P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Trade normal at Wagah: BSF
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, December 25
Disinformation created by the Pakistan media about Indo-Pak trade through Wagah notwithstanding, 108 cargo trucks laden with fresh vegetables today crossed over to Pakistan from this trade route here today.

The export material included biscuits sent as aid to Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds while several rakes of Pakistani cement also landed on the Indian side.

DIG of the BSF Mohammad Akil said everything was normal and the trucks were moving across the Radcliff line without any hassles. A large number of residents in the border villages were in high spirits.

They told the media that they would not leave their homes in view of the heightened tension between the two neighbouring nations.

Earlier, afternoon bulletin of Pakistan’s private GEO Television flashed a news that “India has halted export of tomato, potato, onion, meat and other commodities through Wagha border”.


Chief Khalsa Diwan amends constitution
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 25
Chief Khalsa Diwan has discontinued the century-old practice of giving membership to the representatives of erstwhile states, “Sikh army officers”, “Jeewan Sewaks” (life members), diwan societies, Singh Sabhas/Jathas by amending its constitution.

It has also resolved that all office-bearers of the diwan would be elected for a maximum of two terms. The election of the diwan will be held before April 30.

However, this condition will be implemented from December 22 when the general house of the diwan passes the resolution to amend its constitution.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Charnjit Singh Chadha, president of the diwan, claimed that the amendments were passed by the general house by a voice vote.

It may be mentioned that the draft was prepared by the constitution amendment committee, formed in 2005, because it was felt that the existing constitution had become totally obsolete.

Former vice-chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University Harbhajan Singh Soch, who had resigned as convener of the constitution amendment committee, expressed satisfaction over the amended constitution.

Earlier Dr Soch had described the draft constitution as “an attempt to butcher the democratic spirit of the Sikh institution”.

The diwan had been founded much before the formation of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC.

Its leadership consisted of personalities like Bhai Sahib Vir Singh, Sunder Singh Majithia, Harbans Singh Attari, Tarlochan Singh, Principal Bhai Jodh Singh, Dr Sohan Singh and Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid of Tarn Taran.


Pact to revive nine sugar mills
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Punjab has now decided to do away with the idea of selling the loss-making sugar mills in the state.

Nine, out of the 15 sugar mills, will be revived as the Punjab Cooperation Department entered into a public-private partnership with private companies that would invest Rs 1,000 crore towards infrastructure for producing 150 MW of power and recover their cost on a build-operate-and-transfer basis.

After the work starts in January next, it will take about 15 or 18 months for these nine sugar mills to start co-generation.

Out of the 150 MW that will be produced, 50 MW will be supplied to the mills, while the remaining 100 MWs will be sold and revenue shared among these mills. Power generation is expected to start by 2010.

According to Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Co-operation Minister, letters have been issued to four companies that will recover their investment cost and make profit for a period of 15 years, after which the sugar mills will take back the control.

He said the Punjab government had also appointed a consultant who will look at all aspects of reviving the remaining 6 sugar mills in the state.

The report submitted by the consultant will be presented before the cabinet sub-committee for an appropriate decision.

These nine sugar mills involved in the co-geneation process are located at Nakodar, Fazilka, Morinda, Budewal, Nawanshahr, Batala, Ajnala, Gurdaspur and Bhogpur.

The closed sugar mills are located at Patiala, Tarn Taran, Zira, Faridkot, Jagraon and Budhlada. Out of these sugar mills, only the one at Budewal is making profits.

The accumulated losses of these sugar mills till March 31, 2008, were pegged at Rs 280 crore, the minister said.


Indian Diaspora - II
Fissures in Punjab NRI Sabha
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Question marks have been raised over the credibility and usefulness of the Punjab NRI Sabha after its recent conference at Jalandhar was marred by acrimony.

While Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Sukhbir Singh Badal stayed away from the conference, uncertainty looms large over its future as not only allegations and counter-allegations flew high during deliberations, even some minor incidents, including scuffles, left the delegates deeply polarised.

Interestingly, not many delegates are still clear about the membership and usefulness of the NRI Sabha.

There appears to be a big confusion between those people of Indian origin, who have taken citizenship of western countries, and those living abroad but continuing to be Indian citizens.

The OCI Act allows citizens of certain western countries, including the USA and Canada, to enjoy benefits of Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) that are on a par with concessions extended to non-resident Indians, who continue to hold Indian passports and Indian citizenship.

But, OCIs are not NRIs is an issue that has been debated upon. There has been acrimonious scenes at some of the gatherings of the overseas Indians over the issue. Punjab has a fairly large population of overseas Indians.

A recent study put the number past 30 lakh of which nearly two-thirds, according to records available with the authorities here, continue to hold Indian passports.

But, there are no corresponding confirmatory figures available to indicate how many of these holding Indian passports have already taken citizenship of the countries of their present residence.

Other issues that have led to virtual clashes are divisions among bodies overseas which the NRIs allegedly try to settle during their sammelans or conferences here.

Since the laws in western countries are strict, allowing little or no liberties for the citizens to take laws into their hands for resolving personal or family disputes, winter months reserved for visits to Punjab and India are used to vent their spleen here.

The overseas Indians in general and Punjabis in particular have a series of genuine and long-standing demands, including special fast-track courts, protection to their immovable properties here against increasing complaints of their lands and houses being grabbed by locals, harassment by police and other agencies, increasing number of NRIs being declared proclaimed offenders besides representation in various advisory committees to ensure participation in infrastructure development.

Since NRIs claim that they are a legal sanctity and hold both Indian citizenship and Indian passport, some seats should be reserved for them in the legislature.

Only an NRI should be made a minister for NRI affairs and the state should follow the central pattern in setting up a separate department and portfolio for NRIs.

They also want that both media and judiciary should not act as a mediator in disputes involving NRIs. Rather local laws should take precedence and cases should be decided as per rule of law.

Narpal Singh Shergill, an England-based NRI, and who brings out a year book not only about outstanding overseas Indians but also about Sikh gurdwaras worldwide, says the Punjab government would do well to adopt the 10-point NRI agenda suggested by him. He wants the NRI web site to be updated regularly.



Teachers to launch anti-Badal protest
Anjali Singh Deswal
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 25
Large number of ETT teachers from all over the state gathered here today to protest against what they termed was the government reneging on its promise and announced that a campaign against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would be launched from January 1.

The protesting teachers, spearheaded by the ETT Union, Punjab, have been demanding that their services be brought under the jurisdiction of the education department as at present, it is zila parishad that supervises their functioning.

They gathered at the Teachers’ Home where a police force was also deployed. The event took an ugly turn when after the rally, some persons believed to be Akali Dal members, created a ruckus by attacking two buses that had come from Fatehgarh Sahib carrying the teachers. However, no one was injured in the incident.

The protesting teachers also blocked the Bathinda-Goniana road, near the Bathinda Military Station’s Chetak Park.

Jagseer Singh Sahota from the union said, “We are trying to block the traffic here in protest so that the police nab those who came and attacked the teachers.”

Some leaders of the union announced that a campaign against the Chief Minister would begin from January 1.

“The present government lacks honesty, management and good policies to run the state and this has been proved time and again,” an ETT leader said.

They planned a major protest campaign before the forthcoming elections and said the government would be given what it deserved.

The union decided that those contesting elections from this constituency would have a tough time.


Jor Mela a platform to woo voters
Congress blows poll bugle, SAD (A) announces candidates
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

A Nihang Sikh speaks on his cellphone.
A Nihang Sikh speaks on his cellphone. Surely, something to do with size of his gun and the length of his headgear. Tribune photo: Vicky Gharu

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 25
Religion took a backseat at the ongoing Jor Mela as political parties left no stone unturned to woo devotees and made tall claims foreseeing forthcoming elections.

While the SAD-BJP indulged in mudslinging against the Congress, the SAD (Amritsar) announced its Lok Sabha election candidates.

However, the absence of former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh remained the talk of the day.

Paying tributes to sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh’s, SAD leaders called for a change of guard at the Centre.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal used this opportunity to highlight achievements of his government and urged people to elect BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

He lashed out at the previous Congress government, accusing it of an autocratic style of functioning.

SAD president Sukhbir Badal, too, spoke on the occasion and outlined major initiatives of the government towards the progress of the state.

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar spoke about the pilot project of SGPC Nanhi Chhaan. Prominent among others included Cabinet Ministers Manoranjan Kalia, Captain Kanwaljit Singh, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal, general secretary, SAD, Professor Prem Singh Chandumajra, former president, SGPC, Kirpal Singh Badungar and others.

From the Congress camp senior leaders, including president, PPCC, Mohinder Singh Kay Pee, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Shamsher Singh Dullo, Payal MLA Tej Parkash Singh, MLA Kharar Balbir Singh Sidhu, ex-minister Jagmohan Singh Kang, MLA Bholath Sukhpal Singh Khaira, ex-Minster Harbans Lal and others started their active campaign for LS polls from today itself.

The SAD (Amritsar) declared its candidates for two Lok Sabha seats. SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann announced he would contest elections from Sangrur constituency, while Dhyan Singh Mand would contest elections from Ferozepur.


Farmers want interest on delayed bonus
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 25
To take the issues related to the disbursement of bonus on paddy to farmers, the BKU (Rajewal) will hold a meeting with Food and Supply Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon tomorrow.

The meeting has been fixed on the direction of the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Earlier, Badal had been urged to give interest to farmers on the delayed payment of bonus.

Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal said the disbursement of bonus at various places had hit the roadblock as private IT firms engaged for the online transfer of money in bank accounts of farmers have bungled at certain places.

“I have the reports that at some places names of farmers or their villages were wrongly spelled by such firms and it led to a lot of confusion”, said Rajewal. How long it would take to resolve the confusion, no one knows, he added.

“At some places, two government agencies have distributed cheques but at other places farmers are still waiting for the payment of bonus”, he said.

Though The Tribune tried for official version in this regard, senior officers did not pick up their mobile phones.

“Now that payment of bonus has been delayed by two and half months, farmers should be given at least simple bank interest on this delayed payment”, said Rajewal, adding that the Punjab government had already availed Rs 675 crore from the Centre against the payment as bonus for the current year.

Another issue to be raised at tomorrow’s meeting is regarding the payment of bonus on paddy that was purchased last year by traders.

“About Rs 40 crore worth of last year’s bonus to farmers was due on traders. The minister will be urged to get this payment made to farmers”, said Rajewal. He said traders had made only partial payments of bonus to farmers.

Arhtiyas oppose bonus by cheques
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh (TNS): The Punjab Arhtiya Association today conveyed to state
food and supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon that commission agents as
well as farmers wanted paddy bonus be paid as per earlier practice to farmers
through arhtiyas.

A delegation of the association led by its president Ravinder Singh Cheema during a meeting with the minister, claimed that the central government had not given any directions to make bonus payments by cheques. The delegation claimed that some officers were making this assertion wrongly.

The delegation said all grain markets would close down in Punjab from January 1, if the Food and Civil Supply Department remained adamant to make payments to farmers by cheques.


Ahmadiyyas defer celebrations
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Qadian (Gurdaspur), December 25
A function to be organised by the Ahmadiyya community at its headquarters here from December 26 to 29 to mark the conclusion of the centenary celebrations of the foundation of Ahmadiyya faith, has been postponed for indefinite period by its supreme head, the fifth Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed.

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed, who reached India from London in November for the function, avoided a visit here. He left for London on the night of December 5 after holding a meeting with the prominent members of the community.

He later announced that the concluding function of the centenary celebrations had been postponed.

A massive facelift was given to all landmarks belonging to the community here. The work to install tents for accommodating about one lakh people had been started.

Sayyed Tanvir Ahmed, president, Press Committee, Jamat Ahmadiyya, told The Tribune this evening that Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed had announced the postponement of the function in view of the terror attack in Mumbai.

He added that Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed was of the view that the Indian government was in crises due to attack by terrorists in Mumbai and tension had started building up between India and Pakistan hence it would be wise step to postpone the function.


1,000 witness live surgeries
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 25
As many as 1,000 surgeons from various parts of the country participated in a surgery workshop conducted on the inaugural day of the 68th annual conference of the Association of Surgeons of India (ASICON-2008) here today.

Satya Nand Munjal, managing director of Hero Cycles, inaugurated the conference at the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH). Renowned surgeons of India performed surgeries at the hospital and were also relayed live.

The workshop began with a laparoscopic removal of gall bladder by Dr Deepraj Bhandarkar from Mumbai. Dr Rupesh Mehta from Ahmedabad, a renowned cancer surgeon, performed the removal of cancer of stomach.

Having received global recognition for surgeries under local anaesthesia, Dr Ashok Ladha demonstrated his technique of piles surgery at the workshop.

Besides, surgeries were performed by Dr Praveen Bhatia from New Delhi, Dr Kiran Kothari from Ahmedabad and Dr H Ramesh from Kochi.

Dr Ajay Kriplani demonstrated the technique of laparoscopic repair of groin hernia. As many as 3,000 surgeons are expected to attend the six-day conference, which will conclude on December 30.


Chowbey has performed 42,000 surgeries
Anshu Seth
Tribune New Service

Pradeep ChowbeyLudhiana, December 25
Having performed 42,000 laparoscopic surgeries in the past 20 years, Dr Pradeep Chowbey, chairman, Department of Minimal Access Surgery, holds the Guinness Book of World Record for being the most successful surgeon.

The surgeon is in the city to attend the 68th annual conference of the Association of Surgeons of India.

Conferred with the Padma Shri Award, Dr Pradeep Chowbey is honorary laparoscopic surgeon to the President of India and the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS).

Known for his expertise in ‘hiatus hernia’, Chowbey operated Chand Rani (65) during the surgery workshop held today at the DMCH.

Chowbey has also operated upon a large number of celebrities, including the Dalai Lama and former president KR Narayanan.

The surgeon said: “Looking at increasing rate of obesity that starts at an early age, the Ministry of Health and Indian Council of Medical Research approved the guidelines wherein physicians and surgeons would treat obesity.”


Commissioner snubs DCs
Asks them to be punctual, people-friendly
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 25
In what could turn out to be the first step towards bureaucracy streamlining exercise in Punjab and a move which could even disturb a number of senior Punjab officers, Patiala divisional commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir has not only directed the deputy commissioners to be punctual and more “people friendly” but has also asked them not to run their office from their residences on working days.

Adopting a “proactive” posture Bir, who, took over as the commissioner of the Patiala division recently, has also asked all the seven deputy commissioners to be punctual in the meetings to be presided over by him.

What came as a bolt from the blue for the top Punjab officials, highly placed sources pointed out, that Bir, who was already looking into bribery allegations against Ludhiana deputy commissioner Sumer Singh Gurjar, even snubbed two deputy commissioners for coming late and for taking calls on their mobile phones during his very first formal interaction with the deputy commissioners of Ludhiana, Ropar, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Barnala, and SAS Nagar, here on Tuesday.

“The DCs are public servants and they should not behave like kings. Their salary comes from public exchequer so they have to work for public welfare,” was the hard-hitting message coming from Bir for the deputy commissioners, insiders said. Bir, however, declined to elaborate much on the issue.

Interestingly, what could stir a hornet’s nest is that Bir has already instructed his staff to get his camp office and residence re-assessed for electricity bills from the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) officials as he was of the view that the power consumption at his residence was shown to be on the lower side as compared to his camp office.

The monthly bill of the camp office room of the commissioner was said to be around Rs 20,000 while, it was just about Rs 2,000 in case of residential accommodation.


Sehajdhari: SGPC calls meeting
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 25
The SGPC chief has called an emergency meeting of all its executives on December 28 to rethink the definition of Sehajdhari in the wake of the ultimatum served on the Shiromani Committee by various Panthic organisations yesterday.

The decision was taken after the return of SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar from abroad. A spokesperson for the SGPC said the meeting would be held at Guru Nanak Nivas on the SGPC complex and convened by the SGPC president. He said all executives had called on a 72-hour notice to attend the meeting.

The meeting of Gurmat Sidhant Parchark Sant Samaj, Nihang and Sikh organisations held at Gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash, Mehta Chowk, yesterday had served a seven-day ultimatum on the SGPC to withdraw the affidavit on the definition of a Sikh from the high court.

The Sant Samaj, Nihang factions and other Sikh organisations had threatened to become party in the court if the Shiromani Committee failed to withdraw the affidavit within a week, besides condemning the SGPC in public meetings and religious functions.


Punjab police to raise bills for PCA security
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
The Mohali police would be raising a bill for the security it provided at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium for the India-England Test match.

SSP, SAS Nagar, Jatinder Singh Aulakh, said he would be finalising the total bill and sending it to the police headquarters for further action.

This is not the first time that the Mohali police has raised a bill for the security it provides to PCA for matches.

During the IPL matches held this May, the police had raised a bill of Rs 1.9 crore, not a penny of which has been paid.

“Raising bills has over the years proved to be fruitless as there seems to be no one in the government to insist on these being paid,” pointed out a local police official, adding that when there were “enemies within” the system it is bound to remain a waste of effort.

Interestingly, Punjab DGP NPS Aulakh is chairman of ‘security committee’ of the PCA from the cricket association’s side while IG Sumedh Singh Saini is its co-chairman.

Both these officers were put on duty by the PCA to ensure tight security in and around the stadium.

Despite being a part of the management of the match it seems none of these two officers have insisted that their own police be paid for the services it was rendering.

Sources added that when a senior official of the district administration brought up the matter in a meeting held at the PCA before the Indo-Australia match Saini had even gone to the extent of pooh-poohing the idea of the police or any other government department being paid.

When contacted Saini refused to comment on the issue. Sources said SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is the president of the organising committee of matches at PCA, was also at the meeting but did not bother to resolve the matter.

“Compare this situation with the time when the ICL Champion’s Trophy was organised here. Naunihal Singh was SSP SAS Nagar. PCA paid for all the equipment and the food of the staff. A decent amount of money was paid by the PCA to the Punjab Police Welfare Fund and on his insistence every employee on duty at the PCA was given two passes for each match for his family or relatives,” said the officer.

He further rued that the police officers, representing PCA, posted their own men on duty at the match to keep an eye on the local police.

“This was done to make sure that Mohali policemen do not get any one inside without passes,” said the cop.


Call off rail roko, CM to farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today appealed to farmers and different farmers associations of the state to call off their proposed ‘Rail Roko’ programme.

The Centre had agreed in principle to remove all bottlenecks coming in the way of the procurement of cotton on his persuasion and strenuous efforts of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, he said.

Disclosing this here today, Chief Minister’s media adviser Harcharan Bains said Badal had raised the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for doing away with all unnecessary conditions imposed by the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) for the procurement of cotton.

These had been causing great inconvenience and hardship to farmers and on account of these stringent instructions farmers should bring a copy of the fard- jamabandi at the time of bringing their cotton to mandis.


Appointment of PTU VC welcomed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
Punjab Unaided Technical Institutions Association (PUTIA) today welcomed the appointment of Dr Rajnish Arora as Vice Chancellor of Punjab Technical University (PTU), Jalandhar.

With the appointment of Dr Arora, the government had fulfilled a long pending demand of the association to have a regular Vice Chancellor for PTU, a post which was lying vacant since the resignation of Dr S K Salwan, who resigned in April this year, the members said.

PUTIA members, including Dr Zora Singh, Manjit Singh, Dr Rohin Sachdeva, Gurvinder Singh, Manmohan Garg and Anshu Kataria of Aryans Business School, expressed pleasure over the academic credentials of Dr Arora who is an IIT-Delhi product.


Protecting witnesses against errant cops justified: HC
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 25
The Punjab and Haryana High Court feels courts, trying police officials as the accused, are perfectly justified in passing orders to protect witnesses from harassment, threat or injury.

A Division Bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh, however, is of the opinion that directions for expeditious disposal of cases against police officials cannot be issued in isolation.

The Judges are, rather, of the view that courts should take steps to expedite the disposal of cases not just against police officials, but other accused as well.

Acting on a public interest litigation filed by one Paramjit Singh against the State of Punjab and other respondents, the Bench asserted the petitioner had asked for expeditious disposal of cases against police officials. “Even here, we see no reason to interfere in public interest.

“It is common knowledge that a large number of criminal cases are pending in different courts in the country, as also in the states of Punjab and Haryana, where accused are in custody.

“Cases where the accused are languishing in jails, would certainly deserve priority for early disposal. There are also cases of heinous offence against women and against the weaker sections of the society which, too, call for expeditious disposal”.

In their detailed three-page order, the Bench added: “Suffice it to say that in a situation where the number of cases pending in the courts is very large, any direction which would operate to prejudice other persons involved in the criminal cases cannot be issued.

“This would not, however, mean that courts would not take steps within their powers to expedite disposal of cases against police officials, just as they are expected to do in respect of other accused persons”.

In his petition, Paramjit Singh had earlier sought directions to the respondents to ensure grant of protection to witnesses in cases involving police officials, against whom “serious charges” had been framed by courts.

The petitioner was allegedly booked, but later released, in a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, in Malout. Investigation of the case eventually culminated in a charge sheet against two police officials.

Taking up the matter, the Bench asserted: “The petitioner has not drawn our attention to any specific provision under the CrPC under which a witness protection scheme is framed by the Legislature.

“Having said that, we are of the view that the courts trying police officials as accused, would be perfectly justified in passing such orders as may be considered necessary or proper to protect any witness against harassment, threat or injury by or at the instance of the persons, who are facing the trial”.


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