P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Numbers game on for Sarpanches
BJP panches flee homes, SAD blamed
Ashok Sethi and P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, July 14
Differences have once again cropped up between the ruling alliance partners, the SAD and the BJP, in rural areas along border with both parties trying to have their own men on posts of sarpanch.

Renewed SAD-BJP face-off today took an ugly twist as many members of panchayats affiliated with the BJP went into hiding following alleged threats by an Akali MLA to them over voting in favour of SAD nominees.

Taking serious view of the developments, health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla today decided to take the matter to the party high command in New Delhi besides Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. She summoned deputy commissioner and senior police officers of the border range, including IG R.P. Meena, the SSP (rural0 and the SP (headquarters). She directed them to ensure free and fair elections of sarpanches and safety to BJP panches.

She said the party had received complaints of the alleged torture of BJP supporters by SHO of the Ajnala police station Naurang Singh, who was earlier chargesheeted and transferred from this sensitive border constituency. He was brought back to the area at the behest of the Akali MLA, she alleged.

District president of the BJP (rural) Ram Sharan said the party had 119 panches in this district out of which 70 were elected from Ajnala itself. The fact that so many BJP panches have been elected from Ajnala has created fear in the rank and file of the SAD.

He said at least 50 panchayats would have BJP sarpanches, but the terror unleashed by the Akali MLA has forced the BJP panchas to go into hiding. The panches of Othian, Gorala, Muniadian, Dalla Rajputa Pucca and Kutcha have been forced to leave their houses and they have sought protection against the alleged threats, he added.

Meanwhile, Amarpal Singh Bonny, SAD MLA from the area, said he was not involved in the election of sarpanches and the panches were free to elect their leaders. He refuted the allegations levelled against him by the BJP leaders.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu said he had instructed the police to provide security to all those panches who had been forced to flee their homes. 


Cong leaders refuse to give up on Akalis
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 14
Refusing to give up hope after Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal made the categorical statement of standing by the NDA on the July 22 trust vote in the Lok Sabha, some senior Congress leaders made yet another round of fervent appeals to him to review his party’s decision. 

While some leaders have reminded the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its leader Badal as to how the Congress had been bailing them out in time of crises, others have sought their cooperation in the interest of the nation and infrastructure building, besides meeting the growing demands of energy.Former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief and president of Namdhari Darbar Harvendra Singh Hanspal and former Punjab revenue minister Umrao Singh have volunteered to garner support for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

Interestingly, they want emotive support for the PM and have avoided mentioning the UPA government facing the motion of confidence in the Lok Sabha.Umrao Singh recalled how he and Parkash Singh Badal were together elected to Punjab Vidhan Sabha on the Congress ticket in 1957 and how the Congress supported the minority Akali government for a year after the Janata Party had withdrawn its support to the then SAD-led government headed by Badal. Umrao Singh held that both the Akalis and the Congress, in spite of their different political ideologies, had always remained in the forefront on issues pertaining to national security, nation building and infrastructure development. 

The nuclear deal is in the larger interest of the country. Only in October last year, Umrao Singh said, Parkash Singh Badal himself had made a statement welcoming the nuclear deal. Sukhpal Singh, a legislator from Bholath not only corroborated the statement of Umrao Singh but also maintained that the statement of Parkash Singh Badal made in Jalandhar yesterday smacked of rigidity and lacked logic. “Apart from these logical arguments, I also urge Badal to consider the pride of the Sikhs which is at stake, dislodging an able Sikh Prime Minister with impeccable integrity and unblemished character would bely all your claims to be the sole representative party of the Sikhs across the globe. 

In the past you have been supporting I.K Gujral just because he was a Punjabi, cutting across party lines. Even during the election to the office of President of India, the SAD had a record voting in favour of Giani Zail Singh who was a Congress nominee,” says Sukhpal Singh. Hanspal, in a letter to Parkash Singh Badal and other Akali MPs, has solicited support for Manmohan Singh that allows him to complete a five-year term in office. 

Of late, the SAD-BJP government has announced special schemes and programmes for recognising the sacrifice and contribution made by the Namdhari Darbar in the freedom struggle as well as in the development of the state. “The nuclear agreement with US will give India a unique status of being recognised as a nuclear power without having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 

This is no small achievement for India. Several powerful countries, including Pakistan, are critical and unhappy at India being accorded a special status,” adds Hanspal.


SAD urged to convince BJP 
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 14
While dubbing the nuclear deal between India and USA purely as an economic issue, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has urged the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to rise above political affiliations and show its statesmanship by convincing its alliance partner BJP to favour the deal. 

The PPCC strongly felt that the nuclear power was the need of the hour, particularly for Punjab which is already reeling under long, unscheduled power cuts. “The nuclear deal’s necessity can be gauged in view of the future projections of demand and supply of power in the country. An ordinary citizen is already convinced about the growing shortage of power and its impact on the country’s economy,” said the PPCC chief spokesperson Bir Devinder Singh. 


PM dared to seek fresh mandate
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 14
Information and public relations, water supply and sanitation minister Bikram Singh Majithia today dared Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to step down and seek mandate on the issue of nuclear deal. 

Stating confidence motion was no solution to the issue, Majithia said he should find out whether people of the country wanted him to continue as the PM or not. 

He said the major issue of the common man was inflation and not the nuclear deal. Accusing the Congress-led UPA government of diverting people’s attention to nuclear issue, Majithia said the government was scared of facing people on increasing prices of essential commodities. 

“Rising prices were affecting people belonging to all sections of society and not the nuclear deal,” he said. On the issue of support to the Prime Minister for being a Sikh, the minister said Dr Manmohan Singh had failed to come up to the expectations of Punjabis and Sikhs during his tenure. 

On the other hand, two former PMs, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Inder Kumar Gujral, had done much better than him for the welfare of Punjab and Punjabis. Majithia said Chief Minister, Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal had already cleared that the SAD would support the NDA on this issue.


Kiran not interested in politics
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, July 14
Setting at rest speculations, former first woman IPS officer of the country Kiran Bedi today denied joining any political party.

All major political parties of the country, including the Congress and the BJP, were reportedly persuading her to contest Lok Sabha elections.

Bedi, on the telephone from Delhi last night, said she had already made up her mind on this issue not to be part of any political dispensation as she was committed to uplift the down-trodden and the poor through various NGOs.

The Magsaysay award-winner and former special adviser on policing to the secretary- general of the United Nations said she had never given importance to a political career despite many offers from national parties to join the electoral fray.

A senior member of Parliament of a national party had been directed by the party high command to discuss the issue with Bedi and request her to join the party on her terms and conditions. Bedi said she had weighed all options of political career and decided to decline the offer and continue her social work. 


PSEB delays payment, loses rebate 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 14
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has for the first time defaulted on making an immediate payment on short-term power purchase leading to forfeiture of the rebate due to it from the distributing companies, including the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

Transfers banned
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 14
Chairman of the PSEB Y.S. Ratra has said the Board has decided to ban transfers of all categories of officers and employees from July 15 to October 31 to ensure minimum disturbance in the offices during the on-going paddy season. Ratra has warned the delinquents of severe departmental action for dereliction of duty.

According to sources in the Board, payments for purchase of short-term power are made within a day or two. This enables the Board to get a rebate of two per cent on the billing amount. The rebate keeps decreasing every day and the Board loses all rebates if the payment is not made within one month. After this a surcharge is levied on the bill.

Board sources said bills of Rs 200 crore are presently pending. Of these, the NTPC had raised a bill of Rs 125.5 crore and the Board had made a payment of only Rs 66.5 crore. Board chairman Y.S. Ratra, when contacted on the issue, however maintained payments were being made on schedule and there was no delay on this score.

The sources maintained a delay had occurred not only on NTPC payments, but also of payments to another vendor also. This, they said, was because of the phenomenal amount of electricity being bought by the PSEB. In April and May, the PSEB purchased power worth Rs 310 crore as a short-term measure to tide over the demand-supply gap. This purchase was even more than the power worth Rs 280 crore bought during the same period last year.

The sources said in June the Board purchased very expensive power at rates going up to Rs 11.25 per unit. Even presently the Board was purchasing power at an average rate of around Rs 7 per unit. The PSEB had also overdrawn from the national grid during April. The Board overdrew 25 lakh units and had to pay a prohibitive Rs 10 per unit as a penalty costing it Rs 25 crore.

Even as all this is carrying on, as many as five chief engineers have been changed in the past eight months in the crucial Systems Operation Department which is responsible for purchasing power. Right now it is being virtually headed by a retired chief engineer as there is no regular chief engineer holding the post.

The PSEB earns an average revenue of Rs 700 crore per month. It is also eligible for a government subsidy of Rs 166 crore. Against this, it has an average power purchase bill of Rs 700 crore, fuel expenditure of Rs 150 crore, salary bill of Rs 150 crore and debt-servicing charges between Rs 350 and Rs 400 crore on loans taken by it. With the Board running short of nearly Rs 450 crore every month, it is forced to take further short-term loans.


Land for Olympic Bhawan
Punjab backtracks on promise
Akash Ghai
Tribune News Service

Mohali, July 14
It seems that the Punjab government is now backtracking from its promise of allotting a two-acre plot for the construction of Punjab Olympic Bhawan opposite the PCA stadium in Phase IX here.

According to Punjab Olympic Association’s general secretary Raja K.S. Sidhu, on June 13 last year during a meeting, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had issued an order for allocating two acres of land to the association.

The allotment was to be made from the 13-acre chunk of land, belonging to Punjab Sport Department, lying vacant opposite the PCA stadium for many years. The land was to be given on 99 years lease to the POA.

Recently, the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) informed the POA that the government was planning to construct a multi-storey sports cum commercial complex at the site and the association was offered one floor on the proposed complex. “This came as a rude shock to us,” said Raja Sidhu.

He said the association would soon meet the Chief Minister and apprise him of this development and urge him to review the decision. “We are prepared to scale down the project if space is a constraint,” he added.

Sidhu said as per the association’s original plan, the proposed state- of-the-art bhawan was to comprise a conference hall, a museum-cum-hall of fame, an audio-video library, a multi-gym, POA officials’ offices, outdoor sports activities and suites for stay of visiting sports dignitaries.

“A portion of a sports-cum-commercial complex will not be sufficient to cater the ever-increasing demands of the Bhawan,” Sidhu added.

POA president S.S. Dhindsa, along with Punjab Sports Department director Pargat Singh and other POA officials, also selected a piece of land at the site during their visit last year.

“We have also generated funds for the construction of the bhawan,” Sidhu said.

The POA was also allotted a plot in Sector 32, Chandigarh, in the 90s. “As the space was not sufficient, we did not accept the offer of the Chandigarh Administration,” Sidhu said.

Besides POA officials, the other present were education minister Upinderjit Kaur, sports minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, sports secretary R.P.S. Pawar in the meeting in 2007.



Letter to Sukhbir
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, July 14
Former minister Manjit Singh Calcutta today sent a letter to SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal to take a serious note of the appeal to bale out the PM during the no-confidence motion.

He said the nuclear power was an important energy component which would accelerate the economic growth of the country. Punjab especially would be benefited as it has sought the setting up of a nuclear power plant to tide over the serious power crisis in the state.

Praising the economic acumen of the PM, he said he had initiated a series of economic reforms that have made a tremendous impact on the world economy. He had made the country and the Sikhs proud and the world had acknowledged his integrity. He urged the Akali Dal to rise above party affiliation.

Meanwhile, the beleaguered PM received support from unexpected quarters as Gurdwara Miri Piri Sahib, based in South Hall England, has also urged the Chief Minister and SAD president to wholeheartedly vote for the PM. The signatories Jaswant Singh Thekedar and Parminder Singh Bal, in a strong note to the SAD leadership, have made an impassioned appeal that they should vote to save Dr Singh .


‘SAD reneging on promise’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 14
Punjab Youth Congress chief Vijay Inder Singla today claimed that the SAD would be reneging on the promise to people of Punjab if it voted the BJP way on the issue of nuclear deal.

In a statement here, Singla said in the last elections Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had supported the establishment of nuclear plants in Punjab. He claimed that state’s finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal had also supported the nuclear deal last year.


Malwa set to step on gas
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 14
The city is all set to experience modern infrastructure with an autogas (LPG) station coming up on its outskirts.

Indian Oil Company (IOC) is going to supply the region with autogas, which would approximately cost Rs 39.57 per litre, from this station.

Owner of this Paramvir Auto Filling Station, located at a distance of 10 km from the city, Laddi Singh said it would be the first such gas station in the Malwa region and would cost more than Rs 50 lakh. The whole cost is being born by the IOC. “We are hopeful of inaugurating the station this month,” he added.

Officials of the company said the tank would be of 10,000 litres capacity, but the safety valve fitted on the system would cut the supply to the tank beyond 85 per cent filling.

Complying with the motor vehicle rules, the nozzle of the gas pump would only be inserted in company-fitted authorised kits. Moreover, the filling in car kits would also be to the maximum of 85 per cent of their capacity.

The gas station would cater to commuters from Ferozepur, Mansa, Muktsar, Bathinda, Faridkot and Barnala.

Ranbir Singh Tut, owner of Amar Highway Filling station on the Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway, the first such gas station set up in the state, said to promote the autogas, the government would have to check the use of domestic LPG in vehicles.


Devotees reconstruct demolished temple
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, July 14
A 100-year-old temple of Sheetla Mata, which was demolished by the local administration on Saturday, was reconstructed by devotees of the area today.

The devotees collected the same demolished material from where it was dumped and started the construction.

Three idols of two Hindu gods and a goddess were installed by them and a boundary wall was constructed around the temple.

A havan was organised and langar was served in the evening by the devotees.

The temple, which was constructed on about 4 kanal and 19 marla land near the Raikot road at Ravidass Nagar, was demolished under the supervision of local tehsildar Amandeep Singh Bhatti on the directions of court. aPeople of the area had silently protested against the process alleging that they were not informed by the administration before demolishing the temple. 


Sand suppliers block road
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Ajnala, July 14
Suppliers of sand blocked the main road to the town here today in protest against the district administration’s failure to check double charging for the sand by the contractor. Jatinder Singh Chinna, president, Kirti Kisan Union (KKU), said sand suppliers had been on dharna near the office of the SDM for eight days, but the administration had not resolved the matter.

Chinna said the government had auctioned the sand mines on the embankment of the Ravi in Ajnala sector for Rs 1.87 crore. He said the contractor instead of lifting the sand had set up nakas in the subdivision. Sand suppliers were themselves lifting the sand from the banks of the Ravi by paying Rs 400 per cubic feet.

The KKU leader said the contractor, an influential person of the area, besides being confidant of a SAD leader of the Majitha constituency, has not initiated steps to lift sand from the Ravi banks under the mining Act. He said the land belonged to the farmers and was inundated by recent floods and covered by sand. He said due to ignorance of the mining rules, the farmers were not allowing the contractor to lift the sand from their fields.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu had arranged a meeting of the agitating leaders, the SDM and the contractor to sort out the matter at 5 pm.

Chinna said the consumers were not ready to purchase the sand from them as they were getting better quality sand for Rs 900 per cubic feet from other suppliers who were bringing it from Pathankot. He said the sand suppliers here had suffered huge loss and the business would be closed down due to the high-handedness of the contractor.


Farmers threaten to gherao Ratra
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 14
Members and activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) staged a dharna in front of the office of deputy chief engineer, Sangrur distribution circle of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), here today to compel the authorities to accept their demands, especially the release of the tube well connections under the OYT scheme without any delay. State finance secretary of the union Hardev Singh Sakrodi led the dharna.

The union leaders also threatened that if the board authorities failed to accept their demands soon, the farmers would be compelled to gherao the PSEB chairman. Their other demands include augmentation of power grids, proper arrangements to change burnt transformers within 24 hours and installation of transformers on two poles in place of one. 


Left launches state rally
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 14
The CPI and the CPM today held a rally at Jallianwala Bagh here to protest the proposed nuclear deal with the US.

Left leader Joginder Dayal said the signing of the nuclear treaty by the Central government with the US would be an attack on the sovereignty of the country. 

They had organised the rally at this historic place to take a pledge to protect the country from the dubious deal.aDayal alleged that the Congress-led UPA government had embraced a strategic alliance with the US involving a number of agreements like military collaboration and concession to US in the retail, education and insurance sectors. 

He said the rally would conclude in Chandigarh on July 17 after passing through Tarn Taran, Jandiala, Batala, Pathankot, Mukerian, Hoshiarpur, Nangal, Noorpur Bedi, Balachaur, Garhshankar, Khatkar Kalan, Phagwara, Jalandhar and Ludhiana.


Victims of ’84 riots attempt immolation over houses
Jupinderjit Singh 
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 14
A group of women, who are victims of the 1984 Sikh riots, attempted immolation when another group, claiming to be riots victims as well, allegedly occupied three houses in the colony meant for the victims by force here this evening. The women were saved in the nick of time by the Dugri police.

While a group of the victims forcibly occupied the houses, another group attacked them and threw them out.

The situation took an alarming turn when a group of women poured kerosene on themselves and tried to burn themselves in protest against the forcible occupation of the houses.

The police succeeded in pacifying the two groups, but not before a youth and his father, who had occupied a house, were badly wounded in the scuffle.
The police booked three persons for illegal possession of the houses. President of the Danga Peerat Welfare Association Surjit Singh said the decision on the allotment of the houses was pending with the government.


Disproportionate assets case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 14
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed as withdrawn a petition filed by Fatehgarh Sahib resident, Jaswant Singh, for holding an enquiry and registering a case of disproportionate assets against IPS officer Suresh Arora.

Taking up the petition, Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia observed: “After arguing for some time, counsel for the petitioner contends that the allegations leveled in the present petition are required to be substantiated. She further submits that she may be permitted to withdraw the present petition with liberty to file a better petition. Dismissed as withdrawn, with liberty as prayed for.”


Counselling for Punjab medical colleges today
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 14
The government medical college here is all set for MBBS counselling that begins tomorrow.

The centralised counselling for admission to the medical colleges in Punjab is being held on the directions of the Punjab government.

Dr J.S. Dalal, director of Research and Medical Education of Punjab, who conducted an inspection of arrangements made by the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences here today, said he was satisfied with the preparations.

Dr Dalal visited the Government Medical College, Government Rajindra Hospital and the Government Dental College here.

He said arrangements had been made for the comfortable stay of the guardians of candidates. An auditorium had also been done up and food stalls would be set up.

He said tenders for supply of medical equipment worth Rs 4.32 crore for Medical College of Patiala and worth Rs 3.32 crore for the Medical College at Amritsar had already been called. Cobalt machines worth Rs 2 crore at Amritsar and Rs 3 crore at Faridkot would also be installed shortly.

Dr Dalal informed that the CT scan machine at Patiala Medical College would become operational in a day or so and the laundry plant at the Government Rajindra Hospital had been upgraded at a cost of Rs 60 lakh.

Further, he said the Central government had sanctioned Rs 140 crore for the Amritsar Medical College, Rs 100 crore for Patiala Medical College and Rs 65 crore for Faridkot Medical College.

Dr Dalal claimed that the Punjab government had removed almost all the deficiencies pointed out by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and he would be going to New Delhi on July 17 to apprise the MCI about the same.

Meanwhile, students from all over Punjab would converge here for the counselling tomorrow even as the controversy about the fate of the three state-owned medical colleges that have been issued show-cause notices by the Medical Council of India, lingers on.


Paramour of NRI commits suicide; two booked
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, July 14
The love story of a youth from Nushera Bhadar village of this district with an Australian immigrant met with a tragic end here today when he was allegedly forced to commit suicide by the woman’s father-in-law and brother-in-law.

Ravinder Singh was found dead at the bank of Kazi Kot canal near the village. He committed suicide after he was allegedly harassed by the father-in-law and brother-in-law of the woman. Identified as Narinder Kaur, the woman was a resident of Gulelelde village of this district and married to a boy living in the neighbourhood of deceased Ravinder Singh.

Interestingly, Narinder, who migrated to Australia with her husband a few months ago, came to India on July 9 without telling her husband, who is still in Australia, to meet Ravinder Singh. Both Ravinder and Narinder spent much time together in the past few days.

The entire expense of the air ticket and other things for Narinder’s travel to India from Australia was met by Ravinder and his brother, who is also living in Australia. About Rs 1.10 lakh was transferred to the Australia-based bank account of Narinder by Ravinder and his brother through Internet banking.

Pardeep Malik, DSP, who was specially deputed by SSP Lok Nath Angra to crack this case, said on the examination of physical symptoms, it was clear that Ravinder had consumed poison. He said whether Narinder, who had gone to her parents’ house, played any role in this incident, would be known only after investigations.

He said Narinder, who has a three-year-old child, was having “relations” with Ravinder for the past four years. Though her parents went to Delhi to receive her from the airport, Narinder did not meet them. Instead, she accompanied Ravinder, who was also there to receive her, to Punjab.

While Ravinder came back to his house on Thursday and Narinder reached her in-laws’ house on Friday. However, Narinder was refused entry into her in-laws’ house as her husband informed his parents from Australia about the activities of Narinder.

Karnail Singh, father-in-law, and Jassa Singh, brother-in-law, of Narinder started harassing Ravinder and forced him to commit suicide. Malik said the police was verifying whether Narinder was involved in any kind of harassment of Ravinder and if it was found that she had played any mischief, she would be proceeded against as per law.

He said both Karnail Singh and Jassa Singh had been arrested after a case under Section 306, IPC, was registered in the Purana Shalla police station.


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 |