P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Employees’ Contribution to Pension Fund
Where has Rs 85 cr gone? ask aided schoolteachers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
“Where has our Rs 85 crore, our contribution to pension fund, gone?” ask repeatedly the Punjab Government-Aided Recognised School Teachers and Other Employees Union from the state government.

The money has neither been deposited in the Employees Provident Fund nor in the Contributory Pension Fund, said G.S. Chahal, president of the union. Manohar Lal Chopra and Ashwani Kumar, senior leaders of the union, on Tuesday met education secretary K.B.S. Sidhu to discuss the issue with him. Chahal said Sidhu had convened another meeting on April 25 to discuss it again to find out the head under which the money was lying.

Chahal said Rs 45 crore belonged to 1,800 retired employees of aided schools. While the government had retained their money contributed by them to the pension fund, they had been denied pension. Employees who retired after June 1, 2003, are affected. Besides them, there were more than 7,000 serving employees, who had contributed to the fund till March 31, 2004, but where had their money gone, no one knew.

As all these employees contributed 10 per cent of their basic pay towards the fund, they were upset that the government had gone back on the promise of resuming the pension scheme, that was closed on May 31, 2003, on the pretext of starting a new amended pension scheme. “We want the pension scheme resumed and the government should also give interest on the money deposited by employees towards the pension fund,” said Chopra.

No free books for aided school students

What has been bothering the managements of government-aided schools is the non-providing of books free of cost to students, except girl and SC students, of aided schools. G.S.Chahal said the government had promised that all students, irrespective of the status of their schools, up to the middle school level, would be given books free of cost. However, free books were not being provided to students. Only girl and SC students of aided schools would be given books free of cost, added Chahal.


All 964 PRTC buses sans insurance
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 17
Sounds strange the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation has been operating its fleet of 964 buses for several years without mandatory insurance cover.

Sources in the corporation said the amount of insurance premium was more than the corporation paid in cases of accidents annually.Therefore, the corporation thought it prudent not to have its vehicles insured.

Manvesh Singh Sidhu, managing director of the PRTC, said the corporation had set apart money to compensate accidents’ victims.He said because of heavy financial implications involved in getting the buses insured it had been decided not to have the buses insured at all.

Yadavinder Singh, general secretary of the Punjab Drivers, Technical Employees Union said the Finance Department had made it obligatory for a bus driver to bear 50 per cent of the compensation cost in case of an accident.This is however denied by the PRTC management which insists no liability is passed onto the driver in case compensation had to be paid to an accident victim.

Dr Jaswant Singh, district transport officer,Patiala, said there was provision in the Transport Department Rules in which exemption could be granted to government departments from having its vehicles insured. He said the department concerned had to give an undertaking to the state government that it would on its own take care of the compensation claim in case of an accident.

It may sound ironic but it remains a fact while Pepsu Road Transport Corporation buses are not insured, the Transport Department plans to provide insurance cover to the passengers.

According to transport minister Master Mohan Lal a proposal to charge 10 paise per ticket under way to take care of the insurance cover of the passengers. He said the modalities of the scheme were being worked out.

Intriguingly, Yadavindra Singh general secretary of the Punjab Drivers Technical Employees Union said today the official car of the transport minister was also not insured.

However, Master Mohan Lal said he would have the matter pertaining to insurance cover looked into. D. S. Jaspal, transport secretary, Punjab, said the compensation claims in case of accident were settled from a special fund kept apart by the corporation. He said no financial liability was imposed on the driver in case of an accident though he could face administrative action due to negligent driving.

A senior functionary of the corporation said the PRTC was in the red. Its financial losses were mounting with very passing month and upkeep of the vehicles was becoming a casualty. 


Payment to farmers by cheque put off till July, 2009
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Payment to farmers by cheque for the wheat procured by government procurement agencies will now be applicable from July 1, 2009.

Sources said an amendment had been made in this regard in the existing notification under which procurement agencies were supposed to make payment direct to farmers and not through the commission agents.

Sources said there was a provision in the new notification for farmers to ask the commission agents, who would receive payment from procurement agencies on behalf of farmers, to make payment to them by cheque.

Commission agents recently met Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal urging him to defer direct payment to farmers by procurement agencies for two years. On the recommendation of the Farmers Commission, notification was issued to make direct payment by cheque to farmers. However, the notification was not enforced for political reasons. Now that the notification has been amended postponing direct payment till July 1 next year.

A high- level committee has been set up to deal with issues of commission agents and farmers. Ministers including Manpreet Singh Badal, Suchha Singh Langah are members of the committee.


PCMSA opposes babus manning Health posts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA) has criticised the Punjab government for appointing a subdivisional-level PCS officer as director, Health Services (social insurance), a post hitherto held by a senior PCMS doctor and demanded his replacement by a senior doctor from the PCMS cadre.

In a statement here on Tuesday association, general secretary D.C. Sharma said by appointing a PCS officer as director, the government had snatched not only one promotional post from the doctors, but had also lowered the status of the director, Health Services, to a sub-divisional magistrate-level.

Terming the move as an “attack on the pride” of the medical community, Dr Sharma said this was another conspiracy by the bureaucracy to undermine the “dignity” of doctors. The association called upon all organisations of the doctors in the state to protest against this injustice. It further demanded that instead of the deputy commissioners, the civil surgeons should be made chairmen of the newly constituted District Health Committees in the state under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

The association alleged that already many doctors had been placed under the additional deputy commissioners and BDPOs under the garb of rural health providers, which was affecting national health programmes run by the Health Department. The association demanded that the rural dispensaries handed over to the zila parishads earlier, should be taken back by the Health Department and the government should fill these posts with regular PCMS doctors rather than exploiting the doctors by posting them on contract on meagre salaries.

Dr Sharma also demanded a rational posting and transfer policy ensuring specialists were evenly distributed amongst all hospitals and not posted on generalist posts like dispensaries and administrative posts. He said the government should also fill all posts of medical teacher in the state medical colleges to save them from de-recognition by the Medical Council of India and produce larger number of specialists. 


Poll Code
Pension seekers return dejected
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
The announcement of byelection of Amritsar (South), scheduled for May 22, has come as a bolt from the blue for the ruling SAD, which wanted to carry out a number of projects in the city to woo voters.

A number of old persons, including women folk, who had assembled at SGPC’s Guru Ram Dass Senior Secondary School to get pension as promised by the Akali leaders, had to return disappointed. With no information about the cancellation of the “pension camp”, the old men and women from Wards of 39, 41 and 42 kept waiting till noon.

When contacted, councilor Inderbir Singh Bolaria claimed that the camp had been cancelled following a message from the party high command at Chandigarh, directing them to stop all developmental and other such activities due to enforcement of the election code. He, however, said though he tried to convey the message to aspirants for pension, he could not contact all of them due to paucity of funds.

Bolaria is also an aspirant for Akali ticket. The byelection was necessitated following the untimely death of his father Raminder Singh Bolaria.

Kanwal Nain Singh, a councillor of Ward No. 39 said there was a plan to give pensions to old persons. However, due to enforcement of the code, it could not be carried out.

Maya (60) and Surjit Kaur, a widow, told The Tribune that they had been asked to reach the school at 9 am. The Akali leaders did not have courtesy to inform them about the cancellation of the camp. There was nobody to offer them even a glass of water and they kept waiting till 1.30 pm.

The entire development works undertaken under the ambitious project at a cost of Rs 100 crore and more planned by BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu have come to a grinding halt in view of the enforcement of the code.

However, sources said the government had asked officers of the corporation to complete the development projects in the next few days. A flurry of activities was seen around the Tarn Taran road, Sultanwind and Chatiwind areas comprising the constituency in last-minute efforts to complete the projects.


14,000 posts of schoolteacher vacant
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 17
Though the state government claims having started the recruitment process in schools but 14,000 posts of primary and secondary teacher are still vacant all over the state. The situation is no different in colleges where 500 posts are vacant in government colleges affecting students. Vacancies in other departments too exist. The government needs to initiate sincere efforts if it intends to "revamp and strengthen" the education system.

According to information, 9,998 posts of primary and 4,000 posts of secondary teacher lie vacant in all districts of Punjab. Balkar Singh, general secretary, Government School Teachers Union, Punjab informed recruitment process was very slow. It could hardly serve the purpose of providing quality education. He said condition of primary education in state was "miserable". It was the worst in Mansa, Ferozpur, Amritsar, Kandi and Bet area in the absence of qualified teachers. "For maintaining quality teachers need to be recruited in 1: 20 ratio", said Balkar Singh.

As far as the higher education is concerned, before the "rationalization" process, number of lecturers in 54 government colleges in state was 2024, which came to 1873 after the process was over. There are 1100 regular and 312 part- time lecturers in state government colleges. As per norms, approximately 400 posts of college lecturer are vacant in several government colleges.

Terming the move to be "irrational", Prof Jaipal Singh, president, Government College Teachers Union, said the government "cared a damn" to fill the vacancies. Citing the example of government colleges in Amritsar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Hoshiarpur districts, he said hundreds of posts of lecturer were to be filled in these colleges. "Not only lecturers, posts of principal are also vacant at some places", he said.

This is just tip of the ice-berg as thousands of posts lie vacant with departments like Medical and Research, Information and Public Relations , Health, Tourism and Finance etc. Recruitment process seems to be the last priority of the state government.

Harcharan Bains, media adviser to the CM said they had already started the recruitment process. "We are hopeful the recruitment of school teachers will be completed by April 30. This will be the biggest recruitment process. In addition, we are trying to fill vacancies in other departments at the earliest", claimed Bains.


Amarinder complains to high command against Bhattal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today complained against Punjab Congress chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to the Congress high command here for having spoken against him to the media.

He has sent newspapers’ clippings of Bhattal’s statements made in Jalandhar yesterday to the high command. Bhattal charged the former Chief Minister with having alienated party workers and also for causing defeat of the Congress in the last Assembly elections.

Amarinder Singh confirmed having sent clippings to the party high command as proof Bhattal was speaking against him even after the party’ coordination meeting in Delhi on April 15 had forbidden the two leaders from going to the media.


Sukhbir may fight Amritsar bypoll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today that the candidate for the Amritsar (South) Vidhan Sabha byelection would be named by the political affairs committee (PAC) of the party. However, there is a speculation in the SAD circles that Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the SAD, could be named the candidate of the SAD-BJP combine.

It is an opportunity for Sukhbir to become MLA and subsequently the Chief Minister, as there have been speculations of his elevation to the key post since the SAD-BJP came to power in the state.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister said Capt Amarinder Singh was a troublemaker. Earlier too when he was in the Shiormani Akali Dal, he used to create one trouble or another for the party. In a lighter tone, Badal said instead of resorting to allegations and counter allegations against each other, one group of Congress leaders should merge into the SAD and other into the BJP.


Majithia questions Cong silence on price rise
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Information and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia has questioned silence maintained by PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on rising inflation.

He said the Punjab Congress silence has cast serious doubts over party’s so-called claims on welfare of poor.

The minister was interacting with mediapersons after participating in Jain Bhagwati Diksha Samaroh organised to mark Bhagwan Mahavir Jayanti Samaroh by S.S. Jain here today.

Majithia said the failure of the UPA government to check steel prices had proved to be a death knell for the small and medium industry, which was forced to skip the orders.

CM greets people on Mahavir Jayanti

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday felicitated the people of the state on the auspicious occasion of Mahavir Jayanti.

In a message, Badal called upon different sections of society to follow the philosophy and teachings of Lord Mahavir, who propagated the principles of simple living and high thinking to achieve the ultimate goal of salvation.

The Chief Minister appealed to the people to celebrate the occasion with religious fervour to further strengthen the secular and social bonds of our society.


Private players shun markets
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Khanna, April 17
Major companies, including Reliance, Cargill and ITC, are abstaining from Punjab grain markets during the ongoing trade in mandis. The main reason cited by the grain market arhtiyas and dealers is the cost of procuring wheat, including bags, labour and freight charges, before marketting the end products, was much higher in Punjab compared to several other places in the country, mainly Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

At the Khanna mandi alone, out of the total procurement figure of 169000 tonnes till yesterday, the FCI purchased 2,321 tonnes, Markfed 1,460 tonnes, the Punjab State Grain Procurement Corporation (PUNGRAIN) 2,057 tonnes, Punsup 3,253 tonnes, Punjab Warehousing Corporation 1,322 tonnes, Punjab Agro 2,424 tonnes and private entrepreneurs took remaining 2,414 tonnes.

It has been pointed out that a buyer from outside pays Rs 1,005 for a quintal on his purchase from the market. In addition, he pays Rs 126 more as market fee expenses, Rs 30 per empty bag and at least Rs 10 as labour charges. The total works out to Rs 1,170 per quintal. But it is Rs 1,140 at Kota in Rajasthan. While carrying the procured wheat to the South, a Punjabi will pay Rs 180 per quintal as freight charges, while a buyer from Kota will pay Rs 155. This makes a difference of at least Rs 55 per quintal.

Rajkumar Sood, an arhtiya, said, "A casual survey of the market has revealed that a quintal finally costs Rs 1,160 in Madhya Pradesh and Rs 1,110 in Gujarat. The existing fee structure and costs make it very difficult for private players to enter the Punjab market".

He said, "Even quality-wise, wheat from Kota and other parts is finer in making bread and other confectionery products."

Kirpal Singh, a resident of Hoal village, said, "The buyers don't make a difference to us till the time our yield is readily lifted. I only pray the weather god does not play foul again because there have been clouds hovering over the fields for a couple of days and there has been a minor drizzle".

Sukhminder Singh Mangat, secretary, market committee, said at least 1.52 lakh quintals of wheat had arrived at the Khanna mandi till last evening. The same till date, last year, was 1.23 lakh quintals. "The market reported a very slow beginning till a couple of days back when the wheat arrivals increased rapidly," he said.

He said, "The popular belief that Khanna was the biggest grain market in Asia did not hold good today. Even Muktsar and Jagraon had emerged as bigger markets". He said a total of 8,24,000 quintals of wheat was procured by the mandi last year, which ended on March 31, 2008.


CM tells officers to lift stocks in time
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today reviewed the arrangements for wheat procurement and directed deputy commissioners to personally oversee the operations.

Presiding over a high-level meeting to monitor the procurement arrangements, Badal asked the principal secretary, food and civil supplies, to depute administrative secretaries to supervise procurement. He also directed the senior regional manager of the FCI to issue guidelines to field officers for procurement of wheat in time, keeping in view the inclement weather. He asked the FCI to reschedule its proposal to put special rice in the mandis as it was hampering the procurement of wheat.

Badal was told that the production of wheat was likely to touch 145.96 lakh MTs during 2008-09 compared to last year’s production target of 145 lakh MTs. As on today, market arrival of wheat in the state was around 12.43 lakh MTs of the estimated production. Likely arrival of wheat would be approximately 105 lakh MTs, out of which the procurement by state government agencies was likely to be 93.45 lakh MTs and 11.55 lakh MTs by the FCI. It was informed at the meeting that during last year 72.07 lakh MTs of wheat was procured by the government agencies and 7.04 lakh MTs by traders. Approximately 1,600 purchase centres had been set up for the procurement.

The Chief Minister directed his principal secretary D.S. Guru to issue guidelines to all deputy commissioners to regularly hold meetings of the officials concerned to monitor the progress on a day-to-day basis.


Bus shelters bear Avinash’s mark
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Balachaur, April 17
MP and senior BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna seems to be in a mood to re-contest the Lok Sabha elections.

Though currently he represents the Hoshiarpur constituency, this time he is eyeing a ticket from the newly created Anandpur Sahib constituency.

Indications for this are clear even to a commoner. As one passes through Balachaur subdivision coming from Ropar to Nawanshahr, one can clearly spot quite a few newly constructed bus shelters with huge signboards atop bearing portraits of the MP and a message in bold letters: “Lok Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna valon banwaya gaya bus stand”.

There are such bus shelters at Kishanpur, Tajowal, Kathgarh and Auliapur villages on the highway. The hoardings have a semblance with signboards put up during an election campaign.

In fact, these villages, which are currently a part of his Hoshiarpur seat, will fall in the Anandpur Sahib seat that he could be vying for in the forthcoming elections.

The MP, during a telephonic conversation, said he had got 73 such shelters made in his constituency and was planning to come up with 23 more on the Ropar-Nangal road, which will again be a part of the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha constituency in the next poll.

The MP said he had spent nearly Rs 50,000 for the construction of each bus shelter from his MPLADS funds after a thorough survey on their requirement by the residents.


Bar panel function
Our Correspondent

Nabha, April 17
Harish Rai Tanda chief parliamentary secretary at a function organised by the Bar Association of the town advocated rational utilisation and distribution of government help for the construction of bar complexes in the state. He exhorted bar associations to find alternative sources to generate funds for the body.

Later vice- president of the association Kanwaljeet Singh Dullat expressed displeasure meagre government aid for the construction of lawyers’ chambers under construction. He said against expenditure of Rs. 1.25 crore, government had released Rs 10 lakh but Rajpura got Rs 30 lakh and Patiala more than Rs 1.5 crore. 


‘Waste can meet city’s power needs’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
About 20 giga watts of electricity can be produced from organic and non-organic waste material of the city, sufficient to meet its power requirements. Besides, the organic fertilisers produced in the process can be used for agricultural purposes.

These views were expressed by representative of Swedish Environmental Technologies, Sweden, Johan Lindblom while giving a demonstration on the waste management here today.

Lindblom said biogas produced from the organic matter such as stubble, green leaves and the waste could be used as fuel for vehicles or to generate electricity. He said with 20,000 metric organic wastes, 2 billion cubic meter gas could be produced.

Johan said Sweden was using almost 95 per cent of its waste to produce biogas.

Earlier, managing director, Elite Country Developers, Chander Sahni said he would talk to the Chief Minister regarding establishment of a waste-management plant near city.


Safdie to review heritage project
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, April 17
United States-based Israeli architect Moshe Safdie will review the ongoing construction of Heritage Complex here on May 1.

Moshe will take stock of the construction of this prestigious project, 97 per cent work of civil construction on which has been completed. The work designing part of the project is in progress while exhibit gallery’s work is yet to be started.

Project engineering officials say the tenders for the gallery have been floated and agencies are being finalised. “Very soon the work on same is expected to start,” they added. The government has decided to dedicate project to people of Punjab in 2009 during the Hola Mohalla celebrations. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has asked the officials concerned to complete the work within the stipulated time period. 


Mandi victim of MC apathy
Rajnish Sharma

Nabha, April 17
Most public places, including vegetable market, bus stand and lone park of the town, are in pitiable condition showing apathy of the municipal council here.

Railway minister Lalu Parsad Yadav said in an interview to a TV channel shoes were sold in air-conditioned showrooms but vegetables and fruits roadsides . Condition of the vegetable market in the town, underscores his statement. A visit to the vegetable market is a nightmare in rainy season as condition of the roads around and inside it is in bad shape and it is impossible to walk there.

The market has two entries but on rainy days the entry from the bazaar side is impossible, as the road remains two feet under water. Due to absence of proper drainage, the market remains under knee-deep water for days together causing potholes on roads . After water is removed, rotting vegetables and mud add to the woes of shoppers . Several shops dealing in pesticides and other chemicals also surround the market.Dust from various chemicals mixes with discarded vegetables spread on the floor, causing death of stray animals. Stray animals also roam in the marke and many times cause accidents.


Sangrur ETTs seek DA arrears
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 17
Resentment prevails among elementary training teachers(ETT) of this district. They, today submitted a 17-point demand charter to the ADC (D) here.

President of the district unit of the ETT Teachers Union Sukhvir Singh said arrears of the dearness allowance from January to May, 2007, had not been given to the ETTs in the district despite the matter being brought to the notice of the authorities concerned several times.

In several cases, maternity leave of teachers had not been sanctioned by the Zila Parishad authorities. Though all teachers had joined duties in July, 2006, in this district, there are anomalies in salaries. The authorities had not started deducting contributory employees provident fund from their salaries so far.

Sukhvir demanded release of the salary of the ET teachers for March.


Banker robbed of Rs 30,000
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, April 17
Two persons robbed four persons, including an employee of a petrol station and shot at one of them.

Charanjit Singh of Ghangas village, a bank employee, was robbed of Rs 30,000 and motorcycle when he was returning home at 8 pm yesterday. Two more persons were rbbed near Bhikhi village.

Arvind Kumar, an employee of Karamsar Filling Station near Rara Sahib, was also robbed by duo armed with a pistol. As Arvind resisted their attempt, they shot at him.


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