P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Squall flattens paddy on 500 acres
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, October 6
Heavy rain, followed by squall, which hit this border district early morning today, caused huge damage to standing crop of paddy and fodder apart from uprooting number of trees.

A tour to rural areas of this district revealed that the paddy crop, which had nearly ripened, had been flattened by the squall in almost all parts of the district.

The affected farmers said as the paddy crop had been ripened fully, they were not able to cut the grain bunches from the flattened crop. They said they had suffered 100 per cent loss of the crop due to the squall.

On the other hand, the affected farmers started cutting the fodder crop immediately it was flattened.

Baldev Singh Kahlon, chief agriculture officer, said though it was difficult to assess the quantum of loss immediately, it could be estimated as per preliminary reports that standing paddy crops had been damaged fully on about 500 acres.

He said he had asked the official concerned to carry out a survey in the affected areas in the two days so that a comprehensive report could be prepared.

A section of farmers of this district were doubly cursed as earlier they had suffered huge losses due to floods in the Ravi and Beas.

Out of total 1.97 lakh hectare area of this district under paddy, the floodwater had caused 100 per cent damage to the crop on about 5,000 acres. The loss due to today’s squall could also run into crop on hundreds of acres.

Kahlon pointed out that the paddy, which had been flattened, mostly belonged to the Punjab number one, Dewegowda and PUSA varieties. He added basmati had suffered less loss compared to other varieties.


Gobindgarh Fort handed over to govt
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, October 6
It was an emotional moment for the Army garrison stationed in Gobindgarh Fort, which had been in its possession for 50 years, as it handed over its keys to the state’s Tourism Department today.

The Army had been maintaining the fort built in 1760 by Bhangi misl rulers and was christened Gujjar Singh Qila. Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered the fort in 1825 and it remained under his occupation till the British took over its control in 1845.

General Officer Commanding, Panther Division, Major-Gen P.S. Paul, handing over the possession to special secretary, Tourism, D.P. Reddy in the presence of deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu and other dignitaries, said during Partition the fort was used to shelter refugees.

The Army continues to occupy part of the periphery of the fort and a special road has been built to separate the Army unit and a separate entry provided for the general public to visit the fort.

Pannu said the district administration had sought Rs 50 crore to renovate the fort. However, the Department of Tourism and Culture Affairs in Delhi had provided just Rs 2.5 crore for the conservation and preservation of the fort as a large portion of the fort building was decaying while some roofs were crumbling. He said the fort would be soon thrown open to the public.

On the request of the state government, the Union government had decided to hand over the fort and the Prime Minister during his visit to the city in December 2006 had personally given the keys to the then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh at a rally to mark the transfer of the fort.


18 years on, ‘ex-militant’ acquitted in TADA case
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 6
A city court acquitted a former “militant” today after 18 years of registration of an FIR against him under various sections of the IPC and Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Act at the Bhogpur police station in the district.

Additional sessions judge-cum-designated judge of TADA court Buaji Sansi acquitted Mohinder Singh Titu of the Makhdumpura locality in Jalandhar of the charges after hearing the arguments of both prosecution and defence.

According to the prosecution story, Mohinder Singh, along with four other persons, had went in a Maruti van to a dera located in the jurisdiction of the Bhogpur police station and demanded licensed revolver from dera head Swami Narayan at gunpoint, but the latter told the former that he had not got one.

During the pendency of the case, then designated judge of TADA court S.S. Arora acquitted four co-accused of Mohinder Singh in 1997.

Talking to The Tribune after the acquittal order, defence counsel advocate K.S. Hundal said the court acquitted Mohinder Singh on hearing his valid submission and failure of prosecution agency on various grounds.

Hundal said he submitted before the designated judge that the prosecution agency had no mandatory permission of the IG of the area to prosecute Mohinder Singh and others. The IG’s permission was mandatory under Section 20 of the TADA Act, he added.

No proper identification parade of the accused had been done, Hundal said, adding the prosecution agency failed to produce any witness.

There was only one eyewitness, but he turned hostile. The prosecution had even failed to get the statement of the accused recorded under Section 313 of the CrPC.


102 PCS posts vacant
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 6
With as many as 102 posts of PCS officer, who can serve as returning officer or assistant returning officer, lying vacant in the state, a smooth conduct of the coming parliamentary elections is likely to get affected.

The serving officers reportedly even met Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in this connection recently, calling for a fresh recruitment of officers and raising of retirement age from 58 to 60 years on a par with PCS (judicial) officers.

“We asked the Chief Minister to immediately start the recruitment, for even if he begins the process now, it will take nearly a year and a half for the recruits to join the given posts,” the officers said.

As per the details culled from the grading list of the administrative officers, there are 288 sanctioned posts of PCS officer, besides eight posts of temporary status. Against a total of 296 posts, there are only 194 officers working. Five more officers, including two ADCs of Jalandhar, are scheduled to retire on October 31 this year and 10 more officers will retire in 2009.

All 20 districts of the state have vacant posts of PCS officers with a maximum of 13 in Patiala. The 13 posts include those of executive magistrate, SDMs, Rajpura, Patran, assistant commissioner of the MC, DETC, AETC, PSO (commissioner), member (additional) PSEB, secretary examination PPSC, estate officer-cum-director, land records (B&R), administrator-cum-additional controller government press and assistant MD (PRTC).

In Jalandhar too, there are 10 posts vacant, including those of SDM-II, deputy director, local bodies, deputy director, land records, PSO, estate officer, PUDA, assistant commissioner (grievances). The vacant offices are being managed by giving additional charge to other serving officers.

Similarly, there are eight vacancies in Amritsar, six in Bathinda as well as Ferozepur and five each in Ropar, Sangur, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur. Four posts each are vacant in Kapurthala, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana, Mansa, Moga and Muktsar districts. Tarn Taran and Nawanshahr have three unfilled posts each while Barnala has two vacancies. In Mohali, the only vacant post is that of assistant commissioner, grievances.


CCI participates in cotton procurement
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 6
Distress sale of cotton may end soon as union textiles minister Shanker Singh Vaghela has assured Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of the participation of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) in procurement operations.

Cotton growers were distressed as in the absence of any government agency private buyers were offering them price lower than the minimum support price. The average price in cotton markets in Malwa was quoted at Rs 2,735 against the MSP of Rs 2,800.

Since the CCI was not participating in procurement- it had procured only 7,000 bales from total of nearly four lakh bales so far - farmers were feeling let down. Farmers are also reportedly unhappy with some commission agents who had been conniving with private companies in allegedly keeping the official agencies out.

Badal reportedly spoke to Vaghela over the phone to highlight the problem of cotton producers of Punjab. He reportedly told the union minister that in the absence of the CCI, the nodal procurement agency, private companies were monopolising the procurement and offering farmers a price lower than the minimum price fixed by the Union government.

Punjab has a good cotton crop this year. But due to the indifferent attitude of the CCI, the farmers complained that they had been denied their rightful due. Had the CCI stayed in markets, private traders could not have forced the farmers to distress sale.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has directed the state agencies to monitor cotton markets and ensure that the CCI joined the procurement process.



PPCC working to silence Bir Devinder
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 6
The Punjab Congress is moving to limit the damage being caused to the party due to the war of words among former deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh and leaders from the Majha region with PPCC acting president Mohinder Singh Kaypee speaking to the former deputy speaker today.

The PPCC chief said he had also called Bir Devinder and Congress leaders, including Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Harpartap Ajnala, Sukh Sarkaria and others for a meeting to strike a rapprochement among them. “This is an internal party matter and I am working to resolve the issue”, he said.

Even as the PPCC is working to silence Bir Devinder, whose recent statements have embarrassed the party, particularly former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the party’s disciplinary committee is also collecting “material” in the case. Party disciplinary committee chairman G.K. Chatrath said once this was done he would study the matter and take an appropriate decision.

Meanwhile, party vice-president M.M. Singh Cheema today took umbrage at former deputy speaker’s statement saying that he would issue a last and final reply in the shape of a book if he was asked to explain his recent utterances in the wake of the disqualification of Capt Amarinder Singh from the Vidhan Sabha.

Cheema claimed the former deputy speaker was “demeaning” the Pradesh Congress leadership while detailing what he would do in case he was issued a notice by the Congress high command. He said if at all any notice was to be issued to him it would be done by the disciplinary committee of the PPCC and not the high command.

The Congress leader also claimed that Bir Devinder did not have any right to damage the party. “He can say whatever he wants if he chooses to leave the party”, he said, adding that the recent statements of the former deputy speaker could adversely affect the party ahead of the parliamentary election.

Cheema also claimed it was wrong of Bir Devinder to make accusations against the Congress leaders of the Majha area who had nothing to do with the Amritsar Improvement Trust land exemption. He said there might be an issue of personality clash but other leaders could not be taken into the ambit of the clash.


Probe into gunny bags supply: Cong
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 6
The Punjab Congress has sought a probe by a Central agency into the purchase of gunny bags (bardana) for paddy saying the material being supplied is below the prescribed standards and of very poor quality.

In a meeting presided over by leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and attended by Lal Singh, Brahm Mohindra, Avtar Singh Brar, Harminder Singh Jassi, Surinder Singla and Parminder Singh Pinky, the leaders held deliberations on the shortage of DAP in the state, poor quality jute bags and other farmer-related issues.

Bhattal said due to DAP shortage in Punjab, a lot of resentment was reported amongst farmers as wheat sowing season was on the anvil, for which DAP fertiliser was needed in bulk.

She urged the SAD-BJP government to make provision for the supply of adequate quantity of DAP and also expedite the lifting of paddy from the mandis so that interests of the poor farmers were safeguarded. She also asked for special girdawri, especially in Faridkot district, on account of recent floods.


Now, CPI seeks ban on Bajrang Dal
P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 6
A national executive member of the CPI, Dr Joginder Dyal, today demanded the removal of the Orissa government if it failed to ensure the safety of innocent people and minorities.

Dr Dyal was critical of the silence of the Central government over the rise of communal forces and unfortunate developments in various parts of the country, including Karnataka, Orissa and Assam.

He favoured the implementation of National Commission for Minorities’ demand for a ban on the Bajrang Dal for alleged killings of Christians in Orissa and Karnataka.

“If Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa, failed to give full assurance to a National Integration meeting of all parties scheduled to be held on October 13 to protect the minorities and innocent people, there is no other way but to sack his government”, he pointed out. He said the Orissa government had miserably failed to uphold the constitution where everybody had freedom to follow their religions and beliefs.

The Communist leader said the Central government and its agencies had failed on all fronts as Law and order situation is deteriorating in the country.


State of Primary Education
Govt survey shows the seamy side
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 6
The first-ever survey of basic education skills among government primary schoolchildren in Punjab shows that more than 50 per cent of class V students do not know how to read a story in Punjabi, over 25 per cent cannot write even Punjabi letters, almost 40 per cent do not know how to subtract and almost 70 per cent do not know how to divide.

The survey done as part of the Parro Punjab project is a government effort to quantify the poor standard of primary education in the state.

The data also reflects the gap between the number of boys and girls enrolled in primary schools. The number of boys in primary schools everywhere was found to be higher than that of girls.

The data was gathered in August from more than 11,000 primary schools.

“The class is divided into groups based on the level of reading and mathematical skills the students have. These students were given some basic reading and mathematical tests. The results we got is the baseline from where we have to begin,” said Krishan Kumar, director-general, School Education-cum-state project director, Sarv Siksha Abhiyaan.

In Class V more than 6 per cent of the students could not even recognise numbers correctly and more than 15 per cent could not do addition. In reading Punjabi students of classes I toV were tested for reading of letters, words, paragraphs and stories. In class I, 76 per cent students could not read the letters. In class III, nearly 45 per cent did not know how to read words. In class V, 53 per cent of the students could not read a basic story in Punjabi.

“Though this data is provisional, now at least we know where to begin. Students with reading and mathematics data are grouped together for focused attention. The teachers involved in the project also know what is the level of the students they are handling. They have been specially trained and are working very hard to improve these learning levels,” said Krishan Kumar.

While the situation was found to be almost equally bad across the state, in some districts the data was slightly worse. In Gurdaspur, for example, almost 12 per cent of class V students did not know how to recognise numbers. In Faridkot, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran over 60 per cent of the students could not read a full story in Punjabi.

“The data also reflects to some extent the major skill jump in reading is happening between class II and III and class III and IV, while it should have been accomplished by the end of class III,” said Ronald Ebraham, Pratham state coordinator, the NGO associated with the project.


Seechewal is Time hero
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 6
It has been a long journey for Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal from a small town to figure among 30 environmental heroes feted by the Time magazine in its latest issue.

He and Mohammad Dilawer, the sparrow man from Nasik, are the two Indians who have it in them to confront the threats facing the earth today.

“They know that they cannot single-handedly reverse the damage, but by their example, by their willingness to dedicate themselves to what too many still dismiss as a hopeless cause, these heroes of the environment provide light in the darkness. They are a living proof that despair is not the only option, that hope remains a choice. They remind us that in the face of human creativity and will, no challenge is too great, and no battle is invincible - if only we’ll fight,” the magazine adds.

The sant has been on the forefront to revive the Kali Bein in Sultanpur Lodhi since 2000. The Bein has the same significance for the Sikhs as the Bodh tree at Gaya has for the Buddhists. It was here that Guru Nanak Dev stayed for 14 years 9 months and 13 days and attained enlightenment. He used to meditate and bathe in the river every day.

Talking to The Tribune, Seechewal thanked the magazine for highlighting their efforts. “I also express my gratitude to the Almighty for according me the opportunity to be of some service to him and the community,” he added.

The kar sewa has not only provided people with manifold benefits and opened new vistas for economic development, but also spread awareness about the need to preserve our natural water resources, he pointed out.

“I am pained to see that people are not only cutting the branch on which they are sitting, but are uprooting the entire tree nowadays. It seems that people are hellbent on polluting water resources for petty gains.

“While farmers have left no stone unturned to pollute air, soil and food, the industrial and urban society has tried its best to ruin the rivers by dumping their poisonous waste and sewage in the water bodies,” he bemoaned.

“If we are to leave the earth a better place to live in for the coming generations, we have to do our bit in keeping the environment clean and green, otherwise it will be too late to do anything,” he warned.


SGPC sends task force to Haryana gurdwaras
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 6
The SGPC has deployed around 400 employees, including members of its task force, from Punjab at all seven historical gurdwaras in Haryana in view of the 30-day ultimatum given by the Haryana Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (Ad hoc) to form a separate shiromani committee. The SGPC employees were given the orders to report at Haryana’s gurdwaras this morning.

Such a decision is bound to hamper the functioning of various historical gurdwaras, including Takht Kesgarh Sahib, from where 50 employees have been rushed to Haryana.

Though SGPC president Avtar Singh has claimed that the Haryana committee has agreed in principle to extend the deadline of its ultimatum till November, SGPC’s task force and senior officials had been deputed at Haryana gurdwaras as precautionary measure.

The move has given a clear indication that the SGPC and the SAD government are determined to confront the Haryana and UPA governments on the issue. The SGPC president and senior Akali leaders had already met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard.

At least 51 SGPC employees each, headed by senior functionaries, had been deployed at all seven gurdwaras of Haryana.

The SGPC president said the employees would return only if they were sure that nobody in Haryana dare to take possession of the historical gurdwaras being controlled by the SGPC.


‘Don’t tamper with Jallianwala Bagh’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 6
On the call of the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee based at Jalandhar, various organisations and Communist leaders today held a rally and march at Jallianwala Bagh here demanding restoration, beautification and modernisation of the monument.

They demanded association of noted historians and researchers, including Prof Malwinderjit Singh, Prof Prem Singh, Dr Harish Puri, Dr Kamlesh Mohan etc on the expert committee constituted by the administration for the restoration of the Bagh. The speakers alleged that the original shape and structure of the monument was being distorted under the pretext of restoration and beautification. They alleged two streets of this bagh from where the killed and injured were taken out were being wiped out.


Plea to link Amritsar, Delhi to Nanded airport
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 6
The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM) has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for linking Amritsar and New Delhi with the newly constructed Nanded airport to facilitate the visit of devotees to the holy shrine Sachkhand Abchal.

Charanjit Singh Gumtala, patron, AVM, in a missive to Dr Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and civil aviation minister Praful Patel here today said those people who were unable to take the rigours of a long journey would be facing difficulty in reaching Nanded Saheb in view of the tercentenary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib being celebrated there.

Gumtala said efforts should be made to link Nanded to the UK, the USA and Canada via Amritsar so that devotees from these countries could easily visit these two Sikh shrines. He said many international flights were already operating from Amritsar and some of these could be extended up to Nanded.


Missing man’s body found
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, October 6
Body of Amar Singh, a resident of village Ghanaru, was found in the Bhakhra canal in his car today. A karyana merchant, Amar Singh had been missing from his home since Sunday evening. His family members told police that his mobile was also switched off.

Some people had held a langar in the area and heard the sound of the car falling into the Bhakhra river. They informed the police about it. No immediate action could be taken due to darkness. Divers were pressed into action today and they managed to tow out the vehicle with the dead body in it by evening.

The police is yet to take an action in this context.


13 injured in road mishap

Anandpur Sahib, October 6
Thirteen persons were injured as a bus overturned near village Mohiwal here today. The incident took place at around 5.30 am when the bus with pilgrims was returning from Naina Devi. 

All pilgrims were from Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. The brakes of the bus suddenly failed and its driver rammed the vehicle into the hill to stop it. The injured were admitted in civil hospital Anandpur Sahib and while others were treated at Naina Devi dispensary. — TNS


Beant Case
UOI seeks dismissal of compensation suit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 6
Replying to civil suit for Rs 50 crore compensation filed by 39-year-old Navjot Singh who was acquitted in the Beant Singh assassination case, the Union of India has stated that the suit was not maintainable. It should be dismissed due to insufficient court fee.

The reply was submitted in the court of Civil Judge, Senior Division, J.S. Bhinder. It was stated that Navjot was involved in a heinous crime and remained in custody in exercise of the sovereign power of the state and with the orders of the court. The Union of India further stated that Navjot had submitted in the petition that he remained in jail most of the time in the Beant Singh assassination case but the state had no relation with the case. It further maintained that no representation of any kind was received from the plaintiff or his relatives regarding his false implication in the case in Delhi.

Navjot had filed a civil suit against the Union government, Chandigarh Administration, Delhi Administration and two senior officials of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - R.S. Dhankar, SP, Delhi and S.N. Saxena, SP in Mumbai. He had sought the hefty amount for “harassment and torture” by them.

When Navjot was arrested on September 17, 1995, from his Mohali residence, he was working with Ranbaxy.

Thereafter, he was wedged in jail till July 30, 2007, when the trial court of ADSJ Ravi Sondhi ordered his acquittal after the CBI "miserably failed to bring home any charge against Navjot" in the matter.

Navjot pleaded before the court that he suffered monetary loss, besides failing to get married in time, because he was in jail.


Heroin Seizure
NRI remanded, wife let off
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 6
The NRI couple, Raminder Singh Nagra and his wife Harinder Kaur, were interrogated by DRI officials today. Later, Raminder was remanded in Customs’ custody for investigation. However, Harinder was let off.

According to sources, the DRI had zeroed in on Raminder as he was responsible for carrying the consignment meant for Canada.

The Customs and the intelligence agencies have been put on high alert to thwart sneaking out of heroin from the airport. Customs officials said they had conveyed to higher authorities to install ION scanners and deploy sniffer dogs to detect drugs concealed in baggage.

The sources said the high-level team from Delhi had been briefed about the loopholes in X-ray scanners to detect sneaking of drugs wrapped in carbon papers.  


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |