P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Passengers stranded at airport for 20 hrs
Snag in Singapore Airlines’ aircraft
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, June 19
It was a nightmare for more than 320 passengers who were scheduled to fly by Singapore Airlines to their destinations but were stranded at the Rajasansi international airport for more than 20 hours due to snag in the aircraft.

Sukhwinder Singh, who along with his wife and a seven-month-old baby, was scheduled to fly to Australia, said they were stranded at the airport for more than seven hours before being taken to a hotel at 6 am by ordinary buses. He said the hotel management pushed them out of the rooms at 1 pm check out time today. They had to sit and wait in the lobby for being taken to the airport.

Kulwinder Kaur of Jalandhar, who was flying to San Francisco to meet her son, said the airlines had not given out correct information about the flight. They were made to sit in the airport lounge for many hours, forced to take back heavy baggage and herded in the bus to a hotel. She said all her relatives in the USA had a sleepless night as they could not be contacted for information about the flight plans.

However, Singapore Airlines territory manager, Vimal Rai said the flight was cancelled due to malfunctioning in the wiring system in the Boeing aircraft 777 200. He said safety of the passengers was of paramount importance as the pilots had reported a snag in the aircraft before taking off. He said the airlines took proper care of the stranded passengers and arranged accommodation for them in good hotels in the city for comfortable stay. He regretted the inconvenience to passengers due to the technical snag. He said a new aircraft was arranged which landed at 5 pm today and all passengers were taken to the airport.

Monika, a bride from Jalandhar, said it was miserable to spend the night at the airport and later at the hotel. She said the airlines did not keep updating the flight schedule and her husband had waited anxiously at the Singapore airport to receive her due to lack of communication.

According to the sources at the airport, it was due to the lack of a technical back-up engineering staff stationed here the airlines could not rectify even minor faults, thus resulting in inconvenience to passengers.


Sunami Gate on Patiala MC demolition plan
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 19
While the state government and the Patiala district administration have plans for a “Conserve Patiala Heritage Buildings” drive, the Patiala Municipal Corporation seems to be heading in an exactly opposite direction by going ahead with its “ill-conceived” plan to demolish historical Sunami Gate.

The MC House has passed a resolution for the demolition of the gate without a nod from the Punjab Archaeological Department. However, it has tried to tread with a little quantum of caution by reluctantly including a condition in the resolution that an NOC would be sought from the department before initiating any demolition at the spot. Its inclusion, it was learnt, came only after a tough stance taken by MC commissioner M.P. Arora against the proposed demolition of the heritage gate.

Though, the Mayor has been maintaining that the gate has become unsafe, sources in the MC pointed out that it was not so unsafe, at least for the time being. Moreover, if the building had been in such a perilous condition and at the same time if the MC had any concern for the preservation of Patiala heritage, it could have instead gone in for restoration of the gate with the help of the Archaeological Department.

“Demolition is no answer to the problem even if the gate had been rendered unsafe,” said a resident, Rakesh Kumar.

Ironically, the government has included the city in its proposed tourism development master plan, having focus on the Patiala heritage buildings. A five-member team of experts of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation has advocated need to conserve the heritage buildings of the city. They inspected a number of such buildings on Monday. Deputy Commissioner D.S. Grewal apprised the team of the administration’s “unflinching” commitment to preserving the rich Patiala heritage.

The sources said a lobby of certain people with vested interests was pushing for the demolition plan. The gate is one of the 10 famous Patiala gates, Darshani Gate, the main entrance of Qila Mubarak, Lahouri Gate, Nabha Gate, Samana Gate, Sirhindi Gate, Sheranwala Gate, Safabadi Gate, Sunami Gate and Top Khana Gate. Nabha Gate, Lahori Gate and Safabadi Gate had collapsed while a ‘new version’ has replaced old Sheranwala Gate about a year ago. The old walled city has access only through these gates.

Arora said the MC would go ahead with its Samana Gate demolition plan only if it got an NOC from the Archaeological Department.


Hi-tech check post at Attari
State awaits central grant for land
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 19
Punjab government has announced Rs 2 crore for the construction of 20 km of road in all Assembly segments in the state The money will be allocated from the Rural Development Fund.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal stated this to reporters while handing over a cheque for Rs 65 crore to MP Navjot Singh Sidhu and municipal corporation mayor Shwet Malik, for the revamp of city’s infrastructure. He said of the Rs 65 crore, Rs 20 crore would be spent for paving streets in the periphery of the city while Rs 20 crore had been earmarked for the construction of concrete roads in the narrow lanes of the city. He said another Rs 20 crore had been provided to the corporation for the solid waste management while Rs 5 crore would be for tree planting in the city.

The Chief Minister said a hi-tech check post would be set up at Attari/Wagah border and for which the state government was awaiting central grant to acquire 120 acres identified by the administration. He said the government was concerned about backwardness of the small towns 10miles to 15 miles near the Indo-Pakistan border and would draw up a plan for basic facilities to the people of the border regions in the state, which would be submitted to the Union Home Ministry.

Badal said interest from development funds would be spent to develop Virsa Vihar auditorium at a cost of Rs 37 lakh, setting up a police chowki in galiara with Rs 50 lakh and renovation of Guru Nanak Bhawan auditorium at a cost of Rs 1 crore.

The Chief Minister said the union government had sanctioned Rs 25 crore to develop Amritsar city as tourist destination. He said Rs 2.5 crore had been earmarked for the conservation and beautification of Gobindgarh fort, Rs 90 lakh for the beautification of Ram Bagh.

The union government had also sanctioned Rs 6 crore for landscaping and beautification of Town Hall building complex housing the offices of Municipal Corporation besides providing Rs 7 crore for the development of heritage village on Guru Nanak Dev University campus.

He said Rs 60 lakh had also been earmarked for employment generation for the youth of the border areas besides Rs 1.5 crore for the make over of SG Thakur Singh Art Gallery.



MC Polls
Five houses have 114 voters !
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 19
Can five houses have 114 voters along with children? The voters’ list released by the state Election Department says a ward in Bathinda city has one such example. The voters’ list released by the department shows five such houses in ward no 18 of Aggarwal Colony, where fake voters are in multiples of 10 against actual voters.

The department has prepared the list for elections to the Bathinda Municipal Corporation, scheduled for June 22. The list says there are 114 voters in booth no. 47 of ward no 18 residing in house numbers 17037, 17045, 17048, 17051 and 17056. The families have 15 adult members and children. The families have been living here for many years.

The list shows 39, 17, 24, 23 and 11 voters residing in house numbers 17037, 17045, 17048, 17051 and 17056, respectively.

Residents of the colony are agitated against the district administration and the district electoral officials for not considering their objections filed prior to the MC elections. The residents have been protesting against preparation of “bogus” votes on a large-scale by a BJP candidate. They alleged the authorities concerned have not attended to their complaints and were going to have elections under pressure of influential political leaders.

A section of residents said they had been complaining to the authorities against bogus votes in the ward since October, 2007, but to no avail. They also complained 25 objections were filed by the residents with the office of the state Election Department at Chandigarh and the district election officer, Bathinda.

“When complaints did not pay off, a delegation of the residents met the deputy commissioner, Bathinda and submitted a representation. The DC marked an inquiry to the ADC (Development), but that too did not yield anything,” alleged Vijay Jindal, a resident of Aggarwal Colony. He complained some unscrupulous political leaders helped the district election officer to prepare fake voters’ list. The residents have submitted a representation to the Punjab Chief Minister and demanded deletion of the names of voters who do not live here. Vijay Jade, acting district election officer-cum-deputy commissioner, Bathinda, said it was not possible to have so many voters in a single house. He disclosed the houses which did not have house numbers, were further categorised as A, B, C etc as it helps the electoral officers in maintaining the series of house numbers. The residents of the ward have filed objections barely three days prior to the BMC elections, scheduled for June 22. He assured to look into the matter and order an inquiry by the returning officer concerned.


Fear of defeat made Cong run away from contest: Manpreet 
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
Countering what he described as “false propaganda” against him, finance minister and Gidderbaha MLA Manpreet Singh Badal said here today it was fear of defeat that forced prospective Congress candidates to run away from the electoral battle in Gidderbaha.

Refuting the charge levelled by Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal the prospective Congress candidates feared violence or highhandedness, the finance minister said the real reason for the “cowardice” of the Congress was intense factionalism within the party, particularly in Gidderbaha town, where it could not agree on choice of candidates.

Bhattal had stated most of the excesses against Congress leaders had been committed in Gidderbaha and Fatehgarh Churian areas. He said it was due to a lack of organisational skills that the Congress could not even decide on candidates for the polls. Therefore, running away from the contest was a face-saving ploy adopted by the Congress. Enumerating reasons of the Congress tactics, the minister said the Congress was on a very weak wicket in Gidderbaha since the town was happy at the development work being undertaken. Gidderbaha had been an Akali bastion for 60 years. Barring the lone election where the Akali Dal did not contest the elections, the constituency has returned an Akali MLA for record 12 times in a row, he added.

He also challenged the Congress to prove cases had been registered against Congress workers in one month. As opposed to 30 cases alleged by Congress, only two cases have been registered out of which one case each has been registered against Akali and Congress workers.


Cong workers court arrest
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 19
Congress workers of the Majitha constituency today courted arrest in protest against the cancellation of nomination papers of Congress candidates for the municipal elections.

Gurdeep Kaur, Satwant Kaur, Saroj Bhall, Balwinder Kaur, Surjeet Kaur, Neelam and Usha, candidates for the municipal committees, were among the leaders detained by the police.

However, SDM (I) Sandeep Rishi said the protesters had been arrested for violating Section 144 of the IPC imposed in the area.

The protesters earlier staged a dharna near the office of the SDM (I) and raised slogans against information minister Bikram Singh Majithia, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and the administration.

Addressing the protesters, Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, president of the District Congress Committee (Rural), alleged that Majithia was using the official machinery to rig the elections and influence the voters. He said the election commission should deploy paramilitary forces in the block.

Lalli said in case the government fails to act against the minister and the officials concerned, the Congress would launch an indefinite fast from July 7.


Concession in development, change of land use charges
Govt windfall for mega project promoters 
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 19
In a windfall for project promoters in Punjab the government has announced special incentives for the development of integrated industrial parks.

While reducing the area under industrial component for these projects, the government has increased the commercial component. Promoters of these ‘super mega projects’ now will also get concession in external development charges (EDC) and change of land use (CLU) charges.

The super mega projects have been divided into three categories. The projects, spread over 750 acres will fall in category A. A project spread over 500 acres is category B and the one, which is spread across 250 acres, is category C.

Category A projects need to keep only 40 per cent of the area as industrial and can use 25 per cent as commercial. The rest can be developed as residential. Category B projects would have 45 per cent as industrial, 20 per cent commercial and the rest residential. Category C projects can have a commercial pocket of 15 per cent but 55 per cent of the area has to be industrial.

The projects less than 250 acres would be treated according to the old policy where 60 per cent of the area is kept as industrial, 10 per cent as commercial and 30 per cent as residential.

The government has also allowed FAR three to category A projects, FAR 2.5 to Category B projects and FAR two to category C projects. Also the government has allowed the calculation of the FAR based on gross acreage of the project and not just the plotted or ground coverage area as was being done earlier.

"The project promoters have been allowed to sell all or part of the area they develop in various pockets. However the promoter would have to construct a minimum area within five years. The promoter would have to develop 10 per cent of the residential component for the economically weaker section housing," said S.S. Channi, principal secretary industries.

The super mega project have also been exempted from payment of stamp duty and registration charges on the first sale of developed area and build up spaces. No CLU charges would be taken for the industrial component. However the developer would have to pay these charges for the commercial and residential components.

For category A project, approval woudl be given irrespective of the project's land use position in the draft master plan or the local planning area till the master plan is finalised. The draft master plan would be amended keeping in view the approved project.

Since the promoter is expected to carry out a large part of the external development on his own, the government has given a 50 per cent concession in EDC to category A projects, 37.5 per cent concession to category B projects and 25 per cent concession in EDC to category C projects. Similarly a 75 per cent concession in license fee to category A projects would be given, 55 per cent concession in license fee to category B projects and 35 per cent concession to category C projects.

Ventures like convention centres, community centres, film amd multimedia facilities, high end educational and health care centres, hotels, sports facilities and water bodies can be included in the industrial component of the project.


Sans hygiene standards, ayurvedic plants get licences
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 18
In a glaring disclosure, it has been revealed that most of the 375 private factories that manufacturing ayurvedic medicines in the state have been successful in procuring Good Manufacturing Practises (GMF) licences even though most of them fail to meet basic hygiene standards.

A recent survey by the Ayurveda Department revealed that most of the ayurvedic companies in Amritsar were producing medicines in unhygienic conditions. Besides this, it was also found that few factories were mixing allopathic drugs with herbs to make formula, which is patently illegal. In another case in Kapurthala district, it was revealed that polish, which use to coat metal grills, was being used to coat ayurvedic pills to make them more appealing.

The health commissioner said 90 per cent of the factories did not have a technical officer to check whether the formulations were being mixed in the right proportion. Due to this there was big difference in the quality of drugs manufactured in different lots with the percentage of listed herbs varying tremendously in some cases, he added.

The department has decided to give such factories a chance to improve themselves voluntarily. “We have asked them to close down for a certain period to set their house in order. If this does not happen the department will suspend their licences and close down the units”, said Sidhu.

Companies are being told to keep their machines at a distance from each other to avoid contamination, establish in house laboratories to test raw drugs and medicines, use water which has passed through the reverse osmosis process and ensure proper uniforms for workers. They have also been asked to ensure quality assurance by ensuring uniformity in ingredients according to listed quantities.

The department itself is gearing up to establish its own laboratory so that it can go in for uniform checking of medicines made by private manufacturers. The health commissioner disclosed that the department had received Rs one crore for establishment of the laboratory at Patiala and expected to receive the same more from the Union government. The laboratory will come up on the lines of the Ayurveda laboratory at Ghaziabad, which has also recommended the machines that need to be purchased for the laboratory. Work on the laboratory will start from October.


MCI notices to 3 govt colleges 
P. K Jaiswar

Amritsar, June 19
All three government medical colleges (GMC) in state are facing virtual de-recognition as the Medical Council of India (MCI) has served show- cause notice to these colleges for failing to comply with its guidelines regarding improving infrastructure and deficiencies .

The MCI website www.mciindia.org described the status of three GMCs as “issued show cause notice for withdrawal of recognition under section 19”.

The MCI made surprise checking on June 10 in all three colleges simultaneously. The MCI teams had pointed out the colleges lacked proper faculty and had serious lacunae in the infrastructure.

Earlier, in a novel way, the government senior functionaries used to transfer faculty to deficient colleges on the eve of MCI inspection from saving the colleges from de-recognition. But this simultaneous inspection has exposed claims of the government and finally the axe is likely to fall on the colleges.

Dr Jagdish gargi, principal of government medical college here said it was only a notice and the ministry would answer it. 


PSEB heaves sigh of relief
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 19
The Nathpa-Jhakri project, which was shut down on June 11, became functional this morning. Chairman of the PSEB Y.S. Ratra stated this today. The board would get 50 lakh units per day from the project.

The chairman said there would be no power cuts for the time being. However, the weekly off for the industry would remain in force, he added.

Ratra said owing to scattered rain in the state and reports of slow paddy transplantation due to labour shortage, the power demand had not picked up compared to the last year. The consumption of power on June 18 was recorded at 1,237 lakh units against 1,284 lakh units on the same date last year. The state gets 595 lakh units from its own power plants, 135 lakh units from the BBMB, 344 lakh units from the central plants and 246 lakh units from trading and banking.


Chief Minister announces Rs 2 lakh reward for toppers
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 19
Guru Nanak Dev University has instituted World University Service (WUS) scholarships from 2008-09.

This, S.S. Chahal, director research of the university said these scholarships have been instituted for poor and bright students.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh to Navpreet Nagi who achieved distinction in the commerce stream in the Plus 2 exam of the Punjab School Education Board.

He also announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh for Neeraj Saini of Pathankot who secured the first position in the matriculation exam conducted by the PSEB.

He said the government would bear all expenses of Neeraj, who has been admitted to a school in Chandigarh, for higher education.


Tackling mealy bug menace in Malwa belt
DCs to meet at Ferozepur today
Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 19
As mealy bug attack on cotton and other crops has turned grave, the Punjab government has convened a meeting of the deputy commissioners of the Malwa belt tomorrow at Ferozepur.

Sources said senior Agriculture department officers today met at Bathinda after visiting various areas in the Malwa belt where attack of mealy bug was quite intense. Mealy bug problem, common in Chandigarh region for several years, has now become a serious problem in Malwa belt. As grass and other wild plants play host to the bug, its wiping out is a huge task.

In Malwa belt, first time the attack of mealy bug was noticed on cotton crop and later on rabi crops last year. Now it has shifted again to cotton crop. Farmers had attempted to deal with its attack but were partial success in this regard. The damage caused to cotton crop last year was to of Rs 400 crore. Productivity of cotton last year due to attack had come down to 650 kg from 750 kg per acre.

The authorities concerned had expected the production of 26.70 lakh bales but it turned out to be 23.55 lakh bales last year thus resulting in loss of 3.15 lakh bales.

The mealy bug, a small lazy appearing insect, eats plant shoots and leaves results in stunted growth of the plant. And it attacks in clusters.

Director agriculture, Punjab, Balwinder Singh Sidhu, said today meeting of senior officers of various departments including agriculture, horticulture,Markfed and private companies such as Vardhman was held at Bathinda under the chairmanship of R.S. Sandhu, financial commissioner, development to discuss measures to tackle the mealy bug menace.

Tomorrow, meeting of the deputy commissioners of the cotton belt would 
be held at Ferozepur, he said.

The focus would be to destroy the host plants.People at the village level would be mobilized to deal with the problem. Deputy commissioners would be asked to take a lead in this regard.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who also belongs to the cotton belt, has told the officers concerned to find out the concrete way out to finish the mealy bug attack.


Man kills wife’s ‘rapist’
Tribune News Service

Ferozepur, June 19
A man has killed a youth, who allegedly raped his wife in the cantonment area of the town on Wednesday night .

Police sources said Lucky a resident of the Lal Kurti locality of the cantonment entered the house of Neelam (name changed) on Wednesday evening when her husband was not at home. The young woman was alone at home at that time.

Lucky, tying her hands and feet, allegedly raped the woman. After the crime, he ran away from the spot. The rape was confirmed after medical examination in the local civil hospital.

The police registered a case of rape and trespassing against Lucky on the complaint of Shekhar , husband of the victim. However, the alleged accused person could not be arrested.

Late in the night, some persons informed Neelam’s husband Lucky was roaming in his locality. Shekhar called his friends and went there.

Shekhar and his friends located Lucky. They dragged him out of the house and started beating him. Finally, Shekhar took out a sharp-edged weapon and attacked him. Lucky died on the spot.

The police had today registered a case under Section 302 of the IPC against Shekhar, Victor, Sonu, Pushpinder and two other persons. 


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