P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CM visits flood-hit areas
Rs 1 lakh aid for kin of 2 victims
Kulwinder Sandhu and Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Makhu (Ferozepur), August 18
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal visited flood-affected areas in this border district today. Irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, chief parliamentary secretary Sukhpal Singh Nannu, commissioner B.S. Sudan, district magistrate Megh Raj, SSP Dinesh Pratap and officers of the Army accompanied him.

Badal, onboard an Army motor boat, visited villages in the Makhu area, including Mundun Churimar and Kussuwala that were not accessible by road. He interacted with the farmers whose standing crops had been damaged.

Badal ordered a special girdawri for the crop loss and instructed the officials to prepare a report as soon as possible.

He announced to set up four relief camps in Makhu, besides a nodal centre in Zira where cattle feed and dry fodder would be stocked for disbursement in the affected areas.

Badal announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each for the families of Bohar Singh and Mohan Singh who had been washed away in the river waters. The Chief Minister said he had instructed the irrigation minister, who hails from this district, to make efforts on a war footing to plug the breaches in the Sutlej.

He said the government had arranged adequate quantity of cattle feed and dry fodder besides boats, tarpaulins and medicines for the affected areas.

Admitting that there was a shortage of funds for the repair of river embankments, he instructed the officials concerned to come up with proposals for embankment’s reinforcement and find causes of breaches.

He lauded the efforts of non-governmental organisations and religious bodies to extend help to the flood-hit families. He had langar in Gurdwara Nanaksar at Harike, near here.

Earlier, Sekhon and Nannu, reviewed repair of the embankment at vulnerable points and deputed drainage department officials to monitor the work. Sekhon also visited Hussainiwala headworks to check discharge of water.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister failed to visit flood-hit aeas of Moga district. Residents of Madaarpur village, where the breaches had occurred, kept waiting for Badal the whole day. He was supposed to visit the area.

Sources said Badal’s helicopter developed a snag when it was just about to take off from Jalandhar. He had to come by road that took more time, leaving a little time for his Moga visit.


Flood water enters Makhu, one drowns
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Makhu (Ferozepur), August 18
The flood water has entered Makhu town of the border district having a population of about 25,000 people, thanks to the poor efforts of the district administration of Moga and the drainage wing of the Irrigation Department that has so far not been able to plug the breaches developed on the banks of the Sutlej even after more than three days of flooding.

The civil administration has asked the people of the town to look for safer places even as the Army was put on standby for relief and rescue operation, revealed spokesperson of the district administration.

This is the biggest town in the area situated close to the confluence of the Sutlej and the Beas rivers. The ground level of this town is comparatively less than the other areas surrounding it.

There were reports that water has started passing over the Moga-Amritsar highway and a railway line to reach this town. Many other village roads in the area are also flooded disrupting the flow of traffic.

The people had started taking their household items to the rooftops or the upper floors of their houses. Few camps had also been established so that people could be 
shifted there in case of any emergency.

Irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said the government had decided to cut-off a portion of the Rajasthan feeder canal to drain out flood water into it. The flow of water in this canal had already been reduced to minimum to accommodate the flood water, he said.

It may be mentioned that the flood water would have to pass through this town in order to drain it out in the Rajasthan feeder. There was no other alternative for this job. Otherwise, the flood water could wreck havoc in many other towns like Zira and Talwandi Bhai of the district.

Meanwhile, there was report of a death in Khanna village near here, this morning. One person, Mohan Singh, was drowned in the flood water, confirmed the spokesperson of the district.


Govt failed to act in time
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
Had the state government acted in time to improve its drainage system, the state would have been saved from the fury of floods. Sources said the dilly-dallying on part of the state government in releasing funds to strengthen its various drainage work resulted in flooding of almost half of the state.

Sources said various deputy commissioners had asked the state government to release Rs 132 crore for taking flood preventive measures in their respective districts. Of it, about Rs 55 crore was required to strengthen some of the drainage works on priority basis while remaining part of funds was to be spent on other related work. Sources said the requirement for funds was submitted to the state government in October-November last year for taking up the job on drainage work, where required, in January and February.

It is common practice all over the country that strengthening of drainage work is started in January and February to complete the works by May end, before the onset of rainy season. As funds were not released to take up work in January-February, later these could not be released because of code of conduct enforced in the state owing to panchayat and municipal elections till June 30.

The Drainage Department was only able take up routine work with small amount of funds available with it and unable to take up strengthening of any important work on various rivulets, rivers etc.

Sources said about Rs 18 crore were released in mid July whereas rainy season had started in the first week of June, about three weeks early this time, thus making it impossible for the department to take up any significant work regarding the strengthening of bunds, building of spurs and laying of stone work to prevent erosion on the banks etc.

As moderate to heavy rainfall had become a daily phenomenon during the past two months, it had even become difficult to do earth work where required. Sources said it proved to be a wastage of money to take up any strengthening work.

Even last year, the government had released only Rs 24 crore for drainage work whereas every year about Rs 60 crore is required for the purpose.

It is true that as compared to last year, not only the state, but most part of the region witnessed heavy rainfall this year. Because of this reason, demand for even canal water for irrigation came down drastically this year.

Sources said demand for water for irrigation in the UBDC during the past days remained only 1,000 cusecs as compared to 5,000 cusecs last year. In Sirhind canal it was only 4,000 cusecs compared to 11,000 cusecs last year and in BML it was only 9,000 cusecs compared to 11,000 cusecs last year.

The people of the state have paid a heavy price because of the casual approach of the state government regarding taking flood preventing measures.


Water level up in Bhakra, Pong dams
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
Though water level at both the Bhakra and Pong dams in Himachal Pradesh continued to rise, the rains have receded in the hills giving hope that the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) will not be forced to release water from the floodgates of both the dams into the rivers in Punjab.

BBMB chairman U.C. Mishra said water level at both Bhakra and Pong dams had increased by 1 foot each. While the water level at Bhakra was 1,670 feet, the level at Pong stood at 1,380 feet. Both dams have space to take in 10 feet more of water before the BBMB presses the panic button and opens its floodgates.

Mishra said the information from the Meteorological Department was encouraging with rain in the hills expected to recede in the coming days. “There has been a marked change since yesterday and if the present trend continues for some more time the situation will be under control,” he added.

Meanwhile, figures also indicate that the crisis may pass. The inflows into the Bhakra reduced from 65,260 cusecs yesterday to 61,489 cusecs today. While the reduction in inflows at Bhakra was gradual, at the Pong dam there has been a marked decrease in inflows. Only 48,748 cusecs of water was reported to have flown into the dam today against 61,972 cusecs yesterday. The situation at Ranjit Sagar dam is already stable.

Meanwhile, the BBMB authorities discharged 36,941 cusecs of water today against 27,498 cusecs yesterday. The authorities, however, claimed that the discharge had only occurred from the machines and no excess water had been released from the dam. In fact they claimed that the BBMB power units today created a record in power production by generating 59 lakh units. The units had produced 42 lakh units on the same day last year.

If the rains recede in the coming days, the BBMB authorities said they would be in a position to generate more power and give a substantial relief to the power grid. The filling of the dams also augurs well for Punjab, which can bank upon more power in the next few months, they said.



Cong objects to Sukhbir’s remarks
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 18
Majha Congress leaders have criticised Sukhbir Singh Badal, president, SAD for malicious campaign against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Congress leaders, including Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Harpartap Singh Ajnala, Jasbir Singh Dimpa, O. P. Soni, Jugal Kishore Sharma, Sawinder Singh Kathnunagal, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Harminder Singh Gill and Dharambir Agnihotri in a joint statement here today said "after witnessing huge crowd in Congress rally at Baba Bakala, Sukhbir Badal was had lost nerve and made statements against Congress leaders to hide his frustration."

The leaders said Sukhbir being a political greenhorn occupied SAD chief’s chair as he was son of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Statement of Sukhbir also reflected Parkash Singh Badal had not educated his son in political propriety . 


Rural dispensaries to come under health dept
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala August 18
If indications given by the principal secretary, Health Department, Punjab, Vijay Kain, during his recent Fatehgarh Sahib visit and sources in the Health Department are taken into account then it is clear that the Punjab government is mulling to wind up the state-wide chain of 1,193 subsidiary health centres (SHCs) and shift the control of these dispensaries, run by Zila Parishads, to the Punjab Health Department.

The Health Department, it was learnt, was fully geared up to take these dispensaries within its fold on the grounds that these centres had failed to come up to the expectations and needs of the villagers.

The state has one SHC for 10,000 villagers while there is one primary health centre (PHC) for about 30,000 persons. The previous Amarinder Singh regime had transferred control of the SHCs to the zila parishads on the plea that working of the SHCs could be monitored better at village-level and that it could go a long way in strengthening the panchayati raj institutions. But services at these SHCs deteriorated gradually forcing the authorities concerned to either to close down these centres or get them transferred to the Punjab Health Department.

Ironically, more than 350 doctors, who were recruited on contract basis to run these dispensaries, have already left their jobs in view of ‘shoddy’ service conditions. Many more of them were planning to resort to offer their resignations en-masse. This has further compounded the problems of the villagers.

The Rural Medical Services’ Association spokesperson Rajesh Sharma said it was a matter of concern that doctors working in rural areas were not getting minimum facilities required to operate the centres properly. “The state governments of Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan were alluring doctors by offering them regular jobs, but, in Punjab the situation is otherwise and the service-related vulnerability was being enhanced and as a result the doctors were feeling more insecure,” said Sharma.

A senior official of the Rural Development Department admitted that the Punjab Health Department was hammering out a proposal to get the control of SHCs transferred to it.


Villagers await relief
Tribune News Service

Kussuwala (Ferozepur), August 18
There was a sense of disillusionment among poor people who have been severely affected by the floods in villages of Moga and Ferozepur districts.

The government has not provided any immediate financial aid, shelter, medical aid, potable water and food to them.

Anxiety prevails among villagers of Kussuwala and Akbarwala situated close to each other near the banks of the Sutlej on the Ferozepur-Jalandhar highway. More than 600 people, including women and children, have taken shelter on the rail tracks and the embankment of the river.

The family of Bohar Singh, who was washed away in the floods yesterday, comprising his father, wife and six children, has taken shelter under a polythene sheet on the embankment of the river.

Deceased’s wife Sheelo said she could not even cremate her husband as she did not have enough wood for funeral. “ We have immersed his body in the Sutlej”, she said.

All her six children have been suffering from either skin or viral infections. “No doctor has come to this shelter of the twin villages”, rued Gurcharan Singh, sarpanch.

In another shelter, middle-aged Swaran Kaur, with broken arm, was waiting for medical aid.


No dearth of funds: CM
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Gidderpindi (Jalandhar), August 18
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said that funds are not a problem and people will be adequately reimbursed for their losses once the floodwaters recede.

The Chief Minister, who was to carry out an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas, had to proceed by road after his helicopter developed a technical snag at the PAP helipad.

He visited Lohian that is among the worst-affected areas in this belt. Revenue minister Ajit Singh Kohar briefed him about the relief measures being undertaken by the authorities. Badal preferred to listen to the minister than interacting with the affected villagers who had gathered on the main road in large numbers.

However, villagers of Yusufpur stopped his cavalcade and demanded to a word with him. They told him that the railway track was the sole place they were camping on. They demanded that the level of the Lohian-Ferozepur road should be raised and it should be reinforced to prevent floods in the village.

They criticised the departments for not taking up concrete measures to deal with the problem.

Talking to mediapersons, Badal said: “I did not come since my visit would have hindered the relief work. I have been monitoring the situation from Chandigarh and have been in touch with the DCs concerned”.

He said the government would order a special inquiry once the floodwaters recede and we would also write to the Centre for special anti-flood measures. Special teams have been deployed to monitor the situation, he said.

A usually composed Badal got angry when he was queried about him watching “Singh is Kinng”. “These are attempts by the opposition to undermine the measures being taken by us to control the situation,” he said.


Deaths in Army Action
Job scheme to be amended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
The Punjab government has decided to amend its previous policy of giving jobs on compassionate grounds to family members of only those Army personnel who were martyred while fighting in a war against an enemy country. Under the new policy, which has received nod of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, family members of all personnel killed while fighting external aggression or internal terrorism would be eligible for jobs on compassionate grounds.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh recommended the amendment despite objections from the Department of Personnel which claimed that liberalising the policy would result in it not being able to stand judicial scrutiny.

Kanwaljit said it was important to make all battle casualties eligible for the scheme as presently only family members of Kargil martyrs were being considered for jobs. The minister said the Defence Services Welfare Board had also recommended that all personnel listed as battle causalities while performing internal duties should get the same benefits as those killed while fighting an aggression.

Meanwhile, Kanwaljit in his recommendations to the Chief Minister, which have been accepted, also overrode the proposal of the Department of Personnel to only offer class III jobs to dependents of battle casualties. 


Ex-judges of India, Pak visit jail
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 18
Pakistani prisoners, including women, who have been in the high-security Central Jail here even after the completion of sentence, could be released shortly after the visit of the seven-member Judicial Committee of Indo-Pak Retired Judges today.

There are 55 Pakistani nationals, including six women, lodged in the Central Jail. The visit of the retired Indian and Pakistan judges could ensure the release of at least 49 Pakistani nationals whose identification through consular access had been completed.

The visit is likely to mean freedom for Mukhtyar Ahmad who has spent 18 years in the Indian jail because his own country did not show any interest to identify him in the past. Mukhtyar claims his sentence was completed in 1997, but the tardy process of law in Pakistan seemed reluctant to seek his repatriation. The Indian government put up his case in the list of foreign nationals who after the completion of sentence are released subject to the acceptance of their respective foreign governments. The members of the Committee contacted the family members of Mukhtyar on telephone and seemed satisfied that he belonged to Pakistan.

The seven-member committee included Nisir Aslam Zahid, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mian Mohammad, Fazal Karik, A.Q. Chaudhry and three Indian judges, Justice Amarjit Chaudhary, Justice Amarbir S. Gill and Justice M.A. Khan. The team was also accompanied by doctors.

Justice Zahid said the judiciary of both countries must have a sympathetic view of innocent citizens who without any mala fide intention brought few fake currency notes out of ignorance and were caught by security agencies on both sides of the border. He said as a goodwill gesture, Pakistan recently released Indian fishermen on Independence Day who had inadvertently entered the Pakistani territory.

While some Pakistanis were caught by the BSF on charges of espionage or under the NDPSA, most of them were sentenced due to overstay. It seemed Pakistan had virtually disowned its own nationals as there was nobody to confirm their identity.

However, deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu had sent many reminders to the authorities concerned, but the Pakistan authorities were not coming forward to secure the release of their nationals jailed here.


Dharna postponed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
The Punjab State Aided Schoolteachers and other Employees Union has decided to postpone its demonstration that was to be held on August 24 at Sultanpur Lodhi, hometown of Punjab education minister Dr Upinderjit Kaur.

Ashwani Kumar Sharma, secretary of the union, said the decision to postpone the dharna had been taken keeping in view the grim flood situation in the Sultanpur Lodhi area. He said instead of dharna, teachers would hold demonstration on Teachers Day (September 5) against the state government for not fulfilling the promises made to it with regard to their demands.


More dental clinics to be set up
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
The state government has launched a massive dental health care programme for schoolchildren, schoolteachers and general public, which was first of its kind in the country, to ensure oral health hygiene in the state. It will provide on the spot dental health care services to the people at their doorsteps in the far-flung rural areas of the state through fully equipped mobile dental clinic vans.

Health and family welfare minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla said today that the programme was launched with an objective to bring down the incidence of oral and dental diseases to less than 40 per cent and also to bring down the decayed missed filled teeth (DMFT) in schoolchildren of the age group 6-12 years to less than two. The minister also said 354 new dental clinics would be opened to cater to the rural population in the state by the end of five years plan. 

Dr Nerwal gets award Harjit Singh Nerwal, an eminent government homoeopathic medical officer, was one of the recipients of the State Awards for his outstanding contribution and services rendered in the field of homoeopathy. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal presented this State Award to Dr Nerwal at the state-level Independence Day Function at Ludhiana.


Delay in filing affidavit: Ludhiana MC chief fined
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 1
The Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Surya Kant today imposed Rs 5,000 costs on commissioner of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation for not filing an additional counter affidavit, despite several opportunities.

As the case came up, state counsel submitted despite several opportunities and prior information to the authority concerned, the affidavit was not filed.

The Bench ruled Rs 5,000 costs would be recovered from the officer responsible for the delay in filing the affidavit. The costs would be deposited in the High Court Lawyers’ Welfare fund.

The Bench added in case the counter affidavit was not filed and the costs not paid, the commissioner would have to appear in person on November 20.

Setting up of testing station

The Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Surya Kant today directed Punjab Transport Commissioner to appear in person tomorrow, along with records, to explain the delay in the setting up of authorised testing station in the state.

The stations were to be set up to issue the fitness certificates for registration of transport vehicles. In his petition, president of All Tempo and Mini Truck Union of Punjab Kirpal Singh had earlier sought directions for setting up the station in the state.

Transfer order stayed

The High Court has stayed the operation of an order transferring Amritsar divisional soil conservation officer Shishpal Singh.

Taking up the matter, a Division Bench of the High Court, headed by Justice Jasbir Singh has also issued notice of motion to Punjab financial commissioner development-cum-secretary agriculture and other respondents for November 6.

In his petition, Shishpal Singh had stated that he was due to retire on March 31, next year. But he was transferred from his home district of Amritsar to a distance of 300 km at Mansa.

The orders were passed by the financial commissioner on July 31 in contravention to the transfer policy of the state issued on April 29. As per the policy, an employee due to retire within next two years could not be transferred.

The petitioner also alleged his transfer was ordered at the behest of chief soil conservator against whom he had filed a petition in the High Court.


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