P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Central team indicates review of relief norms
To submit report in two days
Kulwinder Sandhu and Anirudh Gupta
Tribune Reporters

Moga/Ferozepur, August 24
The Centre may review the existing norms of providing compensation to the victims of natural disasters and clear 20 flood-control projects to be executed at a cost more than Rs 400 crore, which were recently proposed by the state government.

An indication to this regard was given by Prabhanshu Kamal, joint secretary, home department of the union government, who visited the flood-affected villages of Moga and Ferozepur districts along with other officials today.

The team visited Akbarwala, Kussuwala, Burj Muhar, Sarf Ali Shah, Mundi Churimar, Khanna, Sanghera and Sillewind villages in the Makhu area. In Kussuwala village, Pipal Singh, whose brother Bohr Singh had been drowned in floodwaters, demanded that the government should provide them Rs 20,000 or Rs 25000 per acre as compensation to their crops and houses. At village Akbarwala, Karnail Singh demanded that their loans should be waived and proprietary rights of the land which they had been tilling since ages should be transferred in their names.

After interacting with affected farmers here, Kamal realised that agricultural input costs had increased manifolds. He would recommend review of the existing norms of compensation, he added.

At a recent meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union home minister Shivraj Patil, Chief Minister of Punjab Parkash Singh Badal had demanded a hike in the compensation due to natural disasters keeping in view high agricultural input costs.

Irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon and secretary of the Irrigation Department Suresh Kumar told the team that the state government had sent a request to the Centre for a grant of Rs 448 crore to set up 21 flood-control projects across the state. Out of these, only one project had been sanctioned. Kamal said he would look into the matter.

The team visited the villages of Bogewala and Bandala in Moga district and few others in the Makhu area of Ferozepur district. It reviewed the work on a ring bundh.

The team members asked the district administration to accord priority to checking the spread of diseases.

After interacting with affected farmers, the team said the damage caused to the crops and property was huge and people living along the Sutlej had suffered heavily. The team assured them that the Centre would act on the process to release the compensation soon after it got a report on the damage from the state government. Suresh Kumar said the report would soon be submitted to the union government as the work on assessing the damage was going on at a fast pace.

Chandigarh: The team has asked the state government to prepare a project report to strengthen embankments of the Sutlej to avoid floods in future.

Disclosing this here on Sunday, irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said the five-member Central team was convinced that damage to standing crops and houses due to floods was huge and it would submit its report to the Centre within two days.

The minister said 134 villages were flooded and 55,000 people affected by floods in Ferozepur district. 6,320 people were rescued through boats and motorboats. He added about 11,080 hectares of standing crops were damaged. Total damage was to the tune of Rs 190 crore. — TNS


CPI for 15,000 per acre as aid
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 24
Terming the recent floods in the state as “man-made” tragedy, the Communist Party of India (CPI) today asked the government to publish a “white paper” on the losses and the reasons behind the floods. 

CPI leader Joginder Dayal, said the recent floods were manmade given the indifferent attitude of the state government towards anti-flood measures. He demanded as Rs 15,000 per acre as compensation for crop loss and relief to build damaged pucca houses. He also demanded Rs 10 lakh for the kin of the persons who lost lives in floods.


Harike dolphins safe
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Harike Pattan, August 24
Dolphins in the wetland on the confluence of the Beas and the Sutlej here are safe as floods have not affected the habitat of this rare species, which is found in fresh waters.

Early this week, a Class IV employee of the wildlife wing of the Forest Department, had seen a dolphin about 1 km upstream in the Beas, said Dheera, a chowkidar posted on the entrance of the wildlife sanctuary.

Range officer Sukhbir Singh Bath told The Tribune that dolphins and most of the fish species did not move with the current of water. Therefore, there was no danger of the dolphins flowing along with the water current through the gates of the Harike barrage towards Hussainiwala, and further into Pakistan.

He said with the opening of the gates at Hussainiwala barrage, there was a possibility of few more Indus breed of dolphins entering the Indian side as they tend to move against the current of the water.

There are many Indus dolphins (Platanista gangetica minor) safely kept by the Pakistani authorities in the Sulemani reservoir, built on the Sutlej, about 25 km from the border.

Originally, Indus dolphins were found in the Indus and its tributaries in Pakistan, which were once linked with the river systems of Punjab.

Last sighted in Punjab in the 1930s, the Indus dolphin had been believed to have become extinct until recently when it was again spotted at Harike.

The polluted water in the Harike reservoir had been discharged and now the water available here is good for the health of aquatic species.

More than 300 million litres of domestic and industrial effluent flows into the Sutlej and the Beas in the state every day.


PM sanctions relief to Naina Devi victims
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 24
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sanctioned Rs1 lakh for those who were killed and Rs 50,000 each to the seriously injured in the Naina Devi stampede on August 3.

MP from Patiala Preneet Kaur said here today that a letter in this regard had been received by her from Dr Manmohan Singh.

She said she had written to the PM on August 5 to give financial assistance as a majority of the people who had been killed in the tragedy were from Patiala district.

She said Dr Singh had informed in a letter that “the sanction has already been conveyed to the state government for grant of Rs 1 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased, and Rs 50,000 each to the seriously injured from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”.


NGO sets up 200 self-help groups to empower youth
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 24
In its endeavour to enable youngsters, specially those belonging to the underprivileged sections of the society, to be self-reliant, a Patiala- based NGO, Progressive Youth Forum, has formed as many as 200 self-help groups in Patiala and Sangrur districts. It has also set up women empowerment forums in four districts of Malwa region.

Meanwhile, the Patiala-based forum has decided to open a research agriculture school in Ghagga village.

“Our objective is to create positive framework in the minds of the youngsters who are getting embroiled in vices like drug addiction, depression and crime. This aim can be achieved only if we do something concrete to empower youngsters, particularly women, from economic point of view,” said the forum director Major Singh Sekhon, while addressing a three-day international seminar on empowerment of youngsters. The ongoing seminar is being organised jointly by the forum and the ministry of youth affairs and sports.

Forum secretary Ravel Singh said the NGO was not only providing raw materials to members of the self-help groups based in villages, but was also undertaking the responsibility of marketing their products.

Assuring every possible help to the forum in its social upliftment endeavour, Patiala deputy commissioner D.S. Grewal said it was a matter of pride for the city to host the event which witnessed participation from many states. “The interaction at the event will enable participants to know and understand the culture and traditions of each other,” said Grewal.

Chief agriculture officer Balwinder Singh Sohal observed that parents were also responsible to some extent for ignoring their children which ultimately led to drug addiction in many cases. “They will have to become role models for their wards and keep away from alchohol if they want their children not to touch drugs,” said Sohal. 



Kanwaljit falls back on Tohra legacy
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
The nomination of the SAD candidate for the Patiala Lok Sabha seat will set the tone of politics in the district with a senior Akali leader, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, keen to protecting, what has been perceived to be his home turf, from Prem Singh Chandumajra, who has the blessings of party president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

This war of attrition has resulted in a complete turnaround. On the one side is Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who had always positioned himself as a counterpoint to former SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra. He is now promoting the late leader’s adopted daughter Kuldeep Kaur as the ideal choice to take on Preneet Kaur, who has been strengthened both by the delimitation exercise as well as the resurgence of her husband Capt Amarinder Singh in the Congress politics.

On the other side is former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, who had been a Tohra loyalist but was ousted by Kuldeep Kaur’s husband Harmail Singh Tohra, who reportedly cannot stand him. With the Tohra legacy no longer in his grasp, Chandumajra has cosied up to SAD president Sukhbir.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh has usually had the upper hand in deciding on ticket for the constituency. He has earlier fought and lost the Patiala parliamentary seat following which he blamed Chandumajra and got him expelled from the party.

Chandumajra, however, managed to keep himself politically alive in the region with few of his supporters openly switching over to then CM Amarinder’s side. He also expressed loyalty to Sukhbir to escape the ire of Capt Kanwaljit Singh and gain reentry in the party. Though he lost the last Assembly elections to Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the narrow margin of defeat (250-odd votes) ensures he remains a strong contender.

Though the Patiala parliamentary seat has always been keenly poised in most elections, this time the Congress has a slight edge. Two rural seats of Lehragaga and Sunam have been included in the Sangrur seat. Nabha, which was earlier part of Ropar and where the Congress usually has an edge, has been included in Patiala. The Akalis will also be handicapped by the fact that they have lost Ghanaur, Dakala, Samana and Shatrana Assembly seats of the constituency to the Congress in the past election. They, along with the BJP, hold only Banur and Rajpura and will also have to counter with the big lead the Congress is likely to take from the Patiala Assembly segment.

In such a situation, Capt Kanwaljit Singh is recommending the candidature of Kuldeep Kaur so that the party can fall back on the Tohra legacy to revive the fortunes of the party in rural areas. The fact that she is a fresh candidate and a woman, also goes in her favour. However, she and any other candidate will have to counter the claim of Chandumajra who has contested the Patiala parliamentary seat three times.


LS Polls
SAD to play economy card
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 24
In an effort to provide people contamination-free water, the government will install reverse osmosis (RO) systems in all villages and towns of the state in the next four years.

In reply to a question at the residence of MP from Sangrur Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa here today, president of the SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal said during the current financial year the government would install the RO systems in 1,000 villages. He said this had been in line with SAD-BJP government’s commitment to provide safe drinking water to people.

To a question about the main issues to be highlighted by the SAD during the ensuing Lok Sabha (LS) elections, Sukhbir said the party would contest the LS elections on economic agenda by telling people what had been done by the SAD-BJP government so far and what would be done by the state government in the future.

Sukhbir said the proposed setting up of four thermal plants during the next three years was also part of the agenda as these would not only make the state power surplus, but also boost economy.

He said canal system would also be strengthened at a cost of Rs 3,200 crore in two years.

He also claimed the Badal government had fulfilled its 90 per cent commitments made in its manifesto.

With regard to an offer made to the Tatas to come to Punjab for setting up a factory to produce “Nano”, Badal said the government had made this offer as it would provide remunerative prices of the land to the people.


Don’t befool Sikhs, Cong tells SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
The Punjab Congress today claimed that SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal was raising a demand for a law to regulate all gurdwaras in the country forgetting that his party had twice failed to give its comments on the proposed draft Bill to enact an All-India Gurdwara Act.

Congress spokesman Bir Devinder Singh said here today that now after almost a quarter of a century, the party had woken out of its “deep slumber” and made a similar demand.

Bir Devinder said Sikhs had a right to know from Sukhbir as well as former union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa whether they had ever taken up the issue on the constitutional forums available.

The Congress leader said: “Let Akali MPs introduce the private members’ Bill in the ensuing session of Parliament if they are so serious about it, else stop befooling the Sikh community”.


200 youth get employment at CII fair
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Dinanagar (Gurdaspur), August 24
At least 200 candidates were offered jobs and over 450 shortlisted on the concluding day of the two-day career and job fair organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at the Swami Sarvanand Institute of Management and Technology here today.

Nearly 2,500 youth from Gurdaspur border district participated in the fair. The fair was organised with the efforts of union minister of state for industries Ashwani Kumar.

Ashwani, inaugurating the job fair, yesterday said, “The fair presents an opportunity for unemployed youth in this border and economically backward district of the state. If talent matches the requirement and jobs are given, we will be satisfied”.

J.R. Singla, chairman, CII, Punjab State Council, said considering the limited opportunities and exposure to the local youth in the past, the job fair turned out to be a successful exercise.

He added that organised to create a platform for the industry to meet and recruit quality manpower and at the same time provide employment avenues to the youth, the fair was visited by over 2,500 youth from the region.

About 24 companies participated in the fair to fill vacancies in multiple categories ranging from fitter, welder, helper, senior chemist, production trainee, sales engineer, marketing, insurance, etc. The participating companies included industry giants like Bharti Teletech, Fortis Healthcare, Hero Cycles HDFC, Tata Consultancy Services and Vardhman to name a few.

The CII had organised the job fair in this border district of Punjab in place of tier 1 and 2 cities so that the “not-so-privileged” youth of this area could get oriented to the requirements of the industry.

He said going by the response on the day one, the CII would like to replicate this initiative in other districts of Punjab as well. 


Overweight persons prone to arthritis: Experts
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 24
A seminar on “Joints Pain and its Management” was organised by the Senior Citizens Welfare Association at the Central State Library, here today.

The seminar was attended by eminent surgeon Dr Manoj Wadhwa of Fortis Hospital, Mohali and was chaired by eminent neurologist Dr Satwant Sachdeva who was also honoured on the occasion.

Nearly 250 persons attended the camp and were personally checked by a team of doctors led by Dr Wadhwa.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Wadhwa said, “Though often considered the disease of the elederly, arthritis begins in some patients while they are still in their twenties and thirties.

Nearly 10 crore Indians suffer from osteoarthritis which is the most common form of arthritis.

Research indicates that people who are overweight are likely to develop arthritis of the knee.”

He further added that overweight individuals are at an increased risk of developing arthritis because their joints are strained by excess weight. “Weight control is important for people having arthritis because being overweight can add to the discomfort of a patient,” he said.


Pollution board told to explain
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, August 24
Chairperson of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) Justice R.S. Mongia recently directed the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to send comments on the rejoinder of August 7 submitted by activist of the Human Empowerment League of Punjab (HELP), Nawanshahr, Parvinder Singh on September 7 as the latter had shown dissatisfaction over the report of the PPCB following his complaint.

Parvinder had complained against Amrit Vanaspati Company unit at Saila Khurd town of this district that the unit was polluting air and water in the area.

The PSHRC called for a report from the chairman, PPCB, Patiala, who had an inquiry done. An engineer of the PPCB reported that the analysis revealed that concentration of TDS, calcium, magnesium, alkalinity etc were in excess of the desirable limit, but within permissible limits at some places prescribed for drinking water by the Bureau of Indian Standards. He reported that with the commissioning of chemical recovery plant, the quality of effluents would improve and the application of treated effluents for irrigation would not alter quantity of solids in underground water any further.


PSEB to strengthen transmission lines
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 24
In order to reduce system losses and to provide reliable and better quality of power supply in the state, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) will now be laying special emphasis on strengthening its transmission system.

Y.S. Ratra, chairman, PSEB, disclosed here today that 113 grid works have been completed during the financial year 2007-08. He said 17 new 66 KV sub-stations and one 132 KV sub-station have been commissioned. In view of the considerable improvement in the distribution system, the quality of power supply has substantially improved. 


CBI plea to close banker murder case rejected
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 24
The court of special magistrate of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has declined the CBI plea to close the decade-old murder case of a bank manager Naresh Mahajan, thus, paving the way for the reopening of the case.

Mahajan, manager of the Oriental Bank of Commerce, Putlighar branch, was found killed under mysterious circumstances on October 22, 1998.

The court earlier this month directed the CBI to have the case probed by an officer not below the rank of superintendent of police as per order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in July 2001.

The CBI court, Patiala, passing the judgment said there seemed to be much scope for further probe into the murder. The judgment released to the press by Puneet here today read that the investigation by the CBI was not being conducted by an SP-rank officer as directed by the high court.

Puneet, a nephew of the deceased, and Suman Bala, widow who contested the closure of the case, had alleged that the high court at the time of handing over the probe to the CBI had instructed the investigation be carried by an officer of the SP rank, but every time a junior official came to probe the case. They added the CBI did not search the textile mill of one of the accused as some fibres were found from the body, which were handed to the then SP (City) by Puneet but which allegedly were destroyed later to save the culprits.

They alleged there was evidence on record against the accused who had murdered Mahajan. But the CBI had failed to conduct fair investigations and had not collected incriminating material against the accused whose names figured during police 

They alleged the narco test conducted on one of the accused showed his involvement and despite this the CBI did not collect the evidence and recover the articles found missing from the car in which Mahajan’s body was found. Further, the narco tests of other accused were not taken on one pretext or other. 


4-year-old relay fast by farmers ends
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 24
The four-year-old relay fast strike by farmers demanding more compensation for their land was called off today. The fast was led by the Kissan Hit Bachao Committe at Sohana.

The strike was called off on the initiative of Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh who offered juice to those on fast today.

The committee members had started the fast in 2004 when Congress government was in power. Several political leaders had visited the agitating farmers but nothing came out of it. “The relay fast was on for 1561 days and today it was called off after the Punjab Cabinet approved the land pooling scheme, the main demand of these agitators,” said Captain Kanwaljit Singh. He added suitable memorial would be constructed at the site.

Addressing the farmers, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said today was a historic day for the farmers of the area as their struggle had ensured bright future not only for themselves but for the entire peasantry in the state. He said now farmers would be part and parcel of all development activities in the state after land acquisition.

He disclosed under the policy the farmer whose land would be acquired in future would get a share of 50 per cent after the development of land. He said it would be sole discretion of the farmer whether he wanted the land ownership or cash compensation for his share of land. He said no farmer would be forced to give up his land.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said saving the land of their ancestors was the prime concern for farmers today. He said during Congress government property dealers and government agencies like PUDA reaped benefits and landowner farmers got only small amount of money for their lands. But now interest of the farmers would be safeguarded. He said he had fulfilled his promise of implementing land pooling policy which he had made during the last Assembly elections.

Jasjit Singh Bunny chairman, Punjab State Cooperative Bank said implementation of land pooling policy would ensure equal participation of peasants in the process of industrialisation and infrastructure development in the state.

Earlier D.P. Baidwan convener and Tejinder Singh Jakhar president of the Kisan Hit Bachao Committee thanked the cooperation minister for his initiative. 


Govt urged to frame rice export policy
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 24
Tinkering with the rice export policy was fraught with dangerous consequences for the farmers and the traders.

Rajeev Setia, president of the Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association, urged the government to frame a comprehensive policy after discussion with all stake holders. He said the Central government in one year had made several changes in the export trade which had rice traders and farmers in knots. He said the government under various paddy trial missions had introduced high-yielding basmati varieties and recommended to the farmers to cultivate PUSA 1121.

Setia said Punjab Agricultural University had defined this variety under the basmati category and the subsequent results had been considerably overwhelming and peasants, especially in Punjab, adopted this variety in a big way in two to three years. He said quality with long grain and taste was similar to basmati’s and developed big export markets in the West Asia and other countries.

The PRMEA president said PUSA 1121 had replaced Pakistan’s superfine basmati in the international market to more than 60 per cent. He said the government must define 1121 as basmati so that it continued sway world markets which would greatly benefit the agriculture sector which never had it so good for many years.

He said the present embargo on the export of non-basmati would prove to be discouraging for the farmers who had cultivated this variety on more than 45 per cent of total paddy area in Punjab. 


2 years on, murder case filed in medico’s death
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, August 24
After 21 months of the death of a final-year MBBS student Shashi Bhushan, the police has registered a murder case against unidentified persons based on the second post-mortem report, which was conducted in Delhi.

The police today started investigations by recording the statements of Bhushan’s friends and employees of the medical college in which he studied.

Earlier, the police had suspected it to be a natural death when Shashi’s body was found in a gutter two days after he had gone missing in November, 2006.

A resident of Bihar, Shashi was caught helping Dr Arun Dalal, son of former principal of the Government Medical College, Dr J.S. Dalal, in copying. After the incident he went missing. Dr Dalal is at present posted as director, Research and Medical Education.

The GMC administration had stated that Shashi, in fear of being caught by the flying staff, had hidden himself in a room from where he might have fallen into the gutter.

Relatives of Shashi suspected foul play in his death. They had complained to then deputy commissioner, who had ordered a judicial probe under SDM Manpreet Singh.

Meanwhile, the report of the post-mortem conducted in Delhi confirmed six injuries on Shashi’s body while the first report had stated only one injury on his head.

Meanwhile, Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, district police chief, said the SHO of the Majitha road police station had been entrusted the inquiry into the case.


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