P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Bathinda Clash
Day II: Demands of farm labourers’ accepted
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Lambi/Bathinda, August 22
The district administration today accepted the demands of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, which had faced police action during a protest at Kheowali village yesterday.

Eighteen activists of the union, including women, had sustained injuries in the police action to stop them from moving towards Badal village.

Senior officials, including the deputy commissioner and SSP, Muktsar, held a series of meetings with the union representatives at night. A compromise was reached when deputy commissioner of Muktsar Vikas Garg condemned the incident and accepted union’s demands.

Garg assured union that the injured in the police firing would be compensated within 15 days of the submission of their medical report. He said the FIR lodged against the protesters would be cancelled. A financial help of Rs 25,000 to the families affected by militancy in Fatoohiwala village was also approved.

The administration assured the union of proper action against DSP of Muktsar Baljeet Singh Sidhu and SHO of the Sadar police station, Muktsar, Rajan Parminder Singh, who allegedly used derogatory language against the protesters. A compensation of Rs 25,000 would soon be provided to the family of Jagroop Singh Killianwali, who was killed in a lathicharge on March 26 at Singhewala village.

About the rest of the demands, the administration assured them of arranging a meeting with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal soon.


MLAs condemn use of police force

Chandigarh: Several Congress MLAs today condemned the use of brute police force against unarmed landless labourers who wanted to stage a protest in support of their demands. They maintained that the SAD-BJP government which had proved to be an all-round failure was trying to vent its ire on helpless landless labourers.

The MLAs, who issued a statement against the Badal government in this regard, included Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Joginder Singh Panjgrayan, Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, Makhan Singh, Naresh Kataria, Sukh Sarkaria, Mangat Rai Bansal, Sher Singh Gagoowal, Harmohinder Singh Pradhan, Joginderpal Jain, Ajit Singh Shant ,O.P. Soni,Balbir Singh Sidhu,Darshan Singh Brar, Nirmal Singh and Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu.

In a separate statement, leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has also condemned the lathi charge on labourers. She said the Badal government had nothing to give to poor labourers except committing excesses on them.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement, the legislators pointed out that the labourers were only demanding the implementation of an agreement the government had reached with them a few months ago. They said on earlier occasions the government had used brute force against teachers and aanganwari workers and that too in the presence of the CM. — TNS


Villagers plug Sutlej breach
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Gidderpindi (Sultanpur Lodhi), August 22
People’s power came to the fore in plugging the breach at the Chitti Bein-Sutlej confluence even as the Drainage Department was waiting for the water level to go down before beginning its work.

Taking a lesson from a previous breach in 1988 when the department had taken six months to plug it, the villagers took no chances this time and pooled in with their resources to do the needful.

Cries of “Bole so nihal, Sat Sri Akal” rent the air after the last sandbag was put in place. Ladoos were distributed and the jubilant look on the faces of the volunteers was proof that their round-the-clock effort for 40 hours had paid off.

The callous attitude of the department in dredging and desilting Chitti Bein, work on which started well after the advent of monsoon, came in for severe criticism.

A volunteer, Varinder Singh of Darewal village, said he had been there since the breach occurred on the intervening night of August 16. We had feared the worst since the Bein, which carries the effluents of several towns and industries upstream, had become highly silted. Had the work started in earnest before the monsoon, the damage would have been less, he pointed out.

Chanan Singh and Sukhdev Singh from Gidderpindi and Sherpur Sandhu villages, said they worked in shifts from 9 am to 9 pm. Officials tried to dissuade us from going ahead with our work in view of the high current of water. But, our experience in 1988 had shown that we have to take matters in our own hands, he added.

Aiding the volunteers from nearby villager were hundreds of the followers of Sant Sukhjit Singh Seechewal and Baba Kashmira Singh.

Villagers said the authorities had provided them with empty cement bags and some wire mesh crate makers. Rest of the effort was purely their own, they claimed.

Upon completion, the 350-foot-wide ring bundh is 10-foot high and efforts were afoot to raise its height by a few more feet. This would ensure that the bundh never breaks again, the villagers added.

More than 25 villages were marooned in the flooding.

While the breach has been plugged, the next big problem is on how to drain out the contaminated water from the villages and the fields. This will be their next Herculean task and they are prepared to execute it, with little or no help from the government.


People’s participation only way out
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, August 22
Flood in the low-lying areas along the Sutlej basin in Moga and Ferozepur districts and few other parts of the state has brought into focus encroachments alongside irrigation/drainage channels and apathy of the government to strengthen river embankments.

The indifference of the Irrigation Department towards anti-flood measures for the past about two decades is surprising. Instead of evicting the encroachers near the river areas, the department had allowed thousands of farmers to do cultivation within the embankment areas. The revenue department had issued registries and “intkaals” to these people.

In Moga district, there are many villages situated in the embankment areas. No government authority has ever thought to rehabilitate these people to safer places. Instead, these settlements have been legally approved by constituting panchayats and giving them proprietary rights on the river land.

Encroachments on irrigation and drainage channels added to the devastation caused by floodwaters.

At one point on the main road between Kussuwala and Makhu, the flow of water in the natural drain was blocked by villagers. The district authorities had to send police force to get the natural flow of the drain restored.

Irrigation Department officials in Moga revealed that the state government had not provided even a single penny to them to maintain the 30-km stretch of the embankment in the district. It was one of the causes leading to breaches in the river. There was hardly any plantation done on the embankment during the past two decades to strengthen it in a natural way.

Even if some negligible funds were earmarked for the purpose, they could have possibly been diverted for other purposes, said Jaswinder Singh, state general secretary of the association of panchayat representatives whose village Takhtuwala in the district was among the worst hit by the floods.

He demanded from the state government to hand over the work of strengthening of the embankments to the panchayats either through NREGA or by a separate provision so as to ensure peoples’ participation and bring in a sense of collective responsibility among them. 



Dhindsa, Barnala groups ‘patch up’
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 22
The election of Sanminder Kaur Mann, wife of a staunch supporter of Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala and former Dirba MLA Baldev Singh Mann, to the post of chairperson of the Sangrur Zila Parishad (ZP) here today indicated that Dhindsa and Barnala groups were on the way to end their differences. Secretary-general of the SAD Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa reportedly played a big role in getting her elected as the chairperson unopposed.

It is felt that in view of the coming Lok Sabha elections, Dhindsa, who will be the SAD candidate from the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency, wants to minimise the number of his opponents in Sangrur and Barnala districts due to delimitation of the Sangrur parliamentary constituency. As part of this policy, Dhindsa reportedly is trying to have close relations even with the leaders of the Barnala group by way of reaching a
“patch-up”. Sanminder’s election is said to be part of this policy.

Sanminder was elected unopposed at a meeting, which was held under the convenership of ADC Indu Malhotra here. The meeting was attended by 28 members, including members of the ZP and chairmen of the block samitis. Jasvir Singh, also of the SAD, was elected
vice-chairman of the ZP unopposed.

Some were even of the view that Dhindsa and Barnala groups had already struck a


Sidhu 2nd best MP to utilise funds
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 22
BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu today distributed cheques totalling Rs 65 lakh among panchayats in the border belt of Ajnala for carrying out development works.

According to the annual Lok Sabha report on the utilisation of MPLAD funds, Sidhu is the second best MP who has fully utilised the funds. Sidhu distributed Rs 10-crore grants in his area during his four-year tenure.

Addressing a predominantly rural gathering, he said it would be his endeavour to provide quality life to the residents of the rural belt who. He said a special scheme for providing employment to graduates in the rural belts would be taken up soon. 


Security at Muslim shrines up
Varinder Walia

Amritsar, August 22
Security around Muslim shrines in the city has been beefed up following vandalisation of two mosques by miscreants yesterday. The police has registered a case against unidentified persons.

The situation in the city remains tense. Leaders of various Sikh organisations, including the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), the SAD (1920), the Dal Khalsa, the Khalsa Action Committee and the Khalra Mission visited Jama Masjid in Hall Bazar to express solidarity with the Muslim community.

The Imam of the masjid, Hamid Hussain Qasmi, briefed the delegation on yesterday’s incidents. Asked why he had not filed a complaint against the hooligans, the Imam said: “With whom should I file a complaint? Senior police officers were present during the attacks yesterday. Zulum ki intaaha hai.”

Unruly elements, including the BJP cadre, had tried to damage historic Muslim shrines near Town Hall in the walled city yesterday as the BJP leaders and their supporters held a procession to court arrest in support of the agitation launched by the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti in Jammu.

SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann warned that the attack on Muslim shrines was an attack on the country’s secular foundations. He said the Chief Minister and MP Navjot Singh Sidhu would be held responsible for any backlash by the Muslim community.

Blaming the Punjab government for inept handling of the situation, SGPC member Manjit Singh Calcutta said the administration had failed to provide security to religious places.

Demanding the immediate arrest of MP Sidhu, MLA Joshi and the city Mayor said the state had “connived with the mob to terrorise the minority”.

Kanwarpal Singh, leader of the Dal Khalsa said: “The BJP is keeping the pot boiling in Jammu and elsewhere for vested interests. It is whipping up communal passions with an eye on the General Election”.

Bhai Mohkam Singh, convener of the KAC, accused New Delhi of giving a free hand to the BJP and its offshoot, the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti, to play havoc with the lives of the people.

Others in the delegation were Gurjatinderpal Singh Bhikiwind, former SGPC secretary Ragbir Singh, Manmohan Singh Sathiala (SAD 1920), Narien Singh and Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra. 


ADC suspended for bungling in selection
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 22
The government today placed M.P. Singh, additional deputy commissioner (ADC), development, under suspension for his alleged involvement in the bungling of the recruitment of ETT teachers during the previous Congress government.

Official sources said a letter faxed to deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kirpal Singh by the higher authorities reads M.P. Singh, ADC (development) had been placed under suspension as irregularities had been found in the selection of candidates for the post of ETT teacher done at the district level. Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said Narinder Singh, deputy director, panchayat, Jalandhar, had been posted as ADC (development), Gurdaspur, with immediate effect.

M. P. Singh said the candidates for the posts of ETT teachers were selected by a committee headed by the then chairman of Zila Parishad. Besides him, the district welfare officer and the district education officer were members of the committee.


Green signal to houses of SCs on shamlat land
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, August 22
As a major relief to under-privileged families, Punjab has decided to allot ownership of parts of shamlat land to the SCs and STs, including bajigars, on which they have constructed houses before August 15 this year.

Rural development and panchayat minister Ranjit Singh Brahampura said today that poor families who had constructed their houses on village shamlat land faced eviction under the Panchayat Raj Act, 1994.

Also, these families were debarred from contesting panchayat elections due to “unauthorised possession” of shamlat land under the Act.

The minister said though the panchayats had been empowered to pass a resolution providing a portion of shamlat land for dwelling houses to the poor, the process was complex. In order to bring more transparency and to simplify the process, it had been decided to empower DCs to take such decisions on their own.

The block development and panchayat officers (BDPOs), after examining the resolution of a gram panchayat in this regard, would send the recommendations to the DDPOs who in turn would submit the cases to the DCs concerned for approval.


New policy for medical purchases
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 22
The Punjab government today notified a new purchase policy allowing principals of medical, dental, ayurvedic and homoeopathic colleges in the state to purchase machinery and equipment as per the contract rates at the PGI, Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh, Health and Family Welfare Department, Punjab, or Punjab Health System Corporation, which ever is the lowest.

State medical education and research minister Tikshan Sud said today that this decision had been taken to avoid delays in making purchases of machinery and equipment for medical institutions in the state.

He said the director of medical education and research would every four months put in a request to these government sources to provide information regarding changes, if any, in the items covered under the contract rate.

For other items, an 11-member panel had been set up.


Lehra plant ‘face saver’ for PSEB
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 22
Treated as one of most economically viable projects of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), the stage-1 of Lehra Mohabbat based Guru Hargobind Thermal Power (GHTP) plant has not only generated power worth Rs 9,210 crore since its commissioning in 1999, but also been acting as a “face saver” for the PSEB by contributing a lot to bridge its ever-burgeoning power demand and supply gap.

Units I and II of the stage-I of the GHTP had generated 30,701.4 million units of power up to July and taking an average cost of electricity at Rs 3 per unit, these units have generated power worth Rs 9,210 crore. The stage-I of the GHTP was being considered as one of the highly efficient thermal plant units as it had generated power nearly eight times more than its own cost of around Rs 1,200 crore.

Union minister of power Jai Ram Ramesh, who had visited the GHTP on August 3, was all praise for the levels of improvement being made in the unit and had expressed satisfaction over the achievement of highest ever plant load factor of 95.10 per cent and overall efficiency of 37.18 per cent in 2007-08.

The high efficiency levels achieved by the power strapped PSEB in respect to the GHTP even evinced the interest of power boards of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the managements of which, shot off a number of queries to the PSEB to know the best practices being adopted at the GHTP by the PSEB.

PSEB chairman Y.S. Ratra said recently that the GHTP had set another standard by adopting best maintenance management practice by doing “capital maintenance” of unit No. 2 in 28.47 days against approved shutdown of 43 days. This practice resulted in production of 732 lakh extra power units worth Rs 40 crore.

Similarly, the annual maintenance of unit no. 1 was carried out in 13.95 days against approved shut down of 20 days. The unit was brought on bar 6.05 days ahead of schedule, thus producing 305 lakh units extra worth about Rs 16 crore.


Pvt varsities to admit 50% students from state
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 22
It will be mandatory for universities coming up in the private sector to reserve 50 per cent seats for students from Punjab.

Informed sources say the draft of the Punjab Private Universities Establishment and Regulations Bill has been finalised. The measure has been initiated at the instance of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh said it might not be possible to introduce the Bill in the coming session of the Punjab Assembly because it was yet to be vetted by experts. The session of the Assembly begins on September 4.

The government wants uniform law for all private universities proposed in the state. Already, at least 10 parties in the education sector have expressed interest in setting up universities in the state. Lovely University was the first to be set up in the private sector. The Punjab Vidhan Sabha enacted a separate Act for the university.

As per proposed draft of the Bill, at least 100 acres will be required to set up a private university ( humanities, technical and science streams) in rural areas and 50 acres in the cities. However, for single-stream universities, such as petroleum university, the need for land would be much less.

The Punjab government is also thinking of a regulating authority to provide students assistance in admissions in the private institutions and to redress other grievances, if any.

In case of over-charging of fee, the students could approach the regulating authority. In most countries where the private sector has entered the social sector in a big way, legal bodies have been set up by the authorities concerned to look into citizens’ complaints against the service provider.


Accredit educational institutions: Panel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 22
The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) today advised the Punjab government to introduce compulsory accreditation of education institutions, including institutes of higher learning, to bring about uniformity and improvement in their working.

S.Raghunathan, adviser to the commission, and his team today gave a presentation to chief secretary R.I. Singh and senior civil officers to deliberate on the recommendations of the commission. The commission suggested a board of higher education on the CBSE pattern to stop proliferation of institutes of dubious nature and also to lower the load on state universities.

Calling for a sustained campaign on globalisation of education, the commission recommended creation of a think-tank to monitor the progress of higher education in the state.

It also suggested digital infrastructure in the institutions for improved efficiency.


Students fail to get Roll Nos. in time
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 22
A large number of students scheduled to appear for the compartment examination (Classes X and XII) of the open school today failed to receive their roll numbers in time.

According to a press note, issued by the Punjab school Education Board, this had occured on account of holidays and the postal strike.

The students will be provided with another opportunity to appear in the special examination, the date for which will be intimated through the press.


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