P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Code Violations
EC seeks govt’s comments
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
The Punjab government is once again in trouble with regard to the byelection to the Amritsar (South) seat.

Taking cognisance of a complaint by Congress leaders alleging gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct, R.L Kapoor, additional chief electoral officer, Punjab, has issued a directive to the Department’s of Local Bodies and some others concerned to verify the authenticity of the complaint and revert after verification.

Though mildly worded, the order of the additional chief electoral officer amount to an inquiry into the allegations against Amritsar municipal commissioner D.P.S Kharbanda to the effect that his presence in Amritsar at the time of the poll is violation of the model code as he hails from Amritsar.

Secondly, the Department of Local Bodies has been asked to verify allegations that Kharbanda has been violating the model code and getting developmental works completed expeditiously.

Kapoor told The Tribune that any necessary remedial action, if required, will be taken after his office receives a report from the departments concerned. “We have taken the complaint seriously and initiated action to verify its authenticity”, he said.

Reacting to yet another violation by the Punjab government in issuing a notification on May 6, enhancing the internship stipend of interns of Government Medical College, Amritsar, Government Medical College, Patiala, Government Dental College, Amritsar, Government Dental College, Patiala, and Government Ayurvedic College, Patiala, Rs 4,500 per month with immediate effect, Kapoor said: “I have read about in the newspaper and would wait to see the notification before initiating any action”.

In this case the action would directly be taken against medical education minister Tikshan Sud in whose name a statement was issued to the press in which Sud said he had brought “the issue to the notice of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, they were quite pained on this and Chief Minister ordered immediate revision on the Haryana pattern. The internship allowance would put an extra load of Rs 1.32 crore per annum on the exchequer of the state government”.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government, in yet another blatant move to influence voters in the panchayat polls, has appointed veterinary officers and other veterinary staff as returning and assistant returning officers for the elections.

The government cannot do this, as it will close all veterinary hospitals and dispensaries that otherwise fall under “essential services”.

Besides, this may also be counter-productive in view of the lurking fear of bird flu in the current vaccination season.


Gastroenteritis hits Nabha areas
Rajnish Sharma

Nabha, May 8
Several areas like Dulladi Gate, Boran Gate, Ranjit Nagar, bus stand, Jail Road and others on the periphery of the town are affected by gastroenteritis for many days.

According to information 10 persons are getting admitted to civil hospital daily for treatment. Residents said the disease was spreading due to contaminated water and insect vectors visiting fruits and vegetables sold on rehris.

Most of the patients were from lower strata as middle and higher class have water purifiers and purchase vegetables and fruits from shops.

All 10 municipal water pumps are without chlorine bubblers hence chances of bacterial contamination are also more.

A microbiologist said bacteria such as salmonella , shigella and escherchia coli were the main source of gastroenteritis and they were quite active in summer and the rainy months.

D.P. Sharma, a former executive engineer said water from drains was seeping into domestic water supply pipes.

He added pipes in the most parts of the town were rusted and the drains had become deeper due to resurfacing of lanes and at places the pipe-joints remained submerged in drain water causing contamination.

A medical specialist on the condition of anonymity said condition was alarming as there was significant increase in the disease in this month compared to April.

He added the hospital was getting four / five patients per day in April while 10 patients were coming to hospital right from the start of this month.

He said they were mainly treated for fluid loss and dehydration as the disease seemed to be viral in origin.

He added as the mucosa got eroded due to infection, so they were treated with wide spectrum antibiotics and antidiarrhoeals as a preventive measure. He feared if steps were not taken, the disease would soon become epidemic.

Dr I.D. Goel, SMO Nabha admitted though the patients were pouring in but the disease was not epidemic.

He said he was sending water samples from all municipal tube wells to the laboratory at Patiala and also put pamphlets in newspapers for spreading awareness.

He said five teams were also formed to check the sale of open and overripe vegetables and fruits.


State defaults on levy rice to Central pool
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Punjab rice millers have defaulted in delivering levy rice to the central pool for the second time in a row.

They were yet to deliver five lakh tonnes of rice as part of their levy obligation to the central pool for 2007-08, Food Corporation of India (FCI) officials said.

They said the millers had evaded levy obligation and the state government was not taking action against the defaulters.

Punjab is a rice surplus state contributing about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of rice to the central pool, controlled by the FCI.

Under the provisions of the Punjab Rice Procurement (Levy) Order, 1983, every rice miller/dealer has to deliver fixed percentage of levy share at the procurement prices and as per specifications fixed by the Central government from time to time. For 2007-08, levy percentage was enhanced to 90 per cent by the government.

During the marketing season 2007-08, state millers were to deliver 14.11 lakh tonnes of rice to the central pool under the levy order of 1983 of the Punjab government. But they had delivered only 9.03 lakh tonnes up to May 4.

“This will result in a shortfall in the central pool and the FCI will not be able to meet its laid down target of 272 lakh tonnes for 2007-08 comfortably,” an FCI official adds.

He says during 2006-07 also, there was short delivery of around 2.5 lakh tonnes levy rice by the state millers.

With 272 lakh tonnes of rice as the target for the central pool, the FCI has procured 232 lakh tonnes during the Kharif procurement for 2007-08 from all over the country, including Punjab, Haryana, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and other states.

The figure, they said, was 18 lakh tonnes more than the figure of 215.50 lakh tonnes rice procured till May 5, 2007.

The FCI hopes to fulfill the remaining short fall by procuring 24-25 lakh tonnes from Andhra Pradesh, five lakh tonnes each from Orissa and Chhattisgarh, one lakh tonne from Bihar and three lakh tonnes from Bengal.

It also hopes to recover three lakh tonnes arrears from Uttar Pradesh and five lakh tonnes from Punjab. Around 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes was also pending from Haryana millers.


...on the wheat front, it nears 100-lakh tonne mark
Sarbjit Dhaiwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
While Punjab is very near to registering the arrival of 100 lakh tonnes of wheat in the state, the Agriculture Department authorities wanted that the state should be allocated funds under the national food security mission for the transplantation of paddy in the state.

While the Union government had included Punjab’s 13 district for improving the farming practices with regard to wheat under the mission, it had not included the state in the mission programme meant for rice.

Sources said Punjab had been spending so much to grow paddy and almost 90 per cent of it was contributed to the national pool.

The sources said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would take up the issue with union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to include Punjab in the mission scheme meant for rice.

In case, Punjab is included, it will get several crores of rupees from the Centre for introducing new technology in growing paddy in the state.

Meanwhile, sources said by this evening 99.35 lakh tonnes of wheat had arrived in various grain markets of the state. Arrival will continue for a few more days.

The sources said about 93.50 lakh tonnes of wheat had been procured for the Central pool and 2.62 lakh tonnes for the state pool.

Traders have procured 2.68 lakh tonnes. In fact, mostly local flour mill owners have procured wheat for their mills from the market.

Otherwise, big traders, who were unofficially told not to enter in any of the grain market in the state, have not bough much of stock.

Asked in this regard, agriculture director Balwinder Singh Sidhu said he was expecting the total arrival of 105 lakh tonnes of wheat by the close of procurement season at the end of this month.

He said today’s arrival was in the range of 70,000 tonnes and it would go down further in the next few days.

He said Punjab would surpass the figure of 95 lakh tonnes as far as its contribution for the national pool is concerned.

After 2000-01, this year Punjab was expected to touch a figure of 105 lakh tonnes. Earlier in 2000-01, the arrivals of wheat in various markets were to the tune of 105.79 lakh tonnes, perhaps highest till date.


CM seeks special package for farmers
Tribune News Service

Khanna, May 8
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has demanded a special package from the Centre for farmers of the state.

Badal was in Alipur village for the bhog of former chairman of the local grain market Harchand Singh Alipur.

Badal said the farmers had met the requirements of wheat for central pool and it had saved the import of wheat from other countries.

The money, which was saved by this, should be distributed among the Punjab farmers to encourage them, so that the next time they could repeat the performance, he said.

He said the Central government and other states would have landed in danger, but for a record wheat yield in Punjab.


Secure timely release of Central funds: CM to secys
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today directed all administrative secretaries to take immediate steps for getting requisite funds released for Central schemes for the current financial year.

He took cognisance of media reports in a section of the Press that some departments of the state government could not take optimum advantage of these schemes during 2007-08.

The Chief Minister had directed the administrative secretaries to send comprehensive proposals to the Centre within a fortnight for an early release of funds. Badal has asked principal secretary D.S. Guru to monitor the entire process.


4 left in the fray
Bypoll: Kanda, Independent withdraw in favour of SAD
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 8
The All-India Shiromani Akali Dal, headed by Jaswant Singh Mann, today received a major setback when Satnam Singh Kanda, its candidate for the Amritsar (South) byelection, withdrew his nomination papers in favor of Inderbir Singh Bularia, the SAD-BJP candidate.

Kanda was instrumental in securing a “safe passage” to Pakistan-based militants at the behest of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in his capacity as secretary-general of a peace committee with the sole aim of bringing a permanent thaw in the region after Operation Blue Star.

He had been a candidate of the SAD (Badal) for the 1991 Assembly elections, which were later cancelled.

Talking to mediapersons, he said he had been a dedicated worker of the SAD for nearly 35 years but some misunderstandings drifted him away from the party.

Last evening, Rajiv Sharma, an Independent candidate, who had announced his support to Bularia, withdrew his nomination papers today, leaving only four candidates in the fray.

Chief of the ASIAD Jaswant Singh Mann described the move of Kanda as the “most unfortunate” development.

Talking to The Tribune at his residence, Kanda revealed Subodh Kant Sahai, during his stint as union minister, held secret talks with the militants who were given a safe passage from Pakistan, at a private hotel here.

However, Kanda said, Pakistan had exploited the Sikh youths for its vested interests and was never sincere towards the demands of the community.


Hope you are genuinely ill: Bir Devinder to Amarinder
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh may have planned not to canvass for panchayat and Amritsar (south) by election due to illness.

But, Pradesh Congress spokesperson Bir Devinder Singh asked him to inform the party in case he got well before the elections, so that his services could be utilised.

Bir Devinder Singh, reacting to the news of Amarinder’s illness, said the party had learnt about it from the media.

He said the party expected the former Chief Minister to canvass for the Congress candidate in Amritsar, especially since he had visited the city recently to show his concern for the Congress workers.

He said a letter was sent in this regard to him and the party had received a receipt indicating he had received the letter.

Reverting to the timing of the illness, Bir Devinder said, “The doctor has also chosen two weeks and by that time everything will be over.” He added, “I hope he is genuinely ill and pray for his well being.”

He said in case, Amarinder Singh became well before electioneering came to a halt in the state, the PPCC would again request him to campaign for the party. “However, he may not inform when he gets well”, he said.


Security withdrawal biased, says Bhattal
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Reduction in security cover of various protectees today saw Congress men crying foul, with PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal claiming that the government had reduced the security cover of Congress men only and that Akali leaders were completely unaffected.

Bhattal, while talking to The Tribune, threatened to return her entire security personnel in case there was any untoward happening in the state due to the partial withdrawal of security cover given to Congress leaders.

She also threatened to register a criminal case against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as well as DGP N.P.S. Aulakh in case of any such eventuality.

The PPCC president said nine security personnel had also been withdrawn from her security contingent.

“Already I have half the security which was given to Badal when he was Leader of the Opposition and have only an assistant sub-inspector to oversee arrangements while an SP was posted with Badal to look after security aspects”.

Bhattal claimed that similarly security cover of all legislators, former legislators as well as office-bearers of the state Congress had been partially withdrawn.

“In case a person had four security personnel deputed to him now he has only two”, she said.

Meanwhile, Aulakh said he had authorised the reduction in the security cover of all protectees across the board.

“This has not been done selectively”, he said, adding that the measure had been undertaken as the force had to mobilise nearly 80 per cent of its district police personnel for election duty.

Claiming that Bhattal’s security would not be compromised in any manner, he said he had even reduced his own security cover as well as the cover of all senior officers.


Sukhbir, Bhandari appeal to cadres
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Presidents of the SAD and BJP Sukhbir Singh Badal and Rajinder Bhandari, respectively, in a joint statement, have urged their party workers to work unitedly to ensure victory of the alliance in the panchayt polls.

The two leaders have clarified that the SAD-BJP alliance was doing well in the entire state and as per the report of the newly constituted two-member committee of both parties, over 95 per cent areas in the state had no ideological or other clash.

“The committee, which included BJP leader and Cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia and SAD secretary and spokesman Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, met in Jalandhar today and informed us that at very few places there are minor differences, which do no require the intervention of the high command.”


Hindu parents block road over academy
order on turban
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur , May 8
Nearly 100 parents of students of Akal Academy, Cheema, 15 km from Sunam, today blocked the Sunam-Mansa road for one hour at Cheema village against the order of the management of the academy asking all students to wear turbans, including Hindu students, after class VI.

Sangrur SSP Gurdip Singh Pannu said the police had taken an application from the parents of Hindu students to sort out the matter as the Hindu students had protested against this order of the academy.

Sources said this order of the academy had put a question mark on the future of many Hindu students of the academy as they could not now move to any other school in the area as the session had already started more than a month ago.

The parents of the students also reportedly met the principal of the academy to get the order quashed, but he said that it was a decision of the management.

When the parents failed to get proper reply from the Principal then they reportedly resorted to blockade of the road.



‘Sifarish’ pours in for poll duty exemption
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 8
Office of the deputy commissioner here is flooded with applications seeking exemption from poll duties.

A large number of cases of “sifarish” are by ministers and politicians in this regard are obvious, said officials in administrative complex.

They said government officials did not want to spend two days and one night during the poll duties in dilapidated buildings that lacked of basic amenities.

As many as 2,355 employees would be deployed in 471 polling stations in the district and nearly as many have approached to get exemption from the poll duties.

Many of the women staff have cited reasons of their family problems, children and ailments of their relatives and elderly seeking the exemption.

The authorities have denied permission to these employees, there being an acute staff shortage in all departments.

The officials revealed that nearly 20 per cent government employees had got retired in the past few years and the government had not recruited new staff.

“This time we have to face more problems due to a shortage of government employees in various departments. The Education Department would be most burdened, but we have also tried to ensure no government school be closed for election duties,” said the officials.

Meanwhile, deputy commissioner Ashok Kumar Singla, terming the elections as a mela, said no one should be scared of election duties. All employees had been told to be present at their duties on the polling day, he said.

“Employees get chance of having interaction with a large number of people where they could enjoy and work as well,” he said.


Development issues take a back seat
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Munshiwalla (Sangrur), May 8
If residents of Munshiwalla village on the Patiala-Sangrur road had their way, they would have crowned their sarpanch Sham Lal and made him the king of Punjab.

In praise of the hard work he put in five years, villagers talked of his achievements. The sanitation work is complete. The water tank is almost done.

The roads are widened and cemented. The panchayat ghar is constructed. The cremation ground has a boundary wall. The village chowk is open and pucca.

A study on the functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) in Punjab submitted last month by a team of researchers of the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development Chandigarh, pointed out 67 per cent of villagers, whom they interviewed, said they would vote for development.

Another 16 per cent said “group politics” would guide their choice. Only 7.5 per cent of the respondents said they would vote guided by political affiliations.

When it comes to a panchayat’s performance, there seem to be no gray shade responses. “The sarpanch of our village sold our land to the land mafia,” said a resident of village Shamdoh on the Banur-Rajpura road.

At many other places sarpanches are facing charges of gross misuse of funds and would in normal course not find a place in the next panchayat.

“As you sow so shall you reap,” is generally the gram panchayat election mantra. “But this time there is a lot of politics going on and things might not be so simple,” said Vimal Kumar of Hirdaypur village in Ropar.

“In an ideal situation, where PRIs represent grass-root leaders and there is complete devolution of powers, indirect elections to the post of the sarpanch would be a good thing. But in Punjab, where PRIs are already dominated by the rural landed elite class, such a situation is bound to reduce these further into political tools to wield power,” said Kesar Singh the associate research coordinator, who conducted the study with Paramvir Singh and Harpal Singh Dhillon.

Experts add that women and scheduled caste populations, despite having a large share in the list of candidates would have very little real power.

“PRI politics in Punjab is run by those who own land in the village. The landless, SCs and women are generally used,” added Kesar Singh.

The CRRID report further states, “Working of PRIs in Punjab demonstrates the reluctance of the state to empower the PRIs effectively. Only 7 subjects out of 29 have been transferred to the PRIs. Even the seven subjects too are without transferring either the funds or the functionaries along with functions. Only advisory and review powers have been transferred. Due to incomplete devolution of power the role of PRIs has been limited at best to beneficiary selection. District planning committees have not been constituted in spite of a clear constitutional mandate to do so.”



Flights diverted due to fire near airport
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 8
A major fire, caused by the burning of stubble in the fields by farmers, was reported in the areas around the runway at Rajasansi International Airport here this evening.

According to the information, the fire spread towards the runway quickly due to strong winds.

Air-India Express, which arrived from Delhi and was to move to Dubai after taking passengers from here, and Jet Airways’ flight from Delhi en route Italy had to be diverted to their further destinations.

Apart from five fire tenders of the airport, two fire brigades of the Air Force were rushed to the site. It took them more than three hours to control the fire.

Piyar Singh of Jesco Contractor India Private Ltd told The Tribune that he suffered a loss of Rs 22 lakh as fire destroyed cable his men were laying around the runway.


High Court
Punjab police rapped for failure to arrest Poohla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today came down heavily on the state of Punjab for failure of the police in arresting Nihang leader Ajit Singh Poohla of Beas-Baba Bakala area. He is allegedly involved in the murder of seven persons in 1991.

As the matter came up for resumed hearing, Justice Mahesh Grover asked the state counsel to inform the court if the court should direct the Army to help arrest the accused at large.

Seeking additional time to do the needful, senior superintendent of police Iqbal Singh, however, submitted that the police had raided 16 probable hideouts of the accused but without success.

A special team headed by DSP Harjit Singh Brar of Baba Bakala has been constituted to arrest Poohla, the SSP added. The case will come up for next hearing on May 27.

Amarinder son’s plea for passport release

Taking up a petition filed by former Chief Minister of Punjab Capt Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh for release of his passport, Justice Uma Nath Singh of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab for May 23.

Raninder, an accused in Ludhiana city centre scam, wants to go to Italy to attend a training camp in preparation for 2010 Commonwealth Games due to be held in New Delhi. He had surrendered his passport when he was granted anticipatory bail last year.

In his petition, Raninder stated he was due to take part in the training-cum-coaching camp being held at Concilice, Italy, from June 16 to July 31 under the supervision of his coach.

His participation in the forthcoming camp has duly been endorsed by the National Rifle Shooting Association of India, his counsel submitted.


Court relief for Congress
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 8
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked six Congress candidates from Kahnuwan to go ahead with the Block Samiti and Zila Parishad elections from their respective areas.

The court has directed the Election Commission to consider the candidatures of the six candidates of the Congress from Kahnuwan.

Talking to mediapersons, former PWD minister Pratap Singh Bajwa said of the six, four were Block Samiti candidates and two Zila Parishad candidates.


PAU Pensioners
Dr Johl’s appeal to High Court
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 8
Noted economist S.S.Johl, head of the committee set up by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to look into finances of the varsity, has appealed to Punjab and Haryana High Court to take suo motu notice of the plight of 2,700 pensioners.

Johl said government was taking over the lands/farms and income of the PAU but when it was in financial crisis, the government must bail it out.

He said the matter was serious as in 1966, PAU had three campuses- Ludhiana, Hisar and Palampur. Hisar and Palampur came with their own universities later.

He said, “When its counterparts at other places were doing well, then why PAU Ludhiana was suffering?”

“We have to have an appropriate solution at the earliest to resolve the issue or we may demoralise our farm fellows and scientists responsible for providing enough food to the nation,” said Johl.


Murder Bid
Bhaniarewala’s gunman, 6 others held
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Nurpur Bedi, May 8
Gunman, driver and five followers of Baba Bhaniarewala were arrested for an attempt to murder from near the Garhdholiyan village here today.

Villagers caught one of Baba’s followers Preetam Chand with a woman in a compromising situation.

Villagers objected to it and asked Preetam to leave. But Preetam Chand claimed to be a follower of Baba Bhaniarewala and entered into a verbal duel with the villagers. The villagers beat him up, while the woman fled.

Preetam Chand informed seven dera followers, including the gunman and the driver of Baba Bhaniarewala, who beat up the villagers.

The gunman is head constable Mahinderpal Singh and the driver is constable Balwinder Singh.

The other followers arrested include Lakhvir Singh, Sukhminder Singh, Malkeet Singh and Manoj Kumar.

Police team headed by ASI Himmat Singh, reached the spot. Villagers were raising slogans against Bhaniarewala Baba and had blocked the road.

When Himmat Singh tried to disperse the crowd, they did not allow him to perform his duty.

The police booked 56 persons for causing inconvenience to the public and not allowing a government official to perform his duty.

Five persons, including Surinder Singh, Harjinder Singh, Upkar Singh, Roshan Lal and Jasvior Singh were arrested.


Rs 7 lakh snatched in two cases
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 8
Approximately Rs 7 lakh was snatched in two incidents of snatching in the city here this evening.

Two unidentified youths snatched Rs 3 lakh after throwing chilly powder in the eyes of Sushil Kumar at Tajpur Road. He is an employee of Gilco Agro Food.

In another incident, three bikers snatched Rs 3.7 lakh from an Agraj Sharma of Express Housekeeping Limited at Premjit Road, near Gurdev Nagar. He was returning from Panchkula after collecting the staff salary.


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