P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Oldest publishing house in news again
Owner’s two sons detained for sending heroin in packets of devotional material
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 11
In a joint raid, senior officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Customs today took into custody Rabjeet Singh and Prabhjeet Singh, sons of one of the owners of M/s Chattar Singh-Jeewan Singh, 133-year-old publishing house, one of its employees and four others on the charges of sending heroin to Canada through a private courier.

About 5 kg of heroin, concealed in packets of CDs/DVDs of Gurbani, was seized by the DRI near Phagwara last evening. Joint director of the DRI Dheeraj Rastogi said out of total 48 packets, the heroin was found concealed in three packets. In all 11 bundles of devotional material (having 48 packets) were booked through the private courier, DHL.

Sources said the seizure of the contraband might be a tip of the iceberg because many publishing houses had been sending devotional material to foreign countries, especially Canada, the US and the UK, for the past many years.

The team of the DRI and Customs swooped on the premises of five-storey ultra-modern complex of the publishing house, its CJ Hotel near Golden Temple and the house of the owner simultaneously. However, they failed to recover any contraband despite six-hour search.

One of the owners, Harbhajan Singh, however, alleged that there was a “deep-rooted conspiracy” to defame the oldest publishing house of Guru Granth Sahib. He said the firm would fully cooperate with the Intelligence sleuths. He claimed that one Phagwara-based person “Vickey” had been taken into custody by the DRI earlier.

Meanwhile, SGPC president Avtar Singh has sought immediate excommunication of the owners of the firm.

The house continued to publish the Birs of Guru Granth Sahib despite the edict of then Jathedar of Akal Takht Bhai Ranjit Singh that the SGPC had the sole right to publish Guru Granth Sahib in 1998. Later, the SGPC had directed it to stop the publication of Guru Granth Sahib in 2006 as per the directive.

The publishers are confidants of a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti. It is learnt that photo copies of the passports of Prithipal Singh Sandhu, personal assistant to the former Jathedar, and members of his family were seized during the raid.

Earlier, on October 5 last year, activists of the Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee had picked up the two brothers from the publishing house and blackened their faces in full public view.

Both brothers, Baljit Singh and Prabhjit Singh (arrested by the DRI today) had been freed from their captivity on the intervention of Giani Gurbachan Singh, the then head granthi of the Golden Temple and senior police officers.

The incident had forced the government to issue an ordinance banning private publishers from printing Guru Granth Sahib.


Labourers hold dharna outside DC’s office
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 11
With policemen deployed in strength in and outside the district administrative complex here (DC office complex), members and activists of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha, Punjab today staged dharna outside the district administrative complex here in support of their demands.
Activists of labourer organisations on dharna outside district administrative complex in Sangrur
Activists of labourer organisations on dharna outside district administrative complex in Sangrur on Thursday. Photo by writer

Earlier the protesters gathered at the railway station chowk and marched towards DC’s office complex, raising slogans against the government. When they reached near the complex, the police closed both main gates of the complex and did not allow the protesters to enter. Some policemen remained present at the closed gates for two hours and opened the gates after the culmination of dharna. Some policemen were even carrying fibre sheets. Seeing strong ‘bandobast’ many felt the administration was expecting some big trouble.

Addressing those on dharna almost all speakers criticised the state government for not fulfilling the promises made to labourers and agriculture workers in its manifesto by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Assembly elections. They demanded 10- marla plots for the houseless labourers, enhancement in old-age, widow and disabled pensions to Rs 1,000 per month, implementation of below poverty line (BPL) scheme on all poor persons, waiving of loans of the labourers, release of cheques of the ‘Ashirwad scheme’, control of rising prices etc.

District convener of the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha Punjab Gurmeet Singh Kalajhar and district convener of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union Balwinder Singh Jhaloor addressed the protesters.

Later the protesters submitted a memorandum of their demands, to assistant commissioner (general) Amandeep Bansal. 



SJP condemns Amarinder’s expulsion
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 11
Commenting on the removal of Amarinder Singh as MLA, the Samajwadi Janta Party( Punjab) unit today said it was most condemnable decision in the political history of the country. President of the Punjab unit, Darshan Singh Jida said the SAD-BJP government had exhibited its political narrow- mindedness.

He said such a precedent by the SAD-BJP government could lead to political chaos in the country. Removal of elected representatives in such a manner by parties having majority in state Assemblies could ruin the democratic set-up. 


Warrants against Tytler
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, September 11
Taking serious note of the absence of former union minister and senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in a defamation case, judicial magistrate K.K.Bansal ordered to summon him through bailable warrants returnable by November 28.

When the case was called, complainant H.S.Phoolka, a Supreme Court lawyer, was present in the court. But neither Tytler nor his counsel was present. The court then passed the orders for the issuance of warrants against the accused.

After some time, the lawyer of Tytler appeared before the court and requested exemption of the accused. He pleaded the accused had gone to Uzbekistan for urgent work. Due to this reason, he was unable to attend this court. But the Judge remarked he was late and the orders had been pronounced. However, the presence of lawyer was marked.

Meanwhile, activists of the Sikh Students Federation, led by president Gurcharan Singh Grewal, raised slogans against Tytler in the court complex.

After passing of summoning orders in this case, former Union minister had moved Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking the transfer of case outside Punjab. But his plea was declined.

A few days ago, the accused had filed an SLP in the Supreme Court. The apex court issued notice of motion, but did not stay the proceedings before the trial court.

Phoolka had filed complaint in September 2004. In the complaint, he had alleged the accused termed him a liar, a blackmailer and even accused him of rendering the “so-called help” to victims of 1984 riots for money only.


Cong seeks President’s rule
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 11
The Congress has demanded the suspension of the 13th Vidhan Sabha and imposition of President’s rule in the state for what they have termed as “constitutional breakdown” wherein the ruling SAD-BJP alliance has used the legislature to question an executive order. The party is contemplating meeting the President, the Prime Minister and the union home minister on the issue. The Congress leadership has already included this demand in its memorandum submitted to the Governor.

While on the one hand many Congress legislators from the previous Vidhan Sabha have thrown their lot behind former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress legislator from Bholath Sukhpal Singh Khaira has described the indictment of Amarinder Singh by the legislature as wrong precedent. Successive governments will use its majority to settle scores with former Chief Ministers and ministers, he added. “Hundreds of executive decisions are taken on files by a government, the legislature cannot be used to question these decisions”, he said.

Yet another Congress legislator from Ludhiana, Jassi Khangura said the entire issue had to be split into two parts. The first deals with the manipulation of Vidhan Sabha documents, for which the responsibility has to be fixed by the speaker. The second part deals with an executive order by the then Chief Minister. There is a forum to deal with executive orders, but it is certainly not the Vidhan Sabha.

Describing the decision taken by the SAD-BJP legislators in the House as one by a “kangaroo court”, where no opportunity has been accorded to the accused to defend himself and the judgment is pronounced without fair trial. He said, “the House pronounced Amarinder guilty and expelled him and at the same time asked the Vigilance to probe the matter and submit a report within two months. It is a rather strange case where the judgment has been pronounced before the trial”.

“It is a black day in the history of the Vidhan Sabha. The move can only be called a vendetta and political victimisation”, Khaira said, adding a five-bench Supreme Court judgment very clearly says “Dissolution brings a legislative body to an end” and “besides when the matter is already in court, the House could not have taken it up”.

Also taking strong note of the expulsion of Amarinder Singh, several sitting and former Congress legislators and former ministers have condemned the SAD-BJP for what they call, “abusing the brute majority in the state legislature to murder of democracy”.

They have said the SAD-BJP government in general and Badal and his son and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal in particular were scared of Amarinder Singh’s popularity. “Had they courage and confidence to face the former Chief Minister, they should have waited for the parliamentary elections”, the legislators said.


Bir Devinder Singh ceases to be party spokesman
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 11
Senior Congress leader Bir Devinder Singh , after his diatribe against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh,has been removed as chief spokesman of the party.

Apparently Bir Devinder’s recent statements claiming “logic had reached its just conclusion” and “truth cannot be buried under the debris of filth and corruption” ruffled the Amarinder camp, which took up the issue with the high command.

It is understandable for the Amarinder camp to ask for Bir Devinder’s removal, as he has been partly responsible for the recommendation made for unseating him from the Vidhan Sabha, the Punjab Pradesh Congress also seems to have been waiting to put a stop to statements by him as chief spokesman.

Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said Bir Devinder had been appointed chief spokesman only for the Amritsar byelection in view of the work done by him in similar capacity during the Adampur poll. Bhattal said appointment of the chief spokesman was the prerogative of the Pradesh Congress and now it was up to acting president Mohinder Singh Kaypee to take a decision on the issue.

It seems the Pradesh Congress has chosen to divest Bir Devinder after his recent statements on decision of the Vidhan Sabha committee on the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam. Sources said as per tradition, Pradesh Congress officer- bearers come and go with the PPCC president and Bir Devinder had overstayed in his post on his own. Bir Devinder has reportedly been told to desist from functioning as chief spokesman.


Badal evades media on Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 11
A day after former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was expelled from the Assembly, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal evaded the media and did not answer when asked for comments on the development.

Badal was in city to participate in a Ganesh Utsav function here today. After performing religious ceremonies, he came to address mediapersons. He told them he would not comment on any political issue. When some mediapersons tried to have his comments on the event, he wanted to be excused stating he would not say anything.

He left the venue in a jiffy.



Medical Mess in Punjab
Emergency services poor, makeshift ICU
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 11
Rajindra Hospital here has been for decades one of the busiest government hospitals in this part of Punjab.

Thousands of patients throng the hospital every day, but the Punjab Government has done virtually nothing to upgrade the hospital or improve its services.

Inaugurated 50 years ago by late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the hospital is still without a proper emergency ward or an intensive care unit (ICU).

What is shown as the emergency ward of the hospital is a single dilapidated hall with no distinction between the type of emergencies that land here. The make-shift ICU has only eight beds affixed with ventilators, but the whole set-up leaves much to be desired.

The hospital is on the main road and gets a large number of accident victims. Till recently, the hospital was not even having a CT scan facility. “The facility is useless for patients with head injuries, as there is no facility in the hospital for neuro-surgery. All such patients are generally referred to the PGI, Chandigarh. Since such cases are serious, the two-hour journey causes death of many victims on the way,” pointed out a senior resident in the hospital.

The CT scan facility is functioning in the public-private partnership mode and there are complaints of patients being overcharged.

There is no facility for heart patients or cardiac emergencies. The basic heart tests are attached to the general medicine department. Beyond these tests, there is nothing much that the hospital can do in case a heart patient reaches here. There is no cath-lab here nor a facility for cardio-thoracic surgeries.

Despite decades of existence, none of the three medical colleges in the state have been able to introduce super-specialty services or courses.

“It almost seems that some persons within the government want government health care facilities to fail to favour private medical colleges and hospitals,” said a doctor, who had passed out from the college some years ago.

The much-talked-about trauma centre, which was to come up at the hospital, is also in a state of limbo and no one at the hospital knows its current status. The number of nurses working here is only one third of the total number required.

Repeated warnings by the Medical Council of India’s inspection team in the past two years have been met with a knee jerk reaction of the government, which woke up to the gravity of the situation only a few months ago.

Its efforts of flushing the college with funds and gather staff has been met with only limited success. “We need more than 45 teachers at various levels of seniority here and were told by the director medical education and research (DRME) that a majority of these vacancies have been filled. But the number of persons who have joined are only six,” pointed out a senior functionary of the college.

The sanctioning of grants also does not seem to be the solution. Three years ago, the government sanctioned buying of equipment for the establishment of the ICU at the TB hospital. Where the money went, no one knows, as the ICU was never set up.


Fleecing by Labs
Civil surgeon orders probe
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 11
The civil surgeon of the district has ordered a probe into the reported fleecing of patients of civil hospital by some unscrupulous private laboratories. Mohinder Singh Jassal, SMO in charge, civil hospital, had been given the inquiry.

Civil surgeon R. S. Rana, today evening, said he had ordered probe into the matter on coming to know about an incident where a patient was allegedly looted by a private laboratory on the pretext of examining her blood sample.

He added as per his knowledge, one unidentified private laboratory owner came to the civil hospital and told the woman patient Kashmiro, he was working in the hospital. The laboratory owner asked the patient to give her blood sample, as it was required for diagnosing her ailment.

Believing him, the woman patient gave him her blood sample. After some time, the unidentified private laboratory owner handed over a simple paper chit to the woman patient, claiming the same was report of the chemical examination of her blood sample. The private laboratory owner took Rs 450 from the woman patient as fee for chemical examination of her blood sample.

When the patient knew she had been cheated, she narrated her story to her son, who took up the matter and complained to the Civil Hospital authorities.


Pay commission for farmers sought
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 11
Chairman of the Mandi Board and president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ajmer Singh Lakhowal today demanded a pay commission for the farmers, linking mounting debt on farmers with “insufficient” MSP fixed by the government.

Lakhowal said farmers had ensured food security for the country and they were treated badly, were in debt and driven to suicide.

He said while the government had constituted pay commissions and wage boards from time to time, it had never thought of farmers feeding the countrymen.

The government had once constituted the Swaminathan Committee, but its report was not implemented. ‘‘We want either the farmers get remuneration as per the committee report or the MSP linked to price index. Farmer were suffering due to wrong payment policies. The input cost had risen manifold and not the MSP, ’’ said Lakhowal after hearing problems of farmers at a two-day delegates’ congregation organised by the BKU at Alamgir that concluded today.

He said farmers were being blamed for overuse of pesticides ,but they had no option. They had to ensure foodgrains for the country. ‘‘It is sad PAU scientists have not evolved a mechanism to help farmers not to overuse pesticides. The PAU has not money for research. What can they do? ’’ he asked.

The farmer leader said with floods hitting Bihar, the Punjab farmer was faced with the task of providing grains to entire country. ‘‘How can we think of compromising on quantity in such circumstances. We cannot go organic,’’ he said.

as many as 26 resolutions in favour of farmers were passed by the congregation. These demanded entire debt be waived , farmers be given old-age pension, brokerage while selling crop should go, reservation for farmers’ wards in colleges and universities, farmers, who lost landholdings should be rehabilitated, compensation of acquisition for land be double the market rate.

They also demanded flood-hit farmers be compensated at the rate of Rs 20,000 per acre, besides other demands.

The BKU decided to expand base of the union . It decided to connect to more people by having more leaders and workers in every village and town.


PepsiCo Row
Unions asked to save potato growers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 11
General secretary of the SAD (Amritsar) Jeet Singh Alloarkh today asked farmer organisations to protect the interests of potato growers of the state in place of extending their support to the agitation of the workers of PepsiCo India at Channo, near Bhawanigarh. He said the closure or shifting of the factory would affect thousands of potato growers, especially in the areas of Amloh, Nabha and Sangrur.

Alloarkh said the farmers’ organisations should understand that they were representatives of the farmers not of the industry workers.

Only in Amloh, Nabha and Sangrur areas, about 4,000 farmers grew potatoes on thousands of acres, he added.

He also asked the state government and the district administration to initiate immediate steps to resolve the matter. Otherwise, along with potato growers of the area, Bhawanigarh truck operators would also lose business worth lakhs of rupees per month. Small businesses, that depended on the factory, would be hit hard.


MC told to clear bills
Our Correspondent

Nabha, September 11
Sessions court at Patiala, upholding the decree of the lower court, dismissed the appeal filed by municipal council Nabha with costs.

The MC had gone in appeal against the orders of a Nabha court directing it to pay the dues of contractor Vijay Kumar with12 per cent interests .

The contractor was awaiting payment of Rs12.34 lakh since the completion of works awarded to him in 2000 and 2001.

The district and sessions judge said first the officials at the helm of the MC had withheld the payment of bills of the respondent and when he filed the suit for recovery, even then the MC Nabha contested his claim. However during the pendency of the suit, Vinod Mehta, executive officer, MC Nabha had admitted the claim of Vijay Kumar.

The court said rather than complying with the decree, the MC had preferred appeal. If the MC got its work done from Vijay Kumar, it was supposed to make the payment.


Anger over King Khan’s smoking act
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 11
The management of Khalsa College here have drawn flak for permitting shooting of a film in which actor Shah Rukh Khan was found smoking in the presence of students on the college premises.

Even Punjab Health Department has decided to issue notice to the actor on the direction of the Union Health Ministry for smoking whole shooting film “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” on Khalsa College premises.

Meanwhile, civil surgeon Lehmber Singh said today principals of all educational institutions had been directed to restrain their staff and visitors from smoking in their premises from October 2.

He said even police officers up to sub inspectors had been directed to enforce the ban and impose fine on those who violated the rule at public places.

Jaswinder Singh, principal B.Ed Khalsa College, who is also acting principal of Khalsa College as Dr Daljit Singh is out of station, refuted the allegations as baseless. He said he was present during the shooting and he did not find the actor or any member of the unit smoking on the premises. He said some vested interests were behind the whole episode, who did not want revival of the film industry in the state. 


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