P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Rapid Transport System for Amritsar 
REL team prepares feasibility report
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
The mass rapid transport system (MRTS) for Amritsar is inching towards reality. A team of Reliance Energy Limited (REL) was in Amritsar to prepare a feasibility report of the project.

A part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, REL, had offered to build and operate the MRTS for Amritsar city and submitted a proposal to the Punjab government.

“The REL team has visited Amritsar twice and started work on the technical study,” said Dr S.S. Sandhu, MD, Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB).

He added this Rs 1,600-crore project would be underway soon .“REL has routed the project through the Swiss Challenge. The company has been recognised as the original project proponent and would now submit detailed project report to us. The final proposal will then be put up for reverse bidding to see if anyone can better the Reliance’s offer,” said Sandhu.

Reliance has also deposited bank guarantee of Rs 4 crore with the PIDB as per rules of the Swiss Challenge. “The technical report is also being prepared by the company at its own cost,” said Sandhu.

REL has proposed the MRTS for Amritsar city be built keeping the Golden Temple as the epicentre of the city. The system would ensure easy access to the temple for outstation visitors and the local residents.

The system could be a metro rail, a light-rail transit system, a monorail or a rubber tyre-based transit system, depending on results of the feasibility study. The MRTS for Amritsar would be made operational either on the build, operate, transfer (BOT) basis or build operate and own (BoO) basis, added Sandhu.

“The district administration is assisting the REL team,” said K.S. Pannu, deputy commissioner, Amritsar.

The possibility of an alignment along the road connecting the Rajasansi airport to the walled city via the railway station would also be considered. The proposed station for the system near the Golden Temple will be at a walking distance from the temple. The entire alignment will be elevated and have at least 10 stations.

REL is the only company in the private sector which has been awarded such projects in India. It is developing 12-km elevated such system along the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor in Mumbai. 


Transport Dept most ‘corrupt’
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 20
While the level of corruption in the Transport Department regarding private carriers, especially trucks, is the highest in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, it is the lowest in Haryana in the country. This is the view of the National Motor Transport Congress, an organisation having several lakhs truckers as its members across the country. Besides Punjab and UP, other states where the level of transport-related corruption is very high include Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand.

“In Punjab, there is not one but several layers of ‘official system’ that virtually loot truckers,” said Charan Singh Lohara, national president of the Congress. “There are DTOs, ADTOs, RTAs, city traffic police, highway traffic patrols, etc, whose palms almost every trucker has to grease to stay in the transport business in Punjab,” alleged Lohara.

“According to a study of an organisation, truckers have to shell out about Rs 61 crore daily to satisfy the greed for money of officials concerned across the country in order to keep their vehicles on the roads,” he claimed.

Many officers collect money through agents appointed by them along the various main traffic routes. “Many officers have appointed owners of some of dhabas as their agents who are given special slips by these officers. The owner of a truck has to buy that slip to avoid fine.

Lohara alleged approximate expenditure on buying slips from Ludhiana to Kolkata could be up to Rs 5,000 per trip. He alleged certain officers of the Transport Department had developed nexus with their security guards and drivers to collect money from transporters.

“The level of corruption in the transport sector could be brought down to a large extent by abolishing the posts of DTO, ADTO, etc, on the Haryana pattern,” said Lohara.

Truckers threaten stir over fuel price

The National Motor Transport Congress said in case the diesel price was not lowered by October 31, it would resort to an agitation. President of the Congress Charan Singh Lohra said the price of crude oil had gone up to $ 147 per barrel in July and now it had come down to $ 61 per barrel. But, the Centre had made no move to effect change in diesel and petrol prices. 


PLPA may be repealed
Naveen S .Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
The tug of war between babus and politicians over the interpretation of the Punjab Land Preservation (Choes) Act (PLPA) as synonymous with or different from the Indian Forest Act, seems to be going in favour of people, wherever Section 4 or 5 of the PLPA has restricted development in the state. In simple terms it means the government is contemplating repealing the Act and clarifying that areas in Punjab declared closed under the PLPA have no bar on development.

When it happens, many areas in Hoshiarpur, Mukerian, Garhshankar, Dasuya, Mohali, Kharar, Anandpur Sahib, Dhar, Balachaur, Nawanshahr and Ropar will have the ban on development lifted owing to these areas being declared “closed” under the PLPA. The government will allow water and electricity connection to people who have built houses in such places.

Based on representations by MLAs and MPs from areas in Punjab, the government had the issue examined and legal experts said the case pleaded by politicians had merit. Nearer Chandigarh, Naya Gaon, Nada, Kansal, Karoran, etc will benefit too.

The office of the Advocate-General, Punjab, has agreed with former IAS officer Ravneet Kaur living in Naya Gaon, who in a letter to the Punjab chief secretary on September 29, 2008, maintained, “There is not a single notification under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, or The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, which applies to Naya Gaon. All notifications issued under the PLPA after 1987 are illegal and void. Except two notifications issued in 2003 and 2004, all others are expired, hence obsolete”.

The government is likely to act on the recommendation of the AG’s office.



Gurta Gaddi Diwas Celebrations Conclude
CM for better ties with all sects
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, October 20
The three-day tercentenary celebrations of the Gurta Gaddi Diwas concluded today with speeches by Sikh religious leaders and those of the SAD, including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

All speakers, however, confined themselves to religious and social issues and the emphasis was on the acceptance of Guru Granth Sahib as the only Guru. The incidents and sacrifices of the Sikh Gurus were also recalled by every speaker.

Nihal Singh Hariyan Bela Wale, chief of Hariyan Bela Wale, Baba Balbir Singh, chief of the Baba Budha Dal, Harnam Singh Dhuma, chief of the Damdami Taksal, Sant Baba Sarup Singh of Bidhi Chand Dal, Tota Singh, senior vice-president of the SAD, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, general secretary of the SAD, Jathedar, Akal Takht, Gurbachan Singh, Manoranjan Kalia, cabinet minister, Sikander Singh Maluka, district president of the SAD, Avtar Singh, SGPC president, Jathedar, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Tarlochan Singh, Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, and many others addressed the gathering at the Deewan Hall Bhai Dall Singh Ji at Takht Shri Damdama Sahib here.

Badal said: “One should grow bigger rather than cutting others to size to show them as shorter.”

Though he spoke at length about the importance of Guru Granth Sahib, Badal urged everyone to maintain harmony and cordial relations with people of all sects.

Badal also released a publication of the Department of the Information and Public Relations titled “So Said Guru Arjan Dev” - the first of its kind work based on the teachings of Guru Arjun Dev, in the form of a dictionary of thoughts, edited by Dr Harnam Singh Shan, along with a souvenir published by the SGPC.

Badal also distributed cheques among as scholarships under the Rs 30-lakh scheme launched by the SGPC for providing financial assistance to intelligent poor students. The SGPC chief said the amount would be distributed among 526 students.

Earlier, Badal, Jathedar Gurbachan Singh and various other Sikh leaders, after addressing the gathering, did not bother to remain present at the bhog ceremony of akhand path.

In comparison to the second day of the programme, when Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Sukhbir Badal launched the Nanhi Chhaan scheme, the venue today was lacking in hustle and bustle.


Badal condemns M’rashtra incident
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, October 20
Expressing regret over the Maharashtra incident where activists of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena attacked candidates of the railway board examination, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today accused political leaders of spoiling harmony and peace in the country.

Badal was addressing mediapersons at the Takht Damdama Sahib complex after delivering the Shatabdi Sandesh on the concluding day of the Gurta Gaddi Diwas celebrations.

Clarifying on the issue of increased cess on the sale of crops, he said: “No cess has been revised and it would remain at the existing 2 per cent.”

Speaking about development, he said: “We have been trying to get CNG stations throughout the state. We have urged the union ministry to provide such stations at all five municipal corporation cities of the state.”


‘UPA failed to safeguard minorities’
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 20
Accusing the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre of having failed to safeguard the interests of the minority communities of the country, Punjab cooperation minister and general secretary of SAD Capt. Kanwaljit Singh alleged that the Central government had virtually pushed the country into a state of anarchy.

He also demanded that the UPA government should come out with a statement in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing winter session of Parliament specifying its “achievements”.

“They should come out of their shell and tell the people as to what they have done to save minorities from various attacks,” said Capt Kanwaljit, who was here to attend a function pertaining to taking over by the newly-appointed chairman of the Patiala Improvement Trust, Inder Mohan Bajaj, today.

Going a step further, the minister alleged that the Congress, not only at the Centre, but in the Congress-ruled states, had been encouraging baseless campaigns against other states under its divide and rule theory. He said this government should follow the footsteps of the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab which had fostered communal harmony among different communities.

The minister said the Centre had failed on all fronts, particularly in providing relief to the common man who was suffering from the highest degree of inflation.

Responding to a query, Capt. Kanwaljit Singh said 80 per cent of the total DAP fertiliser available in India was imported.

“The Centre failed to announce subsidies in time which led to the delay in placing of orders by big companies. For this reason, shortage was there in the market whereas, the members of cooperative socieites in the state were getting DAP as per requirement,” said the minister.


SAD (A) team visits grain markets
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, October 20
A team of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), led by state general secretary of the party Jeet Singh Alloarkh, today toured some grain markets and procurement centres in the Lehragaga area to know the problems of paddy growers, regarding distress sale of their produce or delay in the procurement of their crop.

After visiting the markets, Alloarkh claimed that government agencies had failed in procuring the paddy of some farmers in some grain markets of the Lehragaga area for the past five to seven days. He said the team today visited six grain markets, including Dehla, Bhutal, Bakhora Kalan and Lehra, where they were told by farmers that they had been waiting for officials of procurement agencies for the past five to seven days, but to no avail. One farmer also alleged that his produce was not being procured as he had refused to pay money to the officials, he added.

Alloarkh asked the Badal government to ensure the procurement of paddy within 24 hours, so that farmers did not face the harassment in the grain markets. He also asked the government to ensure lifting of paddy within 24 hours. The SAD (A) leader also alleged that due to shortage of the DAP fertiliser in the state, the DAP was being sold in black market. 


Farmers block trains
Tribune Reporters

Sangrur, October 20
Various farmer organisations today blocked rail traffic for three hours in the district to press for their demands, including adequate supply of the di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) fertiliser, steps to stop distress sale of cotton and enhanced MSP and bonus of paddy.

At Dhuri, farmer unions, including the BKU (Ugrahan) and the Punjab Kisan Sabha, blocked rail traffic at a railway level crossing. They were addressed among others by state president of the BKU (Ugrahan) Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Punjab Kisan Sabha leader Major Singh Punnawal.

At Lehragagga railway station, BKU (Ugrahan) state chief Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Punjab Kisan Sabha leader Satwant Singh Khandebad and CPI’s former MLA Achhra Singh Guara led the protesters.

Farmers blocked rail traffic at a level crossing on the Ubhawal road in Sangrur. They were addressed by BKU (Sidhupur) leader Hoshiar Singh Kherri Chandwan and BKU (Dakonda) leader Gurmeet Singh Bhattiwal.

Amritsar: Members of eight farmer unions blocked trains at Amritsar railway station for three hours.

The disruption affected several trains, including Shatabadi, causing inconvenience to a large number of passengers.

The demonstrators threatened the government with dire consequences, if it handed over the PSEB to the private sector. Various farmer leaders demanded paddy MSP at the rate of Rs 1,100 with Rs 200 bonus.

Moga: Hundreds of farmers under the banner of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) protested on the main railway station here and blocked the rail traffic for more than three hours. They demanded early lifting of paddy produce from the grain markets, relaxation in the level of moisture content in paddy from the standard 14 per cent to 22 per cent for procurement in view of the recent rain.

There were reports of such protests from other parts of the district also.

Nabha: Members of the Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal) blocked the railway traffic here for two hours.

Addressing a big gathering of the farmers, Onkar Singh Agol, state general secretary of the body, said farmers had been forced to adopt such harsh means of protest as the Centre was paying no attention to their problems.

“Farmers were not even being paid the basic cost of their crops what to talk of profitability,” he said, adding that the government had always preferred importing crops at higher rates but offered lower MSP to the farmers of the country.

He said agricultural input costs, including labour, pesticides, fertilisers and petroleum products, had skyrocketed in the past one year.


PCMSA members meet pay panel, seek better pay
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA) has expressed resentment against the shifting of administrative control of health programmes from doctors to bureaucrats. Dr Hardeep Singh, president of the association, who met members of the Fifth Punjab Pay Commission here today told the government through the commission about the frustration among doctors which was compelling them to leave jobs.

Dr Hardeep Singh and Dr Ajay Bagga, press secretary of the association, said they had apprised the commission about stagnation and bureaucratic interference.

They said at the district level, control of all national health programmes had shifted to the deputy commissioners, at sub-divisional level to the SDM and at state level also a number of posts of bureaucrats had been increased which had downgraded the status of the PCMS cadre. PCMS doctors, they said, were the only cadre in which 98.6 per cent doctors were retiring on entry designation of service without promotion.

The Punjab government was treating doctors like bonded labourers by refusing VRS scheme, refusal to grant premature retirement after 20 years of service which had been extended to all employees of state, they said.

The president said PCMS doctors were the only category, where higher the promotion, lower the pay and lower pension for these officers. Besides the revival of the non-practising (NPA) for senior PCMS officers, senior administrative grade (SAG), HAG-I and HAG-II was also claimed for senior administrative posts, compared to the central doctors. In Punjab the number of senior promotional posts for these grades was only 1.4 per cent of the cadre, whereas at the Centre these were 20 per cent. So a PCMS cadre review was also demanded to increase number of promotional posts from 41 to 920.

Dr Harish Malhotra, joint secretary, Dr Mukesh Bhatia, regional secretary, and Dr Gurdarshan Joga sought higher qualification increments to all specialists, risk health allowance, ESI allowance, children’s education allowance. The chairman of the 5th Punjab Pay Commission assured them to resolve problems of doctors by bettering emoluments and administrative status. 


NRI accuses govt of land grab
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 20
Yet another NRI family hailing from the Syana locality of Balachaur has been struggling to get its land back from a close relative of Balachaur MLA.

Malkiat Singh (83), who is suffering from a coronary ailment, and his son Inderjit Singh have been making rounds of government offices to get the possession of their inherent land measuring 34 marla in a prime location in the Syana area, Balachaur.

“While the Punjab government claims to have opened its doors for NRIs, in fact, the state government, in connivance with the police and bureaucrats, is itself garbing the properties owned by NRIs,” he alleged.

“Away from my family living in a foreign country, I have been struggling for evicting the encroachers from my land for the past over six months,” claimed Inderjit.

The father-son duo has been feeling helpless as politically influenced officials in the local administration are hardly paying any heed to the directions of their seniors in the case.

Malkiat, who at present lives in Model Town, Jalandhar, claimed that Anil Kumar, a close relative of Balachaur MLA Chaudhary Nand Lal, has allegedly grabbed his inherent land, which has been registered in his name.

Repeated representations to the DC and the SSP of Nawanshahr in this connection have failed to yields results. Moreover, an application to the president of the NRI Sabha, Punjab, seems to have gathered dust in its Jalandhar-based office, lamented the old man as he tried to hold back his tears.

He said after repeated visits to the officer dealing with the case, a complaint file had been moved, but there was no progress in the case beyond that.

Meanwhile, refuting allegations, the MLA said that the man was telling a lie. He also denied having any relation with Anil Kumar.

“I do not know any Anil Kumar. I have no relatives in that area. Malkiat has been telling a lie and he does not even own any property in the area,” claimed Nand Lal.


Rape victim seeks MLA’s presence in court
Says he is hand in glove with the accused
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
The victim in the rape case involving Narinder Singh, director of Frontier Cycles, Ludhiana, has moved an application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking to make a sitting Akali MLA a party in the case.

It was mentioned in the application that an illegal inquiry was initiated by the SSP Fatehgarh Sahib at the behest of this MLA to hush-up the case. It was mentioned that the accused and the politician were good friends. This could be established through letters written by Narinder to the MLA, she said.

The victim pleaded to make the MLA a party in the proceedings of the petition and to summon him.

Earlier, the high court had raised doubts on the inquiry conducted by the then SSP Fatehgarh Sahib, Silabh Kishore.

Seeking an explanation, the high court issued notices to M.K. Tiwari, IG Zonal, Patiala, and now serving in the Punjab Housing Corporation, Chandigarh, and Silabh Kishore, SSP Fatehgarh Sahib, now posted as Commandant 36 Battalion Punjab, Punjab Armed Police, Bahadurgarh, for November 17 to explain as to how and under what circumstances they had conducted the inquiry.

It is pertinent to mention here that as per the inquiry report, the call records of the 'victim' and three others indicate a conspiracy to frame him.

According to police sources, on May 28, 2007, a case was registered against Narinder on charges of rape and criminal intimidation based on a complaint from a 24-year-old girl of Ropar. She had alleged that Narinder raped her at his house in Sector 34, Chandigarh, on the pretext of giving her a job.

According to the inquiry, the four were in constant touch with each other before and after the alleged rape took place.

The inquiry report concluded: “It seems from my inquiry that it was a well thought planning. The victim lured Narinder Singh and had intercourse with him. Thereafter, the victim got registered a rape case against him. This planning was made either to harm or extort money from him.”


Labour Dept rescues 211 children
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 20
Exactly after two years from the implementation of the Labour Child Act, the Punjab Labour Department has rescued 211 children who were working as labourers. The children, under the age of 14 years, have been rescued under the Act from various business establishments and houses in the state.

Information collected by a Delhi-based NGO Bachpan Bachaao Andolan under the Right to Information Act (RTI) from the labour ministry, revealed that 211 children were working as labourers in houses, dhabas, tea stalls, shops, hotels and other establishments throughout the state in the past two years. The government of India had banned child labour on October 10, 2006, onwards. According to Bhuvan Ribhu, national secretary of the Andolan, the labour ministry conducted 13,143 inspections and found cases of child labour in 364 places. Ironically, cases were registered against only 183 employers under the Act. Ribhu said the difference clearly reflects a major nexus between officials of the Labour Department and the violators.

He also revealed that the government did not have any tangible plan to rehabilitate the rescued children.

Giving details, Ribhu claimed that 1,77,268 underage children were forced to work as labourers in Punjab as per the 2001 census.

He also claimed that Punjab had come up as a big market for purchasing children in the past two years. “Underaged children from Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand and other eastern states are being sold by human traffickers in Punjab. Recent floods in these states have proved a boon for the traffickers who have been transporting children to Punjab in huge numbers,” claimed Ribhu. 


Turban Ban
Christian leaders to talk to Sarkozy
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, October 20
Christian leaders have decided to take up the issue of the ban imposed on wearing of turban in schools with the Sarkozy government.

A resolution to support the demand of the Sikh community for allowing Sikh students to wear turban in schools in France would be passed during the 13th ordinary synod of the Church of North India (CNI) being held here.

Sushma Ramswami, communication secretary, CNI, told The Tribune that a decision to this effect was taken by the synod after a section of leaders of the CNI and other Christian bodies visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar yesterday and interacted with Sikh leaders there.

The Christian leaders who visited the Golden Temple included Roy Lowes, Moderator, West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Churches in the UK, and Marianne Karsgaard, member, World Mission Council Church, Scotland.


PSEB trips on power management
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
In a worst-case power management scenario, the PSEB surrendered 15 lakh units of energy to the grid in September even though it has made a payment of Rs 21 crore for unscheduled withdrawal in the same month.

According to the information available on the website of the Northern Regional Power Committee, the performance of Punjab has been worst among all states if “unscheduled inter-change” is taken into consideration. This inter-change is the energy accounting system decided by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission whereby the difference between power scheduled and power actually drawn (consumed) becomes the “UI”.

The UI is priced according to the frequency with a rate of Rs 2 per unit at 50 hertz and Rs 10 per unit at 49 hz or lower. At the extreme high frequency of 50.5 hz or higher, the UI rate is zero.

According to former PSEB chief engineer Padamjit Singh, economy in grid operation is based on principle “buy cheap, sell dear,” that is to overdraw from the grid when energy rate is low during high frequency and sell to grid (under draw) during low frequency when energy rate may be as high as Rs 10 per unit.

However, during September, the PSEB bought power costly (over draw from the grid at high rate) and sold it cheap (under draw at low rate). The PSEB ended up surrendering power as well as money.

In sharp contrast to the PSEB, in the same month, the power surplus hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh earned Rs 18.15 crore and Rs 19.37 crore, respectively, through UI. The deficit states of UP, Rajasthan and Delhi had to pay a UI bill of Rs 125 crore, Rs 46.6 crore and Rs 24.8 crore respectively.

In 2006-07, Punjab drew 4,620 lakh units from the grid making a payment of Rs 236 crore while in 2007-08 the UI bill of the state was Rs 870 crore for a UI of 19,478 lakh units. During 2007-08, out of the total power purchase bill of Rs 6,015 crore, the UI bill alone was Rs 870 crore, which indicates that Punjab has been heavily overdrawing from the grid during shortage conditions in 2007-08.

Even though power purchase is the single largest item of expenditure in the annual revenue requirement of the board, it has seen a frequent change of heads of the system operation wing, which is responsible for all purchases. Since November 2007, five system operation chief engineers, including Satish Aggarwal, H.S. Garcha, M.S. Dua, R.K. Sharma and R.K. Duggal have been replaced. Two of the engineers were posted in the wing only one month short of their retirement.


Mohalla sanitation panels to go
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 20
The Punjab government has decided to abolish Mohalla Sanitation Committees in all cities of Punjab and draw up a plan to regularise services of thousands of employees of the committees. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal made this announcement while presiding over a function to commemorate Parkash Utsav of Valmiki here yesterday.

Badal assured the gathering to take up the matter with local government minister Manoranjan Kalia to abolish these committees in the state on the pattern adopted in five municipal corporation towns. Badal said all safai karamcharis would be regularised.

On the issue of Bhagwan Valmiki’s shrine in Amritsar district, Badal announced that a development committee would be constituted to sort out the issue. The Chief Minister also announced a grant of Rs 1 crore to this committee for undertaking development of the shrine.

Cooperatiion minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the SAD-BJP government was committed to upliftment of poor and downtrodden.


R.S. Mann to be chairman of finance panel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
Former chief secretary R.S. Mann is set to become chairman of the Fourth Finance Commission for panchayats and municipalities.

The commission is responsible for suggesting ways and means to improve the financial position of panchayats and municipalities in the state. This includes making recommendations regarding the transfer of grant-in-aid and share of taxes from the state government to self-government institutions so that local bodies can provide improved civic amenities.

Sources said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had cleared Mann’s appointment and that the notification was expected in a few days.


7 prisoners of Sangrur district jail released
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, October 20
Despite the grant of remission in sentences by the Punjab government to more than 150 prisoners throughout the state on the occasion of Gurta Gaddi Diwas celebrations, three prisoners of Sangrur district jail could not get themselves released today as they could not pay fines imposed on them by the court. The names of the three prisoners are Jasbir Singh of Fatehgarh Chhanna village, Kesar Singh of Ruldu Singh Wala village and Surinder Singh of Bhawanigarh.

However, seven prisoners of the jail were released at Ropar today, while one prisoner Resham Singh was released here in the evening as part of a goodwill gesture shown by the state government on the occasion of Gurta Gaddi Diwas celebrations. A total number of 11 prisoners of Sangrur district were found eligible for remission in sentences in the light of government’s instructions.

When contacted superintendent of the jail Kuldip Singh Dhaliwal said seven prisoners had been sent to Ropar the previous day for their release there. The names of these prisoners were Jinder Singh (Wazidpur Badeshan), Natha Singh (Benra), Jasbir (Sangrur), Bikram Singh (Sangrur), Darshan Singh, Prem Singh (Bhawanigarh) and Jeet Singh (Banbhora). He said these prisoners had been released at Ropar today.


A ‘Saanjh’ with Sufi singers, Pak artistes
P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 20
The drum beats of Lahore-based Panjtani group featuring 22 dholis (drummers) of international fame wove a magic with its rhythmic sounds and left the audience spellbound at the 5th Amritsar-Lahore Saanjh Festival-2008 held here last evening.

Pak artistes took the centrestage with Ustad Hamid Ali Khan of Patiala gharana and Sain Zahoor casting a spell with their classical and folk singing. Attired in black and golden robes, Zahoor, who has a unique style of singing the traditional poetry accompanied with an iktara, started his kalaam with Allah Hoo, a typical earthy style, which captivated the big audience. Zahoor, who had won 2006 BBC world music award, has travelled abroad and enthralled world audiences.

Giving the message of love, peace and harmony, Zahoor said he always prayed for warm relations between the two nations, which had embittered the past and the artistes were trying to apply balm to the hurt psyche with a common thread of culture and tradition.

Ustad Hamid Ali, son of famous classical singer Ustad Akbar Hussain Khan, also fascinated the audience with his singing. The classical singing of Hamid won hearts of the crowd in the Spring Dale Senior School complex.

The performance of Junoon Kuchh Kar Dikhane Ka-fame Akbar Ali, young folk singer Ashraf Ali with famous Punjabi singer Lakhwinder Wadali, was applauded by the audience.

Earlier, the festival organised by Punarjyot in association with the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, Lahore, was inaugurated by information and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia and other dignitaries present on the occasion by lighting the lamp. The festival is organised annually for harmonising the strained relations between people of two neighbouring countries with a common culture and living.

The co-founder and spirit behind the Saanjh festival, Usmaan Peerzada, a noted Pakistani TV star and theatre artiste, speaking on the occasion said the artistes of both countries should enhance the canvass of this festival to encompass people of Pakistan and India and project it as an Indo-Pak festival.

Faizan Peezada of the Rafi Peer Group said Saanjh made a humble beginning six years ago with a handful of artistes performing in front of a small group, today he was pleased to see a large group had turned out to enjoy the evening bringing in cultural renaissance of both countries. 


Panel to look into burning of farm waste
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
Acting on a petition bringing to fore the havoc to the environment caused by the burning of agriculture waste, the High Court today directed the states of Punjab and Haryana to constitute high-level committees.

These panels would draw a plan of action and within six months submit an action taken report.

The directions were issued by a High Court Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur on a petition filed in public interest by Capt Sarabjit Singh.

The committee would be headed by the chief secretaries of the two states and comprise secretaries in the departments of science, technology and environment, agriculture, health, besides rural development and panchayat.

It will also include nominees of agriculture varsities of the two states of Punjab and Haryana.

Plea dismissed

The High Court today dismissed Punjab’s petition for modification of an order granting 10 days protection to former minister Jagjit Singh Chaudhary for enabling him approach the designate court at Mohali for bail.

In a related development, Justice M.M.S. Bedi granted 10 days time to former chairman of Amritsar Improvement Trust Jugal Kishore Sharma for the same purpose of approaching the Mohali court.

The two had separately filed applications for bail in connection with a case registered against the state vigilance bureau at Mohali on the basis of Punjab Vidhan Sabha special committee report. The report pertains to alleged irregularities and kickbacks in granting exemption to a piece of land.

Dismissing the state’s plea, Justice Bedi observed in open court that Chaudhary Jagjit Singh’s plea was not considered on merits and he was merely relegated to alternative remedy by protecting him from the imminent threat of arrest. As such, no grounds for modification of the order were made out.

Hearing adjourned

Taking up a petition for removal of Dr Ravinder Singh from the post of vice-chancellor, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, and Dr Kiranjit Kaur from the post of principal, Patiala Government Medical College, Patiala, 
for getting their son admitted to a medical college against procedure, a Division Bench today fixed October 24 as the next date of hearing.

In his petition against the state, the Department of Medical Education and other respondents, advocate Ashish Goel also sought directions for cancellation of admission granted to their son Gurdev Partap Singh. 


PU teachers’ retirement age 
Final hearing on October 31
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 20
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today made it clear that the issue of enhancing the retirement age of Panjab University (PU) teachers from 60 to 62 would be decided by October 31.

As a bunch of petitions filed in the matter came up for hearing, a Division Bench of the high court granted respondent Union of India a last opportunity to file an affidavit clarifying its stand on the issue.

The Bench of Justice Ashutosh Mohunta and Justice Rajan Gupta said it would not be possible to allow six weeks’ time to the Union of India before proceeding in the matter as there were specific directions by the Apex Court to decide the issue on or before October 31.

As such, the Bench issued directions to the Union of India to file the affidavit on or before October 31. PU counsel, on the other hand, added it would be easier for the varsity to take a final decision after receiving the response from the ministry of home affairs (MHA). The bunch will now come up for final adjudication before the Bench on October 31.

Taking up the matter, the Bench observed the Union of India had earlier sought time to get instructions from the MHA as to whether the letter dated March 23, 2007, issued in the matter of retirement age was to be implemented across the country by the centrally-funded institutes, which were under the ministry’s preview.

The counsel had also asked for time to clarify whether Panjab University was included in the category of centrally-funded universities. For assisting the court, director (ANL), MHA, appeared in the court in connection with the matter.

A bunch of petition seeking the enhancement of retirement age has been filed before the high court. In one of the petitions filed by Dr A.C. Julka of the Economics department, directions have been sought to the authorities concerned to quash the letter dated July 23, 2002, vide which the Union of India had refused to approve the regulations framed by the Panjab University for enhancing the age of retirement of varsity teachers from 60 to 62 years.


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