P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Centre must return more taxes to states: Manpreet
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 30
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal has strongly pleaded his case before the 13th Finance Commission set up to look into the issue of sharing of taxes between the Union and the states.

“When the father is poor, children bear with the family finances, but when a parent becomes rich and deprives the children their due, there is bound to be a fight,” Manpreet reportedly told chairman of Finance Commission Vijay Kelkar at a meeting recently.

Manpreet, while addressing mediapersons here today, said: “Punjab and finance ministers of all other states almost unanimously told Kelker that it was very unfair that the taxes are collected by the states and taken away by the Centre. The Centre keeps 70 per cent revenue generated through taxes and returns 30 per cent to the states, whereas the entire burden of providing electricity, irrigation, health, education, law and order etc is on the states. The states are demanding a 50:50 distribution of taxes.”

While disclosing the fiscal health of Punjab, he said the state was in desperate need of Rs 3,000 crore to provide the much needed educational and health infrastructure. “To take Punjab ahead, we need this money and I don’t care where it comes from.” He said this money was required to meet the “critical shortfall” in the annual planned outlay of Rs 6,200 crore for 2008-09.

Manpreet hinted that the state had no option but to impose “traditional taxes, ensure better tax compliance or rationalise subsidies or perhaps all three.”

“My objective is not to provoke or embarrass anyone. I will be failing in my duty if I do not tell people the truth.

If we need more resources, we have to find ways to generate them,” he added.

He said despite challenges, he had set goals to improve the state’s economy, which was facing a debt of Rs 57,000 crore.

“Our borrowing per year from the central Government was to the tune of Rs 1,700 crore, which we brought down to Rs 1,200 crore last year. I hope that it will further come down to Rs 1,000 crore this year,” he said, adding that he would strive to make the state revenue surplus and bring down the fiscal deficit to 2.88 per cent.


‘UPA has been good to Punjab’
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 30
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal may be crying hoarse against discrimination by the Centre, but his nephew and state finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal says “to be honest, we have no problem with the Union government”.

Manpreet, while addressing the gathering at the Meet-the- Press programme held at the Chandigarh Press Club here today, said: “It will be cowardice to say they (Centre) have been bad to us”.

Interestingly, Manpreet’s frank admission blows the lid off a cleverly crafted piece of propaganda by Badal senior, who usually starts off every public speech by talking about the apathy of the Centre towards Punjab. The CM has also been stressing on this during the course of his sangat darshan programmes, which concluded today in Patiala.

While talking about Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, Manpreet very subtly highlighted that they had different traits, even as he asserted that there was no conflict between them and that he rejoiced in Sukhbir’s successes. “We were born in the same house. We used to stay in the same room and shared the same toys,” he said.

“Temperamentally we can be different because we went on to have different experiences,” Manpreet said even as he chose “practical” and “genuine” to describe Sukhbir and “emotional” and “philosophical” to describe himself.

Regarding his uncle Parkash Singh Badal, he said: “Even now I get votes in Gidderbaha because I am his nephew. He was kind enough to make me the finance minister. Throughout his life he has loved me more than his son. He knows it and even his son knows it.”

Even as he said all this, Manpreet asserted that he stood by his ideals and that he had still not given up on his stand on state subsidies, like free power being given to farmers. “Sooner or later they will come around to my view. This is democracy. It is give and take.” He also asserted that he was not trying to provoke or embarrass anybody when he made his point against subsidies.

When asked whether he was too idealistic for a populist state, Manpreet said ideas had to be floated with the aim of ensuring the progress of the state. He asserted that he wanted to bring in genuine change and would be happy to remain a four-time legislator, which he is presently, rather than being one till his last breath. “I could be involved in bringing up my children or take up teaching,” he added.


Trust Scam
VB raids houses of Jagjit Singh, Sharma
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 30
Vigilance Bureau’s special investigation team (SIT) today conducted a series of raids on the residences or prospective hideouts of Jugal Kishor Sharma, former chairman of the Improvement Trust, Amritsar, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, former local government minister, and those involved in the scam involving exemption to 32 acres from acquisition for a trust scheme during the Congress regime.

The raiding team, comprising Chaman Lal Sharma and Inderjit Randhawa, both SPs, conducted at least 30 raids, especially in Amritsar, to nab them. Sharma said Brig G.S. Khehra (retd) had also been named in the FIR on the basis of a statement of Bir Devinder Singh, former deputy speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, who had exposed the scam during the Congress regime.

The team claimed that Bir Devinder Singh had alleged that conduits of Veer Enclave (Amritsar) tried to bribe him with a view to preventing him from raising the matter on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha. The then Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, asked Bir Devinder Singh not to take up the matter, the statement added.

Sharma said during the raid at the local residence of Subhash Sharma, a partner of the Veer Enclave scheme, he, along with his sons, Vickey Sharma, Rohit Sharma and other members of the family, were found absconding. Similarly, raids at the residence of Jugal Kishor Sharma at Ramanand Bagh (Amritsar), all members of the family had reportedly gone underground. Raids at the residences of Brig Khehra in Amritsar and Chandigarh were carried out without any success. The then secretary and under secretary of Vidhan Sabha, who had reportedly tampered with the record, have also gone underground following the raids.

Earlier on September 16, the team, during its three-day stay in Amritsar, had found that the record pertaining to the exemption of 32 acres from the trust scheme had been tampered with. The files indicated that the former minister and the former chairman of the trust kept even trustees in the dark by not circulating the supplement agenda of four items.

Mohali: Meanwhile, the Vigilance Bureau moved an application in a local court seeking arrest warrants against Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and others named in the case. The court has fixed October 6 to hear the application moved by the Vigilance.


Journalists’ Insurance Scheme
State govt to contribute 50 pc premium
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 30
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal today announced that the state government would contribute 50 per cent of the premium required to provide a comprehensive health insurance cover to journalist members of the Chandigarh Press Club. The benefit would also be extended to the families of the members.

Notably the club has become the first media club in the country to provide medical insurance to its members through a special agreement with New India Assurance Company.

Badal, who was addressing the Meet-the-Press programme at the club, said: “I have an announcement to make. My government wants to fulfil the assurance given in the manifesto of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to contribute 50 per cent premium of medical insurance of Rs 1 lakh to all regular members of the club.”

He said the SAD-BJP government in the state, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was aware of the problems faced by the journalistic community. The media, he said, was the fourth pillar of Indian democracy and the Punjab government would extend all help to it.

According to club president Sarabjit Pandher, “Underscoring its social obligation, the Chandigarh Press Club has negotiated a ‘tailor-made’ scheme with New India Assurance to provide a health and accident insurance cover to its members.”

The “floater” policy comes into force from October 1 and will provide a accident-cum-health cover of at least Rs 1 lakh to each journalist, his or her spouses and up to three children.

The scheme is being extended to only those journalists, who opt to be a part of the scheme. The club has asked its regular members to furnish details and provide necessary documents at the earliest.

The club management and the insurance company have also clarified that members can seek more coverage by paying extra premium from their own resources.

The insurance cover comes into force from tonight.



No unbundling of PSEB yet: Badal
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 30
In what comes as a relief to thousands of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) employees, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has finally declared that the state government will not resort to unbundling of the PSEB without taking the board engineers into confidence.

Addressing a gathering of officials associated with the PSEB Engineers’ Association at Punjabi University here, Badal clarified that the state government had not yet made up its mind for unbundling of the board.

Badal said the state government was not keen to implement the process of unbundling; rather it was more interested in improving the financial health of PSEB.

He said the state government would deliberate upon all relevant issues, including strengthening of transmission and distribution (T&D) systems and augmentation of generation capacity with the representatives of the association The Chief Minister stressed on the need for long-term planning especially in the power sector, on the lines of Japan.

To improve the functioning of the board which had been badly hit by the paucity of staff, Badal said the state government had in principal given approval to the board to fill up 225 posts each, including that of sub-divisional engineers (SDEs) and junior engineers, besides 125 sub-station assistants (SSA) through a special recruitment drive.

In his presidential address, association president H.S. Bedi categorically said before deciding on restructuring of the PSEB, the Punjab government must decide whether it intended to run this organisation on purely commercial lines or as a service sector for the welfare of the public.

Earlier, the CM released a souvenir. He also heard grievances of residents at eight sangat darshans held in the city and announced a grant of Rs 23 lakh for the District Bar Association. 


Pvt traders looting us, say cotton farmers
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 30
Cotton farmers have pinned hopes on getting remunerative price for their produce from tomorrow when the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), that has announced an MSP of Rs 2,800 per quintal, is expected to enter the market. Initially, the CCI was supposed to come on the scene on October 1, but latest reports indicated that its officers were having second thoughts.

The cotton prices nose-dived to anything between Rs 2,300 and Rs 2,820 per quintal in the auction as private traders tried to lift as much cotton as they could on lesser rates before the entry of the CCI.

About 1,500 quintals of cotton was lifted here today, but the farmers lamented private traders were virtually looting them.

Darshan Singh, a farmer from Geribhagi village, said his quality cotton was auctioned for Rs 2,300 per quintal. There was no moisture in his produce, but the private traders were reluctant to give him a higher price, he said. Another cotton grower Major Singh of Jassipauwali was also critical of the authorities allowing their exploitation by private traders.

A senior officer of the CCI said the cotton containing moisture up to 8 per cent would be lifted at Rs 2,800 per quintal, but higher moisture percentage would result in further cut in MSP.

On the other hand, lifting of paddy remained sluggish as only the Punjab Warehousing Corporation participated in procurement today. Yesterday, only Markfed lifted paddy stocks from the grain market.

The paddy farmers were surprised that the four agencies, Pungrain, the Punjab Agro Corporation, Markfed and the Punjab Warehousing Corporation, that had been ordered to lift paddy here, were not doing the job simultaneously.


Row over subsidy payment to mill
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 30
Director, industries, V.K. Janjua has placed Gurdev Singh Mahal, block-level extension officer, posted at District Industries Centre, Amritsar, for allegedly demanding bribe from owners of RC Paper Mill (now Khanna Paper Mill) for handing over a draft of Rs 30 lakh, meant for subsidy.

The officer was deputed for releasing the subsidy to the mill after verifying its claim on September 1. However, Mahal, in a letter to his department, has alleged that he was punished for exposing the fact that the mill had sold the old machinery as scrap, hence it did not deserve subsidy as per the rules.

The government gives subsidies to the industry to encourage industrial growth. According to the rules to get subsidy, the conditions of the factory machinery should be intact and working at its original place. There should be no change in the constitution of the company and the share holding should be the same.

Earlier, in a communication to the general manager, District Industries Centre, the director of the mill had claimed that all fixed assets of RC Paper Mills Ltd were intact at their original place of installation after its merger with Khanna Paper Mills Ltd.

Industrial inspector Suresh Kumar, who visited the mill earlier, had reported that the mill deserved subsidy as everything was found in order during the inspection. The cheque for the subsidy amount had been released to the mill in less than a week of the filing of the claim.

Janjua said a high-level team would be sent from Chandigarh to cross check the claims of the mill owners, he added. Mahal, in his report, had alleged that he had found during the inspection that there was no machinery at the shed of the mill, hence subsidy claim could not be given. Employees of the mill told him that the machinery had been sold as scrap and the chimney dismantled to pave way for the construction of a new unit.


Gurdaspur rice mill owners go on strike
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 30
Rice mill owners of this district today went on a strike in protest against the alleged faulty milling policy of the state government and the declaration of 80 per cent rice mills as defaulter.

Bal Krishan Mittal, general secretary of the Gurdaspur District Rice Mills Association, said the rice mill owners had decided not to run their units this season till the state government changed its policy.

He said the government had declared around 70 rice mills, out of total 92 units of this district, as defaulters on the pretext that these mill owners had not cleared their dues. He added that such action had been taken by the authorities concerned on flimsy grounds and with the sole motive of harassing them.

He said for the past two days, no mill owner had been going to the purchase centres and grain markets of the district to purchase paddy. A decision to go on the strike had been taken at a meeting of the association late last night. Its next meeting would be held on October 2 to decide the future course of action.

Munish Narula, district food and supply controller (DFSC), said about 70 rice mills had been declared defaulter as per the policy of the state government. These mill owners had been urged to clear their dues at the earliest.


Pak co. makes film on gurdwara trees
P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 30
This will probably be a unique project of producing a documentary on trees of religious and cultural importance situated in various gurdwaras and other religious shrines across the two sides of the Indo-Pak border.

Pakistan-based Serendip Productions (Pvt) Limited, which had earlier produced a number of documentaries, including one on the earthquake that took thousands of lives across Pakistan and PoK, has decided to take up this task which will be based on the upcoming book written by D.S. Jaspal, secretary, Public Relations, Punjab. Dr Farooq Beg from the UK will direct the documentary.

A three-member team of production, led by Aisha Akram, associate director, and Rizwan Ahmad Bhatti, cameraman, filmed the documentary at Ber Sahib at the Golden Temple, Tahli Sahib, Neem Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi and Kapurthala. The documentary will be completed in three parts.

In the next visits the team will shoot at Amb Sahib, Mohali, Reetha Sahib, Uttrakhand, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Plah Sahib etc., besides shooting at Nankana Sahib, Gawindi, Lahore and Shah Bukar, Sialkot.

Aisha talking to The Tribune said every tree had a history to tell and every religious preacher had always exhorted their followers to plant more trees and respect nature. However, the civilisations had only destroyed it by deforestation and chopping trees for their vested interests, she rued.

She said they wanted to dedicate the documentary to 300th celebrations of guruship of Guru Granth Sahib and looking forward to telecast at Doordarshan by November.


Protection Act
Docs thank CM
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 30
The Patiala Allopathic Practioners Association (PAPA) has expressed happiness over Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s concern for protection of private doctors and clinics owned by them.

Dr Satwant Sachdeva and Dr V.K. Kapoor, president and secretary, on behalf of the association, said they would, in turn, put all their efforts to serve humanity in a meaningful way.

The association members added that they hailed the "wise" approach of of the Badal government to health and related issues.


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