.

Earlier in the day, in reply to a question raised by Charanjit Singh Channi on drug use in Punjab, health minister Lakshmi Kanta Chawla said that a survey conducted by the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), Chandigarh, some time ago had indicated a rise in the use of drugs. But she went on to add that the government was very concerned with the increasing drug use among girls, youth and the elderly.

She said drug menace was the biggest challenge before the state today. "As against a national average of 26 per cent, the total drug consumption in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh stood at 49.6 per cent. Around 38 per cent of youth are involved in taking drugs by syringes," she said.

Chawla said the commonly used drugs did not fall under the NDPS Act. Therefore, there was need to bring in laws to punish those guilty of selling scheduled drugs as intoxicants.

In reply to another calling attention notice read by Congress MLA Jassi Khangura, the health minister assured the house that hepatitis-C in Bukanwal village near Ahmedgarh was under control and government teams were keeping a strict watch on it.

In reply to a question about “power cuts during the ongoing examinations”, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal assured the house that till the exams were on, there would be no power cut in Punjab at night in order to facilitate the students in their studies.


Innovas for MLAs, says Speaker
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
Punjab MLAs will soon get new Innova vehicles. Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon announced this today in the Punjab Assembly responding the question raised by Congress MLA Avtar Singh Brar with regard to the non-implementation of many recommendations made by the General Purpose Committee of the House.

Kahlon said he discussed the issue with the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. “I assure you that soon you will get new vehicles,” he added.

Makhan Singh, another Congress MLA, raised some other issues related to MLAs. He asked for enhancing the quota of fuel for the escort vehicles of the MLAs. The reimbursement of bills paid by MLAs for buying fuel etc should be simplified.

Some other MLAs, including Charanjit Singh Channi, asked for enhancing the ex-gratia for dependents of deceased MLAs. Drawing the attention of the Speaker towards the increase announced by Haryana in various allowances, MLAs said same pattern should be followed in case of Punjab. 


Privately Managed School Employees Act amended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Punjab government today effected an important amendment in the Punjab Privately Managed Recognised School Employees (Security of Service) Act to make a provision to set up the Educational Tribunal in the state to redress the grievances of employees of aided and unaided educational institutions in the state.

Because of the amendment, the employees, who are subjected to punishment or termination from service by the management of private educational institutions, will now be able to approach the tribunal to get redressed their grievances. Dr Upinderjit Kaur, education minister, said the amendment had been effected to implement the direction given by the Supreme Court in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case.

The amendment will benefit thousands of teachers employed in private educational institutions in most of which exploitation of teachers in the form of paying less salary is a common feature.

By amending the Punjab School Education Board, the retirement age of chairman and vice-chairman of the Punjab School Education Board has been extended to 65 years from the existing 62 years.

Taking part in the discussion on this amendment, Makhan Singh, Congress MLA from Bathinda district, urged the government to extend the retirement age of all employees to 60 years as had been done in case of the Central government employees.

Through another amendment, the octroi in cantonment Boards at Ferozepur and Jalandhar has been waived and the Boards will be duly compensated for the financial loss to be suffered by them because of the abolishing of the octroi. There is no octroi in other parts of the state.

By effecting certain amendments in the Punjab Value Added Tax Act, provision has been made for brick kiln owners to pay tax in lumpsum on bricks. It will generate additional revenue of Rs 20 crore.

Another amendment in this Act has been made to collect tax on value addition in all petroleum products at source whereas earlier tax on value addition was collected from petroleum dealers. To avoid loss of revenue on paddy’s conversion to rice and its further sale at the inter-state level, another amendment has been effected in the VAT Act. A deemed assessment scheme has been introduced by making another amendment in this Act. 


For a change, poetry, amity ruled House
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Assembly’s budget session that concluded today was full of surprises. Biggest surprise was end of hostility between SAD leaders and those of the Congress.

Political rivalry is very much there between the SAD and the Congress leaders but it is no more bordering on enmity. Both SAD and Congress leadership has contributed to this. As there was no perceptible tension between the ruling coalition and the Opposition benches, the House witnessed a lot of humorous moments and exchange of friendly taunts among MLAs in the House.

At the end of today’s session Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon thanked the ruling coalition and the Opposition MLAs for a healthy discussion and constructive approach with regard to various issues bothering the state.

Other surprise was the love of many MLAs for poetry. Earlier, there used to be only Birdevinder Singh but now there are many MLAs who love to quote Punjabi and Urdu writers. Undoubtedly, the best of the lot is Manpreet Singh Badal, who loves to recite lines from the poems of late Dr Alama Iqbal. But he is equally at home as far as reciting lines from Punjabi and English poetry is concerned.

Balbir Singh Bath, Avtar Singh Brar, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, her brother Kuldeep Singh Bhattal, Makhan Singh, Harish Bedi and Anil Joshi were the MLAs who recited Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu couplets to score political points. Surjit Pattar appears to be their favourite. Interestingly, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has not mastered the art of reciting poetry. But he is a master in scoring political points by narrating appropriate folk tales and stories of conventional wisdom.

As far as fielding of questions is concerned, there is no match of Laxmi Kanta Chawla. She comes to the House well-prepared and leaves no doubt in the mind of the MLA(s) asking question from her. Some of the MLAs who have been elected for the first time or second time have emerged as good orators in the House. These include Charanjit Singh Channi, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Kuldeep Singh Bhattal,Jassi Khangura, Harish Bedi, Anil Joshi, Amarjit Singh Shahi, Makhan Singh, Sohan Singh Thandal, Harish Rai Dhanda, Ripjit Singh Brar, Ishar Singh Meharban, Ajit Inder Singh Mofar,Kanwarjit Singh Brar, Randeep Singh Nabha and Virsa Singh Valtoha, Ajit Singh Shant and Iqbal Singh Jhunda.


Sarabjit’s kin to submit fresh mercy plea
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 25
Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit Singh, who is on death row in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in the Lahore bomb blasts, will be travelling with other family members to submit a fresh mercy petition for her brother.

She was in the city this noon to apply for passports under the tatkal scheme and received the travel documents late in the evening. The passport of Dalbir’s husband, which was initially refused, was issued after removing some procedural hitches.

Those who will travel to Pakistan include Sukhpreet Kaur, Poonam and Swapandeep Kaur, wife and daughters of Sarabjit, respectively.

She said Ansar Burney, caretaker human rights minister, not only extended an invitation to the family to come but also assured her that the new government would reconsider the mercy petition and try to commute it to life imprisonment. The minister also said we would be allowed to meet Sarabjit in jail, she revealed.

“We all will be going to the Pakistan High Commission tomorrow to apply for visas so that family could cross over at the earliest,” she said. She said she would try to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari and even seek an appointment with President Pervez Musharraf.

“I will present the statement of Saleem Shoukhat, an eye witness in my brother’s case, wherein he has said that he had given the statement on the instructions of the prosecuting counsel and that he had never seen Sarabjit before that day,” she added. She said she would also meet the families of the blast case and urge them to seek her brother’s release since it was a case of mistaken identity. 


Flights from Pathankot to be discontinued
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Pathankot, March 25
Flights from the Pathankot airport to Delhi and Gagal airport in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh are likely to be discontinued from March 29. According to officials of the local airport authority, Air Deccan, which was running domestic flights from Pathankot, was earning low revenue and was planning to discontinue its flights from March 29.

Ashok Mahajan, MD of Pooja Tour and Travel, a booking centre of Air Deccan, said here today that a message had been received by him for not booking any seats from Pathankot airport to Delhi or Gagal airport. Mahajan said on the directions of the company he had stopped the booking.

The ticket booking office at the airport had also stopped the booking, he said.

Air Deccan presently has one flight from Delhi to Gagal airport with a 20 minutes halt at Pathankot.

According to sources, an average eight to 10 local passengers and high charges by the airport authorities had put economic pressure on the company. 


Arrest of Sondhi
Keep watch on bad elements, says Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal has asked all district presidents to keep watch on “bad elements” in the state, some of whom might try and act as party cadres to cover up their nefarious activities. The instruction followed the arrest of SAD youth wing leader Parshotam Lal Sondhi by the DRI with 22 kg of heroin in Amritsar recently.

“I have asked all district presidents to check credentials of party functionaries and identify those with "shady character", the party does not need such people”, he said answering questions at a press conference here this afternoon.

He added that first the Delhi rally and then panchayat polls had delayed the reorganisation of the party, which he added would be announced soon. 
About the release of Sarabjit Singh, held in Pakistan, Sukhbir said the Punjab government was adopting every possible method, to secure his release. “We are trying all official channels," he added.

Sukhbir announced he had taken upon himself to promote sports in Punjab. For this he would announce a strategy in two months. Sukhbir wants two international leagues for kabaddi and hockey to be held in coming months.

The SAD will recommend to the government to have annual awards for state sports, beginning this year. He said a comprehensive plan for sports was being prepared and it would be announced after all modalities were worked out.

The SAD was also in favour of setting up sport complexes in Punjab in collaboration with corporate houses, he disclosed.

He also said he would recommend to the Chief Minister to reconsider cases of sportspersons dismissed from the police by the previous government.

Sukhbir also thanked the Chief Minister and other legislators in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha for brining in a resolution making use of Punjabi compulsory in all government offices and teaching of Punjabi in schools up to class X.


Film shooting in Golden Temple
SGPC officials in fix, want shots deleted
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 25
Officials of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) are in a fix following actors Rekha and Rishi Kapoor, who were shooting for a Hindi feature film, “Sadiyaan,” at the Golden Temple, putting “kadah prasad” in the mouth of each other.

A worried SGPC official was seen requesting the director of the film Raj Kanwar with folded hands that the shot be deleted as the Darbar Sahib is not a picnic spot. However, it is yet to be seen whether the “highly objectionable scene” taken in gross violation of the Sikh maryada (tradition) will be deleted.

Information officer Jaswinder Singh Jassi, who was deputed to accompany the film crew, said he was not sure whether or not the scene would be there in the film as promised by the director.

The SGPC officials are in a quandary because they failed to brief the film actors about the maryada to before the shooting. However, another information officer Gurbachan Singh later told the director that they should be careful about the story that the son, born with the prayers offered at the Golden Temple, should not fall in bad company. At this, the film crew kept mum.

Meanwhile, devotees had to face a lot of inconvenience due to the shooting. So much so the Information Office was bolted from inside for about 2 hours to prevent the entry of mediapersons and devotees.

The film is primarily a love story covering post-Partition period. It will also star Shatrughan Sinha's son Luv.

The film crew also visited the border belt to shoot scenes under tight security cover. They also saw the Retreat ceremony at Attari Joint Check Post. Rishi Kapoor said it was for the first time he had witnessed the ceremony and found it the thrilling. 


2 cars, same No.
Dharmendra Joshi/Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 25
It may sound incredible! But it’s true that two vehicles with same number were seen at the same place near Magnolia Tourist Complex on the national highway in Kartarpur today. A Maruti 800 car and Ford Endeavour SUV were bearing the same registration number PJN 6 on their number plates.

Harinder Dhindsa, who was driving the Ford Endeavour SUV, claimed his closeness to Punjab chief parliamentary secretary Avinash Chander, MLA from Kartarpur.

Dhindsa told the additional SHO, “I am Avinash’s nephew. The sticker of MLA is also pasted on the windscreen. Who are you to ask me this question? It’s our government in Punjab, who can stop us to do whatever we want?” (Avinash da bhanja haigaan, MLA da sticker ve laga hai, tu kaun hunda mainu puchan wala, saadi apni sarkar a, saanu kon rok sakda).

Harinder Dhindsa also allegedly misbehaved with the additional SHO. The latter clearly stated everything in the DDR registered at the Kartarpur police station.

Actually, Dhindsa came near Magnolia Tourist Complex in support of the man who was driving the Maruti car with the same number. The Maruti hit Ram Chand’s car in the rear near the tourist complex when he ,along with other policemen, was reaching the complex at around noon to provide security to Indo-Pak bus during its routine halt there.

Ram Chand’s car was partially damaged in the collision. At this, Ram Chand asked him to show papers of his car. Instead of showing papers, he rang someone up. Within minutes, two vehicles, including the Ford Endeavour, reached there. When Dhindsa misbehaved with Ram Chand, the latter informed everything on phone to Kartarpur SHO Harjinder Singh.

Meanwhile, the Indo-Pak bus reached the tourist complex and Ram Chand, along with other policemen, started providing security to the bus. During that time, Dhindsa and his men fled from the spot.

MLA Avinash Chander told The Tribune, “He knows Dhindsa, but he is not my relative.” When asked about two vehicles with same number, he claimed ignorance about the incident. About the pasting of the sticker on the SUV, Avinash Chander said, “Sometime he uses Dhindsa’s vehicle.”


MC administrators
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Punjab government has appointed administrators of most municipal committees in Punjab where five-year term of the elected representatives had expired . The election to these committees is now due and is likely to take place before the end of the next month.

Sources in Punjab said term of elected representatives in most committees, barring a handful, had come to an end, but the government has appointed administrators in almost all municipal committees.

This is a technical necessity as the legislation pertaining to municipalities requires elections to be held if the term of the elected representatives expires.


Surveillance at airport upped
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 25
Close on the heels of the large seizure of heroin, the chief commissioner, Customs, has directed strict surveillance of all outgoing international flights from the Rajasansi International Airport.

Alarmed at the possibility of the airport being used as a major conduit for smuggling of narcotics, the Customs Department has stepped up strict vigilance and also posted extra anti-smuggling staff at the airport to monitor all outbound passengers and flights taking off from the airport.

Customs commissioner Talkeshwar Singh here today said instructions had been received from D.S. Sra, chief commissioner, Customs, Chandigarh, that security and surveillance had to be beefed up at Amritsar.

Singh said special instructions had been issued to deploy sniffer dog squads with immediate effect at the airport to identify baggages carrying contraband drugs.

He said the Customs authorities were contemplating to install latest deep-penetration colour X-ray machines at the airport, Attari international railway station and the joint check-post at Attari/Wagah.


Police medal awardees ‘living on a pittance’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
Ninetyfour-year-old Joginder Singh Pannu, who served in the British police and was honoured for his bravery with the Fire Service Medal on October 3, 1944, is surviving on a meagre allowance of Rs 750. Pannu’s case is not an isolated one.

Talking to mediapersons at a hotel in Sector 22, Col G.S. Sandhu, chairman. Majha Ex-Servicemen Human Rights Front, said, “I will request the Punjab Chief Minister to enhance the allowance of police medal awardees and bring it on a par with that of defence force personnel.”

Showing his medals with shaking hands, Pannu said, “I joined the British police force as ASI in 1938 and retired as DSP in 1974. I was awarded the Kings Police and Fire Service medals during my service. But I’m being given a pittance by the government as an incentive.”Recalling his experiences, Pannu said, “I investigated a case in which seven criminals were involved in a dacoity in Mukerian in 1956. The gang had killed the munshi of the police station and looted 12 rifles and ammunition.”

Pannu gets disheartened on comparing his annuity with that provided by the government to the Army’s gallantry award winners. “I am given a paltry allowance of Rs 750. However, the government revised the allowance of pre- and post-Independence gallantry awardees through a notification in May 2005. The monthly allowance of the winner of a pre-Independence gallantry award (Victoria Cross) was revised from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000. I just want the government to revise our annuity.”


‘TB causes infertility’
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 25
“A substantial proportion of female infertility is also caused by tuberculosis (TB). Besides this, the disease kills more women than any other infectious disease in India and also adversely affects the care of children of TB-affected mothers”.

These views were expressed by a chest and TB diseases expert and district TB officer Dr Surinder Singla while addressing a gathering at a seminar on “Health problems of females and their preventive and curative remedies” at the mini Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Saron village, about 10 km from here, today. 


SAD (A) to honour DRI officials
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 25
The SAD (Amritsar) here today alleged the central and state governments were not doing enough to check crime, adding that it would honour the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials who arrested SAD youth wing leader Parshotam Sondhi in Amritsar earlier this week.

At a press conference, Bhai Ram Singh, general secretary of the party, said “political patronage” to criminals in the state had put a question mark on the accountability of the state government.

“There have been incidents of recovery of narcotics and explosive material from political leaders in the state. It is a disturbing trend and a threat to society if the Centre does not smash this nexus,” he alleged.

The arrest of Sondhi was an example of how politicians were involved in illegal activities. “We demand a CBI inquiry into this issue so that the entire nexus is exposed,” he said.

“It is surprising that despite the presence of barbed wire and deployment of personnel of different security agencies, smuggling is going on across the international border. This brings to light lapses on part of the central

agencies as well,” he said.


High Court
Impersonating PM: No bail for lambardar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The High Court has dismissed the anticipatory bail plea of an Amritsar district-based lambardar, who had allegedly identified a person impersonating as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Pronouncing the directions on Jarnail Singh’s petition, Justice L.N. Mittal ruled: “According to the prosecution version, somebody impersonating as Manmohan Singh, son of Gurmukh Singh, resident of 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi, (the Prime Minister), executed a power of attorney in favour of Amit Chaudhary and got it registered.

“The executant of the power of attorney, who obviously impersonated as Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, was identified by the present petitioner, who is the lambardar of Khapar Kheri village in Amritsar district.”

Dismissing the petition, the Judge concluded: “Without meaning to express any opinion on the merits, the petitioner does not deserve the concession of anticipatory bail.”


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