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Hiked paddy MSP no good news for farmers
Labour, input costs almost double
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 17
Net gain to farmers of Punjab and Haryana from the enhanced price (by Rs 105) of paddy will be zero. Earlier the MSP was fixed at Rs 745, including a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal.

Rather, in view of a huge rise in the cost of paddy transplantation and price of diesel, farmers of Punjab and Haryana will suffer losses, compared to the last year.

The cost of transplantation of paddy has gone to Rs 1,600 per acre this year against Rs 700 or Rs 800 per acre last year. The net loss to Punjab farmers will be in the range of Rs 520 crore.

Besides, the expenditure on the crop will go up by Rs 500 or 600 per acre given the enhanced prices of diesel price and other inputs such as fertilisers, etc.

Collective loss to Punjab farmers in this regard will be in the range of Rs 600 crore. About 65 lakh acres of land is to be covered under paddy this year in the state.

Punjab farmers’ gain of Rs 1000 crore from the enhanced price of paddy will be neutralised by the high input costs.

The government has estimated that about 100 lakh tonne of paddy will arrive in markets this year for procurement.

“The gain from enhanced price of paddy will be completely neutralised by the enhanced labour cost and other factors such as diesel price,” said Parminder Singh Chalaki, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal). “The same is the fate of the farmers of Haryana,” he added.

He said last year he had paid Rs 700 per acre as labour cost for the transplantation of paddy and this year he is to pay between Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,600 per acre.

He said his labour was permanent and had been planting paddy in his fields for the past several years.

In fact, there is a big rush for the transplantation of paddy owing to heavy rain in various parts of this region.

Cutthroat competition among farmers with regard to the transplantation of paddy has resulted in enhanced labour cost, said Chalaki.

A deputation of the BKU, led by Balbir Singh Rajewal, today met the financial commissioner (development) to tell him that the government should develop machines for the transplantation of paddy.

These machines were available in Japan, South Korea and other rice-producing countries and the state government should tie up with those countries to deal with the labour problem.

The arrival of labour from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other state has been hit because of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Most of the labourers now prefer staying back in their own states for they get jobs under the scheme.

The union has also urged the state government to direct sheller-owners to clear the bonus dues of farmers.

Sheller owners were supposed to give Rs 100 per quintal as bonus to farmers, but they have been given only the difference in the price at which they had procured the paddy, and Rs 745 that was official procurement price including bonus last year.


Seepage problem in Muktsar-Malout belt
Centre agrees to fund Rs 1,300-cr canal re-lining project
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 17
The Union government has agreed, in principle, to help the Punjab government to address the water-logging problem in the Muktsar-Abohar-Malout belt, caused mainly due to seepage from the Sirhind feeder and the Rajasthan canal that takes off from the Harike headworks.

A team of senior officials of Punjab, led by chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh, held a meeting with Prime Minister’s principal secretary T.K. Nair today.

Besides, Suresh Kumar, secretary, irrigation, Punjab, senior officers of the Union finance ministry, Planning Commission and ministry for water resources were present at the meeting.

Officials of the Rajasthan government were also present at the meeting, as Rajasthan canal caters to the irrigation needs of that state. Punjab does not make any use of water from the Rajasthan canal.

The Prime Minister’s office has urged the Union government authorities concerned to find the way out to provide 100 per cent funding for this project, as it is related to the food security of the country.

Muktsar-Abohar-Malout is a fertile belt, good for growing cotton, wheat and paddy, but water-logging has caused a serious problem in the area.

Most of the crops wither because of the water-logging in that belt and farmers suffer in the process.

Ramesh Inder Singh said the state government would submit the project by June 30. Already, the World Bank has been approached for technical assistance to tackle the problem of water-logging.

He said the major aspect of the Rs 1300-crore project was fresh double-brick re-lining of both canals to stop the seepage. There could be some consequential aspects also of the project.

Earlier, the Punjab government had brought this problem to the notice of the Rajasthan government.


Rs 1,225 crore for roads, agri-marketing infrastructure
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 17
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today ordered an ambitious Rs 1,225-crore plan for expanding and upgrading link roads network as well as modernising agricultural marketing infrastructure in the state.

A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Badal here. Chief Minister's media advisor Harcharan Bains said that while the existing link roads, measuring 7200 km, would be repaired at a cost of Rs 600 crore, the network would be expanded by adding 1500 km of new link roads.

This would entail an additional expenditure of Rs 225 crore during the current financial year. The Chief Minister ordered that new link roads, measuring 20 km, be constructed in each of the 108 rural constituencies in the state as per prescribed norms of rural population.

Bains said the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Board had been asked to undertake the modernisation of agriculture marketing infrastructure throughout the state.

The task would be completed within the next two years at a cost of Rs 400 crore to strengthen the agri-marketing base.

The government has earmarked Rs 75 crore to provide post-harvest technology links, granting of power transmission lines, cooling and ripening chambers to ensure hassle-free marketing of fruit and vegetables, apart from minimising the losses on account of transit of these perishables.


MD/MS entrance test: Irregularities alleged
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 17
At least 12 MD/MS seats in Punjab’s government medical colleges for which doctors across the state had appeared in an entrance test and underwent counselling have gone missing.

Some of these seats were listed in the entrance test prospectus and displayed during counselling, but not filled. Some seats in government medical colleges were not even listed in the prospectus.

With the two counselling sessions for admission over, the students who passed the test and are eligible for admission are up in arms about the “missing” seats. But the Department of Medical Education and Research does not seem to listen.

Candidates pointed out that counselling was undertaken in a slip-shod manner. The girl candidate, who was first in the merit list, was forced to choose MD (gynaecology). She had opted for MD (radiology) because she had post-MBBS diploma in gynaecology.

The candidate said she had done diploma while waiting to do MD, and as a topper she had the right to choose her course.

Following the first counselling, the candidate moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court which ordered that she be given the stream of her choice and admissions done according to merit.

Following the court’s orders, the counselling committee called for an “extended counselling” on June 9 and instead of revising the merit list, the committee merely exchanged the options availed by the girl candidate and the candidate who was second on the merit list.

Baba Farid University of Health Sciences VC Dr Ravinder Singh said extended counselling was done on June 9 in a great rush as the Supreme Court had laid down to complete the admission process by June 10.

On why the merit list was not revised after court orders he said the court had not directed to revise the entire list.

The candidates also said some seats displayed on the day of counselling were withdrawn at the last minute without giving reasons for it.

Dr Jagdish Gargi, principal, Government Medical College, Amritsar, and chairman of the counselling committee, said this was done due to some miscalculation which took place earlier.

“I know of only five vacant seats three in Amritsar and two at Patiala,” added Gargi. However, sources say there are at least seven more seats in Govt College, Patiala.



MC Polls: SAD leaders swarm Bathinda
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 17
Intensifying its campaign for the MC elections, the ruling SAD sent MPs, ministers, former ministers, MLAs, former MLAs, Mayor and other dignitaries to each and every ward to hold door-to-door canvassing today.

Party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has been monitoring the campaign. Sukhbir, just after his recent visit to the town on June 15, has scheduled another on June 19 to address people in each ward. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will lead a rally here on June 20.

A number of key party leaders, namely Gulzar Singh Ranike, minister for animal husbandry, Hira Singh Gabria, minister for jail and tourism, MPs Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Paramjeet Kaur Gulshan, Kiranbir Singh Kang, Youth Akali Dal chief, Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, mayor, Patiala Municipal Corporation, Harish Rai Dhanda, chief parliamentary secretary, local government, and Des Raj Dhugga, chief parliamentary secretary, PWD (B&R), held several corner meetings.

Meanwhile, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, general secretary, SAD, former ministers Prem Singh Chandumajra, Gurdev Singh Badal, Tota Singh, Charanji Lal Garg, Seva Singh Sekhwan, Sikander Singh Maluka and Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, and former MLAs Sukhdarshan Singh Marar, Mantar Singh Brar and Gura Singh Tungwali were also assigned duties to visit electorates door to door.


SAD youth wing to gherao Sonia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 17
The youth wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will gherao Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi in the last week of June to pressurise the Centre to initiate steps to control rising prices in the country.

Bikram Singh Majitha, information and broadcasting minister, said here today that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet colleagues should resign if the government is unable to control the rising inflation.

He said the common man was under financial strain due to increase in the prices of the essential goods like cooking gas and fuel etc.

Lashing out at the Central government for failing to announce Rs 1,000 as MSP as recommended by the Agriculture Price Commission, Majithia said if we take the contribution of the farmers of Punjab alone, the Central government had been able to save Rs 10,000 crore from the produce during the food crisis in the country.

He said the government should review its decision and announce Rs 1,300 per quintal as minimum support price of paddy, as the input costs of the agriculture had gone up considerably.


GND Varsity Row
VC holds in-camera talks with Governor
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 17
Vice-chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev (GND)University Jai Rup Singh today held an in-camera meeting with the Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), at the Punjab Raj Bhawan, three days ahead of an inquiry to be conducted by home secretary B.C. Gupta into the alleged irregularities in the university during stint as vice-chancellor.

The first meeting of the inquiry has been fixed on June 20 at the office of home secretary, Civil Secretariat, Chandigarh.

According to sources, the vice-chancellor reached the Raj Bhawan at 10 am and spent about 45 minutes with the Governor.

Though what transpired between them could not be ascertained, it is believed that Jai Rup Singh presented his point of view regarding the alleged irregularities.

It is learnt that he told the Governor that Valtoha had lodged the complaint because the varsity syndicate had dismissed his confidant Varinder Pal Sharma as finance and development officer. The officer has sought stay from the court on dismissal.

On the other hand, Akali MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha, on whose complaint the inquiry has been ordered, said he would raise the matter at the meeting of the Privileges Committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha to be held on June 20.

Valtoha, who is a member of the committee, said in a chargesheet served on finance and development officer, the varsity had dubbed him (Valtoha) as terrorist while he had been acquitted in all cases relating to militancy.

Though Jai Rup Singh was appointed vice-chancellor during the Congress regime
led by Capt Amarinder Singh, it is believed that he had been chosen for the post
by the Governor.


Lok Pal has no staff to investigate cases
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 17
The Punjab Lok Pal has been truly sent into hibernation by the state government which has paralysed its functioning by refusing to man it with the needed staff despite repeated pleas by present incumbent, former Justice Daljit Singh Dhaliwal.

The Lok Pal’s office in the mini secretariat here presents a look of abandonment. The few rooms there are empty with Justice Dhaliwal being provided with only one personal assistant.

The bare desks are sans papers. The Lok Pal is getting increasingly less complaints and nowadays hardly any one approaches it.

This, sources said, was because people had by now realised they could not get anything by complaining against politicians holding high offices as all the reports of the institution are forwarded back to the government by the Governor once he receives them.

The Lok Pal, who was appointed to the post during Capt Amarinder Singh’s reign in the State, is virtually being prevented into looking into complaints which are pending with him for years.

The complaints, most against former Congress ministers, are pending because the institution just does not have the staff to do any investigation.

Though the institution has one Inspector-General of Police heading its police wing the IG does not have any investigating officers under him.

Earlier there were two SPs, one DIG, four to five Inspectors, ASIs and 30 to 40 police personnel. The judicial wing, which has a Registrar and Joint Registrar, is also similarly under-staffed.

The problem, Lok Pal sources said, occurred when the last government did not appoint any Lok Pal for three years after the death of Justice D V Sehgal.

After the appointment of Justice Dhaliwal as the Lok Pal in early 2006 the latter has been urging that the previous posts be revived.

The government has failed to take action despite recent letters written to the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police (DGP) by the Lok Pal.

Due to the severe shortage of staff, the Lok Pal office has been practically paralysed since the past two years.

The office has submitted around 100 cases to the Governor but their verification was done before Justice Dhaliwal assumed charge.

At present around 150 cases are pending, many since the past four to five years, because there are no means to get them verified.

As far as new cases are concerned, the Lok Pal is receiving practically none. This is because under the present Act it is mandatory for the complainant to submit an affidavit supporting his allegations.

As the Punjab Lok Pal entertains complaints only against ministers, legislators and heads of statutory and non-statutory bodies in the State, people are hesitant to register complaints.


Civil hospitals short of essential medicines
Anshu Seth
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 17
The state Health Department has failed to take notice of the unavailability of Vitamin A drops in civil hospitals across the state.

The supply of Vitamin A drops, administered for good eyesight, has been suspended in majority of the hospitals under the Punjab Health System Corporation for the past four years.

The drops are one of the essential supplements given to children aged between six months and five years.

Civil hospitals in Mansa, Bathinda, Khanna, Ludhiana, Ferozepur have not received any supply of Vitamin A in the past four years.

Interestingly, oblivious to the ground reality, the mass information and education wing of the Punjab Health System Corporation has been advertising for the administration of drops.

Another cause for concern is the unavailability of anti-diarrhoeal tablets and ORS (oral rehydration solution) in some civil hospitals.

Civil hospitals in Khanna and Ludhiana receive more than 400-600 patients daily and majority of these patients come under middle income category who can't afford the treatment of private medical practitioners.

A senior employee at the Civil Hospital in Khanna said, "We are not getting supply of anti-emetic tablets and ORS sachets for the past few weeks.”

The supply of DPT, BCG and anti-rabies vaccination has also been suspended in hospitals in Ludhiana district for a long time. The Health Department does not even ensure the supply of syrups for paediatric use.


ISI turns to elderly agents
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, June 17
The arrest of two persons for their involvement in the smuggling of narcotics from Pakistan in the Kalanaur police station area yesterday has revealed that Pakistan’s ISI has started using elderly persons to carry out its nefarious designs in Punjab.

Senior superintendent of police Lok Nath Angra said here today that the preliminary interrogation of the two smugglers, involved in the smuggling of 13 kg of heroin worth Rs 65 crore in the international market, had led to the revelation that the ISI had activated its aged agents based in Punjab.

Darshan Singh of Chaura Kalan village of this district and Gurlal Singh Lalli of Amritsar district, who were arrested yesterday, were old contacts of the ISI through its Pakistan-based agent Farman Gujjar of Lahore.

While Darshan, who is about 80 years old, had been involved in anti-national activities in Punjab long time ago, Gurlal had been involved in the smuggling for the past 11 years. Gurlal entered Pakistan a number of times with the help of the ISI.

Angra said the ISI had been engaging elderly persons for its activities in Punjab with the view that generally they were not suspected by the police.

The SSP said the police was revising its strategy to curb smuggling and other anti-national activities in this border district in the light of these new strategies
of the ISI.

The two smugglers told the police that the heroin was smuggled a few days ago and it was concealed at a place with the help of Darshan. They were to receive Rs 30,000 for each packet containing 1 kg of heroin from the persons to whom the delivery was to be made at various locations.

They were to share the amount with other couriers. Gurlal had also received Rs 3 lakh from his contacts across the border for smuggling 10 kg of heroin.

Gurlal had been involved in cases relating to the smuggling of narcotics, arms and ammunition, explosives, including parcel explosives, pencil bombs and RDX.

Angra said owing to the early onset of monsoon, the vigil in border pockets had been intensified and movements of 95 persons were under watch.


CBI probe sought into poll rigging
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 17
The Shiromani Sikh Council International has demanded a CBI inquiry into the rigging of the panchayat polls at the Dera Baba Nanak block allegedly at the behest of senior Akali leaders.

President of the council Narayan Singh said here yesterday that out of the 143 panchayats of the block, 83 nominations filed by opposition candidates had been rejected by the election officer.

The matter came to light when the state election commissioner conducted an inquiry into the nominations cancelled by the returning officer and naib tehsildar.

Narain alleged that the form no. 4, attached with the nomination papers, were tampered with to ensure rejection of opposition candidates’ nominations. Police officers helped the ruling party candidates cast bogus voting, he added.

Narain has sought central forces the block for a peaceful conduct of the elections for few panchayats and municipal councils on June 22 and 30, respectively, besides observers from outside the state.


Denial of medical reimbursement
High Court pulls up PSEB
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 17
The Punjab and Haryana High Court’s Division Bench has made it clear that an employee, entitled to medical refund as an indoor patient, cannot be denied reimbursement for follow-up treatment as an outdoor patient.

The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice S.D. Anand has also come down heavily on the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) for “callous and chronic indifference” towards an employee seeking reimbursement for outdoor treatment.

In a judgment on a petition by PSEB’s retired Chief Engineer K.C. Verma, the Bench held: “The case before this Court not only typifies the callous and chronic indifference of respondent PSEB towards an employee, who gave the best years of his life to the Board, it is also indicative of an indefensible resistance offered by the Board to the plea made by the petitioner for reimbursement of the medical expenditure incurred by him and also his wife on their outdoor treatment, which was preceded by hospitalisation”.

The Bench asserted: “This Court, as sentinel of the rights of citizens, public servants or the non, cannot afford to slumber when the facts evident are revelatory of a sinful attitude on the part of the quarters concerned”.

Going into the background of the matter, the Bench observed that the petitioner’s wife, after a bypass surgery, had been under continuous treatment and was referred to as an outdoor patient.

The petitioner, a chronic diabetes patient, had been under treatment at the PGI since August 1998.

The next year he suffered from right side paralysis and lost his speech. Though he was discharged as an indoor patient, he was advised treatment as outdoor patient.

The PSEB claimed its action was perfectly legal and was in accordance with the instruction issued by the board and the government from time to time.

After hearing the rival contentions, the Bench took notice of judgments passed earlier on the issue and added: “As would be evident from a perusal of the observations made by a Division Bench of this Court in Jagsir Singh Sandhu’s
case and also in P.C. Gupta’s case, an employee entitled to medical reimbursement as an indoor patient cannot be denied the reimbursement of charges incurred by him as an outdoor patient, if the outdoor treatment is a compulsive follow-up of the indoor treatment”.

The Bench further added the common ground in both the judgments was challenged by the Board.

But, the Apex Court dismissed both the appeals. The Bench also took note of the fact that relaxation was given to a senior assistant by the Board.

“If relaxation had been granted in one case, the competent authority is under obligation to indicate the differentiation between the case of the petitioner and case in which relaxation clause was invoked,” the Judges added.


Husband burns Moga sex scandal kingpin’s house
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, June 17
The kingpin of the infamous Moga sex scandal Simranjit Kaur, alias Indu Bala, faced the ire of her husband who allegedly burnt her house to ashes in the Suraj Nagar area of the town this afternoon.

The police has arrested the husband Sukhdev Pal, alias Pamma, after registering a criminal case under Sections 436 and 427, IPC, against him. He will be produced before a local court tomorrow.

The SHO of the city police station-I Ram Singh told The Tribune that Pamma had allegedly set the house on fire by sprinkling petrol in the rooms. He said Indu was not at home when the house was burnt.

Indu’s maid was present in the house when the incident took place. She gave a statement to the investigating officer, on the basis of which a case was registered.

The SHO further said Indu had got this house on lease a few years ago and was not the actual owner as per the revenue records.

Most of the household items, including furniture, electronics and clothes, had burnt to ashes before the fire tender reached the spot and controlled the fire.

The SHO further said the preliminary investigation had revealed that sharp differences had surfaced between the husband and wife after the sex scandal.

This might have possibly led to the fire incident. They were not enjoying cordial relations. The investigation is going on into the matter.

The woman was arrested by the police in the sex scandal last year and she remained in judicial custody for more than four months. She is presently on bail for the past few months.

Earlier, on January 4 this year, a few days after she came out on bail, two persons forcefully entered the residence of Indu with arms and threatened to kill her.

However, both accused Balwinder Singh and Bohar Singh, residents of Salina village, were booked by the police under Sections 452, 506, 353, 34, IPC.

It may be mentioned that the names of political bigwigs and top cops surfaced in the sex scandal last year after which the high court ordered a CBI inquiry.

Former SSP of Moga Davinder Singh Garcha, SP (H) Paramdip Singh Sandhu, SHO Raman Kumar, Indu Bala and many other persons were arrested by the investigating authorities in this case.

Baljinder Singh, son of senior SAD leader and former education minister Tota Singh, was also summoned by the CBI in the investigation even as his name did not figure in the FIR registered by the police.

The sex scandal involved alleged extortion of money from “innocent people” by the police officials in connivance with the two women.


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