P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Fuel Hike
BJP meekly calls for rollback
SAD agrees to appraisal
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 9
The Punjab BJP’s decision to press upon its coalition partner to effect a rollback on sales tax on petrol and diesel in the state may be a mere face-saving stance.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today refused to admit the saffron party had passed any such resolution in its executive committee meeting at Ludhiana yesterday.

The fact is that though the BJP organisational structure is in favour of giving some relief to consumers, its ministers are toeing the government line of no rollback.

The BJP has decided to go through the motions by simply calling for a rollback without delineating any action plan to make it a reality.

Party spokesman Ashwani Kumar said party minister Manoranjan Kalia had made a statement expressing the government’s inability to reduce sales tax on petroleum products but after the meeting of the executive committee, there was unanimity on the need to of effect a cut to give relief to the common man.

He said the ministers would bring the matter to the notice of the government in the coming days.

Senior BJP leader Balramji Das Tandon, who is among those in favour of a rollback, said, “We have to take whatever action is possible on our part.”

The SAD, which is under pressure due to the stand taken by its alliance partner, has in a significant change in policy decided to make an appraisal of the situation and make appropriate recommendations to the state government.

Punjab government spokesman Harcharan Bains when contacted said though the SAD had decided to make a full appraisal of the situation, it did not mean it was in favour of effecting a reduction in the sales tax on petroleum products.

Bains also claimed that the government did not have any knowledge of the alleged resolution passed by the BJP on the fuel issue.

He said the BJP had informed it that its members had only referred to the problems caused by the fuel hike in its executive committee meeting and that the meeting did not make any special recommendation on this issue.


Cong memo to Governor on cut in ST on petrol
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 9
Congress MLAs and office-bearers led by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today met Punjab Governor S.F. Rodrigues and gave him a memorandum demanding reduction in Sales Tax (ST) on petroleum products in the state on the pattern of Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The Congress leaders regretted the statement of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal expressing inability to reduce the ST in Punjab.

They said this had exposed the true face of the Akali government which claims to be farmer-friendly.

The real face of the Akali government expressed in its actions and anti-poor people policies is projected by the negative attitude of the government towards the plight of consumers especially the farmers who consume bulk of diesel in Punjab and any reduction in sales tax on diesel gives relief to peasantry.

They said Akali leaders were shedding crocodile tears for farmers while they were not ready to reduce taxes on the sale of these products.

Bhattal requested the Governor to use his good offices for this common cause. Former PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo, Avtar Singh Brar, Tej Parkash Singh, Lal Singh, Balbir Singh Sidhu, former speaker Harnam Dass Johar, and former deputy speakers Bir Devinder Singh and Naseeb Singh Gill were part of the delegation.


Cut state taxes, says Preneet
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 9
Preneet Kaur, MP from Patiala, today lashed out at Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and asked him to follow Congress-ruled states by slashing state taxes, including VAT, on petroleum products including LPG.

She added that instead of blaming the Congress-led central government, the SAD-BJP government in the state should first put its own house in order.

Speaking to reporters here today, Preneet Kaur said that the central government was left with no option except to increase the prices of petrol, diesel and LPG.


Paid Darshan
Vaishno Devi Board to re-examine scheme
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 9
Facing flak for “paid darshan” scheme, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has decided to re-examine the priority darshan system.

The board, in a communication to Surinder Kumar Billa, president, All-India Hindu Shiv Sena (AIHSS), has revealed that the term “paid darshan” was a misnomer as many organisations were criticising the move and said there was no question of starting “paid darshan” for the holy shrine.

A spokesman of the board said they had been issuing priority slips to officers and men of security outfits in view of their duties, but the board had learnt that some of the slips were handed over to the public for monetary considerations.

To obviate this, the board had decided to charge Rs 200 for priority pilgrims. This helped to reduce pressure for darshan and worked well to manage the devotees visiting the shrine.

The communication pointed out that the shrine board was trying to work out a mechanism to streamline the yatra for the devotees visiting the shrine daily.

He pointed out that the board had no intention of commercialising the yatra to earn more revenue.

He said under the directions of the chairman of the board, Governor S.K. Sinha, a new system of waiting whereby the group number of pilgrims kept on scrolling on plasma TV screens at airports for their turns.

He said the remaining pilgrims could wait in the specially provided waiting base and even rooms, dormitories or bhojanalayas till their turn came and could also watch devotees performing puja in the sanctum sanctorum on closed-circuit TV screens.

He said this would ensure that the pilgrims did not need to stand in queues for more than 20 minutes. However, the main yatra registration would remain free of charge.

He said based on the feedback on the priority darshan, the entire system would be re-examined for the benefit of the pilgrims.


ACs at Golden Temple
UT resident files petition in HC
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 9
The protests being raised by both Sikh and heritage conservationists across the world against the installation of two giant four ton air-conditioners (ACs) in the Golden Temple sanctum sanctorum took a leap ahead with the recent writ petition filed by a city resident Malkit Singh Jandiala.

The petitioner Malkit Singh, who is also the convener of the “Gurmat Sangeet Society”, has filed the writ in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and it will be taken up after the vacations on July 3.

Surprisingly, the SGPC had passed a resolution for installation of the ACs - one in the sanctum sanctorum and the other on the first floor of the Golden Temple.

Sikhs all over the world and heritage experts expressed dissent towards it as the decorations on the wall would get damaged while installing them.

The variation in micro climate because of the installation of the ACs would also damage the decorations.

The walls in Golden Temple are decorated with in-laid marble panel, frescoes or clad with gilded copper embossed sheets.

However, the greatest threat from these six-feet monsters is to the beautiful frescoes and heritage building.

Interestingly, the resolution of installing the ACs, security cameras and mobile jammers in the shrine was passed by the SGPC for the benefit of its granthis and VVIP visitors.

The decision was reportedly taken on the request Surinder Kaur Badal, the Punjab CM’s wife, who is a regular visitor at the gurdwara every month.

The resolution has been criticised worldwide by many organisations. Conservationists are of the view that the walls of Harminder Sahib are made of burnt bricks and lime mortar and hence there was no need to install ACs.


No intention to delay Moga civic poll: Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 9
The Punjab government has made it clear that it had no intentions of delaying Moga municipal council elections and these would be held soon after the process of delimitation of limits was finalised.

In a short reply submitted by way of short affidavit, special secretary to the Punjab government Bhagwant Singh has stated that the government has decided that the elections to the Moga municipal council would be taken up immediately on the finalisation of delimitation of limits process.

He added final decision on determination of limits was under process. Going into the background, he said the process of extension of municipal limits was started on June 6, 2006.

The limits had initially been determined by notification dated January 19, 1975; and in three decades things had changed considerably.

The reply was filed on a petition filed by acting president of Moga municipal council Swaran Jain and five others.

The petitioners, through counsel Subhas Chander Pathela, had earlier questioned the state’s action of not holding the elections to the civic body along with other municipal committees.

The petitioners had claimed the action not only violated the provisions of law, but also amounted to the death of democracy.

Elaborating, the petitioners had contended Section 13 of the Municipal Act, 1911, specifically said the term of a civic body was five years.

As the first meeting of the Moga municipal council was held on March 21, 2003, the term expired on the same date this year.

Moreover, the action of the state government in not holding the elections was in violation of Article 243-U of the Constitution, as per which the right to exercise franchise was fundamental.

After taking on record the reply, High Court Bench of Justice Permod Kohli and Justice Rakesh Kumar Garg today fixed June 10 as the next date of hearing.


MC’s cafeteria move in Ram Bagh draws flak
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 9
The move which is likely to draw flak from heritage lovers is that the Municipal Corporation (MC) here has decided to lease out 3,523 sq ft of summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh for opening cafeteria at an auction on June 30.

The cafeteria will be opened inside Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama, along with open parking space of 1,000 sq m, for 11 years. All this is in the name of “real development” of the holy city Amritsar!

During a recent visit to the Maharaja’s summer palace, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had directed the local administration to evict all three clubs of the British era. On the other hand, a cafeteria will create even more problems.

Earlier, the Punjab government had denotified a part of the historic Ram Bagh of the Maharaja, to pave way for the construction of a Rs 5-crore panorama in his memory.

In the notification, the 20-kanal "protected" area was rendered "unprotected" which had drawn flak at that time.

Now, the MC has decided to lease out part of the area which was denotified.The foundation stone of the panorama was laid by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on November 18, 2001, to mark the bicentenary of the coronation of the legendary Maharaja.

The proposed cafeteria will open towards Madan Mohan Malviya Road near electricity complaint office by making a new gate. The reserve price per year for auction is 22.50 lakh a year.

This means Rs 247.50 crore for 11 years’ reserve price. Multinational companies like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut etc are expected to be involved in this business and the bid is expected to go above Rs 65 crore to Rs75 crore for 11 years. The car entry will be near the main Lawrence Road.

Ram Bagh has cluster of traditional buildings and canopies but due to the fast pace of modernisation, the Bagh is already losing its identity, says Dr A.L.Adlakha, a former president of the Service Club.

With auctioning of this site there will be immense traffic conjunctions at Lawerence Road chowk and Madan Mohan Malviya Road and inside the panorama parking.

Noise, petrol and diesel pollution will pose danger to rare species of birds and old trees. The worst effected will be morning walkers who come to this place for shade, fresh air and calm.


Power supply position comfortable: PSEB
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 9
Y. S. Ratra, chairman, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), has informed that at present the power supply position in the state is comfortable.

He added that there have been no power cuts from the last 15 days and one-day weekly off for industry has been relaxed on day-to-day basis. This is on account of favourable weather conditions prevailing in the region.

He further stated that the demand on June 8 was 1,050 lakh units (LUs) which is lesser by about 257 LUs last year.

The demand was met by 100 LUs from PSEB’s hydro generation, 350 LUs from thermal generation, 3 LUs from non-conventional power projects, 115 LUs from BBMB and 482 LUs through purchase from central sector stations.

Ratra disclosed that to meet the paddy demand, PSEB has made adequate arrangements to receive power under banking from Uttrankhand, Himachal Pardesh, J&K and Rajasthan within the region and from Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat from outside.

Power purchases have been tied up through traders to meet the paddy demand for which agreements have been signed with various private parties like Lanco, NVVN, PTC, JSW, Adani, TATA and Reliance. These arrangements have been made for the period from June to September.

Ratra further informed that PSEB would meet the total anticipated requirement of 25,300 MUs for the period from April to September. Last year, the requirement was 23,700 MUs in the corresponding months.


In 2 years, 300 docs opt out of rural contract
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 9
More than 300 doctors from the 1,193 employed in rural service by the previous Congress-led Punjab government on contract basis in June 2006, have left their jobs for greener pastures in foreign countries or have joined the Army or taken up better-paying jobs in the private sector.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has restored the control of giving rural contract to doctors to the zila parishad CEOs-cum-additional deputy commissioners (ADCs).

Rural doctors had been demanding for a couple of months that they should be brought under the control of ADCs instead of Block Development and Panchayat Officers (BDPOs).

More than 300 doctors from a total of 1,193 doctors, who were appointed at subsidiary health centres or dispensaries of the state have opted out of their contracts during the past two years after finding that the monthly remuneration of Rs 30,000 per dispensary was not lucrative enough for them.

“An amount of Rs 30,000 per dispensary to a doctor is peanuts for providing health services in remote rural areas. Though, the contract amount included payment towards water and electricity bills of dispensaries, rural doctors have continuously been harassed on this account by BDPOs despite the contract signed at the time of appointment of doctors,” alleges Punjab Rural Medical Services Association president Aslam Parvez.

The association says nearly 20 per cent of the doctors who have shunned their contracts have joined the army, 20 per cent have gone abroad and the rest have either joined permanent government jobs in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh or Haryana or have joined the private sector.


NRI ‘killers’ to be extradited
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, June 9
The police has decided to extradite two Germany- based non-resident Indians (NRIs) Amandeep and Sumandeep who hired two killers to eliminate their father Karnail Singh (57) residing at Shalapur village in Jalandhar district.

Shahkot DSP Diljinder Singh Dhillon said process to extradite the NRIs would started after presenting charge sheet in the court against the accused.

Meanwhile the two arrested accused, including Karnail Singh’s Shalapur -based son Rajwinder Singh and conspirator Tejinder Singh, who had been caught on Saturday, were remanded in 14 -day judicial custody by the court on Sunday.


Land Acquisition by Improvement Trust
Admn not to evict owners today
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, June 9
Following the reported verbal assurance by the administration with regard to not forcibly evicting the owners of houses and land acquired by the local Improvement Trust on June 10, residents of houses and land owners today breathed a sigh of relief for the time being.

The trust has acquired 17 acres, 5 kanals, 5 marlas for its Mansahia Nagar Scheme, near Truck Union, on the Sangrur-Sunam road here.

Talking to The Tribune here today, president of the Zamin Bachao Sangharsh Committee Amarjit Singh said a deputation of the committee had a meeting with the deputy commissioner regarding the acquisition of their land and houses by the trust.

In the meeting, ADC Indu Malhotra and the local land acquisition collector (LAC) Amandeep Bansal also took part.

Amarjit claimed that it was decided that no forcible eviction of the owners/residents would be done on June 10.

He also claimed that the administration had also assured the deputation that in view of the sentiments of the people, the case related to the acquisition of land would be sent to the state government for consideration.

Earlier, the local LAC had issued notices to 81 persons, including owners of about 20 houses, to vacate the land/houses by June 10. Otherwise, the possession would be taken by the Improvement Trust authorities with the help of the police.

The LAC had also asked the owners to come to the office of assistant commissioner (general) in the district administrative complex here on June 10 at 11 am to receive the compensation. Meanwhile, the agitation by the committee today entered the fourth day.


‘Honest tax payments aid Holland’s growth’
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, June 9
Speaking at a seminar on “Development of Holland”, local social activist Gurnam Singh Sekhon, who has recently returned from Holland, said the main reason behind the development of Holland was that people of that country had proper knowledge about every aspect of their life.

The seminar was organised by the Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum here last evening.

Dutifulness, hard work and payment of full taxes with honesty by people were the other factors behind the overall development of Holland.

Besides these factors, clean politics and good governance were also playing a big role in the development of Holland, he added.

A.S. Mann, president of the forum, said India could also become a country like Holland if people started performing their duties and paying taxes honestly.

D.S. Ahuja, N.S. Sodhi, Jagdev Singh Sohi, Shalinder Singh, Santokh Kaur, Rajinder Kaur Mann, Sham Lal Singla, Jasbir Singh and Anil Goyal participated in discussion.


Mystery shrouds boy’s death
Town residents suspect foul play; Gujjars provided security
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Dhariwal (Gurdaspur), June 9
Even as there’s been no headway in cracking the case of the disappearance and subsequent death of seven-year-old Munish Kumar, son of a local businessman, the district police authorities today provided security to a few Gujjar families in the town, whose involvement is suspected in the crime by some residents.

The police authorities were forced to provide security to the Gujjar families when some residents threatened that they would set the huts of Gujjars on fire if they did not leave the town by today evening.

Male members of the Gujjar families left the town yesterday on their own after they apprehended danger to their lives. However, women and children have been putting up in a hutment under security cover.

The body of Munish, who was missing since June 5, was found floating yesterday in Upper Bari Doab Canal by some boys. Munish had gone out to play on June 5 and never returned. Earlier, when his parents were searching for him, his bicycle was found near the canal.

Residents yesterday blocked traffic on the Gurdaspur-Batala road for about two hours and demanded registration of a case against those involved in the crime. They lifted the blockade upon getting an assurance from the authorities that the culprits would be nabbed.

DC Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said a case had been registered. He, however, added that some vested interests were trying to politicise the issue.

Lok Nath Angra, SSP, said the law and order situation was under control and adequate security arrangements had been made to rule out any mischief.

He said preliminary examination had revealed that Munish had died due to drowning. The post-mortem of Munish was conducted yesterday and the report is awaited.


DRO found drunk
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, June 9
Deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kirpal Singh has decided to write to financial commissioner (revenue) for taking disciplinary action against Shakeel Singh, district revenue officer (DRO).

The DRO was today found drunk when his medical examination was carried out
in the local civil hospital by a panel of three doctors on the directions of the
deputy commissioner.

Gurkirat Kirpal Singh received a part of the medical report late evening today confirming the fact that physical symptoms showed that Shakeel was drunk.

Shakeel Singh, who had earlier been dismissed from service after he was
found guilty of being drunk while on official duty, had been reinstated recently
by the state government.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that Shakeel was supposed to attend a meeting convened by the deputy commissioner. When he did not turn up, the deputy commissioner phoned him.

When the deputy commissioner came to know that Shakeel Singh had been speaking incoherently, he constituted a three-member team to check out the facts.


Farmers protest against privatisation
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 9
Hundreds of activists of 17 farmers unions under the banner of Anti-privatisation Coordination Committee for Farmers today held a rally at Company Bagh in protest against the anti-farmer policies of the state and central government.

Later, they gheraoed the SDM’s office and presented a memorandum to be forwarded to the government.

They raised slogans against the government’s move to privatise the PSEB,
schools and hospitals.

Among others who addressed the rally included senior farmer and Communist leaders including Satnam Singh Pannu, Jagtar Singh Karampura and Rattan Singh Randhawa.

The leaders said that the government was selling public sector organisations to foreign companies at rock bottom prices on one pretext or other.

They demanded the waiving off of the debts of farmers due to the wrong policies
of the government.


Bid to usurp Saragarhi Memorial
Defence personnel, ex-servicemen write to CM
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, June 9
There is resentment among defence personnel and ex-servicemen over the bid to grab Saragarhi Memorial in Ferozepur by a religious sect in connivance with ruling party leaders.

Spread in 8 acres, the memorial is situated in the heart of Ferozepur Cantonment. The Saragarhi Memorials and Ethos Promotion Forum in a memorandum to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said in May 2005, a religious sect constructed a hall and 11 rooms on the memorial lawns with help from local politicians.

The forum had also approached the then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who ordered the demolition of the construction and also constituted the Saragarhi Memorial Management Trust headed by the GOC of the Ferozepur Army formation, with deputy commissioner, Ferozepur, as vice-chairman and 12 members for the memorial’s upkeep.

Earlier, the memorial was under the district administration’s control. The said religious sect members, again with the help of some ruling politicians, tried to get possession of the building they had constructed illegally on the Saragarhi grounds and the Trust scrapped by the Punjab government.

The battle of Saragarhi was fought by Sikh soldiers of 36 Sikh Regiment now known as 4th battalion, the Sikh regiment. Twentyone Sikh soldiers fought 10,000 tribesmen in the NWFP of undivided India on September 12, 1897.

All 21 soldiers fought to the last man and last bullet, but did not surrender. This battle is one of the 10 most famous battles of collective bravery recognised by Unesco. All 21 soldiers were awarded (posthumously) Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award by the British government to Indian soldiers.

The memorandum reveals the Pakistan government has retained the Saragarhi Memorial built at Fort Lockhart despite demand for its demolition by tribesmen who the soldiers had fought.

Three Saragarhi memorials were built : one at Ferozepur, the other near Harmandar Sahib at Amritsar and the third in Obelisk at Fort Lockhart in Pakistan.


Identify land for govt schemes: CM to sarpanches
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, June 9
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday visited Nara, Mehengerowal, Chohal and Saleran villages in Kandi belt.

He met a number of persons, including panches and sarpanches, and asked latter to identify surplus land in their respective villages so that some suitable schemes could be introduced to generate income not only for them, but also for the panchayats.

Badal was of the opinion that horticulture and forestry could be developed in Kandi because of its favourable climate.

He suggested that plantation of bamboos on the banks of ‘khads’ (seasonal rivulets) would not only generate income, but also prevent soil erosion.

Referring to the shortage of water in Kandi, he said a World Bank scheme of Rs 1,270 crore would be launched to tackle the problem.

Potable water would be made available to inhabitants of the villages in Kandi belt in the near future.

Appreciating the ongoing National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in rural areas of Hoshiarpur district, the Chief Minister said it had not only proved useful in providing assured employment to rural people, but helped in developing the area.

Minister for parliamentary affairs, medical education and research, forest and wildlife and labour, Tikshan Sud, deputy commissioner N.K. Wadhawan, SSP Dr Sukhchain Singh Gill and other senior officers of the district accompanied the Chief Minister.


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