P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


PSEB on brink of collapse, seeks Rs 10,000 crore
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 14
Facing a financial collapse, the management of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has sent an SOS to the state government urging it to arrange Rs 10,000 crore to meet various financial liabilities.

In fact, the PSEB is in deep financial trouble. It has given postdated cheques to the various parties to which it owes money. For honouring those cheques, the PSEB, having accumulated a loss worth Rs 8,000 crore, besides the existing loan amount worth Rs 12,000 crore in its books, now needs cash in its bank accounts. In case the PSEB fails to honour the cheques it has already issued, it can be subjected to litigation because bouncing of a cheque owing to non-availability of cash in the account is an offence.

Sources in the PSEB said the chairman of the PSEB had written to the state government asking it to stand guarantee for a loan of Rs 7,000 crore it wanted to raise from various financial institutions to fulfill commitments. Without state government’s guarantee, no institution would give loan to the PSEB.

A fresh loan worth Rs 7,000 crore was required by the PSEB to pay instalments and interest on the existing loan worth Rs 12,000 crore and meet other liabilities. In fact, the PSEB has told the state government that it immediately needs Rs 500 crore to make some payments of urgent nature.

In recent months, the PSEB has spent crores of rupees to buy power, coal and other material. Besides Rs 7,000 crore, the PSEB has sought

Rs 3,000 crore as cash to meet other recurring expenditure. This amount is separate from the Rs 1,602 crore that is to be paid by the state government to the PSEB in lieu of providing free power to the farm sector. The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission has directed the state government to pay Rs 1,602 crore in equal monthly installments to the PSEB during the remaining period of current financial year.

However, the sources said, the state government would not allow the PSEB to raise loan worth Rs 7,000 crore. How would be the PSEB repay the installments and interest on fresh loan of Rs 7,000 crore when it was unable to pay the installment and interest on the existing loan worth Rs 12,000 crore.

As Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is also power minister, the issue of Rs 10,000 crore will obviously be decided at his level. However, as the state government is itself facing a financial crisis owing to mounting debt, that is in the range of Rs 60,000 crore, and other financial liabilities such as revision of pay scales of employees, it will not be in a position to stand guarantee to the loan proposed to be raised by the PSEB.


Cut down in flights to hit farmers hard
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, November 14
The state’s progressive vegetable farmers will be the hardest hit in view of the withdrawal of regular Jet Airways flight to London from the Rajasansi International Airport, as they will not be able to send regular daily consignments of fresh organic vegetables worth several lakhs.

Two major groups, that have invested several crores to channelise vegetable exports to the highly discerning NRI population in England, feel the government has failed to protect the interests of Punjab farmers who had diversified into vegetable production.

One such progressive farmer Harinder Singh Bajwa of nearby Sarhali village in Tarn Taran district told The Tribune that he had been in the profession of agriculture in Nigeria for the past 10 years and had moved back home to establish markets for fresh vegetables in England. He said the cutting down of flights would be a big setback to his determination to foray into exports.

Bajwa said the Punjab Agro Export Corporation had provided subsidised refrigerator van for ferrying perishable cargo from his farm to the airport, where a perishable cargo complex had been set up for the export of vegetables and fruits.

The Bharti Mittal group, which has also diversified into vegetable farming near Ludhiana and has been exporting baby corn and other vegetables to England, has also felt let down by the withdrawal of flights.

In charge of the perishable goods cargo complex at the airport Budhiraj said it had been a great boon to farmers of the state. He said farm produce to the extent of 60 to 70 tonnes was regularly being exported every month since July 2006. 


Farmers’ rail roko hits train services badly

Chandigarh, November 14
The train traffic in Punjab was severely hit today as seven farmer unions launched an indefinite rail blockade to press the Centre for better prices for rice and cotton. This led to the arrest of many farmer leaders by the police.

The trains were held up at many places, specially at Amritsar-Ludhiana and Jammu-Ludhiana rail sections, after about 250 farmers onboard the 5708 DN Amritsar-Katihar Amrapali Express brought it to a halt near Phagwara.

As a large number of farmers squatted on tracks, trains on the Ambala-Amritsar and Ambala-Jammu sections were held up from both sides.

The seven kisan unions, which turned down Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s appeal yesterday to cancel the agitation, include the Kirti Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta), BKU (Krantikari), BKU (Dakotta), Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Punjab Kisan Union.

Phagwara emerged as the main agitation point today. The Phagwara railway station turned into a police camp with heavy police force deployed on the station.

Meanwhile, speaking at protest rallies, various leaders, including KKU president Nirbhair Singh, KSC president Satnam singh Pannu and KKU leader Jatinder Singh Chhinna, threatened to intensify the agitation if their longstanding demands were not accepted.

The police arrested prominent leaders like BKU leader Nirmal Singh Bhupal in Ludhiana, Rattan Singh Landeke in Moga and many others. A report from Bathinda said in Mansa 200 farmers were arrested when they squatted on the rail track under the BKU (Dakotta) leader Buta Singh Burjgill. — UNI



CPM reopens inquiry against ex-unit head
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
The CPM has reopened the inquiry against its Punjab unit head Balwant Singh. Balwant was removed from all party posts and suspended from primary membership of the party following allegations of moral turpitude.

This was done following a representation made by Balwant Singh to the Politburo, party sources said, adding that the Politburo had appointed a two-member commission consisting of M.K Pamdhe, member of the Politburo, and Central committee member Shyamali Gupta. The commission will visit Chandigarh to conduct a thorough inquiry into the case.

Balwant had been removed from all posts, including managing director of the party newspaper Desh Sewak, on October 16 through an announcement made by party general secretary Prakash Karat during his visit here.

Sources said Balwant was able to get a reprieve because the party had proceeded against him when he had gone abroad. In his representation seeking an inquiry into the case, Balwant has maintained that he went abroad with the permission of the Politburo and that the party could have waited for his return before deciding to proceed against him.

The former Punjab general secretary, in the representation submitted to the party on November 7, has also claimed that he had not been associated with any inquiry into the said allegations nor given a copy of the complaint submitted against him. Balwant also pleaded that the verdict was so harsh that it had not only ruined the party’s image in Punjab, but also dealt a severe blow to his own personal values.

Balwant had also asked for time to explain his view of things while claiming that the entire exercise was part of a conspiracy to end his political career after the death of former party supremo Harkrishan Singh Surjit who was his political guru.

Meanwhile, CITU secretary Tapan Sen confirmed that an inquiry had been ordered into the case. He, however, refused to disclose anything further saying the matter was an internal party affair.


State Youth Cong begins ‘democratic’ poll process
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
The Punjab Youth Congress (YC) has initiated the process for the first “democratic” election of its body by holding a draw to select six districts, which will be reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC), women and women SC candidates.

The districts which were reserved following a draw of lots are Sangrur (Woman SC), Ropar (Woman Open), Jalandhar Urban (Woman Open), Jalandhar (SC), Ludhiana (SC) and Patiala Urban (SC).

The election is being conducted by the Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections (FAME). Its secretary-general K.J. Rao disclosed that FAME representatives had toured all parts of the state and also replaced district coordinators wherever shortcomings had been found. He said all District Congress Committees had been dissolved keeping in view the start of the election process. Candidates with cases registered against them were being kept away from the election process, he added.

Indian Youth Congress (IYC) president Ashok Tanwar disclosed that party general secretary Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to tour Punjab on November 18 and would announce the election schedule. With the holding of elections to the state YC, it, along with the National Students Union of India, Uttarakhand wing, would become the first party units to be elected democratically instead of the present nomination system.


28 Pak prisoners released
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Attari, November 14
Freedom meant very little for the three mentally challenged prisoners who were among the 28 Pakistani prisoners who crossed over to their country through the Attari/Wagah joint check post after their release by the government of India in a goodwill gesture.

The three had been languishing in the Amritsar Central jail for the past more than two years. They had wandered into the Indian territory and had been mentally sick at the time of crossing.

Eleven prisoners were brought from Agra and Jammu and Kashmir jails, while 17 prisoners, including two women Farzana and Seema, had been lodged in the Amritsar jail.

One of the prisoners who was to be released from the Delhi jail had not arrived at the check post till the filing of the report.

Qasim Mehmood, while talking to the media, said he had arrived in India through the Jammu and Kashmir border; however, he was caught by security agencies there. He added that he was produced in the court after nine years of his arrest and had been sentenced for 13 years for indulging in terrorist activities there. He said he was studying in class X before he crossed over to India. He urged the two countries to release immediately the innocent prisoners who had crossed the border inadvertently.

Another Pak prisoner Mohammad Musarlin said India should fulfill the promises made by its first Prime Minister late Jawahar Lal Nehru about five decades ago. He urged the two beleaguered countries to try solving the Kashmir problem on a priority basis so that terrorism could not raise its ugly head.

Farzana, who had been arrested by security agencies at the Attari international station for carrying fake currency, said she was sentenced for seven months, but released after 18 months.

She had been waiting for this happy moment for a long time so that she could meet her children. She said her jail inmates had given her clothes for her children and she would hardly forget the warm affection shown by them.


4-pt plan to bring socio-economic revolution: Capt Kanwaljit
Our Correspondent

Mohali, November 14
The state government has drawn a four-point programme for bringing about a socio-economic revolution in the state, which will be implemented through the cooperative department to make the state prosperous and ensure its all-round development.

Stating this at a function organised by Milkfed here today, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, cooperation minister, disclosed that under the programme, the department would focus on social, economic and political empowerment of women to make them self-reliant and ensure their participation in every sphere of life. Houses to economically weaker sections would be provided .

Capt Kanwaljit said farmers were encouraged to go in for crop diversification with special emphasis on dairy farming and Punjab was searching new markets for its agro-products.

The minister said cooperative societies were leading the winds of change in rural Punjab where consumers would get household items at rates 30 per cent lower than those prevalent in the market. The cooperative department had tied up with three multinational companies - Escorts India Pvt Ltd, Philips and Dixon India Ltd - for the supply of these items to more than 50 lakh members of cooperative societies. These societies would also collect electricity bills of consumers which would help them to the extent of Rs 9 per bill.

V.K. Singh, MD, Milkfed, said the Verka brand was getting popular in international markets too. He said the modernisation and upgrade of the existing plants were in progress and around Rs 15 crore was being spent on the Mohali plant alone.

G.S. Babehali, chairman, Milkfed, said the cooperative sector was encouraging dairy farming and other alternative work to make poor farmers prosperous. 


Pathankot-Delhi flights to resume from Dec
2 ITIs declared centres of excellence
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, November 14
Decks have been cleared for the resumption of air flights between Delhi and Pathankot from the first week of December.

Pathankot has got strategic importance as far as defence and tourism requirements of the country are concerned. With the beginning of air flight service between Pathankot and Delhi, there will be a jump in the number of tourists for Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pardesh.

The Central government has entrusted the task connected with the resumption of flights between Delhi and Pathankot to Alliance Airlines.

Union minister of state for industries Ashwani Kumar said this evening that the resumption of Delhi-Pathankot flights, which were closed for the past about six months for technical reasons, was being done at the government level.

He added that a team of the Airways had already visited the Pathankot airport. Now a team of the director-general of the civil aviation office was expected to visit within a day or so.

While claiming that it would be a great relief for people belonging to this region, apart from contributing to their economical progress, he said he had already arranged a superfast train service between Pathankot and Delhi via Gurdaspur and Batala towns for the convenience of the people.

The Union minister said two industrial training institutes (ITIs) based at Gurdaspur and Patiala and being run by the state government had been declared as centres of excellence by the government of India. He added that modern machines worth Rs 25 lakh had been installed in the Gurdaspur-based ITI for leather goods manufacturing.

He said the Centre had also given nod to open centres at Dera Baba Nanak and Bahirampur towns for training girls in the leather goods manufacturing. The girls would be given respectable stipend also.


Amritsar-NY AI flight from today
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, November 14
Air India, in its bid to fill the void created by the suspension of flights by Jet Airways and Singapore Airlines, has decided to re-launch its hub spoke operation from the Amritsar International Airport to New York from tomorrow.

Station manager Ashwani Arora said Air India had taken a decision to connect the holy city with New York and had also offered lowest-ever fare of Rs 22,000 plus taxes. He stated that Flight No. 638 and 639 would operate from Delhi to Amritsar in the evening with a nominal fare of Rs 3,400 for domestic passengers. Earlier, Air India was operating twice a week between Amritsar and New York. Now in view of the holiday season coming up in the US, Air India had once again decided to re-introduce its flight, Arora stated.


Brahmins’ contribution to Sikhism highlighted
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 14
Despite the fact that Brahmins made a significant contribution during the times of Sikh Gurus, their role has not been highlighted so far. Out of 35 authors whose writings have been incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib, 16 were Brahmins, making their contribution to the holy book to 45 per cent. The Bhatt Brahmins sang and wrote in the praise of Sikh Gurus and 11 of them had even laid down their lives for the cause of Sikhism during the lifetime of Sikh Gurus. They were bestowed with the honour of preacher (Manjis) by the Gurus.

This is the crux of the research, “Brahmin Bhala Aakhiye”, conducted by Iqbal Singh, senior superintendent of police, Amritsar (rural). He has quoted hymns from Guru Granth Sahib to substantiate his viewpoint on the subject. The research is a collection of information about the Brahmins who hail from far-off places like Jagannath, Kashi, Gaya, Brindaban, Kurukshetra, Lahore, Jhelum, Kashmir, Gorakhpur, Jodhour and Gwalior, and their contribution towards the Bhakti movement.

Cop-turned-scholar Iqbal Singh, in his research, says Sikh Gurus had a great respect for the capabilities of Brahmins who were entrusted with important assignments on the basis of their abilities and deep commitment towards society. In view of their Brahmanical background, they could fully understand and interpret the Gurmat for the common man, he adds.

The SSP in the past also has tried to depict the positive role of Muslims through his book, “Musalman Kahawan Muskal”. He has so far contributed five books on the Sikh history and philosophy, besides writing a large number of articles in newspapers.

The officer, who had earned appreciation from the then DGPs, including K.P.S. Gill, for providing confidential reports which led to seizures of arms and ammunition besides elimination of terrorists, has provided pioneer information to researchers of Gurbani.

Lauding the efforts of Iqbal Singh for bringing out the various facets associated with the contribution of the Brahmins in Guru Granth Sahib, former jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti said Sikh researchers should further dwell on the subject to project the role played by them. He said the coming generation should be made aware about the help provided by the Brahmins in compiling the holy book.

The former Governor of Nagaland, O.P. Sharma, in the preface of the research work, while appreciating the hard work done by Iqbal Singh, said that it was a challenging assignment that had been brilliantly researched by him.


23 pc hike in min wages proposed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
The Minimum Wages Board under the chairmanship of labour minister Tikshan Sud has proposed a 23-per cent hike in minimum wages in respect of 60 scheduled employments in the state.

The board has proposed revision of minimum wage of unskilled workers to Rs 123.12 against Rs 100.51 being paid earlier.

Disclosing this here today, Sud said minimum wages in the state were being revised after a gap of eight years as the Congress government during its tenure refused to revise minimum wages to protect the interests of the rich industrial lobby.

He said a notification had been issued to seek objections from the public as required by the law and minimum wages would be notified after processing the objections received, if any, after two months.


Punjab gets two weeks to submit report
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
Punjab today made it clear that the fake currency case, allegedly involving former district police chief Gurcharan Singh Pherurai, would be probed in complete totality. The state now has two weeks time to submit the report. The case will come up on December 17.

As the case came up before the Bench headed by Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur, advocate-general Hardev Singh Mattewal said they would look into all aspects of the case. Earlier, Pherurai’s counsel said the committee, looking into the matter, had made a beginning from the middle. It was only looking at the backtracking of witnesses, but not seeing whether the case was planted. The court had taken suo motu notice of media reports on the acquittal of the police officer.


Sexual Exploitation Case
Court reserves decision on DNA test of ex-sarpanch
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, November 14
A local court today reserved its decision for Monday on ordering the police to collect blood samples of Harnek Singh, former sarpanch of Ramuwala Kalan village, for DNA test to find out if the child born to the victim was his. The sarpanch is facing allegations of sexual exploitation.

A woman of Badhni Kalan village had complained to the police against Harnek in March 2004 and the FIR was registered in the city police station here early this year. The sarpanch was arrested on Tuesday and produced before the duty magistrate yesterday, who sent him to judicial custody till November 27.

Additional public prosecutor Lakhvir Singh said the court of duty magistrate Kewal Krishan today took up the application for discussion to grant permission for collecting blood samples for the DNA test.

The police has the authority to collect blood samples for a DNA test, but the investigating officer had moved an application to seek permission of the court because the accused had repeatedly refused to cooperate. A police team had taken Harnek to Central Forensic Laboratory at Chandigarh on September 26 and October 7, but he reportedly ran away from there. The high court then had cancelled his anticipatory bail directing him to first surrender and then get the DNA test done.


Selection of anganwari workers, helpers faulty
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has found faults with the selection of anganwari workers and helpers.

The Division Bench of Justice Ashutosh Mohunta and Justice Rajan Gupta has ruled the entire selection in a Ludhiana district village is vitiated and deserves to be quashed.

Taking up the petition filed by Jaswinder Kaur and another petitioner against the State of Punjab and others respondents, the Bench has also quashed the appointment of a worker and a helper.

Allowing the petition, the Bench further granted liberty to the official respondents to re-advertise the post and fill it up “strictly in accordance with law and procedure governing appointment to the post”.

Going into the background of the matter, the Bench observed: The petitioners have contended inter alia that the two respondents have been selected, despite the fact that their applications were neither received by the gram panchayat, nor were their names recommended for the said posts. The Bench added the official respondents, in their detailed reply, asserted the sarpanch of Halwara village, Sudhar block, Ludhiana district, had recommended only the names of his favourites for the post of anganwari worker and anganwari helper.

“He did not accept the applications of widows, riot victims, destitute, handicap and unmarried girls of the village. Thus, the child development project officer rectified the irregularities by accepting the applications of all the bonafide residents.

“It has been further averred that the respondent had been rightly selected as she had been separated from her husband for last more than five years. An affidavit sworn by her husband, from whom she allegedly separated five years ago, has been placed on record.

“In the said affidavit it has been stated by the husband that they had separated from each other only few days after marriage due to temperamental differences”.

After perusing the entire record, the Bench ruled: “We are of the considered view that the entire selection deserves to be quashed. The respondents have not been able to show how the post of anganwari workers and anganwari helpers were advertised or how the same were publicised.

“It is inexplicable why a strained husband would furnish an affidavit in favour of his wife from whom he had separated more than five years ago. The entire selection process on the face of record is vitiated.


Report on road sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today appointed Jalandhar Chief Judicial Magistrate and district town planner to submit report after carrying an on-the-spot study to find whether the road connecting Jalandhar city with the cantonment was a declared commercial road.

They have also been asked to find if any commercial area existed on the road in the vicinity of Defence Colony, Jalandhar. They have been directed to submit the report before December 23.


‘Murdered’ woman buried, no arrest made
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Ratar Shatar (Gurdaspur), November 14
Even as the body of Hanefa Masih, a Dalit Christian woman of this village, who was allegedly murdered by members of the ruling SAD party, was buried this evening, the police has failed to arrest the accused involved in the crime.

Malkit Singh, SHO, Dera Baba Nanak police station, in whose jurisdiction the village falls, said he was awaiting the postmortem report before arresting the seven accused involved in the crime and against whom a case under sections 304, 452, 148 and 149, IPC, was registered yesterday.

On the other hand, family members of the deceased, including her husband Iqbal Masih, son Labha and daughter-in-law Paramjit Kaur, are living under constant fear as they alleged that the accused were roaming freely in the village.

Iqbal alleged that on November 10, 2008, his wife and daughter-in-law were attacked by some persons, including women. On November 11 when he came to know that the condition of his wife was serious, he took her to the Civil Hospital, Batala. He said his wife was not given treatment by the authorities concerned as they demanded a police report.

He added that when the police refused to give them a report in connection with the injuries suffered by his wife, his son Labha approached the court on November 12 and managed to get a report.

But when the condition of Hanefa deteriorated, she was referred to an Amritsar hospital by doctors attending on her on November 13. Hanefa died while on the way.

Naresh Arora, SSP, Batala, while denying that the police had refused to give a report to the relatives of the deceased, said no one from her family had approached the policemen.


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