P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


MC demolishes boundary wall of Ram Bagh
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 12
The municipal corporation today broke the wall of Ram Bagh for making a new entry to the proposed cafeteria in the Maharana Ranjit Singh Panorama from the Madan Mohal Malwia Road here.

The MC has invited multi-national food chains, including McDonald, for bidding on June 30 so that the Panorama, which has been in red since its inception, could be made a profitable venture.

BJP Member of Parliament Navjot Singh Sidhu has said that like Lahore, a food street would be opened inside the precincts of the Panorama. He said the proposed Rs 5 crore food street would offer traditional and fast food, and the central government had already given its consent regarding this.

However, MC commissioner D.B. Kharbanda said there would not be any alteration in the national monument for running the cafeteria.

He said the site of the cafeteria was already earmarked in the panorama precincts and would not pose any threat to the monument.

He said since its inception, Panorama had proved to be a white elephant and after opening the cafeteria and the food street, it would bring the project out of red. He said the income from Panorama was less than Rs 50,000 per month, while expenditure on it was more than Rs 1.50 lakh.

The MC, however, dismissed the apprehensions of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that the opening of the Panorama would be in violation of the National Monument Act.

The state government has already given its permission to open the cafeteria inside the Panorama.

It may be mentioned here that after the publication of the news item in these columns, senior conservation assistant of the ASI had sent a missive to commissioner, MC, objecting to the proposed cafeteria.

Apart from western food, the food kiosks would offer traditional Amritsari cuisines. After sunset, lights, proposed to be designed to illuminate the decorated rooftops, would and the Food Street would come alive. The MC would provide the necessary infrastructure.

The Food Street at Gawalmandi Street in Lahore has earned name all over the world for serving Punjabi food.

Interestingly, the Holy City has the highest consumption of desi ghee and butter in the state. Puris, paranthas and Gur da Karah, samosas and kachauris, made of desi ghee, are available at eating joints here.


FCI to dispose of 1 lakh metric tonnes of paddy
Unfit for human consumption
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has decided to dispose of over 1 lakh metric tonnes of paddy worth Rs 150 crore as cattle feed.

This paddy was procured by the FCI from Punjab in year 2004-05 and was subsequently declared unfit for human consumption.

Officials in the FCI said the paddy had been lying in different godowns in Moga, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Sangrur for the past four years. The paddy had been procured by the FCI from across the state in 2004-05 without adhering to the specifications laid down by the FCI in terms of colour, moisture content and breakage. Though efforts were made to upgrade the paddy by cleaning it, the quality of the foodgrain was so bad that it could not even be upgraded mechanically.

This substandard rice had been procured in Punjab by various FCI officials in connivance with private rice millers. It was only after the rice procured in Punjab had reached other food deficit states that complaints about its poor quality forced the FCI top brass to order a CBI probe. Subsequently, joint surprise checks were conducted in 2005 and samples taken from 12 locations in the state were found to be of poor quality.

The CBI had later indicted FCI officials, including the then senior regional manager, FCI, Punjab, after only 3 per cent of the samples collected were found within the prescribed specifications, whereas 97 per cent rice samples were found of substandard quality and more than 20 per cent were not even fit for consumption.

It was then alleged that this paddy procurement scam had caused a loss of crores of rupees to the exchequer.

However, by disposing of the paddy now, the FCI can recover its loss. At the time the paddy was procured in 2004, the minimum support price of paddy was Rs 590 per quintal. The FCI has now fixed a reserve price of Rs 1022 per quintal to dispose 
of these foodgrains - an increase of over 30 per cent.

Tenders have now been floated to dispose of 1.14 lakh metric tonnes of this paddy for its processing into cattle or poultry feed. Since this paddy cannot be sold in the open market for fear that it could be sold as food, only animal feed manufacturers have been invited to participate in the bid. “More than 150 government departments in the country that manufacture animal feed, besides a number of private parties are eligible to participate in the tender process,” said an official.


Paddy MSP
Farmers disappointed, want it raised: Badal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
Disappointed at what they described “ insignificant” and “ illogical” increase in the minimum support price( MSP) of paddy announced by the union overnment today, various farmer organisations as well as Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “ correct the distortion” by ordering raise in the MSP of paddy. The fixing low MSP of paddy amounted to rubbing salt into the wounds of peasants, farmer organisations said.

The union government today raised MSP for common variety of paddy by Rs 105 to Rs 850 per quintal whereas last year it was Rs 745 per quintal( it included Rs 100 bonus). The MSP for fine variety, mostly sown in Punjab, will be slightly higher than that of the common variety.

Punjab government has asked to fix the MSP at Rs 1,345 per quintal. However, the MSP announced today has fell too short of the expectations of the government and farmer organisations. Farmer organisations, including Ajmer Singh Lakhowal and Balbir Singh Rajewal group have been urging the union government to raise the MSP to Rs 1700 per quintal.

Badal said “ it is the UPA government’s cruellest parting gift to the beleaguered peasantry and surest proof the policy makers in the present regime work from air- conditioned rooms and have no clue about the problems of our countrymen”. Whereas the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices( CACP) had asked to peg the MSP of fine variety of paddy at Rs 1,050 per quintal and of common variety at Rs 1,000 per quintal, the union government has ignored this recommendation also.

There were number of states such as Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat which were opposed to the increase of the MSP of paddy to Rs 1,000 per quintal but there were also states like Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana which were pressing the union government to fix the MSP more than Rs 1,000 per quintal. Sowing of paddy in Punjab and other parts of this region has just begun.

Though the MSP has been announced at the beginning of the paddy sowing season but it may discourage farmers to transplant common varieties which sell at MSP that remains by and large ruling price in various grain markets. Farmers may go for better quality varieties such as 1121 that fetched very good price last year and expected to command the same price- ranging from Rs 2,200 to Rs 2,600 per quintal- in case the union government lifted the ban on the export of rice.

Meanhwile, Rajewal group said the union government had crushed aspirations of the farm community by fixing such a price MSP of paddy. This farmer organisation said it was too little that had been offered to farmers as paddy MSP. It has urged the Prime Minister to revise the paddy price upward . “ To motivate farmers to grow more and more paddy, it was a must to give them remunerative price”, said a senior leader of Rajewal’s organisation.


Dowry Death
Villagers block road
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 12
Annoyed over the “dowry death” of newly married Kulwinder Kaur, residents of the Bajwana village in the Phul tehsil blocked the Barnala road for two days to protest against failure of the police to arrest the in-laws of the woman.

A large number of residents of the village were squatting on the road in support of their demand for the arrest of the five persons named in the complaint filed by the woman’s parents.

Sarabjit Singh, uncle of the victim, said Kulwinder married Gurtej Singh of Bhai Rupa village eight months ago and was pregnant when she was found dead in mysterious circumstances on Tuesday. He suspected she was forced to consume some pesticide.

He alleged that her in-laws were demanding Rs.2 lakh although they paid them Rs 4 lakh in cash and gold ornaments worth Rs 1 lakh on the marriage. The girl had lost her parents sometime ago and her uncle arranged her marriage.

The protesting residents of the village have refused to take possession of her body after the post-mortem and were insisting that she would be cremated only after the culprits were arrested.

Sarabjit Singh alleged that an Akali Dal leader of the area had pressurised the police not to arrest the culprits who were known to him.

ASI, Sukhdev, at the police post said that her husband, Gurtej Singh, has already been arrested and others would also be taken into custody soon. 



Cong rally against police ‘high-handedness’
Tribune News Service

Fathegarh Churian (Gurdaspur), June 12
Congressmen blocked traffic at the Old Bus-Stand chowk on the Fathegarh Churian-Dera Baba Nanak road today for half an hour and held a demonstration in front of the police station here in protest against “atrocities” being committed on them by a section of police officials at the behest certain ruling politicians.

The Congressmen along with former and present MLAs of the party, also marched in the town, demanding strict action against th police officials “who played partisan role in the recently held panchayat elections and tortured Congress workers to favour candidates of the ruling alliance”.

The rally was organised by Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, former parliamentary secretary.

Sukhwinder Singh Sukh Sarkaria, O. P. Soni (MLAs), Ashok Sharma, Jugar Kishore Sharma, Harpartap Singh Ajnala, Raj Kumar, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Shawinder Singh Kathunangal (all former MLAs) participated in the rally and march . Randhawa alleged the Election Commission and the district civil and police authorities had failed to take action against the police officials, including one DSP , who were shown indulging in booth-capturing and casting of bogus votes in the recently held panchayat elections.

He alleged certain police officials under political influence had made many members of the Scheduled Caste community, residing in Rauwal village, to flee from that area.

Randhawa said when he approached senior police officials for intervention to save people from police torture, they always expressed helplessness under the present set-up.

Naresh Kumar Arora, SSP, Batala, said a criminal case was registered in the first week of June in connection with booth-capturing and bogus voting on the recommendations of the deputy commissioner Gurdaspur and investigation of this case was on.

Denying policemen were torturing Congressmen, he said a criminal case had been registered against those who were involved in an attack on an employee of the PSEB. 



Misuse of Red Cross funds
Ex-DC Nawanshahr returns Rs 1. 32 lakh
Parmod Bharti

Nawanshahr, June 12
The issue of alleged misuse of Red Cross funds by several deputy commissioners in the state, took a new turn here. Harjit Inder Singh Grewal, joint development commissioner and special secretary, rural development, turned up here on Wednesday to hand over Rs 1,32,500/ cheque to the general assistant to deputy commissioner Upkar Singh, in response to the letter from the president, District Red Cross Society( DRCS) , Nawanshahr, for the recovery of the " unjustified expenditure' made out of the District Red Cross Society funds during his tenure as deputy commissioner of the district.

Before handing over the cheque, Grewal, to justify the 'unjustified expenditure' mentioned in the list sent to him by registered post by the local DRCS president for recovery, said he was making the payment "under protest', as he had used the DRCS funds per conventions in vogue.

"None of the items mentioned in the list purchased by him out of the DRCS funds, was either used by him or taken along with him after transfer from here. The purchase of electronic items was necessitated as the various offices were shifted to the newly constructed district administrative complex during his tenure", said Grewal adding anyhow, he had been reciprocating positively to the notice of recovery of the amount spent out of DRCS funds in public interest.

Since he was not given an opportunity to justify the use of DRCS funds before issuing a recovery notice of 'unjustified expenditures', so he was making the payment in the presence of media, said Grewal.

Alleged misuse of the Red Cross funds by deputy commissioners in the state was brought to light by an Resurgent India, an NGO, by seeking details of the expenditures out of DRCS funds of some districts under the RTI Act. Another NGO, the Human Empowerment League of Punjab( HELP), had also sought details of expenditures by the deputy commissioner, Nawanshahr, a few months ago.

Meanwhile, Parvinder Singh Kittna, general secretary, HELP, said the Red Cross funds were meant for the poor and needy.

The state government should also initiate steps to recover the loan amounts released to the employees out of Red Cross funds. 


Work on highway to be expedited: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 12
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal today said that the work on the Pathankot-Ajmer super express highway would be expedited to shorten the distance to Mumbai by 300 km.

He said the super express highway would run through Jalandhar, Moga, Bathinda and Mansa. The highway would cost about Rs 9000 crore and would cut the travel to Mumbai by one day. Each truck proceeding to Mumbai would save diesel worth about Rs 3000, he claimed. Engineers were working on the alignment of the express highway and proposals would be sought from the private sector for executing the project.

The Punjab Infratsructure Development Board (PIDB) recently cleared the project.

Sukhbir said Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal would lay the foundation of 32 new flyovers next month.


Maadh village families refuse to return 
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 12
A few residents of Maadh village today arrived here to persuade the families, which had fled the village after they were allegedly threatened by Akali leader Yuvraj, to return to the village. However, they had to return disappointed.

The families stressed they won’t return till the Akali leader was booked.

Dilbagh Singh, former Sarpanch of the village, who led the villagers, said there was communal harmony in the village and there was no threat to anybody. The villagers had formed a committee, comprising members of all political parties, to resolve the dispute.

SSP Iqbal Singh said he the police had assured the families of protection and the force had been deployed in the village. He visited the village but no one corroborated the charges levelled against the Akali leader by Ram Parkash and his son Naresh Kumar. The trouble started when the Akali leader, along with his wife, returned to their house on the day of the incident. They objected to motor cycles parked in the narrow lane, blocking the way to their house. Ram and Yuvraj started abusing each other from their respective houses. Later, the wife of Yuvraj took him inside the house and called up the police.

Rajinder Dhir, a resident of Rayya, said political rivalry between the two families was the reason behind the incident.

Meanwhile, Surinder Kumar Billa president , Hindu Shiv Sena, told The Tribune the families would return only after they were assured protection to their lives and property and a case was registered against the Akali leader.


CM lays stone of law university
Tribune News Service

Sidhuwal (Patiala), June 12
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today laid the foundation stone of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law near here. The university will come up at a cost of Rs 45 crore at this village on the Patiala-Bhadson road.

Addressing the gathering, the Chief Minister said the university would have modern infrastructure to provide law education of international standards.

Emphasising the need for making law as a compulsory subject for all students at the school and college levels, Badal said the step would bring more social awareness among our young generation and make them law-abiding citizens.

Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Vijender Jain congratulated people of Punjab in general and Patiala in particular on having a law university.

He said law colleges and universities could play a vital role in bringing much-needed social reforms.

He agreed to 10 per cent reservation for Punjab students in the university.

Prof Mool Chand Sharma, vice-chairman, University Grants Commission, who was the guest of honour, said law, society and development were interlinked. Earlier, Prof Gurjeet Singh, vice-chancellor of the university, welcomed the dignitaries. 


Punjab minister pedals to work
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
Giving security personnel the nightmare of their lives, Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal today rode a bicycle all the way to office to protest against the recent hike in petroleum prices.

Other BJP leaders accompanied him on their cycles while his security staff followed him in their vehicles. The minister finally let go off the bicycle at the secretariat, much to the relief of his personal security staff.

Incidentally, after the Chandigarh Administration reduced the value-added tax (VAT) on petrol by 2 per cent to 20 per cent, petrol now costs Rs 50.28 here, the lowest in the tri-city. Petrol costs Rs 50.60 in Panchkula and sells at Rs 55.57 in Mohali.

The price of LPG too has been reduced to Rs 339.50 in Chandigarh after the administration abolished VAT on LPG.

Talking to mediapersons, the minister said that his action was to emphasise the need for austerity. The distance between his official residence in Sector 39 and his office at the Punjab and Haryana Secretariat is by no means small. But Master Mohan Lal accompanied by senior BJP youth leader and member, National Executive, Vineet Joshi, undertook this arduous journey to make their point.

Though, it was a very rare sight for onlookers, the minister did not disappoint those who missed watching him in the morning by going for the Cabinet meeting on the cycle and then returning from there.

Mohan Lal did not shy away from the people who recognised him, rather he waved back at them and greeted them in typical Bollywood style. 


No PSEB unbudling till Aug 31
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
Apparently fed up with the numerous extensions given to the Punjab government for the unbundling of the PSEB, the Centre this time has put a rider with the extension till August 31.

Sources in the government said though the Centre had given yet another extension, it had directed the government to submit by June 30 the blueprint of the unbundling process.

The sources said the Centre agreed to extension keeping in view the ongoing local bodies elections in the state.

Previous extension expired on May 29.

Meanwhile, a section of the engineers has questioned the way the PSEB is being run under two Acts, the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948, and the Electricity Act, 2003. In fact, the 1948 Act has been repealed following the enactment of the new Act. Engineers say that the appointments of the members and chairman of the PSEB is valid till the extension given to the PSEB. No member of the board can be appointed beyond August 31.

Under the Electricity Act, 2003, there is no provision for the Board. The board, which has been allowed to continue as a state transmission utility and a licensee for a further period up to August 31, has filed the annual revenue requirement (AAR) petition before the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission to meet the requirements of the Electricity Act, 2003 though it itself (Board) exists under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948.


SGPC staff pulled up for honouring Prof Geelani
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 12
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC president Avtar Singh have not taken kindly to the felicitation of Prof S.A.R Geelani, who has been acquitted in the Parliament attack case, and another Muslim hardliner from Kashmir at the committee’s information office here on June 4.

The Muslim leaders had come here to address the Sikh conclave organised by the Dal Khalsa on the eve of the 24th anniversary of Operation Bluestar.

They were presented with siropas by Jaswinder Singh Advocate, a senior SGPC member and convener of the Akal Purkh Ki Fauj, and Giani Kewal Singh, former Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, in the presence of senior officials of the committee.

It is believed the BJP had protested with the Chief Minister regarding the felicitation of Muslim leaders.

However, the SGPC chief said Jaswinder Singh advocate and Giani Kewal Singh had presented the Muslim leaders with siropas in their personal capacity.

He said he had issued directions to committee officials to take permission from him or the secretary of the committee before honouring any dignitary in future.


SGPC chief justifies appointment
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar today justified the appointment of Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia as vice-chancellor of Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University at Fatehgarh Sahib.

Reacting to questions whether it was appropriate to appoint a person who was removed from Punjabi University after the Patiala police charge-sheeted him in a case involving a girl student, the SGPC president said Ahluwalia had been working for the establishment of Guru Granth Sahib University for four years. “Why didn’t anyone object earlier?” he asked.


Army chief visits Mamun station
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, June 12
Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor today visited headquarters of Gurj Division at Mamun military station near here. He was accompanied by wife Kirti Kapoor, who heads the Army Wives Welfare Association.

General Kapoor discussed with the station officers problems being faced by the force. He said the Army was well prepared to face internal and external insurgencies.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lieut-General Tej Kumar Sapru, and GOC, Rising Star Corps, Lieut-Gen Vinay Sharma were also present.

The Army chief’s wife visited Asha, a school run by the Army for special children.


Mid-day Meal
Central kitchen to cater to all schools
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, June 12
For better execution of the mid-day meal scheme in government schools, the state Education Department has decided to introduce a centralised kitchen scheme in three districts of Punjab as a part of a pilot project. The contract for the scheme will be given to a private firm.

While currently the meals are being prepared in verandahs or an extra room in every school, now the food for all schools in the district will be cooked at a central place and then transported to various schools.

The scheme, which has been planned only for Nawanshahr, Tarn Taran and Ferozepur, will come into operation once the tenders are cleared next month. If found more efficient and economically more viable, the scheme is likely to be replicated in other districts as well.

Krishan Kumar, director-general, School Education, said he expected the scheme to be more cost-friendly as it would help the government save the cost of construction of a kitchen shed and salary given to the cook in every school.

“There are more advantages too. A check on quality control of the food will be far easier. The teachers too will be relieved of the extra burden of receiving the payment every month, purchasing the ration and storing it, maintaining the records, keeping a tab on food quality and cooking the meal themselves in the absence of a cook,” Kumar said, adding that these were some of the common complaints that he received from the school staff.

The director-general said the scheme would be more viable in schools with a low strength. “Since a grant of Rs 2 per child per day is being received under the scheme, it is very difficult to provide a meal to 20 students with Rs 40 per day when the payment to the cook is also inclusive,” he said.

The menu too has been revised recently. According to it, children up to Class VIII will get dal-chapatti on alternate days and khichdi or soya or vegetable pulao or channa or sweet rice on other days. The new menu aims to provide 480 calories to every child per day with 13 to 14 gm of protein and 100 gm of carbohydrates.


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