P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Finally, govt to give Rs 1,600 cr to PSEB
Jangveer Singh/Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 7
A cash-strapped Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), which is presently finding it difficult to remain operational, will finally get paid for the subsidised power being given by it to agricultural sector, with a high-level meeting yesterday deciding to release Rs 1,600 crore to it in five months.

According to sources, the meeting, held under the stewardship of chief secretary R.I. Singh and attended by power secretary Suresh Kumar among others, has made out a case to give Rs 1,600 crore to the board in five months in monthly instalments of Rs 320 crore each.

The sources said the Chief Minister would clear the file regarding this issue in a day or two. The government had moved to provide the much-needed money to the PSEB because of its precarious financial position as well as the realisation that any default on coal payments and resultant problems could severely embarrass the government in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

The government had been putting off giving money to the PSEB as it is getting ready to spend around Rs 500 to 600 crore on welfare measures before the expected parliamentary elections.

According to the sources, the PSEB has run up a short-term debt of Rs 6,200 crore. The board had a short-term debt of only Rs 844 crore ending March 2006. Besides this, the PSEB is saddled with a long-term debt of Rs 13,000 crore and accumulated losses of Rs 7,000 crore.

On the operational side, it is registering transmission losses of 24 per cent. Agricultural supply, on which it is not getting regular payment from the government, comes to around 26 per cent of its total supply.

The state government had earlier committed to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission that it would provide a subsidy of Rs 2,600 crore to the board on account of free power being given to agricultural sector as well as domestic usage being incurred by Scheduled Caste families living below the poverty line. The government had, however, failed to stick to the regulatory commission order to give this money to the board in four quarterly advance payments. Till now, it has managed to give the board only Rs 1,000 crore.


Incurring huge losses, farmers lift back paddy
Rue go-slow policy adopted by procuring agencies
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 7
Punjab farmers these days are worried about the economic depression, which stares at them menacingly.

Faced by an unending misery in the Bathinda grain market, farmers started lifting back their paddy from the mandi today. They rued that they were compelled to sell their produce in neighbouring districts due to the non-lifting of their produce by private and government agencies.

A number of farmers bringing their produce to markets said although the government had earlier assured to make purchase of paddy immediately after its arrival in the market, the go-slow policy of procuring agencies had made the situation worse.

The farmers said nearly 20,000 bags of paddy had been lying in the open at the Bathinda grain market alone for the past 15 days and the agencies never bothered to lift their produce.

They also alleged that certain representatives of the agencies making paddy procurement refused to make purchases of their produce unless they were bribed with Rs 10 per bag.

Jaspal Singh of Jassi Pauwali village said he had brought his produce in the mandi about eight days ago, but government procurement agencies officials and even private traders yesterday refused to lift his produce on the pretext of having purchased enough paddy and lack of space for fresh arrivals.

Karamjit Singh of Behman Diwana village said he had brought his PUSA variety to the Bathinda grain market about 10 days ago, but private traders had been forcing him to sell the produce much below the MSP.

“I am loser at every step. First, because of non-lifting of my produce by agencies, secondly by paying labour charges for lifting my produce and lastly by transporting back the paddy to sell it in adjoining districts,” Karamjit rued.

Some of the farmers were thus forced to indulge in distress sale as government officials went out of the way to reject the different varieties by over-enthusiastic adherence to specifications.

It was also found that paddy in certain other mandis was being rejected, but after being threatened, officials of these agencies agreed and bought the same at its due price, the farmers said.

Ram Gopal Singla, district mandi officer, said he would take up the matter with the district food and supplies officer and find out the modalities arising out of it.


Panel for Amritsar airport revival
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, November 7
After drawing flak from various associations, NGOs and political parties for the sustainability of the Amritsar International Airport, Union minister of civil aviation Praful Patel today agreed to constitute a high-level parliamentary committee to look into the anomalies which had been forcing international air-carriers to shun this airport in future.

Patel has assured BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu that all shortcomings listed by him to once again kick-start flight operations would be sorted out and the committee constituted by him would visit the airport to take stock of the problems.

Sidhu told The Tribune that Patel said the global economic recession was the foremost reason which led to the air turbulence and resulted in the nose-diving of big passenger off take; also, the Amritsar airport suffered due to the lack of cargo handling. He added that the dropping of flight plans by Singapore Airlines and Jet Airways from Amritsar was due to their inability to get business-class passengers.

He said the minister had promised to redress all grievances and set the ball rolling for fresh impetus to boost the sustainability of this airport. The BJP MP said he had also urged Patel to review the decision to restart the Air-India Amritsar-Nanded flights to keep aspirations of the Sikh community. He said Sikhs in Punjab were very keen to visit Takht Hazur Sahib.

Meanwhile, deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu forwarded a detailed representation to chief secretary R.I. Singh. 


No bidder for Rajpura power plant
Matter forwarded to regulatory panel
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, November 7
The SAD-BJP government’s coveted Rajpura Thermal Power project found just one bidder today, leading to cancellation of the bid and the matter being reportedly forwarded to the regulatory commission.

Out of the total nine bidders, just one bidding company, Lanco, turned up for the bidding scheduled at 1 pm today.

Confirming this, CMD of Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo Thermal Power Plants Anurag Aggarwal said the bid had been cancelled as there was just one bidder. Sources said Reliance officials were also present, but did not submit their bid by the scheduled time.

The Punjab government has plans to bring up 1,200 MW of thermal plant on built, operate and own basis on 1,078.16 acres of land of seven villages.

As per rules, there should be at least three bids to decide from. These bids should be competing enough. “In cases when there is one bid, the government decides to give a second date of bid opening and extends the deadline. A similar decision was taken in the 4,000 MW Tilaiya Ultra Mega Power Project,” said Padamjit Singh, retired chief engineer, PSEB.

Experts point out that by forwarding the matter to the regulatory commission, the government will delay the project further. The non-participation of bidders seems to be a repercussion of the world economic meltdown. Any company that bids for the power plant should invest 20 pc on its own and 80 pc funds are to be managed from the market.



Drug De-addiction
Punjab, Italy Red Cross to work together
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, November 7
Matteo Ciarli, country representative, Italy Red Cross, has said the problem relating to drug addiction is more alarming and serious in Italy than India.

Ciarli, who was here on Thursday to see the functioning of the local de-addiction centre being run by the Red Cross unit, said in Italy, addicts were hooked to injectable drugs.

Before visiting the local de-addiction centre, Ciarli visited the drug addiction centre at Nawanshahr and Patiala. B.K. Puri, secretary, Red Cross, Punjab, accompanied him.

The Red Cross, Punjab, and the Italy Red Cross unit have been working on a joint project titled "Awareness of HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis and Drug Addiction Among Communities of Ropar, SAS Nagar and Patiala districts".

"The Red Cross, Italy, has been trying to learn new patterns being adopted in different de-addiction centres of India in connection with the rehabilitation of drug addicts," pointed out Ciarli.

Puri said the visit of Ciarli was connected with a fact-finding exercise. He added that Ciarli would prepare a report and submit the same to director-general, Indian Red Cross, S.P. Aggarwal.


‘Misuse’ of gurdwara funds: Bitta for probe
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 7
The Union government should constitute a high-level independent probe to look into the alleged misutilisation of funds by the Gurdwara Committee of Takht Hazur Sahib.

Stating this to the media here today, Maninderjit Singh Bitta, president, All-India Anti-terrorist Front, said out of Rs 2,500 crore announced by the Centre in view of the tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi Diwas of Guru Granth Sahib at Takht Hazur Sahib in Nanded, more than Rs 1,000 crore had been spent in the area. However, there was no development worth the name. A committee of true Sikhs, including the Babas of karsewawale, should be constituted and the remaining funds should be allocated to them improving the infrastructure in the area. 


Govt to release DA
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 7
The Punjab government has taken a decision in principle to release the DA for employees that had been due since July this year. This will put an additional burden of Rs 315 crore on the state government, a senior official said here today.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced yesterday that the DA due to its employees would be disbursed soon. The money was likely to be released over the next few days.


Moga Sex Scandal
Barjinder surrenders in CBI court
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 7
Barjinder Singh, alias Makhan, an accused in Moga sex scandal-cum-corruption case, surrendered in the CBI court of H.S. Madaan here today.

It is pertinent to mention here that a case RC 30/2007 US 7,13(2) PC Act 1988 and 384,211,120B IPC had been registered by the CBI at Chandigarh against eight persons — AIG Davinder Singh Garcha, SP Paramdeep Singh, SHO Raman Kumar, Amarjit Singh, Sukhraj Singh, Bhupinder Singh, Manpreet Kaur and Manjit Kaur. The eight accused were arrested by the CBI and now are out on bail after being remanded in custody. It was there when Barjinder Singh’s name had surfaced.

Barjinder’s lawyer Satnam Singh Kler urged the court that his client should be provided with a lawyer from Chandigarh. The judge granted him permission, although he added that Barjinder Singh could meet his counsel just for 10 minutes in the evening.

Barjinder’s counsel also said if his client was remanded in police custody, he should first be taken to GMCH, Sector 32, or the PGI for medical tests. The judge ordered the CBI to provide immediate treatment to Barjinder since he was a patient of asthma and also had acute back ache. The Chandigarh-based CBI team, under the leadership of DSP Karnail Singh, later took Barjinder to Chandigarh The judge also ordered that Barjinder be produced in court before 1 pm on November 10.


Amritsar SSP to vacate bungalow by Nov 30
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 7
When a senior superintendent of police (SSP) is the tenant, even court orders providing police help for vacation of premises is “illusory”. Taking serious note of the contention by Raj Rani and seven other petitioners, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked Amritsar SSP to hand over the vacant possession of a bungalow in Sultanwind area by November 30.

The bungalow had been let out to the State of Punjab and the SSP for the purpose of a police post in the Sultanwind area. Initially, the rent was Rs 45, but was increased to Rs 200.

As the matter came up for hearing before the Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Nawab Singh, the petitioners contended an ejectment order was passed in their favour. The same had been affirmed by the court in civil revision number 3419 of 2007.

The Judges observed: Subsequently, in the execution proceedings, the petitioners have been directed to be provided with police help. However, it is the case of the petitioner that, in fact, the SSP is the tenant and, therefore, the order of the executing court of providing police help is totally illusory.

Issuing notice of motion for December 3, the Bench directed Punjab additional advocate-general Ambica Luthra to accept the notice. The Bench added: We direct the respondents to hand over the vacant possession of the premises to the petitioner on or before November 30. However, if the possession is not delivered, the SSP shall remain present in the court to face the proceedings for violating the order of the court.


Cache of arms, drugs seized in Ferozepur
DGP to hold emergency meeting today
Kulwinder Sandhu and Anirudh Gupta
Tribune Reporters

Ferozepur, November 7
The district police has recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition, along with drugs, during the past 24 hours.

After the interrogation of two smugglers, Kuldeep Singh, alias Billa, and Sukwinder Singh, who were arrested by a team of the Special Narcotics Cell, Amritsar, along with 14 kg heroin near Jandiala Guru in Amritsar yesterday, the police raided hideouts in Muthianwala and Khane Ke villages in Zira sub-division in the wee hours today.

Although senior police officials were tight-lipped on these recoveries, sources in the police and intelligence agencies revealed that one AK-56 rifle and three magazines with 350 live cartridges; two .30-bore pistols, its two magazines and 30 live cartridges; besides 7 kg heroin from the residence of Kuldeep Singh from Muthianwala village and 4 kg heroin with one AK-56 rifle, two .30-bore pistols with 20 live cartridges from the house of Sukhwinder Singh from Khane Ke village were recovered.

There were reports that the police had also recovered fake currency and RDX from these places.

Yesterday itself, the police had recovered two AK-47 rifles from a Maruti car near Makhu and arrested one person.

NPS Aulakh, director-general, Punjab Police, told The Tribune that he was coming to Ferozepur on Saturday to hold a high-level meeting in this regard and thereafter he would hold a press conference to reveal the details.


Drug Smuggling
New trend baffles intelligence agencies
P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 7
The interrogation of Sukhwinder Singh, sarpanch from Ferozepur, and his associate Kuldeep Singh has baffled various security and intelligence agencies that were putting a lot of effort in curbing the smuggling of drugs from across the Indo-Pak border in the country.

Loopholes in the border fence in the 53-km riverine belt of Ferozepur district has allowed Pak-based smugglers to infiltrate into the Indian side to deliver the consignment on the doorstep of their counterparts on this side of border.

Taking a serious view of the revelations made by two accused, who were caught by the Special Narcotics Cell (SNC) with 14 kg of heroin from the Jandiala Guru-Tarn Taran Road yesterday, the BSF has decided to strengthen the vigil along side the riverine belt. IG Himmat Singh, BSF, said he would personally take stock of the situation during his visit to Ferozepur sector tomorrow.

As the BSF had stepped up surveillance on the Indo-Pak border, smugglers from neighbouring country were using the vulnerable riverine belt (in Ferozepur district) for pushing in heroin. 


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