P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Rs 10-lakh fund created for needy students
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, November 15
The Old Boys Association of Sainik School, Kapurthala, created a corpus fund of Rs 10 lakh to provide financial help to needy students of the school. This was stated by president of the association and Punjab Advocate-General H.S. Mattewal during the 47th special annual gathering of its distinguished members.

The main motive of the association was to encourage general public to join armed forces for serving the nation, he added.

Expressing happiness over the selection of 16 students of the school in the National Defence Academy this year, he proudly said as many as 25 students of this school reached to the rank of General in the armed forces.

School principal A.K. Tyagi and prominent members of the association, including Brig S.P.S. Bajwa, Major-Gen A.K. Sakhuja, Major-Gen R.K. Sanan, Major-Gen I.P. Singh, Brig G.S. Randhawa, Air Marshal A.K. Chopra, Air Vice-Marshal Sarabjeet Singh Hothi, Olympian Major Lashman Singh Johal SDM K. Sardana, Col L.K. Cheema, J.P. Singh (IAS), Ashok Sood (IAS), Principal R.S. Pawar, Wg Cdr Virinder Singh and S.N. Aggarwal, were present on the occasion. 



Centre to open drug stores in dist hospitals
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The Department of Petrochemicals and Fertilisers, Government of India (GOI), will open drug stores in all district hospitals of Punjab.

A press statement issued by Vijay Kain, principal secretary, Health, Punjab, said health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla met Ashok Kumar, secretary, Department of Petrochemicals, in Delhi regarding the project.

“The GOI drug stores will store and sell medicines and drugs manufactured by public sector units of the Union government,” said Kain.

He stated that at present patients bought medicines from big companies at a huge cost. If these drug stores were opened, contracts from the five public sector units at much cheaper rates could be obtained which would facilitate availability of such drugs by at least 60 per cent cheaper rates. He said the first store at the Amritsar Civil Hospital would be opened by November 30, 2008.

Professor Chawla also met Union health minister Anbumani Ramdoss and urged him to increase the pay package for contractual doctors working under the National Rural Health Mission.

She said the Union health minister had assured her of revising the pay package from the present Rs 15,000 for female medical officers and Rs 20,000 for gynaecologists and pediatricians.

She further said Dr Ramdoss had informed that the first phase of the Mission would be launched this year covering Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana.

The issue regarding the eligibility conditions for availing the state Illness Fund by only BPL families was also taken up by Professor Chawla with the Union minister. Since there were only 6 per cent BPL families in Punjab, the state was not able to utilise these funds properly. Also there was no other institute except the PGI, Chandigarh, for providing treatment for serious illnesses requiring the services of super-specialists. The Union minister was requested to allow the treatment to these families in private hospitals at PGI rates. She said the response of Dr Ramdoss was very positive.

Satish Chandra, director, NRHM, Punjab, revealed that Dr Ramdoss expressed keenness to visit Amritsar in December 2008 and seek co-operation of the SGPC and other religious bodies against female foeticide, drug abuse and use of tobacco, alcohol and junk foods. 


Farmers decide to intensify protest
Allege state govt following anti-agriculture,
anti-employment policies
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The Punjab government’s troubles with state farmers have just begun. After yesterday’s agitation, when rail traffic was adversely hit following a combined protest of farmer unions, the farmers have now decided to intensify their protest.

Lashing out in anger against the way the government chose to handle the farmers agitation yesterday, president of the Kirti Kisan Union (KKU) Hardev Singh Sandhu said, “For us now Badal is as good or as bad as Manmohan Singh. The government clamped down around the villages yesterday and did not allow farmers to gather. They closed all roads. If this is the way they treat us, we will deal with them in the same way,” he said.

Seven farmer unions, led by the KKU, are demanding additional bonus on paddy and remunerative price for cotton produce. “The MSP announced by the government for paddy was Rs 200 less than what was recommended by the Agriculture Costs and Price Commission. Farmers had to resort to distress selling of cotton after government agencies delayed entering mandis,” said Sandhu.

“We had an hour-long meeting with the Chief Minister yesterday. We asked him not to put the entire blame on the Centre for all our problems. We urged him that the state government should take proactive measures to help farmers. However, he showed complete helplessness stating that the state was in dire financial straits,” alleged Sandhu.

“We pointed out that the huge expenditure his party was going to undertake during the coming elections should instead be diverted to help us. His response was that money is needed to fight elections,” said Sandhu.

Sandhu said the Punjab government was following anti-agriculture and anti- employment polices in the name of development. “Focus should be on promoting agriculture and generate employment,” said Sandhu.

The KKU, along with Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) BKU (Krantikari), BKU (Dakotta) Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Punjab Kisan Union, will be reviving agitation from next week. Advisor to the Chief Minister D.S. Cheema said the government would be reiterating the farmers’ demands to the Centre. 



News Analysis
Karimpuri’s election to Rajya Sabha may benefit BSP
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The election of Punjab Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Avtar Singh Karimpuri as member of the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh yesterday may act as a catalyst for galvanising Dalits into a single large decisive unit in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

The Dalits have a substantial chunk of votes in the state that borders 30 per cent range. They have a strong base not only in the Doab, but also in certain pockets like Ferozepur and also in the Malwa belt (Sherpur, Bhadaur etc).

Karimpuri, incidentally, is the third Punjab BSP leader after Harbhajan Lakha and Ch Kanshi Ram to enter Parliament. Though he was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1992 from Mahilpur, BSP candidates have hardly tasted any victory either in the Assembly or the Lok Sabha elections since then.

The BSP leader rightly owes his entry to the Rajya Sabha to his party president, Mayawati, who nominated her for one of the top six seats that the ruling BSP has annexed in the election yesterday. Incidentally, he becomes the first BSP leader from Punjab to enter the Rajya Sabha.

On his arrival here this morning, Karimpuri, was accorded a warm reception.

Growing factionalism in the state unit of the BSP was attributed more to its failures to win any seat either in the state or Parliament elections than the leadership squabbles.

Harbhajan Lakha, who represented Phillaur in the Lok Sabha once, and Mohan Singh Phallianwala (Ferozepur) had been the strongest candidates ever put by the party in earlier contests. In the 2004 elections, the BSP had put up former MP and MLA Charanjit Singh Nawanshahr from Hoshiarpur. Charanjit Singh had left the Congress to join the BSP after being denied the party ticket.

Another BSP leader to do well had been Satnam Singh Kainth, who like Karimpuri, was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1992. He contested from Banga and subsequently broke away from the BSP and launched his own party.

Among others to make it to the state legislature that year were Rajinder Kumar (Adampur), Raj Singh Kheri (Sherpur), Nirmal Singh Nimma (Bhadaur), Hargopal Singh (Balachaur), Gurpal Chand (Sham Churasi) and Baldev Singh Bhatti (Dharamkot).

Incidentally, no BSP MLA has been re-elected. The party leadership is looking into mobilsing its workers into a single, large and decisive group and ensuring that those committed to the party ideaology are rewarded for their loyalty. 


SAD seeks review of cases against NRIs
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The SAD, which, along with the BJP, has been demanding a Central review of the blacklist prohibiting certain non-resident Indians (NRIs) from visiting their country of birth, has now decided to press for a review of cases registered against NRIs in Punjab.

According to sources, the issue was taken up at a meeting of the core committee of the party held on Friday night. It was decided to ask the state government to review cases of all NRIs, who had been declared proclaimed offenders (POs) 
in the state.

The sources said the SAD had decided to take up the issue as it could make a difference by resolving minor cases due to which NRIs were not able to return to their country.

According to police sources, more than 1,300 NRIs have been declared POs and the number of NRIs against whom cases have been registered is more than this figure.

The committee decided to involve the police and legal experts in the resolution of cases, cooperation minister Kanwaljit Singh stated. He said there was a feeling that some NRIs had been trapped in false or minor cases. He said the police had been asked to classify the seriousness of the cases before proceeding in the matter.

Speaking about the blacklist, he said there were three kinds of such lists. One was that of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the external affairs ministry and yet another of prepared by local embassies.

The IB’s blacklist had been reviewed recently and now there were only around 115 Punjabis from the US, Canada, the UK and Europe on it, according to Capt Kanwaljit.

The SAD has apparently been moved into action on the subject due to an initiative taken by its alliance partner, the BJP. 


Sukhbir to call shots in SGPC affairs 
Calls meeting of SGPC members on Nov 21
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
It is time for Sukhbir Singh Badal to take over from his father and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and decide the next chief of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

Till now Sukhbir, after his election as Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)president, had been taking only political decisions. Now he has been authorised by the SAD to take decisions that empower him on the affairs of the Sikhs’ highest religious body, the SGPC.

After celebrating Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary at his Delhi residence where present SGPC chief Avtar Singh presented him and members of his family with siropas, Sukhbir has called a meeting of the SGPC members here on November 21 to seek their views on the executive committee elections of the SGPC.

Senior leaders of the SAD and the BJP, including Lal Krishan Advani, attended the Gurpurb celebrations at Sukhbir’s residence yesterday.

Till now the general house of the SAD used to authorise the then president and Chief Minister Badal to decide about the candidate for the presidentship of the SGPC. Badal used to name the candidate just before the start of the election meeting normally held in the third week of November.

Since 2009 will be an important year, as the country will go for general elections in the first quarter, the choice of the SGPC chief assumes great importance.

Though the present incumbent has the Chief Minister as well as the SAD chief on his side, others too, have been making efforts to get nod from the young SAD chief.

At the November 21 meeting, though Badal will be present, Sukhbir will preside over it.


Rahul to visit Amritsar on Nov 18
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
Rahul Gandhi, general secretary of the All-India Congress Committee, along with former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh will visit Amritsar on November 18 for announcing the poll schedule for the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC).

Vijay Inder Singla, president, PYC, who was here to look after arrangements for the visit of Gandhi and the Youth Congress poll, stated that all preparations had been completed.

He said Lyngdoh, who is also the president of the Foundation for Advance Management of Elections, had been guiding the YCfor conducting elections. He said the membership drive launched by the YC had been completed on September 30 in which more than three lakh youth enrolled themselves with the party. 


Now, Punjab websites in Punjabi
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
Having made the use of Punjabi language compulsory for all official work, Punjab government will finally introduce Punjabi in all its websites.

All Punjab government websites, including its official website punjabgovt.nic.in, are in English and there is no option available to surf these sites in Punjabi. Some of the new sites, which have been hosted by individual districts, also have no Punjabi option available.

Interestingly, the government of India websites on the other hand have an option that allow users to go through the site in Hindi. Sources in the Information Technology department pointed out that the availability of the local language option in every official website was one of the directions issued by the Centre but Punjab, like many other states, had not been following these directions.

“All government websites would be made bilingual giving the Punjabi option. No specific orders have to be passed for this. The IT department, which is looking after the websites, would undertake the necessary exercise on its own,” said Ramesh Inder Singh, chief secretary.

The Act passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha that makes use of Punjabi compulsory in all government offices of the state, came into force a few days ago but is yet to be reflected in any of the state’s websites.

“The whole exercise would take some months. Punjabi translation for the content will be one of the easier tasks. The more difficult thing would be the translation of tenders and the forms which are available online on these websites,” said an IT department official.

Many government websites offer the user the option to download forms related to that particular department. The department of excise and taxation, industries department, housing department have a host of forms, which are available for users to download. All these forms are in English.

The transport department alone has over 35 such forms available on its website. The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) website, also one of the most interactive websites, has used Punjabi language but all downloadable forms are in English. Similarly, districts administrations offer downloadable forms for various Suvidha Kendra services.

Internet-based services provided by the government, like e-filing of taxes and status inquiries, would also pose a difficulty in creating a complete Punjabi language website. The excise department offers e-filing of VAT and the complete exercise is in English. Sources in the excise department said e-filing would continue in English but another form in Punjabi can also be introduced giving the user both the options.


‘Govt violating directions on preparing estimates’
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
Assistant municipal engineers of the Punjab government yesterday reminded the state government that it could not violate its own guidelines to meet political exigencies, and development works could not be done without preparing estimates for the same.

The government has earned the ire of municipal engineers by suspending three of them last week for failing to make rough cost estimates in time. The suspensions, ordered by the Chief Minister’s office, were expected to send a message of the government priority to complete development works in municipal councils before the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections.

The Local Bodies Department had recently issued instructions to all municipal councils to submit a list of works that needed be done in their territory.

However, the suspension of the engineers has had the opposite effect with the municipal engineers threatening to stop work relating to the grant-in-aid, including preparing estimates and processing them.

State Municipal Engineers’ Welfare Association president Pawan Sharma claimed that the exercise was being conducted as per the “arbitrary” and verbal instructions of regional deputy directors of the local government department.

General secretary of the association Y.P Kaura said there was every danger that engineers could be made scapegoats. Local Bodies secretary D.S Bains said engineers were not being forcibly hurried into giving estimates.


Implement pay panel report: Docs
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, November 15
There is resentment among state government employees over the delay in the implementation of the Fifth Punjab Pay Commission report and release of the dearness allowance (DA) due since July 2008.

In a press note here today, Dr Hardeep Singh, state president, and Dr Ajay Bagga, press secretary, Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA), demanded that the government should get the report from the Pay Commission, otherwise the model election code would be enforced due to the Lok Sabha elections and the state government would not be able to grant salaries to employees in the revised pay scales.

Due to the non-release of DA even at Diwali time and non-implementation of promises made to employees by the SAD-BJP combine at the time of the Assembly elections, employees felt the government was following anti- employee policies. 


Farm workers’ rally flagged off 
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
A rally of the All-India Agriculture Workers Union (AIAWU) was flagged off today from the Jallianwala Bagh which will reach Hyderabad after passing through various states in 17 days, to commemorate its 25th foundation day on December 2.

State president of CITU Vijay Mishra flagged off the rally led by AIAWU general secretary Sunil Chopra, after hundreds of members of the AIAWU and the CPM paid tributes to the martyrs at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial.

Addressing mediapersons here, Chopra and the Central committee member of the CPM said the government should issue below poverty line (BPL) cards to 70 per cent of the population of the country due to the rising inflation. Only 60 per cent of the population was being eligible for getting facilities under BPL schemes.

Chopra said the Centre made a budgetary provision of Rs 16,000 crore under the national rural employment gurantee scheme, for providing jobs to unemployed youth in the country. The amount given to Punjab under the scheme was not reaching the unemployed youth in the state. 


Grandparents deny confining kids 
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Alowal (Hoshiarpur), November 15
Baldev Singh and his wife Santosh Kaur denied the allegations levelled by their UK-based daughter-in-law Paramjeet Kaur Toor that they had unlawfully confined her son Arman Preet Singh (6) and daughter Sazel Preet Kaur (4) at their house in Alowal village on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road in Hoshiarpur district.

Talking to The Tribune today at Alowal village, Baldev and Santosh said they could not produce their grandchildren in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the last date of hearing on Friday as they had received the notice on Thursday, just a day before hearing.

They said they had engaged lawyer Gurmeet Singh hurriedly who appeared on behalf of them in the court of Justice Mohinder Pal. They would produce their grandchildren in the High Court on the next date of hearing on November 19.

In a habeas corpus writ filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, UK citizen Paramjeet Kaur Toor alleged that her kids had been illegally confined by their paternal grandparents and prayed before the court that their custody be entrusted to her to enable their return to England.

Contrary to Paramjeet’s allegations, Baldev and Santosh claimed that she had herself handed over the children to them as she was not able to take care of them properly as she had been diagnosed with having moderate learning difficulties since her childhood.

While Paramjeet left her daughter Sazel with the grandparents when she was just 30 days old, her son Arman had been living with them for the past one-and-a-half year, they claimed, adding that they took the children twice to the UK and Paramjeet also came to India twice to meet the children in between.

Arman and Sazel are studying in LKG at nearby Oakdale Public School at Alowal village. Both kids also told The Tribune that they wanted to live with their grandmother.

The relations between Paramjeet and her husband Harkamal Preet Singh deteriorated in 2008 after six years of marriage in Ganganagar, Rajasthan, on January 11, 2002. After marriage, Harkamal shifted to the UK. Arman and Sazel were born in the UK. 


Principal’s Transfer
Police ‘manhandles’ agitating girls
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Fathegarh Churian (Gurdaspur), November 15
Children’s Day that was celebrated throughout the country yesterday left hundreds of girl students of the local Government Senior Secondary School for Girls hurt and agitated.

The police allegedly manhandled them when they were protesting in school premises against the transfer of the principal by the Punjab government.

The students were pushed and forced to return to classrooms by the police, who had converted the school premises into a police cantonment. The students alleged that police personnel also passed derogatory remarks.

The students were demanding that Principal Sukhdev Singh Kahlon, who had been transferred to Ludhiana, should be put back on the same job. While denying that students were manhandled by the police, officiating principal of the school Bhupinder Kaur disclosed that the administration of the school had been politicised.

Kahlon said he had been victimised on political considerations. He added that he had decided to return the state and national awards given to him by the state government and the Centre, respectively, for exemplary contribution in the field of education.

SSP (Batala) Naresh Arora denied manhandling of students and said the police had been deployed so that the situation could be kept under control.

The SSP stated that the police had been ensuring that no harm was caused to the students. Deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said so far he had not received any formal complaint in this connection.


Nursing students to continue agitation
Demands better working conditions, revival of stipend
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 15
The students of the three-year B Sc Nursing course, being conducted by Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, yesterday, decided to intensify their on-going agitation to protest against alleged apathy of the Punjab government to urge their demands.

Talking to The Tribune, Navkiran and Jasreet Kaur, president and general secretary of the nursing assocation, said nursing students would hold a meeting tomorrow and decide their next line of action in view of the failure of Director Reseaech and Medical Education (DRME) to implement their demands.

She said nursing students of Patiala had submitted a memorandum to the DRME earlier this month and he had assured to redress their grievances by November 9.

Students demanded better working conditions and revival of stipend during four years of training. Students also alleged that due to shortage of regular nursing staff in Rajindra Hospital, students who are under training were made to work for long hours without a break. In view of no progress on their demands, the students had been sitting on an hour-long dharna daily outside the office of medical superintendent at Rajindra Hospital.

A student leader said the nursing students had been demanding revision of their stipend and issuance of a notification regarding recognition of their degree.

She said the Punjab government had forced them to resort to direct action by slow peddling their demands.


Pension Issue
No date fixed for teachers’ meeting 
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 15
Despite Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s directions to his principal secretary on November 4 to convene a meeting in connection with a major demand (revival of the pension scheme from June 1, 2003) of teachers and other employees of 484 government-aided schools of the state, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) has reportedly not fixed a date for the meeting.

Talking to The Tribune today, chief advisor of the Punjab State Aided School Teachers and Other Employees Union Manohar Lal Chopra said he had met the Chief Minister on November 4 at a sangat darshan programme where the latter had directed his principal secretary to fix a date for convening a meeting comprising the CM, education minister, finance minister and representatives of the union.

Chopra said more than 10 days had passed since then and no date had been given by the CMO for the meeting. As a result, there was a great disappointment among teachers and other employees. He said the union was of the view that perhaps this meeting would not be convened as certain vested interests were not in favour of revival of the pension scheme.

Chopra said they had also met the education minister on October 27. She had also supported their demand and assured them that she would talk to the Chief Minister and the finance minister in this regard, but it seemed that nothing had happened in this direction so far.

Other demands of the aided school teachers and other employees are removal of ban on recruitment in aided schools, release of interim relief and enhancement in monthly medical allowance from Rs 250 to Rs 350. Chopra appealed to Badal to personally intervene in the matter and reach a solution. 


Beas board ties up with Danish firm
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) has signed a contract with DHI Water Environment Health, a Danish firm specialising in water resources management, for development of real-time decision support system for operational management of Bhakra and Pong reservoirs.

The project would be executed under the World Bank-funded Hydrology Project Phase-II of the ministry of water resources. The contract was signed by BBMB secretary R.C. Mahajan and Dr Alasdiar MacDonalds in the presence of the BBMB chairman U.C. Misra.

The development of the real-time decision support system is the first such project in the country and would help optimise utilisation of water resources.

The proposed system would support operational decision required at monthly, weekly, daily and shorter time intervals or for a longer planning horizon.

The decisions would help in scheduling release from reservoirs and issuance of flood warnings, besides providing rainfall and snowfall forecast from estimation of inflows into BBMB reservoirs.


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