P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Devotees get saplings as parsad 
Nanhi Chhaan kicks off at Golden Temple
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
Quoting verses from Gurbani: “Pawan guru pani pita, mata dhart mahat (air is tutor, water the father and earth is mother), Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal today distributed neem and fruit saplings, sprinkled with water of the holy Sarovar, among newly wed couples and girls as “parsad” at the Golden Temple here today.

The project, Nanhi Chhaan (small shade), is a joint venture of Punjab’s leading corporate house Ranbaxy, the government and the SGPC and is aimed at protecting the girl child and the environment. Meanwhile, Bikram Singh Majithia, public relations minister, set to rest all speculations that the distribution of saplings was a political debut of his sister. He said being a social activist, Harsimrat wanted to spread the message to save environment and the girl child in each and every corner of the state.

As part of the initiative, SGPC president Avtar Singh announced that saplings would be planted in all Sikh shrines and both sides of the roads leading to gurdwaras. He said gurdwaras would be earmarked where saplings would be distributed among Sikh sangat as parsad.

Sukhbir said Sikhism emphasised on preserving ecological balance.

In a lighter vein, Majithia said he could not get married yet because of low ratio of women created by female foeticide.

SGPC president Avtar Singh said it was a matter of concern that the followers of Sikhism had been lackadaisical in understanding the message of the Gurus, who had taken great initiative to explain the man-nature relationship in the holy scriptures.

SGPC member Kiranjot Kaur said the Rehatnamas of the Sikh religion had already given a message to snap all relations with a person who indulged in the “killing of daughter”.

The SGPC president said it was a matter of concern that Fatehgarh district, where Baba Banda Singh Bahadur had established first Sikh rule, had the lowest girl population in the state.

Addressing the gathering, Harpal Singh of the Impact Group stated the initiative would create awareness on the importance of environment protection.


Floods: Congress corners Badal on unutilised fund
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
After embarrassing the state government over the issue of unutilised flood relief funds, the Congress is in no mood to let go an opportunity to highlight the “mismanagement” of funds by the SAD-BJP alliance. To take Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal head on and to shrug off the image “of being close to the ruling party”, Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has written a letter to the Chief Minister, seeking an explanation of sorts on unutilised funds for flood relief.

Bhattal has asked Badal to explain on the floor of the House why he and party president Sukhbir Singh Badal rushed to Delhi to seek a grant of Rs 500 crore from the Centre while Rs 1,646 crore released by the Centre to the State Calamity Relief Fund (SCRF) remained unutilised.

“The revelation made by Prabhanshu Kamal, joint secretary, ministry of home affairs (disaster management), are startling. After visiting Punjab along with his team to assess damage in the flood-affected villages, he had made the revelation”, Bhattal says.

Bhattal has told Badal that since his government has failed to provide timely relief to thousands of flood-affected families, the Opposition would like to debate the entire issue on the floor of the House when the Vidhan Sabha meets on September 4. She says there is an urgent need to discuss the issue threadbare to plug leaks in the administrative setup.

Further demanding a white paper from the government on the present status of the fund, she has sought to know what action the government took apart from calling the Army to aid the civil administration. Bhattal has demanded to know about all funds that have been made available to district administrations, irrigation department and what the government is doing for the rehabilitation of affected families.

Further, in a hard-hitting gesture, Bhattal has said: “The government certainly owes an explanation to the people of Punjab. Being the Leader of the Opposition and the Punjab Congress Legislature Party, I demand that the above mentioned issue be included in the discussion during one of the sittings of the House.”


First-ever medical camp in 11 villages since Independence
All children found anaemic
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bharial (Gurdaspur), August 27
Independence of the country seems to mean little to residents of 11 villages bordering Pakistan as they are still sans basic amenities.

With a medical camp organised for the first time since 1947 in this village today, about 3,000 residents of 11 villages have started thinking that there are people and organisations, which feel concerned about their plight and conditions they have been living in for the past six decades.

However, the medical camp organised by the Lions Club (Diamond), Kahnuwan, in collaboration with the Red Cross De-addiction Centre, Gurdaspur, with the help from the Border Security Force (BSF) here today, disappointed those concerned about the well-being of residents of Rajpur Chebe, Toor, Maimi Chakranga, Kookar, Nika, Rajji Beli, Lassiana, Kajley and Rajpur Jattan.

Romesh Mahajan, project director, Red Cross De-addiction Centre, said almost 450 patients, from these 11 villages, who were checked at the camp by a team of doctors, including Subash Chander, R.S. Bajwa and Subash Kujur, As many as 150 patients were found to be suffering from viral fever, 250 from skin diseases and 50 from other ailments. Not a single person was found to be healthy. About 150 children were also found to be anaemic. The average age of residents of these villages, which could not get any metalled road so far, was between 45 years and 50 years.

He said the camp, inaugurated by Commandant, BSF, R. Muthukrishnan, was organised in the compound of the middle school. It took four hours to reach the venue by using BSF boats, tractors and walking. The patients were given medicines worth Rs 15,000 free of cost. They were also given refreshment.

Clinical tests of revealed eight out of 15 patients had abnormal functioning of hearts. About 15 persons were suffering from typhoid.

Mahajan revealed in case of medical emergencies, BSF personnel used to take the patients to different hospitals located in towns by using different modes of of transport in this roadless area. The one paramedical staff member, posted in this area, was seen rarely performing duties.

He said now medical camps would be held in this area at regular intervals. The second camp would be organised after two months.


Finally, Sangrur villagers embrace girl child
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, August 27
Gender sensitisation has finally begun to bear fruit in this part of Malwa with female population increasing in Khanauir and Cheema areas of Sangrur district.

Villagers, it seems, have stopped perceiving the female child as liability. Khanauri and Cheema civic bodies have shown the most favourable sex ratio among newborn.

However, the situation in Dirba, Lehragaga , Sherpur, Malerkotla (rural) and the local town has remained unchanged, presumably owing to their proximity to big cities which have diagnostic centres undertaking sex determination tests on the pretext of checking disorders in the foetus.

An analysis of the data on births recorded at various municipal councils and offices of Block Development Project Officers (BDPOs) in the district in the past year reveals a distinct pattern based on socio-economic stratification.

Among rural blocks, the Ahmedgarh block (also known as Malerkotla II) recorded the most favourable ratio of 886 with Dhuri t at 863 and Bhawanigarh at 807 girls per 1,000 boys.

The rural blocks of Sherpur (750), Malerkotla (750), Lehragaga (752) and Sunam (762) recorded an adverse sex ratio. In villages of Sangrur block, the ratio was 803 girls for every 1,000 boys.

The Khanauri Municipal Council alone showed a reverse trend with a sex ratio of 1,064 females for every 1,000 male neonates.

The Cheema civic body showed a 954:1,000 sex ratio. Dirba Mandi (691) showed the lowest sex ratio among urban civic bodies, Lehragaga (728), Mandi Ahmedgarh (752), Dhuri (778), Sangrur (786) and Bhawanigarh (798).

Sangrur was among those districts which had the most adverse sex ratio as well as adverse child ratio, as per the 2001 records.



UCPI decries CPM expelling Somnath
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 27
Fourth state-level conference of the United Communist Party of India (UCPI) was held at Parbhat Parwana Hall here in which delegates from 11 districts, including Moga, Faridkot, Muktsar, Ludhiana and Patiala took part.

The conference emphasised that “fascist and reactionary forces were trying to cash in on the political instability created with Left parties withdrawing support to the UPA government”.

UCPI general secretary Sukhinder Singh Dhaliwal said Left parties had once again failed to read the dynamics of coalition politics and tried to force the voice of the minority on the majority. He added, “Dogmatism has taken deep roots in the thinking of main Communist parties and they were not able to think for the country as a whole. The treatment meted out to very senior comrade Somnath Chatterjee was a case in point. Faced with the choice of obeying country’s Constitution and party’s, Chatterjee chose the country’s Constitution”.

He added that the CPM expelled Chatterjee for not choosing the party constitution over country’s, thus, clearly showing their short-sightedness.

Tarsem Bahia, a former leader of the Punjab Colleges and Universities Teachers Association, Charan Gill, secretary, Punjab UCPI, expressed their views on the subject.

Preneet Kaur, MP from Patiala, also graced the conference, along with DCC president P.K Puri. She recalled that she had participated in the inauguration of Parbhat Parwana Hall, the venue of the conference in the ’90s when comrade Inderjit Gupta had also come for the function.


MC polls on Sept 20
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The government today announced general elections to four municipal councils and one nagar panchayat on September 20.

A spokesman for the Department of Local Government, said in compliance with the orders of the High Court, the elections to five urban local bodies of Moga, Badhni Kalan (nagar panchayat) in district Faridkot, Kharar (SAS Nagar), Muktsar and Sujanpur (Gurdaspur) would be held on September 20.


Tribune Impact
Save trees on hospital complex, says Maneka
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, August 27
Taking note of 452 old trees on the Dr Vidya Sagar Mental Hospital complex facing axe due to auction of the site for multi-storey buildings, Maneka Gandhi, former union minister, has said the cutting of age-old trees was an anti-national act. A piece of 5.5 acre was put on the block in the first phase of auction yesterday.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone from New Delhi this evening, Maneka said the government must come out with a plan to save the trees and could even include a rider for the auction to prepare a design so as to save maximum plantation. She said she had learnt that the Tata group had purchased the 5.5-acre piece of land. the company should be asked to save 90 per cent of the trees on the land.

Tata Realty and Infrastructure yesterday bagged the piece of land on a bid of Rs 179.6 crore.

Maneka said nowadays modern technology was available to shift and replant the trees.

The former minister lauded the efforts of local MP Navjot Singh Sidhu who had launched the “Go Green” campaign and requested him to lead from the front to save the city from deforestation.


Loan woes of ex-servicemen
Kanchan Vasdev
Trubune News Service

Ludhiana, August 27
As many as 161 ex-servicemen, are in debt as the Punjab Financial Corporation is yet to settle their two -decade old loan cases.

The ex-servicemen, of which 27 have died had borrowed d money from the PFC in 1990s under the government's self employment scheme for ex-servicemen. Some of them could not repay the loan they started running into loss. Compound interest was levied on the principal amount which now is in crores.

Though the PFC announced in 2004 that their cases would be settled as interests would be waived and they would be asked to pay only the remaining principal amount.

Many of these ex-servicemen had fought 1962 China war, 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistan wars and many were decorated also. Vehicles of some of them were taken away and auctioned. Several of them had even lost pledged property as it was also auctioned.

Col Chanan Singh Dhillon (retd), president of the Ex-Servicemen League, Punjab and Chandigarh took up the case of scores of such ex- servicemen today.

Capt Gian Singh from Rayya, Amritsar said he had borrowed Rs 3.86 lakh from the PFC in 1990. He returned the amount in 1996 and was given NOC also. Still the PFC sent him letters that Rs 11,000 was due from him. Over the years the amount has become Rs 4 lakh.

Sub-Major Kulwant Singh Dakha, borrowed Rs 4.34 lakh in 1992. He paid back Rs 2.55 lakh. The PFC took away his vehicles and auctioned these non-payment of dues. Later his property was also attached and auctioned.

He said his property was sold for Rs 1.2 lakh only. "Where was the need for them to auction my property when my vehicle was already taken away?" he asked.

Similar tale was narrated by Late Subedar Major Singh's family. He died in debt seven years ago.

Dalbara singh from Morinda, O.P.Mittal from Lehra Gaga Sher Singh of Samrala were also in debt and interest was being compounded against them.


‘Killers of innocents not jehadis’
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Qadian, August 27
Majlis Ansarullah (meeting of servants of God) denounced Jehad by targeting public places and killing innocent people. It is against the preachings of Prophet Mohammed, who presented God as Rab-bul A'lameen (Lord of all worlds) and who is referred to as Rehmatul lil A'lameen (blesses whole mankind).

Syed Tanvir Ahmad, leader of Ahmadiyya Jamat, Qadian, who, along with other leaders, participated in the annual tournament organised by the community for physical, moral and spiritual well-being of its members stated this.

The participants belong to 40-plus age group. Their motto is to promote ‘Love for all, hatred for none’ and to serve the mankind, which is true jehad. Sports competitions were organised.

Leaders claimed that any reference to terrorism as 'Islamic' or 'Islamist' was a misnomer and might have been designed to denigrate peaceful religion, Islam and its founder. Those who killed innocent citizens could not be connected to the Prophet mentally or spiritually. Such fundamentalists resorting to inhuman violence fitted the description of 'fasaadis' in the Holy Quran, but not 'jehadis' as claimed by them. 


Colombian envoy meets Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Visiting Colombian Ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto yesterday called on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and evinced keen interest to improve bilateral relations between Colombia and Punjab for the promotion of trade, commerce and industry.

Taking part in the deliberations, Pinto said that Colombia had proven technology in the field of waste management to generate power. He said that the Colombian government had already set up a joint venture with the Tamil Nadu Government to generate power from solid waste at Chennai. This project was being implemented by Neel Metal Fanalca headed by Vinay Maheshwari.

Pinto showed interest to replicate the same project in Punjab. He also put forth proposals to set up industrial units in collaboration with the Colombian Government in the field of agro industry, IT and textiles. He also emphasised the need for cultural exchange between the artistes from Punjab and Colombia. To achieve this objective, a troupe of 16 performers from Colombia would be visiting Punjab in November.

The Chief Minister appreciated the spirit of the visiting ambassador for the promotion of mutual trade and commercial activities. He said Punjab was fast emerging as an investment destination and had been ranked a front-runner state offering competitive advantages in terms of sound agricultural base, strong institutional credit system, global air linking and world-wide linkage of Punjab diaspora. Badal pointed out that Punjab had tremendous growth potential in hosiery and textile, sports goods, infrastructure, super speciality hospitals, leather goods, bio-technology, retail and entertainment.

Representatives of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and CII(north) also took part in the deliberations and apprised Pinto with the new avenues of mutual interests for the promotion of trade and industry. The CII also solicited the participation of Colombia in the Expo Agro-Tech exhibition to be held at Chandigarh from November 28 to December 1, 2008. 


Kidnapped boy reaches home after 2 years
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 27
Prince (12) of Rania village of this district, who was allegedly kidnapped about two years ago, reached home, on Sunday. As no case was registered by his family at that time, the police did not track down the culprits.

Prince was allegedly kidnapped by truck driver identified as Binda. He was taken to Sriganganagar in Rajasthan, where he was made to work as servant at a dhaba. Then Prince was taken to Thibewal village of Ferozepur district where he was made to work as domestic help and agricultural labourer. He was tortured and denied wages by the farmer.

Prince managed to escape from the clutches of his master after he came in contact with another villager and narrated his tale of woe. He was taken to the panchayat and a decision was taken that he must be sent back to his village. Thus, he returned home in the company of a cop.


Labourer trapped in pit, dies
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
A labourer died here today morning after he was trapped in a 15-ft-deep pit that was being dug for wire in the basement of a mall.

According to bystanders, the incident occurred at 10.45 am when Daya Yadav got buried in the pit as sand around him fell on him.

Mall owners informed the Fire Brigade officials who got into action. The body was extricated from from under sand and earth by them. It took six hours to pull out the body which was sent for a post-mortem examination.

Bystanders said he was alone in the pit digging sand. Other labourers raised the alarm when they heard a thud as sand crashed on the victim. They also tried to save Yadav by removing sand, but it continued falling on him burying him.

Humid conditions and paucity of oxygen in the pit created problems for the Fire Brigade officials in the rescue operations.

Commissioner, Amritsar Municipal Corporation, D.P.S. Kharbanda also reached the site to supervise rescue efforts by the Fire Brigade. He has ordered an inquiry into the incident and action against the builders for violating the MC bylaws and not taking preventive measures. He said the corporation had instituted a case against the owners of the mall.


Mobile medical units leave for flood-hit areas
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 27
Health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla yesterday flagged off mobile medical units to the flood-affected districts of Kapurthala, Ferozepur, Jalandhar and Moga. These units have doctors, paramedical staff on board and are equipped with facilities like X-ray, ECG, semi auto analyser, lab testing and will carry basic medicines.

These units have been pressed into service under a project to provide health care at doorstep, especially in remote areas. Ten such units were flagged off on August 15 at Fatehgarh Sahib.

Professor Chawla said the Health Department had sent medicines worth Rs 1.25 crore for the flood-affected people.


Dental officers clarify
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Medical officers of various state dental colleges, whose promotion as assistant professors were withheld following a complaint by junior doctors, today claimed that they had been promoted on the basis of merit, seniority as well as teaching experience.

The Research and Medical Education Department had temporarily withheld its order of July 23 regarding promotions of doctors after a representation by junior doctors. At present the additional DRME, Dr P.P.S. Cooner, is holding an inquiry into the issue.

Dr Ram Rattan Gupta, Dr Maninder Boparai, Dr Sheetal Kumar, Dr Parul Gupta and Dr Sarabjit Kaur, in a representation to the department, said they had been eligible for promotion, but had not been promoted.

They said according to a Punjab and Haryana HC judgment, experience of teaching by a medical officer (dental) in a dental college was to be taken into account for promotion as assistant professor.


CM to declare Sultanpur Lodhi a heritage town
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday announced that he would soon take up the case of declaring Sultanpur Lodhi as a heritage town with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Badal also asked the Local Government Department to prepare a comprehensive proposal to include the overall development of the town under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.

Badal also directed the Transport Department to start direct bus service from Sultanpur Lodhi to Delhi, Talwandi Sabo, Anandpur Sahib and Vaishno Devi to be a part of the religious tourism circuit in the state.A bus stand and fire station would also be constructed in the town. 


Arora is ADGP, intelligence
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The Police Department today gave charge of additional director general of police (intelligence) to one of its most upright officers and IGP (headquarters) Suresh Arora.

In other top level changes, Shashi Kant, ADGP (intelligence) was posted as ADGP (law and order). Chander Shekhar, ADGP (law and order) has been posted as ADGP (training).

J.P. Virdi, ADGP (human rights and internal vigilance cell) has been posted as ADGP (crime) while G.D. Pandey, ADGP (crime) has been posted as ADGP, (human rights and internal vigilance cell). Parag Jain, IG (computer and telecom) has been posted as IG (headquarters). V.K. Bhawra, IG (intelligence) has been posted as IG (security).


Blast case: Plea to come up next month
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
A plea filed against the Supreme Court orders staying directions on CBI probe into alleged elimination of proclaimed offenders in the Saini blast case will come up in the fourth week of September.

The petition has been filed by an affected party, Davinder Singh Bhullar. His counsel-cum-human rights activist, Navkiran Singh, appeared before the apex court and brought to the notice of the Bench that a SLP filed by the UT administration in the matter stood dismissed by the Supreme Court. But, the fact was not brought to the notice of the Bench. As such, Bhullar’s plea should be heard on priority basis.

Bhullar, on death row for another offence, had earlier moved the High Court alleging torture and elimination of his father and uncle, as he was an accused in the blast case. He had claimed that Punjab misled the apex court to obtain the stay orders.

Decide in a month, Punjab told

Disposing of a petition by Amina Bai of Burj in Kutch district of Gujarat for the release of her son Ahmed and daughter-in-law Seema, Justice A.N. Jindal today directed the union and the Punjab government to decide the matter within a month.

The girl belongs to Karachi, while the boy had crossed over to Pakistan from Kutch. They were arrested at the Wagah border and sent to jail, while the boy was returning to India after hearing about his father’s death.

In her petition, she had claimed that the two were not released despite completion of their sentence on December 23, 2007. She has also prayed for directions to appropriate authorities to grant them Indian citizenship. 


Policy on teachers condemned
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 27
The Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) today strongly condemned the state government’s rationalisation policy for teachers due to which a large number of teachers of various categories had been “uprooted” from schools of their present place of posting by shifting them to far-off places.

District president, LBP, Sardar Ali described the policy as “untimely, irrational and illogical” as it had uprooted hundreds of teachers mid-session, leading to adverse affect on the studies of students and games in schools.

Ali further said the policy of the government had discouraged hard-working, honest and sincere teachers who had been contributing a lot in building students’ career through studies, games and extra-curricular activities in their respective schools.

Meanwhile, a member of the state advisory board of the Punjab State Ministerial Services Union Raj Kumar Arora warned the state government that if it did not withdraw its rationalisation policy and cancel the transfers of teachers soon, they would chalk out an agitation. 


School automation on the cards
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The government has decided to automate all functions of government schools with an aim to developing management information system (MIS) and geographical information system (GIS) for an effective planning and decision-making.

The main objective of setting up MIS and GIS systems in schools is to monitor education process and manage the internal functions in an effective and efficient manner

Education minister Upinderjit Kaur

The education minister, Dr Upinderjit Kaur, said the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Authority (SSAA), Punjab, would effectively develop and implement web-based MIS and GIS covering all government schools in the state for automation of school functions.

The minister added that the automation of school functions would be implemented in approximately 18,500, out of which 5,250 would be upper primary schools. All upper primary schools have already been provided with computer labs having IT infrastructure like servers, stabilisers, uninterrupted power systems (UPSs), printers and desktop computers with battery backup up to 150 minutes.

She said the main objective of setting up MIS and GIS systems was to monitor education and manage the internal functions of schools in an effective and efficient manner. The SSAA had already introduced Computer-Aided Learning (CAL) from Class VI to VIII in all government schools for the creation and deployment of multimedia-based educational content, teacher training and monitoring services, she added.

The minister said the objective of the CAL project was to attract children to these schools, retain them and also to improving the quality of education through multimedia-based contents.

She said spontaneous, self-initiated and self-regulated, the three critical aspects that make an activity a play, would be integrated in the CAL software through innovative use of cartoons, story lines, music etc, to make learning an interesting experience. The SSAA would also develop and implement multi-media educational content in Punjabi language for Class VI to VIII for social science, science, mathematics and English.

Dr Kaur said the scope of the project also included training to minimum four teachers of each school (one teacher of each subject). One multimedia manager and an assistant in each district for every 20 schools would also be made available on a full-time basis.


Free tech education: Govt raises seats by 10 per cent
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Under a scheme to provide free technical education to students from weaker sections, women and the physically challenged, the government today issued a notification providing 10 per cent additional seats in all engineering and other technical colleges.

Students from these categories taking admission in degree and diploma courses in engineering besides pharmacy and architecture will be benefited. All government, private-aided and private un-aided institutions will have to compulsorily follow this scheme from the current academic session.

According to sources, the admissions will be carried out as per the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) policy guidelines by a committee headed by the deputy commissioner of the respective district under which the institution falls and the chairman of the managing committee of the institution. While women candidates will get 33 per cent share in the fresh 10 per cent quota, the candidates whose parents earn less than Rs 2.5 lakh will get a share of 50 per cent and the physically challenged a 17 per cent share.

For every sanctioned intake of 60 seats, six additional seats will be given to the institution which will take in women, economically weak and physically challenged students in the ratio of 2:3:1.

All fees of economically weaker students, including tuition fee, institutional charges, transportation charges and University funds will be waived. In case of others, only the tuition fee will be waived. Students admitted under the scheme will also be provided with free boarding and lodging subject to availability or funding from the government or NGO. It will now be mandatory for the institutions to publish in their brochure and on their website the number of fee waivers available in each category.

Sources said the colleges inviting admissions under the scheme would insert advertisements in newspapers. The last date of admission in technical institutions was October 15. 


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