P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CM prefers white for Anandpur Sahib
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, April 13
Anandpur Sahib will be developed as a white city with all its buildings covered in white. This was stated by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was here to attend a meeting to review city’s development projects.

Badal later went around the city and visited Agampur Polytechnic College, Charan Ganga Stadium, community centre, Panj Piara Park, the Dasmesh Academy road and bus stand. Badal asked the officials concerned to ensure cleanliness at the bus stand.

Chief engineer, Water Supply and Sanitation, Arvinder Singh has been asked to conduct a fresh survey for provision of potable water in the town within a fortnight. Arvinder said a programme for water supply, covering the left-out areas, would be implemented within the next six months. It would cost Rs. 5.81 crore. Likewise, a sewerage and sanitation programme would also be implemented at a cost of Rs 9.68 crore. The chief engineer, Drainage Department, has been asked to accomplish work storm water drain at an investment of Rs 4.44 crore, including construction of check dams to protect low-lying areas.

The chief engineer, PWD (B&R), has been directed to undertake widening and strengthening of internal roads at a cost of Rs 2 crore. Roads would be laid along the Nangal Hydel channel from Sri Anandpur Sahib to Sri Kiratpur Sahib in the first phase and from Kiratpur Sahib to Roop Nagar under the second phase. It would provide an alternative route to devotees during festivals of Hola Mohalla and Baisakhi.

Chief architect, Punjab, B.K. Saini will prepare a plan of all proposed buildings in the historic town with a dome-shape structures to give a distinct identity. The Chief Minister reviewed other infrastructure projects to be executed at a cost of Rs 56.8 crore.

Earlier, Badal asked Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd to coordinate with senior officers to ensure timely implementation of development projects in view of tercentenary celebrations of Guruta Gaddi Divas.

Badal said the Centre had released a grant of Rs 105.13 crore for development Sri Anandpur Sahib. He announced to set up a committee comprising local MLA Sant Baba Ajit Singh, consultant for development works Lieut-Gen (retd) B.S. Dhaliwal, president local municipal committee Ram Singh and deputy commissioner Roop Nagar Baldeo Purushartha for a smooth execution of these projects.


Badal greets people on Baisakhi, Ram Navami
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today greeted the people of the state on Baisakhi, which symbolises the spirit of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiat.

In his message, Badal reminded the people of our centuries-old glorious past and said on this sacred day in 1699 Sri Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth master of the Sikhs, created “Order of Khalsa” at Sri Anandpur Sahib by baptising Panj Piaras belonging to different regions and religions, thereby carving out a casteless society. The Guru preached the gospel of love and compassion for mankind, universal brotherhood and communal harmony.

Badal called upon the people to celebrate the festival with traditional fervour and gaiety to strengthen the secular and social fabric of our country.

He also extended Ram Navami greetings, marking the birthday of Lord Rama. He said Lord Rama showed us the path of ideal and virtuous living to carve out a prosperous and harmonious society.

He said: “Such pious occasions not only promote a sense of communal harmony and mutual understanding among the people but also shower joy and prosperity on them”.


Bhattal’s Baisakhi greetings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today felicitated people of Punjab on Baisakhi, Ram Navami and birthday of Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

In a message here, Bhattal said Baisakhi brought hope and gaiety to Punjab and the harvesting season brought not only prosperity to farmer's but also to traders and other sections of society. She also urged people to follow the ideals of Lord Rama as well as Dr Ambedkar on the occasion.


Inauguration of Lehra plant unit-III today
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will inaugurate unit-III of stage-II of Lehra Mohabbat thermal plant tomorrow. It is an apt occasion for him to ask some searching questions to the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) authorities and also from BHEL, an organisation, engaged to build stage-II.

The unit-III, to be inaugurated, was to be completed by December 31, 2006. However, it was put on stream in the first week of January this year and has not stabilised yet. Since the initiating of the process of its synchronisation with the grid on January 3 this year, unit-III has tripped numerous times. Sources said to avoid tripping-like problem at the time of inauguration, the PSEB authorities have put on duty some operational staff from unit-1, which is under shutdown for routine repair, at the unit-III.

Badal should ask the engineers engaged in the operation of the unit why the unit was not stabilising and tripped repeatedly.

Experts say with each tripping, the unit’s turbine part suffers huge jerks, thus causing damage to the system. Also additional costly oil had to be used to operationalise the unit after tripping. How much damage has been caused to the system, it will be worthwhile for Badal to know.

How much loss Punjab has suffered due to the delay of 12 months in operationalising unit-III. And when will unit-IV, that was to be operationalised on March 31, 2007, be commissioned. There are reports it will not become operational before the end of this year. That way, the delay in its commissioning will be of 20 months. Because of the delay in the commissioning of the units, the PSEB had to buy power at very high price from market to meet demand in the state.

Senior PSEB engineers say Punjab has suffered loss of Rs 2,500 crore in form of non- generation of power and increase in the project cost of stage-II, that includes two units of 250 MW each. Who will compensate the loss to the state ?

At present, power consumers have to pay for the loss suffered by the PSEB. The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) determines tariff by calculating all relevant costs, including project costs or the interest on loans arranged to build the plants.

Earlier, the PSEB used to commission its units before or by the due date. Badal should ask PSEB authorities concerned what had went wrong now.

Sources said a chief engineer of the Central Electricity Authority, who had visited the unit III to inspect its functioning and advise the authorities concerned accordingly, would send his report soon to the PSEB authorities soon. Contacted on mobile phone the chief engineer refused to comment on repeated trippings at unit-III.


Tiwana is Sahit Akademi chief
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 13
Padma Shree recipient Dalip Kaur Tiwana was today elected the president of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi amid much chaos and drama. He defeated Gurbhajan Gill by a margin 30 votes, bagging 359 votes.

For the group supported by Surjit Patar, the outgoing president, it was a day of jubilation as Sukhdev Singh, contender from the same group, emerged winner to the post of general secretary. He got 221 votes and defeated close rivals Guriqbal Singh and Jaswant Zafar. Results for the post of senior vice-president would be declared on April 27.

Around 700 of the total more than 1,200 members cast their votes here today.

The elections began on a dramatic note when returning officer Rajinder Singh failed to turn up. Punjabi Bhawan, the venue for the elections, wore a festive look. “It is the first time that elections are witnessing such a hectic activity,” said a member.

While akademi elections earlier saw the fight between two major groups, it was the first time that a third group emerged as a strong contender.

When the RO did not turn up even till 12 noon, the general house then formed a committee of three, comprising Harbir Bhanwar, Charanjit Singh and Tejwant Mann, who acted as returning officers. The poll began around 1 pm.

The returning officer told The Tribune “I had some personal work due to which I could not come.”

No sooner had the poll begun that a group of contenders raised their voice against the election to the post of senior vice-president. “The returning officer had clearly ordered that the elections to the post of senior vice-president would be postponed and held on April 27 but we were shocked to see list of contenders to this post attached with the ballot paper. It is unfair and we would not accept this injustice,” alleged Sukhjit, contender to the post of senior vice-president from Jaswant Zafar’s group.

However, Ranjit Singh said the order to postpone the election to the post was passed but it never got the approval of the executive body. They decided to postpone only the counting for April 27 and conduct elections for the post today itself.

Sukhjit rued that his name was dropped form the list of contestants for president’s post even as he never withdrew his name. “If need be I would move the court.”

Another surprise that candidates got was inclusion of Deepak Manmohan’s name for the post of senior vice-president from Surjit Patar’s group. Manmohan had withdrawn his name only a couple of days ago.


Rape by Cops
Girl was married to man double her age
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 13
The minor girl, who was allegedly raped by three policemen on Friday night in a park, was wronged not once but several times. Two months before this barbaric experience, she was married to a man double her age by her poor family based at Pamali village near here.

She had deserted her middle-aged husband, a farmer at Khadoor village, four days after she was forcibly married to him. But today she is back to square one. The only silver lining is that her husband is willing to take her back despite all that has happened to her after she deserted him.

Investigations conducted by the police have revealed that after leaving her husband, she had come in contact with a young Nepali migrant in the Ghanta Ghar Chowk area and preferred to stay with him. But she could not find lasting love.

Then she came in contact with Sunny Verma, with whom she was making marriage plans when the policemen raped her in the Rakh Bagh.

When the complaint reached the police, she feared to go back to her poor family and lied to the police about her address. The girl, contacted through a source, said she did not want to return to the hell she was thrown into. She was too traumatised to take a decision. The police sent her to Nari Niketan at Jalandhar yesterday.

Her husband, Jagjit Singh Khadoor, said: “If she is willing to come back, I will treat her as my wife.”


Aulakh’s son bought land for Rs 2.5 cr
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
The persons, who have sold their land to Punjab Police chief N.P.S. Aulakh’s son Sumer Pratap Singh Aulkah claimed today that the land still was under the possession of the trustees of Ratwara Sahib Gurdwara. The sellers, Pal Singh and Netar Singh, said they had sold 32.5 bighas at Paintpur village in Kharar tehsil of Mohali district to S.P.S. Aulakh for Rs 2.5 crore by giving him the general power of attorney (GPA). They claimed receiving Rs 78 lakh as advance by cheques.

They said gurdwara trustees were, in fact, pressurising them into withdrawing the case and there was threat to their lives. Pal Singh said they had been fighting the case for 15 years and had won it in the lower appellate court before the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered status quo in the case. Pal Singh said the death certificate of Madho Singh, the original owner of the land, was yet to be appropriately certified.

Pal and Netar also demanded the government to probe the suspicious manner in which both persons who had impersonated as Madho Singh to give a false GPA and the person, who had registered the property in his name following this had died under suspicious circumstances. They said Jai Singh, a driver, was responsible for impersonating Madho Singh, a fact that had been proved in court. The sellers said Ranjit Kaur had failed to substantiate her claims in court. Ranjit Kaur, an NRI, recently claimed the land belonged to her and she had been fraudulently robbed of her property. They said though Ranjit Kaur was their relative, she had never been given any GPA by Madho Singh and had produced a GPA signed by a notary from Malaysia which she failed to authenticate appropriately.


Privatisation of Health Services
Despite failing earlier, Punjab takes plunge
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, April 13
Two wrongs do not make a right. Having failed miserably in monitoring the functioning of private hospitals, which got subsidised land from the government, now Punjab is all set to enter into public private partnerships (PPP) in health services.

The Punjab’s State Health System Corporation has through the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) offered chunks of land near Civil Hospital Mohali and Civil Hospital Bathinda to private parties for super specialty hospitals. The hospitals would be fed by the civil hospital referrals and in the bargain treat poor patients.

How the government would ensure that the private hospital would stick to its promise? It is best not guessed.

The government has not even been able to ensure that the private hospitals, which got land from it at subsidised rates, abide by the allotment conditions.

In Mohali, the hospitals, which were given land by the government were asked that at least 10 per cent of the OPD and 5 per cent of the IPD patients should be from the poor sections of the society.

But for years none of these hospitals had bothered to comply with these conditions on the pretext that they did not get any poor patients to treat.

The government cannot have any control over the functioning of private hospitals is a truth that the Punjab government should realize. The empanelling of private hospitals as a part of the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme and the Central Government Health Scheme is also a default PPP mode. Here the patients are sent to the private hospital for treatment and the majority of the payment is ensured.

While a large number of private hospitals are refusing to take these patients as the amount the hospital can earn from these patients is fixed. In the face of a shortage of beds, these patients are generally given the least preference.

There have been instances when a burnt victim, who reached a hospital empanelled with the ECHS was made to wait for over three hours before he was asked to leave, as the hospital did not have a burns unit. Other than the Mohali Civil Hospital no private hospital in Mohali takes in a burns patient, as the “returns” from such patients is too little to make the entire “infrastructure required” viable.

Managing director, PIDB, Dr Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, said the government was aware that the PPP mode could not work for primary health care.

“We are looking at tertiary health care through the PPP mode. The details of the partnership with the private party would be worked out. What we have in mind is a new model that ends up as a win-win situation for both parties,” he said.


An emotional reunion of retired taxmen
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 13
Tears rolled down faces of most of over 150 retired officers and officials of the Excise and Taxation Department, Punjab, as they relived memories at their reunion here yesterday.

As many as 24 pensioners of the department were honoured by Punjab excise and taxation commissioner A. Venu Parsad for completing 80 years of age in the backdrop of their motto: "We are retired, not tired."

Jaswant Singh and B.K. Kapoor hogged the limelight as their colleagues congratulated them for completing 91 and 95 years, respectively.

Parsad said retirement was a fact of life and a phase to be enjoyed. He said the conference was a historic moment in the history of the department since its inception in 1914.

Retired officials were led by the reception committee, headed by M.S. Ghumman, a former joint excise and taxation commissioner.

The conference turned emotional with tears rolling down the faces of a number of participants as they greeted and hugged one another.

Office-bearers of the Excise and Taxation Department Pensioners’ Welfare Association, which organised the function, highlighted its activities like including holding of blood donation camps, treks in Himachal Pradesh and lectures on health doctors.


Devotees receive yatra
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 13
Even as Guru Gobind Singh never visited Amritsar during his lifetime, yet his “shastars” (weapons), brought in a specially designed rath for the first time in 300 years, were received by a sea of devotees here today.

Amid tight security and traffic jams, the yatra made it through the Jalandhar-Amritsar road in the form of a nagar kirtan. Though senior SGPC member Kiranjot Kaur, quoting sources close to Akal Takht and SGPC secretariat, expressed doubts over the authenticity of the ‘shastras”, yet Dr P.S.Pasricha, former DGP, Maharashtra, and president of Takht Hazoor Sahib Management Committee, said the weapons indeed belonged to the Tenth Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh.

Talking to The Tribune, Dr Pasricha said it was on record that the “shastras” were taken out from the sanctum sanctorum of Takht Hazoor Sahib for the first time with the permission of Giani Kulwant Singh, Jathedar of the Takht. The yatra started its journey from Takht Sachkhand Hazoor Sahib on November 15, 2007.


500 take part in dastar mini-marathon
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 13
Nearly 500 children wearing colourful turbans participated in the dastar-mini marathon organised here today by the Akal Purukh ki Fauj. D.P.S. Kharbanda, commissioner, Amritsar Municipal Corporation, flagged off the rally from Bhai Veer Singh Hall. It culminated at the Golden Temple after traversing Lawrence Road, Madan Mohan Malviya Road, Crystal Chowk, Hall Bazar and Town Hall.

Addressing the children, SGPC members and convener of the Akal Purukh ki Fauj, said the aim of the marathon was to infuse a sense of pride for turban among youngsters.

Former Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Kewal Singh, SGPC member Rajinder Singh Mehta, deputy mayor Ajaybirpal Singh Randhawa, Gurpartap Singh Tikka, vice-president Balwinder Singh Johra, Jaswinder Singh Jassi, information officer, Golden Temple, were among the participants.


VB not to interfere with MCs: Kalia
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
Accepting the main demands of representatives of the Union of Municipal Corporation Employees here on Friday, Manoranjan Kalia, local government minister, said he met Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who had assured that the Vigilance Department (VB) would not interfere directly in municipal corporations.

Kalia said the demand of medical reimbursement would also be accepted.

Now municipal commissioners had been empowered to clear medical bills. Accepting another demand, Kalia also dissolved the Mohalla Society Committees.


Tributes paid to martyrs
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 13
Young generation will continue to be inspired by the sacrifices of the country’s martyrs. The Jallianwala Bagh incident had inspired people so much that they forced the British to leave the country. Laxmi Kanta Chawla, health and family welfare minister, expressed these views at a function held here today to pay tributes to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh.


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