P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Armed with Rs 700-cr grant,
Kanwaljit set to revolutionise cooperatives 
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 4
After a sustained struggle, cooperatives minister Kanwaljit Singh has succeeded in his efforts to make the union government agree to pay Rs 700 crore to deal with the losses of the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies, 40 per cent of which are defaulters. Most of the defaulter societies are defunct.

“Earlier, the Vaidyanathan Committee had only recommended one-time grant of Rs 82 crore for such societies in Punjab. But, after I lodged a strong protest and met union finance minister P. Chidambaram, the one-time grant had now been enhanced to Rs 700 crore for 3,500 societies. I have envisaged a new role to make these self-sustaining,” said Capt Kanwaljit Singh while speaking to The Tribune here today.

Besides wiping out the losses of the societies, a major initiative had been launched to reform the cooperative movement by making a beginning from the societies, which were its backbone. Administrative set-up would also be upgraded and these would be inter-linked online and also with cooperative banks. Capt Kanwaljit Singh said to generate additional income some new tasks had set for the societies. For instance, mobiles, mobile connections and re-charge coupons were being provided through societies at a rate 30 per cent less compared to the market price.

The societies had a captive base of 50 lakh people who are its members in the state, he added. The societies would collect power bills in villages and earn Rs 8 as commission for depositing each bill with the PSEB. The minister said efforts were being made to make societies adapt to changing scenario of globalisation. Accordingly, these would also perform the task of money-changer for Punjabis settled abroad.

He said timings for financial transactions by cooperative banks had been enhanced from 2 pm to 4 pm. “A new revolution has been initiated in the cooperative moment,” he asserted.

Offices of the societies would work on the pattern of shopping malls and they would provide household items, including grocery, two wheelers, TV, fridge, etc, at much cheaper rates to its members and that too at their doorstep, said Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

Earlier, societies were only engaged in selling fertilisers and pesticides

He said the societies would construct buildings like shops, godowns, etc, at their vacant land and provide it to the unemployed to help them start their own business.


Innocence only can save Sarabjit: Burney
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 4
Pakistan’s former rights minister and UN Human Rights Council advisory committee member Ansar Burney today made it clear that nothing much could be hoped for, if Indian prisoner on the death row in Pakistan, Sarabjit Singh, was actually involved in bomb blasts.

Talking to the media after holding an informal conversation with Punjab State Human Rights Commission chairperson Justice R.S. Mongia and its other members at the commission’s office in Sector 34, Burney said Sarabjit’s release hinged on his innocence. And the whole process of examining the evidence against, and in his favour, was “likely to take some time”.

“Every one present here would agree that militants and terrorists involved in the killings of innocent people do not deserve any sympathy,” he asserted. “But, even if there is 1 per cent doubt about his involvement in the bomb blasts, Sarabjit would not be hanged.”

Sarabjit, hailing from Bhikhiwind town, near Amritsar, has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in blasts in Pakistan in 1990. He was to be hanged on March 31, but his execution had been postponed till April 30, following intervention by the Indian government.

Burney added he had requested the Punjab government in India to authenticate the FIR in which Sarabjit had been shown as missing from Bhikhiwind in 1990. The copy of the FIR was given to him by Sarabjit’s family.

“I am not even for a second doubting the authenticity of the FIR. But, once the government here validates it, my hands will be further strengthened. It will make a very strong case for Sarabjit’s release,” he added.

Burney added other evidence in form of a compact disc, handed over by the family to him, would be minutely examined. He would also talk to the witness concerned in Pakistan for finding out whether he was then, or now, telling the truth.

“I ensured Kashmir’s release, and on his return to India he said he was a spy. Needless to say, it created an awkward situation for me.”

Burney revealed as of now there were anywhere between 300 and 400 Indian prisoners in Pakistan, and nearly 600 Pakistanis in the Indian prisons. The figures included fishermen.

The procedure regarding the release of the fishermen should be made less cumbersome as “water had no boundaries” and straying into alien territory was easy.

Burney insisted otherwise also the governments of both countries should stop talking in terms of exchange of prisoners and simply release those found innocent, along with the ones who had already undergone the sentence.


‘Ranjit Sagar may host C’wealth water sports’
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, April 4
In an effort to tap tourism potential in Dhar block of Gurdaspur district, especially Ranjit Sagar Dam, certain events of water sports of the Commonwealth Games to be held in 2010 might be organised here. A team of the Indian Racking Association had already chalked out the feasibility of these sports at the dam, claimed actor-turned politician Vinod Khanna.

Khanna, who is also an MP from Gurdaspur seat, said efforts were being made to organise international water sports at this water body, which would help in promoting tourism in the border areas of the state.

Giving credit to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for promoting tourism in Dhar block, the MP said the Chief Minister had already taken up the issue with the UN Tourism Council and a council team had also visited the site. The state government even had given some money to the council for helping to develop the area as one of the best tourist destination in the country.

Replying to a query on union minister of state for industry Ashwani Kumar taking credit for setting up a civil airport at Pathankot, Vinod Khanna said, “Let him take credit for the jobs which I did.” He said the issue of cancellation of flights by Air Deccan had been taken with the union minister of civil aviation and he had given an assurance that certain airlines would introduce flights which would halt at the Pathankot airport.

“In absence of air, train and road routes it is not possible to develop this areas as a major tourist spot,” he felt.

When asked if transport minister Master Mohan Lal was willing to contest parliamentary elections from Gurdaspur, Khanna in a lighter vein said there were a number of aspirants here and any one could be a candidate.


Youth Cong ex-chief expelled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 4
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) today expelled its former state Youth Congress president Raminder Singh Awla from the party for six years for indulging in “anti-party activities”.

According to PPCC general secretary Rajpal Singh, the decision to expel Awla was taken by PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal following a report submitted by the Ferozepur District Congress Committee.

Congress sources said the fact that his father Dr Harbhajan Singh had joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was one of the major reasons for this action. They said Awla’s father was a candidate for the BSP ticket from the Ferozepur seat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.


Experts to study Golden Temple environs
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 4
To check rising humidity levels, that might affect Golden Temple’s sanctum sanctorum, experts from across the world will exchange views as part of an initiative taken by the state government.

In an interview with The Tribune, Professor of urban planning Paolo Ceccarelli, from Centro Ricerche Urbane Territoriali E Ambientali, Italy, said it was crucial to properly plan restoration work in a way that environment, particularly humidity, did not damage the historic buildings on the temple complex.

After an extensive survey of the complex this morning, Professor Ceccarelli said: “Application of cement on structures that originally had no traces of it and were built with mud and jaggery, causes more harm than good.”

“Each building breathes like a human body and the restoration, conservation and maintenance work should ensure that it is not chocked. The cement plaster does not gel with the basic character of the historic buildings,” he said.

Professor Ceccarelli said the state government had given him the go-ahead to constitute a panel of experts from across the world to carry out restoration work on the complex to make sure “the sense of sanctity is not diluted” and humidity due to the presence of the sarovar did not create problems.

“There are bathroom tiles plastered on the tombs and the marble in the parikarma is slippery at several places and could be replaced with a better material which gives a more historic look,” he said.

He added that he was surprised to find trees with rubber tubes tied to them and their branches hung up in different directions. “This is no less than mummification of the trees. These little things aggravate the problem and need to be immediately addressed.”

The tall water tower and hotel buildings in close vicinity of the religious place also affect the environment of the place and their impact would also be studied by the panel.

Professor Ceccarelli was accompanied by his wife, Prof Laura Balbo, former member of Parliament, Italy, Gurjot Singh, a young architect who assists Professor Ceccarelli.


This village is on mission eye donation
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Bhanour (Ludhiana), March 4
This historical village, situated 14 km from Ludhiana, has become the new address of eye donation in the region and probably the country.

With 50 persons already seeing the varied hues of nature, courtesy eyes donated by residents of this village, life of 500 more would brighten up in due course of time, as another 250 residents have already pledged their eyes.

Ex-servicemen, teachers, farmers, farm labourers, their wives and children, Dalits, Jats and Brahmins, who led common lives and yet died with such noble cause - all figure in the illustrious list.

Much before VIPs and acclaimed sportspersons had hit headlines over pledging to donate their bodies, villagers had started pledging their eyes in 1998.

Janak Raj, an ex-servicemen, became a “proud father” after the death of 17-year-old son in a road accident and of a young daughter due to some illness. Both are still living, with four persons seeing the world through their eyes.

Kuldip Singh, a dairy farmer, also walks with his head held high. He had donated the eyes of his old mother and young brother, both of whom had died due to illness. "Their eyes are shining somewhere. It is a nice thought for me to live my life on," he said.

The motivation behind the noble cause is also interesting. He is a Punjab Police head constable, Balwinder Singh Bhattal, with a flowing beard and calming influence.

Bhattal is credited with motivating 2,000 persons in and out of Ludhiana district to pledge their eyes. It is a record of sorts, but the humble worker prefers to be a silent reaper. "I am not doing this for a reward. Something inside me inspired me to motivate others."

He was the first to pledge his eyes before inspiring others. Apart from regularly filling "I pledge my eyes" forms, he visits any home where a death has occurred. In his words, the most difficult part of his job is to talk about and convince the wailing and mourning relatives about donating the eyes of their loved one. More often than not he succeeds.

Not resting with eye donation only, Bhattal has pledged his body to the DMC hospital for use after his death. He has inspired 14 others to do the same, "The DMC hospital has helped me a lot in this endeavour. They provide all facilities for the purpose, whereas other hospitals in the city want the relatives to bring the body on their own."


Waiting to meet the real one
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 4
For a moment one feels that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is greeting you with folded hands. The similarity is so stunning. But then as one looks carefully one realises that this is an almost perfect copy of the original. Though this model can find a place of pride at the Madame Tussaud museum, its creator Parwinder Singh, who is a scooter mechanic, rues the complete lack of attention by the Chief Minister.

“I made this statue in 2000. I had seen Parkash Singh Badal only on television and with the help of his pictures in newspapers I created this model. It took me months. The height and bone structure had to be perfectly matched. All details were taken into account,” said Parwinder.

The result shows. Even the moles on the Chief Minister’s face have been taken care of. The beard looks real and the right wrist has a kara. It is like the man himself, dressed in a white kurta pyjama and blue jacket. “I had to hunt extensively for the glass frames to match what the Chief Minister wore,” he said.

“I have been trying to show the statue to the Chief Minister for the past eight years. Once, I came to know that he was coming to a function at Mullanpur Garibdass. I took the statue all the way there but the police did not allow me to enter the venue. They wanted to check it for security reasons. But they kept it in the police station for three days and I missed the opportunity,” he said. It remained with Morinda MLA Ujagar Singh Badali and was later shifted to the house of Mohali Akali leader Bubbi Badal.

Working with fibre glass and clay, Parwinder has created statues of Sikh martyrs. A museum showcasing his works is located on the Mohali-Landran road at Lakhnaur and attracts many visitors.

“The museum is located in a makeshift shed on the land of a friend. Being a mechanic I do not have the resources to set up my own museum. But I thought that by making a model of the Chief Minister he might get impressed and help me relocate my works to a proper museum,” he said.

“I feel that the coming generations are forgetting the glorious past of the Sikhs and there is a need to showcase it. Other than the figures of Sikh martyrs I have recreated whole scenes from pages of Sikh history,” he said. 


Joshi, supporters lay siege to chowki
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 4
Ruling party MLA Anil Joshi and his “private brigade” again protested against the police over the checking of vehicles of his supporter at a “special naka”, which was laid to check the rising incidence of snatching cases.

The BJP MLA and his supporters continued a siege to the Lawrence Road police chowki till midnight until a complaint was registered against the in charge, Harman Singh.

Though the MLA wanted either transfer of the assistant sub-inspector and other staff members, senior police officers were not ready to oblige him. Meanwhile, Joshi brought the matter to the notice of senior leaders of both the SAD and the BJP. However, the ASI alleged that the MLA misbehaved with him during duty hours.

He said the “private brigade” of Joshi tried to stop his vehicle and used harsh words against him as he was performing his duty.

The SP (city II) had a tough time defusing the situation as the MLA and his supporters continued to protest till midnight against the alleged “misbehaviour” with the BJP workers.

A few months ago, Joshi, along with his supporters, staged a dharna on Lawrence Road when the traffic police tried to challan a vehicle of one of his close friends.

The Dharna was lifted on the assurance of the SSP that the SHO would be placed under suspension.


Passengers stopped from boarding plane
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 4
Over 30 passengers of Air India, who claimed to have confirmed tickets of Air India’s Amritsar-Toronto flight from the Rajasansi International Airport here today, were not allowed to board the plane as the airline had reportedly overbooked the tickets.

Irate passengers alleged that the decision of the airline came as a rude shock for them. After waiting for several hours at the airport, they returned home. The airline did not care to provide them any hospitality.

Dalip Singh, a passenger, said though he had confirmed his tickets today, he was told by airline staff that this wasn’t the case. “We have been standing here since morning, but the airline has failed to give us proper information about the flight. A reputed airline like Air India should provide better services than this,” he said.

Despite repeated attempts, airline officials could not be contacted for comments.


More judicial officers needed: CJ
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, April 4
Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Vijender Jain said more judicial officers were needed to remove the huge backlog of cases in the high court and subordinate courts in the state. He was here to lay the foundation stone of a judicial complex at Nurpur Dona village, 3 km from here, this evening.

Interacting with the media at the Pushpa Gujral Science City, he said six lakh cases were pending in Punjab, while the pendency was 5.50 lakh in Haryana and one lakh in Chandigarh. As many as 2. 50 lakh cases were pending in the high court.

Attributing the high rate of pendency to the shortage of judicial officers, he said 41 more judicial officers were being appointed, besides 22 higher judicial officers by December or January next year to speedily clear the backlog and ease problems of the litigants.

He said there were no 10-year-old criminal cases pending in Haryana, while Punjab was lacking in this respect.

The CJ said the high court was giving priority in disposing of the cases of NRIs, widows, ex-servicemen and persons above 65 years.

Commenting on the setting up of special courts to deal with NRI cases, he said the high court had asked the government to increase the cadre in case they wanted to set up courts, especially for such cases.

Replying to a question on the setting up of more fast-track courts, Mr Chief Justice Jain said Central funds were required for setting up such courts and presently one fast-track court was functioning in every district of the state.


Woman DSP accuses  IG of harassment
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 4
A woman DSP with the Government Railway Police (GRP) has lodged a police complaint against an IG-rank officer, alleging that the said officer was harassing her.

In her DDR lodged with the Railways police at the Police Lines, Sukhdev Kaur, the DSP, has alleged that on April 2 she was asked by the her seniors to go on an inspection tour to Pathankot. However, IG Gurinder Pal Singh asked her to put her plans of going to Pathankot on hold.

She claimed that on the same night around 2 am, the IG, along with some junior officials, including some constables, arrived at her house on Bhadson road in an Innova. She added in the DDR that the IG kept sitting in the car while a junior official knocked on her door. Fearing the worst, she did not come out.

Sources disclosed that the officials accompanying the IG to Sukhdev’s residence admitted that they, along with the IG, had gone to her residence at night.

But the IG denied ever visiting Sukhdev’s house on April 2. 


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