P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Rs 400-cr push to boost rural education
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 29
On the third day of his visit to the district today, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal today announced that Rs 400 crore would be provided to create basic infrastructure and facilities in schools located in remote areas to provide better education to the “underprivileged” students.

The fund would be granted from the budget of the SAD-led government. It would be used to supply books and create sports infrastructure besides other necessities to the needy students as the government is committed to fulfilling the dreams of their parents, he pointed out.

Replying to a query on power shortage, Sukhbir said the PSEB had been increasing its distribution capacity besides boosting power production.

After laying the foundation stone of the 66-KV grid sub-station at Jhanduke village, Sukhbir said the number of power grids actually in running mode would number 30 before the this year-end. It included 19 grids, which had been completed till last month.

Speaking further, the SAD chief said an investment of Rs 450 crore would be made this year for such projects. The construction of 70 power grids was in progress. These would help in reducing burden as also power losses.

Sukhbir said the total power loss in the state was 3.5 per cent and to reduce it, the 33-KV power grids in the state would be upgraded to 66 KV within a year.

He urged people to use CFLs and to gift those to their near and dear ones on New Year.

Chief engineer (sub-stations) H.S. Nagpal, who was also there, said to set a new record, the PSEB had set a target of completing 30 new power grids in the state compared to 18 power grids per year during the last decade.

Nagpal mentioned that to increase power production, five 400-KV substations would be set up. The capacity of 20 sub-stations was enhanced this year, which would help in increasing 867.50 mega volt ampere (MVA).

The board had adopted three villages in Bathinda district for replacing ordinary bulbs with CFLs and five more villages would be adopted soon for the purpose.

Sukhbir also visited Mansa district to lay the foundation stones for various projects.


Ownership rights: Govt to relaunch scheme for border areas
Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepur, December 29
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced to relaunch the scheme of conferring ownership rights on tenants tilling panchayati land in border areas for those who could not avail of this opportunity.

Addressing public rallies at Guruharsahai and Jalalabad as part of his development tour, Badal dared the state Congress leadership not to play havoc with the sentiments of the people of Punjab to pursue their political agenda at the cost of development and progress of the state. He said: “Had the Congress been serious to the core in the state, it would have ensured an all-round development and welfare of the people. However, its leaders indulged in policies of leisure and pleasure at the expense of public money”. “My development tour is entirely different from the vikas yatra undertaken by Capt Amarinder Singh last year because my objective is to disburse development grants to people by reaching out to them so that they can feel that they are also partners in the development programmes and schemes of the state.”

Badal handed over a cheque for Rs 2 crore to the Municipal Council of Guruharsahai. He also disbursed cheques worth Rs 5.17 crore for the development of villages in Guruharsahai block. He also announced a grant of Rs 25 lakh for the construction of a sub-tehsil complex at Mamdot and assured that the local government college under construction would be completed soon, besides the deployment of full-fledged medical and paramedical staff in the local hospital. He also announced Rs 37 crore for the construction of new roads and repair of the existing ones.

He handed over ownership rights to 109 beneficiaries who had constructed houses on the panchayat land in Guruharsahai block. He also announced to construct a bus stand at Guruharsahai and a link road to Veersinghwala. A skill centre for the youth would be opened in the area, he added.

Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said the government had envisaged a special package of Rs 3,468 crore for revamping the entire canal system to enhance the intake capacity of water at the tail ends by 30 per cent. Out of the package, Rs 350 crore had already been spent and Rs 500 crore would be spent by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, at Jalalabad, Badal disbursed cheques worth Rs 7.29 among representatives of various panchayats and gave Rs 2 crore to the Municipal Committee, Jalalabad. He announced a grant of Rs 31 crore for the construction of new and repair of old roads and Rs 9 crore for the construction of local judicial complex.

He said a bypass would be constructed to decongest vehicular traffic in Jalalabad town.



Harsimrat plays emotional card
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 29
Harsimrat Kaur, wife of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is here for a mass contact programme, ostensibly to check the pulse of Bathinda voters, has played an emotional card by presenting herself as the daughter-in-law of the area.

While canvassing intensively in the city to get support for the family for the coming parliamentary polls, she was observed saying: “I am your daughter-in-law, so I hope that you people won’t let me down in the coming parliamentary polls.”

Putting an end to her stand of not indulging in mudslinging, Harsimrat has now started lashing out at former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and former Finance Minister Surinder Singla.

Today, at one such function, she lashed out at Singla, saying: “He had been your MLA and then he was elevated as Finance Minister. But, did he think about your welfare? It was just the Badal family, which just after coming to power, immediately swung into action to solve your problems. It is just because we understand the pain and suffering of our voters that hundreds of crores is being invested here.”

Talking to The Tribune at a function, Harsimrat narrated her own plight. As she has to shoulder her responsibility in public life, her children have been missing her presence. “But, I know that my family has the priority of serving the people, so I am performing my duty cheerfully,” she added.

About her willingness to initiate reforms in the party, she said: “People say that the SAD is men-oriented, but my mother-in-law Surinder Kaur Badal and I would ensure proper representation for women in the party. I myself wish to be the voice of women,” she pointed out.

Replying to a query about the alleged rift between councillors of the SAD and the BJP, she said: “I had a meeting with them and asked them to express their feelings. Moreover, it is like a family dispute.”

“Many a time, there is a difference of opinion between me and Sukhbir and between Sukhbir and my father-in-law Parkash Singh Badal. We also face a similar situation on many issues, so there is nothing serious in local politics,” she added.

When asked about the role of the BMC Commissioner and Joint Commissioner, who had been assisting her and taking orders from her throughout her mass contact programme, Harsimrat said: “As I am new to the area, they are just helping me out, nothing more.”


Looking Ahead-II
Political dissensions may not alter equations
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance may face a combined opposition in a year of heightened political activity.

Besides, the Congress which will do its best to reverse the results of the last Lok Sabha (LS) elections. The SAD-BJP alliance will also find the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) making another attempt to revitalise itself in the state following the election of its president, Avtar Singh Karimpuri, to the Rajya Sabha from the Uttar Pradesh quota.

The general elections will witness a stepped-up political activity. In Punjab the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine have been traditional rivals for some decades now. Though other alliances, including the Congress and Communists and also between the SAD and the BSP Morcha, emerged in a few general elections, none of these could endure.

According to indications from leaders of all major political players - the SAD-BJP combine, the Congress and the BSP - no new political alliances are expected.

The SAD and the BJP have announced a seat adjustment with the junior alliance partner contesting on the number of seats it did in the 2004 elections. Akalis were the first to start announcing names of candidates, almost nine months to a year before the LS term ends.

The BSP, too, has announced names for more than half of 13 Punjab LS seats. The Congress has set up committees, but is yet to announce candidates.

Issues like development, inflation, terrorism, unemployment and discrimination against Punjab by the Centre will dominate the 2009 general elections in Punjab.

While it will be the first major election the SAD will contest under new president Sukhbir Singh Badal, the senior Badal will continue to be the trump card of the SAD-BJP alliance. Sukhbir has tried to bring all ranks together by announcing committees of the Dal. Parkash Singh Badal by undertaking a 28-day yatra in the state has also tried to enthuse party workers for the political test ahead.

The BJP has problems within. Will all three sitting MPs be fielded or some changes made needs to be seen.

The Congress too has organisational problems and clash of egos among party top leaders in the state. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is yet to work out a rapport with Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Rajinder Kaur Bhattal as well as president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Mohinder Singh Kaypee. All three have been issuing contradictory statements on candidates for the LS elections.

The BSP, which suffered heavily recently because of factionalism, now looks united behind its MP president Avtar Singh Karimpuri. An improved showing in the just-concluded Assembly elections in five states has somehow re-vitalised the Punjab unit too. Though the BSP got only one success in the previous LS elections in the state, its decision to contest all 13 seats by fielding candidates from all sections of social life may make the task of the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress a little tougher than anticipated.

The general elections also bring problem of dissension for the political parties. Those refused ticket generally rebel. Some stay put and contest while some change loyalty .

The SAD and the SGPC have already witnessed dissensions. For the SAD to face a combine of the rest of Dals, including the Akali Dal 2020 and the Akali Dal (Amritsar), is routine.

While the first half of 2009 will go in the name of the general elections, the second half will, among other things, witness a analysis of performance in the general elections and political developments that may lead to the emergence of new political power centres.

The coming year will also be watched by by those putting high stakes on new and young leadership to emerge in the state with expected rejection of old and tried parliamentarians. If it happens, political profile of the state will change drastically in 2009 with younger, aggressive, educated and visionary leadership taking over from conventional leadership.


Leadership sees no rift in Cong
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
From the response of RC Khuntia, secretary, All-India Congress Committee, and Mohinder Singh Kaypee, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, to the happenings in the party, all appears well. According to the two leaders small incidents of infighting are signs of health atmosphere in the party and these should not be taken as internecine conflict.

The only serious information coming out of Khuntia was his allegation of the Punjab government misusing the National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme (NREGA) for which the Congress leaders demanded probe by the Rural Development Ministry.

They were answering questions of mediapersons at the Punjab Congress Bhawan after they met office-bearers, MLAs and ex-MLAs of the party. To questions on apparent difference between chairman of the campaign committee Amarinder Singh and Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, they said the issue was being blown out of proportion.

Khuntia also gave a clean chit to former Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh with whom the MP had no reason for disagreement. Not even over his recent mass contact programme at his own level. "Anybody in the party can conduct any programme," he said to a question. When pointed out that Amarinder too had conducted similar programme and Bhattal had demanded that such programmes be held only after clearance from the PPCC, the MP preferred to ignore the question.

On the Lok Sabha elections, the two Congress leaders said the party would get into election mode from January. They said the names of the candidates were being finalised by the party high command and would be announced soon.

The Congress has also decided to request the Election Commission to demand the transfer of the Punjab DGP as well as deploy the CRPF and other Central forces before the elections.


Endoscopic surgery eliminates incision-related problems
Anshu Seth
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 29
Having pioneered the most advanced surgical procedure NOTES (natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery), Dr GV Rao, an experienced surgeon in minimally invasive surgery, delivered the keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Association of Surgeons of India (ASICON-2008) here today.

Dr Rao, chief of gastrointestinal and minimally invasive surgery at the Asia Institute of Gastroenterology, while talking to The Tribune, said: “NOTES was introduced in India in 2003 with the surgery of a 36-year-old man suffering from acute appendix. The procedure was successfully performed and the patient was discharged after 48 hours”.

The method, which can be termed as an advancement of endoscopic and laparoscopic techniques to diagnose and treat abdominal pathology, is the best alternative of conventional surgery that eliminates abdominal incisions and incision-related complications, observed Dr Rao. “The procedure is still at its infancy and is carried out in just 23 centres across the globe, including India, Europe, the US and South America, wherein diagnostic peritioneoscopy, gall bladder and bariatric procedures are performed. The surgery without incision may sound as a ‘science fiction’, but it is true as the abdominal cavity is accessed by endoscopic techniques by means of mouth, anus or possibly vagina followed by the incision on the stomach wall with precision instruments, including a 4-mm needle knife and 1.5-cm pull-type sphincterotome,” the doctor added.

The surgeon nullified the apprehensions about the use of painkillers and antibiotics adding, “The use of painkillers and antibiotics is much less in this procedure compared to the conventional surgeries. The efforts are on to perform the procedures without anaesthesia.”


Chief secy to head panel on power rates
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 29
Chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh will head the committee set up by Punjab government to negotiate power rate with a private company selected to set up a thermal plant at Rajpura near Patiala.

Other members of the committee will be the secretary (power), the secretary (finance), the secretary (PSEB) and member (generation) of the PSEB. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal cleared a file in this regard today. The committee has been asked by Badal to negotiate power rates with the company. The company which was single bidder for a thermal plant had quoted the power aids in the range of Rs 3.30 per unit, it is learnt.

However, these rates are not acceptable to Punjab government which feels these are on the higher side compared to the power aids in other states. Punjab government wanted the power aid should be below Rs 3 per unit.

The government wanted to make the state self sufficient in power. It has approved new thermal plants near Talwandi Saboo, Rajpura and Goindwal Sahib. There is also proposal to set one plant at Giddherbaha. All these thermal plants are to be set up in private sector.

The existing thermal plants at Bathinda Lehra Mohabbat and Ropar are being operated by the PSEB.


‘Greater autonomy to cooperative societies’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Punjab would amend various legislations guiding the functioning of cooperatives to grant greater autonomy to cooperative societies and decentralise powers from the bureaucracy to the stakeholders.

This was announced by the Minister for Cooperation Capt. Kanwaljit Singh, during a press conference held here today. Stating that 2009 would be the “year of the cooperative movement”, he listed out changes to be implemented.

Starting with the election of representatives to the choice of activity that cooperatives wish to run, the minister said there would be devolution of powers at every level. “The byelaws of all primary agricultural cooperative societies (PACS) and milk producing cooperative societies would be amended so that only genuine members can contest the election to the managing committees,” he said. 


Farmers lay siege to corpn office
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 29
Lodging a protest against the alleged “anti-farmer” attitude of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), hundreds of activists of six farmer unions started a 72-hour gherao of the regional office of the CCI here today.

Representatives of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Ekta (Ugrahan), Kisan Sangarsh Committee, Punjab Kisan Sabha, Punjab Kisan Sabha (Sambar), Kirti Kisan Saha and the Punjab Kisan Union had given a call for the gherao of the CCI office to protest against the “self-styled” purchase of their cotton crop.

Sukhdev Singh Kokari Kalan, general secretary of the BKU, Ekta (Ugrahan), said: “Officers of the CCI have been purchasing the crop at a rate that they feel is proper. By doing so, they have been flouting the norms and assurances given to us by the state government.”

“We were ensured that cotton would be purchased at the MSP, which had been fixed at Rs 2,800 per quintal. But now, at the time of the purchase, the CCI staff have been harassing illiterate farmers. Every time, they give the excuse of moisture in crop and want us to buy it at a lower rate,” he alleged.

Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of the union, said: “We will keep blocking the road despite the biting cold for 72 hours continuously, as decided. But, if no officer comes with a written assurance to purchase the crop at the MSP, it may be stretched further.”

In the absence of V.P. Nagpal, manager, CCI regional branch, Kamal Kant, the accounts officer said: “We have been following the norms received from the head office. About the demand of the agitators, we can do nothing.”


Only 3 passengers for bus to Lahore
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
Gurpinder Singh today cancelled his ticket for scheduled travel to Lahore on January 3. Besides, there are only three persons to board the Punjab Roadways bus to Lahore tomorrow morning. Earlier, nine passengers had arrived here from Pakistan on December 27.

Ominous outcome was expected in the wake of the dastardly 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai. It certainly undid years of efforts to bring the two neighbouring nations closer.

Earlier, the terrorist strike at Parliament House in 2001 had pushed India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It took about eight long years to cement ties between India and Pakistan. People-to-people talks were considered pivotal and commercial transactions were expected to open a new horizon in the South Asia.

Pakistan named Lahore-Amritsar bus as “Dosti” with the aim of extending a hand of friendship with the people of India. The same euphoria, coupled with reverence, was behind the bus to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of first Sikh master Guru Nanak Dev.

According to the data available with the International Bus Terminus here, 204 passengers had gone to Lahore while 135 pilgrims to Nankana Sahib by bus in November.

Fortyfive passengers went to Lahore so far this month and three persons scheduled to travel tomorrow (December 30). Thirtysix pilgrims went to Nankana Sahib this month while the last bus of this month would cross over to Pakistan on December 31.


India, Pak citizens cut short visit
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
Responding to Indian advisory against travel to Pakistan, many Indians and Pakistanis today cut short their visit and returned to their native countries by the Samjhauta Express at the International Attari Railway Station here today.

As many as 200 passengers from Pakistan, reportedly all of them Indians, reached the station after cutting short their visits. Similarly, nearly 300 passengers, a majority of them Pakistanis, returned to Pakistan by the train. The passenger rush has almost declined by 50 per cent after the heightened tension between the neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, the Customs authorities, Railway Protection Force and the General Railway Police have beefed up security and increased patrolling in the area.

Chief commissioner, Customs, BS Sra, along with Talkeshwar Singh, commissioner visited the Attari railway station. 


Doctors reserve opinion on cause of Bhullar’s death
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The police today handed over the body of Gurdip Singh Bhullar, a sitting Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA from the Nurmahal constituency in Punjab, who was found dead in his room at MLA Hostel, Sector 4, here on Sunday. Doctors reserved their opinion on the postmortem report and sent the viscera for chemical examination to ascertain the exact cause of the death.

The SHO of the Sector 3 police station, Inspector Har Sahai Sharma, said the doctors said no external or internal injury was detected in the postmortem report. However, they reserved their opinion about the cause of death and said they would only be able to ascertain the reason after getting the chemical examination of the viscera taken from the body.

Bhullar’s family told TNS that the cremation would be held at his native village at Nurmahal on Thursday after the arrival of his brother from abroad. 


PTA funds under scanner
Punjab marks inquiry in govt schools 
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The Punjab government has instituted an inquiry into the utilisation of parent teacher association (PTA) funds of government schools in the state. This follows the discovery of irregularities in spending of these funds for shifting of computer labs in government schools.

Krishan Kumar, director general, school education, Punjab, has asked all district education officers in the state to report how much money had been spent by each school in their districts in shifting of the computer labs from one room to another.

Sources added that there was a large variation in the expenditure done by the schools for the same work. While in some schools the shifting was done in as low an amount as Rs 1,000, in some schools, Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 was spent for the purpose.

Pointing out to the district education officers the possibility of these funds having been misutilised, the director general has also asked them to inquire and fix responsibility within a week.

Computer education is compulsory in all government schools from class VI onwards. In case a computer lab, which contains computers and furniture, is to be shifted to another room in the same school for some reason, due permission is taken from the director general’s office. However, the school has to pay for this shifting from the PTA funds.

Since the PTA is an internal fund gathered by the school from the students, there is generally no prior sanction required from the government for its use. The PTA committee of the school decides how the money is to be spent. Till recently there was no limit on the maximum amount of money that could be taken from a student for PTA funds and several schools had gathered large sums over the years on this account. One of the major expenditures done out of the PTA funds is the payment of electricity bills of the schools.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |