P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Govt to cut down on red tape
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, December 2
The state government has planned to constitute an administrative reforms commission to cut down on red tape, which has been causing a considerable delay in the decision-making process and is detrimental to the interests of the common man.

Making this revelation to the media after inaugurating 300-metric tonne capacity newsprint plant set up in a record time by Khanna Paper Mills here today, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the government had made up its mind as the development projects were tied up in knots due to administrative wrangling and added that the commission would recommend faster administrative process.

The state would unleash a series of infrastructure projects to attract more private industries to set the state on the path of accelerated progress.

Having a dig at former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the SAD chief said he (Amarinder) was “mentally sick, a failed Chief Minister, failed husband and a failed father and did not take notice of his reported statements”.

Sukhbir said the Central government had accorded its approval to establish a world-class university in Amritsar and the government planned to infuse thousands of crores for making the city a education hub. He said the government was in the process of making the city a major IT destination as big software corporates, including Wipro, Infosys, TCS, had evinced keen interest to develop the city.

A Singapore-based company had been asked to submit a report for setting up a central business district in Amritsar on the pattern of Singapore Business District.

He said the government had already started the process of acquiring land for constructing express highways connecting Mohali with Jalandhar. He said the government would spend Rs 1,000 crore on revamp of cities.

Earlier, information and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia urged the government to take up the issue of discontinuation of international flights by the Jet Airways and Singapore Airlines from the Rajasansi Airport with the Central government.


Cabinet approves revival of 2,000 posts of constable
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 2
The Punjab Cabinet today approved the revival of 2,000 posts of constables, which had been abolished earlier, and the recruitment process to fill these vacant posts will be initiated soon.

Giving details, Chief Minister’s media advisor Harcharan Bains said a decision in this respect had been taken at a meeting of the Council of Ministers presided over by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

He said of the existing 2,000 posts of constables, 1,000 posts would be utilised by absorption of an equal number of SPOs in armed battalions. Apart from this, 500 male and 500 female constables would be directly recruited in armed battalions and general cadre, respectively.

The Cabinet also gave approval for revival and filling up of 69 posts of PCS, of which 38 would through direct recruitment and 31 by nomination.

“Keeping in view the exceptional contribution of Shaheed Sewa Singh Thikriwala to the cause of Punjab state,” the Cabinet approved to increase the Swatantrata Sainik Sanman pension of his daughter Gurcharan Kaur from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per month. The Cabinet also gave nod to provide indoor medical treatment facility to widows and unemployed/unmarried daughters of freedom fighters after their death.

The Cabinet also gave approval to execute agreement as service providers with the agencies as approved or to be approved in future by the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA) of the Central government and declare principal secretary, Finance, as Authorised Signatory on behalf of the state. The director, Treasuries and Accounts in the Department of Finance, would be Designated Authority under the New-Restructured Defined Pension Contribution Scheme (NPS).

The Cabinet also gave approval for amending Punjab Land Revenue Rules, 1909, for paving a way to the appointment of honorary nambardars (headmen) amongst the NRIs.

The Cabinet also gave approval for the restoration of non-practicing allowance to 39 senior PCMS officers of deputy director and above ranks that include civil surgeons, medical superintendents, joint & additional directors and director, Health Services.

The Cabinet also approved to amend section 19 (1) and 20 (1) of the Punjab Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 2002, to enhance the Vakaltnama fee from Rs 6 to Rs 8.

The Cabinet strongly condemned the recent inhuman terrorist strikes in Mumbai and condoled the death of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh and Jagdish Ram Sud, father of Medical Education and Research minister Tikshan Sud. 


Five chargesheeted for ‘illegal’ land allotment
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 2
The Punjab government has chargesheeted five officials, including two executive officers, of the local Improvement Trust for allotting prime pieces of land under the Local Displaced Persons (LDP) category allegedly in violation of the rules during the previous Congress regime.

The chargesheets were served on the officers after a letter of the director-cum-special secretary, Local Government (Vigilance Cell), sought a report from the chairman of the trust. The letter mentioned that executive officer Jugal Kishore Sharma, former chairman of the trust, had fraudulently allotted the pieces of land to LDP beneficiaries flouting rules.

However, Surinder Kumari and Raman Kapur, now posted as executive officers at Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala, respectively, claimed that they had allotted the pieces of land as per a “precedent” of the trust. They denied that rules were bent to give benefit to the beneficiaries.

Sharma also claimed that the pieces of land were allotted as per the instructions of the state government.

Certain influential persons, including “near and dear ones” of the then trustees and senior politicians, had purchased pieces of prime land allotted to LDP beneficiaries through middlemen at throwaway prices.

The government has also directed the chairman of the trust to serve show-cause notices on all LDP beneficiaries for cancellation of allotments.

The other employees of the trust, who have been chargesheeted included Surinder Uppal, Parkash Singh and Bikram. 



Police foils gherao of Pak delegation
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 2
Protesting against the Mumbai terrorist attack, activists of the Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena (Bal Thakeray) and VHP attempted to gherao visiting 45-member Pakistani delegation, led by Lahore High Court judge Chabar Raza Rizvi, in front of a local hotel today.

A police party, led by SP R.K. Sharma, took the protesting activists in custody. However, they were released in the afternoon. Justice Rizvi and other members of the delegation were here to participate in the Urs at the Panj Pir shrine, Samana.

The activists started converging in front of the hotel in the Chotti Baradari area at around 9 am.

Members of the delegation, except Justice Rizvi, were staying there. Their effort to barge into the hotel was foiled by the policemen deployed there.

Justice Rizvi was staying in the local Circuit House. Nearly, 24 activists, not only raised anti-Pakistan slogans but also burnt the Pakistani flag, accusing Pakistan of fomenting terrorism in India and rest of the world. They also waived black flags to the delegates.

Leaders Harish Singla, Ravi Kant and Lakhwinder Sarin alleged that it was Pakistan, which had become the epicentre of terrorism in the world. 


Only six takers for Pathankot-Delhi flight
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, December2
This town dotted with one of the India's biggest cantonments, Air Force Station, and litchi and mango orchards, will come on the country's air map again when civil air flights will be started between Pathankot and Delhi tomorrow.

However, only six passengers have booked their berths in the first flight from this town to Delhi.

Sources said an adequate number of passengers could not fetched for the first flight as the authorities concerned did not launch any advertisement campaign in connection with the restart of the Pathankot-Delhi air service.

The air flight between Pathankot and Delhi, which was started in 2006, was discontinued on March 29, 2008. A private airline company had been operating the service by using a 48-seater ATR aircraft for the same. The flights were discontinued as it had been earning a low revenue from the same.

Rampal, station manager, Indian Airlines, said Airline Allied Services Limited, a subsidiary company of Air India, would press a 42-seater ATR aircraft into service to link Pathankot and Delhi. He added that the first aircraft would land at the local airport, which was part of the Air Force Station at 10.10 pm.

He said arrangements had been made in connection with security of the airport. The security was made as per international standards and norms laid down by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.

He said every Monday there would be a direct flight between Pathankot and Delhi. Every Wednesday and Friday, the aircraft would fly to Kullu from Delhi and then from Kullu it would touch the local airport. On the reverse journey, the aircraft would directly fly to Delhi from here.

He said the air service had been restarted on public demand as it was expected by the authorities that passengers would come from various towns of Punjab and neighbouring Himachal Pardesh. He said the rush of passengers would be low during winter. The fare of one side journey would be Rs 3,400.

Meanwhile, a section of prominent businessmen and tour and travel agents said authorities concerned must make arrangements for setting up a five-star hotel in the town so that more tourists bound for HP and Jammu and Kashmir could be attracted for making this town a halting point. 


Rural dept, police at loggerheads over houses
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Batala, December 2
Employees of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat have allegedly been terrorised by the police after a criminal case was registered against a section of their colleagues, including an official of the rank of deputy director, on a complaint of Hardeep Lal, special police officer, Punjab Home Guards. Hardeep was allegedly stopped from illegally occupying a residential quarter belonging to the department yesterday.

Agitated over the alleged terrorism being spread by a section of policemen, who were in illegal possession of a number of houses belonging to the department located in the premises of a community development training centre here, the employees have been contemplating launching a state-level agitation.

Jaswinder Singh Ramdass, additional deputy commissioner (development), who visited the spot, said he had reported the matter to the minister for rural development and panchayat and the deputy commissioner, Gurdaspur.

Madhumeet Kaur, who holds the rank of deputy director in the department and is principal of the training centre, said a criminal case against her and other employees was registered on a false complaint of Hardeep.

Madhumeet said she had been trying to get all houses belonging to the department vacated as per the directions of the minister concerned. While the official residence of the principal had been illegally occupied by a DSP rank officer of the Punjab police, a number of other residential quarters had been in the illegal possession of other policemen for the past many years.

Meanwhile, Batala deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kirpal Singh directed the police authorities to withhold action on the FIR against the officials.

Both Gurkirat and Naresh said a joint committee headed by the SDM, Batala, with the district development and panchayat officer and the DSP (D), Batala, as other members had been constituted to look into the matter.


Finance panel members in Punjab today
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 2
The Finance Commission members, led by the chairman Dr Vijay Kelkar, would be in Punjab tomorrow as part of its all India states visit.

The commission would be in the state till December 5, during which they would hold meetings with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, government functionaries and representatives of industries, traders and agriculture.

Sources said the commission members would also visit Muktsar and Amritsar as part of their two-day stay in the state. The Finance Commission is constituted by the President of India and is holding office till October 31, 2009. The members visiting Punjab include B.K. Chaturvedi, member, planning commission, Dr Indira Rajaraman, Professor Emeritus, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Prof Atul Sarma, former vice-chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi University and Sumit Bose, secretary of the commission.

One of the most important recommendations that the commission has to make to the government of India is the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes among the Union and the states. Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal has been over the past two months, demanding a larger share in the Central taxes for the states, pointing out that the states have far greater responsibilities. This point is expected to be highlighted by the government and the Punjab Chief Minister to the commission members.

The commission members would also be talking to the state government regarding the measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of the state to supplement the resources of the panchayats and municipalities. For this purpose the commission members would be meeting representatives from rural and urban local bodies.

The commission would also review the state of finances of the Union and the states for the operation of the ‘State debt consolidation and relief facility 2005 to 2010’ introduced by the Central government on the basis of the recommendations of the 12th finance commission.

Sources added that the commission members would be visiting some villages in Muktsar to get a first hand idea of rural conditions of the state and also study the canal system of irrigation. In Amritsar, the commission members are expected to visit some border villages.

Sources added that the commission would also be going into the current status of disinvestments of the public sector units in Punjab, the viability of PSUs and their restructuring programmes if any.


Pay bonus now, can’t wait till Dec 31: Farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 2
Rejecting the offer of Punjab Food and Supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon that bonus on paddy will be paid by December 31, farmers have urged him to make the payment immediately. Already the payment of bonus has been delayed by five or six weeks and the government should not make excuses to delay it further by four weeks.

BKU president Balbir Singh Rajewal said the Union government had announced a bonus of Rs 50 per quintal in the first fortnight of October. However, the state government had not paid it till today though the procurement of paddy had come to an end in the third week of last month. Rajewal said in fact the bonus should have been given to farmers along with the sale proceeds of paddy.

Rajewal said as most of the farmers had bank accounts, why had the payment of bonus been delayed. He said the state government was aware well before the beginning of the procurement season of paddy that bonus would be announced on it. The state government should have told the farmers to get bank accounts opened before the beginning of the procurement of paddy if payment to them was to be made electronically in their bank accounts.

Rajewal said the government was to pay Rs 650 crore as bonus to farmers. By retaining this amount in its kitty, the state government would be earning about Rs 8 crore per month as interest. And starting from the second week of October, when bonus was announced, the interest on the total amount of bonus would be about Rs 20 crore till December 31. Rajewal said along with the bonus, the state government should also pay interest to farmers for retaining their bonus money for about two and a half months.

Rajewal said earlier bonus cheques used to be given to farmers and they never complained in this regard. Moreover, the state government would not be able even to distribute bonus by December 31. He said the government would have to give cheques to those farmers who had not opened their bank account. He said the government would have to issue several lakh cheques and for doing so, it would have to arrange large number of government employees. “I believe that the government will not be able disburse bonus, which will be a massive exercise, by December 31,” he asserted.


‘Need to change Army recruitment method’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 2
Preliminary inquiry conducted by district magistrate Kahan Singh Pannu has indicted the Army for adopting “archaic and inhuman” method during the recruitment rally where two youths were killed in a stampede yesterday.

In a report to the chief secretary, Pannu has alleged that the death of the youths was due the method of recruitment, which has been in vogue for more than 100 years. The old practice of Army recruitment may have started in the days when the number of aspirants used to be very low. However, nowadays around 10,000 youths appear for physical test at the recruitment centre on a single day.

The report states that thousands of youths from one or two districts are informed of the rally through newspaper advertisements, without taking into consideration the number of candidates likely to participate in the rally. This crowd of thousands of youths have to brave the chilly night in the open, waiting for the gates of the recruitment centre to be opened.

Pannu has suggested the state government to approach the Army to change the method of recruitment. He said modern method of recruitment involving calling of applications, screening the applications, holding physical or written tests of only eligible candidates in reasonable batches and then preparing lists of successful candidates should be followed.


Chair in Sikh Studies at US varsity to start today
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 2
Growing interest of Western scholars in Punjab in general and Sikhs in particular has paved way for the formal launch of the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra University tomorrow. Ishar Singh Bindra and his family have endowed the Chair in Sikh Studies in honour of family matriarch Kuljit Kaur Bindra.

Dr Balbinder Singh Bhogal, formerly of York University, Toronto, Canada, will head the Chair from tomorrow.

Hofstra is not the first North American University to have a Chair in Sikh Studies as some universities in Canada and the United States have Departments of South Asian Studies that include Sikh studies.

Some months back, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal laid the foundation stone of World University of Guru Granth Sahib Studies at Fatehgarh Sahib, near here.

The Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies is, however, being established to promote the academic study of Sikh religion, culture and history. The endowment supports the appointment of a faculty member in Sikh Studies, helps build the university library's holdings in Sikhism, provides scholarship assistance to students interested in Sikh religion and culture and funds annual conferences and lectures directed toward the academic community as well as the general public.

Hofstra University claims to be a dynamic private institution where students can choose from about 140 undergraduate and 155 graduate programmes in liberal arts and sciences, business, communication, education and allied human services and honours studies, as well as a school of law. With a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, its professors teach small classes averaging 22 students that emphasise interaction, critical thinking and analysis. Hofstra offers a faculty whose highest priority is teaching excellence, cutting edge technology, extensive library resources and internships and special educational programmes that appeal to their interests and abilities. The Hofstra community is driven, dynamic and energetic, helping students find and focus their strengths to prepare them for a successful future.

“I am delighted to be the holder of this important Chair that has done so much to reinvigorate the field of Sikh studies,” said Dr Bhogal. 


Lawyers to observe bandh today
Sanjay Bumbroo and Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, December 2
A new dimension has been added to the ongoing tussle between advocates and the district administration as the district police has failed to register a case against certain advocates for the alleged ransacking of the office of SDM Sandeep Rishi in spite of a complaint lodged by the officer.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu told The Tribune that the police was dilly-dallying to file a case against the lawyers who had vandalised the office of the SDM and other offices of the district administration while protesting against the demolition of the unauthorised chambers.

Pannu said he would persuade the lawyers and administration officials to withdraw their agitations to avoid inconvenience to people.

Repeated efforts to contact the SSP on his phone went futile.

Meanwhile, ministerial staff and employees of the district administration of the district and other districts, including Tarn Taran, came in support of the deputy commissioner and his colleagues.

However, the district Bar Association has given a state-level call for a bandh tomorrow. A spokesman of the association said a group of 50 lawyers would apprise the Chief Justice of the High Court of the matter and would also meet Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

He said they would call off the agitation only after the chambers were restored and all their papers were returned to them. Meanwhile, Kirpal Singh Randhawa, deputy chief of the Punjab Human Rights Organisation, condemned the lawyers for encroaching on the government land and indulging in violence. 


HC for vigilance probe into defective septic tanks
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 2
Taking a serious view of at least Rs 4 crore going down the drain due to installation of defective septic tanks in Punjab villages, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today made it clear that it wanted the state vigilance bureau to probe the matter.

In all, as many as 9,000 tanks were installed in 36 villages across the state at an estimated cost of Rs 7 crore. Out of the total, an estimated 67 per cent of the tanks, reportedly, developed cracks and other defects soon after installation.

As a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the matter came up for hearing this morning, Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh expressed inclination of handing over the case to the CBI.

In fact, the CBI’s deputy superintendent of police was called to the courtroom at noon. But the state counsel said the state was equally keen to hand over the probe to its agency.

After taking note of his submission, Chief Justice Thakur, on behalf of the Bench, verbally asked the state counsel to ask “the secretary concerned to do the needful for referring the matter to the vigilance bureau”.

“If we find that you are dragging your feet in the matter, we can transfer it, but get the case registered straightaway,” the Chief Justice said in the open courtroom.

Emphasising on the gravity of the matter, the Chief Justice said if the total cost of tanks purchased by different agencies was in the range of Rs 7 crore, the loss was nearly of Rs 4 to Rs 5 crore.

The Judge added huge amounts had been rendered infructuous due to the poor quality of the tanks. As such, it was a fit case, in the court’s opinion, that called for deeper investigation to find if anyone associated with the purchase, verification and installation of these tanks was to be held responsible.

Before parting with the order dictated in the open court, the Bench asked state counsel to inform the court about the action initiated in the matter on December 18, the next date of hearing.

In his petition, Kuldip Singh and another petitioner had sought directions to the state and five other respondents for ordering an inquiry into the design of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) tanks for laying small bore sized sewers in the villages.

The petitioners had asserted due to the defective designs most septic tanks had cracked soon after installation, resulting in leakage.

During the hearing, director-cum-secretary in the rural development and panchayat department, in an additional affidavit, said the failure rate was 94 per cent.

Notice issued

Even though five months have lapsed since the election to 20-member Mandi Gobindgarh municipal council, the authorities have failed to hold its first mandatory meeting to elect the president and the vice-president.

The issue has been brought to the notice of the high court in a writ petition filed by 11 newly-elected members of the municipal council.

The petition by Dharam Pal and 10 members came up for hearing before Justice Satish Kumar Mittal and Justice Jaswant Singh. The bench issued notice of motion for December 4, 2008, to the state, local government director and Fatehgarh Sahib deputy commissioner. He was allegedly under influence of certain persons to ensure election of the person of their choice to the post of the council president.

Survey ordered

The Bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh today made it clear that the court wants the pollution control board to conduct a survey of air quality in the densely populated cities in Punjab. The cities to be covered by the survey would include Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar.

As the petition filed by Lt Col Naresh Ghai came up for hearing, the board counsel informed the Bench that the report would be submitted at the earliest, at the most in four weeks.

In the PIL, Lt Col Ghai had sought directions to the state to save Ludhiana from pollution by putting a ban on autorickshaws. He had further sought enforcement of laws for preventing environment pollution, and the effective implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act, besides measures to impound autos violating these laws.

The PIL also sought directions to introduce CNG as fuel, and to set up auto stands so that the autos do not hinder the flow of traffic. The petition had also sought directions for calling upon the status reports from the parties as to why no effective action has so far been taken.

Pak prisoners

The Patiala Central Jail SP, in an affidavit, has asserted that Pak prisoners in the jail had not been paid wages since January 2006 as they were not performing any duty other than cleaning cells and surroundings. The wages could be paid only to those prisoners who worked for at least eight hours a day.

The jail manual said the prisoners, who worked less than eight hours, were not to be given any wages. Also, the Pak prisoners were kept in isolation, owing to security reasons, the affidavit read. 


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