P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


2 SAD rural winners held for kidnapping, murder
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 28
With the arrest of two SAD members of the recently elected Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat from Aaklia Jalal village, the district police today claimed to have cracked the kidnap and murder of 60-year-old Sham Lal, the business partner of Congress MLA from Phul Gurpreet Singh Kangar.

Sham Lal of Bhagta Bhai village in the district had gone missing nine days ago. He left his home on the morning of May 19 for Aaklia Jalal village, but didn’t return.

Bathinda SSP Naunihal Singh said on May 21, members of Sham Lal’s family received a call from a person claiming to be the head of a Delhi-based gang. He asked them for Rs 1 crore ransom for the release of Sham Lal. Then on May 23, at 3.30 pm, the family spoke to Sham Lal who was reportedly in a drowsy condition. The ransom amount was then negotiated.

On May 25 and 26, ransom calls continued. On May 27, the accused asked for money. The family could arrange only Rs 40 lakh and was called to a road near Aaklia Jalal village, but without carrying their mobile phones.

Just at the time of the transaction, the police managed to nab two of the accused, Balbir Singh and Gurpreet Singh, alias Boota. However, the third member of the gang, Gurwinder Singh, alias Gindri of Rajasthan, escaped.

The police said as per statements of the kinappers, on May 24, the victim had already died due to an overdose of sedatives administered by them. After his death, the body was kept in the house of Balbir in Aakliaa Jalal village till the evening of May 25. It was then taken in a Tata Safari, owned by Balbir, who then threw it in the Abohar feeder canal at Rania-Roke bridge in Moga district. The body, however, is yet to be found.

Balbir had won the election to the Panchayat Samiti from Aklia Jalal on the symbol of the ruling SAD. Meanwhile, Gurpreet Singh, also a SAD-backed candidate, won the election for Panchayat member from the same village. Both were arrested under Sections 364, 364-A and 34 of the IPC.

When the SSP was asked about the possibility of the body being kept at the house of Balbir, even as he was involved in the elections, he said, “He was alone at home as his wife had left for her paternal home and the rest of the family was at Canada.”

The SSP further said the accused were probably facing a financial crisis, but they could not clarify a query regarding the lavish standard of life being lead by Balbir.

Meanwhile, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Congress MLA from Phul, said: “We are not satisfied with the police investigation as it is a purely political case and we will demand a CBI inquiry.”


Unbundling of PSEB
Badal seeks more time
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Awaiting a reply from the Centre on the extension of the deadline for the unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) by one year, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today wrote to the power minister to defer the May 31 deadline for the breaking up of the board.

The government had sent a letter to this effect to the power ministry signed by a secretary-level officer a fortnight back. The application, if accepted, will be the ninth such extension given to the state, which is unable to make up its mind on how to break up the board since 2003.

While the government has taken up the issue of holding elections to the Nagar Councils in June and approach the paddy season which will continue till September 30 as the main reason for not taking a decision on this issue as it expects the parliamentary elections to stave off the exercise till the end of this year. As other states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Himachal are also involved, it expects the ministry to allow it extension.

Sources said the state government had worked out three possibilities - the creation of transmission, generation and a holding company as propounded during the Congress rule, creation of transmission, distribution and generation companies as well as a PSEB employee-friendly proposal under which the government proposes only to retain a separate transmission company so that it can comply with the regulations of the Electricity Act, 2003, and allow generation and distribution to remain as one unit.

According to the sources, the government was also considering allowing the PSEB to retain control of its present thermal power generation plants even as it has allocated new plants at Talwandi, Gidderbaha and Rajpura to private parties. The present PSEB plants, which produce 3,000 mega watts, will account for only 30 per cent of the total 10,000 MW of power likely to be produced in the state, with private players accounting for the remaining amount.

The ruling coalition, particularly the SAD, is keen on keeping the exercise in limbo till the parliamentary elections as it feels unbundling of the board could trigger agitations among the 80,000 board staff.

Since coming to power Badal has been prevaricating on the issue of PSEB unbundling. The government has already sought eight extensions. Earlier, Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had also sought and was given a number of extensions.

PSEB Engineers Association president H. S. Bedi said Himachal Chief Minister P. K. Dhumal in a recent communication to the Power Ministry claimed that there was no legal binding to unbundle state electricity boards (SEBs) under the Electricity Act, 2003. He said Himachal had also asked the power ministry to revisit the provisions contained in the Act relating to reorganisation of SEBs and amend them if necessary. Bedi said the Punjab government could also follow a similar line. 


Power Reforms
Engineers reject PHD Chamber model
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 28
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Engineers Association has rejected the model suggested by the PHD Chamber to the Punjab government for power reforms in the state.

Association members said the changes envisaged by the chamber were not practical. President of the association H.S Bedi said although reforms in the power sector were intoduced in 1990 to attract private investment, yet this move had not paid off.

He added, “Over dependence on private sector for capacity addition in the country has already played havoc with plans of the Central government to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country”.

Bedi added that the 8th, 9th and 10th Plans achieved a capacity addition target of just 53.77 per cent, 47.25 per cent and 51.25 per cent, respectively “mainly due to the failure of the private sector which had contributed just 8,433 MW of power in 15 years”.

The association also cited the example of the Goindwal Sahib Thermal Plant, set up through a private company, GVK, which proved to be a “failure”. Bedi said the project was conceived along with the GHTP, Lehra Mohabbat, at the same time in early ’90s. Despite delays the GHTP stage-II had been commissioned while the GVK project was yet to start work.

Bedi said the Orissa model should be an eye opener. He said in Orissa all four companies formed by the government to be handed over to the private sector had proved to be failures. "Even after nine years of privatisation, line losses are in the range of 40 per cent to 45 per cent, which are abnormally high."

The association also cited the example of Delhi where the power board had been handed over to the private sector. In Delhi, after five years of privatisation, line losses in one company operating in a highly urbanised area were 40 per cent compared to 22.7 per cent in 
Punjab, he said.

He added that mounting losses of the PSEB were not because of operational deficiencies, but due to the wrong policies of the state government which was refusing to pay cash subsidy of Rs 1,400 crore to the power board as per the state Regulatory Commission orders.

The association cautioned the government against adopting any failed model of power reforms and urged it consult professionals for reforms.


Land Grab Case
Vigilance Bureau asked to conduct probe
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Punjab Vigilance Bureau to register a case in Ludhiana Improvement Trust land grab case. Taking suo-motu cognisance, the high court has also directed restoration of the land from public use, even if it meant pulling down a hotel constructed illegally on the land.

Though the high court had, on August 8, 2006, observed that the hotel had been set up on public land belonging to the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, action was initiated.

The construction of the hotel on public land had first come to the notice of a High Court Division Bench, while hearing a civil writ petition filed in public interest in 2003.

At that time, the Bench, comprising Justice H.S. Bedi and Justice Ranjit Singh, had taken a note of the allegations that Hotel Marriott had been constructed illegally on 700 square yards belonging to the trust at the instance of the state and other respondents.

The matter came to the notice of Justice Ranjit Singh for the second time on May 16, while hearing arguments on a petition filed by Messer BVM Builders and Promoters Private Limited.

The petitioner had filed a suit against the Punjab State Electricity Board for the recovery of Rs 4 lakh due to damage caused to it by disconnecting electricity connection.

In a strong-worded order, Justice Ranjit Singh today ruled: “Finding this fraud on the part of the petitioner, which so far has gone undetected and unchecked, I, in exercise of suo-motu jurisdiction, consider it appropriate to direct investigation by the Vigilance Department of the sate so that the person and the people involved in making the petitioner grab this property are brought to justice.”

Justice Ranjit Singh added: “I, accordingly, direct the vigilance chief of the state to register an FIR, if not already registered, in this case and ensure proper and well meaning investigation against all those persons, including the employees of the Improvement Trust, Ludhiana, and to make them account for their deliberate connivance with the petitioner.”

Of course, the petitioner would always be responsible for misconduct on his part in deceiving the Trust in grabbing the property in the manner he has done, he added.

Fixing July 30 as the next date of hearing, the Judge added: I would also direct the state to initiate all those appropriate proceedings to recover this property from the petitioner, and restore it to the public for the use for which it was initially earmarked and kept. It would not matter if in the process the building, which has been constructed on the site, is required to be interfered with or demolished.


Capt ‘not well’; to skip dharna again
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 28
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was not likely to participate in PPCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s proposed dharna in front of Chief Minister Parkash Singh’s residence at Chandigarh on May 29 in protest against alleged SAD-BJP “high-handedness” in recent elections in Punjab.

Capt Amarinder Singh, according to his OSD and spokesperson Major Amardip Singh, was not to participate in tomorrow’s PPCC dharna as “he was not well”. Sources close to Amarinder, however, said the former Chief Minister was not going to attend the party’s proposed dharna as he had already made it clear to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi that he was not going to work under PPCC chief Bhattal.

“Why should Captain Singh go and attend the dharna when he has already made the things clear to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi?” quipped one of Amarinder’s aides requesting anonymity. Amarinder, however, was not available for comments despite efforts.

The PPCC is planning a dharna in front of the Chief Minister’s residence on May 29 after holding general body meeting at Sector 15 Congress Bhawan at 11 am. All office-bearers, vice-presidents, general secretaries, DCC chiefs and ex-MLAs are likely to participate in the general body meeting, to be chaired by the PPCC chief.

A section of Congress leaders have also expressed dissatisfaction at Amarinder’s failure to take up the case of removal of portraits of late Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and late Chief Minister Beant Singh from national highway at the entry point of Doraha township recently.


Mann accuses Amarinder of shirking duty
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who is at loggerheads with with former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for supremacy in the party, today received support from the latter’s relative and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann.

Mann, in a statement here, claimed that Amarinder was throwing big names to browbeat his opponents in Punjab. “Does he mean to say that party president Sonia Gandhi has given him permission to entertain Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Makhdhoom Amin Fahim and his friend Aroosa Alam rather than participate in elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions as well as the Amritsar (South) bypoll?” he asked.


Farmers: PSEB ignoring general category applicants
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Farmers have complained that the PSEB is releasing power connections on priority to farmers who had applied under the OYT category and ignoring other farmers who had applied for power connections in the general, 5-acre and ex-servicemen categories.

Farmers have complained to the chairman of the PSEB and other authorities concerned to do justice to the farmers who have applied in categories other than that of the OYT category.

Farmers say in Mansa subdivision, 514 applications for tube well connections for agriculture purposes were pending in the general category since April 20, 1990, to March 25, 2008. In the 5-acre category, 425 applications are pending and in the ex-servicemen category 18 applicants are on the waiting list.

Farmers Jagdev Singh, Sukhdev Singh and Sukhjit Singh say while demand notices of the farmers who have applied till August 2007 have been issued, no such demand notice for other category applicants had been issued.

Farmers say the PSEB is giving preference only to the OYT category. Rich and influential farmers apply under the OYT category, while small and marginal farmers apply under the general category. 


11 mega projects cleared
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has given himself a “gold medal” for passing all polls held after he took up the reins of the state government. Rubbishing claims by the Congress of large-scale rigging and misuse of official machinery in the Gram Panchayat polls, Badal said he was open to the suggestion of amending legislation for providing more teeth to the state Election Commission.

Badal, who faces a second “gherao” by the Congress tomorrow, said he would wait for Opposition leaders, but said they should make it by 10 am as he had to leave for Delhi en route Bangalore, to attend swearing-in of the first BJP government in South.

Badal further disclosed that his government’s empowered committee had earlier in the day cleared 11 “mega projects” worth Rs 11,170 crore. These include six projects in the industrial and five in the agro-industrial sectors.

Giving details, he said: “While the projects in the industrial sector would have a capital outlay of Rs 9,920 crore, those in the agro sector would entail an investment of Rs 1,250 crore. Some of the projects in the industrial sector also cover housing and multiplexes projects”, he added.

Badal said 50 per cent concession in the rates of external development charges (EDC) and 75 per cent in licence fee would be admissible to the mega projects in category “A”. However, 5 per cent of the total amount payable by the developer on account of EDC, CLU and other licence fee would be levied as health and social-security fund and recovered in addition to the EDC, CLU and licence fees.

The committee also decided that the project land, where change of land use (CLU) had already been granted as part or whole of a project would not be included in the future super mega industrial park projects. 


ACs in Golden Temple draw flak
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 28
US-based Sikh scholar Harjap Singh Aujla today took exception to the installation of air-conditioners (ACs) in the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple here.

After reading the news, “Cold comfort at Golden Temple”, in these columns, Aujla in an e-mail to The Tribune said, “The day air-conditioners were installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple will go down in the history of the shrine as one of the darkest days”.

Aujla added, “When governments get drunk in absolute power and can not distinguish between right and wrong, the judiciary remains the only recourse for the powerless public. Someone with love of Sikhism in his heart, must file a public interest litigation in the high court”.


Congress to challenge Amritsar bypoll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
The Congress has decided to challenge the result of the Amritsar bye-election in the court on the ground that despite censuring Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for “misusing state machinery” and making him pay back Rs 19 lakh for use of state vehicles and helicopter, the Election Commission has not disqualified the SAD nominee Inderbir Singh Bularia.

Disclosing this, party president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said, “When the commission had passed strictures against Badal in its interim order dated May 20, 2008, after which Badal had to pay back the money used for combining official work with election-related activity, it would have only been fair if the commission had disqualified the Akali candidate. But since the commission has not taken that action, we will challenge this in court”.

Bhattal said the issue would also be discussed in the general house of the party tomorrow.


Villagers allege tampering with poll results
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 28
Residents of Loha Kherra village, near Longowal, led by general secretary of the SAD (Amritsar) Jeet Singh Alloarkh, staged a dharna at a chowk near main bus stand here today. They alleged that the presiding officer for the village panchayat elections had tampered with the list of results to show a “winner” as loser.

Alloarkh said the signed list, provided by the poll officer to the candidates on May 26, was different from the one submitted by him to the administration. The election results of six candidates had been tampered with to benefit a particular candidate.


Dimpa terrorising us: Kang men
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 28
Supporters of beleaguered SAD MLA from Beas Manjinder Singh Kang have alleged that former Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa, in connivance with a SAD minister, was committing atrocities on them. Baljit Singh Jalalusma, a member SGPC, here today alleged that the minister was interfering in the affairs of the party and was hand in glove with Dimpa to terrorise the supporters of Kang.

He alleged four workers of the party, Manjit Singh Laddu, Balwinder Singh, Harvinder Singh and Sukhpal Singh, of Jalluwal village were beaten up by Congress workers last evening. When they went to the civil hospital to seek a medico-legal report, the Congress men arrived there and beat them up again besides manhandling the staff of the hospital. He said though the police arrived on the spot, it couldn’t arrest the culprits who escaped after scaling the boundary wall of the hospital.

Jalalusma alleged owing to the interference of the SAD minister, no action was being taken against Dimpa and his supporters.

He said SAD MLA from Beas Manjinder Singh Kang should resign as the party had failed to remove the grievances of the party workers, who were being thrashed by Congress workers. He said he, along with others, were contemplating resigning from the Panchayat membership.


Dera Conflict
SGPC pays tributes to Kanwaljit
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 28
The death anniversary of Kanwaljit Singh, a local resident who died in firing near Naam Charcha Ghar of Dera Sacha Sauda at Sunam, was observed by the SGPC here today. Earlier, it was to observe the death anniversary on May 18 but had to postpone it because the family of the victim had planned it at Kanwaljit’s residence in Baguana Basti here.

Kanwaljit’s father Bant Singh, mother Malkeet Kaur and widow Parminder Kaur were presented with siropas by the SGPC president and Dhindsa. Both paid tributes to Kanwaljit.


HC gives more time to tainted cops
But seeks list of officers facing criminal cases
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
Punjab yesterday managed to gain time for its cops sitting on sensitive posts, despite being chargesheeted or facing allegations in criminal cases.

Appearing before a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the state counsel sought time for filing reply to questions posed by the court on the propriety of tainted officials continuing on plum postings.

The amicus curiae appointed by the Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain said he had no objections to the prayer for additional time. But added that, he should be handed an advance list of police officers, continuing on important posts, despite have been chargesheeted, convicted, or facing criminal cases.

Taking on record the assertion of the state counsel and the amicus curiae, the Bench ruled: “We hope that the state will stick to its commitment of filing reply on or before the next date.” Fixing August 11 as the next date of hearing in the matter, the Bench also made it clear that no more adjournments would be granted. Along with Navkiran Singh, the Bench also appointed R.S. Bains to assist the court as the matter was of utmost importance.

The court, on the previous date of hearing, had ruled that propriety demanded the removal or transfer of cops with tainted past.

An officer not below the rank of an additional director-general of police had also been asked to clarify the state’s stand in the matter. The ruling came on a petition filed by Punjab IGP Rajinder Singh.


HC resolves a crisis of trust, but issue remains
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court was only trying to protect senior advocate Seth Bhagirath Dass’s property from being plundered, when arguments turned into a verbal spat between a lawyer and a judge.

The matter, which snowballed into a controversy after the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association took it up on senior advocate J.C. Verma’s behalf on Monday, was resolved today with the intervention of Chief Justice Vijender Jain.

The two-page order, dictated by Justice Mehtab Singh Gill when controversy erupted in the property matter, is a clear manifestation of the HC intentions.

Heading a Division Bench, Justice Gill begins the order by saying: “On the last date of hearing, B.R. Mahajan, advocate for the appellant in this case, stated that one of the trustees Tara Chand Sharma, son of late Pt Sohan Lal, has died.

“Further, he stated that the property of late Seth Bhagirath Dass, who was a senior advocate of this court, has been plundered at Amritsar and his 4-kanal house in Sector 9 has been vandalised. The doors, windows of rooms, bathrooms and electric fittings have been taken away by the miscreants”.

Justice Gill goes on to say: “We have observed that the trustees are not performing their duties with responsibility. Had it been otherwise, the property could have been saved from being vandalised in this manner.

“We were of the view that some respectable senior counsel of this court should be entrusted with the job to preserve the legacy of late Seth Bhagirath Dass….

“Today, J.C. Verma, senior advocate (retired judge of the Rajasthan High Court), appeared on behalf of some of the trustees. We put it to him that the property of late Seth Bhagirath Dass has been plundered and we would like to appoint a senior advocate as one of the trustees in place of Tara Chand Sharma (deceased).

“We asked him to name any senior advocate. He did not name any senior advocate. We repeated the offer five times, but he was not suggesting any names to us. All he was saying was that some more time be given.

“The matter is of urgent nature as the property of Seth Bhagirath Dass was being vandalised, we wanted a senior advocate of repute from this court to be made a trustee without wasting any more time.

“We ordered the appointment of M.L. Sarin, senior advocate, as trustee in place of Tara Chand Sharma”.

Giving details of the incident, Justice Gill adds: “On the appointment of M.L. Sarin as trustee, J.C. Verma, senior advocate, started insinuating things to the sitting and retired judges of this court in general.

“We asked him not to say anything in generality, but to put it down in black and white, which he refused to do. We are constrained to observe that a person, who has retired as a judge of a HC, has chosen to malign the retired and sitting judges in general”.

Seth Bhagirath Dass, it may be recalled, was issueless and had donated his library to the high court, while leaving property worth crores to a trust on his death on April 25, 1989.

Though the objectives of the trust were educational and charitable, little was done in this regard.

Initially, five trustees - advocates Prem Tuteja and M.P. Joshi, along with Om Parkash Aggarwal, Yadvinder Thakur, and Seth Bhagirath Dass’s sister’s daughter-in-law Uma Aggarwal - were appointed. Thakur was also the executor of the will.

But, subsequently, Tuteja and Joshi resigned, whereas Uma Aggarwal took no interest as she was putting up in Kanpur. Thakur and Om Parkash were later removed as trustees by the HC.

Thereafter, the HC appointed three trustees,retired HC judge Justice G.C. Garg, along with retired judicial officers M.S. Lobana and N.S. Saini. Justice Garg too resigned. The matter is now before the High Court in a Letters Patent Appeal.


Relief for Raninder
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
In a major relief to Raninder Singh, son of former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the issuance of four working days’ notice in case an FIR was to be registered.

Pronouncing the orders in an open court, a high court Division Bench of Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Sabina ruled that the notice was to be given to Raninder Singh and another petitioner “in case an FIR, disclosing the commission of a cognisable offence, was registered against them”.

The Bench added the directions “shall operate only for a period of one year, up to May 30, 2009”.

Punjab restrained

The high court today restrained Punjab from issuing appointment letters to candidates selected against 9,998 posts of teaching fellows in the rural area category.

The state has also been restrained from issuing appointment letters to candidates selected against 4,000 posts of educational service providers, also in the rural area category.

The petition filed in the matter has raised a vital question of law - whether candidates passing middle and matric examinations from rural schools can be given additional weightage of five marks over and above their original merit for recruitment as “teaching fellows”.

In the petition placed before the Division Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, Amarjit Kaur of Jalalabad and two others had stated the same was arbitrary and unconstitutional. Counsel Kapil Kakkar had added such weightage was not in conformity with the provisions of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

He added a candidate, not residing in village, could become eligible for selection after appearing for matriculation examination.


Poll Officer’s Death
Villagers lay siege to SSP’s office
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, May 28
Villagers today laid siege to the office of the SSP and blocked traffic for hours together in protest against the police inaction into the death of Sukhdev Singh, a teacher of Government High School, Sursing.

Sukhdev (53) was appointed presiding officer for the Zila Parishad elections on May 12. His body was found hanging from a tree at Bhikhiwind the next day. The Bhikhiwind police took it as a case of suicide and lodged a report under Section 174 of the CrPC, to which the teachers’ organisations of the area objected. Later, the police changed the Section to 302, IPC (murder).

A large number of teachers, government employees and workers of farmer and labourer organisations held a rally at local Gandhi Municipal Park and marched to the SSP office.

Daljit Singh, Sucha Singh, Balkar Valtoha, Nachhatar Singh, Tesveer Singh and others, while addressing the protesters, condemned the police for its inability to identify the persons responsible for the death of the teacher.

The protesters, in a memorandum submitted to SSP H.S. Chahal, have appealed that the persons responsible for the death of the teacher be identified within 10 days or they would intensify their agitation.


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