Cong to make N-deal main poll issue
Gurdaspur, July 9
Stating this at a press conference here today, union minister of state for industries Ashwani Kumar said the party would keep its doors open for the Left parties after the next Lok Sabha elections for alliance despite the fact that they had opted out of the UPA over their differences with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the issue.
The minister said he was hopeful that people would favour the Congress on the issue of the nuclear deal, as it was in the interest of the country, “the fact which the Left parties blatantly ignored”.
"The nuclear deal is best for the country. We have gone ahead on it and we hope that people will endorse over decision in the next Lok Sabha elections," said the minister, adding that by withdrawing support to the UPA government, the Left parties had shown that they were not sensitive to the sentiments of people of the country.
Lashing out at the SAD-BJP combine government for indulging in political vendetta against Congress leaders, he said in the past more than one year, this alliance had lost its popularity and credibility for “pursuing terror-oriented politics in Punjab”.
When asked whether he was satisfied with the performance of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal as president of the state Congress unit and leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, he said he was nobody to judge the performance of Bhattal, as it was the job of the party's high command.
He, however, said he would continue to make efforts to bring together units in the state Congress unit.
He said even though he was not in the race for nomination by the party as candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from the Gurdaspur seat, he would contest if asked by the party high command.
Be ready for LS poll, Badal tells partymen
Fatehgarh (Sangrur), July 9
Badal said the SAD could also hold talks and form alliance with any party which would work for the defeat of the Congress. The SAD’s alliance with the BJP was firm and it would continue, he added.
Badal today visited this village (near Lehragaga) to participate in a function, organised to observe the sixth death anniversary of district president of the party Jathedar Gurbachan Singh Fatehgarh. MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Punjab PWD minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, MLA Iqbal Singh Jhundan, MLA Balbir Singh Ghunas, and senior SAD leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra, Gobind Singh Longowal, Parkash Chand Garg and Baldev Singh Mann were also present on the occasion.
Regarding SAD’s stand on the nuclear deal, Badal gave a clear signal that the SAD would go with the NDA on this issue. However, he said that the SAD would hold a meeting on the issue in four to five days.
Badal also announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the development of Fatehgarh village.
PSEB resorts to power cuts
Chandigarh, July 9
Sources said the demand for power yesterday was in the range of 1,750 lakh units against the availability of power of 1,501 lakh units. Consequently, the PSEB resorted to power cuts in various areas.
The cuts have to be imposed despite the good rainfall that has helped the PSEB in a big way to keep the consumption of power in the farm sector on the lower side.
The sources said the PSEB immediately needs nearly Rs 1,000 crore to purchase power from the open market to cope with the demand in the state. “It is true that we are starved of funds to purchase power to meet the demand in the state and, hence, we are subjecting various areas to power cuts,” said a senior functionary of the PSEB.
The PSEB had to buy power at a very high rate of Rs 7.33 per unit in the past. In certain cases, it procured power at Rs 9.47 per unit. The average cost of power it procured from the open market was Rs 6.41 per unit and that was supplied to consumers at an average rate of about Rs 3.60 per unit. In a way, the PSEB has been providing subsidy to all sorts of consumers of Rs 2.81 per unit.
As the state witnessed a series of elections during the past three months, on the directions from the state’s ruling political combine, the PSEB stretched itself fully to ensure regular supply of power to urban and rural areas to fend off any adverse political impact on the state government. As elections are over now, the PSEB is back with power cuts.
The sources said the PSEB, which is virtually the engine of growth of the state’s economy, was on the verge of financial collapse. While the state government is making it dance to its tune, the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission has become very strict with it as far as its spending on the purchase of power and other matters are concerned.
The commission has not agreed to its many projections even with regard to the consumption of power it projected in its annual revenue requirement petition.
For the last fiscal year, the commission had approved the purchase of power worth Rs 2,813 crore. However, the PSEB had to purchase power worth Rs 4,327 crore. The purchase bill over shot by Rs 1,500 crore.
The purchase of power has become a very dicey business. Even in case of sudden decrease in power owing to rainfall or some other reason, the commitment made to purchase power has to be either honoured or one has to pay some amount to cancel the purchase order.
Meanwhile, to pay subsidy amount to the PSEB, the case has been moved to the finance department to release Rs 167 crore for the current month. Already subsidy worth Rs 500 crore has been paid to the PSEB in lieu of supplying free power to the farm sector and poor sections of society.
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 9
While the SP consulted former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the SAD leadership has consulted former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, said to be expert on foreign affairs.
Sources said a few weeks ago, secretary-general, SAD, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Rajya Sabha member from Punjab Naresh Kumar Gujral had met the former Prime Minister to seek his opinion on the deal. After a meeting with the foreign secretary and other experts, including certain former foreign secretaries, the former PM had conveyed to Dhindsa the deal was worth supporting because it was the best deal the country had got.
Sources said Dhindsa and Naresh Gujral had conveyed the views of the former Prime Minister to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in this regard. The former Prime Minister had told Dhindsa and Naresh the country badly needed clean energy and the best way to get is to install nuclear power plants. Without the deal, no country would give nuclear technology to set up plants in India.
Parkash Singh Badal is very close to the former Prime Minister. He takes his opinion seriously. Moreover, the former PM had supported Badal in most trying times.
Naresh confirmed he and Dhindsa had held a meeting with the former PM in this regard. He and Dhindsa had conveyed the opinion of the former PM to Badal.
However, Badal has not made any statement on supporting the deal in Parliament as yet. He had stated he and his party were with the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA) and would go by the decision taken by the NDA leadership on this issue.
Many constituents of the BJP- led NDA are against the deal in its existing form and have been saying they would re-negotiate the deal if they came to power at the Centre. Badal’s party has convened a meeting of the core committee to take decision on deal on July 15.
Residents seek opening of road around Hira Mahal
Nabha, July 9
Rakesh Jain, a resident of the locality, alleged that he and his wife were attacked by Om Jindal and his men a couple of days ago when he was on a walk late in the evening. He said despite repeated requests the local administration had failed to take action. He has also filed a civil suit against Om in the Nabha court pleading for the opening the roads of Hira Mahal. Pritam Singh Sandhu, residing in a portion of Hira Mahal, said he had also approached the local police to stop Om from blocking the entrance, but in vain.
Bhai Gurmail Singh, patron, Shiromini Akali Dal (Amritsar), is contesting in the High Court on behalf of Jathedar Uttam Singh, seeking the reopening of Gurdwara Siropa Sahib situated in the premises of the Mahal and allowing the darshan of the sacred relics belonging to Guru Gobind Singh. In January, 1967, the display of the relics was inaugurated by the then Governor of Punjab Dharam Vira and Hira Mahal was made a permanent abode for the relics. Bhai Gurmail claimed that Maharaja Partap Singh of Nabha had formed a trust according to which the second floor of the Mahal was reserved for the display of these relics round the year.
Bhai Gurmail had lodged a complaint with the local police that he was attacked by Om and his accomplices when he had gone to Hira Mahal along with reporters to highlight the plight of the relics.
Condemning the attack on Bahi Gurmail, various Sikh bodies have threatened to start an agitation if the administration did not act against the assailants.
Bhai Gurmail, Rakesh Jain, Pritam Singh Sandhu and others had held a press conference in the gurdwara. Later, Sandhu, claiming to have suffered a heart attack on the day they were attacked by Om and his men, in a letter to the administration and the media said in case he died, Om should be held responsible for his death.
Om has rubbished the charges and said some people with vested interests were maligning his image.
53 students down with gastroenteritis
Barnala, July 9
Some got sick and developed symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting.
The parents complained to the school authorities in this regard.
School headmaster Brij Bhushan sensing gravity of the situation called up at civil hospital Barnala for relief. The doctors told him to bring the students to the hospital.
Sarpanch Sukhwinder Singh, headmaster Brij Bhushan and other villagers accompanied the students to the civil hospital Barnala.
Deputy commissioner R. L. Mehta reached the hospital to take stock of the situation. He instructed the hospital staff to take full care of the students. The parents met deputy commissiner Mehta and wanted the plants removed. The school headmaster Suresh Singhal, paediatrician said 27 students had been discharged after giving them medicines while remaining 26 have been hospitalised whose condition will be stable by morning. He told this was case of gestroenteritis.Plant ratanjot bears a fruit which looks lie almond. This is used for extracting diesel but this may prove fatal for students.
Review NRI Sikhs’ blacklist, state to Centre
Chandigarh, July 9
A request in this regard was made at a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee looking into problems of NRIs in Delhi today.
The state government has taken the view that the NRIs whose names do not figure in any criminal case as well as those who have not participated in any anti-India activity abroad should be allowed to travel back to India. Secretary, NRI affairs, A.S. Chhatwal, who attended the meeting along with home secretary Dr B.C. Gupta, said the state government felt a more lenient view needed to be taken on the issue of blacklist. He said the Union government had agreed to consider the issue in view of peace in the state.
The BJP’s NRI wing has been taking up the issue of review of the blacklist since seven years. Recently, Punjab BJP president Rajinder Bhandari also took up the issue after a visit to Canada. The BJP has claimed that during the UPA rule, a large number of NRI Sikhs, who had been allowed travel despite figuring in the blacklist earlier, were being denied it.
Rashtriya Sikh Sangat leader Rulda Singh, who heads a front organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Punjab, says even though the NDA government had whittled down the blacklist, the list during the UPA rule had gone up to 710 persons. He alleged that instances of Sikhs being denied visas as well as being deported had increased in the UPA rule and gave the example of Sodhi Singh Sodhi who was allowed to travel to India during the NDA regime, but denied a visa now. Rulda Singh said most of the blacklisted Sikhs resided in the UK, Canada and the US.
The SGPC as well as the state BJP and a section of the Congress have been claiming the names of Sikhs who did not indulge in any criminal activity had found their way in the blacklist.
They have also demanded that names of Sikhs, which figure in the blacklist due to their presence in protests outside the Indian embassies in Canada and the US after Operation Bluestar, should also be dealt with sympathetically.
Thermal plant siphons ash into wetland
Chak Dher (Ropar), July 9
A visit to the area revealed that black ash had contaminated the drain water.
Villagers from Chak Dher said while ash from adjacent dykes too found its way into the drain, it was mainly the thermal plant that was releasing it in water along with waste.
Also the drain is swarmed by water hyacinth, a weed. Thermal plant authorities have given the task of the removal of weed on contract.
However, instead of using machinery, the weed is being removed manually by labour.
Currently, 19 workers have been deployed to clear the 5-km-long drain.
Alarmingly, the workers work bare in the drain. They remain in toxic water for long periods, leading to frequent skin infections.
“We do not get any equipment to remove the weed, except for a JCB machine. The machine is used only when the weed becomes impossible to remove manually,” said a worker.
Another worker added that they often encountered snakes while pulling out the weed.
Also most of them have skin lesions, that result in itching. Heaps of weed are either piled in nearby fields, much to the chagrin of farmers, or allowed to flow into the Sutlej.
The weed finds roots in the wetland bed and starts multiplying there.
“Water hyacinth impacts water flow, blocks sunlight from reaching aquatic plants, and starves water of oxygen supply, often leading to the death of fish,” says Jaspreet Singh, a bird watcher of the area.
He adds that population of a resident bird, cormorant, has already gone down by 40 per cent. “The presence of ash in water reduces visibility for birds to find a prey. This is the main reason for the decline in cormorant population,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, officials claimed that safety gear had been given to all workers removing weed.
“Just two months ago, officials of the ministry of environment and forests visited the area and complimented us for managing ash dykes and drain without harming ecology. We too are sensitive towards the wetland and have greatly controlled the drain of toxic wastes. We drain only processed water into the wetland,” he added.
New deputy commissioners
Chandigarh, July 9 Neelkanth S. Avhad was posted as DC, Nawanshahr, relieving Ajeet Singh Pannu of the additional charge.
Chandigarh, July 9
Neelkanth S. Avhad was posted as DC, Nawanshahr, relieving Ajeet Singh Pannu of the additional charge.
2 SGPC men killed in road mishap
Amritsar, July 9
The SGPC, in order to observe the martyrdom day of Bhai Mani Singh, had invited its employees from Sikh shrines located in various parts of the state.
The manager of Banga Sahib Gurdwara, talking to The Tribune on phone, said the victims had come to the holy city to observe the first-ever martyrdom day of Bhai Mani Singh, a renowned Sikh personality of the 18th century.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said the committee would provide free education to the children of the victims, besides insured amount of Rs 5 lakh each to the victims’ family. He said he had asked the district police chief Nawahshahr to register a case against the toll plaza company which had failed to remove the dead cow from the road due to which the mishap took place.
Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, July 9
Perhaps for the first time such functions were organised on the birthday of the SAD chief in the state. He has seen 46, but earlier no such functions were held .
Earlier, on the birthday of the senior Badal, one or two functions were held, but none at such a scale.
Akali Leaders have been the most vocal against “dynastic” rule in the country. They had been targeting the Nehru family for this.
The Akalis have been known to organise akhand paths or community kitchen on their birthdays.
Hira Singh Gabria, minister, Jails,Tourism and Stationery, cut a cake in his office on the Gill Road. The demand for “Sukhbir's cake” was high and one cake proved insufficient. Gabria had to order another one.
Then, there was another birthday celebration at the house of member of Parliament Sharanjit Singh Dhillon.
Several local leaders attended the function and clapped, singing "happy birthday to Sukhbir ji".
Member of Parliament Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, cabinet minister Bikramjit Singh Majithia, district Youth Akali Dal leader Simarjit Singh Bains also partook of the cake.
Reliance can be placed on testimony of ‘relation witnesses’
Chandigarh, July 9
In a judgment expected to act as a guide for the trial court, the Division Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice S.D. Anand asserted: “We are unable to accept the proposition that the testimony of relation witnesses deserves to be ruled out altogether, just because they happen to be relations of the deceased.”
Concededly though, if the testimony of relation witnesses is not found to be fully reliable, the court would insist upon its corroboration by independent evidence.
“The testimony of relation witnesses may be discarded only if it is found that relations have proved themselves to be unreliable, or they have endeavoured the introduction of a false scenario to fix an accused”.
The ruling came on a criminal appeal filed by Sukhdev Singh, alias Sukha, against Punjab. He was convicted by the then additional sessions judge, Mansa, for the murder of one Gian Kaur and was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and pay a fine of Rs 1,000.
The prosecution had claimed that appellant Sukhdev Singh wanted to demolish a culvert, to which victim Gian Kaur had objected to. She was apprehensive that the demolition of the culvert would lead to the flooding of her house. Reacting to her objections, Sukhdev Singh had hit her on the forehead.
Counsel appearing for the appellant as amicus curiae had argued that there was want of reliable evidence as far as the motive was concerned. He had also contended that the witnesses examined to prove the charge against the accused were all sons of deceased Gian Kaur; and their testimony had not been corroborated by independent evidence.
Referring to the case in hand, the Bench asserted that it had not been alleged that the relation witnesses “had previous score to settle with the appellant; or that they have any other reason on account whereof they would have been inclined to falsely implicate the appellant. We do not, thus, approve of the view advocated by the amicus curiae in the context”.
Taking into consideration the totality of evidence, the Bench dismissed the appeal.
Petition on Amarinder’s election
Chandigarh, July 9
Taking up the voter’s application for condoning a delay of four days in the filing of the election petition, Justice Bhalla observed that the facts and circumstances revealed that there was no delay.
The Judge asserted the election petition would have to be entertained in accordance with the provisions of Section 10 of the General Clauses Act. A notice was also issued to the former Chief Minister. The matter will now come up for further hearing on August 27.
Challenging Capt Amarinder Singh’s victory in the general elections held in February 2007, for the 117-member House, Sukhbeer Singh had earlier alleged corrupt practices.
The petitioner had alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh had incurred expenditure beyond the permissible limit on his poll campaign. Moreover, he was responsible for incorrect filing of election expenses and had, thus, indulged incorrupt practice attracting the provisions of the Representation of the People’s Act.
Opposing the petition, the former Chief Minister’s counsel had all along been insisting that the election petition was time-barred, as it had not been filed within the prescribed period of 45 days after the declaration of result.
The last date for filing election petitions was April 13, 2007, while the petition against Capt Amarinder Singh was filed on April 18.
The counsel for the petitioner, on the other hand, had contended the high court was observing holidays from April 9 to April 15 last year.
The petition was filed on the opening day. He added there was nothing in the high court notification on holidays to show that election petitions could be filed during the holiday period.
As such, it was within the time limit in view of the benefit granted by Section 10 of the General Clauses Act, 1897.
Thesis writers available for a price !
Amritsar, July 9
Research, “Punjabi Khoj Sandharbh,” of Dr Dharam Singh, head, Department of School of Punjabi, Guru Nanak Dev University, which is yet to be released has revealed it. Dr Dharam Singh said when Ph.D was made mandatory for the post of principal, many aspirants approached ghost writers. “To retain their posts, many principals got theses written on ‘co-operative’ (many authors for one thesis) basis. Thereafter, such principals never contributed even single article”.
Dr Dharam Singh alleged a senior professor of GND university had availed sabbatical leave, but the evaluator/ expert gave his opinion the “research” was not worth publishing. This sums up standard of Ph.D research in Punjabi language in universities of Punjab, Haryana, J&K, New Delhi and abroad. He alleged some professors, who could score third or second divisions at the graduation level, won gold medals in MA by manipulation. He said many university professors had become guides of wives of senior officers and helped them complete Ph.D degrees.
The situation is no better in other languages. According to information, vice-chancellor Dr Jai Rup Singh has ordered a probe against a professor who had indulged in plagiarism. This scholar reportedly copied portion of Ph.D theses of his students while submitting his D.Lit thesis.
The thesis of Dr Dharam Singh is likely to open Pandora’s box because the research work , especially Hindi and Punjabi languages would come under scrutiny.
Introduction of “Punjabi Khoj Sandharbh” of Dr Dharam Singh also comments what has been going on in the name of Punjabi research.
The evaluators saw a thesis in which more than 40 pages were copied from three different books.
The book has been prepared methodically. One can easily get into the area of his research; poetry, fiction, drama and theatre, folklore and culture, Pakistani Punjabi and immigrant Punjabi literature etc. There are two indices also, one is authors’ index and other is of such institutions where Punjabi research is being carried out.
Research in Punjabi language literature and culture is a recent phenomenon. Its history goes back to late 19th century. Punjabi research is a direct outcome of Urdu and English influences. Early Punjabi researchers namely Maula Baksh Kushta, Bawa Buj Singh, Banarsi Das Jain and Mohan Singh Diwana were greatly influenced by Urdu and English research works.
First Punjabi thesis for the purpose of Ph.D was of Banarsi Das Jain under the title Phonology of Punjabi which was accepted in 1926. Punjabi research up to the independence of India was comprehensive and covered history, tradition, tendencies and exhaustive.
Tarn Taran, July 9
A news item in this regard was published in these columns today showing protest by residents of the village, 10 km from here.
Gursharanjit Singh Mann, district education officer (Elementary), with a team reached the spot to know the reason of the lapse. He said as the stock was supplied to the school before summer vacation, the day on which it rained heavily. He said rice bags started emitting bad smell as these had been kept in a room in a wet condition.
Mann said statements of village’s former sarpanch Baljit Kaur, Rajbir Singh, Avtar Singh and other village elders had been recorded and they were assured that steps would be taken that such incidents did not re-occur.
He appealed to the panchayat to provide iron bins to schools in the area to protect the food stock from getting rotten. He said the teachers had failed to perform their duty. He said Balkar Singh Bal, district manager, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, had been deputed to look into the matter. Residents of Usman village on the border belt are up in arms over the poor quality and unfit for human consumption rice being supplied to students of Government Elementary School in the village.
Baljit Kaur, former Sarpanch and Avtar Singh of Kisan Sangharsh Committee made public the foul smelling rice supplied under the mid-day meal scheme to the school. He alleged that the women help revealed that she had been cooking rice from the bag supplied to them during last one week after the reopening of the school on the resumption of summer vacation. They showed the bags full of rice which has turned into thick big balls.
Interestingly, the entire stock was supplied through Punsup depot of Tarn tarn for the Mid-day meal scheme project launched by the central government to give nutritious food to the poor children of rural areas.
Baljit Kaur along with other residents of village Usman have demanded a thorough probe into the supply of rotten rice and added that ban should be imposed for the distribution of rice from this stock.
Salwinder Singh, Block Elementary Education Officer, Naushehra Pannuan said that the stock was supplied to the schools before the vacations. He said that it was raining during the supply of the stock a few days before the vacations. He alleged that the teachers and other concerned authorities made no attempts to keep the stock in the right place.
Forum to revive sick industrial units fails to take off
Bathinda, July 9
The forum was created three years ago as part of the Industrial Policy, 2005. But it has not yet met even once. There are around 1,500-2,000 sick SSIs in the state. Out of the total 2 lakh SSIs in the state, around 1 per cent are officially sick.
Punjab's principal secretary, Industry and Commerce, A.R. Talwar told The Tribune that the forum was notified but had not met till date. "There were one or two cases, but they did not fit the bill of sick units. They did not legally qualify as per the definition of sickness. It's for a unit to submit a revival plan to us and show its means of finances," he said.
Sources, however, claimed that the forum set up to offer rehabilitation plans to sick units on the lines of the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) had no legislative command. They added that the Punjab State Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) and the Punjab Financial Corporation (PFC) had only been recovering their dues from these sick units.
No revival plans were there for the small and sick units and the entire focus was shifting to mega projects, sources added. Regional director, PHDCCI, B.S. Sidhu said small industries faced the problem of getting finance from the banks, as they could not pay up collaterals.
"What adds to their problems is that there is no agency to provide them consultancy, as they are unable to hire experts," Sidhu added.
Although industrial sickness is an inherent part of the process of development, its side effects include unemployment, non-payment of state and Central government dues, blocked institutional finance and non-utilisation of productive assets.
Realising all this, the state's Industrial Policy agreed that the small-scale industry formed an important and crucial segment of the industrial sector.
With globalisation, there had been considerable pressure on the SSIs, resulting in a number of sick units.
Hence, the policy envisaged setting up of a revival forum to assist such industries in 2005.