P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Khatra went on leave on his own: Badal
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Begowal (Kapurthala), June 3
A day after the Punjab government reportedly asked Mohali SSP R.S. Khatra to proceed on leave following a spat with Kings XI owner Ness Wadia, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal claimed the SSP had gone on leave on his own.

On the sidelines of a function organised to mark the 58th death anniversary of Sant Prem Singh Murarewale here today, Badal told reporters that the government would decide whether or not to get Rs 1.80 crore demanded by the SSP from the IPL as fees for providing security at the Mohali cricket stadium.

On discontinuing the OYT scheme of the PSEB for providing tube well connections on priority, Badal said the benefit of the scheme would be provided to the farmers who had already deposited required Rs 25,000 with the PSEB for getting tube well connections on priority.

Later, speaking at the function, he flayed Dr Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for hike in prices of all essential commodities.

Badal said Punjab farmers had produced 30 per cent more wheat this season.

Badal said 33 KV sub-stations would be augmented after paddy season to 66 KV sub-stations in Bholath, Nadala and Begowal for better distribution of electricity.

Sant Prem Singh Murarewale, Bibi Jagir Kaur said remained an SGPC member for 30 years from 1926 and two-time MLA before Independence.


Rs 37 lakh looted from SBI branch
Robbery took place 1 km away from the venue of sangat darshan being presided over by Badal
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

The cash van that was taken away by robbers from a State Bank of India branch in Amritsar on Tuesday.
The cash van that was taken away by robbers from a State Bank of India branch in Amritsar on Tuesday. Photo by Vishal Kumar

Amritsar, June 3
Three or four masked robbers drove away a van of the Bhaktanwala branch of the SBI along with Rs 37 lakh near grain market here today. It was carrying Rs 57 lakh. A bag, carrying Rs 20 lakh, dropped out of the van as the robbers fled.

The incident occurred just 1 km away from the venue of a sangat darshan, which was presided over by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Security guard Gurmeet Singh said robbers arrived at the bank in the white Indica car as soon as the van reached there at 11 am. They carried out a blast near the van, leading to dense smoke in the area. The robbers asked the employees of the bank to handover the cash to them and shot at Dayal Singh before fleeing from the site.

Gurmeet said he tried to shoot at the robbers but his gun misfired. On hearing the gunshots, another gunman Sukhdayal Singh, posted in the nearby branch of the ICICI bank, came out and shot at the fleeing robbers.

Later, the van was found near Bohru village on the Chhabal road.

Deputy manager (administration cell) of the branch K.C. Rambani said the amount was to be distributed in four branches of the bank located at New Grain Market, Gopal Nagar, Hari Pura and on the Ram Tirath road.

SSP Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said vital clues had been found and the robbers were likely to be arrested soon. He said the border police had been put on high alert.

On May 29, four robbers had made a similar attempt at an ATM of the ICICI bank in posh Ranjit Avenue area. However, they could not find the cash in the van as the employees of the bank had come to repair the ATM machine. They too came in an Indica car.

The gunman, who suffered injuries in his knee, has been admitted to the hospital.


Municipal Council Polls
SAD-BJP meeting on seat sharing today
Both parties tread cautiously

Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Chastened by the near revolt by the BJP following breakdown of understanding during elections to the panchayati raj institutions in Punjab recently, the SAD has decided to work out much in advance the seat-sharing arrangement with the saffron party for elections to the municipal councils on June 30.

The party will take decisions in the overall interest of the coalition government. — SAD gen secy
We will try to find amicable solutions through mutual discussion. — BJP state vice-president

Balbir Punj, in charge of the state unit of the BJP, is coming here tomorrow to hold a meeting with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on seat sharing for the council elections.

Unlike an earlier interaction with Punj during the run-up to the Zila Parishad elections when a three-member committee loaded in favour of the SAD was formed and which did little to solve the grievances of the BJP, this time the discussions are likely to be more meaningful.

The meeting will also be attended by a few ministers as well as legislators from both parties. Daljit Singh Cheema, SAD general secretary who is coordinating the entire exercise, said the party would take decisions in the overall interest of the coalition government.

Cheema said it was with this sentiment in mind that a decision had been taken on seat sharing for the Bathinda Municipal Corporation, the only one going to the polls along with the councils. The SAD is contesting 28 seats as compared with the BJP’s 22.

The same logic is expected to be followed for the council elections although there could be counter claims to control the few cash-rich councils like that of Mandi Gobindgarh, Khanna, Phagwara, Batala and Pathankot.

Vijay Sampla, BJP state vice-president, when contacted said the party would be putting forward its claim for councils like Mandi Gobindgarh, which had been controlled by it earlier.

Sampla said the BJP had a greater hold in towns than the SAD and would naturally ask for its due share in the council elections. He said the party was however committed to fighting the elections along with the SAD and would strive for unanimity on seat sharing at the local level itself. “However where this cannot be achieved, we will try to find amicable solutions through mutual discussion,” he added.

Elections to 22 A class councils, 38 B class, 29 C class and seven nagar panchayats are being held with prominent parties by and large putting up their candidates in A and B class councils. Elections to councils of Muktsar, Moga, Kharar and Sujanpur will be conducted later.


Anniversary of Bluestar Operation
SGPC chief denounces violence

Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 3
Denouncing the cult of violence on the eve of 24th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, SGPC president Avtar Singh has said nothing can be achieved through the gun.

“Terrorism is not a religion; it is a crime against humanity,” said the SGPC president. “We are living in such critical times in which clashes between political ideologies and narrow national interests have become very bitter the world over. The world is torn by misunderstanding, bitterness and strife in every sphere,” he said.

The SGPC president said the problem of terrorism could be resolved only if there was revival of spiritual humanism, which could guide us to truth and peace.

However, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, who had received flak from Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the SGPC and SAD presidents for supporting “Khalistan” during his recent trip to the USA, failed to come out with a clear stand on the issue.

On the other hand, Akali MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha, who was once active in the armed struggle and spent a long time in Jodhpur jail after Operation Bluestar, supported the point of the SGPC president that nothing could be achieved through the gun. He said all disputes could be resolved through democratic and peaceful means.

However, Satnam Singh, Paonta Sahib president, Dal Khalsa, who was one of five hijackers of an India Airlines plane to Lahore on September 29, 1981, to avenge the arrest of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, said the Sikhs never believed in killing innocent persons. He said the Dal Khalsa never used the path of violence since its inception on August 6, 1978. He, however, justified armed struggle in self-defence and to counter state terrorism.

Giving account of hijacking, the Paonta Sahib chief said they (the hijackers) had “used” apples as grenades, as they had only “kirpans” for weapons. When the plane landed in Lahore in spite of no permission from Pakistan, Gajinder Singh was allowed to hold negotiations with Natwar Singh, then Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. However, the government of Pakistan “ditched” the hijackers by undertaking commando action against them and this commando action was possible because they were not carrying any firearm.

Harminder Singh Gill, general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, who had a long stint as president of the All-India Sikh Students Federation, parried all questions when The Tribune contacted him to seek his views on the cult of violence. Gill was a confidant of Bhinderanwale and spent many years in Jodhpur Jail after Operation Bluestar.


Security beefed up
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, June 3
In view of the forthcoming Ghallu-Ghara week, the district has been put on the alert. This was stated by Lok Nath Angra, SSP, after a meeting at Gurdaspur today with taxi operators, hotel and cyber café owners, members of rehri unions, etc. Cyber café owners and STD/PCO owners were told to keep a record of the users.

The SSP said two anti-sabotage teams along with a dog squad would check vital installations, railway stations, bus stands, cinema theatres, crowded places, and sabji mandis.


Govt for removal of clubs from Ram Bagh
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 3
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has pointed out that the three clubs running from the historical Ram Bagh, which was once the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, will cease to function from there as soon as an alternative arrangement is found. The clubs have been in operation since the British era.

The Chief Minister said the heritage associated with the legendary maharaja would be protected at all costs. Concerned about the slow pace of renovation that was causing inconvenience to morning walkers, Badal said the conservation work would be expedited.

Besides visiting the main Ram Bagh building, the Chief Minister also visited Panorama, set up at a cost of Rs 5 crore on the Ram Bagh premises. Badal was accompanied by deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu and mayor Shavet Malik.

In a landmark order last year, the then subdivisional magistrate-cum-collector, Vimal Setia, had ordered removal of all three clubs - Services Club, Amritsar Club and Lumbsdon Club - from Ram Bagh by June 20, 2007. These clubs were opened by the British after annexation of Punjab. Their lease expired 16 years ago.

The eviction orders state: "I am of the considered view that the clubs are in unauthorised occupation of the public premises". The orders clearly mentioned that if the club management failed to vacate by June, 2007, the municipal corporation would be at liberty to get the area vacated under Section 5(2) of the Land Eviction and Land Recovery Act, 1973.

In a unanimous resolution, the local Municipal Corporation vide resolution July 1, 1994, had decided that it should get the excess land in possession of the clubs immediately vacated.

A letter by the director, Cultural, Historical and Museum Department, to the deputy commissioner on July 8, 1999, reads: "You are well aware that the whole of Ram Bagh has been declared as a protected monument, as per Government of Punjab’s notification number 1/14/97- TS /2051, dated October 10, 1997. Now, this garden is totally developed as per rules of historical monuments by the department ’85"

The protected monuments of Ram Bagh include the Service Club, a bathing tank, reading room, four watch towers, and a baradari. The total area is 728 kanals and 3 marlas.


Anurag Singh is director of Sikh Itihas Board
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 3
Concerned over the controversies over the Sikh history, the SGPC has cleared the appointment of Dr Anurag Singh, a Sikh scholar, as director of the Sikh Itihas Board.

This was disclosed by SGPC president Avtar Singh while talking to The Tribune here today.

Dr Anurag Singh, who is at present the manager with Punjab and Sind Bank, Ludhiana, would take over the new assignment shortly. He is likely to accompany SGPC members at international seminar on turban, scheduled to be held in France this month.

He is son of late Dr Tarlochan Singh, the doyen of Sikh history, religion and culture. He has done his double masters degree in history and English.

The library of Dr Anurag Singh has rare books on religious studies, copies of Janam Sakhis, Gurbilas literature, Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh’s Court poet Tehkan’s translation of a portion of Mahabharata and many more. Some manuscripts were brought from India Office Library and British Museum Library, London.

The SGPC has been embroiled in a number of controversies following publication of books on Sikh History. Sikh clergy of Patna Sahib had even sought clarification from the committee for publishing Hindi edition of “Sikh History” on the occasion of tercentenary celebrations of the birth of Khalsa Panth in 1999. The Hindi edition was withdrawn.

Apart from being associated with Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle as joint director of languages, literature and cultural affairs, Dr Anurag Singh has worked with the Hardarshan Memorial International Trust, Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh Trust, Sikh Cultural Centre, Kolkata, Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh International Museum, Ludhiana, and many other social and cultural institutions.

His first book was a translation of Giani Kirpal Singh’s book “Eyewitness Account of Operation Blue Star (1999)”. His book “The Turban and The Sword of The Sikhs: Essence of Sikhism (2000)” was originally written by his late father to settle the turban issue in the UK in 1976. Dr Anurag Singh added 415 pages to the book written by his father.


Demands: Staff ultimatum to govt
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
A joint action group, comprising 14 government employees unions, has served an ultimatum on the government, telling it to fulfil their demands by June 30 or face an agitation.

Making an announcement to this effect here today, the “Joint Forum for Raising Retirement Age” said the government had reneged on all its election promises made to the employees.

Swinder Singh Lakhowal of the forum said Punjab had not recruited any person in the past 10 years as a result of which all existing employees were highly overworked and no department had more than two or three employees. He suggested that a raise in the retirement age of employees to 60 would not only provide the government a breather from giving them retirement benefits by at least two years, but also check further shortage. He said most other states had already raised the retirement age of government employees to 60 as it saved the government lot of money spent on training etc of new employees.

In Punjab only the IAS officer and the Class IV employees retire at 60, other retire at 58. During the last Assembly elections, the SAD had promised to look into the demands of the employees, but was now backing out, he said.

General secretary of the Non-Gazetted Employees Organisation Umakant Tewari appealed to the government to take up their demands, else they would be forced to take the tougher path to get their demands fulfilled. He said: “Agitation is our last resort. But if we are forced, we will have no choice to agitate for our demands. If a Chief Minister can work at 80, why can’t an ordinary employee can work till 60,” he said.

Tewari disclosed that at least 1 lakh posts in Punjab were lying vacant and nearly 10,000 employees retired each year. This has led to overwork in most departments. With the Right to Information Act being used more frequently, he said one person in any government office is required just for this alone. Another, he said, was required to deal with court cases. If the situation continues and people keep retiring without any new recruitment, public dealing would be severely impaired.

He said the government could have an open debate with the employees on their demands. The finance minister was misleading the people on the floor of the Assembly and further the government was following wrong policies with regard to demands of the employees, he alleged.


VAT Tribunal vice-chief also quits
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Taking a cue from the government’s seriousness to remove him, P.S Bajaj, vice-chairman of the VAT Tribunal today submitted his resignation in response to the show-cause notice issued to him on May 29. Another member of the tribunal, Kuldip Kumar had tendered his resignation yesterday.

Both Bajaj and Kuldip Kumar were issued a show-cause notice after chairman, VAT Tribunal, Punjab, Justice M.M. Aggarwal (retired) conducted an inquiry in which he found the two to be guilty of reversing their own earlier allegedly for “extraneous considerations”.

Sources in the state Excise and Taxation Department confirmed the development and said the resignation of Bajaj was received today, while that of Kuldip was handed over to the Excise and Taxation Commissioner S.S. Brar on Monday.

Reliable sources said the two were under tremendous pressure after Justice Aggarwal had directed the director, Vigilance Bureau, to take appropriate action against them for causing a loss of about Rs 1 crore to the state exchequer by favouring one M/s Shreyans Industries Ltd Ahmedgarh, Sangrur district.

The SAD-BJP alliance has taken strict action against several senior officers and those holding public offices since it came to power in February, 2007. Most of these cases against corruption are said to have the sanction for action of the office of the Advocate General, Punjab.

The past one year has seen stringent action against many officers that include some senior police officers, including I.G. Rajinder Singh, who was been placed under suspension. Kirpa Shankar Saroj, another senior IAS officer, was placed under suspension following his exceeding the charter of Punjab Agro by indulging in import and export of iron ore and steel scrap.

While the Congress and many others allege that the SAD is being vindictive towards officials close to the Congress leadership, the SAD, however, denies this.


CM to seek package for farm labour
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 3
Criticising the policies of the UPA government due to which inflation has broken all records, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today that it had hit hard the common man and made his life miserable. The citizens, who have been struggling to manage their homes, do not know how to keep their kitchen going after the proposed hike in the rates of petrol and diesel, he added.

Badal was addressing a function organised in connection with the 58th anniversary of Sant Prem Singh Murala, an educationist, social reformer and religious leader of 
the North, at Miani village, about 40 km from here, this afternoon.

He said the state had produced and contributed maximum quantity of wheat to the Central pool for which farm labourers had played a significant role, but they gained nothing extra. The government would demand a special package for them from the Centre.

Referring to the proposed increase in the minimum support price of paddy, Badal said it would not benefit farmers. The increase in the rates of fuel would not only jack up the input agricultural costs but also prices of essential commodities.

Referring to the coming civic body elections, Badal claimed that the SAD-BJP alliance would jointly contest them and would capture all MCs. To prepare a strategy in this regard, a joint meeting of the leaders of both parties would be held tomorrow at Chandigarh.

Criticising the Central government for not granting any share to Punjab from Central excise duty being collected from state, Badal said he would impress on it to provide the state its due share.

Recruitment of teachers would soon be completed and all vacant posts of teacher in government schools would be filled. Syllabus books to be provided to the SC students had already been purchased and those would be supplied to the respective schools shortly.

Earlier, Badal paid floral tributes to Sant Prem Singh Murala. He also announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for Sant Prem Singh Murala Senior Secondary School, Lakhminder Miani.

Deputy speakers, Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal, member of Rajya Sabha Varinder Singh Bajwa, chief parliamentary secretaries, Punjab, Arunesh Shakar and Des Raj Dhugga, MLA of Dasuya Amarjit Singh Sahi, former minister Balbir Singh Miani were among others also addressed the function.


Muktsar, Faridkot, Ferozepur villages getting impure water
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 3
People in villages of Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozepur districts do not have access to safe drinking water as samples of rural water schemes, dependent on the Sirhind Feeder canal for supply, have been found to be contaminated by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB).

Water samples from several villages, drawing water from Sirhind Feeder canal, had been taken by Punjab Water Supply and Sanitation Department teams and the PPCB after the Punjab government formed a joint committee of the department and the PPCB in first week of April to look into quality of water of canal-based river water supply schemes. While water at some places was found to be contaminated with organic and bacteriological waste, samples from rural water supply schemes in certain villages indicated lack of proper chlorination rendering water unfit for humans.

The lone water sample taken by PPCB staff from the Faridkot-based canal river water supply scheme on April 26 revealed water being supplied to people was contaminated bacteriologically meaning chlorination had not been done properly.

Similarly, the department collected nine samples of raw water and nine samples of clear water of the Rural Water Supply (RWS) schemes from Lambi and Kot Bhai blocks on April 25. These samples, taken from Babanian, Gurusar, Tharajwala, Husnar, Samara, Kingranwala, Mahuana, Tapakhera, and Killanwali villagers, were subjected to physical, chemical, bacteriological and heavy metal parameter tests. Of nine clear water samples, water in Killanwal was found to have been contaminated with organic waste. “Analysis reveals presence of 1.2 mg/1 BOD (biodegradable oxygen demand) in comparison to requisite level of 0 mg. The turbidity of the sampe is also 11.5 NTU which, was beyond permissible limit of 10 NTU,” said a report of the department.

Seven water samples of untreated raw water were collected from Badni, Sotha, Giljewala, Bhullar and Udhakaran villages of Muktsar district and the water quality was found to be fit for drinking after its conventional treatment and disinfection.

The PPCB, which had collected nine water samples from Abohar township, Alamgarh village, Khuhian server, Doulatpura, Giddranwali, Kala Tibba, Baluana, Burj Hanumangarh and Kandwal village, was shocked to find below average water quality in these areas on account of bacteriological contamination and due to poor chlorination. “Sample of Khuhian server also failed on basis of turbidity caused by poor operation of filtration plant. Two samples of water supply schemes of Alamgarh and Khuhian server also failed on organic waste front due to organic pollutants in the raw water. Drinking water supplied in these areas must be boiled before consumption,” suggested a report of the PPCB on quality of water in certain areas of the Malwa region.

A PPCB official said an analysis of 184 water samples of rural water schemes drawing water from the Sirhind Feeder canal, was under process and it could take 15 days for a comprehensive report of it by the PPCB.


Khaira for panel on ‘political murders’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira today urged the union home minister to appoint a commission of inquiry headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to probe all “excesses committed under a well-planned political conspiracy” during the 15-month regime of the SAD-BJP coalition in the state.

In a statement here, Khaira said the terms of reference of the inquiry must include all cases of political victimisation, including the recent “political murders” of Congressmen in the state.

The Congress legislator said ever since the formation of SAD-BJP government in the state, political vendetta has taken a front seat. He said the party had taken up the issue of “political victimisation” with the Punjab Governor and he had himself filed a PIL in the High Court.

He claimed there was a need for a commission to look into the matter as the Akali rank and file had been emboldened by their political bosses and had now started the physical elimination of Congressmen in Punjab, as seen by the murder of Sham Lal, the business partner of the party’s Bathinda legislator. He alleged these as well as other killings during the Zila Parishad elections were part of a well-planned conspiracy hatched by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal.


Man breaches border security
Varinder Walia/Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 3
In a major security breach, a Bangladeshi national, Abu Tahir, today crossed over to the Pakistan side at the Attari joint check post by hiding himself in a truck laden with onions.

The incident has exposed the chinks in the working of the Indian Customs Department. However, thanks to an agreement signed by India and Pakistan, the Bangladeshi national was handed over to India.

Commissioner (customs) Talkeshwar Singh feigned ignorance about the incident. Sources pointed out that the truck (PBP 5571), laden with 300 bags of onion, was allowed to enter Pakistan without a proper check.

The Customs department does not have truck scanners.

The intelligence agencies have sent their reports about the incident to the higher authorities in Delhi, pointing about chinks in the security at Attari border. The sources said the Customs authorities had been ignoring the security norms while clearing huge consignments.

There has been a proposal to set up an integrated check post at Attari border on 120 acres with all facilities for scanning big consignments. However, the state government has failed to earmark the required land so far.


Two murdered, four booked
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, June 3
Two persons were murdered in the area for which four persons have been booked. According to information, Baljit Singh (22) of Nagoke village, 38 km from here, was killed by three persons, including a woman, of the same village. The accused have been identified as Mewa Singh, his brother Sewa Singh and Rajbir Kaur, wife of Mewa Singh.

The accused called Baljit to their home and murdered him with sharp-edged weapons. Accused Mewa had been suspecting the deceased had illicit relations with his wife Rajbir Kaur. A case under Sections 302, 34, IPC, has been registered against the accused.

In another incident, Jaggu (22), a migrant labourer, resident of Ucha Pind (Kapurthala), died of bullet injuries at Fatehbad village, 20 km from here. A case has been registered against Joginder Dyal Singh, alias Beena, of the village. The deceased was at a horticulture farm at Fatehbad village of the accused. The accused fired at him and brought him to the local Civil Hospital where he succumbed to injuries.


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