P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Protesting teachers lathi-charged
Were demanding regularisation of services
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 6
Hardly had the heat from the caning of anganwadi teachers in Bathinda died down, when the police lathi-charged hundreds of contractual computer teachers here today. 

The teachers had temporarily held local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia hostage.

Although the protesters had announced their programme, no efforts had been made by the police to control them, which included over 100 women. Ten protesters, many of whom were injured, were taken into custody, but later let off in the evening.

The teachers, marching under the banner of the Computer Teacher Union (Contractual), from all over the state, had been assembling at the BMC Chowk, from where they marched to the nearby Desh Bhagat Yadgaar Hall, where the minister was to address a gathering.

The police had a hard time controlling the crowd that refused to budge from the main gate of the hall. As soon as the minister came out, he was greeted with anti-government and anti-BJP slogans.

Kalia was taken unawares and initially refused to talk to them. On this, the girls lay in front of his car parked in the compound and refuse to move. Requests of the police, too, fell on deaf ears and tempers ran high on both sides.

At this, the police made a human wall around the car and up to the main gate. Some cops began dragging the girls lying in front of the car. As soon as the car sped away, the policemen chased away the protesters in various directions.

In the absence of women cops, the women were chased away by male cops. The agitators assembled at Namdev Chowk and blocked traffic for at least an hour.

Sensing that things could go out of hand, a five-member delegation was escorted to the minister’s residence who assured them that the CM had agreed to meet them after a fortnight.

Earlier, Pawan Sharma, patron of the outfit, said this was the second time that they had been cane-charged. We were also caned at Sultanpur Lodhi a couple of months ago.

The reason for protest was that the SAD-BJP manifesto had promised to regularise our services.

In case the government fails to give us our due, we would be forced to intensify our agitation, protesters warned.


Maximum damage to wheat in Jalandhar, Ferozepur
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 6
Wheat crop in Jalandhar and Ferozepur districts suffered the maximum damage during the past two-day spell of wind and rain, with the Punjab Agriculture Department receiving reports of extensive damage to crops in 27,000 hectares across the state.

According to a compilation done by the department here, as much as 25 to 50 per cent crop damage has been recorded in 27,000 hectares. Besides, the wheat crop has been partially damaged in 2.25 lakh hectares of land in the state.

Agriculture Department director Balwinder Singh Sidhu said there had been extensive damage to wheat crop due to the combination of strong winds accompanied by rain. He said besides Jalandhar and Ferozepur, wheat crop in Moga, Barnala and Tarn Taran districts had also suffered extensive damage.

If one is to go by cluster-wise damage, the maximum number of affected villages are in Makhuwala in Ferozepur, where 27 villages have reported widespread damage. Besides, 11 villages in Nurmahal and eight in Lohian blocks, both of Jalandhar district, have also reported losses.

According to the agriculture department, it will take another four to five days to assess the detailed losses due to the inclement weather. Only after this, the government will take a decision of special girdawaris to be conducted in specific areas.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, while reacting to the widespread losses, alleged that the government was not moving fast enough to ensure appropriate relief to the affected farmers. She said the Congress party had decided to constitute district-level committees to take up the cases of farmers who had suffered losses to ensure they got compensation from the government. She claimed this was being done as the government had acted in a partisan manner while doling out relief to families of farmers who had committed suicide.

Punjab Youth Congress president Vijayinder Singla said Youth Congress workers were also working to provide succour to affected farmers.

Special girdawari sought

Amritsar (TNS): Various farmer associations have sought special girdawari (record of land cultivated) to assess the actual damage to crops caused by rain and hailstorms during the past few days.

Stating this in a statement to the media here today, Satnam Singh Pannu, president, Kassan Sangarsh Committee, Punjab, said they had decided to gherao the deputy commissioner’s offices in the state to pressurise the government to immediately order special girdawari in the state.

He said there had been considerable damage to the standing wheat crop and vegetables, and the farmers need to be compensated for this.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal should take stock of the situation and immediately order special girdawari and adequate compensation to the farmers at the earliest, Pannu demanded. 


M.S. Gill’s inclusion in Union Cabinet hailed
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 6
The sports fraternity of the country in general and Punjab in particular could not have asked for more. The induction of former chief election commissioner Manohar Singh Gill, a retired bureaucrat and now a member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), as sports minister in the Union Cabinet reshuffle today has been widely lauded. Players, sports administrators and politicians of the state have greeted the move.

With his inclusion in the Union Council of Ministers, Punjab’s representation has gone up to three, with Ashwani Kumar and Ambika Soni already holding ministerial assignments in the UPA government.

Pawan Bansal, though from Punjab, represents Chandigarh in the Union ministry.

Leaders of many parties, including Shiromani Akali Dal, and Lok Bhalai Party, have hailed the inclusion of Gill in the Union Cabinet.

Tarlochan Singh, Rajya Sabha member from Haryana, and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, president, Punjab Olympic Association, have expressed the hope that the induction of Gill as Union sports minister would provide the much-needed support the Indian sports needs in the year of Olympic Games.

“It is yet another gift of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Punjab, once sports arm of the country,” remarked Teja Singh Dhaliwal, Ludhiana-based sports administrator and organiser. “We had opportunities to work with Manohar Singh Gill when he was serving Punjab as a bureaucrat. His love for sports, especially hockey, football and indigenous sports like kabaddi, is well known. It was during his tenure that the Punjab Mandi Board raised its kabaddi and other teams.”

Gill has a challenging task of reviving his first love game hockey in the country. His immediate task is to help the IHC in securing the right to host the 2010 World Cup for men in New Delhi. The FIH has been holding out veiled threats to withdraw the prestigious event from India for its unsatisfactory response to project Promote Indian Hockey.

Though the Indian Hockey Confederation has been at the receiving end for its failure to get the national men’s team qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in 80 years, Gill will have to convince Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, IHC chief, to work out new and effective strategies for taking the game to its pristine glory.

“It is a welcome sign for revival of both conventional and indigenous sports,” says Sukhvir Singh Grewal, chief organiser of Rural Olympics at Kila Raipur. “He has been an ardent supporter of rural and indigenous sports. He understands sports than most of the ministers who held this portfolio in the past.”

Gill, an alumnus of Government College, Ludhiana, during his tenure as development commissioner of Punjab, launched several schemes for the welfare of youth and development of sports in the state, in general, and border areas, in particular.

Umrao Singh, president, Athletic Federation of India, also complimented Dr Manmohan Singh for the move.

Raj Kumar of the Punjab Volleyball Association also lauded the appointment of Manohar Singh Gill.

AMRITSAR (TNS): The elevation of former CEC and Rajya Sabha member Manohar Singh Gill as minister in the Union government has brought cheers in various circles here, as it will provide him an opportunity for the overall development of the border district of Tarn Taran.

Harminder Singh Gill, in charge of the Congress party in Patti tehsil, talking to The Tribune on phone today, said the elevation of Dr Gill was in recognition of his services in various fields in this border belt.

Gurminder Singh Rataul, chairman, Market Committee, Jagjit Singh Pannu, member, Railway Board, Mukhtar Singh, FCI workers union leader, also hailed the elevation of Dr Gill as Union minister.


Centre to fund 5 health schemes
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 6
The Punjab government has got central grants for various health-related schemes, approved for five new schemes from the Union Health Ministry that includes a special programme for the cancer-ridden Malwa region.

Punjab health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla had met union health minister A. Ramdoss in Delhi and claimed five central schemes had been cleared, a spokesperson said today. These schemes are for hospitals situated along national highways in Punjab, establishment of drug de-addiction centre, a special campaign for the control of cancer in Malwa region of Punjab, for anti-rabies vaccine and adequate medical help for the patients of haemophilia and hepatitis C.

Chawla said the government of India had sought project report for all these schemes. She said the government had also agreed to the setting up of ayurvedic and homoeopathic wings in all allopathic hospitals at district headquarters in Punjab. She added earlier the scheme was initiated in seven hospitals.


MP rallies against inflation
Tribune News Service

Nangal, April 6
Hoshiarpur MP Avinash Rai Khanna rallied against the inflation today. Khanna participated in the cycle rally held by the Bharat Yuva Morcha on the occasion of BJP Sthapana Diwas. Around 150 party workers rallied on cycles from the Nangal main market to the truck union covering a distance of around 2 km.

Holding the UPA government responsible for the steep price hike of essential commodities, including eatables, Khanna said the Congress had failed to live up to the expectations of the common man. He added that the government should review its policies and provide relief to people. He added, "The demand and supply balance needs to be maintained on an urgent basis."


Minister skips BJP installation ceremony
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, April 6
Differences in the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) unit here came to a fore when Punjab transport minister and local MLA Master Mohan Lal ignored a function organised to mark the BJP installation ceremony here. Instead of joining the celebration of the party’s installation, the minister attended a private function organised by a garment merchant in the city.

This is not for the first time that Master Mohan Lal was seen absent from the such a function organised by his party. The minister had abstained from visiting Gurdaspur member of Parliament Vinod Khanna during his visits to Pathankot. The minister had also ignored a meeting of the BJP chaired by Punjab forest minister Tikshan Sud here in March.

Today the minister attended as chief guest a lucky draw organised by the owner of a garment store.

District president of the BJP Satish Mahajan said Master Mohan Lal Sharma was invited by the BJP Pathankot 'mandal' president by giving him a formal invitation at his residence.

BJP state general secretary Ashwani Shamra, who also was present at the installation ceremony, said, "I came to know from district BJP president and general secretary Satish Mahajan and Vibhu Prakas, respectively, that Sharma was invited. I suppose he might be busy somewhere else." 


Pay panel’s terms copies burnt
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 6
Expressing resentment against the Punjab Pay Commission, members of various employees’ organisations, Democratic Teachers Front (DTF), Government Teachers Union (GTU) and Technical and Mechanical Employees Union (TMEU), yesterday burnt copies of terms and references of the commission at the traffic lights chowk, near the main bus stand here.

The employees, under the leadership of Master Tarsem Lal (DTF), Sarbjit Singh (GTU) and Baljit Singh Badrukhan (TMEU), took out a protest march from the local District Administrative Complex (DAC) to the traffic lights chowk, raising slogans against the Badal government and alleged that terms and references of the Pay Commission were “anti-employee”.

Addressing the rally, Master Tarsem Lal said the state government had suggested that the commission promote service deliveries in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode with a view to appoint employees in government departments on contract basis.


Role of Police During Militancy
Dal Khalsa for probe panel
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 6
Demanding a probe into human rights violations in Punjab, the Dal Khalsa here today said the role of a section of the state policemen from 1984 to 1995 was suspect.

In a letter to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, party general secretary Kanwar Pal Singh expressed disappointment over the inability of the CM in setting up a commission to probe the alleged extra-constitutional role and methods of certain police higher-ups during militancy.

"It is highly regretful that your political willingness to nail former Punjab DGP S.S. Virk has ended up as a futile exercise. His suspension has been revoked by the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh,” reads the letter.

“Apart from arresting him, your inability to move a step further in probing his extra-constitutional role and methods during militancy period, has disappointed the Sikhs at large,” said he.

The Dal Khalsa asked Badal to bring all guilty officers to book who worked outside the ambit of law as cats, having allegiance to officers and not the Constitution.

To reinforce people's faith in democracy and rule of law, the Dal Khalsa asked Badal to set up a commission to investigate the role of the state police during militancy. “The demand is part of our renewed attempt to revitalise respect for human rights in Punjab,” said Kanwar Pal Singh.


Non-arrest of Arhtiya
Farmers hold dharna 
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 6
Activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) today held a dharna and demonstration in front of the Dirba police station, about 25 km from here, against the failure of the police in arresting an arhtiya Mangat Rai.

They also raised slogans against the police and took out a protest march from the Dirba grain market to the police station. They were seeking arrest of the arhtiya in a case registered against him and another person Harmesh Kumar, a pesticide seller, under Sections 306 and 34 of the IPC at the Dirba police station in connection with the suicide, allegedly committed by farmer, Pargat Singh (22), of Janal village (4 km from Dirba), by consuming some poisonous substance in his fields some days ago.

Talking to The Tribune over phone today, the senior vice-president of the district unit of the BKU (Ugrahan) Darbara Singh Chhajla said they had once again given two days’ time to the police to arrest the arhtiya, otherwise they would block traffic on the Sangrur-Delhi national highway at Dirba on April 9.

He said they lifted their dharna when the SHO of the Dirba police station assured them that the arhtiya would be arrested in two days. Chhajla said they wanted a government job for a family member of the deceased farmer Pargat Singh and Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the family of the deceased.

He said their main demand was arrest of the arhtiya, though the police had already arrested Harmesh Kumar, another accused, in the case.

Dirba SHO said he had assured the protesters that the arhtiya would be arrested in two to three days. In her complaint to the police, Karamjit Kaur, mother of deceased Pargat Singh, had named Mangat Rai and Harmesh Kumar as accused by saying that these persons had been harassing her son on account of money matters, as they had taken signature on blank promissory note from her family and had filed a case in a court at Sunam to take money from the family.

Due to this, her son had got depressed. On the basis of the complaint, the police had registered a case against Mangat Rai and Harmesh Kumar.


Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
British priest regrets UK soldiers’ role
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 6
“I feel regret and shame at the thought of soldiers from my birthplace firing indiscriminately on innocent Indians at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919,” said Priest Jean Mayers at the office of Diocese of Amritsar here recently.

Born and brought up in the UK, Mayers, a priest of Haywood Ticktoria in Australia, is here as part of a 12-member delegation. “Visiting the scene of the firing, I was moved by the well into which scores of people jumped during the massacre. The bullet marks are still intact on walls. My heart is filled with remorse and I hang my head in shame,” he said.I apologise for the British army’s act during India’s struggle for Independence. Inside the memorial, I got the feeling as if I was at a holy place.”

The delegation from Australia, led by Dr Robert Boss, is here to participate in a seminar on communal harmony organised by Guru Nanak Study Department of Guru Nanak Dev University here.

Growing religious fanaticism across the world that had sparked violence in some countries was the topic of the seminar. More interaction among people from different religions was emphasised. Bishop Pradeep Kumar said though history couldn’t be undone, kind words of Mayers would gave solace to those who had lost their dear ones in the massacre.

Danial B.Das, coordinator, socio economic development programme, said there were still certain countries in the world occupying areas without the wish of the local people and it needed to be condemned.


Punjab Sahit Akademi Elections
Tiwana, Gurbhajan Gill vie for top post
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
Differences in the Punjabi Sahit Akademi have become public with press conferences and press notes to woo writer voters. Elections to the Akademi are on April 13 at Punjabi Bhavan.

Supporters of Dr Dalip Kaur Tiwana organised a press conference where two candidates announced to withdraw in her favour. Gurbhajan Gill, being portrayed as "a rebellious child," issued his agenda for the Akademi polls, separately. At the press conference, it was also announced that Dr Deepak Manmohan Singh had withdrawn in favour of Dr Tiwana which was denied by him.

Dr Singh said, "I have not withdrawn at all. There is bad politics going on in the Akademi where self-interests are dominating. I will withdraw in case the Akademi agrees on a consensus candidate".

At another press conference, Harjinder Walia said N.Tasneem and Sukhjit, Punjabi writers, had withdrawn in favour of Tiwana. Both were present on the occasion and confirmed their withdrawal. Walia said, "Tiwana is a towering figure in Punjabi writing and just her name should be sufficient for others to withdraw”.

Surjit Pattar, a former president, said it was a matter of great pride that for the first time a woman was in the fray for the post of president of the Akademi in the state. She is bigger than the awards conferred on her, he said.

The announced panel candidates included Sukhdev Singh Sirsa for the post of general secretary, and Avtar Jaura, Dr Anoop Singh, Biba Balwant, Harjinder Walia and Dr Karamjit Singh.

Tiwana said, "I don't know any groups in the Akademi. I was goaded with a strong feeling to do something worthwhile for Punjabi literature." Reacting to Gill's candidature she said, “He is a just a rebellious child in the literary family".

In a separate press note Gurbhajan Gill said, "If elected president of the Akademi, one priority would be to make sure that, with the help of the state government, all Punjabi writers above 60 years of age should get insured under a health insurance scheme."

Gill said, "For me, the post of the president of the Akademi, Ludhiana, is like a responsibility and not any higher post." The main issues on Gill's agenda include getting entertainment tax waived from all theatre activities in the state; ensuring that Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabhas and other literary organisations in villages and cities get proper financial assistance from the state government; getting the Library Act enacted; providing assistance to new Punjabi writers for getting books published; and getting at least 10 rooms constructed for Punjabi writers.


Nod to 25 rural water supply schemes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 6
The state government has approved 25 rural water supply schemes worth Rs 4.50 crore for the Majitha constituency.

Stating this, Bikram Singh Majithia, information and public relations minister, while inaugurating 13 development works, worth Rs 1.60 crore in the constituency, alleged that the Majitha constituency had remained ignored for a long time, as successive governments failed to announce any development work for this constituency.

He said only 37 water supply schemes had been approved in the constituency for the past 60 years.

The works that were inaugurated today included the construction of a “pulli” (bridge) and six overhead water tanks for supplying water to rural areas under the rural water supply schemes.

He said it was for the first time that the state government had started mini and micro water works projects for small and medium-level villages to provide neat and safe drinking water for this constituency.

Out of the six water schemes inaugurated, four were of mini water works. In the coming days, 19 development schemes would be launched in 19 villages.

Nearly, 6,850 persons would be benefited from these schemes and 1,300 families able to get private water connections. Concession has been provided to get the water connection, as people had to give only Rs 500 instead of Rs 1,000.

The reserve category people would have to give only Rs 250 for these connections, the minister informed.


PSEB’s slew of benefits for re-employed retd engineers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 6
Instead of removing several engineers, who have been re-employed as advisors or in some other capacity after retirement, the PSEB authorities have announced a good deal of benefits for them.

They will be entitled for a mobile set according to the nature of duty and as decided by the committee. They would also be entitled for conveyance, local outdoor and local outdoor travelling allowances as admissible to regular working officers, 6 per cent increase per annum on fixed salary, TA and DA as admissible to regular working officers, over time and compensation in case of accident and residential accommodation if available.

Sources said there were certain chief engineers, superintending engineers and lower-level officials, who have been re-employed after retirement at various levels by the PSEB. A Punjab government spokesman had claimed that they would be removed after by March 31, but so far nothing has happened in this regard. Only Padamjit Singh, who was re-employed after retirement, has quit on his own.

Whereas retired engineers and other officials are being re-employed, the PSEB’s accumulated loss has gone up to Rs 6,500 crore. In its annual revenue requirement

(ARR) submitted to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission, the PSEB authorities had urged it to increase the tariff to the extent that it could collect Rs 5,400 crore from power consumers to meet its financial requirements during the current fiscal year.

Sources said the PSEB even allowed facility of free power to a re-employed retired engineer on the pattern of working chief engineers. Instead of re-employing him on contract, he has been allowed the last pay drawn by him on the date of retirement. It includes basic pay plus DP and DA and other allowances. However gross basic pension amount will be deducted from it.

The PSEB Engineers Association has strongly opposed all sorts of re-employment of retired engineers except in the rarest of the rare cases.

“If the PSEB can spare money to pay salary and other benefits to re-employed retired engineers and other officers, where is need to ask for enhancing the tariff to collect Rs 5,400 crore from people to run the PSEB”, asked a senior leader of the Bharti Kisan Union. The PSEB has enough jobs for retired engineers and other officials, but not for fresh engineer graduates, he said.

Transferred four times

In the past three months, the PSEB has transferred a chief engineer four times. How many times he will be transferred during the remaining year, it is not known. 

The chief engineer is Mohinder Singh Dua who has been virtually kicked like a football. On January 1, 2008, he was transferred as chief engineer, SO and C, Ablowal, from the post of chief engineer, Material Management. On February 29, he was shifted from Ablowal to the post of chief engineer, Substation, from where he was transferred to the office of chief engineer thermal design on March 3. On March 31, he was shifted to the office of chief engineer (Workshop) at Ludhiana. In fact, it is his fifth transfer. 


Ring ceremony function marred
Firing by cop injures 3
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune New Service

Batala, April 6
Ring ceremony celebrations at a marriage palace turned sour when a Punjab Police head constable fired in the air from his licensed revolver and left his three relatives injured, one of them critical, here this evening.

The incident occurred at Gill Palace at Kapuri Gate of the town at 4 pm when head constable Gurdev Singh, deployed with Amritsar additional deputy commissioner (development) Praneet Bhardwaj, took out his revolver (.32 bore) and fired three shots. He was here to attend ring ceremony of his brother-in-law Balram Kumar's son Sonu.

According to eyewitnesses, Gurdev fired in the air following which a bullet after hitting the roof reversed and whizzed past the temple of his relative Pankaj Kumar (11). His two other relatives also received minor injuries from the splinters in the incident.

Injured Pankaj Kumar was taken to the Civil Hospital, Batala, for medication. While the two others were given medical assistance at home.

SSP, Batala, R.N. Dhoke said the cop had been arrested and a case registered at Civil Lines police station. The matter would also be taken up with the Amritsar deputy commissioner, he said. 


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