P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Wheat price in global market falls
Courtesy bumper crop, better procurement in Punjab, Haryana
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
Bumper crop in Punjab and Haryana had “effect” on international price of wheat and its procurement by government agencies today crossed 70 lakh tonne mark.

Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal today said wheat price had come down in the international market because the Union government would not be approaching the international market to import wheat due to better procurement of wheat in Punjab compared to previous years.

In a few days, wheat price had come down by 40 per cent compared to one in February this year in the international market.

However, it is ruling high by 60 to 70 per cent compared to its price in corresponding period last year.

Had wheat crop not done well in Punjab this year, country would have faced difficult time forcing the Union government to import wheat, said Badal.

For the past some days, reports are coming from various states in the country on better output of foodgrains this year.

In fact, first time owing to better yield of foodgrains, the growth in agriculture sector is being pegged around 4.5 per cent whereas in earlier years it was around 2.5 per cent at the national level.

Reports of better wheat crop have also come from Ukraine and certain other wheat- producing countries.

The international wheat trade has now estimated the wheat production at 645 million tonnes whereas last year it was 603 million tonnes.

Besides Punjab, Haryana is also doing well compared to last year as far as procurement of wheat is concerned.

Both Punjab and Haryana are hugely wheat surplus states and would contribute 135 lakh tonnes of it to the national pool this year.

Sources said by today evening about 72 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured by various government agencies. Share of private traders in the procurement of wheat is insignificant.

The Union government had given target of procuring 80 lakh tonnes of wheat for the central pool to Punjab government.

However, keeping in view wheat arrival in grain markets, procurement will 90 lakh tonne figure.

Last year, 67.80 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured by government agencies and 10 lakh tonnes by the traders and Punjab government for atta-dal scheme.

Sources said inflow of wheat was being reported from all parts of the state. On Saturday, arrival of wheat was in the range of 5 lakh tonnes.

However, it was less yesterday because it was Sunday. Sources said arrival of wheat would remain high for next few days and start coming down during the week end.


Procurement touches 70 lakh tonnes
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
The Punjab government today claimed to have cleared all payments of farmers for the wheat procured till yesterday.

In all, about Rs 6,000 crore has been paid in 1,615 procurement centres of Punjab, where 70 lakh tonnes of wheat has been procured so far.

Out of the Rs 11176 crore set aside for the payment of the farmers, Rs 8,000 crore has been placed at the disposal of the Food and Supply Department for payments during April.

A government spokesperson said Rs 951.50 crore has been allocated to Pungrain, whereas Markfed has been allocated Rs 1216.30 crore for wheat procurement.

Similarly, Punsup has been allocated Rs 1,237 crore and an amount of Rs 590.26 crore has been placed at the disposal of the PSWC. Similarly, PAFC and FCI have been allocated Rs 661.68 crore and Rs 624.94 crore, respectively.

The spokesman said that six government agencies and private millers had procured more than 69.67 lakh tonnes of wheat in Punjab, out of which 67.64 lakh tonnes (97.01 per cent) has been procured for the central pool and 45195 tonnes have been procured for the state pool.

According to an official spokesman, government agencies and private millers procured more than 69.67 lakh tonnes of wheat till Sunday evening.


Govt agencies lead in procurement
Ban, higher taxes in Punjab force pvt players to stay away
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
The ban on agri-corporates entering into Punjab for wheat purchase has led to one of the lowest ever share in wheat purchase by private parties.

While the mandis in the state are flush with the wheat produce, the private parties have managed to procure just 1.12 per cent of the total wheat that has arrived in the mandis.

Official sources said till yesterday 69.67 lakh metric tonnes of wheat had arrived in various mandis of the state.

Of this, 67.7 lakh MT of wheat had been purchased, of which a mere 1.66 lakh MT had been purchased by the private parties.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the other state government agencies have purchased the remaining produce.

This being an election year, and the rising prices of most food items leading to a high inflation, had earlier led to a ban on agri-corporates entering into Punjab.

With the Central government keen to ensure that the post procurement price of wheat remain stable, they want to get the maximum share of wheat for the central pool from Punjab and Haryana.

Harbans Singh Rosha, former chairman of the Khanna market committee, said it was only the private flourmill owners who are buying wheat, by paying just Rs 5 over the minimum support price of Rs 1,000 per quintal.

Agri corporates like ITC, Adani, Cargill, Glencore and the Australian Wheat Board are making their purchases from mandis in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Other than the fact that there is a ban on the purchase of wheat by agri-corporates, high taxes and freight charges on wheat, is also keeping them away from making a foray in the wheat procurement process in Punjab.

The reason for this corporate ‘disinterest’ in Punjab is based on pure economics. Punjab charges the highest taxes in North India (11. 5 per cent) on each quintal of wheat procured from its mandis.

These taxes (market fee, rural development fund, VAT, cess on VAT and arhtiya commission) are about Rs 145 per quintal. Also, the freight charges from Punjab to South India (for example Bangalore) works out to be Rs 160 per quintal.

This means that the price a company will have to pay on each quintal of wheat procured from the state, including the MSP of Rs 1,000, is Rs 1,300 per quintal.

Comparatively, wheat procured from Haryana (with 10.5 per cent tax), Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan (with 7.5 per cent tax) and Madhya Pradesh (with 4 per cent taxes) is much cheaper for these companies.

Even the freight charges from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to South India (the main market for selling of wheat procured by the companies) is less than the charges from Punjab.

The big wheat traders in Punjab said this year, none of the companies have made arrangements to buy wheat from Punjab.

Last year, traders in Khanna and Rajpura had procured wheat on behalf of the above mentioned corporates.

“In 2006, these companies had procured 17 per cent of the total wheat arrival in Punjab, about13.1 lakh metric tonnes from a total arrival of 82.9 lakh tonnes.

But for the past two years, they have been wooed by the lower taxes and freight in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh,” said Raj Sood, a leading trader in Khanna, who procures wheat for Cargill, Glencore and the Australian Wheat Board.


CPI, CPM sabotaging farmers’ interests: BKU
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
The Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) today said Communist parties, especially the CPM and the CPI were betraying small and marginal farmers by creating hurdles in the way of better price for farmers’ produce by the Union government.

BKU chief Balbir Singh Rajewal, said while Communist parties were holding demonstrations and blocking proceedings of Parliament in protest against rising prices of foodgrains produced by farmers, leaders of these parties had never demonstrated against rising prices of farm inputs like fertiliser, seeds, pesticides and even agricultural implements- tractors, cultivators.

Rajewal said the Communist leaders had not even once marched on Delhi roads to urge the government to provide agricultural inputs and implements to farmers on controlled rates.

Rajewal said objective behind demonstrations against rising food grains’ prices was to deny better price to farmers.

He said had the Communist leaders not held march against rising foodgrains prices a few days ago, farmers of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and other wheat- producing states might have got bonus on wheat from the union government.

He said because Communist parties’ clamour against rising prices of foodgrains, the Union government had shied away from giving bonus to farmers.

Rajewal said hue and cry against rising prices had been manufactured by anti-farmer forces. He said when prices of farm inputs used to grow foodgrains, pulses, vegetables, had gone up several times in a few years, why should not the price of foodgrains go up. How were farmers responsible for increase in the price of steel, cement, diesel and petrol etc that led to inflation.

The BKU leader said the Communist leaders should realise they were working against 70 per cent people living in e rural areas by forcing the Union government not to provide better price of food grains to farmers.

Due to pressure by the Communist parties, the Union government had taken various steps that were denying competitive price to farmers for foodgrains, vegetables etc. Why was the Communist parties not pressing the Union government to give the price of wheat on a par with international market.

Rajewal said if the Communist parties did not stop building pressure on the Union government to keep prices of foodgrains lower , the farmers would be forced to come on the roads against the political parties adopting anti- farmer stance.

Countryside without power

The BKU( Rajewal) today said electricity was being provided in the countryside for an hour or two in 24 hours.

Denial power to rural areas by the PSEB was brought to the notice of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal but it did not make any difference, he said. Without power, farmers were facing serious problems.

The Chief Minister had also directed deputy commissioners to submit reports on the burning of wheat in fields due to sparking from overhead electric wires but there was no compliance in this regard.

“ I met PSEB chairman Y.S. Ratra today and urged him to give compensation to farmers whose crops were burnt.”


Farm service on IAS, IPS pattern sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
Jagdeep Singh Cheema, chairman of the Dr Amrik Singh Cheema Foundation Trust, has appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to constitute the Indian Agricultural Service on the pattern of all- India services like the IAS, the IPS and the IFS.

He said to promote agriculture in the country,such all- India agriculture service was a need of the hour.

Agriculture has become highly technical and for its management and improving growth of this sector, a national service was required, he said.

The schemes sponsored by the Union government for various states were not being implemented, he added.

With the constituting of all India service, such schemes could be implemented and latest technology introduced to improve crop yield.


30 Punjabi youths ‘facing exploitation’ in UAE
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, April 28
Disturbed by reports of their sons’ torture by employers in certain parts of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), residents of the area have urged the Union government and the United Nations to rescue Indian youths in alleged illegal detention of their masters or had gone in hiding to evade inhuman action.

At least 30 Punjabis, besides other Indians, working as drivers on contact for two years with Algairi Transport of East Riyadh were reported to be in difficulty.

Nazar Singh of Sihar village, Mukhtiar Singh of Zirakh, Gurdev Singh of Bhutta, Harjit Singh of Akalgarh and Baljit Singh of Sangrur district are among others who ,after being thrashed by cops, allegedly on the instance of Baddus ( supervisors ) of the company, were detained at unknown place in Jumbo.

Sukhwinder Singh of Anandpur Sahib, Surinder Singh of Jargari, Zora Singh of Kanganwal , Malwinder Singh of Ludhiana district, Kuldip Singh and Harvinder Singh of Gobindgarh, Deepa of Dhamot, Harjit Singh of Bhaddal Sua, Kamaljit Singh of Samrala, Harmel Singh of Bhadson, Ravinder Singh of Laddwal, Lakhbir Singh of Hans, Hardev Singh of Rajewal, Jaswinder Singh of Mallpur, Darshan Singh of Dhadogal, Surjit Singh and Ravinder Singh of Batala and many others had gone in hiding to evade inhuman treatment.

In a communiqué addressed to the Prime Minister of India and Secretary- General, United Nations, residents of the area led by Congress leader Raghu Nandan Sharma, have urged the authorities in the UAE to protect human rights of Indians in general and Punjabis in particular, who were being exploited there.

Referring to information received from Sadhu Singh, former sarpanch of Sihar village, Sharma alleged at least 30 Punjabi youths and many other Indians had been allegedly thrashed by cops in Riyadh.

Sadhu Singh borrowed Rs 1.50 lakh to send his son Nazar Singh to Riyadh last year. An agent of Gobindgarh city had assured income of Rs 20,000 per month. Every thing went smooth for some months after which, officials in the Algairi Transport, started paying him meagre Rs 7,000.

"When we asked the reason behind the deduction, they told us the deducted amount would be paid at the time of end of contract. On our insistence for full payment they got us thrashed by Surte (cops)," Nazar told The Tribune on his father's mobile phone.

According to Nazar Singh the victims were asked to confess that they had stolen goods and fuel from vehicles they used to drive. Besides giving a beating they were made to slouch on hot sand dunes and go without water and food.

Claiming corporal punishment was allowed in the UAE Nazar and his associates urged the authorities in Indian embassy in that region to get them freed and arrange for their return to their native land.

"You make an appeal on our behalf that officials in our embassy should ask the employers to present the workers before a medical board," sobbed Nazar Singh, maintaining 30 Punjabis had either been detained illegally or disappeared to evade inhuman treatment.


Sukhbir Badal to be candidate for Amritsar bypoll?
Badal senior launches formal poll campaign
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
Rumours are rife here that Sukhbir Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal, may contest the Amritsar (South) bypoll, scheduled for May 22.

All aspirants for the party ticket have given their consent not to claim stake if the party supremo accepts the proposal.

The eleventh hour cancellation of the proposed sangat darshan of Badal at his residence from April 29 to April 31 and his launching of the formal election campaign by holding series of nukkad rallies in grain market and bylanes of Amritsar have given credence that SAD chief may accept the “request” of the local party leadership to contest from Amritsar.

He went from door to door in various colonies of the constituency and interacted with people, giving them a feel of SAD-BJP “being close to them”.

It is for the first time that SAD would be announcing its candidate after the Congress party’s announcement.

Though the Chief Minister held a series of meetings with senior BJP leaders and addressed election rallies, Sukhbir held closed-door meetings with his close confidants here today to get the “feedback” whether he should contest the poll.

Bikram Singh Majithia, minister, public relations, evaded a direct reply to the probability of SAD chief to contest from Amritsar.

The wife and daughter of Sukhbir Singh Badal was likely to visit Amritsar in the late evening. When asked as to why the entire family of SAD chief was coming to Amritsar, Majithia quipped that they (wife of Sukhbir) wanted to pay obeisance at Golden Temple since their daughter was going abroad.

Party sources said that senior SAD leaders felt that for Sukhbir, the bypoll would be a “cakewalk” in the wake of the wrangling in Congress party following the fielding of Navdeep Singh Goldi, who is considered a greenhorn in politics.

In a lighter vein, a senior Congress leader said that it would be rather a “ramp walk” if SAD chief contests from Amritsar.

However, if SAD chief decides to contest from Amritsar, it would give an impression that he was aspirant for the post of Chief Minister. In such a case, he would be the first CM from the Majha region after Partap Singh Kairon.

The bypoll is considered crucial for SAD, as it would be the first election after Sukhbir’s elevation as SAD chief.

The CM, meanwhile, visited Amritsar in a big red beacon car. To woo the voters, the Chief Minister announced that the proposed Central university would be established in Amritsar only.

It won’t be shifted to Ferozepur or any other part of the state, he said. Addressing the election rallies, Badal said he was sure that voters of Amritsar would repose their faith in the policies of the SAD-BJP alliance.

Independent councillor from ward no 40 Kailash Kaur, meanwhile, supported the ruling alliance in the bypoll.


ZP, Panchayat Samiti Poll
No nomination filed on day 1
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 28
Not even a single candidate today filed nomination papers for the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections on the opening day here today.

District election officer and deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu said in view of the directions of the Election Commission, prospective candidates could only be accompanied by not more than five persons, besides come for nominations with only three vehicles which had to be parked at least 100 m from the office of the returning officer. He said anyone violating the directions of the EC would be dealt according to the law.

Meanwhile, Sandeep Rishi, SDM-cum-election registration officer, in a press note issued here today, informed that according to the notification for poll 2008 issued by the state election commission, the Jandiala Guru Nagar Council will go to polls with 15 newly created wards instead of 13 wards.

He said the new revision of voters list had commenced from April 24, which would continue till May 1 and would be published on May 2.

The objections can be submitted till May 9, which will be looked into till May 16. The final list of the voters will be released on May 20.


BJP to stake claim on more seats
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 28
The SAD (Badal) and its alliance partner BJP are likely to contest the forthcoming Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls unitedly this time.

The BJP is, however, expected to give a tough time to the SAD (Badal) by pressing for a bigger share of seats with the argument that its graph witnessed “phenomenal rise” in rural areas of Punjab.

Meanwhile, the SAD’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) member and Punjab minister for cooperation Capt Kanwaljit Singh indicated that the SAD-BJP seat-sharing was likely to be roughly on the same lines of the last Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls.

The SAD has already formed a high-powered committee, comprising five of its top leaders and PAC members, including SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, former Union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder, to decide on the quantum of seat sharing with the BJP.

Interestingly, while the SAD and the Congress have pulled up their sleeves and have either announced their candidates at certain places in respect of around 325 Zila Parishad and about 3,500 Panchayat Samiti polls, or have nominated their senior leaders and in charge of different districts, the BJP is yet to throw itself in the race.

On the contrary, the BJP was learnt to be in the middle of the process of identification of seats it was intending to contest in the polls, scheduled to be held on May 12.

The BJP’s in charge of Punjab Affairs Balbir Punj was scheduled to hold a meeting with senior BJP and SAD leaders on the contentious seat-sharing issue on Tuesday evening at Chandigarh.

The BJP’s state leadership, top party sources revealed, was intending to stake its claim on a large chunk of seats this time, particularly, as it was buoyed over its ability to make inroads into rural areas of Punjab during the last Assembly elections.

“We want to fight the polls unitedly this time. But, we are laying our claim on more seats this time, as we have managed to get a very good base in rural areas of Punjab. We are seeking about 97 seats, though the final decision was to be taken,” said the Punjab BJP’s acting president Vijay Sampla.

BJP’s Gaon Chalo Abhiyan, Sampla said, had started showing positive results.


Denied SAD ticket for ZP poll, aspirant attempts suicide
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 28
Despite the fact that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has not announced its candidates for the Zila Parishad (ZP) elections in Sangrur district, an aspirant for the ticket for a ZP zone in the Lehra Assembly constituency allegedly made an attempt to commit suicide by consuming some poisonous substance last evening at Lehragaga.

He reportedly told the police that he had taken the step, as he had been denied SAD ticket for the ZP elections. He was taken to the Lehragaga hospital last evening, from where he was referred to Civil Hospital, Sunam, where his condition was said to be normal.

Lehragaga SHO Indervir Sharma said Achhru Ram, a resident of Ballran village, said to be a SAD worker, allegedly consumed some poisonous substance to commit suicide, as he had reportedly not been given the party ticket for ZP elections.

He said Achhru Ram claimed that he was a loyal worker of the party, so he should be given the party ticket. The SHO said as Achhru Ram had allegedly consumed poisonous substance to commit suicide, a case under Section 309 of the IPC had been registered against him.

General secretary of the SAD and area in charge of SAD for the Lehra Assembly constituency, Prem Singh Chandumajra, meanwhile, said that Achhru Ram was not even a worker of the SAD.

He said Achhru Ram had not even cast his vote in the previous Assembly elections, so he had never made any commitment to Achhru Ram to allot him party ticket.

Chandumajra described the alleged suicide attempt by Achhru Ram as an emotional blackmail to put pressure on the SAD leadership for allotting him a ticket in the ZP elections.


Seek pardon from victims, Sarabjit’s family told
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
Proclaiming its opposition to death penalty, the Dal Khalsa today urged the governments of India and Pakistan to call for a moratorium on capital punishment in their respective countries.

Kanwarpal Singh, general secretary, said, “There is ample historical and legal evidence to support that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime and serves only the purpose of revenge”.

While asking President Pervez Musharraf to condone the death sentence of Sarabjit on humanitarian ground, Kanwarpal said the family members of Sarabjit should seek pardon from the victims of bomb blasts, as under the Shariat Law the power to commute a convict's death sentence primarily rested with the families of the victims.

He said Sarabjit's family could not rubbish Pakistan’s justice system by claiming that he (Sarabjit) was innocent.

Kanwarpal hailed the Pakistan government for actively considering a proposal to convert Sarabjit's capital punishment into life imprisonment.



Pak officials visit Amritsar jail
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
Even as consular access by the Pakistan Embassy and the ministry of home affairs provided to as many as 27 Pakistani prisoners in the high-security jail here has raised the hope for their repatriation, Mukhtar Ahmad (60), a resident of Kasur, is unlikely to walk free even though he had completed his jail term long ago, as he is not being accepted by his own country.

Mukhtar has already spent more than 17 years in Indian jails. He was arrested on December 22, 1990, under the NDPSA by the Customs Department from Ferozepur and his sentence was completed in 1999.

The first officer of the Pakistan Embassy, along with his two officers and a senior official of the MHA, Ved Parkash, held consular access of the 27 Pakistani nationals by visiting the jail. The consular access has been arranged due to the constant efforts of deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu.

Many prisoners had to languish in the jail due to the delay in granting consular access, which is mandatory under the international conventions to which both Pakistan and India are signatories.

Mukhtar seems very distressed because he believes that he would die in the jail as his own country is not ready to accept him for the reasons not known to him. Many women were among the Pakistani prisoners who were provided consular access.

Most of the prisoners were sentenced due to overstay. Some of the Pakistani prisoners had been languishing in Indian jails for the past 15 years.

Among those Pakistani prisoners who may walk free include Asgar (Narowal), Jasrullah (Gujranwala), Nakeeb-ur-Rehman (Okara), Mohammad Muslin (Dera Gazi Khan) , Afzal (Narowal), Khadim, Rameez Raja (Abbottabad), Faqir Hussain, Akbar Ali (Sialkot), Lyakat Ali (Kasur), Mohhammad Abas, Mohammad Abzal (Mardan), Aasak, Farzana Shaheen (Lahore), Mohammad Irfan, Asif, Ahmad (Karachi), his wife Seema, Nusar-ula (Sangalkoti), Zaheer Abas (Lahore), Gulzar (Mardan), Maqbool Husain, Mohammad Imran (Shekhupura), Malang Faqir (Lahore), Fazal Amin and Ajmal Ali (Lahore).


Liberalise visa norms: Pak scribe
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Attari, April 28
In order to promote Punjabi language, the governments of India and Pakistan should liberalise visa norms besides relaxing other rules to increase interaction between the people of East and West Punjab.

These views were expressed by renowned Punjabi litterateur and journalist Asad Mufti while talking to The Tribune.

A 28-member delegation of eminent Pakistani historians and journalist, including Mufti and story writer Mannu Bhai, was received by Satnam Manak, general secretary, Hind Pak Dosti Manch, and Ramesh Yadav, president, Folklore Research Academy, at Attar/Wagah joint check post here today.

The delegates will be participating in the Punjabi conference to be held at Punjabi University, Patiala. They will also participate in a cultural programme to be held on April 30 on the university campus.

Mufti, who is presently residing in Holland, said as there was equality in language and living standards in Europe one could not judge when one crossed into the other country.

In the same way, Punjabi language should also be promoted and such conferences help in boosting the prospects of Punjabi language all over the world, he added.

He said the first Punjabi conference was organised in Pakistani Punjab in 1986 by him and Fakhar Inzamam.

Another member of the delegation, Kalab Ali Sheikh, said he had learned Gurumukhi in Bathinda before the Partition of the country.

He said he was only three years old at that time. “I would also like to visit my birthplace Batala in Gurdaspur district,” he added.


Punjabi conference from tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 28
As many as 400 Punjabi litterateurs, journalists and artistes will participate in the two-day All-India Punjabi Conference being organised by Punjabi University, Patiala, from April 30 to May 1.

Addressing a press conference here today, Dr Jaspal Singh, vice-chancellor, Punjabi University, disclosed that Punjabi scholars from abroad, including 40 from Pakistan, would take part in the conference.

Dr Jaspal said the university was the second in the world to be set up on the basis of a language, while in India it was the first such university.

He said he was of the view that Punjabi language would flourish further and that it “would not be finished in the next 50 years as is being said by many people”.

The vice-chancellor said he had asked the chief coordinator of the conference, Dr Jodh Singh, and the entire university faculty to ensure that no “unsung hero,” especially belonging to any genre of Punjabi, remained outside this event. The VC said all these heroes would be honoured.

While Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will be the chief guest on the occasion, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar will preside. Dr Barjinder Singh Hamdard, chief editor of Ajit, will present the keynote address.

Noted Punjabi writers Dr Sutinder Singh Noor, Dr Jodh Singh, Dr Surjit Patar, Prof Gulzar Singh Sandhu, Dr Joga Singh and Dr Baldev Singh Cheema will also present their respective papers on various aspects of Punjabi journalism, language, art and culture in a session to be presided over by G.S Sidhu Damdami, editor of Punjabi Tribune.

Hans Raj Hans and Pammi Bai will perform in a cultural programme on April 30. Participants will share ideas and thoughts during the valedictory session on May 1, to be presided over by Dr Amrik Singh, former vice-chancellor of Punjabi University. J.J. Singh, Governor, Arunachal Pradesh, will be the chief guest.


High Court
Virk’s arrest deferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
Acting on blanket bail petition filed by Punjab’s former director-general of police S.S. Virk, Justice H.S. Bhalla today extended the directions against his arrest till May 12.

Virk, in his petition had earlier sought pre-arrest bail or issuance of 10 days advance notice in any case likely to be registered against him in the state by any wing of the Punjab police.

Virk had asserted he could not expect the vigilance bureau to act independently and in a professional manner.

Elaborating, he said it was abundantly clear the state was determined to re-fashion the vigilance bureau as per its own vested agenda.

It was for the first time in over 15 years that an important wing of the police was under the total control of IGP’s rank.

Notice to SGPC

City-based Guru Nanak Dev Universal Brotherhood Society today said Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’s decision to enter into an exclusive contract with a television channel for telecasting Gurbani from the Golden Temple amounted to commercialisation, which was against the basic tenets of Sikhism enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib.

The exclusive contract was also against the provisions of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, and deserved to be set aside. It was void ab initio, as the contract was against the public policy.

It contravened the provisions of the Contract Act, 1872. As such, it could not be sustained, the petition filed through society’s secretary advocate Hridey Pal Singh emphasised.

Taking up the petition, High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jaswant Singh issued notice to the SGPC, union home ministry and ETC channel for May 2, when the main writ petition of TataSky and others would come up.

Notice of motion

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jaswant Singh today issued notice of motion to the State of Punjab and other respondents on a petition against withdrawing of traffic challans from courts and handing them to the District Transport Officers.

Petitioners, advocate H.C. Arora and advocate A.P.S. Shergill, said the government had not shown even elementary courtesy to consult the court before tinkering with the powers of the courts under its jurisdiction.

Besides, the lawyers alleged it was against principles of natural justice to confer the powers to dispose traffic challans on the higher officers of the same department.

While issuing notices for May 16, the Chief Justice verbally expressed annoyance over the action of the Punjab government and asked Additional Advocate-General, Punjab, Amol Rattan Singh to seek instructions from the government for withdrawing the impugned circulars.

Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jaswant Singh also issued notice to the state for another PIL filed by Arora for review of salaries paid to the members of Consumer Forums and Punjab State Commission.


Double murder in Tarn Taran
Woman, granddaughter done to death
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 28
Panic grips residents of this historic township after the news of the brutal murder of a woman and her teenaged granddaughter spread like wildfire this morning.

The crime occurred in Dhotian village, 12 km from here, late last night. The victims, who have been identified as Jagir Kaur (70) and her granddaughter Sandeep Kaur (17), belonged to the family of a small farmer. Both were alone at their home at the time of the incident.

The Sarhali police is still clueless about the accused and the cause of murder. A case under Section 302, IPC, has been registered.

The killers allegedly used sharp-edged weapon for committing the crime and fled the scene by jumping the walls of the house. Many senior police officials visited the spot.

SP Tejinder Singh Maur said the police had collected fingerprints and called sniffer dog squad to get clues.

It is learnt that the killers first murdered the woman and then attacked the girl, who was making a telephone call to former sarpanch Ranjit Singh Rana.

Rana was, however, away to the fields while his wife attended the call and heard the cries of the girl who was dragged and killed by the accused.

The father of the girl, Jagbir Singh, who does a private job, had gone away for
some urgent work.

The police, which was informed by Rana about the incident, reached the spot and found the two bodies lying in a pool of blood. The bodies have been sent for the postmortem examination.


Death in Dera
Teenager’s body exhumed, probe on
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, April 28
Accusing an attendant of Dera Bhairon Nath near Paheri Bridge in Amloh subdivision of murdering their son and trying to conceal the sin by burying the body inside the dera premises, parents of the deceased today got the body exhumed.

The Amloh police has initiated a probe into the matter while a case would be registered only after receiving the postmortem report.

The body of Amandeep Singh (15), alias Param Nath, was exhumed under the supervision of Fatehgarh SSP this evening. The boy died under mysterious circumstances yesterday.

Investigations revealed that Kuldeep Singh of local Jawahar Nagar and his wife Varinder Kaur, were the followers of the dera.

Their son was having some health problem and the chief organiser of the religious place had suggested them to leave him at dera permanently, as according to him Amandeep was born with the blessings of the priest.

The child was left at the dera about six weeks ago. An anonymous caller informed the couple yesterday that their son had died and the attendant, in connivance of some other persons, was trying to dispose of the body.

“When we reached the dera, the attendant had already dug the grave. On our insistence to take the body with us, he threatened us of dire consequences and buried the body without showing to us, Prit Pal Singh, maternal uncle of the boy, told The Tribune.

Prit Pal Singh alleged that the attendant had killed Amandeep, as the latter had seen him with a woman in a compromising situation.


Indo-Pak Trade
Shortage of wagons, godowns main hindrances
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, April 28
The week-long stand-off between truck operators, exporters and the Railway authorities created a situation which worried the district administration.

A delegation of the Amritsar Chamber of Exporters today apprised deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu of the impasse which had resulted in the stranding of hundreds of trucks laden with red chillies outside the railway sidings awaiting availability of wagons for exporting the consignment to Pakistan.

Pannu telephoned Naveen Shukla, senior traffic manager, Northern Railway, to resolve the issue by making available wagons for the Indo-Pakistan trade facing rough weather for a few months.

Pannu said the Railway authorities had assured more wagons to clear the backlog at the earliest. He also suggested to the exporters to arrange a godown to unload the consignment of red chillies and free the truckers stranded here for more than a week till the availability of wagons.

Earlier, the Indo-Foreign Chamber of Commerce had blamed the Railways for scuttling the Indo-Pakistan trade by invoking ‘draconian’ laws.

They had demanded an independent probe into Railways working which was allegedly hindering trade between the two countries.

Meanwhile, a high-powered delegation from the Customs, Delhi, led by P.S. Pruthi, commissioner, Imports and Exports, today held tripartite talks with the Railway authorities and members of the exporters chamber to resolve the issue of unloading of cement racks arriving from Pakistan.

He had come from Delhi to facilitate movement of cement from Pakistan in view of demand of the construction material in the country.

Rajesh Setia, general secretary, Amritsar Chamber of Commerce, said paucity of space in railway godowns and unavailability of wagons were major bottlenecks in Indo-Pakistan trade.

He said last month 63,000 tonnes of cement was imported from Pakistan and cement companies in the neighbouring country were keen on sending four rakes daily, but lack of space and wagons on the Indian side were causing delay.

He said Bestway Cement company had written to commerce minister Kamal Nath for the trans-shipment of cement from the Wagah/Attari land route for faster movement of the consignment through trucks.

The chambers has suggested to the Railway authorites to transfer the inland trade business to Bhagtanwala railway station while the international trade with Pakistan should be confined to Railway sidings at the local station to overcome the shortage of space and wagons.

Balkar Singh, ADRM, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Railways, said he would take up the matter with senior officials and work out modalities for more wagons.


International Money Transfer
Post offices earn Rs 3 cr
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
International money transfer has become one of the biggest revenue grossers for post offices in the Punjab postal circle.

In one year, there has been over 12 per cent growth in transactions made through post offices in the state.

Officials in the Punjab postal circle said post offices in the state had become leading agents for international money transfer by meeting monetary needs of lakhs of NRIs and their families here.

The service offered by post offices, acting as agents of Western Union Money Transfer, has helped the post office earn profit of Rs 3.01 crore as commission in 2007-08.

The total remittances through the post offices this year were Rs 252.75 crore. Though the remittances were less compared to last financial year ( Rs 256.69 crore), the number of transactions have increased.

From a mere 151 transactions in 2001, when this service was launched, to 1,31, 859 transactions in the last fiscal year, through the head post offices and sub post offices in Punjab, the scheme has proved to be a big success.

This scheme was started across the country in April 2001, after the Department of Posts entered into an agreement with Western Union Money Transfer, to act as their agents.

Since then, post offices across the country have the maximum market share as money transfer agents.

Though 29 per cent of the NRI population hails from Punjab, which is the largest segment of NRIs, post offices in Punjab now have almost 9 per cent of the market share among all Western Union agents.

Officials in the Department of Posts said though the customers were still using private money transfer agents or taking the hawala route, people, especially in rural areas, have now been using post offices for getting foreign remittances, mainly because of the reliability of the post offices.

“This explains why within a short span of eight years, we have been able to capture sizeable segment of the market share,” said a senior official in the Punjab postal circle .

Officials in the circle said maximum transactions through post offices take place in Doaba and Majha regions, which has the highest concentration of Punjabis living abroad.

The maximum transactions take place in Amritsar, followed by Chandigarh and Gurdaspur circles, with maximum remittances from head post offices at Batala, Amritsar and Tarn Taran.


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