P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


One day to go for Delhi Test
Patna clergy makes fresh appeal for support to PM
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 20
Even as the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, is unlikely to oblige a section of the Sikh community of the world by pronouncing a directive to the Sikh parliamentarians to support the UPA government on the proposed nuclear deal, Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib, today reiterated that they (Sikh MPs) must support the first Sikh Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

Describing Dr Manmohan Singh as the great visionary and true Sikh, Jathedar Iqbal Singh said it was the moral duty of the Sikh parliamentarians to vote for the UPA by rising above the party affiliations. He claimed that the deal was in the larger interest of the country.

However, Panthic sources said the appeal of Jathedar Iqbal Singh did not carry weight as his entry in the meetings of Akal Takht Secreratiat had already been banned.

Meanwhile , the ongoing efforts of the Takht Patna Sahib Management Committee to defuse the current Panthic crisis by involving SGPC president is unlikely to bear fruit in the near future. Giani Iqbal Singh has reiterated that the hukmnamas (edicts) once issued from Takht Patna Sahib could not be withdrawn.

Chief of the SGPC Avtar Singh has convened a meeting of the seven-member committee of Takht Patna Sahib in Amritsar on August 4 in an attempt to defuse the crisis precipitated in the wake of an undeclared ban on Jathedar Iqbal Singh to attending the meetings of Akal Takht.

The controversial edicts issued by the Sikh clergy of Patna Sahib pertain to Sikh Maryada and these could not be accepted by Akal Takht and the SGPC.

Cast conscience vote: PPCC

Sangrur: In a letter written to eight MPs of the SAD, including Sukhbir Singh Badal who is also SAD president, organising secretary of the PPCC Aman Arora has urged them to decide on nuclear deal with the US as per their conscience while taking part in the voting on July 22 on the issue though their party had issued a whip to them to cast votes against the UPA government, led by Dr Manmohan Singh.

Arora further said the SAD MPs should understand the importance of the nuclear deal with the US and also work to protect the honour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had done a lot for Punjab.

Nanded deputy mayor vouches for Manmohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 20
The deputy mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Nanded Waghala City has urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal to support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the proposed nuclear deal with the US.

Surjit Singh Gill, the deputy mayor, in a letter to the Chief Minister and SAD chief, said today that it was for the first time that a Sikh had become the Prime Minister even though the Sikhs constituted only 3 per cent of the population. Dr Manmohan Singh could complete his term if the SAD, which had eight MPs in the Lok Sabha, voted in favour of the government.

Gill said the SAD should take a lesson from the Shiv Sena that had voted in favor of the government for electing Pratibha Patil, a Marathi, by keeping their political agenda aside. If the SAD MPs vote against the government just for the sake of being in the Opposition, the Sikh community would not forgive them for this “folly”. He said the SAD was an independent party and there was no need for it to become a puppet in the hands of the BJP.

The deputy mayor said it was Dr Manmohan Singh who had provided Rs 1,900 crore for the development of Sachkhand in view of the 300th year of the Guruta Gaddi Divas celebrations to be observed in 2008. He said the then BJP government at the Centre had given only Rs 100 crore though it had announced Rs 300 crore for the development of Anandpur Sahib.

The deal was a major step towards the prosperity of the country. The Communists and other parties were blackmailing the Central government for their personal interests. Chairperson of the UPA Sonia Gandhi has announced that her party would contest the next parliamentary elections under the leadership of Dr Singh, a matter of pride for the Sikh community.


Dal Khalsa reminds MPs of ‘deal hazards’
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, July 20
Expressing displeasure over the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Dal Khalsa has urged Akali MPs to oppose it in Parliament, “as it will trigger a nuclear race on our doorstep, threatening the safety of Punjab and its inhabitants”.

In a statement issued here today, Dal Khalsa general secretary Kanwarpal Singh and senior executive members, H. S. Dhami and Manjinder Singh, pointed out that for Akalis, the interests of the Sikhs should be paramount. ''It is a question of survival of the Sikhs, as they are sandwiched between two arch nuclear rivals, which have fought three wars in the past,'' the statement added.

They urged SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal to oppose the deal in Parliament on July 22.

Party leaders expressed disagreement with those who were advocating a vote in favour of the UPA merely on the basis that Dr Singh, an architect of the deal, was the first Sikh Prime Minister.

''This argument is just emotional which hardly carries any weight, as Dr Singh has done nothing special or extra for Punjab and the Sikh community in his four-and-a-half-year stint as PM,'' the leaders stated.

Similarly, taking a dig at Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, they said the set positioning of the SAD to toe the NDA line blindly too was fraught with danger. They urged the Akali leadership to put forth their independent views on the nuke deal vis-a-vis Punjab in Parliament on July 22.

To drive home their point, they said countries like South Africa, Ireland (members of the nuclear suppliers group), which have a principled stand on nuclear disarmament, were unlikely to support it.

They observed that for the country, the best solution to meet its growing energy needs was to sign the NPT and the CTBT.

Contesting the statement of Badal that "we are a secular party and follow 'sarbat da bhala' dictum and not the welfare of Sikhs alone," the Dal Khalsa leaders said the impression was that a single family was running the government with “Sukhbir-da-bhala” dictum.


PSEB’s unbundling postponed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
The Punjab State Electricity Board’s (PSEB) proposed unbundling that has generated a lot of heat among its employees has been postponed for about a year.

Sources said the unbundling process would now resume only after the next Lok Sabha elections.

The Union power ministry had given an extension of a few months to the Punjab government in June to complete the unbundling process. While giving extension for the eighth time in the second week of June, the power ministry had laid the condition that the state government should submit a road map before it by June 30 for unbundling.

However, instead of sending the road map to the Union government, the state government has informed the power ministry that there were outstanding liabilities worth Rs 20,000 crore against the PSEB. It includes loan worth Rs 12,000 crore, besides a cash loss of Rs 6,800 crore.

As it is mandatory to clean the balance-sheet of the PSEB before disbanding into various companies, there is a need to financially restructure the PSEB to achieve this objective. The power ministry has been informed that a private company has been engaged to suggest the ways and means for the financial restructuring of the PSEB to clean its balance-sheet before its disbanding.

Sources said the private company would take at least six months to study the issue and to submit report in this regard. By that time, the election process to hold the parliamentary elections in the state would start. During the election process, there is no possibility of unbundling the PSEB, as the ruling SAD-BJP combine would not like take any decision that might annoy a section of employees, who are opposed to the unbundling of the PSEB. That means the process of the unbundling has been halted for about a year.


Probe sought against IG, SSP
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 20
Kripal Singh Randhawa, deputy chairman, Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), has urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for initiating departmental inquiry against IG, Punjab, Rajinder Singh and SSP Paramjit Singh Umranangal for misusing their official position.

The PHRO deputy chairman said he had also urged President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minsiter Manmohan Singh and Union home minister Shivraj Patil to immediately dismiss the two officials for “misusing their official position and for having links with criminal-minded persons”.

Randhawa, who has been acquitted by the Sessions Court of Patiala in an alleged rape case filed against him at the behest of the IG and SSP, said the two were misusing their official position to pressurise him not to give any statement in the infamous Khalra murder case, in which the two had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The deputy chairman said he had been facing harassment at the hands of these police officials at whose behest criminal-minded persons had filed false cases against him for speaking truth. He said he had suffered for the past more than five years, as he could not give time to his family.

He said the two had tarnished his image in society by registering a false case of rape.


‘Dera-Sikh row unfortunate’
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, July 20
Baldev Khosa, a clean-shaven Sikh MLA from Mumbai, which recently witnessed protests by the Sikh community following the death of a Sikh youth by a security personnel of the Dera Sacha Sauda chief has expressed concern over the continuing face-off between dera supporters and Sikhs.

The actor-turned-politician, hailing from Jhandeana, a small village near here, who left Punjab in 1967 to try his luck in the film industry, accidentally landed in politics.

He is presently the Congress MLA from Amboli (Andheri West), the richest Assembly constituency of the country. He has been elected from this constituency three times and has earned the reputation of being an honest politician in the whole state.

Talking to The Tribune in an exclusive interview during a visit to his native village recently, he said the Sikh community was peace-loving and worked hard outside Punjab to make both ends meet.

Regarding the recent row over the murder of a Sikh youth in Mumbai by a security personnel of Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Khosa said such incidents were unfortunate.

He said the Sikh community in Mumbai had earned its reputation by working hard and it was living in harmony with other communities. He refuted certain media reports that Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had given warning to the Sikh community to end its protest. 



Printing units jack up rates
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 20
Offset printers and packaging industry have increased rates of their products from 25 to 40 per cent. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Amritsar Offset Printers Association here today.

President of the association M.P. Singh said the prices of raw materials like paper, duplex board, printing ink, lamination film, grey board, adhesive and labour charges had increased from 20 to 50 per cent.

Unscheduled and long power cuts had affected the production in the printing industry while increasing interests rates had led to huge losses to them, he said. The industry was struggling for survival and they had no way out but to raise the prices of their products with immediate effect. On an average, the input costs had increased by 35 per cent, he said.

The rates of corrugated boxes have been increased by 40 per cent.


Maj-Gen facing GCM admitted to PGI
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
Major-Gen A.K. Lal facing trial by general court martial (GCM) for allegedly molesting a woman officer, has been hospitalised in Chandigarh, it is learnt.

Army sources reveal that General Lal was admitted to the PGIMER on July 16 for treatment of backache. He was on leave for personal reasons. A team of doctors from the Command Hospital, Chandimandir, today visited the PGI to assess the situation and explore shifting him to the military hospital.

A senior officer at Chandimandir said the Army team would discuss the matter with their PGI counterparts before deciding whether the General could be shifted to the Command Hospital.

According to Army regulations, service personnel could seek treatment in a civilian medical establishment in an emergency, but have to inform the Army authorities and be shifted to a military hospital unless the prescribed treatment is not available in a military establishment.

Earlier, during the recording of summary of evidence at Leh, he had complained of high blood pressure.

General Lal’s court martial was to commence at Bathinda on July 7, but could not as he had to go on leave due to his mother’s death. The GCM was adjourned till July 22.


Pak foreign secy arrives for talks
Tribune News Service

Attari, July 20
A six-member delegation, led by foreign secretary of Pakistan, arrived in India through the Attari joint check-post here today for the fifth round of composite dialogue to improve relations between the two countries.

Salman Bashir, foreign secretary of Pakistan, said increase in trade between the two nations and identification of prisoners lodged in various jails of the two nations would be the main issues to be discussed at the secretary-level talks to be held in New Delhi.

He said the Kashmir issue could also be discussed. The composite dialogue would be held on July 21 at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.


Plan to charter 4 aeroplanes
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 20
After the successful use of a chartered aeroplane to transport postal material in the eastern sector (Kolkata, Guwahati, Agartala and Mizoram etc), the Department of Posts has plans to charter four aeroplanes for transporting postal material in the northern, southern, western and central sectors of the country.

Chief postmaster general (CPG), Punjab circle, Prithvi Raj Kumar, said here that the proposed introduction of the chartered aeroplane service in the four remaining sectors would bring a revolution in transporting postal material at a very fast speed throughout the country.

The CPG said in the Punjab circle of the department, there were 3,908 post offices, of which 807 big post offices situated in urban areas would be fully computerised in two and a half years.

He said with the computerisation of post offices, the shortage of employees would end and the quality of service improve. The CPG also said he had fixed March 31 as the target to make the Punjab circle of the department a profit-making circle by way of initiating several income-generating steps.


PAU’s new course a big hit with students from villages
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 20
After witnessing a decline in the number of students from rural background for a decade at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the campus this year saw a heavy intake of students from villages for the new six-year BSc Agriculture (Honours) course. A share of the rural population in the total campus intake for the existing courses at the university fell to 8 per cent in 2006-2007.

The university, in fact, is approaching the Punjab government to make special reservation for rural students in different courses. Dr Milkha Singh Aulakh, dean, College of Agriculture, said, “Following a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1994, the entrance test now has 100 per cent weight for calculating the merit, for the existing four-year course, which was very detrimental to admission of rural students seeking entry after plus II. Since students from villages were poor in science at the plus II level, very few could succeed at the entrance level. The examination for the BSc (Hons), introduced this year, was held on the basis of matriculation results where even students from villages had managed a very encouraging quota”.

The popularity of the newly introduced six-year course can be gauged from the fact that the number of seats had to be increased from 40 to 70. All 860 who applied for the course appeared for the interview. More than half of the applicants belonged to villages from all districts of the state. Sources said students with farming background far outdid their city counterparts in viva.

In the existing four-year course in the university, approximately 90 per cent seats are occupied by boys from cities.

It was also pointed out that only one ward of a university employee could get a seat in the course and that too in a reserved category among scores of wards of teachers and non-teachers. The admission committee got many “recommendation” letters from politicians and senior officers.

Dr Milkha Singh said, “Historically, the college used to have students with rural and farming background based on marks of class X. In 1989-90, the qualifying examination for entry to BSc was changed from class X to class XII. In the subsequent year, 9 per cent marks were set aside for assessing the suitability and inclination of the candidate. Following the high court decision in 1994, admissions were based 100 per cent on result of the written examination”.

The university felt concerned at the falling number of rural students in courses. It was felt “the standard of education in rural areas did not improve rather kept on deteriorating in three decades. On the other hand the standard in urban areas witnessed a rise which was supplemented with scope for tuitions”. 


Controversy over recruitment of teachers trained in J & K
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
A controversy has erupted in the corridors of the school Education Department of the Punjab government over the eligibility of students who have passed the two-year elementary teacher training (ETT) course from certain institutions in Jammu and Kashmir for recruitment as teachers in schools of the state government.

In a lengthy note sent to the director-general of school education-cum-special secretary, the director of the State Council for Education, Research and Training (SCERT), has stated that those who have passed the ETT course from J and K are not eligible for recruitment in government schools because those institutions have not been recognised by the Punjab government.

On the other hand, the Department of Elementary Education, Punjab, says those who have passed the ETT course from J and K are eligible for recruitment in Punjab and they have been considered for recruitment during an exercise recently conducted to employ about 10,000 teachers for government primary schools in the state.

In fact, the director of SCERT has stated that the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) has not recognised any ETT institution in J and K. He has stated that the name of J and K did not figure anywhere in the list of institutions recognised by the NCTE for ETT diploma. Even the Punjab government, through its letter No. 11-7-2003, had informed the Secretary, Education of J and K government, that “the diploma course of other states have derecognised by the state government. Moreover, the nursery teacher training (NTT) course is not conducted in Punjab. So the inability to grant equivalence to the diploma course of J and K government is regretted”.

The director of the SCERT has informed the director-general that those passing from the ETT course from the institutions not recognised by the NCTE are not qualified to be recruited as teachers in Punjab.

The director has stated that there is a condition of minimum 45 per cent cut-off marks in the qualifying exmination prescribed by the NCTE for taking admission in the ETT course in Punjab and other states, whereas there is no such cut-off marks condition applicable in J and K. Moreover, in Punjab, students having at least nearly 80 per cent marks in plus II examination get admission in the ETT course.

Students passing from J and K cannot be compared with students passing from Punjab. He has stated that even Punjab’s neighbouring states have not recognised the ETT conducted in J and K. 


Soon, foreign language training for nursing students
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 20
The Punjab government proposes to introduce training in foreign languages, besides English, for nursing students in the state with a view to help them secure jobs abroad.

Jagjit Puri, secretary in the department of research and medical education, said a proposal had been finalised under which nursing students in colleges of Punjab would be given training in English and some foreign languages, including Spanish and French, to ensure that they do not have problems while taking up assignments in countries where these languages are spoken.

Puri said in total there were around 10,000 seats for nursing students in diploma and degree courses, and the potential for employment was good both in India and abroad. He said the Punjab government had done its best to remove the shortcomings pointed out by the Medical Council of India in the three state-owned medical colleges in Punjab. He added that most of the objections pointed out in the show-cause notices to the three medical colleges had been removed and the only objection now left was the shortage of medical faculty.

Puri said efforts were on to appoint more medical teachers and recruitments would be made soon. In addition, 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. 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 renovated at a cost of Rs 60 lakh. Puri informed that the Central government had sanctioned Rs 140 crore for Medical College of Amritsar, Rs 100 crore for Medical College at Patiala and Rs 65 crore for Medical College at Faridkot.

He added that a project was in pipeline for outsourcing of certain services in the hospitals of Punjab. The idea was to ensure that services like sanitation and security were better.


To check falling watertable
Hybrid rice varieties from next year 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
Punjab farmers will have the seed of hybrid rice to the address problem of the declining watertable. The state government apparently saw the importance of paddy as cash crop, especially due to recent events, which raised rice prices to an all-time high. “We had predicted this shortfall in another two-year time, but it has come earlier,” says Dr P.S. Rangi, an agri-economist for managing paddy in a better manner rather than reducing area under cultivation.

Dr Rangi, a consultant with the Punjab State Farmers Commission, says the commission had told Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, to recommend particular hybrid rice varieties for transplantation in the state next year after testing. While the move seems to be an indictment of PAU which has always stood by the varieties developed by it besides not recommending hybrid seeds till now, Dr Rangi says the move is based on present-day realities.

“Developing new varieties in PAU takes three years, while the pace of development of hybrid rice varieties is much faster,” he says .

Hybrid rice varieties were recommended by the commission as their maturity period was shorter i.e. 115 days. It also accords with the government effort to take steps to address the issue of falling watertable.“We propose to recommend transplantation of paddy next year only after June 20,” says Dr Rangi adding that the aim is to take this date to June 25 in two years. “If paddy is transplanted by June 25, whatever water is taken out can be replenished in monsoon,” he adds.

The commission’s other steps for better management of paddy include use of advanced farm machinery. The first is an extensive use of the laser leveller to level fields for minimum use of water. The commission has given 120 cooperatives laser levellers, along with high-powered tractors at 25 per cent subsidy. This year it plans to create 245 agricultural science centres which will be offered high-powered tractors, laser levellers, rotavators and happy seeders at subsidised price. While the rotavator rotates soil from top to down in a better manner, the happy seeder allows sowing of wheat among paddy stubs without tilling the field.

A model paddy field, Dr Rangi said, would be first levelled using laser leveller. Following this puddling of the field would be done by the rotavator instead of the cultivator. Irrigation would be done through big sprinklers.The latter was one-time cost of Rs 20,000 per acre, but had 75 per cent subsidy on it to make it easier for farmers to go for the new technology.


Inclement climate sucks sweetness out of grapes
Rajay Deep/Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 20
The Malwa region, which once produced 80 per cent of the state’s grapes has been losing the distinction. Pre-monsoon showers, absence of marketing facilities and high MSP of other crops made farmers uproot grape vines for other crops.

A visit to some villages in the area revealed farmers uprooting grape vines. The farmers said they were suffering losses every year.

Farmers said the Malwa region used to produce 80 per cent of the total grapes in Punjab. But this time, untimely rain and storms resulted in loss for them. Because of the changing climate, 90 per cent of grape crop has rotten.

To queries, they said for some years, contract rate of plain fields had become higher, due to losses, no one was willing to take grape vines on contract.

Farmers also blamed the attitude of the government for the present condition. Atma Singh of Poohla village, who removed grape vines from his farm last year, rued, “The government never paid attention to the sale of grapes due to which we suffered a lot. This attitude of the government has forced me to convert the grape farms into wheat-yielding farms.”

“I had planted and nursed the grape vines in 4 acres, but in the absence of proper marketing and its perishable nature, I did not get a good response. It would be better if the government takes interest in its purchase and helps in delivering it either to distilleries or markets outside,” said Jeevan Singh of Tungwali village.

Agriculturists and horticulturists say hot and dry spell in the Malwa region had proved to be beneficial for grape producers. But untimely rain and storms have turned their dreams sour.

Director, regional station, Punjab Agricultural University, Bathinda, G.S. Buttar, said, “Bathinda, Mansa, Barnala and Sangrur were the districts of Malwa where 1,000 hectares of total 1,200 hectares of the state’s grape farms exist. But now, the market and weather both have been creating problems for the cultivators resulting in huge losses. As far as the reason for taking up other crops is concerned, factors like the high MSP of other crops like wheat, paddy and cotton can not be ruled out.”


Budda Nullah
Farmers seek action against units
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 20
The Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, threatened the state government with a mass agitation if the latter failed to initiate action against the industrial units discharging effluents in Budda Nullah.

Convener of the committee Kanwarpal Singh Pannu said here today that the executive meeting of the environment save committee, a constituent of the body, would be held soon to initiate steps on a mass struggle against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for allegedly reneging on his promise to take action against the units responsible for pollution in the nullah. The nullah further pollutes the Sutlej and other canals passing through the Malwa region, Pannu added.

Earlier, the Punjab Human Rights Commission had sought a report regarding pollution in the nullah from the Punjab Pollution Control Board. 


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