P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Assets Case
Amarinder appears before Vigilance team
26 Cong MLAs defy PPPC directive, express solidarity with him
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 6
Thousands of Congress men here today expressed solidarity with former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh before he appeared before a Vigilance Bureau team for questioning in connection with a case registered against him for having assets beyond his known sources of income.

There was a big convoy of cars and other vehicles as Congressmen followed the former Chief Minister from his New Moti Bagh residence to Leela Bhavan. Twentysix Congress MLAs, besides 26 candidates who contested Assembly elections and 18 former MLAs, were present as the former Chief Minister was cheered by his supporters.

Leaders of different front organisations of the state Congress were present with their supporters. These included Punjab Youth Congress president Vijay Inder Singla , a staunch supporter of Amarinder Singh and his choice for post of Youth Congress chief.

The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee had issued a directive to party leaders and workers there should be no show of strength today as Amarinder Singh was appearing before the Vigilance in connection with a personal case.The turn-out showed the partymen had ignored the directions of the Pradesh Congress and expressed solidarity with their leader. There was crowd of Congressmen, including Congress legislators at the New Moti Bagh residence of the former Chief Minister, before he left for questioning by the Vigilance team.

Raninder Singh, son of the former Chief Minister, who has also been named in the FIR registered by the Vigilance , is abroad and he has already sought permission from a court to appear before the Vigilance bureau after returning to the country by July 15.

Amarinder Singh was accompanied by Preneet Kaur, his wife and MP from Patiala . Leaders of the district Congress and a large number of fomer city councillors were also present.. Vehicles started arriving in the city since morning even as the authorities sealed the busy mall road as a precautionary measure.

Prohibitory orders were clamped in the vicinity of the Circuit House where Amarinder Singh was questioned and the Baradari Gardens were out of bounds for people in the day. 


Airport at Nanded to be functional by Aug 15
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 6
The airport at Nanded (Maharashtra), city of Takht Hazur Sahib, will be functional by August 15. It is likely to be named after Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Sikh Master, as per a unanimous resolution passed by the Municipal Committee, Nanded.

Deputy mayor Surjeet Singh Gill told The Tribune from Nanded Sahib today that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already written to the aviation minister to name the airport after Guru Gobind Singh to mark the tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi falling in October.

Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi played a significant role in the election of two Sikhs as mayor and deputy mayor of the Municipal Committee, Nanded, where Sikhs are in a minority. Out of 78 candidates, only six Sikhs were elected members of the MC, Nanded.

Iqbal Singh, secretary, All-India Congress Committee, said jathedar, Takht Hazur Sahib, Nanded, Giani Kulwant Singh and head granthi Giani Partap Singh wanted that the MC should be headed by Sikhs.

The AICC secretary claimed that he took up the matter with Sonia so that construction work and expansion of Nanded could be up to the wishes of the Sikhs there.

The six Sikh councillors are Balwant Singh Gadiwala (mayor), Surjeet Singh Gill (deputy mayor), Virendra Singh Gadiwala, Balwinder Kaur Gadiwala, Bhaginder Singh Ghadisaj and Khem Singh. The population of the Sikhs in Nanded city is not more than 25,000 while its population is about five lakh.

Nanded is the second largest city in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra and is also a district headquarters. It is known as an important place of Sikh faith.

Tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi will start from October 30 and be over by November 3.

Sikh mayor Gadiwale said more than Rs 900 crore was being spent on Nanded city by the Central and state governments.



Expose political pressure: Bitta
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 6
Former Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) spymasters should expose political pressure in the working of their departments.

Maninderjit Singh Bitta, president, All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, stated this here today on a recent notification by the Department of Personnel and Training to gag former spies who wrote books exposing the functioning of these organisations. He said if they wanted to write, they should expose those political leaders who tried to pressure security and intelligence agencies for vested interests and hampered the functioning of the department.

Meanwhile, Bitta, in a communiqué to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urged him to keep in the mind the demands of IPS officers, including of super-time scales in the Sixth Pay Commission. He said recently eligibility to super-time scale of IAS officers were reduced to 14 years, while eligibility to the same scale of IG for IPS officers was 18 years which widened the gap to the disadvantage of IPS officers .

He said duties and responsibility of IPS officers were not less than those of IAS and their role in national security needed to be recognised.


Sikh Museum to have portrait of Balkar
Vedanti, Mann lock horns over hymn

Jamarai (Tarn Taran), July 6
An unsavoury situation occurred during a gathering organised to pay tributes to Balkar Singh, who was shot dead by guards of Dera Sacha Sauda chief in Mumbai, here today when jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann entered into a verbal duel.

The cause of the verbal duel between them was a hymn “Raj bina nahi dharm chale hai...,” which, Mann said, was part of Gurbani. Vedanti contradicted it, accusing Mann of misleading the Sikh community by relating it to Gurbani.

During their arguments, the gathering raised slogans of “Khalistan” zindabad and brandished their swords. Jathedar Vedanti stopped his address midway and left the venue.

Meanwhile, president of the SGPC Avtar Singh declared that the portrait of Balkar Singh would be installed at Central Sikh Museum at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. He gave Rs 1 lakh to the deceased’s mother and announced that a family member, who fulfilled the conditions, would be provided a job with the SGPC.

Minister for rural development and panchayat Ranjit Singh Brahmpura expressed sympathy with the family.

In a resolution passed on the occasion, Akal Takht and other organisations called upon the Sikh masses not to be misled by living gurus.


LBP promises jobs to youth
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 6
President of the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) Balwant Singh Ramoowalia held the successive governments responsible for people’s problems like increasing unemployment, rising prices, debt and exploitation of innocent youths by travel agents.

He said the LBP was struggling against these problems for the past some years.

Ramoowalia was addressing a gathering at Lehragaga, about 40 km from here, yesterday. He also heard grievances of the people there and assured them that he would do something for them.

He also said it was only the LBP which could generate more employment opportunities for unemployed youth. He also said if the LBP got power in Punjab, it would give work to lakhs of people in five years.


Gurdwara panel supports N-deal
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 6
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), headed by Parmjit Singh Sarna, today openly advocated the Indo-US nuclear deal and called upon Sikh Members of Parliament, especially those belonging to the Shiromani Akali Dal, to support the move in “larger interest” of the country.

Sarna said after having secured the endorsement of former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the Indo-US nuclear deal, countrymen should understand that the deal was in favour of India.

The DSGMC said if the SAD failed to support the deal on the floor of Parliament, it would go down in the history as “black day” since Dr Manmohan Singh had promoted the image of the Sikh community, being the most efficient Prime Minister. 


NRIs grateful to state cops
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar/Kapurthala, July 6
“After meeting you I feel there is hope for Punjab. We need good men like you and SSP sahib for India to become a great country just like Canada, if not better”.

This is a letter written by Gordie Kahlon of Kahlon Farms, Abbotsford, Canada, to inspector Dalbir Singh of the newly opened NRI police station at Kapurthala. Gordie had good reason to thank the NRI station. In a recent decision, a court ruled against her relative Sohan Singh, pronouncing that though the land would remain in his possession, his relative would remain the owner of the property. Sohan approached the station saying his relative had sold off the property and he feared a forcible takeover. Inspector Dalbir Singh called in the party that had purchased the property and it was resolved that the latter would approach the court to get the possession of the property.

This is not a singular case. NRIs across Punjab are getting justice through NRI stations. Explaining the issue, Jalandhar SP (Headquarters) Rakesh Kaushal says NRIs usually have less than a month’s stay during their visits to Punjab. “Normally opposite parties ensure delays due to their influence with revenue officials”. Besides, there is the genuine problem of area SHOs being overburdened with work. “VIP duties, dharnas and even elections result in delay in action on their part, which the NRIs can scant afford”, he said, adding that the new NRI police stations had achieved timely inquiries.

It is not only the issue of summary justice alone. The major success of the NRI police stations has been the involvement of the police officers who are trying to ensure compromises in the same manner as done by panchayats, but more effective as they have the stamp of “khakhi” on them.

Take the case of a complaint filed by NRI Chanchal Singh at the Jalandhar NRI station. He alleged that a person had occupied his 5 acres at Kangniwal in Nurmahal. Even though the matter was in the court, police officials were able to convince the other party to give back the possession of 2.5 acres to the NRI. In an area where each acre is worth Rs 40 lakh, this is a big relief.

Besides affecting compromises, the NRI stations are also coordinating with revenue officials. At Bagrain village in Bholath, Kapurthala, a quick “nishandehi” has solved a land dispute. In a similar case at Gudaipur village in Maqsoodan, the NRI police was able to settle a four-year-old dispute. “It feels like being in a panchayat, only in much more comfortable surroundings”, says NRI Dalbir Singh of his experience at the NRI station, all of which have plush sofas and exude an air of professionalism.

NRIs are getting quick justice in other cases too. Among these is the case of Kamal Kumar of the UK, who alleged that he had entrusted Rakesh Kumar with the job of taking care of his house at Jawahar Nagar in Jalandhar. Rakesh took over his house, stole articles and also prepared forged documents to prove his ownership. The police perused the records, registered a case and got the property vacated.


Power cuts continue, despite good rain

Ludhiana, July 6
Although the water level in hydel reservoirs has started rising, following rains in the catchment areas, yet there is no relief from power cuts in the state. The state continues to reel under severe power restrictions.

The inflow of water in the Bhakra and Pong Dam reservoirs has started rising daily. The water level in the Bhakra complex was reported at 1,613.54 ft and Pong Dam at 1,322.48 ft on Sunday. The daily inflow of water in the Bhakra reservoir is 45,000 cusecs against 38,000 cusecs and Pong Dam 19,000 cusecs against 15,000 cusecs of last year.

Following the rise in the water level, the Beas and Bhakra Management Board (BBMB) has increased the generation of power from the Bhakra complex to 213 lakh units daily. From yesterday, Punjab now gets 90 lakh units from the Bhakra complex. Pong Dam generation has also been raised to 7 lakh units daily. Punjab is getting 1.75 lakh units daily from Pong Dam.

Punjab’s daily consumption has touched 1,700 lakh units, whereas the availability of power was 1,500 lakh units. The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) is daily buying as many as 780 lakh units of power worth about Rs 26 crore... from various sources.

The PSEB's own thermal plants are generating 467 lakh units daily and hydel projects, namely Anandpur Sahib and Mukerian, 165 lakh units daily, respectively.

The urban feeders have been subjected to 6 hours power cut daily, while tube wells in rural areas are being supplied power for 8 hours daily in two groups, according to official sources of the PSEB.

Although the PSEB authorities claim to make 6 hours cut daily, the power schedule is not being maintained and unscheduled cuts affect the daily normal life.

As soon as the power supply is switched off at 7 a.m. or 7.30 a.m., everything comes to a halt. The water supply to towns is suspended immediately. Similarly, the wheel of the industry also comes to a standstill.

Meanwhile, the consumption of diesel has increased with the use of generators. Petrol filling stations are meeting the rising demand of diesel and so far there has been no shortage of the same. 


US body helps bright, deserving Sikh students
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 6
An effort to help deserving Sikh students has become a major project that aids bright and needy young persons realise dreams. The Sikh Human Development Foundation (SHDF), a US-based non-profit and non-political organisation, was started in 1999 by a few Sikh NRIs to help fellow Punjabis. Today, it has a beneficiary in almost every district of Punjab.

Dr Rajwant Singh, a member of the foundation, now in India to organise a function to honour eminent Sikhs in India, said, “The SHDF is inspired by the concept of seva (service) in Sikh religion, selfless service to humanity”.

At a recent fundraiser, Umeedan Di Shaam, held on April 22 this year in the USA, the foundation collected $ 2 lakh for needy students in Punjab.

According to Dr Rajwant Singh, in the academic year 2007-2008 the foundation awarded around 200 scholarships, bringing the total to 780. “There has been a rise in the number of scholarships granted each year starting with 22 in 2000, when the scheme was started”.

Out of the 200 scholarships awarded last year, 53 per cent went to male students and 47 per cent to female. Among the recipients, 62 per cent scholarships were given to students from rural areas and 38 per cent to those from towns and cities.

The scholarships are for engineering, information technology, nursing, medicine and health, agriculture, business management, bio-tech, law and food science. These students joined 96 different institutions, 81 being in Punjab and the rest in Haryana, J&K and Delhi.

Over half the scholarships were given to students from families with incomes less than 1 dollar per day per person. In fact, more than half of the students in this group come from families with incomes of less than 60 cents per day per person, Dr Rajwant disclosed. He said another 25 per cent of the students were from families with incomes of less than one and half dollars per day per person.

The grants from the foundation have also gone to a number of children of widows, terminally-ill parents, drivers, labourers, pensioners and the like. Managed by senior professionals in Washington, the SHDF core team comprises Amar Jit Singh Sodhi, chairman, a retired IAS officer, Gajinder Singh Ahuja, general secretary, Surinder Singh, treasurer, Veena Oberoi, Harbax Singh Sethi and Dr Rajwant Singh,all members. The team tours India frequently to reach out to students, especially in rural areas.

Details of the scholarship for the needy can be viewed at the SHDF website: www.sikhhumandevelopment.org


MLA wants Saini suspended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 6
Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira today urged Punjab Governor S. F. Rodrigues to suspend state Vigilance Inspector General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini Sumedh Singh Saini following the registration of an FIR against him by the CBI.

In a letter to the Governor, which was released to the media here, Khaira claimed it was unlikely that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would take action against Saini as the state government had gone to the extent of keeping the post of chief director, Vigilance, vacant to ensure that Saini could head the department. The post of chief director is to the held by an officer of the rank of additional director-general of police.

The Congress leader said under the present circumstances it was impossible to expect fair investigation of the case relating to torture and possible elimination of Balwant Singh Multani and Balwant Singh Bhullar missing since December, 1991, till Saini continued to hold his present office.

Requesting the Governor to direct the state government to act in accordance with the laid down law, Khaira said the Vigilance Bureau was being used by the Chief Minister to settle scores with his political opponents. He said former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had raised the issue of political vendetta at the hands of the Vigilance Bureau many a time.

The Congress leader said despite the fact that Saini was liable for suspension after being chargesheeted by a Delhi-based CBI court on charges of kidnapping and possible elimination in the Saini Motors case of Ludhiana, the state government not only ignored the directions from the Union Home Ministry in this matter, but also went ahead to give him a plum post. 


Bus falls into drain, 40 hurt
Sushil Goyal and Vikrant Jindal
Tribune Reporters

Malerkotla, July 6
More than 40 passengers, including 22 women and children, sustained injuries when the bus in which they were travelling hit the railings of a bridge and fell into a drain on the Malerkotla-Sangrur road, allegedly while overtaking another bus here today. The bus belongs to Libra Transport Company and was on its way to Jalandhar from Patran.

The injured were admitted to the local civil hospital. Three of them suffered fractures.

Harbant Singh from Samana and Baljinder Kaur and her grandson Navpreet Singh from Dhuri, who were injured in the accident, alleged that the mishap took place due to “rash and negligent” driving. Many scared passengers had even requested the driver to let them get off the bus.

The injured included Ram Singh (Sangrur), Sarbjit Singh (Duggan), Kuldip Kaur (Bardwal), Mohinder Kaur (Mimsa), Saroj Devi (Dhuri), Vinod Kumar (Dhuri), Gul Mohhamad (Malerkotla), Manjit Kaur (Tapa), Pankaj Kumar (Abohar), Amanpreet Kaur (Nabha), Manjit Kaur (Jogewal near Patran), Nanak Chand (Jangipur in Rajasthan).

Meanwhile, Om Parkash, the driver of a PRTC bus, said before hitting the railings of the bridge, the bus banged against its front walls. However, Ludhiana-based manager of the company Bakhshish Singh said the PRTC bus driver was responsible for the accident.

Sangrur DSP Gurpreet Singh Sikand told The Tribune that after the accident, the driver of the Libra bus Sukhwinder Singh, alias Nikoo, fled from the scene, but was arrested later. He said the driver had been arrested for rash and negligent driving under Sections 279, 337, 338 and 427 of the IPC. The bus has been impounded.

Sangrur deputy commissioner V.K. Ohri, along with SDM Jaspal Singh Jassi, visited the accident spot. They also visited the hospital and enquired after the injured. Ohri said the expenditure on the treatment of the injured would be borne by the District Red Cross Society.


Ex-servicemen hold rally
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 6
Ex-servicemen, led by Col P.I.S. Phulka (retd) of the SAD and Col G.S. Sandhu (retd) of the Majha Human Rights Association, today took out a rally from Jallianwala Bagh to the office of the deputy commissioner here today.

They presented a memorandum to the DC office authorities to be forwarded to the Centre. Their main demand is the implementation of one-rank-one-pension scheme.

Addressing the ex-servicemen, Phulka rejected the 6th Pay Commission report and demanded the constitution of a separate pay commission or a pay review board with representatives from the Defence Services, including officers in service and the retired ones.

He termed the rally as “march of justice for the Defence Services”.


Students taken ill after eating ‘unhygienic food’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 6
At least 10 students of nursing colleges of the state, who are training in the local Dr Vidya Sagar Institute of Mental Health, were taken ill after eating ‘unhygienic’ food provided by the mess. They were taken to private hospitals.

A student alleged that the contractor had been supplying spicy and unhygienic food to the students despite repeated requests. The matter was already brought to the institute authorities.

However, Dr B.L.Goyal, director of the Institute of Mental Health, said he had served a notice on the contractor to improve the quality of the food on a complaint of the students. If the contractor failed to improve the quality of the food, his contract would be terminated and the mess/canteen would be locked this evening.

Dr Goyal said the institute had been imparting training to over 600 nursing students against its capacity of 200 students. He had to admit students beyond the capacity under “pressure” from various quarters.

When asked how the institute was managing 400 students beyond its capacity, he quipped they (students) were being accommodated in quarters meant for staff members. The institute takes undertaking from the students that they would adjust themselves despite the shortage of accommodation, he added.


Agriculture Dept faces staff shortage
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 6
Monitoring of farm activities seems to have been put on hold in the state as hundreds of positions of senior and middle-level agriculture officials in the Agriculture Department are vacant.

Though hundreds of posts, including a couple of deputy directors, agriculture development officers (ADOs) and agriculture officers (AOs), were vacant in the Punjab Agriculture Department, no effort was made to fill these posts after 2000, which depicted the apathy of governments towards the most important agriculture sector.

The vacancies, particularly at the block level, were causing inconvenience to farmers, who were forced to meet district offices of the department even for crop-related guidance or for consultation regarding crop disease. The absence of sactioned strength of agriculture officers was hitting monitoring of emergence of pest attacks on crops apart from causing impeding implementation of government schemes and programmes.

The government initiated a scheme to dissuade farmers from early sowing of paddy, according to Agriculture Department sources. It could have yielded better results in case adequate number of officials were there to report early sowing cases to the authorities concerned.

Sources in the department revealed that though there were 51 sanctioned posts of deputy director in the department, only 31 deputy directors were functioning and 30 posts of deputy director were vacant for the past couple of years. Similarly, there were 221 sanctioned posts of agriculture officer (AOs), but 56 posts were vacant. The situation was particularly worse in case of ADOs as against 1,167 posts, 717 posts of ADO were vacant. The focal points had been given the priority of the SAD, still 71 of a total of 480 focal points were functioning sans agriculture officials. Similarly, 20 blocks were without agriculture officials. “Since there is no senior official at the block level, we have to go to the district agriculture offices even in case of small crop-related problems,” said farmer Bachitter Singh.

Director of the department Balwinder Singh Sidhu said recruitment of agriculture officials could not be held as the government had banned recruitment. “We will fill the vacancies whenever the ban is lifted and whenever other departments get a go-ahead for recruitment,” said Sidhu.

Official sources pointed out that since the government faced lack of resources it was unlikely that the Agriculture Department would be allowed to fill vacancies in the near future.


Spiralling feed prices hit poultry units hard
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 6
The highest ever price of poultry feed and the growing debt on poultry farmers in the region have forced the closure of several poultry units across Punjab. Several poultry farmers in Amritsar, Sangrur and Ludhiana have already closed operations on account of high input costs.

Sources said the price of maize had increased from Rs 500-525 per quintal in 2006 to Rs 1,100 per quintal now, that of soya meal had increased from Rs 7,000-8,000 per tonne last year to Rs 22,500 per tonne at present. Price of minerals like manganese, zinc and ferrous, which are added to poultry feed, have shot up. Price of manganese sulphate has increased from Rs 20 per kg to Rs 60 per kg within four months, they added.

President of The Amritsar Poultry Farmers Association G.S. Bedi said though the government had banned the export of maize, there was a need to ban export of soy meal and other minerals too. “The hike in the prices of these materials have led to a 60 per cent hike in the price of poultry feed. Forward trading in all these ingredients, too, needs to be banned. While some units in Amritsar have already closed their operations, at least 50 per cent units are contemplating closure,” he said.

According to the US Grain Council Survey, around 30 lakh tonnes of maize has been exported from India during 2007-08, compared to 2.7 lakh tonnes in 2006-2007. The maize production has increased from 14 million tonnes in 2006 to 18 million tonnes in 2007. However, the domestic prices continued to soar, forcing the government to ban the export of maize last week.

The National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), too, is spearheading a movement to press the government to ban the export of soy meal. A delegation of the NECC had recently met agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to apprise him of the plight of the poultry industry. They said though the break-even level for egg production had gone up from Rs 0.90/1.00 to Rs 2.25 and the break-even level of broiler production increased from Rs 27-28 per kg to Rs 42-43 per kg, the prices couldn’t be increased further.

A senior official of the NECC in Chandigarh said at least 15 per cent of the industry, consisting mainly of small and marginal farmers, had already closed down, and many more farmers are on the verge of closure. “The agriculture minister assured us that he would look into the possibility of extending an interest subvention of 8 per cent on bank loans availed by poultry farmers, and also advise the state governments to apply a concessional tariff for electricity to poultry farms on a par with the rates applicable to agriculture,” he said.


State industrial boards without heads
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, July 6
On April 15, 2008, the state government issued a notification, notifying the constitution of three industrial development boards: Punjab State Industrial Development Board, Medium Scale Industrial Development Board and Small Scale Industry Development Board. The first board is headed by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while the other two are headed by the representatives of the industry.

Three months have passed since the notification was issued, but the presidents and vice-presidents of the two boards for medium and small-scale industry development have not been installed so far.

The Small Scale Industry Development Board is headed by Inderjit Singh Pradhan, president, chamber of industrial and commercial undertakings, Ludhiana. Vinod Jain is its vice-president. These boards cannot be functional unless the nominated heads are formally installed.

The president of the board enjoys the status of a Cabinet minister while the vice-president has the status of a minister of state. Similar is the case with the Medium Scale Industrial Development Board.

The delay in the installation of the top posts of the two boards has been due to the enforcement of election model code in the state. Now when the civic body elections are over, the industry circles are waiting for the formal “coronations” of the board office-bearers.

The Small Scale Industrial Development Board consists of 13 members. The term of the boards is three years each.


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