P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Amritsar (South) Assembly Bypoll
Supporters of ex-MLA for change of candidate
Serve 2-day ultimatum on Cong high command
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 27
Supporters of former MLA Harjinder Singh Thekedar, who has the tacit support of a ruling party legislator and some former MLAs, today served a two-day ultimatum on the Congress high command to change the official nominee Navdeep Singh Goldi for the Amritsar (South) Assembly bypoll.

They threatened to take the “extreme step” if the party high command failed to accept their demand.

At a meeting which was attended by some councillors and senior leaders of the constituency, they criticised Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), who was allegedly instrumental in changing the nomination of Thekedar.

They alleged that Thekedar was denied ticket for two reasons. First, he failed to give Rs 4 crore as demanded by the election committee, and second, his being a close confidant of Capt Amarinder Singh.

With this, the wrangling between the groups of Capt Amarinder Singh, a former Chief Minister, and Bhattal has again started simmering, which may take to the streets in the coming days.

Goldi is the party’s councillor from ward No. 29 and is considered a greenhorn in politics. Party sources, however, stated that Thekedar was denied ticket because he had lost the previous election to SAD candidate by a huge margin.

Agitated over denying the party ticket, M.S. Heera, a former chairman of the Improvement Trust, has announced that he would write to Sonia Gandhi, president, Indian National Congress, about “non-performance” of Bhattal as president of the PPCC.

The former chairman said he would also send his detailed report regarding the “non-performance” of Capt Amarinder Singh during his five-year stint as Chief Minister of Punjab.

He alleged that Amarinder tried to make inroads into Akali votes by raising “Panthic and peasantry agenda” by ignoring other issues.

“Being a senior party leader, I deem it my duty to give true feedback about the downfall of the Congress party in Punjab in the past about six years,” he said. He, however, said it was true that Amarinder received massive response from Congressmen during his recent two-day tour of the border belt.

The main reason for the huge response was that Bhattal failed to come to the rescue of party workers who were facing political vendetta after the formation of the SAD-BJP government. “I will continue to send my periodical reports to Soniaji till the corrective measures were taken to streamline the PPCC,” he said.

Meanwhile, the rebel Congress leaders have indicated that they will either field their own candidate or might support the Akali candidate, if the Congress high command failed to change the candidate.

Among those who were in favour of Harjinder Singh Thekedar included Ashwani Kale Shah, a councillor, Sanjay Sharma, Puran Singh Chaudhry, Ajit Singh and Balram Kumar, many former municipal councillors and presidents of various political and social organisations.

Give ticket to secular candidate: Bolaria

A meeting of some Hindu organisations, presided over by Inderbir Singh Bolaria, councillor of Shiromani Akali Dal, here today urged the party high command to allocate party ticket for the forthcoming Amritsar (South) Assembly constituency to a person with ‘secular’ credentials.

The supporters of Bolaria said the ticket should be given to him because it fell vacant following the death of his father Raminder Singh Bolaria.


Glut of wheat in markets
Lifting slow due to labour shortage
Tribune News Service

Barnala, April 27
Thousands of wheat bags piled up in grain markets of Barnala and Bathinda districts are awaiting lifting by the Punjab government agencies for 10 days.

The commission agents, who play a pivotal role in the procurement process, lamented that lifting was being done at a snail’s pace as government agencies had failed to muster sufficient labour and trucks for the purpose.

It was for the first time that a few hundred bags of wheat were lifted today from the main grain market here. Five agencies of the state government, Markfed, Punsup, Punjab Agro, Pungrain, Punjab Warehousing Corporation and FCI, are engaged in the procurement. Officials claimed that lifting of the grain would pick up gradually.

Surinder Kumar, a commission agent here, said a small portion of the wheat procured on April 19 was lifted today. This was because of shortage of labour and tussle between truckers’ unions that were at loggerheads and reluctant to deploy trucks for carrying wheat bags to godowns.

Another commission agent said his stock of wheat was lying in the grain market since April 17. This time the labour shortage was acute as the farmers because of bad weather had harvested the crop early causing a glut in the grain markets.

Tota Singh, a farmer, said truck operators carry only 200 bags per trip and did not allow use of tractor-trailers for ferrying grains to godowns.

About 40 camel carts were engaged to carry grains in the Tapa mandi en route Bathinda. Cart owner Kala Singh said they carried 40 bags containing 20 quintals of wheat per trip for which they were paid at the rate of Rs 1.25 per bag.

He said per day a cart owner made about eight trips to the godowns fetching about Rs 400. This would go on for about 20 days of procurement.

A farmer at the Mahal Kalan grain market said about 3.50 lakh wheat bags had arrived there, but lifting was slow.

About 42 per cent of the 3.44 lakh tonnes of wheat procured till yesterday in Bathinda had been lifted, officials claimed.


Rs 40-cr trauma centre remains pipe dream
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 27
The Rs 40-crore Advance Trauma Centre, proposed to be set up in Government Rajindra Hospital here, by the Government Medical College (Gomco) Alumni Association remains a pipe dream.

The Gomco Alumni Association had, in December, 2005, announced with much fanfare that it would set up the trauma centre by mobilising donations from the Gomco alumni settled abroad.

However, the project has failed to take off. It was supposed to be completed in two years. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the centre on December 17, 2005.

Dr Ravinder Singh, vice-chancellor of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences and chairman of the association, had announced at that time that the Punjab government had agreed to provide 1 acre on the premises of the hospital. The centre was to be set up by the association and the Patiala Health Foundation of the USA.

The office of the association is located in the residence of Dr Ravinder Singh at Patiala.

Jagjit Puri, principal secretary, Medical Education and Research, said the project was yet to take off.

In this context, a high-level meeting, attended by senior functionaries of the Medical Education Department, was also held in the office of the local medical college recently.

Besides Puri himself, others who attended the meeting included principal Jaswinderpal Kaur, additional deputy commissioner (ADC) A.P.S. Virk, the then DRME J.S.Dalal and a representative of the association from the USA Prem Kumar.

The meeting discussed the location of the proposed trauma centre, but nothing concrete came out. Sources in the association told The Tribune that huge donations had been collected from association members settled abroad. These funds are lying unutilised. According to the blueprint of the trauma centre, it was to have state-of-the-art equipment to take care of accident victims and other patients who suffered from any kind of trauma.

It was proposed to constitute a committee for a fund-raising campaign and approach over 5,000 old students of Patiala Medical College for donation. However, the shares of the association remain closely guarded and nobody has any inkling of the project status of the trauma centre project.

A senior doctor told The Tribune that the centre was supposed to be run on a charitable basis where people would be asked to adopt patients and send a detailed report about the patients to the donor.

Alumni Association sources say that huge donations were lying in a bank account, while a grant of Rs 1 crore, given by the then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, is also lying unutilised.

They say that the association has become a one-man affair, with Dr Ravinder Singh not informing any association member about the proposed activities of the centre.

Dr Ravinder Singh, when contacted, avoided comment on the issue, saying he was busy and could not discuss the subject.


100 jhuggis gutted in Kharar
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Kharar, April 27
A hamlet of around 100 jhuggi’s in Adarsh Colony here was reduced to ashes in a major fire this afternoon, which left more than 500 persons homeless. Fortunately, no loss of life was reported. In what was sheer negligence on part of the district administration and the police, no government official barring a constable and a wireless man reached the spot where the fire was raging for about three hours and residents were fleeing for their lives.

The fire began at 2.15 pm and spread within minutes. The dwellers, most of them labourers and painters, ran for their lives with women grabbing their children and rushing out in the open.

All the jhuggi’s were gutted one after another and the meagre belongings of the poor people, including some electronic goods, clothing and other basic things were lost to the flames.

Those who saw the smoke emanating from the jhuggi’s rushed to inform the fire department but only one fire tender reached the spot. By this time the fire had engulfed the entire area after which more fire tenders were called. The fire tenders were unable to reach the exact place of fire where the flames rose high and fire extinguishing operation got delayed by almost 15 minutes.

The piece of land on which the jhuggi’s were built belongs to Surmukh Singh, a resident of Balongi area. Surmukh had given the entire colony on rent to the jhuggi dwellers without any permission.

The jhuggis, which were home to more than 350 families, were spread over 30 acres and all the people were seen taking away their half burnt belongings out from the debris after the fire was doused. The daily wagers who reached back from their routine work were shocked to find their life’s earnings reduced to debris.

“We don’t know where we would spend our nights. No utensils are left to cook food in,” said an inconsolable Sunita Kumari.

When contacted DSP, Kharar, Raj Balwinder Singh Sandhu claimed that the Balongi police post Dalip Singh did go to the spot for a few minutes, leaving his duty at the PCA stadium for the IPL match.

Mohali: The SAS Nagar administration and the police seem to be working for the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) and not the Punjab government. While not a single officer from the administration bothered to go and see the plight of five hundred jhuggi dwellers who lost their everything in the fire, the deputy commissioner H.I.S. Grewal was seen by many persons sitting and “enjoying” his Sunday watching the IPL match at the stadium. SSP R.S. Khatra, who also chooses to stay inside the stadium during every match, remained incommunicado through the day.

In a flawed arrangement, the SSP had posted every single SHO at the stadium, leaving the rest of the district virtually without any police cover. As a result, in case of an emergency like the one happened today, there was no one to oversee the fire control and rescue operations. Similarly, with all the SHOs busy providing protection to VVIPs at the stadium, no work could be done at any police station across the district.


Undertrials, convicts to be segregated
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 27
Undertrials and convicts will be segregated in Punjab jails, with the state government deciding to set up different barracks for different categories of jail inmates.

Jails minister Hira Singh Gabria, who is of the opinion that an undertrial should not be put up with a convict, has taken up the matter with the Chief Minister, who has given his nod to go ahead with the proposal.

Talking to TNS today, Gabria said shortly they would set up different jails within the existing jails for different categories of inmates. He said most of the convicts were hardened criminals, and when undertrails came in contact with them, they formed a network. After their release, they become even worse.

Moreover, a person whose crime has not been proved and who has not been sentenced should not be treated like a hardcore criminal, said Gabria.

He added that there were only 5,000 convicts in different jails in Punjab, while there were nearly 7,500 undertrials on any given day. ''Considering the high number, we have decided that till the time an accused is convicted, he should not be lodged with the convicts,'' he said.

The minister said they would provide different shelters for undertrials and convicts for the time being.

''In the present system, a pick-pocket shares a barrack with an extortionist, a kidnapper, a serial killer or any other hardened criminal. Instead of going back as a reformed person, he would come in contact with such persons and might return as a dreaded criminal. We have to think about it compassionately,” 
he said.


Need for proper equipment in thermal plants
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 27
Though Sukhbir Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), had announced that the cotton belt of the state would be developed as the power hub of the state, the existing thermal plants in the district, one at Lehra Mohabbat and another at Bathinda, are facing problems. The extent of the problem is such that if not rectified soon, the whole cotton belt might reel under huge power crisis in the upcoming paddy season.

At the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP), Bathinda, one of the two 132/66 KV 50 MVA (Mega Volt Ampere) transformers is out of order for the past month. “This transformer was installed when the GNDTP came into existence, some 35 years back. On one side, Sukhbir is boasting of converting this area into power capital of the state and on the other, no heed is paid to the problems faced by the existing thermal plants,” experts at the GNDTP feel.

Even the unit III of the Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant, Lehra Mohabbat, is not producing power as it has been shut down because the coal bunkers had got empty.

According to highly placed sources at the GNDTP, “The 50 MVA transformer at the thermal plant is out of order for the past one month and only the 50 MVA transformer is working at present. Even the Chief Minister, on his last visit to the city, had spoken to the chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to change the transformer. But nothing has been done till date.”

Sources revealed, “Last summer, the two 50 MVA, each transformers at the GNDTP, were overloaded and working at a load of 110 MVA. So, we had written to the PSEB for getting another 100 MVA transformer installed so that it could reduce the burden of the existing transformers. Instead of getting another transformer installed, they did not even get the out of transformer replaced.”

A.S. Mokha, chief engineer, GNDTP, said, “For this purpose, we are having a meeting at Bathinda and very soon the transformer will be replaced.”

But sources feel that the PSEB is taking time in replacing this transformer because they don’t have a new transformer with them.

Speaking on phone from New Delhi, Y.S. Ratra, chairman, PSEB, said, “I am aware of the problem and very soon this transformer would be replaced.”


Utilising Canal Water for Drinking
Task force to be set up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 27
Punjab has a plan to provide clean canal water for drinking and fight water, soil and air pollution in the state.

Media adviser to the Chief Minister Harcharan Bains said a task force would be set up which would function as advisory cell and have representatives from the Punjab Pollution Control Board, the Public Health, Irrigation, Health, Local Government and Industries Departments.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal took notice of reports in a section of the press on contaminated canal water. An emergency meeting of senior officers in this regard was held on Friday morning. The Chief Minister expressed concern over the drinking water supply system in the state in general and the Malwa region in particular, and said for the protection of the health of people, new techniques of water purification should be adopted along with revamping the present system.

He emphasised the need for non-conventional techniques like reverse osmosis (RO) and silver ionisation (SI) for the purpose. These techniques can ensure protection against polluted water.

Discharge of untreated industrial waste into rivers was the main cause of water pollution in the state.


Fire in HP Forests
Leopards spotted in Anandpur Sahib, Ropar areas 
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, April 27
Leopards have been spotted in Anandpur Sahib, Ropar and Kurali areas. The fire in Himachal pine tree forests has made the wild animals come to low-lying areas of Punjab in search of food, water and habitat.

Incidents of domestic animals being preyed upon by leopards have been reported from various villages. Rattan Singh of Pararpur village claimed that the animals had dragged cattle from his village. Similarly, Gurnam Singh of Appar Dolowal village said incidents of lambs, dogs and cattle being preyed upon by wild animals had been reported from the village. Similar incidents were also reported from Samtain village in Bilaspur (HP) near Nangal.

Forest officials say the pine tree forest in Himachal has been on fire for more than a month due to which wild animals have turned towards Punjab. Leopards usually prey upon sambars and wild boars, available in abundance in Punjab. Forest officials suspect there could be more than three leopards in these areas.

Eyewitnesses say the three leopards include an adult male, a female and a cub. Attack on human dwellings has not been reported from anywhere so far. However, they said domestic animals from different villages had been killed and eaten by these wild animals.

DFO (Wildlife) Tushar Kanti Behda said his department had not received any such report nor any villager contacted them. 


Fire engulfs 925 acres of forest
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 27
A fire that broke out on April 25 in the Shivalik range of the Kandi belt at Kot, Patial, Bahera, Maili, Lalwan and Kothi villages of the district has reduced the forest wealth 
to ashes.

Nirmla Devi, wife of sarpanch Ram Sarup of Bahera village, said today that the forest fire, which started from one side of the Shivalik range in the forest areas of Kot and Bahera villages, spread to other areas and was still raging.

The fire has engulfed a stretch of 22 km of villages of Kot, Bahera and Patial and gutted the house of Thakur Jiwan Singh at Kot village. The fire also engulfed 925 acres of forest in Maili, Lalwana and Kothi villages and spread towards the adjoining forest areas of Nangal, Mawa, Gholan and Daulatupur villages in Una district of Himachal and is posing a threat to more adjoining areas.

According to residents of these areas, efforts were on to prevent the fire from spreading.

No loss of wild animals and khair, sheesham, bamboo, pine trees and babbar grass etc had been done. Official sources said due to the topographical condition of the area, residents and the Forest Department were trying to control the fire as the fire engine could not reach hills and sprinkle water on the affected area.

Divisional forest officer, Hoshiarpur, Sewa Singh claimed that around 50 hectares of forest land had been affected by the fire of Kot and Patial villages. Only wild growth, including bushes and dried leaves, had been burnt in the blaze. Loss of wildlife has not been reported. The Indo-Japan project worth several crores was also reported safe. Efforts to control the fire were on.

Deputy commissioner N. K. Wadhawan visited the affected areas and said no loss of life had been reported so far. The fire is away from residential areas.

Till the filing of this report, forest employees and fire fighters, along with villagers, were trying to control the fire.


Fire in sugar mill: MD, staff differ on loss
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Ajnala, April 27
Following destruction of wheat on 374 acres in a fire in this tehsil, another fire broke out in the cooperative sugar mill at Bhalapind village this morning causing loss 
to the mill.

Balbir Singh Jaffal, managing director of the mill, said the crushed material stocked in the mill caught fire at 11 am when there was sparking from two electricity wires passing through the mill. He said the blowing wind helped fire spread towards the area where turbine was located in the complex.

Wheat crop on more than 300 acres in the Abusaid and Nanoke villages of Ajnala tehsil was destroyed in a fire caused due to sparking from a transformer 
on April 25.

Jaffal said three fire engines of Amritsar and the Rajasansi International Airport were pressed into service to control the fire in the building where the turbine was located. He claimed that the mill had suffered a loss of Rs 8 lakh as the crushed sugarcane material stocked in the godown was gutted. He added there was no major loss to the machinery of the mill.

Some mill employees claimed that more than two lakh quintals of material valued at Rs 1.6 crore 
was gutted, besides damage to 
the machinery.

Had sarpanch Ranjit Singh Bhala and Dr Inderjit Singh with men from Bhala village not arrived in the mill and helped douse the flames, the loss to the mill would have been huge, they said.

Dr Satnam Singh Ajnala, district president, Jamhoori Kisan Union, demanded a high-level probe into the case. He said action should be taken against the MD of the mill and officials of the Punjab State Electricity Board responsible for the maintenance of electricity wires in the mill. 


New gurdwara opens in Nevada

Reno (Nevada, USA), April 27
Sikhs in Reno, Nevada, have started the move to a newly built $ 3m gurdwara by carrying a copy of Guru Granth Sahib in a decorated vehicle in a procession of devotees from the old temple on Second Street to the new one on 1380 Selmi Drive.

The ground for this new two-storeyed gurdwara, spread over 2.4 acres, was broken on August 16 last. It is topped with a golden dome on the pattern of traditional Sikh architecture.

Besides the large main sanctuary, it also includes a community/dining hall for weddings, gatherings, lunches and a full kitchen to prepare langar.

It will also have three large plasma screens, which will show the words written in English and Punjabi languages whatever the priest is reading out of the holy scripture.

According to Amolak Singh Powar, president of Reno Sikh Temple, the new temple, located near Sutro/McCarran, will further add more accommodation for teaching Punjabi language and religious lessons. This will be the only gurdwara in north-western Nevada. In the state, however, there is another gurdwara in Las Vegas. — ANI


Protesters block Amritsar-Jammu highway
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 27
Residents of Verka in Amritsar today blocked the Amritsar-Jammu highway in protest against the district administration for not taking up development works in the area.

People came out on the GT Road at 11 am and blocked the road for about two hours protesting against the administration for not repairing the damaged roads and streets. They also raised slogans for not providing clean drinking water.

Dharamvir Singh, director, Milk Plant Verka Society, said they were forced to come out on the roads as the administration had failed to provide basic necessities like drinking water. He said people were already facing hardships in view of the power cuts imposed by the electricity board in the state. He warned the administration that if immediate steps were not taken to remove the grievances of the people, they would be forced to intensify the stir.

Passengers, especially patients from the Jammu and Kashmir region, who come to the city for treatment of orthopaedic and eye ailments, had to face inconvenience as they were stranded in the area for about two hours. 


‘Rapists’ find new way to get better of law
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 27
In a new phenomenon, to get the better of the law, condoms are being regularly used by rapists in Punjab ,which relies mainly on semen tests to ensure their indictment.

Many rape accused have got wise to the fact that vaginal swabs and the subsequent spermatozoa or even DNA test can nail them conclusively. So has started the trend of using condoms to thwart both possibilities and ensure bail in the case, which usually is used to influence investigations.

According to a study of 1,000 alleged rape cases in the state in two years, it has been revealed spermatozoa was detected in only 37 per cent of cases submitted to the state’s chemical laboratory for examination. According to the laboratory’s former head Dr D. C. Sharma, who is responsible for the study, it was revealed a number of suspects were going in for use of condoms to thwart detection through chemical tests as well as the fear of contracting sexual diseases like AIDS.

Dr Sharma said in some cases it was revealed the motive of the accused was to tarnish honour of the family of the woman targeted. In such cases, he said, it was found injuries were cause to the private parts of the woman without leaving any traces of semen.

The reports says in such a situation it is necessary to look at other tell- tale signs of rape and forcible penetration to build the prosecution case. It said banking on the semen report alone could result in the dilution of the case and even result in the accused getting bail.

The report also found there was link between parts of the state, which were more aware about protected sex, and those areas, which were not. It states the maximum percentage of positive cases of 59 per cent was from Bathinda followed by its neighbour Muktsar with 54 per cent and Ferozepur with 45 per cent. In comparison, the study noted, the incidence of semen positivity rates was less in Jalandhar (31 per cent) and Patiala (32 per cent) where awareness regarding safe sex was more.

Dr Sharma said an analysis of the study revealed the highest percentage of semen positive cases were detected in the age group of women of 31 to 40 years, many of whom had completed their families and few even having gone in for sterilisation operations to ward off the risk of pregnancy. The study said this might be one reason why protective measures like condoms were not used by the accused in these cases. The next group with high semen positive incidence is the adolescent group of 15 to 18 years in which the girls were usually raped suddenly and the accused may not have had time to arrange for condoms.

As far as reporting of cases of sexual offences against women is concerned, in terms of absolute figures Ludhiana led with 182 cases followed by Jalandhar, Amritsar and Gurdaspur with 103, 101 and 97 cases respectively. Urbanisation as well as presence of a large migratory population in Ludhiana seems to be the major factor for the highest incidence of sexual offences, according to the study. 


Man shot dead, 4 booked
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, april 27
Twentyseven-year-old Kesar Singh Malhi, a resident of Simbal Majra village (Jetewal) in the Nurpur Bedi area, was shot dead on Saturday night. Kesar was returning with three friends after attending a marriage at Anandpur Sahib. All four were on two motorcycles. At around 11.30 pm when they reached near Sangatpur village, some youths in a car attacked them.

The accused fired three rounds of gun shots at Kesar. He died on the spot. DSP, Anandpur Sahib, Jatinder Singh Benipal said Kesar was shot due to old enmity. He said the rounds were shot from a .12-bore gun. The police has recovered an unknown mobile phone, sharp- edged weapons and a pair of slippers from the spot of crime.

Four persons Bachittar Singh, Baljeet Singh and Lakhvir Singh Lakhi from Bhauwal and Ajwinder Singh from Beihara have been booked on a complaint of Harvinder Singh Bitti who was accompanying Kesar.

The DSP said earlier in the day accused Bachittar had sent an abusive SMS to the deceased.

The post-mortem was conducted at the Ropar Civil Hospital. The body of the deceased was handed over to the family and efforts were made to nab the culprits. 


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