P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Virk’s stand vindicated, gets posting
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
Little over a year after Punjab’s former director general of police (DGP) S.S Virk was “hounded” by his own men and arrested in Delhi, subsequently leading to his suspension by the Punjab government, Virk’s stand today finally stands vindicated.

The Maharashtra government has appointed him chairperson of the Maharashtra State Police Housing and Welfare Corporation. Virk, who is now the seniormost IPS officer in Maharashtra, today joined his new posting as DGP.

A 1970 Maharashtra cadre IPS officer, Virk was brought to Punjab in 1984 to fight “the nation’s war on militancy”. Considered to be an “ace in counter intelligence operations”, Virk remained in Punjab even after militancy came to an end following Punjab’s request that he was required by the state to handle anti-insurgency and intelligence operations.

Talking to The Tribune, Virk confirmed that he had joined his new posting today. Coming down heavily on the “system”, Virk said his fellow police officer, who were in the thick of “trouble themselves”, had bent backwards to please their political masters.

At one time considered close to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) politicians, former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh made Virk DGP after the retirement of DGP A. A. Siddiqui in 2005. During his two years stint as DGP till the SAD-BJP government came to power in February 2007, Virk earned the wrath of Badal after the state vigilance “hounded” them on charges of accumulating “ill-gotten wealth”. Virk sought repatriation to Maharashtra but before he could join Maharashtra, he was arrested from Delhi on alleged charges in a “land grab case”. He was later suspended.

Virk challenged his suspension before the Central Administrative Tribunal, which had annulled the suspension and upheld the April 10, 2007 order of the Centre repatriating him to his parent state. The Punjab government appealed the decision in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the order was stayed.

In a major relief to Virk, the Supreme Court on May 19 upheld his repatriation to Maharashtra. He had already joined his parent cadre on April 27, 2007, but had to wait for over a year to get a posting.

Coming down heavily on the Punjab government, the apex court also directed the high court to dispose off the matter by May 31. But since the Centre did not receive the notice, the matter will now come up in July after the vacations.


ADC chargesheeted  for misconduct 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 29
The Punjab government today chargesheeted Parneet Bhardwaj, additional deputy commissioner (development) , Amritsar, for visiting England in hush- hush manner, on the basis of report by additional director-general (intelligence).

The action has been initiated against the ADC since he had not taken ex-India leave as per Punjab Civil Rules to visit England on the eve of New Year. The charge sheet, served by the chief secretary through the Personnel Department (PCS Branch) said the government would have been in the dark about his visit to England had the ADGP (intelligence) not brought it to its notice.

The ADC (D) had visited England along with a senior police officer, already transferred out of Amritsar on similar grounds.

The charge sheet added Bhardwaj tried to cover up his mistake by hoodwinking the state by urging the state government to convert his earned leave into ex-India leave. This request was made by the officer when he realised major action could be initiated against him for violating the Punjab Civil Rules. He had pleaded he had to visit England due to unavoidable reasons. However, the chief secretary said there was no truth in the plea of ADC (D) he had to leave India due to some unavoidable reasons. “Had it been true, then he (ADC) should have given this plea after his returning to India in the fist week of January this year .

The charge sheet said the ADC (D ) had got his earned leave from December 26, 2007 to January 4 , 2008 on pretext of “most urgent domestic reason”. However, without any intimation he went abroad.

This has become enough basis to initiate action against the senior PCS officer who allegedly violated Punjab Civil Services Rules, Section 3 of 1966 (punishment and appeal) 1970, Section 8.

However, Bhardwaj has been given time to clarify his position by explaining the reasons of his hush- hush visit. He was allowed to see the relevant document on his written request within 21 days of the receipt of the charge sheet.

The PCS officer was also embroiled in a controversy when he was SDM, Batala. 


Man dead in 1-cr dacoity
Victims were returning after striking land deal in Bareta

Patiala, May 29
One person was killed and four were injured when decoits struck in this district last night near Ghulhar village at Shutrana, about 75 km from here, the police said today.

It said Jarnail Singh of Daswanti village of Kaithal and his associates were returning with about Rs 1.60 crore in three bags after selling a property near Bareta (Mansa), when their vehicle was stopped by persons standing by a jeep flashing a red beacon.

As soon as they stopped, a group of unidentified persons came out of the jeep and threw red chilly powder inside the car, temporarily, blinding the occupants.

They then opened firing at the car and snatched two of the bags. While driver of the vehicle Om Parkash was killed in the firing, four others, including Jarnail Singh, were injured.

They were taken to the Samana Civil Hospital from where doctors referred them to the local Rajindra Hospital.

The police registered a case and immediately cordoned off the area.

Since the place, where the dacoity took place, was near to Haryana border, there was a possibility that the dacoits might have entered the neighbouring state after committing the crime. — UNI


Bee-keeping: Success story of a farmers’ cooperative
Sanjeev Singh Bariana and Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Tungwali (Bathinda), May 29
Not content with returns from fields, Punjab farmers have switched to bee-keeping for good returns. Gurcharan Singh, who installed the first box for bee-keeping at his village in 1990, now has 2,500 boxes. More than 350 farmers from different parts in the region have joined to contribute to his informal co-operative.

Gurcharan started trying innovations on his 40 acres after attending a young farmers’ course at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana. As talk of good returns from the venture spread, farmers from adjoining areas started visiting him for advice and many of them later took to bee-keeping. At the moment, the cooperative has 350 members from Muktsar, Bathinda, Faridkot, Ganganagar and adjoining areas.

Ranjit Singh Bhola, a member, said, “Youths from the village were the first to be attracted to bee-keeping. At one point of time, the cooperative had 50 contributors from the village alone. Besides seeking guidance on bee- keeping, we were also concerned about marketing the produce. Later, we formed an informal cooperative and everyone dropped his produce at Gurcharan’s farm”.

At the moment, leading contributors from the village included Sukhdev Singh(200 boxes), Baljodh Singh(100 boxes), Ranjit Singh Bhola (200 boxes) and Bhinder Singh (150 boxes). Balwinder Singh Mann is a partner of Gurcharan Singh at the farm.

On details of finance for bee-keeping, Kulwinder Singh of Nandgarh village in Muktsar district, said, “A farmer makes l transaction of Rs 2 lakh annually for every 100 boxes.” Kulwinder said, “Today, I have come to drop my produce at the farm. For a ommission of Re 1 per kg, farmers can relax in respect of marketing of produce. At the moment, the entire produce is being sold to an industrial unit of honey near Ludhiana .”

Gurcharan said, “Selling produce was very difficult in the beginning because there was no specific market. I interacted with the university and industry till I found one near Ludhiana, besides certain ayurvedic companies at the national level. Finding it wise to supply in a bulk, I involved more farmers in forming a common pool. I had started with 60 boxes only. Today, we are supplying 12,000 tins per year. The average honey produce per tin is 22 kg.”

Balwinder said, “The cost of agriculture has gone up manifold. The returns have fallen. The diesel price for my tractor has more than doubled in a few years. In the light of land share, per person declining, looking for alternative avenues of generating money is imperative.”

He said, “Since no place has flowers for 12 months, we have prepared a schedule for our annual exercise. These days, we have our boxes fitted at different farms near Jalandhar, Amritsar and Rajpura. Between July and September, the farms of Bathinda and Mansa will be best suited for bees. Bee-keepers shift their boxes to Uttar Pradesh in September for ‘lauki’ and ‘toria’ vegetables; to Kota in Rajasthan during October; Ganganagar and Sangaria in Rajasthan in January; and along the canals in mid-February." 


Terrorism-hit resent govt apathy, boycott Tandon panel meeting
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 29
With the state government taking no notice of the dharna by the All-India Terrorist Victims Association in Pathankot for 12 days, its members boycotted meeting with the five-member Tandon committee today at Chandigarh. The BJP formed the committee last week to look into the grievances of the terrorism-hit not been paid relief by the state or Central governments.

With Balramji Dass Tandon as chairman, the other members of the committee are BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, state health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla, transport minister Master Mohan Lal and former health minister Baldev Raj Chawla.

Chairman of the association B.R. Hastir said the SAD had assured them in December, 2006, in New Delhi at a dharna of pension and other relief if the party came to power in the state. But, even after more than year of coming to power, the government had not taken up their cause.

Though Master Mohan Lal had been making efforts to resolve the issue, the other members of the committee were not showing interest to redress their problem, he alleged. He said a 101-member delegation from Amritsar would move to Pathankot on May 31 to decide next course of action.

Meanwhile, Laxmi Kanta Chawla said the first meeting of the committee took place on Saturday to work out the modalities of compensation to the victims of terrorism. After discussing the aspects of the problem, the BJP would recommend to the state government the payment of relief to them. 


Mann expelled from Rajasthan
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
The Rajasthan home secretary today served an “expulsion notice” to Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann when he was at Bharatpur just before he was to address a condolence meeting of the Gujjars at Biana. Before he could react, the Rajasthan police escorted Mann out of the state to Agra.

Talking to The Tribune from Agra, Mann said he had been invited by the Gujjar leaders to participate in the meeting and extend support to the people of Punjab. But even before he could reach the venue, he was intercepted and asked to leave the state.

He said the situation in Rajasthan was alarming and the state government had blocked all supplies of food grain in a bid to force the Gujjars to succumb to the “dictates” of the BJP government.

Mann said his intention to go to Rajasthan was to act as a pressure valve and help diffuse the situation but the BJP government was trying to suppress the people and that would not work.

“Treating the Gujjars with contempt and using bullets and lathis to silence them is the most undemocratic thing any government can do. After being liberated from the British, the valiant Rajasthanis are now having to fight Hindu fundamentalist forces in their own country,” he said, adding he would camp in Agra for two days and then again try to go to Rajasthan.


Party for EVMs in MC polls
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
The Punjab Congress today demanded elections to Municipal Committees and Nagar Councils scheduled for June 30 be held through electronic voting machines (EVMs)

Congress working president Mohinder Singh Kaypee claimed the party’s experience during panchayati raj electios had shown the ruling coalition had used government machinery to rig the elections. The party also wants deployment of paramilitary forces for the elections as it feels the Punjab Police can not ensure free and fair polling.


30,000 farmers feel cheated
PSEB suspends transformer scheme
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Morinda, May 29
Avtar Singh from Tajpur village owns two acres. To get benefit from the Punjab State Electricity Board’s (PSEB) scheme, Own Your Transformer (OYT). He borrowed lakhs from Land Mortgage and PUnjab and Sind Bank. The government suddenly today suspended the scheme and Avtar Singh has become debtridden.

“I don’t know what to do. All I got was two acres. I borrowed money and now the PSEB has denied me the benefit of scheme. I am no better than a pauper,” said distraught Avtar. He echoes views of thousands of similar farmers from the state who have taken loan for this scheme of the PSEB and now left in the lurch after sudden suspension of the scheme.

All PSEB offices today received a notice from the headquarters the Patiala directing them to stop the scheme. It has directed that no demand notice be taken and neither any testing of equipment be done as the government has suspended the scheme. After receiving orders, the officers of the Sirhind circle today refused to process any case of the OYT scheme.

The scheme was launched six months ago to give free of cost power connections to farmers who put up own transformers. It was to benefit 30,000 farmers. A notice had been issued asking all small and marginal farmers (having five acres) to avail this benefit. More than 30,000 farmers had applied for the same, maximum being from Bathinda and Sangrur belt.

Sources say around 4500 applictions had been passed and many of these people are now taking benefit of the scheme. The cost of transformer, poles and wires was to be borne by the beneficiary farmers. After that PSEB was to test the setup and submit testing report, on the following which connection was to be given. The earnest fee for same is Rs 30,000 while farmers had to spend more than Rs 1.5 lakh for buying transformers and paraphernalia.

Taking advantage of farmers’ urgency, the transformer companies too had raised price from Rs 41,000 to Rs 51,000 in a span of 10 days. “With paddy season round the corner, we are ruined. I don’t know how am I going to re-pay loan and sow paddy at the same time,” said Surjit Singh from Lavangarh village who has taken loan in his father Pirthipal’s name.

Member distribution, PSEB H.S. Brar said the scheme had been suspended after farmers pressed panic button that the contractors and transformer companies were looting farmers. “We got complaints transformers were being sold at higher price and farmers were in panic. We have just suspended the scheme and will review it soon”.


Panchayat Polls
BJP goes rural, upbeat
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 29
Though the number of seats contested by the district unit of the BJP was small yet it has shown its strength to alliance partner, the SAD, in the Panchayat elections.

District president of the party Jatinder Kalra said today the BJP, which had been considered a party of urban people only, had been acknowledged as a party of rural people too. The party had got majority in five panchayats of Rattangarh Sindran, Gurdaspura, Baopur, Harigarh Gehla and Sakrodi.

Kalra said BJP’s 57 candidates, though they did not contest on party symbol “lotus”, won as panches in the gram panchayat elections. The victory is major given the party had fielded only 70 candidates in the district, he added.

In the Zila Parishad elections, the BJP contested only in Andana zone where its candidate Joginder Singh finished third by securing 3,718 votes. 

Villagers’ protest over results
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, May 29
Residents of Pandori Sidhwan, Khara and other villages today held a protest in front of the office of the deputy commissioner against irregularities in results of the Panchayat elections.

In a memorandum submitted to the officer by the residents of Khara village, Surinder Kaur (SC) has said in the record given to her by the presiding officer concerned, it had been mentioned that she polled 50 votes and still had been defeated by Dalbir Kaur who polled one vote. Manjit Kaur of the same village says she has been declared defeated by Rajbir Kaur, who polled six votes less than her.

The residents of Pandori Sidhwan village have similar complaints. They alleged that all that had been done by the officials concerned on behalf of MLA Harmit Singh Sandhu. However, the MLA denied the allegations. 


Committees on tobacco control
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
With a view to evaluating the enforcement of the Anti-Tobacco Laws and anti-tabacco programmes, the government has constituted tabacco-control committees at state and district levels.

8th pass can get licence for transport vehicles

According to a notification issued by the Centre, now minimum educational qualification to get a driving licence for transport vehicles is Class VIII. This has been done after amending the 8th clause of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

The vehicles which fall under the transport vehicles category include, goods carrier, tanker, buses, mini-buses, tractor, cabs, maxi cabs, etc. The persons already having such driving licences need not fulfil this condition at the time of the renewal of the licence.


Cement scam: SGPC sacks 2 employees
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 29
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee today dismissed two employees while two officials were suspended for bogus purchase of more than 10,000 cement bags by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) by tampering with records.

After reading the news item about the “cement scam” in the columns of Punjabi Tribune, SGPC president Avtar Singh ordered the registration of an FIR against the erring officials . Gurjeewan Singh and Gurmej Singh have been dismissed and Balbir Singh and Gurnam Singh , both store-keepers of the construction wing of the Shiromani Committee suspended.


‘No beacons for SGPC members’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) members will not be able to use red beacons atop their vehicles, at least for the time being.

Admitting a petition filed in the public interest by Amritsar-based voluntary organisation Anti-Corruption Morcha, a Punjab and Haryana High Court Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Vijender Jain has asked the SGPC to withdraw the stickers permitting the use of beacons.

With this, the High Court has confirmed its earlier order staying the operation of a clause in a Punjab government notification allowing the members to use the beacons atop their vehicles.

In his petition, Morcha's vice-president Veneet Mahajan had also challenged the state government's move to provide two official gunmen for maintaining security of the SGPC members. He had claimed that the provision of security guards was posing unnecessary financial burden on the state exchequer.

He had, through counsel Saurav Khurana, added that Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, in a whimsical manner, announced on the eve of SGPC office bearers' elections the government's decision to provide security guards and permit red beacons as a part of the poll bonanza.

He has further claimed the notification, issued on November 22 last year by principal secretary (transport) Damanbir Singh Jaspal, contained no reference to the provision of security guards to the SGPC members.

The state, during the course of hearing, informed the court that so far it had issued permission for red beacons to 20 members while security had been provided to 10 on the basis of threat perception.

Punjab's additional advocate-general Amol Rattan Singh had added that permission stickers had not been provided to the SGPC members after the high court stayed the operation of the transport department notification.


Posts of Addl Dist & Sessions Judge
Viva voce from June 9 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 29
The Punjab and Haryana High Court this evening declared names of candidates eligible for viva voce after qualifying the main written examination for for the posts of additional district and sessions judge in Punjab.

The candidates are: Abha Nagar, Amandeep Agnihotri, Anuradha, Arun Gupta, Arvind Kumar Sharma, Balkaran Singh, Dalbir Singh, Dharm Chand, Dharminder Singh, Gurmeet Pal Singh and Hemant Gopal.

Other names are: Jaswant Rai, Jatinder Kaur, Jatinder Pal Singh Khurmi, Jitender Kumar, Kadambini, Kamaljit Lamba, Kanwaljit Singh, Karunvir Vashist, Lalit Mohan, Mohammad Gulzar, Mukesh Nanda, Munish Kumar, Munish Singal and Nirbhow Singh Gill.

Also are: Parmod Kumar, Parveen Bali, Preeti Bhargav, Pushpinder Singh Benipal, Rajesh Kapur, Rupinderjit Chahal, Sudeepti Sharma, Sumeet Malhotra, Tripatinder Pal Singh Sekhon.

In-service candidates are : Anshul Berry, Arunvir Vashista, Ashok Pal Batra, Gurmeet Kaur, Gurnam Singh-II, Harsh Mehta, Jasjit Singh Bhinder, Kulbhushan Raheja, Kuldeep Singh Cheema, Mandeep Pannu, Manjinder Singh, Rajinder Aggarwal, Ranjit Kumar Jain, Sanjay Kumar Sachdeva, Surinder Singh Sahni, Tarsem Mangla and Varinder Aggarwal.

The viva voce will be from June 9 to June11 in the chamber of High Court Chief Justice Vijender Jain.


Pannu back as Amritsar DC
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, May 29
Kahan Singh Pannu, who had proceeded on leave on the Election Commission’s directions in view of the Amritsar (South) byelction, has been posted back DC, Amritsar. 

Pannu is likely to take over from Tejvir Singh, who was posted DC here during the elections tomorrow. — TNS


Bathinda Kidnapping, Murder
Body found; kin raise finger at ex-minister
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bhagta Bhai Ka (Bathinda), May 29
The body of Sham Lal (62), a business partner of Rampura Phul Congress MLA Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by his kidnappers, including two SAD leaders, was found today from a tributary of the Abohar branch canal in Mandeeran village of Moga district.

Sham Lal had gone missing on May 19. Yesterday, the police arrested SAD leaders Balbir Singh and Gurpreet Singh, alias Boota, who reportedly confessed to the crime.

Meanwhile, members of Sham Lal’s family suspected the role of a former SAD minister from the area in the case. Inderjit Singh Indu, the youngest son of Sham Lal, said: “All people of this area know who is behind the murder. All we want is justice from the government”.

When asked who actually do they think is behind the murder, Indu said: “All of us know that it’s a former SAD minister of this area”.

“On Wednesday, Bathinda SSP Naunihal Singh said my father died due to an overdose of sedatives while in the captivity of the kidnappers, but today we found the body was mutilated. It seemed that my father was brutally tortured before he died. Both his eyes and left ear were missing and he even had an injury mark on the head. The body was wrapped in a sack and was soaked with blood”, Indu added.

Sham Lal’s cremation took place at Bhagta Bhai Ka village. It was attended by over 10,000 people. The area observed a bandh as a mark of protest against the murder. Kangar said a CBI inquiry should be initiated into the case. “As the person, who we believe is behind this heinous act, is a former SAD minister, he can pressurise the local police in distorting facts of the case.”


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