P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Amritsar Trust Scam
VB finds proceedings book tampered with
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 16
After three-day scanning of the files of the Amritsar Improvement Trust scam, SP, Vigilance Bureau, Chaman Lal Sharma has found that the record pertaining to the exemption of 32 acres from a trust scheme for 188 acres had been tampered with.

According to sources in the trust, executive officer Raminder Singh Gill handed over certified copies of the turst proceedings book to the SP that may spell more trouble for Capt Amarinder Singh, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, and Jugal Kishor Sharma, who have been indicted in the scam. However, the SP could not record the statements of the personal assistant to former chairman of the trust and some of his confidants who had left the office on some pretext. Sharma had kept his visit “secret” and did not meet any mediapersons during his three-day stay in the city.

According to the sources, the files indicated that then minister of local bodies and chairman of the trust kept even trustees in the dark by not circulating the supplement agenda of four items. In all, there were 21 items, which were circulated among the trustees. However, the four additional items were recorded on the last page of the proceedings book along with the sketchy information about the exemption of the 32 acres. At the time of the meeting of the trust, the members had passed all “21 items” with a voice vote, without knowing that four items would be added secretly in the book later on.

The items had been passed even though the Chief Minister, chief secretary and the principal secretary, local government, had given their notings on the file that exemption of 32 acres could not be given to a private builder.

The trust had taken a loan to the tune of Rs 50 crore for the scheme at a rate of 10 per cent interest per annum. The scheme had been passed in a hush-hush manner after unceremonious removal of Ratna as chairperson. Ratna had got the scheme notified and even got its plans approved, but was forced to quit the post on September 9 and Jugal Sharma, the then Congress MLA, replaced her as chairman.


India’s first 250-cr bus stand to be set up in Patiala
Badal’s largesse continues, says Amarinder has been following the ‘aish-and-cash’ policy

Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala September 16
The Punjab Chief Minister has now given another gift to Patialvis - India’s best and ultra-modern Rs 250-crore air-conditioned bus stand.

In an apparent bid to win over Patiala residents before the forthcoming Parliament polls, Badal has already announced sops worth over Rs 250 crore for Patiala, including a Rs 90-crore sewage disposal plan, revamping of the power supply system and free one-bulb power connections for poor SC families.

Interesingly, the Chief Minister has been camping in the city for two days and has plans to hold dozens of sangat darshan programmes in different wards of Patiala till September 21. His prolonged presence in Amarinder’s home-turf and his “generous” announcements have upset the top Congress leadership, which was seemingly upbeat after the party’s “successful” September 1 rally in Badal’s home constituency Lambi.

Amarinder loyalists felt that Badal was trying to take “undue advantage” of Amarinder’s absence by descending on Patiala and showering grants and projects. Amarinder, in his statement from London, has already alleged that Badal was “trying to bribe” Patialvis.

After holding a number of his sangat darshan programmes, Parkash Singh Badal said the Rs 250-crore ultra-modern air-conditioned bus stand would be set up on the Patiala-Chandigarh road and under the Public, Private, Partnership (PPP) scheme.

The company setting up the facility would be generating annual revenue worth Rs 2 crore for PRTC, on whose land the bus stand would be constructed. “It will be a self-financing facility, equipped with modern amenities. The revenue generated will be spent on improvement of state bus services,” said Badal, who was accompanied by senior Akali leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra and Surjit Singh Rakhra.

The Chief Minister said all development work, chalked out by the Municipal Councillors, would be implemented, irrespective of their budgets. “The development works in wards will take off within a period 15 days and notice boards will be put up, stating the estimated cost and time-frame of respective projects,” he added.

Badal has already exhibited his intention to extend the term of Patiala MC commissioner-cum-divisional commissioner S.K. Ahluwalia in view of the proposed projects. A three-member high-powered committee to monitor the work has been set up.

Taking a dig at his arch-rival Amarinder Singh, Badal said the previous Congress regime followed the, “aish-and-cash” (comfort-and-money) policy. “Amarinder now says I am bribing residents of Patiala. Has he ever had time to come and meet people here during his five-year rule? I feel duty-bound to serve people of Patiala. If Amarinder is criticising it, then I think he has gone mentally sick. Can he tell what he has done for Patiala? He has been enjoying life at Dochi, Dubai and Shimla,” said Badal.


Central agencies failed to act on inputs: BSF
Blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi

Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 16
Had the Central internal security agencies of the country acted on the input given by the Border security Force (BSF) blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi, allegedly by the Indian Mujahideen (IM) could have been averted.

The blasts reportedly took place on the day mentioned in the input of the BSF.

The BSF authorities are unhappy that the agencies concerned could not avert blasts despite being forewarned.

The alleged failure of the internal intelligence agency of the country to act upon specific input seems to have facilitated the IM to carry out blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

Sources said BSF men manning the Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab gave specific input to the intelligence agency on blasts in Bangalore, Delhi and other cities in the last week of July. The input said the first serial blasts would be on July 25, the day when the blast took place in Bangalore.

Instead of acting on the input, the intelligence agency did not act. The alleged laxity on the part of the intelligence agency resulted in “BAD" task by the IM leaving a trail of destruction in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

In the second week of July, 2008, the BSF extracted information from an ISI agent, identified as Wajid Mehmood, that the ISI had sent 10 to 12 agents in all major cities of India. These groups would start carrying out serial blasts from July 25.

Wajid was nabbed in Ajnala sector near the fence by the BSF, while his two accomplices, identified as Naved and Akram, who were carrying maps of various cities of India, roads to reach Delhi from the border and Indian currency, returned to Pakistan.

“Interrogation of Wajid revealed plans of the ISI and made a disclosure that serial blasts would be carried out in one of the cities of India on July 25. Serial blasts took place on the same day in Bangalore,” said a senior BSF official.

“This information was shared with the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The information was also passed on to the right quarters in the organisation. As per our information, the IB did not act on that input, hence the results,” claimed the official. At one point of time, the IB dubbed Wajid as insane, he added.

Wajid of Gujranwala (Pakistan), who has been working for the ISI for three years, also disclosed there would be blasts in India in 15 days of blasts taking place in Pakistan. After arrest Wajid was put in Amritsar Central Jail.

He also disclosed he was to carry out blasts in the Luxmi Nagar area of trans- Yamuna pocket of Delhi as it was an elegant area and crowded too. However, he would not do it as he had been nabbed. He added that he was to stay in a hotel after reaching Delhi and after that he was to carry out his task with the help of ISI modules already in Delhi.

The BSF authorities said Wajid also disclosed that the ISI had become capable to strike anywhere in India.

However, when they were asked if they would take up this matter with any agency or their superiors, they did not comment.


SAD pushes for Patiala seat bypoll
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 16
As the Punjab and Haryana High Court has not stayed the expulsion of Congress MLA Amarinder Singh from the Vidhan Sabha, the SAD has been pushing for holding the byelection to the Patiala Assembly seat, along with the Assembly elections scheduled to be held in certain states in November.

The SAD had informed the Election Commission regarding the expulsion of Capt Amarinder Singh immediately after the Assembly session last week. The commission was asked to declare the Patiala seat vacant in the light of the expulsion of Amarinder.

As the Congress at the moment is a house divided in the state, the SAD is keen that the byelection to the Patiala seat be held along with the Assembly elections in November. There are some senior Congress leaders, who, in public, speak in support of Amarinder, but support every move enacted to demolish him (Capt) politically within the party or outside.

Moreover, Amarinder is away to the UK and he may have to stay longer there for treatment.

SAD patron and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has launched an election campaign in Patiala by holding a sangat darshan programme and meeting people in municipal corporation wards. Political watchers say the SAD’s strategy is to keep Amarinder involved in one or other controversy till the Lok Sabha elections.

Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, political adviser to Chief Minister, said the SAD was prepared for the byelection.


Kaypee says Cong ready for polls
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
Presiding over a meeting of state and district office-bearers and block organisers of the Punjab Congress Seva Dal here today Mohinder Singh Kaypee, president, PPCC, said the organisation was all geared up for the coming Parliamentary elections.

The party expects vital role from the Congress Seva Dal, which is the most important frontal organisation, Kaypee said, adding it would fight the communal and divisive forces gathered under the banner of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab and would win all 13 seats in the state.

Tarlochan Singh, general secretary, PPCC, stressed the need to highlight misdeeds of the Akali-BJP government in the state and atrocities on the Congress workers during the Akali rule.



Engineers of Mandi Board suspend work
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
Suspension of 13 engineers over poor quality of construction of roads has prompted the Punjab Mandi Board Engineers Coordination Committee to launch a stir and suspend work till the state decides to follow the norms approved by the Indian Road Congress.

“The design and size of roads we have been making in rural Punjab neither have the approval of any professional body nor do they meet requirements of ultimate users, the farmers,” say Jatinder Singh and R.P. Agnihotri, convener and secretary-general of the committee.

“To register our protest and get our fellow engineer reinstated, we have started an agitation,” they added It was, they said, implemnetation of “whimsical orders” which had put the engineers in a hot spot.

“We have decided that work on rural link roads will remain suspended till specifications approved by the Central Road Research Institute or the Indian Roads Congress, endorsed by the Ministry of Rural development, are followed and implemented,” they said holding that Punjab was perhaps the only state which had a carved a new design of building 10-ft-wide rural link roads against the standard size of 12 ft.”

They held in the present case, a probe committee headed by a retired Lieut-General has placed Mandi Board engineers under suspension following their indictment, the budget sanctioned was Rs 1.5 crore.

“Had the universally accepted norms of road construction been followed, it would have cost Rs 4 crore. How could the quality of a road widened at less than half the actual cost of a standard road be the same? The inquiry report established that material used in the construction of the road was according to specifications,” assert the engineers.

“It is the cash crunch and not performance of engineers which is to be blamed. The government action in suspending the engineers was arbitrary,” they claimed.

Tight deadlines are fixed to complete work on new or upgradation of roads under political pressures. “That affects quality of work. A road which normally takes four to six months is required to be completed in two months. This reflects in quality for which we are blamed,” rue engineers.

The norms of construction of rural link roads have remained unchanged even though users have changed from wooden carts, to tractor-trailers to fast moving mini-trucks and trucks. Trucks carrying 15 to 20 tonnes of goods each are now using a road designed to take load of a cart carrying few quintals. Damage to roads, claim engineers, is normal, as they are not designed for this vehicular traffic.

The government must follow the national guidelines and build roads according to designs and specifications approved by technical bodies, say engineers.


Amritsar to host Sikh film fest
P. K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 16
To promote Sikh history and culture, the first-ever Sikh film festival will be organised at Amritsar in the beginning of next year, that is 2009, which will be dedicated to the 300th celebrations of Gurta Gurgaddi Diwas of Guru Granth Sahib.

Describing the festival as a step towards promoting of Sikh religious history which is replete with valour and supreme sacrifices of Sikh Gurus and their disciples, Mangal Dhillon, renowned actor, writer, producer and director, said he was in touch with private corporate and media companies for sponsoring the festival. About seven films highlighting Sikh religion and culture would be showcased during the festival, he added.

Dhillon, who made a niche for himself by producing and directing a number of documentaries on Sikhism, was here to announce the launch of yet another docu-drama, “Sarb Rog Ka Aukhad Naam,” to be released in January next year. He had earlier produced and directed “Khalsa”, “Parkash Ton Parkash Tak”, “Parkash Sri Guru Granth Sahib,” “Sikh Ate Dastar” and “Sarvnash”.

Talking about his recent docu-drama, he said the main aim of the film, which was shot at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh, was to prove that Gurbani and hymns of Guru Granth Sahib had the power to cure all diseases. He said the film contained interviews of doctors, engineers, politicians in India and abroad who were cured of serious ailments. Dhillon termed the production of this film as his biggest achievement.

About his upcoming documentaries, Dhillon said “Saka Sarhind,” depicting the martyrdom of four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh, “A Western Tribute to Sikhism,” representing foreigners who adopted Sikh religion, and “Suneha-a Message,” were other projects which were in the pipeline.

Talking to this correspondent, Dhillon said he would like to do commercial cinema only if his talent was utilised. Although he had been getting calls from reputed productions houses like Balaji, he was happy producing films and doing theatre until he got a powerful role.

He said in view of more film industry people coming to Punjab, especially Amritsar, the government should develop more tourist spots to develop the tourism industry.


Govt to appoint consultant for revival of sugar mills
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
The Punjab government was in the process of appointing a consultant to make all six cooperative sugar mills operational again.

Following a protest march by sugar mill employees in the city today, Sugarfed managing director V.K. Bhalla said an advertisement to appoint a consultant had already been published and September 29 fixed. He said besides this, a Cabinet sub-committee had approved modernisation and setting up of cogeneration plants at nine other cooperative mills of the state. He said even in this case, an advertisement had already been released and October 16 fixed as the last date for inviting proposals.

Bhalla said the striking employees should take into account the government steps to revive the sugar mills as the previous government had decided to sell these mills. He on the demands of the employees cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh had number of meetings with the representatives of employees and at a recent meeting on July 2 their main demand of promotions was accepted after amending the rules.

Regarding financial demands of the cooperative mills, he clarified that their demands were sent to their mill’s board of directors for comments, and hoped their comments would be received by the second week of October. He said the agitation mode adopted by some of the sugar mills workers was uncalled for in view the financial position of mills in the state and sought cooperation.


Lok Pal: No facililties, no action
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
Rooting out corruption may be the Punjab government’s top priority, but providing adequate facilities to the Lok Pal or even acting upon recommendations of the august body formed to bring in accountability in high places, is definitely not on its list.

The Lok Pal has been unable to conduct inquiries for the past six months because the investigation staff does not have any employees. Though an Inspector-General of Police rank officer has been posted in the Lok Pal office to conduct verifications, he has only seven constables to do his bidding. This despite the body having provisions for an SP and DSPs as well as non-gazetted officers in the Investigating wing.

Whatever work the Lok Pal has been able to do in the past six months to one year, which includes clearing old cases, has also not served any purpose because the recommendations, even after being accepted by the state Governor, are lying with the government for want of action. These include reports on statutory bodies constituted to select teachers during the tenure of senior Akali leader Tota Singh in the last SAD-BJP government, as well as reports regarding selections made by the Punjab State Subordinate Services Selection Board.

The inflow of complaints to the Lok Pal has been reduced to a trickle. Only 22 complaints have been filed with the Lok Pal after its present incumbent Justice D.S. Dhaliwal took over. The Lok Pal has been filing reports on old cases, some of them filed several years ago, for more than a year. The body had around 270 cases registered with it when Justice Dhaliwal took over. At present, 130 to 135 cases are still pending. Out of these, around 60 cases are pending for verification. The Lok Pal is not only saddled with the issue of shortage of staff. A number of its employees have not been getting salaries for the past four to nine months.

The registrar, a former sessions judge and the joint registrar have not been getting salaries. Justice Dhaliwal brought in both officers as Section 8 of the Lok Pal Act allows him to select his own staff. Justice Dhaliwal has brought up these issues to the notice of the state government several times.


Experts inspect road construction
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 16
Even as certain councillors have raised doubts about the quality of the ongoing road construction, the government has sent a team of technical experts, headed by technical adviser to Chief Minister B.S Dhaliwal, to inspect the work.

Dhaliwal denied that they had received any complaint from the councillors. They had come to the city on their own to inspect the road work, he said, adding that they would regularly monitor the projects in the city to ensure quality work. According to sources, certain councillors of the ruling party and independents had complained to the government about the quality of bitumen being used in the road construction.

Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation D.P.S. Kharbanda, while confirming the visit of the team, said Dhaliwal, who was accompanied by Harpreet Singh Brar, director (quality control), had expressed satisfaction over the thickness of the surface and density of bitumen being used on various roads in the city.


Bonus: No paddy for defaulting mills
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
The Punjab government has decided not to consider for allotment in 2008-09 kharif marketing season (KMS), rice mills which have not paid bonus to farmers in the season.

A spokesman said the government had taken notice of failure of some rice mills to pay bonus to farmers. He said only the millers who deposited bonus due from them with the respective district manager, Pungrain would be considered for allotment

On the allotment policy and conditions for provisional registration, the spokesman said if a rice mill had to deliver custom-milled rice of any agency pertaining to previous years, including 2007-08, it would not be considered for allotment. Similarly, the rice mills that have not delivered 75 per cent levy rice in the KMS 2007-08 would also be not eligible for allotment.


Centre’s yes to video-conferencing in jails
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
The decks have been cleared for video-conferencing in jails and courts in Punjab. Jails and justice minister Hira Singh Gabria said today that a decision to this effect had been conveyed to the state government by the Union government in a communiqué. He said an amendment was required to be made in Section 167(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code so that persons in judicial custody could be produced before the courts either in “person” or through the medium of “video linkage”.


High Court
Arrest of Moga MLA stayed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 16
Issuing notice of motion for November 10, Justice Arvind Kumar today stayed the arrest of Moga MLA Joginder Pal Jain in an attempt to murder and rioting case.

Jain, through counsel Sant Pal Singh Sidhu, had moved the high court following the dismissal of his anticipatory bail plea by the Sessions Court.

The FIR in the matter was registered under the provisions of the Arms Act and sections 307, 148 and 149 of the IPC on May 26. The complainant Guriqbal Singh had claimed his brother was contesting elections for the post of panch.
The complainant had added he, along with his brother, was returning after soliciting votes when they met Jain and others. On Jain’s call, he was fired upon.


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