P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CM wants revised norms for Central relief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today called upon the five-member Central team to recommend the state’s case for flood relief to the ministry of home on the basis of revised norms because the nature and quantum of damage caused to crops and property was absolutely different from the loss suffered on this account by other states during the recent floods.

Presiding over a high-level meeting here late last evening, Badal urged the members of the team to take a considerate view of the situation, saying that the paddy crop, which was near the ripening stage, had been completely destroyed. He said the affected farmers in such cases could be compensated only with the revised norms of relief because the existing norm of relief at the rate Rs 4,000 per hectare would be nothing but a cruel joke with them.

Badal said the farmers had to spend about Rs 25,000 per hectare on inputs only and they had already spent more than 60 per cent of this amount on raising the crop at this stage. In the light of this, the existing rate of relief needed to be revised upwardly to at least Rs 15,000 per hectare. Likewise, the Chief Minister also urged the Centre to revise the existing upper ceiling of Rs 2,000 per family in case of the washed away/fully damaged/severely damaged and loss of clothing, utensils or household goods should be raised to a minimum of Rs 50,000 per family. Similarly, the norms of fodder/feed concentrate should also be revised to Rs 50 and Rs 25 from Rs 20 and Rs 10 per day for major and small animals respectively.

Badal told the team that the damaged so far assessed by the various government agencies was estimated to be Rs 945 crore against the earlier tentative damage of Rs 530.36 crore, with a substantial damage caused to crops (Rs 344 crore) on over 1,72,269 acre, irrigation, drainage infrastructure (Rs 448 crore), house property (Rs 27.61 crore) roads and buildings (Rs 116 crore) and miscellaneous (Rs 10 crore), including loss of human lives, livestock and other infrastructure. 


Cong seeks white paper on state fund
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
Urging the state government to explain to the public the latest position of the State Calamity Relief Fund (SCRF), chief spokesman for the PPCC Bir Devinder Singh said today that it was a startling revelation that the government had not yet utilised Rs 1,646 crore lying in fund for the welfare of the flood-affected people.

He said instead of utilising the available money for flood victims, Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal rushed to Delhi to demand Rs 500 crore as flood relief. The Congress demands a white paper from the government on the fund position, anti-flood measures, distribution of funds given to districts and also to the drainage branch of the Irrigation Department and relief measures for the flood-hit.


BAMS counselling rescheduled
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
Students aiming to take up a degree in Ayurveda (BAMS) are in for a further wait with the Punjab government today deciding to reschedule the first counselling date to September 8. The rescheduling has been announced even though seven of the 11 Ayurvedic Colleges in the state have been given clearance for admissions for the current academic session.

Of the four Ayurvedic Colleges, which have been found wanting following inspections by the Central Council if Indian Medicine (CCIM), is the Government Ayurvedic College, Patiala. While the department of Ayush has sealed the fate of Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar and the Guru Nanak Ayurvedic College, Gopalpur (Ludhiana) by debarring them from holding admissions this year, the fate of the state college at Patiala and the Laxmi Narayan Ayurvedic College in Amritsar still hangs in balance.

According to a decision today, counselling for Ayurvedic institutions, which was to take place on August 29, has now been put off till September 8. The second counselling has now been scheduled for September 22. The counselling is to be carried out by the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot.

The decision has come in for criticism by the managements of private Ayurvedic Colleges who feel the counselling has been rescheduled to accommodate the Government College at Patiala. Urmila Devi of Ayurvedic College, Hoshiarpur, and vice-chairman Amarjit Walia said all seven private colleges would suffer as students might go to other states for admission. “This is because the entire admission procedure has to be completed till September 30 and with the second counselling scheduled for September 22, there is little time for shifting of students as well as filling management seats”. Guru Nanak Ayurvedic College chairman Sukhwinder Singh echoed similar views.

Secretary, medical education and research Jagjit Puri said the government had moved swiftly to recruit 26 teachers for the Government Ayurvedic College, Patiala. He said this was the first recruitment in 26 years. He said other issues found wanting had been looked into. Puri said the department director Ashwani Kumar was camping in Delhi and the government was hopeful that the Department of Ayush would give the go-ahead for admissions to the college.

The secretary, however, said if the Patiala Government College did not get clearance till September 7, the government would give the go-ahead for counselling for the other seven colleges on September 8 as scheduled. He said other colleges, including the Patiala Government College, which had been found wanting by the CCIM, could hold counselling on September 22 if these got approval.

The department of Ayush had under a countrywide campaign given a two year time period to all Ayurvedic Colleges found wanting after an inspection in 2005 to fulfil the required conditions. The time period had been extended in 2007 by another six months to March 31, 2008.


452 trees will lose out to skyscrapers
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 25
“Dubai in Amritsar”. “Shanghai stars in Amritsar”.

These are the catchy slogans on the basis of which the state government wants to fetch more than Rs 1,000 crore by auctioning prime 26 acres of old Dr Vidya Sagar Mental Hospital, under the Optimum Utilisation of Vacant Government Land (OUVGL) scheme, here tomorrow.

While the deserts of Dubai were converted into lush green areas with the painstaking efforts of its rulers, the Punjab government wants to convert Amritsar, once known for its beautiful gardens and green cover, into “old Dubai with desert”.

The auction of a portion of the land (5.5 acre) will be held at Bachat Bhawan here tomorrow. This land is meant for constructing eight-storey building housing a shopping mall, multiplex and a wedding palace. Though PUDA has fixed Rs 161 crore as reserve price for this portion, it expects the bid to go beyond Rs 250 crore.

An 18-storey multiplex/hotel would be constructed on another portion of the land (3.6 acre), which would be auctioned in the second phase. A 22-storey hotel/multiplex will come up on this 3.6 acre. Similarly a commercial site (2.03 acre) for a 16-storey building will be auctioned in the third phase and the remaining portion for a 16-storey commercial site/hotel will be auctioned in the last phase.

The proposed auction will further lead to depletion of city’s green cover. At least 452 trees, including banyan, neem, peepal, kikker, ber, amaltas, sheesham and tahli trees, will be felled to make space for these buildings. Some of these are said to be more than 200 years old.

The government, however, claims to spend the entire money collected from auction on the overall development of the city.

This is a land to which the history of many centuries is attached. Here lakhs of patients got cured and received love and solace from saint doctor Vidya Sagar, who used to share food with his patients in the same utensil. This is probably the last piece of vacant land left in the holy city.

Members of the Mission Aagaaz, Tarksheel Society and the Pollution Control Committee, held a special prayer meeting at the site to register their protest against the proposed felling of 452 trees.


‘Krishna, Krishna’ echoes in Lahore
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, August 25
Pakistan, in its bid to project a liberal and secular face, allowed its Hindus to celebrate Janmashtami at Lahore’s Krishna Temple amid tight security yesterday.

Executive secretary of the temple Sunny Kumar, talking to the this reporter on the phone from Lahore today, said principal officer from the US Consulate in Lahore Bryan D. Hund, along with his colleagues, took part in the festivities. He said more than 800 Hindus from Peshawar, Kohat, Sindh and other areas got together to cheer and exchange greetings with one another.

Sunny said for the first time, the organising committee had installed a “palna” (cradle) with a Krishna idol, which was a major attraction at the function. The breaking of a “matki” (earthen pot) filled with milk and curd in the temple complex was the high point of the function. The entire crowd took part in the traditional aarti and kirtan, which continued well beyond 12 midnight.

The management of the temple also organised a cake-cutting ceremony to mark the birth of lord Krishna at midnight. Local vendors and shopkeepers had put up stalls of eatables and gift items during the 12-hour function.

Kumar said in view of the sensitivity of the Hindu festival, the Pakistani police had cordoned off the area from 4 pm onwards and even media personnel were not allowed to bring their vehicles close to the venue. The level of security was equal to the coverage provided to the top VIPs in the country. He expressed his satisfaction that the Pakistan government had provided enough security to ward off any untoward incident.


4 dist planning panels to have Army representatives
Civil-Military Liaison Conference
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
Punjab has decided to co-opt men from the Army as special invitees on district planning committees for four border districts. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced this at the annual civil-military liaison conference at Western Command headquarters, Chandimandir, today.

The move will help execute projects and development schemes in districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur. Co-option of Army members will be only in cases where Army’s interests are concerned.

Stating the Irrigation Department had been directed to complete the dhussi bundh on priority, Badal said Rs1.6 crore had been released for cunette of the Chakki river near Pathankot to prevent the erosion of soil. Funds have also been released to prevent flooding of Pathankot Air Force Station.

The Chief Minister also agreed to approve the payment of difference of scholarship by the Ministry of Defence and one offered by the state towards of military personnel. He also announced stamp duty and registration charges of more than Rs 1 crore for the Army Institute of Law (AIL), Mohali, had been waived. The land price for AIL had also been reduced to Rs 2 crore instead of Rs 4 crore. Further, Rs 96 lakh had been released for the restoration of Jaga Jagatjit Palace, Kapurthala, and Rs 1.32 crore for the construction of additional hostel for Sainik School there.

He said Rs 2.69 crore octroi earlier charged as additional duty by the state government had been reimbursed to Jalandhar and Ferozepur cantonments.

The work on flyover, by-pass and four-laning of NH-64 at Bathinda military station was being planned, while a link road between the Chandigarh Air Force Station and the High Grounds would be metalled this year.

The Chief Minister also gave Rs 5 lakh grant to the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Mohali, for the repair of wheelchairs, prosthetics and other equipment.

Director-General of Punjab Police N.P.S. Aulakh made a presentation at the conference on internal security plan of the state.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lt-Gen T.K. Sapru complimented the Chief Minister for resolving pending issues. He said the Western Command would extend cooperation to the civil administration in times of need. The Army commander stressed upon cooperation and coordination between the civil and military authorities .

Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh, chief secretary R.I. Singh and other senior officers of the Punjab government and the Western Command attended the conference held to resolve issues of mutual interest.



Secys to monitor YC enrolment
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, August 25
To monitor an enrolment campaign of the Youth Congress, five enrolment secretaries in each district will soon be appointed throughout the country.

This was stated by Parkash Reddy, secretary, All-India Youth Congress-cum-election in charge of Hoshiarpur segment, here today.

Reddy said no office-bearer would be allowed to enrol bogus members. To check entry of persons with criminal past, special screening committees would be constituted.

General secretary of the AICC Rahul Gandhi would visit Punjab in September to have first-hand knowledge of the preparations for coming Lok Sabha elections.

The enrolment campaign would continue from September 1 to 30.


Amritsar decked up to welcome Capt today
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 25
Capt Amarinder Singh, newly appointed chairman of the election campaign committee of the Congress, in his bid to mobilise the party leadership and grass-root workers, will visit this border district tomorrow. Congress MLA from the city O.P. Soni, along with senior Congress leaders, was making elaborate arrangements to give a heroe’s welcome to the former Chief Minister. The visit is aimed at projecting a united front for the crucial Lok Sabha polls.

Before launching a virtual Congress campaign, the former Chief Minister will pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and the Durgiana temple. He will also lay wreaths at the national memorial in Jallianwala Bagh. The route of his cavalcade from the GT Road and main bazaars has been decorated with buntings, beautiful gates and banners. Soni said party leaders would give a rousing welcome to Capt Amarinder Singh at Bhandari Bridge and he would be taken in an open vehicle to the Golden Temple.

Soni said the former Chief Minister would not address a formal rally as he was coming here to seek the blessings at Harmandar Sahib to set the course of elections.

Meanwhile, Jasbir Singh Dimpa, former MLA form Beas, has planned to organise a big rally in Rayya to give a tumultuous welcome to Capt Amarinder Singh. All senior leaders, including Sukhbinder Singh Sukhsarkaria, MLA from Rajasansi, Harpartap Singh Ajnala, Harjinder Singh Thekedar, Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Ashwani Sekhri and other prominent leaders from the border belt will be present to receive the former CM.


29 cases solved at Sangat Darshan
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, August 25
A Sangat Darshan programme was held at the Forest Rest House here today. Transport minister Master Mohan Lal presided over the programme. In all 46 complaints were placed before the panel, of which 29 were disposed of on the spot. Most of the complaints were related to the supply of contaminated water, insanitation, bad roads and problems of basic amenities being faced by residents of different areas of the city.

Financial assistance had been sought by it from the World Bank to execute water supply and sewerage projects, besides Central assistance for sanitation projects under contributed schemes. MP, Gurdaspur, Vinod Khanna, SDM Ajmer Singh, SP (City) Harpreet Singh and tehsildar Yash Pal Sharma were present at the programme.


Special Lok Adalats
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
The Punjab State Legal Services Authority (PSLSA) will hold special Lok Adalats in six districts of the state till November 29 for civil and criminal cases.

G.S. Bakshi member-secretary, PLSA, said the award passed by the Lok Adalat was final as no appeal lay against its awards.

A special Lok Adalat would be held in Jalandhar on August 30, Ludhiana on September 13, Patiala on September 27, Amritsar on October 25, Kapurthala on November 15 and Hoshiarpur on November 29, 
he added.


Distillery brews misery for villagers
Chander Parkash
Tribune News service

Kiri Afgana (Gurdaspur), August 25
Hundreds of residents of this and about six other villages of Gurdaspur district have launched an indefinite dharna at the Bhade Pattan chowk, near this village, to lodge their protest against the air and water pollution being caused by a distillery in this area.

Jagwinderjit Singh Grewal, SDM, Batala, who visited the spot, said about two-inch layer of ash had deposited on rooftops in villages close to the distillery. Stink has filled the entire area.

The agitators, included women, who have been on a dharna for the past 72 hours, detained some vehicles carrying the raw material for the distillery. They said the vehicles would be released only after necessary action against the distillery owners.

Joginder Singh, one of the leaders of the agitators, told The Tribune that the ash spewed by the distillery was hitting their areas like rain. They find it difficult to live comfortably even inside their rooms as foul smell had filled the area.

He said a thick layer of ash had covered thousands of acres, including residential areas of this village, Mood, Khojkipur, Aulakh Berian, Rudi and Bhadarpur Rajoa villages.

He said they were told that it was a sugar mill and all its operations would be pollution-free.

On the other hand, Grewal said they had not filed any complaint against the unit as it was yet to be ascertained whether the distillery had been causing water pollution.

The distillery has come up on the banks of the Beas. He said deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kirpal Singh had constituted a team to look into the matter.


Two brothers hurt in firing over land 
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 25
Two brothers, Swaran Singh and Charanjit Singh, sons of Sukhdev Singh, resident of Manvi village (near Amargarh), sustained injuries when some persons allegedly attacked them with weapons in the village today in connection with the possession of a piece of a 2-bigha land.

Dhuri DSP Swaran Singh told this reporter over the phone that Sukhdev had taken Rs 1 lakh from someone six-seven years ago after mortgaging his 2-bigha land, but he had not returned the money to the party. At this, the party moved the court where it won the case in its favour two-three days ago.

He further said the winner party today went to Manvi village to take possession of the land without getting a warrant of possession. Consequently, an altercation took place between both sides. At this the party from Jagowal village opened fire in which Swaran and Charanjit, sustained injuries, he added.

The DSP said the police had not registered any case in this connection so far as both brothers were lying unconscious in a hospital at Ludhiana and were not in a position to give statements.


Visually challenged face police wrath
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
It took over two hours for a Punjab bureaucrat to pacify the agitated blind persons, who blocked the gate of the Punjab mini-secretariat here this morning. The protesters, who were around 25 in number, not only broke the iron gate but also smashed the windowpanes of the police picket in front of the main gate.

The police had to resort mild lathicharge and also slapped the disabled to control the situation. The protesters were trying to enter the premises to meet the authorities when the police stopped them at the gate by closing it. In protest, they turned violent and started smashing the gate and the police picket.

“Is this is the way to treat the disabled persons”? asked Parminder Singh, a leader of the group. “We came here to meet the secretary. But see, how they treated us. The police beat us like animals”, alleged Shyam Lal.

Seeing that the protesters are not in mood to give up, Harjit Singh, secreatry, social security, Punjab and Children and Women Welfare, Punjab, tried to pacify them. They were demanding to give them employment under 1 per cent of reserved quota for them.

Talking to TNS, Harjit Singh said, “We are waiting to complete the compilation of the backlog of the different departments of the state. Only after that any action in this regard can be taken. However, I have fixed a meeting of the protesters with the chief secretary tomorrow afternoon”.


Farmers protest against non-payment of lease money
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
Farmers of the state today demonstrated here against the Council for Citrus and Agri Juicing, Punjab, over non-payment of lease money.

The lease money was to be paid to them on May 1. The council had taken the land on lease for citrus farming. Farmers said the council had not planted citrus at many places in the land taken from them on lease. The council had taken 5,000 acres on lease developed nursery of citrus saplings at Jallowal.

The scheme, launched during Capt Amarinder Singh’s regime to promote citrus farming, had two options. Farmers, whose land was on lease for 12 years, had been promised lease money of Rs 10,000 per acre a year in two instalments with 20 per cent increase after three years. Second, farmers were to be given lease money for first six years with 2 per cent increase every year. After six years, the council and farmers were to share income from the produce on 50:50 basis.

Bhupinder Pal Singh Dhillon, president, Farmers Welfare Association, who led farmers to the council’s office said an agreement was signed with the council of July 21. The council had promised to clear the dues of lease money by July 30. He said on assurance from the council the association agreed to wait for the payment of lease money till August 15 on the condition in case the dues were not cleared by that day then the council would have to allow the farmers opt out of the scheme without subjecting them to legal and financial liability.

Dhillon said farmers today visited the council office for clearance of the dues and to opt out of the scheme under “protest”. Farmer Dharmjit Singh Ghugiana was given the cheque, but not the copy of the note that he was receiving the cheque under protest. Another farmer Karan Singh wanted to put similar note on the receipt, but he was not allowed to do so, said Dhillon. The council officials told farmers they should receive cheque without protest note.

“As it was not acceptable to us, we walked out of the office and protested,” said Dhillon. Many of farmers had given their entire land on lease but now they were facing uncertain future. He said farmers had suffered on both counts. Neither many of them had been given lease money payment on due date and nor plantation had been done on their land. He said delay in plantation would also hit farmers.

He said the association was planning to move court for compensation as well dues from the council.


Punjab transport commissioner summoned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 25
Acting on a petition alleging unauthorised and illegal plying of air-conditioned sleeper buses by private operators in Punjab and Haryana, Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Surya Kant today directed the Punjab transport commissioner to be present before the court.

The directions follow a petition filed by Ludhiana-based Ramesh Sharma. He had submitted that the illegal operation was depriving the state exchequer of an estimated Rs 87.60 crore per annum by not paying taxes. It was continuing due to connivance of the district officers.

The sleeper coaches, he added, were plying in the states on fake or forged documents. As such, there was a need to register FIRs and initiate inquiries against the district transport officers, regional transport officers and others.

Affidavits sought

The Bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Surya Kant directed the Union of India and other respondents to file affidavits explaining why stock of explosives at Dhandari Kalan dry port at Ludhiana could not be disposed of so far.

Taking up the petition filed by advocate H.C. Arora for direction to the Union of India, Ludhiana deputy commissioner and others to make a co-coordinated effort for destroying the “huge stock of explosives”, the Bench also fixed October as the next date of hearing.

Petition to return state awards

A city-based scribe has sought the return of awards recently presented by the Punjab government to writers and artists. Petitioner Karamajit Singh said the awards should be handed back as the issue bordered around moral turpitude as defined by the Supreme Court. The petitioner said the apex court definition of moral turpitude also included dishonest act.

Law commission to work from institute

Punjab Law Commission will now function from Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration here.

Following the high court’s intervention, Punjab has allotted six rooms in the institute. Staff, including private secretary, stenographer, assistants and clerks, has also been provided. The petition, filed in the matter by advocate H.C. Arora, will now come up on August 25.


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