P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Drastic cut in annual power purchase
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
If one is to strictly go by the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (PSERC) power tariff order today, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) may not be able to purchase any electricity as a short-term measure for the remaining nine months of the current financial year.

This is because the commission has allowed a total power purchase worth Rs 4,186 crore against a purchase of Rs 5,560 crore proposed by the PSEB. The commission has also drastically reduced power purchase from traders in its order.

Against a demand of Rs 1,895 crore worth of purchase proposed by the PSEB, the commission has only allowed Rs 505 crore.

Ironically, the board has already purchased this much power in the last three months. With the paddy season far from over, the board will find it difficult to remain within the figures proposed by the commission.

Besides reducing Rs 1,373 crore in this manner to partly bridge the gap between expenditure and revenue, the commission has also reduced expenditure on other heads. This includes pruning Rs 451 crore from the amount to be spent on employee cost, Rs 235 crore from the amount to be spent on fuel cost and Rs 525 crore from the amount to be paid as interest on loans taken by the PSEB besides other sundry reductions.

The commission has undertaken a similar exercise to reduce expenditure for 2006-07 and 2007-08. For 2006-07, it has disallowed expenditure of Rs 487 crore on account of higher transmission and distribution loss, Rs 93 crore has been reduced from the fuel expenses of thermal stations, Rs 193 crore from employee expenses and Rs 441 crore from interest charges has been disallowed. A revenue gap of Rs 439 crore as on March 31, 2007, has been carried over to the next year for adjustment.

For 2007-08, the commission has slashed expenditure of Rs 117 crore on fuel, Rs 604 crore on power purchase, Rs 399 on employee expenditure, Rs 37 crore on repair and maintenance and Rs 452 crore on interest charges. The deficit of Rs 717 crore has been carried over to 2008-09 for adjustment.

Former adviser to the PSEB Padamjit Singh claims adjustments made by the Regulatory Commission have resulted in a gap of only Rs 249 crore over the past three years.

He claimed the commission had adjusted the gap for the previous years which the Punjab government should have paid to the board.

He said even while calculating the tariff order for this year, expenditure had been reduced severely to the tune of more than Rs 5,000 crore.

The PSEB had estimated a gap of Rs 5,254 crore while submitting the projected revenue receipt to the commission. He claimed the exercise would only worsen the financial position of the board.


Chickenpox scare in Bathinda
Boy dies, 10 suffering from disease
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 4
Despite tall claims of the government that chicken pox has been eradicated in the state, the death of a boy due to the disease has created panic among local residents today. According to sources, Karamjit Singh (13), who was studying in Mussoorie, had come to his parents here. During his stay in the city, he contracted chicken pox. He was admitted to a private hospital where his condition deteriorated.

Sources said Rachhpal Singh Ahluwalia, father of the victim, contacted the local Civil Hospital blood bank for frozen plasma. Though he got the blood from the bank, the machine that separates plasma in blood was out of stock.

Ahluwalia said by the time he returned to Bathinda with plasma received from a Sirsa hospital, his son had died.

Over 10 residents, including children of Azad Colony on the Goniana road and slum areas near Bibiwala Chowk, have been suffering from the disease for the past one month, but the district health authorities have not woken to the fact.

A visit to these localities revealed that the affected persons were relying on traditional treatment.

A senior official of the Health Department said government hospitals and dispensaries were facing a shortage of the anti-chicken pox vaccine.

Two fresh cases of measles have been reported from the Civil Hospital. “The condition of both patients is stable and a team of doctors has been keeping a vigil in slum areas. Almost 65 children have been vaccinated for the disease by now. People in the area are not ready to visit doctors or hospitals as they believe that the patient would be alright within four or five days,” said Dr Ajitpal Singh.

Maninderjit Singh, civil surgeon, said a team of doctors, including a health inspector, had been sent to the affected areas. 


NRI intellectuals back GND varsity VC
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Several literary and academic organisations of NRIs living in the US and Canada have urged Governor Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd) to stand against the unwarranted political interference in the affairs of Guru Nanak Dev ( GND) University by the Punjab government.

Writing a letter on the behalf of literary, cultural and social organisations of North America, Gurmel Singh Sidhu, professor of biology and genetics, California State University, Fresno, has stated that more than 360 members of these organisations extend full support to Dr Jairup Singh, vice-chancellor, GND varsity, who is “unduly being targeted” by the Punjab government.

“VC Jairup Singh has become the latest target of a political vendetta due to a personal grudge held by a politician. The government in turn has ordered an inquiry without taking into consideration the autonomy and sanctity of the office of the VC,” says Sidhu in his letter to the Governor. A copy of the letter has been sent to The Tribune through e-mail.

“As an expert in the field of genetics, I can unequivocally state that Dr Jairup Singh is an internationally known geneticist and nationally acclaimed academician and administrator who vigorously upholds the academic standards of the university. He has created an ideal atmosphere that is conducive to higher learning. He has made numerous changes that have not only improved the academic standards of education, but raised the expectation levels as well,” says Sidhu further.

“Rather than praising such a unique individual, the Punjab government is unnecessarily interfering in the running of his office due to personal qualms held by certain individuals. This is wholly inappropriate. Comparatively if you review the history and working of the foreign universities, a president, which is equivalent to a VC, is appointed by the Chancellor, who is not a Governor, on the recommendation of an academic committee set forth by the university,” Sidhu further says. “In my academic career, which spans more than 30 years in various North American universities, I have never seen any interference by the state or federal government in the operations of the university,” he adds.

The North American organisations have urged the Governor to see to it that the appointment of a VC is academic in nature and decided by recognised academicians. If the actions of the university are not in the interest of people, any citizen or legislator can file a complaint with the syndicate of the university or the Chancellor who should order the inquiry. Government officials should not have power to order such an inquiry.

Sidhu has named the VCs removed in the recent years in Punjab. The letter has been written on the behalf of the International Punjabi Sahit Academy, California, Punjabi Sahib Academy, New York, Central Punjabi Sahib Sabha, Canada and several other bodies of NRIs .


Sam’s statue to be installed in Amritsar
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 4
Even as BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu has promised to install a statue of late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw here, president of the SAD (A) Simranjit Singh Mann has said his party would oppose the move.

It would be the first statue of a Parsi to be installed in the city. Manekshaw, who was born here, was instrumental in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 war.

Talking to The Tribune, Mann said the installation of the statue would spoil the country’s relations with Pakistan. He said the move might affect the corridor project linking Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Pakistan) with Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak (India). 



SAD, BJP trade charges
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 4
Differences surfaced between the SAD and the BJP during the recently held elections to the local Municipal Council have now come to the fore with BJP candidates levelling allegations against the SAD rank and file. They said SAD leaders had worked against them in the elections.

Last evening, district president of the BJP Jatinder Kalra held a meeting with all 10 candidates of the party here to listen to their grievances. Only four candidates, all women, had registered victories.

The candidates gave Kalra the names of those SAD workers and leaders who had either opposed them or made efforts to sabotage their victory chances.

Kalra said a report in this regard was being sent to the BJP high command.

On the other hand, in charge of the SAD for the Sangrur Assembly constituency Parkash Chand Garg said the BJP should not level such allegations against the SAD. If any SAD worker had supported any other candidate, it might be due to his personal relations. He claimed that he had also been informed that the BJP had opposed SAD candidates in several wards. He said both parties should take action against their respective workers, who had defied alliance code in Sangrur.

Cong MLA boycotts key samiti meeting

Local Congress MLA Surinder Pal Singh Sibia today stayed away from a meeting to elect the chairman and vice-chairman of the Sangrur Block Samiti. All remaining 19 members (nine of the SAD, seven of the Congress and three Independents) of the samiti took part. SDM Amandeep Bansal conducted the election proceedings.

According to the SDM, SAD candidate Harbhajan Singh Duggan was elected chairman unopposed while Kamaljit Kaur, also of the SAD, was elected vice-chairperson unopposed.

When asked why the MLA was not present at the meeting, the SDM said the MLA had been invited to the meeting.

Meanwhile, Sibia said he stayed away from the meeting in protest as the SAD had been committing excesses on the Congress leaders.

Earlier, Sibia had accused the SAD-BJP government of creating obstructions in the way of his participation in the meeting.


Sonia to decide about me: Capt
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, July 4
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said only Congress president Sonia Gandhi will decide on his strained relations with PPCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Referring to the debacle of the Congress in the Panchayat elections, Capt Amarinder Singh told mediapersons at the PWD Rest House, Dasuya, 40 km from here, this afternoon that the SAD-BJP combine had won these elections by misusing government machinery. It had converted Punjab into a state like Jharkhand, he added.

Criticising Bhattal for her travelling in the car of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in Amritsar, Amarinder said this act of hers had given a wrong impression among Congress workers.

He had received no notice from the Vigilance Department for appearing before it on July 6, 2008, in connection with an inquiry into the case registered against him recently. He had come to know about it from the news item published in a section of the Press.

Later, Amarinder, accompanied by MLAs Lov Kumar Goldy (Garhshankar) and Harminder Singh (Rai Kot), former MLAs Sukhjinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh Lalli, Harpartap Singh and Romesh Chander Dogra, went to Mukerian to condole the family of late Kewal Krishan, former Speaker Vidhan Sabha.


Akal Takht Foundation Day
Remove Avtar, Vedanti: Mann
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 4
The SAD (Amritsar) has demanded the removal of SGPC chief Avtar Singh and jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti for not observing the foundation day of the Takht.

President of the party Simranjit Singh Mann has said by not observing the foundation day of the Takht, the two had lost the right to stay on their present posts and should resign immediately.

Mann said the SGPC should immediately convene a general body meeting and remove the two from their posts after indicting them as “mahadoshi”.


83 given jobs on compassionate grounds
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Punjab irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon today handed over appointment letters to 83 persons, who are dependents of employees who had died in harness. They have been given jobs on compassionate grounds. Sekhon said the previous Congress government did not pay attention to the families of employees who had died on the job. Many of these families were facing a lot of financial and other problems.

Of the 83, 40 have been put on posts of clerk, 17 as peon and the remaining given other jobs. These included 16 women. Among those present on the occasion were Suresh Kumar, principal secretary, Irrigation and Power.


Canadian top honour for Indian couple
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Indian-born scientist and an alumnus of the Panjab University, Dr Ashok K. Vij, and his wife Dr Ratna Ghosh have received Canada’s highest Lifetime Outstanding Achievement Award, 2008. Dr Vij and his wife become the first couple in the history of Canada to achieve this distinction.

The couple has had the distinction of also being recipients of the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellowship in the European Academy of Art, Humanities and Science and the Killiam Fellowship Prize.

It may be futile to count the number of medals and honorary doctorates Dr Vij has received from scientific institutions and universities across the globe. But his modesty only makes him say that he is a programme leader and research master at the Institute of Research of Hydro-Quebec in Canada.

Dr Ghosh was the first woman dean at the Faculty of Education at McGill University, Montreal. Two of her most influential works - “Redefining Multicultural Education and Social Change” and “Education Canada” - are the most important reference works for any teacher-education programme across Canada.

The couple spoke to The Tribune during a visit to India in 2005 and shared some thoughts about how Indians do not blossom in the indigenous environment despite abundance of talent and brains.

Dr Vij had said, “India has the genius, talent and resources, but it needs a clear-cut goal of achieving excellence in attitudinal engineering. Anything short of perfect should not be acceptable. Standards must be well defined and met. If this is done, India will beat the world”.

By achieving excellence in their field, recognised by the world, the duo have made their point.

Dr Vij had narrated with nostalgia in his interview how Panjab University, where he studied in the 1960s, tried to expel him on various occasions for challenging the intellectual status quo. But he was bestowed with a D.Litt by the same university in 1999 for his contribution to science.


Data on farmer suicides sent to Speaker
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Inderjit Singh Jaijee, convenor of the Movement Against State Repression (MASR), has said patwaris in Sangrur district have collected information with regard to the cases of suicide by farmers.

He said here on Wednesday that he had been told that Speaker of the Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee had sought a report from the state government in this regard through proper channel.

Jaijee said he had written to the Speaker and members of Parliament to draw their attention towards this problem.

“A list of 1,508 suicide cases of Moonak subdivision with 1,408 gram panchayat affidavits are enclosed. This list covers all 91 villages comprising Moonak subdivision and is for the period from 1988 till date,” Jaijee had written in the letter to the Speaker. He said he had submitted the details of all cases in Moonak belt of Sangrur district.

“Punjab farmers are not getting adequate help from the Union government because state governments had been underplaying the crisis,” he said. Jaijee said instead of hiding the facts regarding suicide by farmers, the state government should highlight this issue. Otherwise, Punjab farmers would continue to be denied adequate help by the Union government.

He said that a major part of the blame for the suicides lay on the inequitable cost/price structure established by the Centre.


400 qtl fungus-ridden pickle destroyed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
After targeting the synthetic milk and ‘khoya’ mafia in the state, the Punjab Health Department authorities have now started inspecting other eatables. The department has destroyed and dumped fungus-ridden 400 quintals of pickle that the department claimed was prepared and stored under unhygienic conditions by a Samana (Patiala district)-based company.

Pickles and ‘murabba’ were seized during a raid on a private food company and has been dumped on the outskirts of Samana city.

Prof Laxmi Kanta Chawla, health minister, said the food items were stored in a large plastic water tank.

She said she had taken up the matter with the Chief Minister to strengthen various laws to check adulteration of food products.


Photo poll rolls being revised
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Punjab Chief electoral officer Vijay Kain yesterday said photo electoral rolls for all Vidhan Sabha constituencies, as per the newly delimited Assembly constituencies, were being revised.

Citizens who had attained the age of 18 years as on January 1, 2008, and were eligible to be voters could approach the electoral registration officer or officers authorised by him and fill form No. 6 to get name registered as voters. In case of correction in the existing roll, the voter could fill and submit form No. 8.


High Court
Chahal gets interim relief 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, the media adviser to Punjab’s former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, today got interim relief from the high court.

Acting on his petition for the grant of anticipatory bail, Justice H.S. Bhalla of the high court today directed stay on his arrest for the time being. Justice Bhalla also issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab, which was accepted by the state counsel. The case will now come up for hearing on July 24.

Chahal had alleged implication in recently registered corruption case at Patiala. In his petition seeking the grant of anticipatory bail, Chahal alleged that the Vigilance Bureau, due to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s enmity with Amarinder Singh, registered the case. The intention was to implicate him and his son in a case of disproportionate assets. Chahal added the bureau too roped him in.

Claiming that the first information report was registered with the sole objective of harassing the Amarinder and arresting him, Chahal added the allegations against him in the current FIR and two other previous cases were virtually the same.

In fact, the accusation against him was a part of the allegations contained in FIR number 30, dated July 11, 2007. He added that the Vigilance Bureau was acting in complete violation of the law settled by the Supreme Court regarding the registration of a second FIR on similar set of allegations.

PIL filed against Pb IGP

In a petition before the high court, it was today alleged that the buses of Delhi Public School, Ludhiana branch, were impounded on June 7 because the school declined admission to a relative of Punjab IGP Sanjeev Kalra.

Ludhiana-based Col Naresh Ghai, in the petition filed in public interest, as such sought appropriate action against those responsible for it and also to ensure against recurrence of such incidents.

In the petition placed before the Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, Col Ghai submitted such incidents could well cause irreparable damage to the state government’s policy of attracting multi-nationals and reputed institutions of learning to Punjab.
After hearing, the Bench issued notice of motion for September 17 to Punjab home secretary Sanjeev Kalra, and DPS principal for filing their replies.

DGP responsible for witness safety

The high court today made it clear that Punjab DGP and the home secretary would be held responsible if anything happened to the witnesses in the Pherurai case.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice K.S. Ahluwalia also asked the state to ensure nobody approached the witnesses. The directions were issued after the Bench took a strong note of Punjab DGP’s action of constituting a high-level committee to enquire into conflicting versions of hostile witnesses in case.


Sud warns colleges of derecognition
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 4
Tikshan Sud, medical education and research minister, has warned that all private medical, ayurvedic, homoeopathic, nursing and paramedical colleges, that are operating from a place for which they had not been given approval, will be de-recognised.

In a statement issued here yesterday, he said a recent inspection conducted by a special team of the department had revealed glaring irregularities, including the shifting the site of medical institutes from the approved location. Sud said steps were being taken to provide sufficient faculty to medical and dental colleges.

Rs 8.5 cr for 2 colleges
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 4
A team of senior functionaries of the Medical Education Department and the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences has met the MCI authorities in New Delhi to impress upon it that the state government was committed to providing the latest infrastructure in medical colleges.

Dr J.S. Dalal, director, Research and Medical Education, told The Tribune here today that the state government had sanctioned Rs 8.5 crore for providing the latest equipment in the medical colleges in Patiala and Amritsar. A CT scan machine would be installed at Government Rajindra Hospital in Patiala by July 15.



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