P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Prime Land Grab
Darbari Lal, sons, former minister booked
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 20
After the registration of a case against former deputy speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Prof Darbari Lal, his sons and former local bodies minister Jagjit Singh for illegal construction of a multi-storey building on prime land, near the District Courts today, the ex-deputy speaker has threatened an agitation against the BJP from September 1.

K.V. Verma and Ramesh Kumar, sons of former deputy speaker, Gurcharan Singh, XEN, now posted in Patiala and others were also booked. A case was registered against all of them under Sections 420, 120-B, IPC, and 13(1)(C)(D) and 13(2), Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for encroaching on government land by tampering with revenue records.

Prof Darbari Lal alleged that certain senior BJP leaders wanted to get him “eliminated”. He said he would not apply for bail.

The city has become a haven for land grabbers and encroachers. The land mafia has even grabbed public utility places and almost all political leaders are responsible for the present state.

Sukhdev Singh, SSP, VB, said the case had been registered on the complaint of BJP leader Naresh Sharma.

The government had marked an inquiry to Samir Kumar, director-cum-special secretary, Local Bodies, on June 23 for grabbing green land in connivance with the Municipal Corporation official.

The SSP alleged that Darbari Lal and his family members managed to get 633 yd registered in their names after purchasing the land at a lower rate.

The entire area fell under the Scheme 9 of the corporation as this entire belt had been earmarked as open space due to its location connecting five important roads and its proximity to the offices of the district administration, including the deputy commissioner and the SSP.

However, the former deputy speaker claimed that the land was purchased during the regime of SAD-BJP, hence, it was “ploy” of the local BJP minister to tarnish his image. He alleged that earlier too, the BJP was behind registration of fabricated cases against him.

The VB said Gurcharan Singh in 1989 approached the corporation to clear his plan to construct commercial building which was rejected.

He also approached the high court which also rejected his plea with the directions that suitable compensation be given to him for the land declared open space.

Meanwhile, the former speaker purchased the land from Gurcharan with “mala fide intention” to manipulate the records and even get land use changed by using the influence of then local bodies minister Jagjit Singh to grab the prime open land.


Power connections to 13,000 tube wells by March
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 20
More than 13,000 farmers who had applied for power connections for tube wells in the general category till March 1990 may be given connections by the end of March next by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

The farmers had applied for connections and had also got test reports with the PSEB by the end of March in 1990.

But the PSEB did not release connections as it was not in a position to bear the load due to power shortage.

The previous Congress regime had released about 4.25 lakh connections to farmers through general and reserve quota, but farmers who had applied for connections till the end of March 1990 still did not get power connections.

The Shiromani Akali Dal-led Punjab government approved more than 40,000 power connections, of which more than 25,000 have already been released.

The PSEB, according to chairman Y.S. Ratra, had decided to release connection to all 13,000 applicants who had applied till March 1990 keeping in view the demands of various farmers’ unions.

“Power connections will be released only to those whose test reports have been received. Orders have been issued to release all such connections by March 3,2009,” said Ratra.

There is, however, no headway in OYT (own your transformer) connections, the release of which had been stalled by the Chief Minister in July following charges of corruption in the release of such connections.

A Vigilance Bureau probe has already been initiated in the matter and a number of PSEB officials are said to be involved in it.


Pact inked to provide free tech education
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
Government’s dream project of providing free technical education to the poor and not-so-poor brilliant students with a family income of Rs 2.5 lakh per annum took a concrete shape tonight with the state and the Punjab Un-aided Technical Institutions Association (PUTIA) signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to provide 10 per cent seats under the project.

Principal secretary, technical education and industrial training, Tejinder Kaur and PUTIA president J.S. Dhaliwal signed the MoU in the presence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The scheme would be implemented from the 2008-09 academic session. Recently, a consensus on the scheme was reached at a meeting of the Chief Minister and representatives of PUTIA, an apex body of the 142 private institutions in Punjab.

In fact, guidelines of the AICTE already make provisions for the tuition fee waiver for certain categories. Badal sought to cash in on the scheme ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, terming the MoU as “historic”.

The government will grant 10 per cent seats in addition to the sanctioned strength of each institution.

Media adviser to the CM Harcharan Bains said out of these free seats, 33 per cent seats would be reserved for girls, 50 per cent for students economically weaker sections and 17 per cent for physically-challenged candidates.

Bains said a committee, comprising head of the institute and respective DC, would finalise the names under this category and monitoring would be done by the Punjab Technical University/Directorate of Technical Education and Industrial Training.

Sources said the total cost of these newly created 10 per cent seats was in the range of Rs 200 crore. In fact, PUTIA members stand to lose nothing, as the management quota seats would remain untouched.


State to borrow Rs 1,000 crore more
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The Punjab government has decided borrow Rs 1,000 crore. Part of the loan will be raised through auction.

“The government following the Reserve Bank of India line today proposed to float state loan of Rs 1,000 crore to raise part of the loan through the auction to be kept open till August 26,” said a government spokesman today.

The government has got the consent of the Central government for taking the loan. It will be repaid on a par by August 27, 2018, he added.

The interest, however, will be paid half yearly on each February 27 and August 27. The rate of interest on the loan, has not been disclosed.

The loan is said to meet part of the capital expenditure of development schemes under execution.

A few months ago, the government secured a loan of Rs 500 crore. Officials sources said the government would have to secure Rs 5,000 crore loan by the end of the current year to meet part of the capital expenditure of plan scheme and other financial liabilities.

By the end of year, the total loan liability against the state is expected to touch the Rs 58,000 crore figure.

“If the government decided to implement the report of the state pay commission, set by the state government a few months ago and is expected to give interim report by the end of this year bowing to pressure by unions of employees, then it may have to resort to more borrowing from other sources”, said sources.

By the end of the year, the total loan against the state is expected to touch Rs 58,000 crore. And state’s annual interest liability is expected to go up to Rs 4,500 crore per annum.

In other words, the state will have to pay Rs 12 crore as interest on the loan raised by it on each day of the year.

In other words, the state is already under a heavy burden of loan. It is 50 per cent of the state’s GDP whereas it should not be above 30 per cent.

Some of the officials said the government had already suspended the clearance of medical, Provident Fund loan and other bills to restore the balance in its treasury.

Verbal order in this regard have been issued by a senior officer of the state Treasury Department, it is learnt.

Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal said no such order had been issued. He said there was no financial crisis in the state.



Put off loan recovery, CM tells banks
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 20
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today ordered the cooperative banks and societies to defer recovery of loans in the flood-hit areas.

Badal, who was on the way to Longowal along with BJP chief Rajnath Singh and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, said here that the PSEB had been asked to suspend recovery of electricity bills in those areas.

A Central team would visit the state to assess the loss due to the floods. He said eight lives had been lost in Hoshiarpur and other areas hit by the floods.

Badal said the Army, local administrations were continuing relief work. Efforts were being made to plug breaches.

The Chief Minister lauded various organisations and individuals who provided food and shelter to the flood-affected people. Adequate supply of fodder had been arranged, he added.



Sutlej breaches to be probed
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Makhu saved,
for time being

The district administration of Ferozepur has saved Makhu town for the time being by diverting the floodwater through to a drain towards the Rajasthan feeder canal. The floodwater reached outskirts of this town on Monday night.

However, the drain, carrying the flood water to the Rajasthan feeder canal, was flowing to its maximum capacity. Additional water can cause flooding in the area, said a senior official of the Irrigation Department.

Makhu (Ferozepur), August 20
The government today ordered a high-level probe into the causes and lapses of officials of the irrigation department, if any, which led to breaches in the Sutlej at Madaarpur and Bogewal villages in Moga district.

Revealing this to The Tribune here today, irrigation
minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said the probe
would be conducted by chief engineer (vigilance)
of the department.

He said the advance embankment built during the early 1980s along Bogewal village was one of the main reasons that led to the breaches in the Sutlej.

The advance embankment stopped the natural flow of the river water, putting a lot of pressure on the main embankment, which possibly led to the breaches.

The reverse current of the river waters after striking the advance embankment led to a breach in the main embankment at the place of a hole made by a reptile, ‘goh’. Within five minutes, the advance embankment also collapsed.

Meanwhile, investigations made by The Tribune revealed that a senior IAS officer
of an FC rank during the governor’s rule in 1983-84 used his influence to build the
advance embankment illegally to save the land of his relatives on the other side
of it from floods.

Earlier, the minister, along with chief parliamentary secretary Sukhpal Singh Nanu, district magistrate Megh Raj and other officials supervised the progress of work to reinforce the embankments of the Sutlej along the border in Ferozepur district.

Villagers, along with the labour of the Drainage Department and BSF personnel, were engaged in the work near Gulamwala, Nihala Navela, Sultanwala, Gatti Badshah, Ruknewala and Basti Ramlal villages.

Twenty medical teams have been dispatched to flood-affected villages. Relief material from various districts has started reaching the affected villagers.

Thousands of tarpaulins, several trucks carrying dry fodder, cattle feed and mineral water reached affected villages.


Damage done, officials still lost in papers
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 20
Even though Chakki, Beas, Ujh and Ravi rivers have caused a considerable damage to revetments and spurs apart from a huge soil erosion in many villages, officials of Drainage Department seems to be confused about what to do in such a situation.

When the first flashflood took place in the Chakki river in the second week of June and the flow started increasing in the Ujh and Ravi rivers at the same time, the officials deployed in this district were busy in paper work instead of carrying any flood-protection measure.

“In the absence of adequate funds we are not able to carry out any work to check soil erosion and repair damaged revetments and spurs,” officials told The Tribune.

A high-level team, led by chief engineer, drainage, Harpal Singh, which made a two-day tour covering 15 sites vulnerable to floods, could not explain the steps they intended to take to deal with the situation.

“The situation is under control. The work can be started at any moment provided the state government gives adequate funds,” said one of the members of the team, adding that so far about 100 acres had been eroded by these four rivers in this district apart from damage to revetments and spurs at various points.

When asked how much losses, in terms of money, had been suffered by the department, they remained tightlipped.

They failed to give any answer when asked about the fact that whether any flood prevention measures were taken in this district before the rainy season.

However, they said had found that soil erosion had taken place at Saiali Kullian, Muthi and Nangal Bhoor villages to a considerable extent and it had started posing a threat to human habitation located near the river banks.

They said they would submit their report to the secretary, irrigation and power, shortly. Meanwhile, officials of the local Drainage Department said machines had been pressed into service to carry out the repair and desilting of two seasonal drains in the district.


More Fazilka fields under water
Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, August 20
More than 600 acres of agricultural land in the border villages of Mahatam Nagar and Dona Sikandari were inundated by the Sutlej today.

The Army has been pressed into service to strengthen the Kanwawali bundh to check flooding in the Fazilka area.

Crop on about 350 acres in Mahatam Nagar village has been inundated. In the nearby Dona Sikandary village too flood waters affected about 250 acres of standing crop. The Sutlej has risen up to the only bridge connecting Mahatam Nagar with Fazilka town.

The Army personnel are engaged in strengthening of the Kawanwali bundh over an area of about 300 metres in Chananwali Bhaini.

Timely action by the Army and villagers of Mauzam, Salemshah, Gaganke and Ganju Hasta situated on the outskirts of the town has arrested the extent of the damage.

The jawans used their boats to remove logs, which were diverting the river flow to the fields.

Tehsildar Subhash Khattak said all efforts are being made by the civil administration, the Army and villagers to check floods. He said timely action prevented a breach in the bundh.

Even though there was been no loss of human life and livestock, about 4,000 acres of standing crop has been inundated in the floods so far. The government has ordered a special girdawri.


Patiala Flying Club
High on wealth, low on security
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 20
The Patiala Flying Club has not only come of age after its resurrection two years ago, but it has also started generating interest among students from the region who want the Punjab civil aviation department to create a ‘flying culture’ in Punjab.

On the other hand, the removal of security cover of the Patiala Flying Club, which is also used for VVIP flying operations at times, has exposed the club and its runway to a number of serious security perils.

The security cover, comprising around 30 security personnel, was allegedly
withdrawn by the Punjab police, for reasons best known to the top brass of
the department.

After remaining non-functional for over six years, the Patiala Flying Club was given a new look around two years back and now it is equipped with four aircraft, including one Cessna-172, two Cessna 150s and one Pushpak aircraft.

These aircrafts were being utilised effectively by the club’s chief flying instructor G.S. Mangat and his team to train as many as 30 students. The profits of the club jumped to about Rs.15 lakh in the past two years.

Sources in the club revealed that the financial position of the institute had witnessed a lot of improvement in the recent past as more and more students from Punjab and other parts of the northern region were taking amateur or regular flying classes.

The improvement in the club’s fiscal position was attributed to the personal interest taken by Vishwajit Khanna, secretary, department of civil aviation, Punjab, who himself was an avid flyer, said the sources.

The only drawback of the club and that too from the security point of view is the absence of proper security.

The sources said over 30 security personnel were withdrawn by the authorities about two months back and after that not a single security official was deputed there.

Ironically, it becomes all the more important to keep the security factor in mind for the state’s proximity to the international border of Pakistan.

“The risk also gets compounded as the VVIP flights also land here at times,” said an official. The club authorities, it was learnt, had already shot off a letter in this regard to the Punjab police.


Strike total: Unions
Tribune Reporters

Patiala, August 20
Chairman of the PSEB Y.S. Ratra has thanked board employees, who attended their duties despite the call for a strike given by a section of board employees unions against power reforms.

Ratra said today’s strike had no impact on the PSEB secretariat and other offices of the board where the attendance was full. A spokesman said all thermal and hydro generation plants functioned normally.

However, trade union leaders said the strike was complete. Ratra added that strike at this juncture “is totally unjustified and uncalled for. Disciplinary action shall be taken against the striking employees.”

Hoshiarpur: The strike call evoked a little response in the district. Offices at most places were functioning normally and the public transport was also plying as usual. The strike has been called by the trade unions seeking the removal of anomalies in the Pay Commission and against rising inflation, etc.

There were reports of traffic blockades at a couple of places. Though the staff in some of the banks, including Punjab National Bank, the Oriental Bank of Commerce and Punjab and Sind Bank, were present, they boycotted the work.

Nabha: A protest march was held here. Hundreds of workers, led by district president of the Pharmacist Association Narinder Mohan Sharma, raised anti-government slogans.

Gurdaspur: Employees unions of various departments of the state and Centre government, banks and activists of the CPI (ML) held rallies. Work in various departments was affected.


43 trucks with flood relief flagged off
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 20
As many as 43 trucks carrying relief material, including tarpaulins and fodder, arranged by the district Youth Akali Dal (YAD) (Urban and Rural), were sent to the flood-affected areas of Ferozepur and Moga districts today.

Minister for information and public relations, water and sanitation Bikramjit Singh Majithia flagged off the trucks from the grain market on Gill Road and the octroi post on Ferozepur Road.

Addressing the workers of the youth wing, Majithia said all YAD district units, which had not been affected by the floods, would arrange relief material.

Twelve trucks carrying eatables items and green fodder had been sent to the affected areas from Patiala yesterday. Various associations were being involved in arranging the relief material.

The minister said Ludhiana district had always remained at number one in sending relief material for the people affected by natural calamities.

He said the work to plug the breaches and the repair of vulnerable points on the Dhussi Bundh had been intensified.

A total of 66,369 acres and 73,459 people have been affected by the floods and 1,857 houses have been damaged. Twenty human lives have been lost due to the rain and 30 head of cattle have perished.

The minister said 120 villages in Ferozepur district, 106 in Kapurthala, 85 in Ropar, 28 in Tarn Taran and 14 in Jalandhar district had been affected by the floods.

Among prominent persons present on the occasion were Simerjit Singh Bains, district president of the YAD (Ludhiana urban), Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, Raj Mohinder Singh Majitha, both MPs, Manpreet Singh Ayali, chairman of the Zila Parishad, Balwinder Singh Bains, SGPC member, Inder Mohan Singh Kadian, district president of the YAD (rural) and Maninder Pal Singh Sanny.


Punjab seeks two power projects from Centre
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The Punjab government yesterday sought two projects from the Union Renewable Energy Ministry for generating power from rivers in the state.

The state also sought two demonstration projects funded by the Union ministry to produce power from waterfalls.

Bikram Singh Majithia, science technology and non-renewable energy minister, Punjab, at a meeting with union minister for renewable energy Vilas Baburao Muttemwar yesterday demanded assistance for non-renewable energy in Punjab.

Majithia informed the union minister that Punjab was to generate 10 per cent of generation capacity of the state from non-renewable resources and the Union government should help Punjab on non-renewable energy. Muttemwar offered his ministry’s support to the project.

Majithia sought 50 per cent subsidy on two additional projects to generate 2 MW power from cow dung.

He said Punjab planned expansion of the existing 1 MW project at Habbowal into 2 MW and would set up another project in Ludhiana. Muttemwar agreed to consider the proposal keeping in view the potential of the project.

On solar energy in the country, Majithia suggested that subsidy of Rs 1.25 lakh per MW at present available for government institutions be extended to domestic and individual housing buildings for setting up photovoltaic power plant and these plants be connected to the state grid.

He also suggested that the ministry should seek income tax benefits for individuals and institutions setting up these plants. Muttemwar asked his secretary to involve Punjab in preparing the concept paper of this proposal.

For farmers of Punjab Majithia demanded that subsidy of Rs 1.80 lakh on solar photovoltaic water pumps for irrigation be restored as they wanted such pumps and the state had 300 applications for such pumps.

The minister said the 1,800 pumps already installed were successful and the ministry should restore the subsidy. Muttemwar promised to reconsider this proposal.

It was also agreed to operationalise the Sardar Swaran Singh National Institute for Renewable Energy at Kapurthala in one year. The meeting was informed that 70 per cent civil work of the building was complete.

Muttemwar asked the Punjab government to set up solar power plants on BOT basis as the Union government was giving a grant of Rs 12.50 per unit for such plants. He said against the proposed plants of 50 MW, the union government has already received proposals from private players for 2000 MW plants.

A.S. Chattwal, secretary, science & technology, and a team of officers from union ministry headed by union secretary non-renewable energy attended the meeting.


UK-based expert visits dairies in Punjab
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The modernisation of the dairy sector in Punjab is possible only if the state invests heavily in infrastructure and education.

The quality of the milk produced, too, needs attention as it has a direct impact on the quality of milk.

These views were expressed by Kevin Brewer, chairman of The British Dairy Consortium and a progressive dairy farmer in the UK.

Currently on a visit to Punjab, he is visiting several dairy farms, besides meeting officials in the dairy development department, so as to assess and help in the restructuring of the dairy sector.

The British Dairy Consortium is a cooperative effort by leading dairy companies to provide quality product and services to the dairy industry in the UK, besides providing its consultancy services internationally.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Brewer was surprised to know the dairy farmers in the state were aware of the latest technical know-how in the dairy sector.

“We can provide expertise in all key dairy sectors like consultancy and design, systems and equipment, genetics and breeding advice, health and hygiene, nutrition, forage and slurry management. During my interaction with the dairy farmers here, I have realised that they are keen to restructure their dairying operations. Even the state government is very keen to promote dairying. Though the size of the dairy farms here is small, the fact that they work as cooperatives will help in technological upgradation. With this, the problem of adulteration too will be solved to a large extent as the handling process gets shorter,” he said.

He said one of the biggest challenges for the dairy sector in the state was to move towards a silage-based production.

“Dairying here is largely dependent on the green fodder. The best quality fodder is available for a limited period in the year. We will try to teach farmers here on how to improve forage feeding, have control on its quality without an increase in the input costs,” he said.

Comparing the dairy sector in Punjab to the UK, he said dairy farm operations were highly mechanised.

“As against India, where the dairying is poised for expansion, dairy sector is on a decline in the UK. Though we are allowed an annual production (there is a cap on dairy production in most Europoean countries) of 1.4 billion litres, in the past three years, the dairy production has remained static at 1.2 billion litres. In the past ten years, at least half of the dairy farmers have shifted to other vocations as milk prices are not renumerative and people are not ready to invest more in their dairying operations for expansion,” he said.


Leaders pay homage to Sant Longowal
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Longowal (Sangrur), August 20
The move of a separate gurdwara prabandhak committee (GPC) for Haryana, non-implementation of the Rajiv-Longowal accord, criticism of the Congress and Lok Sabha (LS) elections were the main issues which dominated at the state-level function organised to mark the 23rd death anniversary of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal here today.

Paying tributes to the late Sant, national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh said not only the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), but the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would oppose separate gurdwara panel for Haryana, as it was interference in religious affairs of the Sikhs by the Haryana government.

He also asked the Prime Minister to intervene into the matter and take up it with the Haryana Chief Minister to stop him from doing so.

Rajnath claimed after Lok Sabha elections, the NDA would form government at the Centre and L.K. Advani would be Prime Minister, while an MP from Punjab would be the agriculture minister.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal held Sonia Gandhi responsible for the move on gurdwara panel in Haryana by saying that the Haryana Chief Minister could do nothing on his own. Badal also accused the Congress of betraying Sant Longowal by not implementing Rajiv-Longowal accord.

Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal asked people to vote for the SAD and the BJP in LS elections.

President of the SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal asked SAD workers and leaders not to divide in factions so that the Congress did not benefit from it in the elections.

General secretary of the SAD Prem Singh Chandumajra read out resolutions regarding opposition to move on separate SGPC in Haryana, Rs 1,400 per quintal as paddy MSP and declaration of floods in Punjab as a national calamity to give funds to the state.


Youth held for killing father
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, August 20
Twenty-year-old Sunny killed his father Baldev Singh (45) with a sword and tried to burn the body after cutting it into pieces in the house at Phulewal under Sadar police station here today morning.

Sunny reportedly committed the crime after an altercation over the sale of land.

Baldev was said to be living alone in the house and his two sons, Sunny and Sattu, had been staying with relatives after their mother’s death several years ago.

Sunny came to his house at Phulewal village a week ago after knowing that his father, said to be an alcoholic, was planning to sell off his 2 acres. He had already sold 8 acres.

Upset over this, Sunny urged with his father not to sell the land, but when the latter was adamant, he killed his father with a sword.

Later, he cut the body into pieces and set these on fire, SHO, Sadar police station, Ravinder Singh said.

Villagers informed the police after noticing smoke from the house. The police broke open the door and put out the fire by pouring water on it.

They sent these half-burnt body pieces to the Civil Hospital for post-mortem and took Sunny in custody.

A case has been registered against Sunny under Sections 302 and 201, IPC.


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