P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Badal demands larger pie in Central taxes
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Begowal, November 5
Union government-sponsored National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Scheme is not feasible for Punjab.

Disclosing this ahead of his sangat darshan programme here today, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the money spent by centre on the scheme should be given to the state government for development works as the scheme was not at all practicable in Punjab.

Badal said only Rs 100 per day was given to a person getting work under the scheme, but in Punjab, no labourer was getting too low daily wages for his or her work. Being a prosperous state, labourers here were getting Rs 150 or even Rs 175 as daily wage, he added.

“So, we can not find proper persons to provide them work under this scheme and most of the times we engage those persons under this scheme who are not even interested to work,” he said.

Badal demanded that the Centre should increase the share of states in the taxes collected from their respective areas from 30 to 50 per cent. States were mostly responsible for development works in their respective areas, so their share from centrally collected taxes required to be increased, he added.

Congress workers victimised: Khaira

Nadala: Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira submitted a complaint to the Chief Minister at a college library soon after landing from his helicopter. In the letter, Khaira states despite an elected representative of Bholath, he had neither been informed nor invited about sangat darshan programmes in his constituency.

Khaira alleged Congress workers of Bholath were being victimised at the behest of his political rival with Badal’s tacit support. He said he had approached the Governor, on whose directions 33 “false” cases slapped on Congress workers were investigated. Of them, 28 were found to be falsely registered during the course of an investigation against him and other persons of his constituency, he claimed. The MLA met Badal with his nearly 100 supporters. Badal said Khaira’s complaints would be probed.


Kainth for panel to review state’s financial condition
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 5
The Punjab government should set up a commission to review the financial condition of the state. This was stated by Satnam Singh Kainth, former MP and president of the Bahujan Samaj Morcha (BSM), here today.

Lashing out at the SAD-BJP government for its failure on all fronts, Kainth said there were conflicting views about the financial condition of the state. While finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal had been terming it as critical, other leaders were finding it to be satisfactory.

He said the government had announced the setting up of Adarsh Schools to provide free quality education to people living in rural areas. Even though 20 months had passed since the scheme was announced by the government, only 17 applications had been received by it from multinational companies to improve educational infrastructure.

He said there was need to improve infrastructure in the existing schools, besides providing more teachers in the rural ones.

Commenting on the statements of Raj Thakeray, the BSM president said the Union government should have taken steps to nip his activities in the bud. He said his statements were threat to the integrity and the security of the country.

Terming the violent incidents against Christians in Orissa as unfortunate, he demanded action against those who were indulging in such crimes.

Welcoming the statements of Congress president Mohinder Singh Kaypee and Capt Amarinder Singh to contest the Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the BSM, Kainth said the party would take a decision in this regard at the state-level meeting of the party to be held in Phagwara on December 9.


Jalandhar remembers its great son
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 5
Grief-stricken Jalandharis remember the kind-heartedness and the cooperative and polite nature of its great son B.R. Chopra who had spent the prime of his life at Mohalla Gobindgarh near the railway station here.

Remembering his great uncle, nephew Lalit Chopra told The Tribune that Bollywood producer B.R. Chopra used to visit his ancestral house in the locality here every now and then. Recalling about his last visit, Lalit said he had come to Jalandhar in the early ’90s as after that his deteriorating health did not allow him to travel.

Lalit, who is living with his wife Suman, sister-in-law Shrestha and their children in Chopra’s ancestral house, disclosed that Chopra had also remained editor of Cine Herald magazine in Lahore for some time before Partition.

After Partition he, along with his family, came to Jalandhar and after spending nearly nine months in his house here left for Mumbai and never looked back.

Recalling his friendship with Chopra, a former Punjab minister Umrao Singh said he had family relations with him and his family since 1972 when he became minister in the Giani Zail Singh government in Punjab.

B.R. Chopra was made director of the Punjab Film Corporation at that time and he started making a Punjabi film, "Sohni Mahiwal", with Rajesh Khanna as hero and Neetu Singh as heroine, on Zail Singh’s request. Its shooting had also been done at the Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh and several other parts of Punjab, but he dropped the idea of completing the film in 1977.

His neighbours Yashpal Goka, a DAP accountant, and P.K.S. Sodhi, a railway employee, said he used to receive his mohalla fellows warmly whenever they visited BR Villa in Juhu, Mumbai.Goka said when he provided him free pass to visit Kapur Studio when he had gone to Mumbai in 1988.

Veteran Congress leader Umrao Singh also said he and his wife used to stay at Chopra’s house whenever they went to Mumbai.


CM, Sukhbir mourn Chopra’s death
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal mourned the sad death of eminent Bollywood film director and producer B.R. Chopra who died in Mumbai after a prolonged illness.

In a condolence message, the Chief Minister described B.R. Chopra as a great legendary film personality who directed many superhit films and produced a classic TV serial “Mahabharat” which was highly acclaimed by people not only in India, but across the globe.

Badal said in the death of Chopra, Punjab had lost its son of the soil who established a new benchmark in the film industry by making highly thematic movies.

Badal shared heartfelt sympathies with the members of the bereaved family and prayed to the Almighty to give strength and courage to them to bear this irreparable loss and grant peace to the departed soul.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament and president Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal also expressed grief over the death of B.R. Chopra.

Local Government minister Manoranjan Kalia and public relation minister Bikram Singh Majithia also condoled the death of Chopra and shared heartfelt condolences with the bereaved family.


No Nanded resident cooked food during celebrations
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 5
Even as the tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi Diwas drew to a close at Hazur Sahib today, not only pilgrims from far-flung areas, but also local residents carried with them the lasting memories of prasad taken at grand langars (community kitchens) set up by Sikh babas from Punjab, Haryana and other parts of the country.

It was a unique experience for the people of Maharashtra, who believe in “Anna Poomabrahma”, meaning “anna” (food) is equal to Brahma, to taste Punjabi cuisine while partaking of langar. They would make beelines for the community kitchens as soon as appeals for partaking of langar on public address system was made. The babas urged them that no resident of Nanded should cook food at home.

People of all age groups could be seen thronging these langars and gulping down lassi with a thick layer of butter and cream.

Ajit Bajaj, a resident of Nanded, was so impressed with the Punjabi cuisine, famous the world over for its tasty thick gravies, delicious healthy parsadas (rotis), homemade butter and curd and lots more, that he invited his relatives to share it. He said he had received a number of guests from far-flung areas of Maharashtra just to pay obeisance at Takht Hazur Sahib and partake langar.

Though the langar of Baba Nidhan Singh at Nanded dates back to over two centuries, few local non-Sikhs would visit it till recently. However, the variety of Punjabi cuisine served at langars reflected the message of universal humanitarian and liberal vision of the Sikh community across the state of Maharashtra.

Three hundred halwais at the langar of Baba Kashmir Singh Bhuriwale prepared laddoos, jalebis and other sweets. The City had the highest consumption of desi ghee and butter during the celebrations. Puris, paranthas and karah, samosas and kachauris, made of desi ghee were available at langar sites.

Traditional Amritsari cuisines, like kulcha chhole, puri, lassi, were served at the langars set up by Baba Sewa Singh of Khadoor Sahib Wale and UK-based Nishkama Sewak Jatha, headed by Baba Mohinder Singh.


Ex-minister vouches for Nanded flight
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 5
Former Congress minister Umrao Singh has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to direct the Air-India authorities to continue the flight on the Amritsar-Delhi-Nanded route. He said the flight had been discontinued despite there being a big demand for its continuation.

He said the Centre had spent a huge amount to upgrade the airport at Nanded. With the discontinuation of the flight, the airport would become defunct. He said visitors from Punjab and other states and abroad continued to visit Nanded.


NRIs hail Obama’s victory
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 5
NRIs of this region have hailed the victory of Democrat Barack Obama as the 44th US President.

Led by Kamaljit Singh Hayre, president, NRI Sabha, members of the sabha danced to the beat of dhols and distributed sweets among people here today.

Hayre said the diaspora had been keenly following the electoral progress of Obama and the Indian community had been firmly backing him from the beginning. “We are of the view that Indians in general and NRIs in particular can look forward to good tidings during Obama’s presidency,” he added.

His historic victory has also proved that Americans wanted change and had voted for a young person who they thought would usher in a new era of progress and development given the global meltdown, he pointed out.

“We hope that Obama will initiate steps to strengthen relations with India and relax the stringent immigration laws to provide NRIs with more work facilities,” he added.

Others present on the occasion included Giani Resham Singh Hayre, Ravinder Guru, Parminder Hayre, Ramneek Aujla, Nekbir Bhandal, Jasbir Bhandal, Rajinder Singh and Gurdial Singh Khangure.



Rajasansi Airport
Sidhu seeks ministry panel meeting
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 5
BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu today sought an urgent meeting of the consultative committee of the ministry of civil aviation at Amritsar to take drastic steps to revive the fortunes of this airport.

Sidhu said he had spoken to the minister and the latter had assured him that various corrective measures would be taken to remove several anomalies at the airports Delhi and Amritsar and the entire working of the airport would be recast for the benefit of the passengers and traders.

Addressing a rally at the Rajasansi International Airport here today, Sidhu said a slew of measures were required to make this aviation project viable. The government had spent Rs 140 crore on the upgrade of the airport. He said the airport was planned in view of thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city.

Sidhu said the airport had registered a significant growth of 35 per cent in the handling of international passengers during the past four years. However, it had recently dropped due to distressing global economic scenario. He said he foresaw a tremendous potential in the coming months.

He said he would seek the intervention of all stakeholders and devise a plan to restart the international flights from the airport. A major factor for the curtailment of the flights was the unavailability of cargo, he added. He said he would try and untie certain procedural customs norms, which were acting as big damper and forcing the exporters to shun this airport and transport their goods through Delhi airports. He would soon summon a meeting of all bigwigs, including top officers of the Customs Department, representatives of the airlines, association of clearing agents and others, to chalk out a plan to encourage the use the cargo complex at the airport.

He urged the Punjab government for immediately releasing the funds for acquisition of 40 acres, which had recently been notified. He presented a memorandum to the director of the airport Arun Talwar to be submitted to minister of civil aviation.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India today demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should personally intervene to save the airport. Dr Joginder Dayal, member of the national executive of the party, has urged Badal to call an all-party meeting to work out a strategy to apprise the Prime Minister of the problems faced by the airport.


Pathankot MC polls for top posts on Nov 11
Chander Parkash and Bharat Bhushan Dogra
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, November 5
At last the election for the posts of president and vice-president of the local Municipal Council (MC) will be held on November 11. The House came into existence about four months ago.

Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, deputy commissioner, said the election of office-bearers of the MC House could not be held as the Punjab and Haryana High Court had stayed the election of all councils on the issue of reservation of posts of president and vice-president. He added that as their stay had been vacated by the court, the election process was set in motion.

However, a section of the Congress municipal councillors, who approached the high court through a writ petition, claimed that the district administration had fixed the date for the election of office-bearers after the court had directed the state government to file a reply by November 14.

The Congress leaders alleged that the situation in Punjab had reached to a point where the court had to intervene to make the government efficient. They added that the meeting, which was held for electing the president and vice-president of the House a few months ago, was adjourned on flimsy grounds. They pointed out that the MC had been functioning without office-bearers of the 33-member House for the past four months for reasons best known to the SAD-BJP combine government.

In the House, the BJP had only 10 members while the Congress had 20. The remaining three members were independent, they added.

The Congress leaders said the ruling BJP had got frustrated over the fact that they could not win enough number of seats to make their own partymen president and vice-president of the House.

They alleged that the development work had come to a complete halt in the town because the SAD-BJP combine did not allow the MC to elect president and vice-president.


Badal seeks more funds for states
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
Concerned over the deteriorating fiscal health of the states due to unequal sharing of tax resources between the Centre and the states, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has called upon the Central government to come to their aid to ensure an equitable economic development in the country.

Badal stated that in a globalised world, the Indian economy was not insulated from the impact of the global recessionary trends, which was bound to be felt sooner or later. In a statement issued here today, Badal urged economists and industrialists to dwell on the concerns of people while deliberating over the required interventions by the Union government.

He said the greatest challenge facing the states today was arising out of inequal distribution of financial grants and taxes. The “other India” has failed to keep pace with the “corporate India” growing at 9 per cent. Naxalism has emerged as a major challenge to the peace and development in many states in the country and the widening gap between the rich and the poor could provide a fertile ground for its further spread. He said he had raised the matter at many fora before the Prime Minister and the home minister.

He said Punjab’s industry had been rendered uncompetitive by grant of special concessions to the neighbouring states. He sought a similar package for the state industry.


Questionnaire to ex-DGP Virk raises legal debate
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
A questionnaire presented to Punjab’s former director-general of police (DGP) S.S. Virk has become a topic of legal debate. While the state is claiming that Virk has not furnished his reply, his counsel is insisting it is yet to be decided whether the accused is bound to answer the questions.

As the state’s plea for the cancellation of bail granted to Virk came up for hearing before Justice H.S. Bhalla of the high court, the state counsel said the questionnaire was forwarded to Virk. He was also issued a notice, asking him to furnish a reply. The state counsel added the questionnaire was sent to him in March, yet Virk, till date, had not responded.

Virk’s counsel, on the other hand, said the challan had been presented to the court concerned and certain questions found a mention in the challan. He added it was, therefore, yet to be decided whether the accused was bound to answer the questions, and, if so, with what effect.

After taking note of the arguments, Justice Bhalla observed: “The parties have disputed the contents of the challan, which has already been presented before the trial court.”

Justice Bhalla added: Let the record of the lower court be requisitioned before the next date of hearing to deal with the respective contentions raised on the behalf of the parties.

Before parting with the orders, the Judge also fixed November 25 as the next date of hearing the matter.

In the application filed before the high court, the state had sought directions for the cancellation of bail granted to Virk, vide order dated October 31 last year. The matter pertains to a first information report registered by the state vigilance bureau on September 8, 2007.

The state had filed the petition on the ground that Virk was not cooperating with the special investigating team constituted to probe the disproportionate assets case pending against him.


‘Mattewal should look into ground realities’
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 5
Though Advocate-General H.S. Mattewal has blamed the bureaucracy for its poor performance as far as the filing of replies of court cases in time is concerned, various organisations of employees say that the SAD-BJP government was responsible for it.

“There is acute shortage of staff in various branches of the government departments at the secretariat as well as at the directorate level, but no one has tried to address this problem for the past one and a half years”, said a senior functionary of the Non-Gazetted Employees Organisation.

“We have repeatedly brought the issue of staff shortage to the notice of various ministers, but they are least bothered to resolve the problem”, he said.

“Of the total 544 posts of clerk in the Punjab Civil Secretariat, about 60 per cent are vacant. In such a situation, how can the government files be disposed of and replies filed in time”, he added.

“There are several branches with just one or two clerks. There is no staff for handling the diary and dispatch job in most of the branches. There are several branches in various government departments where superintendents have been handling charges of two or more branches,” said another senior leader.

Some of the officers have been running the show in the secretariat by forcibly borrowing clerical staff from the directorate level.

Many ministers, who are entitled for five employees, including two personal assistants, have got deployed 10 or more employees at their offices. “When staff is not available to branches of various departments and at the secretariat level, why have the ministers been provided with additional staff,” asked the union leader.

“As far as field offices are concerned, staff situation is worse,” he added.

There are employees who have started breaking down because of workload. “A woman clerk with the Education Department is suffering with psychiatric problems because of work load and a superintendent met with an accident because of he was unable to cope with the work load in his branch,” he claimed.

In almost each department, there is requirement of one clerk to deal with court cases and one more to deal with RTI (Right to Information) applications.

Union leaders said Mattewal should himself visit various government departments to find out that how bad the situation was in various branches. “As he has a close rapport with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, he should apprise the latter of the prevailing mess in various departments,” said the leader.


Doctor caught in red-tapism
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, November 5
Social activist Ajay Bagga, who works in the Punjab Health and Family Welfare Department, is a victim of red-tapism. He has been making rounds of officers’ offices to get fixed his seniority for more than 16 years.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Dr Bagga said he was appointed medial officer on a short-term basis in November, 1984, on compassionate grounds as his father Om Parkash Bagga was killed by terrorists the same year. To get his services regularised, he had to run from pillar to post for more than four years. He was regularised on September 20, 1988, with the service number 5016, thanks to efforts of social activist Satya Pal Dang.

The government had clarified that his services had been regularised from the date on which he was appointed on a short-term basis, but he had not been allotted a new service number.

Dr Bagga made representations to then civil surgeon in 1992 and the secretary (health) in this connection.

The family of Dr Bagga did not accept any financial assistance given to the terrorism-affected families.


Punjab all set to woo IT investors
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
With the growth in the information technology (IT) sector remaining static despite global meltdown, Punjab is offering a slew of incentives to woo the IT biggies, which themselves are looking at tier-II cities and states for their expansion. From offering land at concessional rates to promises of uninterrupted power supply, providing infrastructure to allowing housing units within IT complexes, the state is hard selling itself as the next best bet.

S.S Channy, principal secretary (industries) said the state had been discussed as the next preferred IT destination during the IT conclave held at New Delhi last month. “With the choking infrastructure in the existing tier-I IT destinations, the companies are looking for an alternative. We have offered to give land at concessional rates to the companies willing to invest in Punjab.

“Chunks of land in Mohali, Ropar and Kapurthala are available with us that will be offered to these IT companies. Some companies like Wipro, TCS and Infosys have envinced interest in setting base here,” he said.

It may be noted that the sky-rocketing land prices in Mohali and its periphery was one of the reasons why the IT companies were not keen on setting base here. But the promise of the government allotting land is most likely to see a huge turn-out of companies willing to invest in the state.

Punjab has also offered to provide uninterrupted power supply to these companies without charging extra. Generally, other states are charging 40-60 paisa per unit as additional costs to providing round-the-clock power.

Officials agree that Punjab being a late entrant in IT space needs to create a brand image to attract huge investments in the IT sector. “By offering these incentives, Punjab would be a front runner in attracting investment in the IT sector,” added Channy.

The move to offer incentives follows a draft policy prepared by leading consultancy Ernst & Young on the roadmap for Punjab to attract IT investment. It may be noted that as of now there is only one Quark City IT SEZ in the state and just 34 companies registered with Software Technology Parks of India. The state produces more than 21,000 highly qualified technical students every year. The data collected by Ernst & Young also shows that approximately 5,500 employees are working in IT/ITES units in the state.


CM releases magazine
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday released a special issue of Punjabi monthly magazine “Mehram”, which has been dedicated to the tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi Diwas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

S.S. Bir, editor-in-chief of the Mehram Group of Publications, said the issue contained photographs and articles contributed by Sikh scholars highlighting the philosophy and ideology of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.


High Court
Initiation of proceedings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
In a petition, Amritsar resident Naresh Chander has sought initiation of proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act against chairman-cum-managing director of the Punjab & Sind Bank R.P. Singh and its zonal manager Avtar Singh Narang. The petitioner, through counsel Pankaj Gupta, has alleged that the two had intentionally disobeyed order dated November 13 last year. Taking it up, Justice Permod Kohli has issued notice for December 24.


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