P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Nanded to be Hazur Sahib
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Jathedar Kulwant Singh ties a turban on Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala at Takht Hazur Sahib on Friday.
Jathedar Kulwant Singh ties a turban on Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala at Takht Hazur Sahib on Friday. Photo: Vishal Kumar

Hazur Sahib, October 24
The Maharashtra government is contemplating renaming Nanded, situated on the Godavari, as Hazur Sahib Nanded to commemorate the tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi Divas and Parlokgaman of the 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh.

Nanded district, also known as Nanded-Waghla, is famous as Hazur Sahib, one of the five Takhts.

This is the city where in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh left for heavenly abode.

It is Marathwada’s second most important city after Aurangabad.

After the tercentenary celebrations, the area will be developed so as to make it one of the biggest cotton-growing areas of the country.

Former chairman of National Minority Commission Tarlochan Singh said the Centre, especially the railways ministry, had agreed to rename Nanded’s railway station after Hazur Sahib in tributes to Guru Gobind Singh. The city is also called Abchalnagar (unshakably rooted).

Meanwhile, tercentenary celebrations have generated a lot of enthusiasm among foreigners. Clad in spotless white clothes and blue robes, a number of converted Sikhs from the US, Latin America, Mexico, Chile and Brazil have started thronging Takht Hazur Sahib. Bhai Satpal Singh, ambassador of Sikh Dharma and chairman of Guru Ram Das Mission, said most of the converted Sikhs from these countries were visiting India for the first time. They would visit other four Takhts, Golden Temple and other Sikh shrines in Punjab and other parts of the country.

He, however, rued the mission had to reduce the number of jathas of foreign Sikhs because the management of Takht Hazur Sahib was unable to provide sufficient number of rooms to them.

A major function is being organised by the US-based mission on October 26 at Kusum Hall here, which would be attended by all five Sikh high priests. Maharashtra's minister of industries and mines Ashok Shanker Rao Chavan will be the chief guest.


No Sankalp Diwas for Punjab: Badal
Gurdeep Singh Mann

Tribune News Service

Khanna, October 24
The death anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi will not be observed in Punjab as Sankalp Diwas. This was stated by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said here today. “We have nothing to do with Sankalp Diwas,” he added. He was here paying tributes to late Basant Singh Khalsa, ex-minister and senior SAD leader, at a function organised to commemorate his 12th death anniversary.

The Punjab government yesterday had issued instructions to its commissioners and deputy commissioners to observe October 31 as Sankalp Diwas. The order asked the officials to arrange speeches, debates and national songs on the day at the district headquarters.

Various Akali leaders had opposed the move of holding Sankalp Diwas, especially in the wake of Lok Sabha elections. Following this the Punjab government withdrew its orders and directed that no such day would be observed at any level in the state.

Replying to a media query in connection with the long-pending demand of Khanna residents about a flyover on the Lalheri road, Badal said he had never promised a flyover. “We are going to spend Rs 5,500 crore for the development of urban and rural areas of Punjab,” he said.

Badal claimed that the state government was committed to ensure the smooth procurement of paddy in all grain markets of the state and warned that strict action would be taken against officers found harassing farmers.

He said the government had deployed senior officers of principal secretary and secretary levels to monitor procurement process in each district and ministers were also visiting grain markets to sort out problems of farmers at the local level.


Bhattal condemns govt for withdrawal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 24
The Punjab Congress has taken a strong exception to the withdrawal of the Punjab government instructions to the district authorities regarding observation of October 31 as Sankalp Diwas.

Incensed at the move of the Punjab government, leader of the Opposition, Punjab, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said here today that Sankalp Diwas was to be observed with a view to rise above party lines to fight forces inimical to internal security and threat to the country and forge unity and oneness of mankind irrespective of caste, colour or creed.

Bhattal said it was unfortunate that the SAD-BJP government had retracted from observing October 31, martyrdom day of Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, as Sankalp Diwas. She said remembering national leaders on their anniversaries was not a bad precedent.


Freight rate unviable, say truckers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 24
As the authorities face problems in clearing paddy stacks from grain markets, truckers have blamed the government’s faulty policy for the mess.

Truckers say most of the contractors, who have been awarded contracts for loading, unloading and cartage of paddy, hire vehicles from truck unions. However, truckers are not ready to provide their vehicles for transportation of paddy as they say the freight fixed for the transportation of paddy by the authorities concerned is very less and unviable for them.

All-India Motor Transport Congress president Charan Singh Lohara said the officials concerned had fixed Rs 300 per trip for the transport of 300 bags of paddy within a radius of 8 km from the grain market. Paddy was transported from grain markets to premises of rice mills. Lohara said paying Re 1 per bag to the owner of a truck to transport paddy amounted to playing a joke on him.

He said besides spending Rs 170 on fuel per trip, the owner of the truck had to pay many taxes to the government. Apart from it, he had to pay salary to the truck driver and cleaner and interest on the loan taken to buy the vehicle. All those expenses come to more than Rs 300 per trip, he claimed.

He said in Ludhiana district, truckers had stayed away from grain markets for three days from October 14. That led to piling up of paddy at grains markets.

“We have informed the authorities concerned regarding the inability of truck unions to provide trucks at such low rates,” he said. “The officials said they would compensate for truckers next year but this year they should transport paddy at the same rate”, he said.

Chairman of the Mandi Board Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said if the transportation of paddy was unviable for truckers, they should allow the owners of tractor-trailers to transport the grain to rice mills.


Woman kingpin of drug trade held
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, October 24
The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) today managed to catch the big fish of drug cartel, Jeevan Lata, resident of Chandigarh, with three accomplices, near Phagwara while carrying a consignment of 5.17 kg heroin worth of Rs 25 crore in the international market.

The contraband was reportedly picked up from Jandiala Guru here and was to be handed over to someone at Ropar for onward delivery to overseas destination.

Dheeraj Rastogi, DIG (DRI), said they had been on the trail of Lata for the past 10 years, but she always managed to escape the dragnet. Finally, the DRI team intercepted a car and on its search found the heroin.

Lata (55), popularly known as Madam, has a chequered past and has been involved in the drug peddling network, along with her ex-husband Ramesh Maingi, who had been picked by the Special Narcotics Cell. Her son Vikas (22), along with her brother-in-law Kuldeep Kumar and Ashwani, close associate, had earlier been caught with 4 kg heroin.

Lata was earlier running a travel agency at Chandigarh. She was also a part of the ‘kabootarbazi’ racket.

The DRI said some rich and famous families of the border region were involved in this illegal trade.



Spreading green in Kandi area
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, October 24
Taking a cue from crop diversification implemented in Himachal Pradesh, three farmers of the district have set up green houses in the Kandi area.

Though it took them almost two years to decide on which alternative crop they should opt for, they finally decided to grow high-value crops, especially capsicum, at their green houses.

Harpinder Singh Sandhu, Harmanjit Singh Randhawa and Vikramjit Singh have shown the way to other farmers by bringing the new agriculture technique to the Kandi area, which is by and large a dry region.

Green houses, they feel, are quite profitable compared to seasonal crops.

By setting up a green house on over 4 kanals nine months ago at Kantian village, Harpinder has managed to utilise labour during off-season as well. High returns from the cultivation of capsicum (red yellow and green) on a small chunk of land tempted Sandhu to set up the green house.

In the absence of experts of the Punjab government here, the farmers have been approaching certain progressive farmers of Bilaspur district in Himachal Pradesh.

Talking to The Tribune, Sandhu said: “As beginners, we suffered losses because of inadequate training. Moreover, unpredictable weather led to agricultural diseases”.

Harmanjit, who has set up such a project on 4 kanals at Janauri village, has planned to expand it to 5 acres. He claimed even if the plantation was done off-season, the returns were beyond their expectations. “We have learnt a lot by experimenting in our own projects. We will definitely get good results in the future”, said Randhawa.

Vikramjit claimed that red and yellow capsicum was in a great demand in Delhi, Ludhiana and other metro cities and were selling for Rs 40 or Rs 45 per kg while green capsicum was selling for Rs 30 or Rs 35 in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and other domestic markets.


K.P. S. Gill against new police Act
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 24
Formaxer super cop and head of newly formed political outfit Tehrik-e-Watan-Parastan K.P.S. Gill said today that increasing police-politician nexus was dangerous for society and that a new police Act would give politicians even further control over the police force.

The former Punjab police chief, who addressed a meet-the-press programme here, said the problem of unemployment among the educated youth could have further violent manifestations as had already happened in Maharashtra. Political outfits like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena could mushroom in other states also, he added.

Gill indicated the days of terrorism in Pakistan were numbered. Talking about Beant Singh’s assassination, he said non-conduct of security drill by the security personnel led to the death of the former Chief Minister. His security personnel too were killed in the blast.

Gill said many police forces in the country were suffering because of criminalisation in the police as well as police-politician nexus. He said even though the Supreme Court had decreed that the police force should be insulated from political interference, new legislation was being brought in to replace the old Police Act of 1891. “What is needed is enforcement of the old Act rather than distorting it,” he added.

Gill tried to justify his own role in combating terrorism in Punjab by claiming that there was no other example of a more humane operation to combat terrorism as had happened in Punjab. He termed the human rights movement that emerged in Punjab after the end of terrorism as a “futile confrontation” which resulted in nothing but was a waste of time.

When asked whether there was any scope of revival of Naxalism in Punjab, he said the problem of educated unemployed was a serious issue. He said land holdings were becoming smaller and employable youth were in a state of despair.

When asked whether his political outfit would find takers in Punjab, he said: “I still feel good people are left in Punjab and many would support this cause”. He said the endeavour of his new party would not be to contest elections but to end casteism, regionalism and communalism.


Dhaba owners can pay lump sum VAT
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 24
In a change of policy to improve compliance in the payment of VAT (Value Added Tax), the Punjab government has allowed dhabha owners to pay a lump sum amount each year as tax.

“The decision follows a demand put forward by members of the Punjab Dhaba Welfare Association wherein they had shown their inability to pay 12.5 per cent VAT levied on dhabas across the state,” said Shivinder Singh Brar, financial commissioner, taxation.

Harish Sethi, president of the association, said the government had agreed to their proposal of creating a slab system for the collection of VAT from dhaba owners. Instead of 12.5 per cent tax, a dhaba owner would now pay a fixed amount each year depending on the amount of business generated by him.

According to the notification issued in this regard, dhabas which have a sale of less than Rs 5 lakh per year are exempted from the payment of any tax. Those dhabas, which have an annual sale ranging between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 15 lakh, would pay Rs 10,000 as VAT, those with an annual sale between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 30 lakh would pay Rs 22,500 and those whose sale ranges between Rs 30 and Rs 50 lakh would pay Rs 40,000.

For the dhabas, having an annual sale between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore, the government would get Rs 75,000 as VAT, from those with a sale between Rs 1 crore and Rs 1.5 crore, the tax would be Rs 1.25 lakh. A dhaba owner whose sales range between Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 2 crore would pay Rs 1.75 lakh. For sales above Rs two crore, the dhaba owner would follow the Rs 12.5 per cent VAT payment system.

“More than 200 dhaba owners have registered with the department for the payment of the lump sum amounts”, said A. Venu Prasad, excise and taxation commissioner.

“We have welcomed the option government has given to us to pay lump sum amounts as VAT. Now, we request the government to simplify the procedure of registration. It is very difficulty for small dhaba owners to find those who would give surety for them and also fill in forms and documents for them,” said Sethi.


Supplies Department to lift paddy from fields
Jangveer Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 24
In a first such decision of its kind, the Food and Civil Supplies Department today decided to procure paddy from farmers in Punjab from their fields itself.

The decision has been taken in view of the glut in mandis due to a bumper crop, which has already crossed the 76-lakh tonne mark as well as a severe shortage of space and vehicles to store and move the paddy during the ongoing procurement season.

Food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon told TNS that the decision, which awaits formal clearance from Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as it has wider ramifications, was likely to come into force within the next few days.

He said under the new arrangement, commission agents would go to the fields of the farmers to procure paddy at the maximum support price (MSP). He said once procured, it would be the duty of the farmers to transport the paddy to the allocated mill for milling. Kairon said it had been decided to pay farmers Rs 17.5 per quintal for transporting the paddy to the mill.

The minister said the scheme was entirely voluntary in nature and farmers who wished to come to mandis to sell their produce at rates more than the MSP were free to do so. He, however, said all present taxes, including market fee, would be paid for the paddy procured from the fields. Kairon said the move was also expected to effectively deal with the problem of excess moisture beyond the permissible 17 per cent in this year’s harvest. He said paddy could be easily dried in the fields than in the mandis.

Kairon said movement of foodgrains, particularly wheat, continued to be slow in Punjab. “I cannot stretch the capacity of the present plinths,” he said adding the department had requested the Centre to speed up the movement out of the state.


Amount withdrawn, staff yet to get salaries
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 24
Daily wage earners working at the Harike Bird Sanctuary will be forced to observe a black Diwali for they have not been paid salaries for the past over seven months.

Thirtysix workers had even approached forest minister Tikshan Sud, who gave necessary directions to get the salary released. But, the officials concerned have withheld the disbursal of salary allegedly to teach them a lesson for airing their grievances before higher-ups.

Sources said a sum of Rs 5 lakh had been withdrawn by an officer of the department on account of the salary of daily wage earners.

The officer allegedly wanted to pocket a portion of the money meant for salary for December.

The employees told The Tribune that they had not been paid salaries since March while those for the period of October-December last year were still outstanding.

Efforts to contact the range officer and the DFO, Ferozepur, proved futile.


Paddy bonus disbursed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 24
Taking a lead, district food and supply controller Anjum Bhaskar today distributed paddy bonus among 22 farmers at a special function organised at Rayya mandi.

She said under the directive of minister of food and civil supplies Aadesh Partap Singh, the bonus on paddy should be handed over directly to the farmers. She added that the first instalment of Rs 1 lakh had been given and more bonus would be given to the farmers in the district shortly.

Meanwhile, Pungrain, state government enterprise, has started giving online payment to farmers as instructed by the state government.


Power staff get computer training
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 24
Chairman of the PSEB Y.S. Ratra said yesterday that the board had decided to impart computer training to its employees.

Ratra said initially the training would commence at 30 centres across the state from October 21 where 15 officers each would be trained.

The board had entered into an MoU with the Punjab Information and Communication Technology Education Society, Chandigarh, for the purpose.


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