P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Violence against Christians has sullied India’s image’Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, October 17
India will have to pay the price if its government fails to stop violence against Christians and protect its citizens from the attack of fundamental forces.

This note of warning was issued by Samuel Kobia, general secretary, World Council of Churches (WCC), Geneva, after inaugurating the 13th edition of ordinary synod of the Church of North India (CNI) at a school here today.

"If violence against Christians continues and the government of India fails to protect its people, the WCC will be forced to ask developed nations to snap economic ties with India," pointed out Kobia, adding that such an action could be used as a weapon against India “to set things right”.

Talking to The Tribune, Kobia said though the matter pertaining to the killing of Christians and burning of churches in Orissa and other parts of the country had been taken up with United Nations (UN) secretary general and Indian ambassador in Geneva, the WCC would mobilise its constituencies and Christians all over the world to lodge protest in front of Indian embassies and in major cities in their respective countries to lodge their protest against such kind of violence.

He added that tomorrow he would be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or his senior Cabinet colleagues to know what action had been taken by the government of India to ensure the safety of Christians in the largest democracy of the world. "What matters most to me is what is being experienced by Christians in Orissa and other parts of India and not what has been said as an assurance by the government of India in connection with the safety of Christians," he added.

"The WCC will be taking its action as per its finding. The ground realities will be considered and if it is found that Christians are being treated as second-class citizens and being attacked by fundamentalists for making them to embrace Hinduism forcibly, the WCC will resort to protest," he said, adding that violence against Christians had sullied the image of India at the international level.

In a significant statement, he said the WCC along with Catholic Church, Rome, had been working hard to bring out guidelines in connection with the conversion of religion. The guidelines were expected to come out by the mid of next year. The heads of different religious bodies had welcomed this initiative of the WCC.

When asked whether he was in favour of making anti-conversion laws, he said the enactment of such a law alone would not be enough to stop violence.

Amritsar: Raising its concern over the killing of innocent people of the community in Orissa, the All-India Christian Council (AICC) today alleged that the Bajrang Dal in collusion with the police was targeting members of minority communities.

John Dayal, secretary general, AICC, urged the Punjab government to ensure the security and economic prosperity of the minority committee in the border state.


Kandhamal victims narrate harrowing tales
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, October 17
Life seems to have nothing to offer to Ganda Digal, a Christian of Barakhama in Kandhamal district of Orissa.

The repeated violence perpetuated on him and his family members by fundamentalists since December 2007 has turned him into a psychiatric patient and forced the entire family to flee to forests to save themselves.

"I was trying to come to terms with the tragedy, which happened to me in December 2007, when I was mercilessly beaten up by fundamentalists to make me convert my religion. The fundamentalists attacked my son Parsad Digal for the same reason," said Ganda in front of the gathering of the 13th edition of the synod of Church of North India (CNI), which began here today.

Though his son suffered gunshot injuries, the police did not register any case. They were refused treatment in government hospitals, he alleged. "The family is so traumatised that they are now planning to migrate to Kerala," he said showing scars of sharp-edged wounds on his neck and legs.

Similarly, Priya Ranjan Pradhan, a Christian of Punaspadi village of Kandhamal district, shivers when he thinks about the violent incidents.

"My father Nika Pradhan was mercilessly beaten up. My head was shaved off. I was forced to embrace Hinduism after six members of my family were dragged out of my house and beaten up along with the threat that if I did not embrace Hinduism, all of us would be killed," alleged Priya Ranjan Pradhan.

He added that though they reported the matter to the police, no case was registered against the accused. He said he along with his family were staying in the village under constant fear and without security.

B.D. Das, an advocate, who has been fighting against this injustice by filing writ petitions in the Orissa High Court and Supreme Court, said Christian organisations were also not being allowed to start rehabilitation work in the affected areas. 


PGI to treat 6,000 school kids with heart ailments
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 17
The PGI authorities yesterday agreed to treat 6,000 school students suffering from various heart ailments in Punjab.

While about 1,800 school students will be needing surgical intervention, others will require regular medical treatment.

Official sources said of the 30 lakh students in various schools in the state, one per 1,000 were suffering from rheumatic heart diseases and an equal number was suffering from congenital heart problems. Of the 1 per cent suffering from rheumatic heart diseases, about 10 per cent have to be treated through surgical intervention. In case of those suffering from congenital heart diseases, 50 per cent often require surgical intervention for treatment purpose, it is learnt.

A team of Punjab officers and doctors led by director, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Punjab, Satish Chandra on Thursday held a meeting with director, PGI, K.K. Talwar and other doctors of the cardiology department to work out a package to treat school students suffering from heart ailments. The outcome of the meeting has been positive, it is learnt.

Earlier, the PGI authorities had shown reluctance, taking the plea that the institute did not have enough infrastructures to handle such a large number of cases.

Under the NRHM, there is a provision to treat students suffering from serious ailments. There will be Rs 1 lakh expenditure per head to operate those suffering from rheumatic ailments and for others, the expenditure will be Rs 65,000 per head.

During a sample survey, worrying incidents of heart problem were detected among school students in Punjab. The survey was sponsored by the Medical Research Institute of India. It was done by a team of doctors trained by the PGI .

“Most of the students studying in government schools belonged to poor families or small and marginal farmers. They could not afford treatment on their own. The NRHM would provide medical help to them,” said Chandra.

He said there was also a programme to provide health cards to all school students. An order had been placed to get printed about 30 lakh cards by Krishan Kumar, director, Sarab Sikhsa Abhayan, Punjab. Teams of doctors examining students will record their findings of health cards which will be issued to students.



AISAD questions Badal’s remarks
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 17
The All-India Shiromani Akali Dal (AISAD) yesterday questioned the remarks of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal terming the Panthic Front as “equal to zero.”

AISAD president Jaswant Singh Mann in a statement, while taking a dig at the CM, said his statement smacked of political arrogance.

Mann said he should recall that the BJP could garner only two seats in the Lok Sabha (LS) in 1984 elections after the assassination of former PM Indira Gandhi. Badal’s party too lost a security deposit in the LS in 1989.

Mann said political arrogance, bad governance and incompetent aides and advisors would spell disaster for the future of the Akali Dal.

He added those who did not subscribe to the ideology of the SAD were ruling the roost in the present Badal-ruled Akali outfit. The collection of opportunists and non-believers in the original thinking of the Akali Dal had sneaked their way into corridors of power.


Atta-dal Scheme
Re-verification of beneficiaries ordered
CM launches Ghaggar project
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Khanauri (Sangrur), October 17
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today ordered the re-verification of the atta-dal scheme’s beneficiaries so that the names of the ineligible persons could be deleted from the lists of beneficiaries and the names of left-out eligible persons could be included in the scheme.

Badal said this after laying the stone at the RD-460 here for the commencement of the Ghaggar project for the widening of 22.45-km-long Ghaggar river from Khanauri to Makror Sahib village and the construction of embankments at a cost of Rs 137 crore in the first phase of the project.

In the second phase, work on the remaining 18 km Ghaggar river from Makror Sahib village to Karrail village will be completed at a cost of Rs 80 crore.

Badal said that after the review and re-verification of the beneficiaries of the “atta-dal scheme”, cards would be issued to all left-out eligible persons so that they could also get the benefits of the scheme. He wanted to extend benefits of the scheme to all genuine and eligible persons. However, Badal also admitted some shortcomings in the scheme.

Regarding the Ghaggar project, the Chief Minister said he had asked the officers and the minister of the irrigation department to complete the first phase (Khanauri to Makror Sahib) of the Ghaggar project before the next rainy season so that the farmers could be saved from the Ghaggar fury during the next monsoon.

He said besides the widening of Ghaggar river and construction of embankments, the water passing capacity from the siphon, situated at Khanauri, would be increased to 25,000 cusecs from 14,000 cusecs. Area in charge of the SAD for the Lehra Assembly constituency Prem Singh Chandumajra said as per his promise to the people of the Ghaggar area, he would save them from the fury of the Ghaggar, he had fulfilled his promise.

Earlier, Badal dedicated the 66-kv grid sub-station at Banarasi village to the people.


Paddy arrivals slow in Amritsar
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, October 17
Even though the Centre has announced Rs 50 per quintal bonus on the paddy, arrivals in district mandis continue to be slow. The government agencies have procured 1.58 lakh quintals of permal and similar varieties against the last year’s purchase of 1.25 lakh quintals.

Dr Anjum Bhaskar, district food and supplies controller, said due to hailstorm and rain during the past two days, the arrivals had slowed down. She said the government was expecting that PUSA 1121, which is likely to be notified as basmati, was likely to start pouring in the mandis in a big way. She said after the news, the rates of the variety were expected to jump from present Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,200 per quintal.

Dr Bhaskar said two lakh quintals of the sharbati variety had arrived in mandis during this season, but it failed to get the required price as the government had banned the export of non-basmati varieties. Its rates had dropped to Rs 900-950 from Rs 1,400 last year.

The farmers want the government to lift the embargo on the sharbati variety. She said total arrivals till date in various mandis of this district stood at 4.75 lakh quintals.

Secy allays fears on DAP supply

Gurdaspur: Chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh said here today that farmers would be paid paddy bonus as soon as the Centre released the money.

He said farmers would not face shortage of the DAP fertiliser during the coming rabi season. Out of the required 5.5 lakh MT of DAP for the rabi season, the arrangement of 2.5 lakhs MT of DAP had been made.

The chief secretary, who visited grain markets of the district, said paddy procurement here was going on smoothly. He added that it was being ensured that the auction of the paddy must be held within 24 hours of its arrival at any purchase centre. And farmers should be paid for their produce within 48 hours of its procurement.

The paddy must be lifted within 72 hours of its procurement, he added.

Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, deputy commissioner, who accompanied the chief secretary to the grain markets, said so far licences of 12 commission agents in this district had been suspended for violation of procurement norms. A fine totalling Rs 1.1 lakh had been imposed on the traders.


Patiala bus stand gets low bid
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
The ongoing recession seems to have hit the attempts of the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) to rope in money for the cash-strapped Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), with a very low bid of Rs 7 crore being received for leasing out the corporation’s Patiala bus terminal for a period of 90 years.

The PIDB has decided to re-negotiate the bid, as the bidder Delhi-based Spirit Global is set to get around 14 acres of land on the outskirts of the city at a low price. Under the terms agreed to by both parties, the private firm will design, build, operate and transfer the property at the end of the lease period.

The private firm is duty bound to build and maintain the proposed air-conditioned bus terminal, and in exchange for this can use the space above it for commercial purposes.

According to sources, the PIDB has decided to call in the bidder for negotiation, as the ongoing recession has resulted in one taker each for both bus terminals. The Bathinda terminal has attracted a bid offer of Rs 32 crore from Mumbai-based Akruti City, which PIDB’s consultant Infrastructure Leasing and Finance Services says is “reasonable”.

“However, we will call both parties for re-negotiations,” said PIDB managing director Sukhbir Singh Sandhu while talking to TNS.

Sandhu said in case of both Patiala and Bathinda bus stands, the aim was to ensure world-class infrastructure, which could be maintained by the builder himself over a long time period. He said under the terms of the agreement, the builder would pay 5 per cent of the bid amount to the government every year.

According to sources, the commercial component in the case of both Patiala and Bathinda bus stands was much more and the bidder was encouraged to build quality infrastructure, as the property would be with him for 90 years. In case of earlier bus stands of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, the government is not getting much by way of revenue from the old model.

However, the PIDB may have to hot sell the Patiala property to the investor, as the transport department, too, is not happy with the low bid received for it. “We expected a much higher bid,”transport secretary D.S.Jaspal said.


VB tightens noose around neck of Jugal Kishore
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 17
The Vigilance Bureau has tightened noose around the neck of former Congress MLA Jugal Kishore Sharma, who went underground following raids to arrest him in connection with the Amritsar Improvement Trust scam. The bureau has re-opened the probe against him in yet another case pertaining to violations of building bylaws in the construction of a multi-storeyed building near Town Hall. The building belongs his elder brother Kewal Krishan Sharma.

The bureau picked up three employees from the Municipal Corporation office, who were let off after preliminary investigation. According to SSP, Vigilance, Dilbag Singh Gill, the elder brother of the former Congress MLA was not at his home when sleuths visited his house. The MC employees, who were asked to join the investigation, are Kashmir Singh, head draftsman, Jagdev Singh, draftsman MTP, and Hans Raj, superintendent, Land Department.

Sources said the revenue records showed that the government land had been encroached upon to construct the building.

Now, the inquiry is being conducted by DSP Amrik Singh. The sources said in all nine MC employees had been booked in the building case.

Earlier, then SP (Vigilance) Sukhdev Singh had asked the district revenue officer to issue written instructions to patwari to record his statement in his office regarding the ownership of the land on which the building had been raised. 


SGPC announces Rs 5 lakh annual grant for Pbi varsity
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 17
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has agreed to extend an annual grant of Rs five lakh to the Punjabi University’s Guru Tegh Bahadur National Integration Chair for promotion of the message of secularism and national integration.

The decision was taken today by the executive committee of the SGPC at a meeting held under the chairmanship of its president Avtar Singh. It is for the first time that the SGPC and the Punjabi University are entering into a collaboration.

Responding to the decision, the Punjabi University’s vice-chancellor Dr Jaspal Singh said the SGPC’s move would go a long way in furthering the inter-faith dialogue and strengthening the cause of religious pluralism.

The varsity, on its part, will extend every kind of academic and scholastic cooperation to the SGPC for meeting the broader objective of spreading the divine message among various sections of the society, said the VC.

According to the chairman of the National Integration Chair Dr Baltej Singh Maan, Avtar Singh has assured that in addition to the financial assistance the SGPC would also collaborate with the varsity in carrying out all types of scholarly projects and organising academic functions for propagating the Sikh religious and moral values.

The SGPC would also help the varsity in getting books and journals published, even as the collaboration would provide a wider platform for broad-basing its activities.

Mann said efforts would be made to promote the philosophy of Guru Tegh Bahadur, which was aimed at spreading the message of social equality and brotherhood among the masses.

Seminars and conferences would also be held to find out solutions to the challenges being posed by some anti-social elements, bent upon spreading hatred, violence and terror in the society, he added.


Bulletproof Car for Judge
HC: Is threat to Bhaniarawala more severe? 
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today questioned the state of Punjab on logic behind providing bulletproof cars to Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarawala and Bathinda MLA Harmohinder Singh Jassi, while ignoring the safety concerns of the judicial officer who sentenced late Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassins to death.

Bhaniarawala is a self-proclaimed god man and the author of a controversial book containing blasphemous references to Sikhism. Jassi, on the other hand, is related to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Justice Ranjit Singh categorically asked the state to explain whether threat to them was greater than the danger faced by the judicial officer, who had performed his duty without fear or favour while pronouncing the death sentence.

The case for providing a fully-functional bulletproof vehicle to the judge also saw the issuance of a contempt notice to A.K. Saxena, a director in the ministry of home affairs and justice, Delhi.

He was asked to show cause why contempt of court proceedings be not initiated against him for failure to comply with court orders on providing the car. Directions were also issued to the Union of India to make necessary provisions within three weeks for providing funds to the Union Territory of Chandigarh for the purchase of the vehicles. The UT would tell within a week the amount required.

As the matter came up for resumed hearing, Justice Ranjit Singh observed the way Punjab had acted was “shameful”. Making it clear that the state was not having its priorities clear, Justice Ranjit Singh quoted the example of families of slain Chief Minister Beant Singh and a former Punjab Police chief, KPS Gill.

Justice Ranjit Singh observed Beant Singh’s family had just one bulletproof car, while Gill’s family had at least five, even though threat perception was almost the same.

Coming down heavily on the state, Justice Ranjit Singh added the state would have conveniently thrown Gill’s safety concerns into a dustbin had he been a civilian.

He observed with a tinge of sarcasm, “Your Chief Minister is dead and the government has changed, your responsibility is over”. The judge added there were as many as 27 bulletproof cars, but the government of India had failed to provide a vehicle in working condition to the judicial officer.

Dictating the order in an open court, Justice Ranjit Singh said the bulletproof car provided by Punjab was stated to be non-functional. The state conceded it was sent for repairs, but was now functional. The fact needs to be confirmed by amicus curiae Preetinder Singh Ahluwalia. For the purpose, he is required to get in touch with the judicial officer.

The judge added it was for the authorities concerned in Punjab to realise their responsibility. The Union of India too had been adopting different means to avoid compliance. This attitude could not be appreciated. It could not be expected that the Union of India was lacking funds to purchase the vehicle. Before parting with the matter, Justice Ranjit Singh fixed November 17 as the next date of hearing. 


NGO to approach monitoring panel on police reforms
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
Disposing of a petition challenging the provisions of Punjab Police Act of 2007 on the ground that it was "as archaic and colonial as the Police Act of 1861 framed by the British", the Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked the petitioner NGO to approach the monitoring committee on police reforms.

The Supreme Court in July this year had issued an order paving the way for setting up the committee to look into the compliance by the states and union territories.

The directions to approach the committee were issued by a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur.

The petition was filed in public interest by Resurgence India for quashing certain portions of the new Act. Describing itself as a "public-spirited organisation pursuing the cause of police reforms in the State of Punjab", Resurgence India had sought directions for quashing portions of the new Act that defied the letter, spirit and intention of the Supreme Court judgement on police reforms in Prakash Singh's matter.

The petitioner had asked for directions to quash in particular the provisions pertaining to the selection of the director-general of police (DGP), his tenure, the State Security Commission, Police Establishment Board, Police Complaints Authority -- both at the state and the district levels -- and the minimum tenure of police officers on operational duties in the field, besides the separation of "investigation police" from the "law and order force".

Land mafia nexus

In an application, Ludhiana tehisldar Arvind Parkash Verma has alleged he was implicated in a case by land mafia, which was enjoying the patronage of “high political persons”.

In the plea placed before the special Division Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, Verma said he was posted as tehsildar in Ludhiana (West).

He added acting on his petition the same Bench had earlier directed the removal of a tehsildar from the post. The tehsildar was a respondent in the matter and his property dealer brother was an active member of land mafia.

He added the land mafia, at the behest of the respondent tehsildar, conspired to have him removed. Subsequently, on September 19, he was implicated in a case. The complainant, he alleged, too, was close to the land mafia. In an attempt to substantiate his contentions, Verma placed on record call details to link different people allegedly involved in the conspiracy. Several photographs were also annexed. The case will now come up for hearing on January 9 next year.

Relief for Jagjit Singh

Punjab’s former minister Jagjit Singh Chaudhary received limited relief from the High Court. He was granted 10 days time to approach the designated court in connection with a case registered against him by the state vigilance bureau at Mohali on the basis of Punjab Vidhan Sabha special committee report. In the meantime, he will not be arrested.

The report pertains to alleged irregularities and kickbacks in granting exemption to a piece of land.

Justice MMS Bedi granted the petitioner time to approach the lower court at Mohali within 10 days for the bail. The petitioner was the local bodies minister when the exemption came to be granted.

PCS vacancies

On a petition for directions to Punjab to conduct examinations for PCS (executive), Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur’s Bench has asked Punjab Advocate-General to seek instructions and inform the court on the vacancies.

He has also been asked to inform the court the reasons for not filling the vacancies. The case will come up on November 21.


3 remanded for attack on rape victim
Tribune News Service

Moga, October 17
The three suspects of the acid attack on a Dalit woman of nearby Ghal Kalan village have been remanded in one-day police custody by a local court.

Soni, who had sexually harassed the victim four months ago, and two of his associates Nita and Jita, were today produced before duty magistrate Anantdeep Singh at his residence, who sent them in remand.

Meanwhile, deputy IGP R.P. Mittal came here this morning and met the victim at the district hospital, where she was undergoing medical treatment.

DSP Bhulla Singh went to the village and recorded statements of a few persons. It was learnt that most of the persons had given their statements against the victim.


Diamond Robbery 
Mohit’s remand extended, 1 more held
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, October 17
The investigation into the diamond robbery, involving the son of the SSP (Vigilance), Patiala, has revealed that the driver of the car, in which the Mumbai-based diamond merchant had been travelling, was allegedly in touch with Mohit Sharma, the alleged mastermind of the robbery, before and after the incident.

Meanwhile, following an application by Ashwani Bedi, public prosecutor, the court today extended the police remand of Mohit and his accomplice Harbans Singh by one more day. The extension in remand was sought for the recovery of Indigo car allegedly used in the crime.

The vehicle is believed to be in Delhi.

The court also accepted the demand of the prosecution for conducting the identification parade of four accused, Ashok Kumar Sharma, alias Billu, Sukhdev Singh, alias Baz, Abdul Meharban, alias Miyan, and Gurdhyan Singh, who were remanded in judicial custody today. The Jalandhar jail authorities have been asked to conduct the identification parade of the accused. Meanwhile, the police arrested one more suspect, Shammi Kumar, in the case. Another main accused Amardeep Singh, alias Bittu, is at large.


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