P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Tariff Hike Rollback
PSEB to refund Rs 290 crore to consumers
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 11
In a populist move, the Punjab government has directed the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to refund the amount charged from consumers as per the revised tariff with effect from September 2007, even as the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) is yet to allow rollback of the tariff hike.

The PSEB has decided to refund around Rs 290 crore to the consumers in 12 installments. This despite the fact that the PSERC has asked for some “clarifications” on the board’s application which is still under consideration.

Board chairman Y.S. Ratra said following a direction from the government the board had decided to refund the amount charged as per the revised tariff in installments. When asked how this could be done when earlier the government had defaulted on the payment of subsidy, he said the amount would be adjusted against loans.

Former chief engineer Padamjit Singh says such a move will be a violation of the PSERC order of September 13, 2007, whereby the commission had said there was no question of adjusting subsidy against loan. He said the Section 65 of the Electricity Act also stipulated that the government was bound to give subsidy as decided by the commission. “The commission directed the government to give one fourth quarterly advance to settle the subsidy amount of Rs 2,548 crore by March 31, 2007”. Padamjit says the government has only paid Rs 1,154 crore on account of subsidy to the PSEB by the stipulated date.

Besides this, there is another hurdle in the way of rolling back the tariff hike of last year and refunding the revised tariff taken from consumers in an annualised form from September onwards. The commission had given a direction on February 15, telling the government that if it did not pay the subsidy arrears full tariff would be charged from consumers.

Meanwhile, even as the board is on way to refund the tariff hike to the consumers, it is going in for a tariff hike of 4.9 per cent from April 1 as per the directions of the commission.

PSEB Engineers Association president H.S. Bedi said the commercial loss of the board, which was Rs 1,200 crore in 2007-08, was likely to increase to Rs 2,600 due to the non-payment of Rs 1,400 crore subsidy, which was being adjusted against loan. He said the accumulated loss of the board might cross Rs 7,000 crore by the end of this year.


Respite coming for power consumers
Lehra Mohabbat unit to add 250 MW
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 11
The state is all set to start its mega power generation project of 500 MW at Lehra Mohabbat. The first unit of 250 MW will be commissioned on April 14, 2008, while the second unit is expected to be commissioned in June-July. It is for the first time after a gap of 10 years that Punjab is adding to its power generation capacity.

Y.S. Ratra, secretary, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), “The state government is coming up with this project to ensure that every house, every tubewell and every business and industrial unit gets 24-hour uninterrupted power supply”.

The total demand of power in the state is 9,000 MW, whereas it has the availability of 6,201 MW at present. The new power generation project will provide some respite to the domestic, industrial and agricultural consumers.

Due to the deteriorating power situation, the state had spent over Rs 12,000 crore in the past five years on the purchase of power from other states.

The government also aims to add 6,000 MW in the next few years, thus making Punjab comfortable in power in the next 10-15 years.


Another 250 MW from hydro projects
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 11
The state came a step closer to get 250 MW from mini-hydro projects set up by private developers in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand as it signed an MoU with TOSS Mini Hydel Power Project today.

Tejinder Pal Singh Sidhu, chief executive, PEDA, signed the MoU for the Rs 100-crore mini-hydro project being set up by TOSS near Kulu in Himachal Pradesh, in the presence of Bikram Singh Majithia, minister for science, technology and environment. R.S. Mehta, GM, TOSS, signed the MoU on behalf of the company.

The minister said PEDA was committed to generate 10 per cent of the power requirement of the state through non-renewable resources, including mini-hydro projects. He said a policy has been framed to attract private developers to participate in these projects.

Majithia said PEDA had signed agreements with 21 private developers for setting up mini-hydro projects in northern states to supply 250 MW power to Punjab.

The minister said PEDA was committed to generate 1,500 MW from non-conventional energy sources. He said 17 MW power would be produced through solar photovoltaic power projects.


Ordinance to prevent early sowing of paddy
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 11
With the futility of awareness campaigns that urge farmers not to plant paddy nurseries before June to check the decline in groundwater, the government has decided to crack the whip.

Agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah said at a press conference here today that the government would enact an ordinance to prevent the early transplantation of the crop in the state. “We will issue an ordinance before the current session to stop farmers from transplanting paddy before June 15 in order to arrest the fast depleting water table in the state,” he added.

He was in the city to oversee procurement preparations in the district and the arrangements made for the benefit of farmers at various mandis.

As per estimates, the sub terrain water available in Punjab for irrigation purposes will last for only a decade. This was an alarming development for a state that was not only the food bowl of the country, but also owed its progress to agriculture, he said.

Langah said since awareness drives and appeals had failed to yield results, an ordinance was the only solution to prevent the blatant exploitation of the precious natural resource. It was also the only way to prevent Punjab from becoming a desert, he added.

He said the ministry had already forwarded the draft of the ordinance to the Chief Minister for his final approval.

Commenting on its provisions, the farmers, who went ahead and sowed paddy a month ahead of the schedule would be fined Rs 10,000 per acre. While a fine of Rs 20,000 per acre would be collected from those who sowed the crop two months earlier than the official sowing time.

The officials of the department would keep their eyes open for those who sowed paddy nurseries. Such nurseries would be destroyed, he warned.

He urged the farmers, who were growing vegetables, to use drip irrigation system for which 1 hectare was the minimum requirement. Similarly, the limit for other crops was 2.5 hectare and for this the government was giving 75 per cent subsidy.

The minister said the department was organising camps at the district and block level to create awareness camps among the farmers about the various ways and means of water conservation.

Reacting to a query about vacant posts, Langah said the department was filling the posts on contract basis by hiring agriculture graduates and post-graduates.

He also expressed concern about the excessive use of pesticides by farmers that leads to many diseases. The farmers should use manure for growing vegetables, he advised.


State’s Share in UT Admn Setup
Dhindsa urges Badal to take up issue
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 11
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) secretary-general and former union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has brought to the notice of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal the way the union territory of the Chandigarh Administration has tinkered with the arrangement made for the administration of Chandigarh at the time of re-organisation of Punjab on November 1, 1966.

Urging Badal to ask the chief secretary to take up the issue of restoring the 60 per cent share of Punjab in the UT Administration, Dhindsa in a letter to Badal has stated that important subjects and departments had been taken away from Punjab cadre officers on deputation with the UT Administration.

Dhindsa has asserted that at the time of re-organisation, Punjab was given 60 per cent share in Chandigarh’s administration and there was no provision of direct recruitment of government staff to create UT cadre. But such arrangement has been violated, diluting share of Punjab in the Chandigarh administration.

Dhindsa has informed Badal that the dilution of Punjab’s share started with the recruitment of staff by the UT Administration and also because of wresting the charge of subjects/ departments from Punjab officers and giving it to Haryana and UT cadre officers.

He has stated important subjects of education and health now had been taken away from the finance secretary and given to the home secretary. Instead of one SSP, the UT administration now has brought IG from outside; instead of one executive magistrate from Punjab, now there are two or three others from Haryana and UT cadre. Similar is the case in many other departments.

However, in the case of the home secretary and deputy commissioner, who are from Haryana, there is not slight change in their departments or powers. Instead, they have been given more departments and powers.

It is common knowledge “the Union government was not in favour of re-organisation of Punjab on linguistic basis. It had to accede to the demand of Punjab-speaking state due to SAD agitation. In the process of re-organisation, it deprived Punjab of its capital, Chandigarh, which was made a union territory,” states Dhindsa in the letter.

At the time of re-organisation on November 1,1966, administration of Chandigarh , although a union territory, was more or less handed over to joint control of Punjab and Haryana on 60:40 basis. At that time chief commissioner (M.S. Randhawa), finance secretary ( Daljit Singh) and superintendent of police were from Punjab, while home secretary ( Damodar Dass) and deputy commissioner (Hoshiar Singh) were from Haryana.

Besides finance, the Departments of Education, Health, PWD, Forest etc were also with the finance secretary. Executive magistrate and tehsildar and the DFO etc were also from Punjab. Other officers and staff were also to be from Punjab and Haryana on 60:40 basis.

“I think the Punjab government has not asserted its rights in this administrative set-up. This may be due to the matter is not being handled by one Central authority that is by the Chief Minister’s secretariat and the chief secretary. This has resulted in the erosion of Punjab ’s rightful claims,” states Dhindsa. “As dealing with the Chandigarh Administration is an inter-state subject, I think, all decisions should be taken at the chief secretary level in conjunction with the department concerned. A circular may be issued to all concerned in this respect,” he states.


Cops rape minor in park
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 11
Two policemen allegedly raped a minor girl in the Rakh Bagh while two others caught hold of her friend when both of them were sitting near the swimming pool of the park.

The 15-year-old victim of Shahi Mohalla, who originally hails from Uttar Pradesh, had come to the Rakh Bagh along with her friend Sunny Verma around 8:30 pm.

The victim alleged that they were sitting in the park when four policemen, two of them were in uniform, approached them.

Two policemen caught hold of Sunny and took him aside and the other two took the victim near the swimming pool saying they wanted to ask her some questions. When she went with them, they allegedly raped her. She further alleged that they raped her for an hour.

The matter came to light when several evening walkers spotted the girl and Sunny, who were crying bitterly. When she narrated the horrifying incident to the passersby, they took her to the deputy commissioner’s residence, which is nearby the Rakh Bagh.

The deputy commissioner, Sumer Singh Gurjar, immediately called up the SSP, R.K. Jaiswal, who in turn asked the SP, City, I. Ashish Chaudhary, to rush to the DC’s house.

Gurjar asked the police to inquire into the matter and take strict action. The victim girl was sent to the Civil Hospital for a medical examination. Chaudhary said they were in the process of registering a case.


Cong has no trust in Punjabis: Mann
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 11
The Congress prefers expatriates to genuine Punjabis. It is why all representatives of the state in the union Council of Ministers, including Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, are expatriates, says SAD (A) chief Simranjit Singh Mann.

“What else you can expect from the UPA government?” he asks. “They have no trust in genuine Punjabi representatives in Parliament.”

Dr Manmohan Singh may be a Punjabi as he hails from Amritsar, but he represents Assam in Parliament and has a house in Chandigarh and not in Punjab. None of the Punjab ministers in the council actually lives in Punjab, he adds.

Mann maintains that it is not only at the time of inclusion in the union Cabinet, but even otherwise also, the UPA and the Congress prefer expatriates to Punjabis to represent this border state. Even the previous NDA government was no better, he remarks.

Quoting the case of Gurdaspur, Mann says for a long time this border district has been represented in Parliament by expatriates, starting from late Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder and present MP Vinod Khanna, who seldom lived in Gurdaspur.

“What you can expect from a visiting MP who either lives in New Delhi or Mumbai for most part of the year? The Congress, then in its wisdom, nominated Ashwani Kumar from Gurdaspur for the Rajya Sabha seat. Ashwani has been a practising lawyer in Delhi for a long time. He proved no better than either Bhinder or Khanna.”

The leader adds, “Take the case of Ambika Soni who technically represents Punjab in Parliament, but is again an expatriate. She is a minister also and claims to represent Hoshiarpur”.

“Now, the Congress-led UPA government has inducted Manohar Singh Gill in the union Cabinet, who again is an expatriate and has settled in New Delhi after retiring as chief election commissioner.”

“It is unfortunate that Punjab politicians in Parliament have been using the name of the state for their personal projection without doing anything substantial for its people,” he adds.


Probe ordered into farmer’s suicide
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 11
In a case of suicide allegedly committed by farmer Pargat Singh (22) of Janal village, 4 km from Dirba, by consuming some poisonous substance on April 2, Sangrur SSP Arun Pal Singh today entrusted the investigations to DSP (Special Branch) Hardevinder Singh.

An FIR was registered under Sections 306 and 34, IPC, at the Dirba police station against arhtiya of Dirba Mangat Rai and pesticide seller Harmesh Kumar.

Before this, a deputation of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), led by senior vice- president of the district unit of the union Darbara Singh Chhajla, met the SSP here today to seek justice. They feared that the names of the persons, who were allegedly responsible for driving Pargat Singh to suicide, might be dropped from the FIR by the Dirba police.

Karamjit Kaur, mother of the deceased, in her complaint to the police had accused Mangat Rai and Harmesh Kumar. She said the two had been harassing her son on account of money matters, as they had taken her family’s signatures on a blank promissory note and filed a case in a court at Sunam to take money from them. Due to this, her son had been passing through mental tension and committed suicide.

The SSP told The Tribune today that arhtiya Mangat Rai had appeared before the SHO of the Dirba police station and joined the investigations. He said the arhtiya had not been arrested so far. But if found guilty during investigations, he would be arrested, the SSP added.

Activists and members of the BKU (U) on April 6 had staged a dharna outside the Dirba police station and on April 9 blocked Sangrur-Delhi national highway at Dirba to protest against the alleged failure of the police in arresting Mangat Rai.

Meanwhile, the bhog ceremony of Pargat was held at a Gurdwara Sahib at Janal village today. It was attended by several farmer leaders, including state president of the BKU (U) Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Darbara Singh Chhajla, Dilbag Singh Harigarh and Balbir Singh Jhaloor, all BKU (U) leaders.


Keep Delhi off Olympic torch route: US Sikhs
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 11
Thirtyfour US-based Sikh gurdwaras and organisations have appealed to China to keep the journey of the Olympic torch away from New Delhi “as the city’s streets were stained with the blood of Sikhs’ massacre in 1984”.

The torch is scheduled to pass through New Delhi on April 17.

In a press statement, Dr Amarjit Singh, director of the Washington-based Khalistan Affairs Centre, accused India of being behind the recent troubles in Tibet.

Singh said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs this year upgraded its relationship with the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile by institutionalising an annual meeting between the Indian foreign secretary and the Dalai Lama.


Pak jatha to perform at PM’s house
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 11
A 10-member jatha from Pakistan, led by Bhai Lal, a descendant of Bhai Mardana (companion of Guru Nanak Dev), today crossed over to India from Attari border. They are likely to perform kirtan at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The jatha also includes Jahed Ahmad and Dr Tahir Mehmood. According to Harpal Singh Bhullar, chief of Bhai Mardana Kirtan Darbar, the jatha will visit Fatehgarh Sahib, New Delhi and other parts of the country.


Gharinda police station gheraoed
Tribune News Service

Attari, April 11
Several hundred people today gheraoed the Gharinda police station near Attari on the Amritsar-Attari G.T. Road to protest against the police, who had allegedly registered false cases against Dalit families of villages in the area.

The protesters organised a rally near Gurdwara Gurusar Satlani Sahib. The protesters later moved towards the police station and gheraoed it for about three hours.


Lahore judge calls on CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 11
Justice Syed Sabbar Raza Rizvi, Senior Judge of Lahore High Court (Pakistan), called on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here today to seek his personal intervention in the rehabilitation and renovation of Muslim shrines at Samana.


10+2 classes in pvt technical institutes
Government to formulate policy
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 11
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced that the state government would formulate a policy to allow private engineering and technical colleges in the state to run 10+2 classes in their institutions to impart quality education in the science stream to the students to compete globally.

Presiding over celebrations of ‘placement day’ at Chandigarh Engineering College, Landran, near here the Chief Minister asked the management of such institutions of repute to provide quality education to the students especially in the rural areas up to 10+2 level as feeder institutions in the state. He said once such students were admitted in these institutions of excellence then their career was assured. He also impressed upon the management of Chandigarh Group of Colleges to adopt some government senior secondary schools in its vicinity to provide quality education to the students up to 10+2 level and the state government would extend fulsome support and cooperation to them.

He appreciated the Chandigarh College of Engineering for its excellent track record of the placement of its students in the national as well as multinational companies.

Badal described the gross neglect of education and human resource development in the country’s planning as an ‘alarming trend’, which could inflict long term damage on the nation’s overall development and progress. He squarely held the governments, both state and centre, responsible for the constant deterioration of the education system. “It is high time to make concerted efforts to revamp the entire system according to the emerging trends worldwide in the changed scenario,” he said.

The Chief Minister pointed out that Punjab was predominately an agricultural state, but with changing scenario in the country industrialisation has come to the fore front and therefore, Punjab should also keep a pace with industrialisation as the growth rate in the agriculture sector was almost stagnant. He mentioned that engineering, technical education and skill development in the country occupied a critical role in a knowledge economy. “With the industrialisation the need for technical and skilled man power at various levels has increased many folds,” he said.

Badal expressed his pleasure over the placement scenario being maintained by the college ,which had till date provided placement opportunities to more than 40,000 students. Out of the total number more than 10,000 students have been successfully placed. On the occasion, the Chief Minister handed over the placement letters to the students.


Undertrial’s escape bid foiled
Our Correspondent

Nabha, April 11
Vigilant guards of the maximum security jail here foiled the attempt of an undertrial to escape from the local Civil Hospital, where he was brought for treatment yesterday.

Rajan, alias Raja (22), lodged in the jail here was brought to the Civil Hospital at 2.30 am after he had allegedly vomitted out blood in his barrack. At the hospital, five persons at the entrance of the trauma ward tried to throw red chilly powder in the eyes of the guards, but the cops thwarted their attempt.

Three constables, Paramjit Singh, Chaman Lal and Daya Kishan and driver Balihar Singh, who had brought Rajan to the hospital, took positions with their arms when the assailants tried to forcibly enter the emergency ward. They sent a distress message to the jail staff and the Nabha police. But the assailants fled from the scene before support came to the four guards carrying just one firearm.

Deputy jail superintendent Sukhvider Singh said Rajan, a resident of Taj Ganj, was an undertrial in five cases under Sections 302, 307, 420, 460 and 364-A, IPC, and a couple of months earlier had made an attempt to escape by unlocking his handcuffs with a small key hidden in the cross he was wearing around his neck. He said the alertness of the jail guards saved the situation. He said he would recommend citation certificates and awards for the jawans.

Meanwhile, general secretary of the Jail Guards Association has urged the government to fill the vacancies in the jail. He said at present against a sanctioned strength of 142, only 103 were on rolls.


Two arrested for looting French couple
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 11
The district police has arrested two persons, including a eunuch, for looting a French tourist couple at the Mall Road area on Wednesday.

The accused, Amit Kumar of Railway Colony, Kot Khalsa, and Kavita Baba of Hakimawali Gali, confessed to three more snatching incidents during interrogations. Raids were being conducted to arrest their accomplice Mintu, who was absconding.

According to details, Angilethy Robar and his wife Rochemin-De-La Chenaie of France were here to visit the holy city when two youths on a motorcycle snatched purse from his wife. They dragged his wife a few yards and she was seriously injured.


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