P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Centre not to fund paddy research in state
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
The Union government has refused to include paddy in Punjab under the National Food Security Mission. Official circles see the refusal as set back to the state expecting release of funds to promote new technology in paddy sector in the state.

Sources said union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has written to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that Punjab’s paddy crop could not be taken under the mission as subsoil water in the state was going down and most part of the state turning into dark zone.

In other words, the Centre has told the state government growing of paddy is not in the interest of the state and it should switch over to some other crops. However, as paddy has become major crop after wheat in the state Badal had written to Pawar for further strengthening the food security in the country, Punjab’s paddy crop should be included in the mission. In other parts of the country, the Union government has included 133 districts to promote the cultivation of rice under the mission.

Area under paddy this year may go up to 27 lakh hectares beating the previous records. Already, 22 lakh hectares has been covered under this crop and its transplantation is on in countryside. Farmers have this time switched over to basmati varieties such as 1121 in a big way because last year return from it was better compared to other varieties.

Under the mission schemes states are given funds to promote research and technical know besides other help for the crops covered under it. Punjab’s 10 districts have been included under the mission to improve the production of wheat in the state. The state government is expecting Rs 34 crore for wheat during current year from the mission.

Besides wheat, Punjab’s seven districts have been included under the mission to promote the sowing of pulses. However, farmers are not keen on growing pulses because return from these crops is lower compared to paddy, cotton and wheat.

Last year, Punjab contributed rice in a huge quantity giving big relief to the Union government. Production of paddy from which rice is prepared had been about 156 lakh tonne last year and it would be in the range of 160 lakh tonne this year.


Now, Ludhiana cops probe Rita Bawa murder
College bus conductor detained; 3 held in Bihar
Bipin Bhardwaj
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 17
After groping in the dark for over seven months, the Jalandhar police has handed over the investigation into the Rita Bawa murder case to the Ludhiana police.

Confirming the development, Jalandhar SSP P.K. Rai said the Ludhiana police had come across some clues and had requested the higher police authorities to hand over the case to the SSP, Ludhiana.

Rita Bawa, the principal of Kanya Maha Vidyalaya, one of the prestigious colleges of the region, was found murdered at her official residence on the college premises in the wee hours on January 6. Her cook Kishore Mandal and two security guards Tarsem Lal and Shamsheedin were also hacked to death.

Sources in the police department said soon after getting the charge of the case, a police party (in plain cloths) from Ludhiana carried out raids in Jalandhar and rounded up Ramandeep Kala, a college bus conductor.

Earlier, the Jalandhar police had claimed a breakthrough in the case with the recovery of the two weapons used in the crime in May.

Ludhiana: A team of the Ludhiana police arrested three persons in North Bihar in the Rita Bawa murder case.

SSP R.K. Jaiswal said the team flew to Bihar yesterday to nab Kadoos, Rehman and Bitu Yadav. He said, prima facie, the motive behind the murders seemed to be robbery, but there could be some other angle also.

He said the police was conducting raids with the help of the Bihar police to nab the kingpin of a gang.

“We can’t divulge anything to the media at this point of time. We are waiting for the kingpin to be nabbed.”


Numbers game claims life in Bathinda
SAD, Cong workers clash during sarpanch’s election
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Daan Singh Wala (Bathinda), July 17
A 20-year-old youth was killed while several others sustained severe injuries in a brawl at this village during the election of sarpanch today.

As the election was taking place in a government high school, there was panic among the schoolchildren who witnessed scenes of violence. Though the election of sarpanch for the nine-member panchayat was scheduled to be held at 4 pm, people had started gathering there much earlier and the schoolchildren had not yet gone home.

Both parties, the Congress and the SAD, had locked horns in the village over the support of an independent panch, Angrej Singh, who had gone missing. Both groups had accused each other of whisking him off.

Today, the incident took an ugly turn when the SAD group took Angrej Singh, who appeared today, along to the school, to prove their majority. This resulted in tension as the Congress supporters and panches indulged in a free for all to free Angrej Singh from the SAD activists.

It was around 2 pm when the scuffle turned violent and both groups hurled stones and bricks at each other. Laced with arms, supporters of both groups attacked each other. In the clash, a SAD supporter, 20-year-old Surjeet Singh of village Chak Hira Singh, was shot dead.

Meanwhile, Atma Singh, Jaggar Singh, Bikkar Singh, Jashandeep Singh, Balwinder Singh and Dev Singh, who sustained severe injuries, were taken to the Civil Hospital, Bathinda. Later, Jashandeep, whose condition was described as critical due to head injury, was referred to a private hospital. Many others were also reported to be injured.

The police, including SP (city) Narender Kaushal, ASP (city) Harsh Kumar Bansal, DSP (city) Gurmeet Singh, who were earlier saying that a murder case would be registered against the Congressmen, were found to be in a dilemma, when Rajveer Singh of the village gave a statement to mediapersons claiming that Surjeet was in fact killed when a SAD supporter himself fired at his own party men. He added that all of them, including Surjeet, were called for support in the elections.

The SP (City) said: “While registering the murder case, we will go according to the statements of SAD workers, who have named only Congress workers. Later, if a new fact comes to our notice, then further proceedings would be initiated.”

On the other hand, villagers alleged that despite asking for security arrangements, there were only a few policemen at the school during the election.

“As there was a tie between the two sides with four panches on each side, there was only a remote chance of the election taking place,” said Kaushal. However, a case has been registered under the relevant provisions of the IPC and the Arms Act.



Cong leader seeks info on foreign trips of 12 babus
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 17
The District Congress Committee (DCC- rural) has sought details from the government about the foreign tours of 12 officers in two years.

Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, president, DCC (Rural), under the Right to Information Act, has also sought details of movable and immovable property of these officers and whether they had the government’s permission and approval for foreign trips.

Lalli said he had also sought information whether any action had been initiated against the “erring” officers.

The government recently chargesheeted Parneet Bhardwaj, additional deputy commissioner (development), Amritsar, for visiting England in a hush-hush manner, on the basis of the report of the ADGP (Intelligence). The action was taken against the ADC since he had not taken ex-India leave as per the Punjab Civil Rules for visiting England on the eve of New Year.

However, Bhardwaj said he was yet to file a reply to the charge sheet issued by the government. He added he would file the reply soon.

Lalli said out of the total 193 posts of IAS in the state, 12 were vacant. He said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was irritated over the vacancies and had been criticising the the UPA government at the Centre for it. He added 150 IAS officers were sufficient for the state.


Staff crunch in Punjab rights panel
Work may come to halt
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
With three posts of the five posts of presiding members of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission already lying vacant, the proposed leave of one member from August 1 may bring the commission’s working to a complete halt.

According to sources, member K.K. Bhatnagar is slated to proceed on 15 days leave w.e.f August 1 and in case the existing vacancies aren’t filled by then, the Commission, as per the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act won’t be able to function. The Commission gets almost 45 complaints everyday.

As per the Act, 1996, neither administrative decisions can be taken by a single member nor can he take up cases that are scheduled before the Division Bench or the Full Commission. This effectively means that Justice R.S. Mongia, the Commission’s chairman, will only be able to hear cases listed before him once Bhatnagar goes on leave. All other pending cases and even the fresh one will have to wait till Bhatnagar joins back thus defeating the very purpose of the Commission to provide timely succour to victims of human rights violations.

Sources maintained that already the non-appointment of members in the PSHRC has greatly affected the disposal of cases here and the backlog has gone up to about 5,000. “With the status quo continuing the case will pile up further after August 1,” sources said.

The Commission has to have five members, including the chairperson, but since the retirement of N.K. Arora, IAS in August and Justice R.L. Anand and B.C. Rajput, who retired together on May 4, the commission has been functioning with only two members - Bhatnagar and Justice Mongia.

The file for fresh appointments has been reportedly lying with the Punjab government for long.


Wives Deserted by NRIs
Centre to help rehabilitation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
The Union government has decided to help rehabilitate abandoned wives of Punjabi NRIs.

A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said today the prime objective of this scheme was to extend financial support to the deserted wives so that they could fight legal battle for their rights. He added this aid would be provided to them through various duly registered women organisations, associations of non-resident Indians and non-government organisation (NGOs).

The spokesman said NRI wives who were deserted within the five years of their marriage and those who have initiated legal divorce proceedings against husbands would be given initial amount of $ 1000 for the expenses incurred on legal formalities. He further said that legal assistance to get a maintenance allowance would also be provided to those who were being tortured by and deserted NRI husbands even after 10 years of marriage and had been given ex-party divorce provided the marriage was solemnised in India.


Kidney scam kingpin spills the beans
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 17
Kingpin of the kidney scam case, Rajan Puri, arrested from a Delhi hotel two days ago, has given an information during investigation which may land some surgeons in the police net. Puri is likely to be produced in the court here tomorrow.

The city police arrested Puri from Ashyana hotel in Paharganj, Delhi, following a tip-off. Sources said Puri revealed that a few top surgeons from Amritsar who were involved in the scam had shifted base to New Delhi, Meerut and Ranchi following pressure from the police.

The police has frozen the accounts of Puri in HDFC, ICICI, Bank of Punjab and Indian Overseas Bank. It also seized bills running into lakhs of various hotels paid by Puri. Sources said this established beyond doubt the accused was still earning a huge amount of money as commission by arranging kidney donors. Puri probably moved from one hotel to another to carry out the alleged racket.

District police chief Vijay Partap Singh confirmed that Puri had been arrested from Delhi. Despite queries, the SSP, however, refused to divulge details of the investigation report of Puri. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of the arrest of other accused, including doctors.

Though Puri had been arrested earlier too, but he was released on bail. Police investigation revealed that Puri had confessed that after the unearthing of the kidney scam in Amritsar, kidneys were being illegally transplanted in other parts of the country.

Much before Gurgaon, a kidney racket was busted in Amritsar in 2002. On January 11, 2003, the Punjab Police arrested among others chief transplant surgeon at Ram Saran Das Kishori Lal Charitable Trust Hospital in Amritsar and head of the city’s government medical college. The trade is believed to have generated over Rs 100 crore.


Kharar-Nangal rivulets not desilted for years
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, July 17
In this year’ss monsoon 12 main seasonal rivulets from Kharar to Nangal have sprung to life, but none of these except Charan Ganga, have been de-silted for years.

Last year, the government woke up to Charan Ganga’s urgency, only after it was flooded and the rivulet water ended up in the local MLA’s locality.

The Drainage Department, which is responsible for de-siltation and maintenance of these rivulets, looked into people’s woes three days after local politicians raised a hue and cry. The 30-ft stretch was de-silted at a cost of Rs 30 lakh and the necessary temporary arrangements made to prevent any further breach.

Charan Ganga has been “fortunate” rivulet to be de-silted after 20 years. Nobody remembers when the other rivulets like the Lohan, Sirsa, Budhki, Siswan, Bharatgarh and the Gardale were last de-silted.

In the absence of de-silting, the river beds are rising and increasing the width of rivulets. The result : colonies situated on the banks suffer the most with torrents of water during heavy rain.

As per a report of the Water Management and Investigation Division, Ropar, repair and maintenance work of water bodies should be conducted on priority under the Rs 5-crore budget.

The report states maintenance should have been completed before the onset of the monsoon. The work includes increasing water-carrying capacity of choes, strengthening with boulders, and restoration of series of studs.

While the monsoon has already arrived, work on enlisted 69 spots in the district is yet to begin. Illegal quarrying and mining, too, are taking a toll on the choes. Besides, mining mafia is also engaged in illegal activities on the forest land along rivulets.

Anandpur Sahib SDM A.P.S Sandhu said there were no separate budgetary provisions for cleaning rivulets.


B.I.S. Chahal questioned by Vigilance
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 17
Former media adviser to Amarinder Singh B.I.S Chahal was grilled by Punjab Vigilance officials in connection with a case registered against the former Chief Minister, his son Raninder Singh and their associate Chetan Gupta. Chahal, who was accompanied by his lawyer JPS Sarao, appeared in front of DSPs Jaspal Singh and Anil Kumar today morning.

Sources say Chahal was questioned for half an hour and told by the Vigilance Bureau to appear again next week.

Sources disclose Chahal was questioned about Amarinder Singh's assets. Chahal also appeared in the court of chief judicial magistrate in the kitchen case. The case was adjourned for next hearing till August 8.


Teacher levies forgery charge
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
An art and craft teacher today claimed that he was shifted from one school to another after his signatures were forged on the consent letter for mutual transfer by another teacher. Taking up the petition, high court Division Bench of Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Sabina issued notice of motion to the State of Punjab and other respondents for July 24.

Seeking the quashing of the order dated July 7, petitioner Bodh Raj of Gurdaspur district had earlier contended that he was ordered to be transferred from Gaznipur Government High School to another school at Sarti at the instance of one Gurpreet Singh.

Elaborating, he had added that Gurpreet Singh had forged his signatures and had adopted an illegal method for mutual transfer. He managed to get the petitioner shifted even though he had never given consent for mutual transfer.

3 docs move HC over appointment

Three candidates of the Reserved Category today moved the high court for directions to the State of Punjab, along with the director, health and family planning, to appoint them as radiologists against the posts of General Category. In their petition taken up by high court Division Bench comprising Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Sabina, Rupinder Kaur of Tarn Taran and two others contended that compared to the candidates of general category, they were meritorious.

They contended that the selection committee refused to consider them on the ground that they had applied under the Reserved Category and could be considered only under it, whereas their percentage in diploma examination was more than the candidates of the General Category.

The Bench issued a notice of motion to the State of Punjab and the other respondent for July 24.

Notice of motion on appointment of law officers

The high court today issued a notice of motion to the State of Punjab for July 30 on a PIL for appointing requisite number of law officers in district courts of Punjab and Chandigarh.

In the petition, it was contended that there were only 18 district attorneys against the sanctioned strength of 27, while there were only 34 deputy assistant attorneys against the sanctioned strength was 79. Moreover, just 88 posts had been filled up, despite the sanction of 162 assistant district attorneys.

The petitioner pleaded against 74 courts of district and Session Judges and of additional district and Session Judges, there were just 52 law officers.


Colleges begin admissions sans MCI clearance
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, July 17
Without awaiting approval of the Medical Council of India, the three government-run medical colleges in the state have started admissions to graduate courses in medicine and dentistry for the current academic session.

Even as minutes of the inspection report filed by the team deputed by the MCI to check the medical colleges in the state have yet to be okayed by the council’s acting president, the state medical colleges have claimed the MCI had given them two to three months to rectify the deficiencies pointed out by the team.

The parents of about 1500 MBBS and BDS aspirants who recently went through the process of counselling were a worried lot as the government had yet to give an assurance shortfalls pointed out by the MCI team would be rectified. The sword of Damocles continues to hang on the future of the colleges as a majority of them have sought a couple of months to straighten out the matter and revamp the working of the premier medical colleges in the state.

Col Setalvad, secretary of the council, said he was unable to make any comments on the report furnished by the MCI team about the deficiencies about the medical colleges. He said he was unable to disclose the contents as the report awaited the final nod of the acting chairman.

Meanwhile, a senior doctor of the Faridkot medical college said they had been able to rectify at least 18 deficiencies out the 22 pointed out by the team and were likely to meet the stringent standards fixed by the MCI for running the medical colleges.

Jagdish Gargi, principal of Government Medical College at Amritsar, said the college had met the requirements of the infrastructure which had been upgraded after the visit of the MCI inspection team. He said the college was facing some shortage of faculty which was likely to be cleared by the government soon as some of the doctors have already joined and hopefully others would be inducted soon. He said the MCI had given them few months to upgrade the infrastructure.


Education in Tarn Taran a mess

Tarn Taran, July 17
Education in this border district is a mess with more than 40 schools in the primary and middle levels having been closed down for want of teachers in the past five years.

Poor parents, who have been forced to send their wards to private schools that charge hefty fees, are up in arms against the government for its apathetic attitude towards this border district.

The Tribune team visited a number of villages in the border belt and found that the majority schools were locked, with not even a caretaker to look after the school building. A village elder from Shakri, Kabal Singh, former member of te Zila Parishad, criticised the government for allegedly encouraging private schools in the district.

According to the information, the government middle schools in Shakri, Thatha Ghariala, Thatha Khurd, Jughian Natha Singh, Sheikh have been closed down while at others places 33 elementary schools have been non-functional for want of staff. Out of these 33 schools, 25 are in the border block of Valtoha, represented by Prof Virsa Singh Valtoha in Vidhan Sabha. He had raised the issue in the Assembly.

In the district, 51 out of total 52 government secondary schools sans principals while 74 posts of headmaster are lying vacant. There are total 83 high schools in the district. As many as 772 posts of teacher and 251 posts of lecturer are yet to be filled.

District education officer (s) D.K. Mahia and DEO (EE) Gursharanjit Singh Mann said the department was very well aware of the situation. Interestingly, both DEOs have no vehicle to visit schools.

Nachhtar Singh, Tasveer Singh, Ajmer Singh and Satinder Singh, leaders of different teachers organisations, have demanded that vacant posts of teacher be filled soon.


Technical education board conducts counselling online 
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
Online counselling, the implementation of which has been a big issue in Punjab, has successfully been conducted by low-profile Punjab State Board of Technical Education whereas high-profile Punjab Technical University (PTU) and state Department for Medical Education and Research have failed to do so.

Only a few academic organisations in the country have been conducting the online counselling, a most transparent system of admitting students to various academic streams.

Without any problem and single complaint, the board has completed the first online counselling, admitting 9,437 students to various polytechnic and pharmacy colleges of the state.

“The counselling began on July 3 and was completed late last evening. In all 1,22,37 students had got themselves registered for the online counselling after clearing the mandatory entrance test. There were 1,66,38 seats available in polytechnic colleges and these are to be increased to 30,000 soon.

“Led by G.S. Cheema, chairman of the board, a team of senior officers of the board, including its secretary Yashvir Mahajan and Narinder Pal Singh, had worked hard for several weeks to make the online counselling a success”, said a senior officer of the department.

“Director, academics, Narinder Pal, who is M.Tech in computers, handled the online counselling and made it a hassle-free exercise for all concerned”, said Mahajan. “Enough time and opportunities were provided to students taking part in the online counselling to make up their mind for selecting the stream that is preferred most by them”, added Mahajan. Soon, second phase of the online counselling will be held to fill the remaining vacant seats.

For the past many years, the counselling had been held here at the board’s headquarters where students and their parents used to gather in huge numbers every day. They had to stay here till midnight in a very stuffy and sultry atmosphere. Last year, only 7,300 students were admitted to the colleges through the counselling conducted on the basis of the presence of students at the time of the counselling.

However, this time not a single parent or student had to come here. The online counselling not only saved them money but also helped them make better choice of engineering streams while sitting in the comfort of their homes, he added.

Obviously, the board, which supervises the functioning of 69 polytechnic and 20 pharmacy colleges, has become a role model of the PTU and for the Medical Education Department, which are yet to switch over to the online counselling.


Old man killed over land
Tribune News Service

Moga, July 17
An octogenarian man was allegedly killed by his brother’s grandson following a row over property at Saidoke village in Nihalsinghwala subdivision of the district late last night.

Police sources told The Tribune that Ajaib Singh was living with his wife Mahinder Kaur and brother’s grandson Gurpreeet Singh in their village house.

Since the old man did not have any child, he had managed his nephew to send his son to live with him as a caretaker. He had been living with the old couple for the past few years in their house.

Preliminary investigations had revealed that Gurpreet was demanding from Ajaib Singh to transfer his 20 acres of ancestral land on his name for which the old man was not agreeing at the moment.

Yesterday, Gurpreet argued over this issue with the old man and allegedly took out a stick to beat him.

The old man received few blows of sticks and fell down. He died on the way to the hospital.

The body was handed over to his wife after a post-mortem examination.

A case under Section 302 of the IPC has been registered against Gurpreet Singh. Gurpreet has absconded.


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