P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Amritsar Improvement Trust Land ‘Scam’
House panel accuses Capt of non-cooperation
Former CM to move HC
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
The special committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today accused former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of not cooperating with it. It rejected his plea contesting the validity of the committee to look into the land deal of the Amritsar Improvement Trust during the Congress rule.

Amarinder said he would not appear before the committee again and contest its constitutional validity in the high court.

Committee chairman and chief parliamentary secretary Harish Rai Dhanda, SAD MLA, said the committee would finalise its report after the next hearing on July 15 whether Amarinder appeared before it or not. He said the report would be submitted to the Vidhan Sabha for consideration.

Amarinder, who appeared before the committee, along with former local bodies minister Choudhary Jagjit Singh, said the Assembly once dissolved could not take up issues dealt with in the last session. He said his role in the 12th Vidhan Sabha could not be questioned in the current session of the House. He said this inter alia meant he was not answerable to the committee also. He said the Supreme Court had also passed a similar judgement and requested proceedings against him be dropped in this light.

The former Chief Minister also questioned the locus standi of Dhanda to hear the case, saying Dhanda was holding charge of the Local Bodies Department as parliamentary secretary. He said two cases regarding the land deal were already in the high court and the committee could not adjudicate on a matter, which was sub judice.

However, Dhanda rejected the contentions saying there were at least four precedents whereby ministers concerned had headed special committees formed to probe matters regarding their departments.

Two Congress legislators Randeep Singh and Sher Singh Gagowal, who were part of the special committee, gave dissenting note on the occasion. Besides Dhanda, Jagbir Singh Brar and Sarabjit Singh Makkar from the SAD and Anil Joshi from the BJP were the other members out of the nine- member committee that attended today’s proceedings.

The committee was formed last year by the SAD-BJP government to enquire how 32.10 acres were first included and then excluded from an Improvement Trust scheme during the previous Congress regime causing loss to the state exchequer.


Cong wins two more wards
Tribune Reporters

Qadian (Gurdaspur), July 8
A tough opposition given to the SAD-BJP alliance by former Congress minister Partap Singh Bajwa and Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa today yielded fruits with the party scoring victory in one of the two wards of local municipal council, re-elections of which were held here today. The party has won one more ward in Pathankot.

The state Election Commission had ordered repoll in ward number 5 and 6 where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were broken by miscreants on June 30.

Narinder Kumar Jagga of the Congress was declared winner in ward number 5 while Hardeep Kaur of the SAD in ward number 6. With today’s results, the tally of the Congress has gone up to eight while that of the SAD-BJP up to seven in the 15-member council.

The polling remained peaceful. However, a section of the Ahmadiyya community alleged that their women, who went to cast vote, were asked to remove their veils by a SAD worker.

Certain residents said they would not cast vote for they had been threatened with dire consequences if they did so.

Meanwhile, Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal, MLA, Qadian, alleged that DSP Naresh Kumar, who was on security duty in polling booth of ward number 6, supported the Congress candidate. When he objected to it, he (DSP) misbehaved with him.

However, the DSP denied the allegation.

Party set to capture Pathankot council

Pathankot: The Congress won the election of ward No. 30 of the local municipal council today. The election of this ward had been postponed due to the improper functioning of the EVM on June 30.

Congress candidate Rita Bhatia was declared elected. She polled 1,566 votes while SAD-BJP candidate Jaswinder Kaur could secure only 519 votes.

Now, the Congress has a majority of 18 councillors in the House whereas the SAD-BJP has 10 councillors in the 33-member council.


Badal calls for resurgence of agriculture
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has made a strong plea for initiating revolutionary measures for the resurgence of agriculture in Punjab. Presiding over a meeting of a cross-section of progressive entrepreneurs from agriculture and allied fields, Badal suggested zoning of agriculture in the state.

Emphasising the need to enact the Seed Act and Nursery Act to ensure the quality of seeds and saplings to be provided to farmers as per the norms prescribed by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, Badal lamented the gross exploitation of farmers by seed firms, which were supplying spurious seeds in the name of hybrid ones.

The Chief Minister also directed the PAU vice-chancellor to strengthen its extension wing to bridge the knowledge gap between experts and farmers. He also asked the directorate of the state agriculture to depute its field staff to ensure liaison with farmers and update their knowledge on breeder seeds, pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers. He advocated the concept of direct selling of agricultural produce, thereby eliminating the middleman.

Laboratories were being set up in the state to facilitate the farmers to get the soil and water tested before sowing. He said the government was considering issuing soil health card to farmers to monitor the level of micronutrients and recommend suitable fertilisers in case of any deficiency, he said.

Meanwhile, Congress legislator from Qila Raipur Jassi Khangura has written a letter to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Union railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, asking them to help Punjab overcome labour shortage.

He has requested the two leaders to depute a fact-finding team to Punjab and lodge a protest with the Punjab CM for not providing safety to migrant labourers. 


Govt to fill vacancies for blind soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
The Punjab government has decided to clear the backlog of the posts reserved for the blind and partially blind persons in the state.

An assurance to this effect was given by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to a delegation of the Naterheen Jagaritis Sangh, Punjab, led by general secretary Prof Rajnish Mahal which called on Badal and submitted a charter of demands to him at his official residence here this afternoon.

Badal asked the state chief secretary to direct all administrative secretaries and heads of the departments to intimate vacant posts in their departments reserved for the blind and partially blind persons so that these posts could be filled on priority.

The Chief Minister also asked the secretary social security to visit the state Institute for Blind at Jamalpur in Ludhiana district this week to have first-hand information about the shortcomings in there in terms of infrastructure and staff besides the hardships faced by blind students.


Amritsar to host next national youth fest
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
The Centre today okayed Amritsar as the venue for the national youth festival of 2009. The proposal had earlier been submitted by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who wanted the Centre to support its case for holding the next youth festival in Punjab.

The proposal was today cleared and communicated to the Punjab CM by youth affairs minister M.S. Gill. The Centre will also release Rs 2 crore to Punjab to help it organise the festival. This is the first time Punjab has been chosen to host the prestigious show. The festival will be held between January 12 to 16 next year.



Goods train engine catches fire
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, July 8
The engine of a goods train carrying coal towards Nangal caught fire near Lang Majri village here today at 12 noon. The incident led to the disruption of rail traffic on the route and delaying of three passenger trains.

It took more than one-and-a-half hours to douse flames that gutted entire engine of the train. The train No. 14852 WDJ 3 A, was moving from Ambala to Nangal Dam, carrying coal.

Sources say some maintenance work of railway track near Lang Majri village was in progress, due to which the train drivers had been sounded to maintain a speed of 20 km per hour. Also the train was heavily loaded. When the train was going uphill near the village, suddenly its engine caught fire. Within no time, the fire spread to other parts of the engine and flames gutted the entire setup. Even high-tension wires running above the train fell on the tracks, which resulted in rail traffic problem.

Driver Chandra Bhan and assistant driver Abhilesh said they could not ascertain the cause of the fire and were caught unaware. They applied emergency brakes, but still the train slipped back by a few metres.

Station superintendent Desh Deepak Chibber and station master Gurmeet Singh Saini too reached the spot with their team. The officials assessed that losses would run into crores as the entire engine was damaged. They said a committee would be formed to look into the cause of incident.

Traffic of three passengers trains, including those running to Kiratpur Sahib, Nangal and Anandpur Sahib, was disrupted.


Probe against school director
Faces charges of paper-checking, fund irregularities
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 8
Deputy commissioner-cum-chairman of the local Sant Singh Sukha Singh Senior Secondary School management committee K.S. Pannu has instituted an inquiry committee, headed by former vice-chancellor H.S. Soch, to look into the complaints of alleged paper marking and financial irregularities in the school.

Senior librarian Navdeep Kaur and teacher Amarjit Singh, posted at the Vallah branch of this premier educational institution have levelled charges of irregularities in marking of answer sheets of the Punjab School Education Board and fund embezzlement against its director Jagdish Singh. Honorary secretary of the management committee Gunbir Singh has urged Pannu to take action on the complaints.

Meanwhile, Jagdish Singh said Amarjeet was making such allegations to blackmail him as he did not have any qualification and certificate.

Navdeep has pointed out that the school board had authorised the school for table marking of plus two examination answer sheets. The director made her the coordinator for the job. But, as she was taken ill, the job was entrusted to Om Parkash, a clerk, who got all answer sheets checked by teachers who were not eligible to mark papers, she alleged. Some answer sheets were even checked by the wards of school’s clerical staff 
and teachers.

She alleged Om Parkash even forged her signatures and sent a wrong award list to the school board. He was harassing her at the behest of the director, she alleged, adding that the school received more than 65,000 answer sheets.

Amarjeet Singh alleged that the director had amassed huge wealth beyond his known sources of income.


‘Enact law on population control’
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 8
Expressing concern over the increasing population of the country, the Punjab Population Control Committee has urged the Centre to table a Bill in Parliament on stringent measures to control the population.

Chairman of the committee Uday Partap Singh today exhorted the states to set up population control commissions, besides enacting laws to control the population. He said the committee would hand over a memorandum regarding population control measures to the President and the Punjab Governor soon.

He said it would also approach the Election Commission to debar candidates who had more than two children. He emphasised on the formation of population-control committees in villages by the respective panchayats.


CII, WWF to hold talks on rivers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has invited a delegation of the CII and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to discuss the issue of sustainability of the rivers in Punjab.

The Chief Minister said the issue of river pollution had assumed alarming proportions. He said sources of water pollution needed to be identified and asked for suggestions for remedial measures that could be taken.

Presenting the concept of PAANI (Preventing Attrition to Assets in Nature Initiative) to the Punjab government, Gunbir Singh, vice-chairman, CII Punjab State Council and chairperson, WWF-Punjab, said keeping the rivers of Punjab in good health was the responsibility of every citizen.


Jawan killed in Kabul blast cremated
Chander Parkash and Bharat Bhushan Dogra
Tribune Reporters

Kanwan (Gurdaspur), July 8
Thousands were present at the cremation of Ajay Pathania, a resident here and head constable of the Indian Tibet Border Police (ITBP), who died in a blast near the Indian Embassy in Kabul, in his village here today.

Braving the sun, people of this and surrounding areas, including leaders of political parties, ministers, Army personnel and civil officials attended the cremation of Ajay.

People were on roofs when the body was taken to the cremation ground in a procession. Apart from showering flower petals on the body, slogans “Ajay Pathania amar rahe” and “Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Ajay tera naam rahega” rent the sky.

The body was brought in a coffin wrapped in the Tricolour to the his village Kanwa by senior officers of the ITBP.

The pyre was lit in the presence of people from villages, ITBP civil and police officials, including union minister Ashwani Kumar, Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal. ITBP jawans, including assistant commander B.Lal and inspector Puran Singh Rawat, reversed the arms as a mark of respect to the brave jawan.

Charan Dev Singh Maan, assistant commissioner (Grievances), Gurdaspur, laid a wreath on the body on behalf of President of India Pratibha Patil.Anshu Pathania, a nephew of Ajay, lit the pyre.

Ajay (32), son of an ex-serviceman, could not see the face of his baby girl delivered by wife Poonam one-and-a-half months ago. His son is three years old. Ever since he was sent to Kabul in February 2008, family members, including brother and mother, were in touch and worried over his well being due to the situation in Afghanistan.

Ajay, youngest son of an Army jawan late Hardas Singh Pathania, joined the ITBP in 1992 after matriculation from a school at Parmanand and plus II from a Dinanagar school. He married Poonam six years ago. Apart from one brother, Ajay has left behind four sisters and mother Darshno Devi. 


3 killed in bus-auto collision
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 8
Three persons, including two women, were killed and seven injured in a head-on collision between a bus and a three-wheeler on the Amritsar-Lahore road, near the BSF headquarters, here this morning. The bus, which was going towards the Attari border, crushed the three-wheeler, which was overloaded with passengers. A police ambulance, meanwhile, provided timely help by taking the injured to hospital.

According to eyewitnesses, the mishap occurred at 7.55 a.m. when the auto driver tried to overtake a stationary army vehicle without bothering that the speeding bus was coming from the opposite direction.

A case was registered against the bus driver who absconded after the mishap.

Among those killed on the spot included a retired BSF official Jaswant Singh Rai, who had come here from Gurdaspur to meet his nephew at Khasa, Amarjit Kaur, a school teacher, and Jasbir Kaur.

The tempo driver, Raju, a resident of Khurmania village, Baljinder Singh Boparai, Gurpreet Kaur and Jasbir Kaur of Khasa and an unidentified person were rushed to hospital in a critical condition.


60 per cent employees found absent
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
Rural development and panchayats minister, Punjab, Ranjit Singh Brahampura today found about 60 per cent officers and employees absent during a surprise check in the morning in the offices of the department situated here.

In a press statement, the minister said he had received complaints from the public about routine absenteeism of employees of the department.

Brahmapura said he visited various offices in Chandigarh at 9.15 a.m. today. During inspections in branches in the directorate offices in Sectors 17 and 22, he was astonished to see the empty chairs of senior officers as well as their subordinates. The minister said he found about 60 per cent officers and employees absent from duty till 10.30 a.m.

He informed that nobody was present in the pensions cell of the directorate. An IAS officer was also found to be absent. Brahampura summoned the absentee senior officers and asked them to be careful in future.

The minister said he would recommend disciplinary action against the habitual absentees in future.

He added that in recent meetings, held at district and state level, he had asked field officers to become proactive in dealing with the public issues and inspect the ongoing developmental works in the villages.


Amarinder allowed to visit Dubai
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, July 8
The court of Additional Sessions Judge M.S. Virdi today allowed the application moved by former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh seeking permission to go abroad for four weeks.

The application was moved by the lawyer of Captain yesterday in the court. Amarinder Singh, an accused in the alleged multi-crore City Centre Scam, has expressed a desire to visit Dubai.

In the application, he has cited the reason for going abroad in connection with a property deal. It was mentioned that he had purchased property in Dubai and wanted to go there for the purpose of registration of sale deed and completing other legal formalities.

In order to support their version, the lawyer has placed on record two letters written by the real estate agent to Capt Amarinder Singh. Earlier also he had visited Dubai with the permission of court for exploring the possibilities of investment in real estate there.

The Vigilance Bureau had opposed the plea of Amarinder Singh. The defence lawyer submitted that his client never misused the permission given by court on the earlier occasions also in any manner. Moreover, the City Centre scam was fixed for August 16. He would come back before the date fixed in the case. After hearing the rival contentions raised by both parties, the court granted the Captain the permission to go abroad.


Mid-day meal: Rotten rice given to students
Gurbaxpuri and P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune Reporters

Tarn Taran, July 8
Residents of Usman village on the border belt are up in arms over the rotten rice being given to students of Government Elementary School of the village under the mid-day meal scheme. Baljit Kaur, former sarpanch, and Avtar Singh of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee presented before the public the foul-smelling rice supplied to the school. They alleged that the woman, who cooked food for the students, said she had been cooking the rice from the bag supplied to them last week.

The entire stock was supplied through the PUNSUP depot of Tarn Tarn that makes supplies for the scheme.

Baljit Kaur, along with other residents of the village, demanded a probe into the supply of rotten rice.

Salwinder Singh, block elementary education officer, Naushehra Pannuan, said the stock was supplied to the schools before the vacations. He said it was raining during the supply of the stock. He alleged that the teachers and the school authorities made no attempts to protect the rice. It became unfit for human consumption, probably due to moisture.

Block resource person Paramjit Singh said they got similar complaints from Government Elementary School, Lauka, and certain other schools.


Lecturers sore over transfers
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 8
Sore over the transfer policy of the government, college lecturers complained that teachers, who were “surplus”, should have been relieved. Eightyfive “surplus” government college lecturers have recently been transferred.

President of the Government College Teachers Association Jaipal Singh told The Tribune if several posts were being marked surplus under the rationalisation policy, then part-time lecturers should have been relieved. “It is very simple. The government should seek permission from court to relieve part-time lecturers as there is no workload for them in certain government colleges. Since the government has initiated this move, it is their duty to inform the court about it.

The agitated teachers from all over Punjab held an emergency meeting here today and decided to hold a dharna at the DPI office, Chandigarh, on July 16 to protest the government move.

Meanwhile, secretary (higher education) Anjali Bhanwra said the rationalisation was being done on the basis of student enrolment ratio. “At certain places, there was one teacher for single student.”


Poor response to Adarsh schools scheme
Review meeting on July 10
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
In view of the poor response from the “rich and famous” to the setting up of the much-touted Adarsh schools in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode in Punjab, the state government is likely to review the scheme on July 10.

Sources said a high-level meeting, under the chairmanship of the administrative secretary of School Education, would be held on that day to discuss various issues related to the scheme.

They said there was no “ expected” response from the corporate houses and others concerned to set up schools in the PPP mode, though the state government had made an attractive offer in this regard.

The government had asked for applications from all concerned till June 30 for setting up the schools.

The sources said only two big corporate houses, Bharti and Ranbaxy, had shown interest to set up 12 such schools. Now, the government had extended the date till July 17 to seek the expression of interest in the scheme, it was learnt. Several industrialists had made commitment with the state government, but it appeared that now they were dragging their feet in this regard.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is keen to set up such schools for poor brilliant students in the countryside. No fee will be charged from the students admitted in such schools.

The government has plans to set up 141 such schools, each in one block, in the state. Earlier, the government was claiming that a large number of industrialists were ready to set up such schools in the PPP mode. But it does not seem to be the case now.

Sources said that at the meeting, the transfer of land by various panchayats for setting up the schools would come up for discussion. The government authorities concerned had identified and approved 86 sites. The land would be provided free of cost by the panchayats.

Under the Adarsh school scheme, the government will spend Rs 2 crore on each school and corporate house concerned will spend an equal amount. Seventyfive of the operational cost will be borne by the state government and 25 per cent by the private partner.

The teaching staff will be provided by the state government. However, the management of these schools will be with the private partners.

The Union government had announced a grant of Rs 75 crore for setting up these schools. Already the Centre has released Rs 10 crore for the purpose. Besides, the government had collected about Rs 147 crore by levying education cess from 2002-2006 and the Finance Department will be asked to release this amount to the Education Department for improving the infrastructure of government schools.

The sources said the progress regarding the setting up of five Adarsh schools set up under the Border Area Development Fund would also be reviewed at the meeting.


Twin murder over elopement
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bau Pur Jattan (Gurdaspur), July 8
Khajan Chand (75) and his son Hari Krishan (50) of this village bordering Pakistan were killed as their kin had eloped with a neighbourhood girl four months ago.

Both were murdered last evening by Jaspal Singh, his two brothers and two others in the street at a spot in front of the house of the deceased.

Their fault: Aman, son of deceased Hari, had eloped with Anju Bala, daughter of Jaspal Singh, four months ago and both had married and later approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for security.

Aman and Anju, whose marriage against the wishes of the father of the girl led to the crime, attended the cremation of Khajan Chand and Hari Krishan. The bodies of the two were cremated after a post-mortem examination.

Hari, a junk dealer at Jammu, was murdered by Jaspal, his brothers Tarsem Singh, Lakhbir Singh and two others, identified as Shinder and Darshi.

Hari was murdered within minutes after he reached his village from Jammu and was standing in front of his house. The accused, who were carrying sharp-edged weapons, subsequently attacked Khajan, who was arranging feed for the cattle.

Police sources said Khajan and Hari, who suffered serious and multiple injuries, died on the spot. The accused fled from the spot after committing the crime. The bodies were taken to hospital by the police.

Sources added the families of Khajan and Jaspal were living in the houses in the same street.

After Aman and Anju married, both families were not on talking terms. Even a quarrel took place between Hari and Jaspal a few weeks ago and the police took preventive action against both.

Police sources said eight policemen had been told to patrol the village to defuse tension after the murders. A case under Sections 302, 323, 452, 148 and 149, IPC, had been registered at Dorangla police station against five persons. 


Small units feel ignored
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 8
The Laghu Udyog Bharti (LUB) today criticised the government for its failure to control spiralling prices of steel, steel scrap, rubber, petroleum byproducts, chemicals and coal.

Its president Vinod Jain said though the government had made an effort to keep the prices of steel stable, the production had not picked up yet. The government had not stopped forward trading to control the prices.

Chairman of the National VAT Committee Ashwani Kapoor alleged that the ruling SAD-BJP alliance had failed to formulate an industrial policy. The small scale industry had completely been ignored as no SPVhad been arranged on the pattern of the Gujarat government. Moreover, small units had not been given regular power supply, he lamented.

R.S. Dhumal demanded for the installation of a gas pipeline to provide alternative fuel to cover the increased cost of furnace oil. The VAT should not exceed 4 per cent and the C form should be applicable for the entire year instead of quarterly.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |