P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Dera-Sikh Clash
State police seals border with Haryana
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Salabatpura/Bathinda, July 18
With the death of a person in the Dera-Sikh clash at Dabwali today, the heat of the controversy between the two could also be felt in Bathinda and Muktsar districts of Punjab, bordering Dabwali in Sirsa district of Haryana.

Responding to the incident, the Punjab Police sealed the borders with Haryana adjoining Muktsar and Bathinda districts. Dera Salabatpura, Punjab headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda, was cordoned off with heavy deployment of the police. The Dera-Sikh controversy had started from Dera Salabtpura last year.

Orbit and Dabwali Transport Company (DTC) buses, owned by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s family, were taken off the road. In Bathinda, a fleet of at least 20 Orbit buses was seen parked at the city bus stand.

All bus drivers and conductors were ordered to cancel routes and halt buses there. When asked, Orbit bus drivers and conductors said, “Anyone who has some grudge against the government, settle scores by targeting Orbit and DTC buses. It is just to prevent any unseemly incident that we have been asked to stay grounded and wait for further orders.”

Giving vent to their ire, Sikh protesters asked shops to down shutters. Before moving towards city markets, Sikh activists laced with weapons, held a meeting at Qila Mubarak, where they chalked out their strategy. But with the intervention of senior police officers, they agreed to take out the procession without weapons.

Leading the protesters, Baba Varinder Singh, city president, SAD (Panch Pardhani), said, “Today we have adopted a humble way to make shopkeepers close their shops. But if there is a need for us to take harsh steps, we will not go back.”

SP (H) Manminder Singh said, “We are fully prepared to keep the situation under control.”

Meanwhile, the Punjab Police sealed off Killianwali (Muktsar) and Doomwali (Bathinda) borders with Haryana to prevent any untoward incident. Because a curfew was imposed in Dabwali, the road link between Punjab and Haryana was affected as the national highway (NH-10) passes through the heart of Dabwali city.

Baljeet Singh Dadu Sahib Wale, a hardliner Sikh religious leader of Malwa, who was protesting today against the incident at Dabwali, while speaking over the phone, said, “The Dera chief should be immediately booked under Section 120-B, IPC, for his involvement in the murder. We would ask the SGPC and other leaders of the Sikh community to come forward and take a tough decision.”

Reports received said there was a meeting of Sikhs at Dabwali with the district peace committee of the Sirsa administration in which SGPC chief Avtar Singh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, Balwant Singh Nandgarh and SAD (Panch Pardhanai) Daljit Singh Bittu were among those present.


Badal flays Dabwali incident
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 18
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today condemned the clash between Dera Sacha Sauda followers and members of the local Satkar Sabha in Dabwali (Haryana), which resulted in the death of one person.

In a statement, Badal termed the incident as extremely sad and unfortunate and appealed to peace-loving Punjabis to maintain communal harmony and amity. He urged the Haryana government to take immediate action under law against the guilty. He also appealed to people to exercise restraint despite provocation by some anti-social elements. He expressed heartfelt sympathies with members of the bereaved family and prayed to the Almighty to give strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss and grant peace to the departed soul.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also directed the state DGP to beef up security and keep a strict vigil over the situation.


Rita Bawa Murder
Ex-gatekeeper prime suspect: Cops
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 18
It was a group of seven persons led by an ex-gatekeeper of Kundan Maha Vidyalaya, Jalandhar, who carried out the sensational principal Rita Bawa quadruple murder case, Ludhiana SSP R.K. Jaiswal, who is conducting a special investigation in the case, claimed here today.

He said a massive manhunt was on for the prime accused ex-employee, Sachin, who was the only one who could explain the exact motive behind the crime. The police has recovered a number of jewellery items of the deceased principal, including a diamond ring.

The SSP said as per the disclosure of the three arrested accused, Mohammed Khadoos, Mohammed Rehman and Bitu Yadav, the motive seemed to be robbery only. Though the exact amount robbed was not known, the police said it could be 1 crore.

The accused took away cash and jewellery worth several lakhs. They have claimed to the police that they failed to spot the Rs 58 lakh left behind. The three claimed that Sachin had left the job and returned to his village several weeks before the crime.

He talked to them about the “immense wealth” the principal had and hired them for the crime.

The SSP, however, said there were still several missing links in the story, which would be cleared only after Sachin was nabbed or the three were questioned here. The foremost was why the accused left the Rs 58 lakh and jewellery on the body of the deceased educationist.

He said the Punjab police had obtained the transit remand of the accused till July 24. Another team was camping in Bihar to catch Sachin and his other accomplices.

He said the shady activities of the accused came to light when they were in the process of buying a swanky car. He said the accused had no such means till a few months ago. Their lifestyle came under suspicion. They had also bought motorcycles recently.


Take possession of forfeited properties of smugglers: Centre
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 18
The Central government has taken a serious view for having failed to forfeit the property of notorious smugglers of Punjab for the past two decades by the state government.

The properties of the smugglers who were detained under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange And Prevention Of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974, in the past could not be forfeited since 1988 despite repeated reminders and notices served under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act, 1976.

Now, in a fresh missive, Archana Ranjan, Competent Authority Department of Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act and NDPSA, has written to the Punjab chief secretary to immediately take possession of these properties that belong to smugglers in border districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Ludhiana.

The move of the Central government has come as a bolt from the blue for gullible marginal farmers of the border area who had purchased such properties out of sheer ignorance. However, DC Kahan Singh Pannu, who has directed revenue officials to expedite the process for forfeiting such properties, said nobody would be spared on the pretext that he was ignorant at the time of purchasing the property. The smugglers had virtually cheated innocent farmers by selling their properties as they were aware that they would be forfeited after their arrests. The first letter for taking possession of the smugglers’ properties was written by the Central government to the Punjab government on February 2, 1977.

The Central government said there could be a possibility that the properties would have changed many hands by creating a third party right, title and interest therein. The letter said it was immaterial whether the property belonged to persons who were COFEPOSA detenues or sold and transferred to the name of any other person(s) etc. Once a notice under the said Act was issued to such persons, the subsequent transfer of the property concerned became null and void.

The Central government’s letter said the Delhi High Court, from time to time, had already expressed grave concern that forfeited properties were still not in the possession of the government.


Payment of Subsidy
PSERC petitioned to proceed against chief secy
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 18
A petition has been filed before the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) requesting it direct the Punjab government to pay the balance subsidy due to the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) in 15 days besides, action against the state’s chief secretary for non- compliance with the commitment given to the commission on the issue.

The state government has paid the PSEB only Rs 500 crore out of the Rs 1,300 crore due to it as subsidy for money spent on providing free power to agricultural sector as well as power supply to Scheduled Caste and below poverty line consumers till June 30 this year. Besides this Rs 500 crore the government has also sanctioned Rs 167 crore to the board. This bill was however pending for clearance with the Treasury when the board submitted its status report on subsidy amount received from the government in the first six months of the current year to the commission on July 15.

In the petition before the commission today, former PSEB chief engineer Padamjit Singh urged the commission to direct the PSEB to levy full tariff on agricultural connections in case the subsidy is not paid in 15 days.

The engineer asked the commission to take action against the chief secretary under Section 142 and 146 of the Electricity Act, 2003, for non-compliance of commitment given by him that the government would provide a subsidy of Rs 2600 crore for 2008-09 to the board. The commission had in its tariff order earlier this month stipulated that the government pay the subsidy amount in advance equal quarterly instalments to the board.

The petition also urged that the PSEB be directed to curtail power purchase through traders by capping the rate at Rs 5.45 per unit in view of the serious payment defaults occurring on power purchase bills. It also asked the commission to direct the government to reimburse to the PSEB the loss suffered due to delay in payment of power purchase bills resulting in losing due rebate or in levying of surcharge. It also urged the government be directed to pay the interest on delayed payment of subsidy on weekly basis.

Padamjit claims he has received information that the PSEB has started defaulting in payment of power purchase bills which is unprecedented. As per the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission regulations a 2 per cent rebate is given for immediate payments and conversely a late payment surcharge of 1.25 per cent per month is levied for delayed payment. The engineer claimed that the PSEB has crossed the first stage and forfeited the full 2 per cent rebate and is now moving to the second stage of 30 days for a 1 per cent rebate for the billing of June-08 payable in July-08. “There is a distinct possibility of crossing the second stage which will then attract a surcharge at the rate of 1.25 per cent per month”, he added. 



Delhi Test
SAD issues party whip to its MPs
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 18
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has issued a whip to all its MPs in the Lok Sabha to vote against the UPA government on July 22.

Party sources said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was earlier not in a mood to issue the whip as he had full faith in his party’s MPs, had asked leader of the parliamentary group of SAD Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa to issue the whip because the BJP desperately wanted its issuance.

A senior SAD leader today said pressure had been built on the party leadership to issue the whip by planting stories in newspapers that the SAD leadership was reluctant to ask its MPs to go decisively against the UPA government in Parliament.

In fact, the SAD leadership had been informed by some senior leaders of the NDA that the Congress leadership had been trying hard to contact some of the SAD MPs.

Besides it, sources said two ministers in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet had recently spoken to senior leaders of the SAD to support Manmohan Singh on July 22. The sources said the SAD leadership had told them that there was no possibility now of reviewing the decision to vote against Manmohan Singh.

Though the SAD has decided to vote against the UPA government, what has been happening in the party for the past one week tells a different story. Senior SAD leaders differ on voting to dislodge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Party insiders said most members at the meeting of the core committee, held three days ago, had strongly opposed to vote against the government.

The sources today revealed that at the core committee meeting only three Akali leaders were for voting against Manmohan Singh, while others argued that voting against the Sikh Prime Minister would become difficult to defend during the Lok Sabha elections for the SAD leadership. This was because Manmohan was the sole representatives of Sikhs all over the world in the state. Questions will certainly be asked in this regard from SAD candidates during elections.

Most SAD speakers at the meeting had spoken against the BJP, it alliance partner in the Punjab government. They had told Badal that the way the BJP leaders had been arm twisting and pricking the SAD leadership on various issues, it would be proper to settle all issues with the national leadership of the BJP before taking any decision with regard to the voting on the confidence motion. In fact, many senior SAD leaders are not happy over showing its cards on the voting issue too early to the BJP leadership.

SAD has eight members in Parliament. It has the capacity to save or dislodge the Manmohan Singh government.


Support PM: Ravi Inder
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 18
President of the Akali Dal 1920 Ravi Inder Singh has written a letter to all eight MPs of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), including Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who is also the secretary-general of the SAD, to support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Lok Sabha on the issue of nuclear deal by giving up narrow political interests in the larger interests of the state.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Ravi Inder said deputations of his party were meeting SAD MPs to convince them that the nuclear deal with the US was in favour of the country and so they should support the Prime Minister. He said if the SAD MPs cast their votes against Manmohan Singh, this decision of the SAD would go in favour of BJP prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, who had written in his book that due to their pressure Indira Gandhi had made the attack on Harmandir Sahib in 1984.


Sukhbir to lead anti-Cong rallies 
Inflation to be main issue
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 18
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is gearing itself up to expose the ‘anti-people and anti-Punjab’ face of the UPA and the Congress by organising a number of state-level rallies of farmers, traders, industrialists, minorities, employees and backward classes in August.

The rallies, with a focus on galloping inflation and the Centre’s ‘long-standing discrimination’ against Punjab, would be spearheaded by SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and held in different parts of Punjab.

The party has already started preparing itself for the ‘show of power’.

Besides, the Centre’s failure on the issue of 1984 anti-Sikh riots and its inability to solve issues concerning river waters of Punjab, control of headworks and inclusion of Punjabi speaking areas in Punjab would also be raked up during these rallies.

“We have already started organising our workers for these rallies. In fact, it would be our endeavour to make these rallies, to be led by Sukhbir Singh Badal, as rallies of all Punjabis. Inflation has touched an all time high and it is for the first time that the situation is so bad on the economic front in the last 60 years. The Congress itself has admitted that 30 per cent population has to be content with a daily income of not more than Rs 20. It is all due to wrong policies of the Congress and we are going to expose these with full force,” said SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra.

He said Punjab has been discriminated against for long in respect of Central aid to states. “The centre has formulated aid policies in such a way that Punjab has to bear with the losses. Take an example of the Centre’s Rs 72,000 crore farmer loan waver.

Punjab is not going to get more than Rs 1,000 crore out of this despite the fact that the state has been contributing a major share to the Centre’s foodgrain kitty,” added Chandumajra.


Doaba Region
Govt ill prepared to deal with monsoon
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 18
The ill preparedness of the government to deal with monsoon in the Doaba region can be gauged from the fact that tenders have yet to be called for reinforcing the existing flood protection embankments on the Sutlej and the Beas, besides desilting/cleaning several choes and nullahs in the region.

Officials involved in the fieldwork in Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur districts told The Tribune that they had sent their estimates to the Drainage Department more than two months ago, but in many cases the sanction was accorded just yesterday.

As a result, major works will only begin after July 20 in these districts. Since pre-monsoon showers have already exposed several sensitive and weak points in this region, timely approval by the government would have really helped.

Officials rue the fact that these works are taken right before the onset of monsoon, when they have enough time to get these works executed during winters. Moreover, the meagre amounts sanctioned are just worth taking temporary measures, which have to be repeated every monsoon.

In Jalandhar Drainage Division, which looks after the district besides Kapurthala, only Rs 48 lakh was sanctioned out of a total projection of Rs 336 crore. An additional amount of Rs 44.29 lakh was approved for desilting of the Kala Sanghian drain.

A visit to the East Bein revealed that work on desilting the drain was underway with a departmental dragline. The Bein is choked and deeply silted reducing its discharge capacity. Employees at the site said they would try to meet the deadline.

Kapurthala that falls in the jurisdiction of the Jalandhar Drainage Division has almost 102 km of Dhussi Bundh along the Beas and another 120 km of such embankments along the Bein. This district has some of the most sensitive points in the region and accordingly Rs 1,650 crore was sought, but only Rs 121 lakh was sanctioned.

In Dera Hari Singh, the Beas flows right along the existing embankment, which has been eroded at some places. The work at these sites is likely to begin after July 20. Similarly, work on desilting the Wadala drain will begin after July 20.

In the Phagwara Drainage Division, the vulnerable points have been identified as Jhandipur, New Khera Bet, Danewal, Lohgarh and Baupur on the Sutlej. Other sensitive points include Lassra, Sangowal Phillaur, Bholewal and Gadra Bhoda.

A sum of Rs 52 lakh will be spent for pucca works and Rs 40 lakh for temporary measures. The division opened a flood-control room from June 15, which is manned round the clock. Besides, a watch is being kept on the discharge levels of the rivers, beins and choes in its jurisdiction.

In Nawanshahr, which falls in the Phagwara Drainage Division, only Rs 5 lakh has been sanctioned which is just sufficient to carry out temporary measures along the Sutlej.

Malikpur, Dhangerpur, Tajowal, Mandala, Kanon, Mirzapur, lallewal, Pandrodh Burj Tehal Dass are among the sensitive points identified. A sum of Rs 21 lakh will be spent on pucca flood protection measures at Dhangerpur, tenders for which were called just yesterday.

Only Rs 20 lakh has been sanctioned for such works along the Sutlej in Balachaur tehsil out of an estimate of Rs 144 lakh. The money will be spent on strengthening the embankments at Rail Majra and Dugri villages. Paragpur, another vulnerable site, has been left out.

The Hoshairpur Drainage Division too has purchased empty cement bags worth Rs 2 lakh. Of the Rs 449 lakh demanded, only Rs 66 lakh has been sanctioned for Mewa Miani on the Beas.


Ravi-Beas Link-II Feasibility
Centre asks water panel to submit report
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 18
The Union government has asked the Central Water Commission (CWC) to submit a report after studying all aspects on  whether the Ravi-Beas Link-II is feasible.

Sources said a meeting in this connection was held in Delhi in which representatives of the Punjab  government, CWC, Central Water Resources ministry and other senior officers took part.

Punjab has strongly opposed the link-II. It argued that the Union government had no right to propose such a link without taking the state government into confidence. The state government has rejected all arguments given in support of the project by the Union  government.

Sources said with asking the CWC to prepare the report to assess the feasibility of the project, it had been virtually put into cold store for several years. First, the CWC would have to study whether actually 3 MAF of water flows to Pakistan from the  headworks in the Indian  territory in Punjab  near Madhopur.

For studying the same, the CWC would have to collect data of various seasons and reach at a definite conclusion. In case the flowing of the 3 MAF or even less water is not established, the project will be abandoned.

The Union government has proposed, on the basis of the Haryana government’s concept paper, that 3 MAF of water that flows to Pakistan should be diverted to India through Ravi-Beas Link-II and it should be utilised by Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana should be given water from the Sutlej in lieu of that 3 MAF.

However, Punjab has stated there were only minor leakages of water that flows to Pakistan and to say that 3 MAF of water flows to that country is an absurd assessment. That is why now the CWC has been asked to assess the flow of water to Pakistan.


Teachers not paid salary
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 18
Unable to cope without being paid salaries, thousands of teachers employed with government-aided privately managed schools have planned to hold a demonstration against the government on July 22.

The state government has failed to disburse 95 per cent grant-in-aid to nearly 400 privately managed schools under the grant-in-aid scheme since last February.


Maintenance allowance hiked
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 18
The state government has decided to double the maintenance allowance of terrorist victim families from Rs 2,500 to 5,000 with effect from April 2008.

Laxmi Kanta Chawla, health minister, who had been instrumental in highlighting the pathetic financial conditions of these families had been fighting for their cause for the past many years has finally managed to convince the government to raise their emoluments in view of the poor financial conditions.


Muktsar SSP in the dock
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 18
Muktsar SSP Gurpreet Singh Gill is in the dock for staying away from the contempt of court proceedings, despite allegedly having knowledge about it. Following his failure to appear before the court in a contempt of court matter, Justice Surya Kant of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the issuance of bailable warrants against him for securing his presence in the court on September 4. Muktsar’s Chief Judicial Magistrate and Ferozepore’s IGP have been asked to ensure the compliance of the orders.

Justice Kant held the officer, it appeared, was deliberately and wilfully evading the proceedings and had failed to put in an appearance, despite a specific direction to this effect issued on May 12. As such, Justice Kant ordered bailable warrants of Rs 10,000, with surety of the like amount.

The matter pertains to a contempt of court petition filed by one Sukhpal Singh. He had alleged that the officer had not complied with November last year’s orders asking him to take appropriate action within a month on his complaint in a dispute. In February and again in May, Punjab’s additional advocate-general M.C. Berry was asked to seek instructions from the officer. It was made clear, if rely was not filed, the respondent shall remain present in the court.

As the matter came up for hearing, Berry told the court that the officer had not turned up despite the issuance of two letters. Berry added that the officer was aware of the proceedings, as an ASI, deputed by him, had collected the petition’s copy from the advocate-general’s office.


British Council to train 25 ‘master trainers’
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 18
To arrest the widening gap in the quality of education offered by government and public schools in respect of the English language and to empower students with a set of practical English language skills, the British Council (BC) is all set to pick up and train as many as, 25 ‘master trainers’ from across Punjab.

After the completion of their training, the ‘master trainers’ will further be directed to fan out in the field and impart English language training to teachers and students, particularly of government primary schools under a joint programme of the BC and the Punjab government.

These ‘master trainers’ are going to be selected from amongst teachers as well as ‘student teachers’ of all 168 BEd colleges of Punjab who will converge at a five-day state-level training session to be held here from July 21 to 25.

The BC, it was learnt, had conducted a sort of survey in the state and submitted its report to the Punjab government. The report emphasised that it needed to strengthen the base of primary-level students, particularly in respect of the English language with a focus on enabling them to compete with the rest of the world at national and international-level competitions.

The Punjab government, it was learnt, was concerned over the deteriorating quality of education imparted in government schools, especially at the primary level.

The government was of the view that practical knowledge of the English language was a must for those who wanted to attain higher education or go abroad and, hence, primary school kids were in need of proper and quality English language training.

The selected ‘master trainers’ will prepare teachers as well as kids at the primary level for undertaking set of English language skills and techniques.


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