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BJP team points out violations on Golden Temple periphery
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, January 7
Blatant “violations” by private hotels and commercial complexes, surrounding the Golden Temple, that mar the beauty and ambience of the Sikh shrine, were highlighted by a BJP team, led by local MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, here today.

After paying obeisance at Darbar Sahib, the team had a round of the area to identify such violations, including big hoardings and billboards on buildings around the temple. Sidhu said he would meet Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal tomorrow to urge him to get those hoardings removed.

The MP directed the Mayor to take immediate steps to stop such violations on the periphery of the Golden Temple and get all those hoardings put up by private parities removed.

Talking to the media afterwards, Sidhu stressed the need for drawing up a master plan listing the guidelines for the construction of commercial buildings and hotels in the vicinity of the Golden Temple. The constructions should conform to the basic design and architecture of the shrine.

Sidhu said the design of the water tank built in the vicinity of the temple should conform to shrine’s architecture. It is totally out of place and disturbs the visual serenity of the temple complex, he added.

He suggested no building should be allowed with higher elevation on the periphery of the temple. He said the government must raze the top floors of such buildings and provide them suitable compensation.

He would urge the Chief Minister to issue a notification banning illegal construction activity around the Golden Temple. Meanwhile, MC commissioner DPS Kharbanda said billboards violations were not compoundable as the Golden Temple had not been listed as a heritage site. 

Inter-caste Marriages
Govt to double incentive
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Punjab government has decided to further the national integration agenda by encouraging inter-caste marriages. The state government is all set to increase the “encouragement award” paid to inter-caste married couples from the current Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000. The incentive amount is paid to such couples as part of the protection of civil rights act.

The state’s Welfare Department has in a proposal to the cabinet stated that this amount, which is given to over 150 couples each year, should be increased to Rs 50,000 in line with a suggestion made by the government of India.

The Protection of Civil Rights Act 1995-Removal of Untouchability is a centrally sponsored scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and state governments on an equal sharing basis. Various steps are taken to eradicate untouchability, one of which is to encourage inter-caste marriages.

The scheme was started in 1986-87 and initially in Punjab a sum of Rs 4,000 was given as incentive to the couples where one of the spouses belongs to the SCs. Later, the amount was enhanced to Rs 7,000 and then to Rs 11,000. Now, the state gives Rs 25,000 to such couples.

However, the amounts being given to such couples varied in states. The amount being paid to couples in West Bengal is only Rs 2,000 while in Gujarat it is as high as Rs 50,000.

“Though there may not be any direct correlation between higher incentive amounts and incidence of inter-caste marriages, raising the incentive amount may encourage such marriages. The government of India has suggested that the incentive amount be increased to Rs 50,000 as inter-caste marriages are an effective instrument to combat the evil of casteism,” said TR Sarangal, secretary, Welfare, Punjab.

He added the Finance Department had already given its approval to the increase in amount and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had also given his nod to the proposal.

An inter-caste married couple can apply for the amount within three years of their marriage. While Rs 30,000 will be given to the couple in cash, the rest of the amount will be paid in the form of national saving certificates. The proposal will form a part of the agenda for the next cabinet meeting.

 

Migratory birds prefer Nangal wetland over Ropar
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Ropar/ Nangal, January 7
The winged visitors this season have changed their preference from international Ropar wetland to Nangal wetland. While, Ropar wetland area registered just 1,500 to 2,000 migratory birds this season, the same number was around 20,000 for the Nangal wetland.

Hectic human activity, pollution and heavy siltation at Ropar wetland has left it no more “attractive” for the migratory birds, feels bird watcher Jaspreet Singh. He adds that government has allowed fishing from Nangal to Balachaur area which has resulted in lesser food availability for these birds. Check dams have done little to control siltation, rendering poor visibility for birds in water to locate food.

This season, migratory birds like pintail duck and grey leg geese have not been seen in and around the Ropar wetland. “It seems that these two birds have missed their date with Ropar wetland,” adds Jaspreet.

The area notified under international wetland is 1,365 hectares till Katli village in Ropar, whereas many migratory birds also take refuge on small islands or hilltops and even in lakes in nearby villages.

“Pollutants enter Ropar wetland from downstream Nangal and local industrial units add to its woes, while no such threat exists at Nangal wetland,” says Jaspreet.

Prabhat Bhatti, director of NGO Jagriti, Nangal, says that almost 25 varieties of birds have reached Nangal wetland, including grey leg geese, bar headed geese, ruddy shell duck, pintail duck, great cormorant, wigeon, mallard, sea gulls etc.

“Migratory birds usually start arriving by first week of October. However, this time they arrived in mid-November. It could be attributed to the global warming,” Bhatti says.

Nangal wetland basically lies in virgin territory away from the hum-drum of human activities. Hilly terrain and deep waters of the wetland make it inaccessible for human activity. It was declared a national wetland in February last year.

 





 

SAD names candidates for Patiala, Faridkot 
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 7
Senior Akali leader Prem Singh Chandumajra will be SAD’s candidate for the Patiala Lok Sabha constituency and Paramjit Kaur Gulshan will from the Faridkot constituency. An announcement in this regard was made here today by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

About four months ago, The Tribune had reported that the SAD has decided to field Chandumajra from Patiala. The Congress most probably will re-nominate Preneet Kaur, wife of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, from this constituency. Obviously political battle between Chandumajra and Preneet Kaur, who is incumbent member of the Lok Sabha, will be a direct fight of the Badal and Amarinder families.

Badal had made up his mind to announce Chandumajra as candidate from Patiala on September 29 at a political conference of BCs organised by the party. However, the announcement was withheld because some of the SAD leaders from Patiala had opposed his candidature. It is a known fact that Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Harmel Singh Tohra and some other senior leaders are not on good terms with Chandumajra. Capt Kanwaljit Singh and some other Akali leaders had proposed Kuldeep Kaur, daughter of late SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra, as candidate from Patiala.

Chandumajra was elected to the Lok Sabha from Patiala earlier in 1996 and 1998. In 1996, Chandumajra had defeated Sant Ram Singla and in 1998, he defeated Amarinder. However, in 1999, as a candidate of Tohra’s party, he lost to Preneet.

In 1999, the SAD had put up Surjit Singh Rakhra as candidate from Patiala. In 1980s, Chandumajra was elected MLA from Dakala and remained Cooperation Minister in the Barnala government.

Paramjit Kaur Gulshan, daughter of late Union Minister Dhana Singh Gulshan, is an incumbent member of the Lok Sabha. She was elected last time on SAD ticket from the Bathinda reserved constituency. However, with Bathinda becoming a general constituency, she has been shifted to the Faridkot reserved constituency.

Sources said that Chandumajra had met Badal at this official residence in Chandigarh this morning for an hour.

The SAD has announced its candidate for six seats and the BJP, its electoral partner, for two seats.

Regarding the Bathinda constituency, Badal said the candidate could be from his family. About the fate of Sukhdev Singh Libra, another party MP, Badal said the party had done a lot for him. However, as he went against the wish of the party, now he could decide himself whether he should be part of the party.

Libra had defied the party’s whip in no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh six months ago.

 

Deploy CRPF for fair polling: Soni
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 7
In view of the deteriorating law and order situation and hooliganism of SAD-BJP workers in Punjab, the Election Commission of India should hold the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections under the supervision of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the state for fair and impartial polling. This was stated by Union Minister for Tourism and Cultural Affairs Ambika Soni while talking to mediapersons at Garhshankar, 40 km from here, this afternoon.

Soni further alleged that during the last municipal and panchayat elections in Punjab, SAD-BJP leaders had captured most of the basic institutions of democracy with muscle power in connivance with the Punjab Police.

On account of the past experience, the Congress was preparing its workers at the booth level to counter the “gundas” of the SAD-BJP during elections.

But for fair and fearless polling, deployment of the CRPF was required. Leaders of the PPCC, along with Congress MPs from Punjab, had already met the Chief Election Commissioner and the Prime Minister in this connection.

Later, Soni laid the foundation stone of a display hall-cum-tourist facilitation centre at Khuralgarh village, 25 km from Garhshankar. Soni said revered Guru Ravidass meditated for over four years at this village. To popularise this, it would be promoted as an ideal rural tourism destination. A sum of Rs 1.59 crore had been provided for this purpose.

 

Badal lashes out at Centre
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 7
The Centre’s biased attitude towards Punjab can be gauged from the fact that Punjab is the lone state in the country to be without a capital.

Observing this, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was in the city today, said successive regimes had ignored the interests of the state even though it was the food basked of the country.

Citing another instance, he said the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) had unnecessarily targeted the farmers by changing procurement parameters that were not in tune with the ground realities. Farmers were on the roads but the CCI was unmoved.

The government has cancelled the MoU signed by the previous government and the Reliance Industries in larger public interest. The company has not done any groundwork in the past over two years and the much-touted rural market hubs and air-conditioned storage facilities remain on paper only, he pointed out.

Badal has asked party cadres and workers to refrain from making statements that smacked of political vendetta. This was an unhealthy trend and needs to be stopped.

 

Youth Cong alleges misuse of central funds
Chander Parkash
Tribune News service

Gurdaspur, January 7
The Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) will not allow the ruling SAD-BJP alliance to commit atrocities on Congress workers and would give befitting reply to such actions of the state government.

This was stated by Ravneet Singh Bittu, president, PYC, while talking to The Tribune here today. He was here to hold his first workers’ meeting and to handover the charge of presidentship of the district unit of the PYC to Kartik Wadera. He said the PYC had been preparing itself to tackle the activists of the Student Organisation of India (SOI), which was being run under the patronage of Sukhbir Singh Badal, and was planning to rig the coming Lok Sabha elections.

He said cases of alleged government atrocities against Congress workers would be taken up with the party high command. Bittu said a major section of criminals had been joining various non-political outfits having the protection of the Badals so that they could escape legal action for their criminal acts. The PYC would expose such elements before the Lok Sabha elections, he added.

Bittu said the PYC had been collecting the details of the alleged misuse of funds given to Punjab by the central government for the implementation of various schemes.

A team of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) would visit Punjab on January 15 and unveil the draft about the rights and duties of youth Congress leaders and workers.

 
 


Urban girls don’t want their kind
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
Efforts of the Health Department and NGOs to arrest the trend of female foeticide notwithstanding, higher secondary school girls from urban areas don’t want to be mother of girl child.

This fact came to light after a research conducted by paediatrician and writer Harshinder Kaur. According to the study, 78.8 per cent girl students of higher secondary schools in urban areas would not like to be mother of girl child.

Repeated telecast of heinous and other criminal acts against women in media channels have had a depressing impact on the developing psyche of young girls, inferred Harshinder, who has completed the first part of her research.

She said non-reporting of punishment of perpetrators of heinous crimes like rape, dowry death in the media gave an impression that the criminals escaped law.

According to her, repeated telecast of crime leaves a negative impact on a young mind. “The phenomenon is more visible on private news channels in comparison to news channels of Doordarshan.”

This was one of the reasons that girls from rural areas did not share the same idea since a majority of them watched DD channels as satellite channels were not available in those areas.

The first leg of her survey was conducted in Mansa, Bathinda and Fatehgarh Sahib, while the second part will include Jalandhar and Ludhiana.

Harshinder has been awarded with the United Nations Ladli Media Award for conducting a research about the impact of the media on the masses.

She is running the Harsh Charitable Trust, which is funding education of nearly 300 girls in the state.

She has been honoured by governments of Canada and New Zealand, besides the Shriomani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for her work on female foeticide.

Her book, “Bhrun Hatya- Ek Shrap,” in Punjabi was groundbreaking in unfolding serious trends coupled with data of falling sex ratio in Punjab. It deals with family psychology, especially of parents and grandparents behind preference for the male child.

 

BKU (U) warns admn against forcible possession of land 
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 7
In protest against the alleged forcible acquisition of more than 17 acres (situated on the Sangrur-Sunam road) by the Improvement Trust (IT) for its Mansahia Nagar scheme here, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) today warned the administration that it would not allow the IT authorities to take the possession of the acquired land of residents of houses and farmers of the area at any cost.

District general secretary of the BKU (U) Darbara Singh Chhajla, who today participated in the on-going indefinite dharna organised near the acquired land by residents and farmers, said if the administration tried to take possession with the help of the police in a forcible manner, a befitting reply would be given by the union.

He said the union wanted that the government should scrap the acquisition of the land so that people of the area could heave a sigh of relief.

Addressing the rally, Chhajla said it was a matter of concern that the IT was “snatching” the lands of residents and farmers at a meagre price of Rs 500 per sq yd to sell the same at much higher prices in the form of residential plots.

President of the Zamin Bachao Sanghrash Committee Amarjit Singh said they had information that the IT authorities with the help of police would take the possession of the land today, but no official of the IT reached the site, perhaps seeing the agitating mood of BKU (U) men and residents.

The protesters were addressed by several BKU (U) leaders, including Chhajla, Balbir Singh Jhaloor, Jaswant Singh Tolawal, Dilbag Singh Harigarh and Bhagwan Dass Kanjhli.

 

Farmers to stop trains tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
The Kisan Sangharsh Committee (KSC), Punjab Kisan Sabha, Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan), Kirti Kisan Sabha and Punjab Kisan Union have jointly announced to stop railway movement at Mansa and Rampura Phul (Bathinda) on January 9 against being given less rate for the cotton crop.

Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, convener, KSC, said tillers of cotton from the Malwa region were being given less than the MSP of Rs 2,800 per quintal.

Pannu claimed that even the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) was offering Rs 2,600 to Rs 2,700 per quintal, which was apparently in contravention to the central government established rates. He stressed that cotton from Punjab was of superior quality, but were not given suitable returns.

 

Vehicles remain with ministers, protected persons
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Ministers as well as protected persons in Punjab continue to retain their escort vehicles in the absence of formation of any clear-cut policy on the issue.

In the case of ministers, it is the state Transport Department, which provides the vehicles. The Punjab Police provides vehicles to its protectees while the Intelligence wing looks after the Chief Minister’s security.

Even as there are sporadic cases of VIPs being seen using escort vehicles as in the case of Cooperation Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the government has still not withdrawn the vehicles nor come out with any policy on who all are eligible for the same.

State Transport Department principal secretary DS Jaspal said though the vehicles to ministers had been provided by his department, it was the Home Department which was responsible for assessing the threat perception. He said he would discuss the issue with the home secretary tomorrow. 

 

Sarpanches involved in save-energy drive 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Punjab government today took a novel lead to involve elected representatives at the grassroot level i.e. sarpanches in the energy conservation drive to make it a people's movement.

Science, Technology, Environment and Non-Conventional Energy Minister Bikram Singh Majithia today wrote a personal letter to the sarpanches of 12,500 villages requesting them to motivate villagers to adopt energy conservation means, including CFLs, solar geysers and energy efficiency motors in their houses and farms to save power.

He said to face the global energy crises it became the duty of every citizen to save and conserve every unit of power. He said though the Punjab government had launched an ambitious programme, including setting up of four mega thermal plants, it was imperative for all of us to become conscious of the need to save power.

Majithia said the use of CFL bulbs could reduce their electricity bill by over 80 per cent. Moreover, CFL bulbs though slightly costly lasted four-five years against the normal bulb life of six months. He said the PSEB had been organising camps in the villages where CFL bulbs were being provided at concessional rate to the users.

He said PEDA was ready to provide solar streetlights in the villages at subsidised rates if panchayats guaranteed the safety of streetlight equipments.

Exhorting villagers to make full utilisation of solar energy, the minister said villagers should replace electric geysers with solar geysers for which the Punjab government was providing subsidy.

Zero power consuming solar geysers recovered their cost within two years with the saving of electricity bill. Similarly, solar cookers saved the money on LPG usage.

The minister also urged the sarpanches to motivate the farmers to replace the electric motor of their tubewells with energy-saving motors. 

 

Power staff hold protest
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 7
Employees of the PSEB held a rally in collaboration with farmer organisations here today to demand the scrapping of the Electricity Act of 2003.

The rally was also held in Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Kapurthala, Khanna, Sangrur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana circles. Sukhwant Singh Sekhon, general secretary of the Technical Services Union, said if the employees demands were not met, they would be forced to intensify their struggle.

Employees had started arriving in Patiala since morning and by noon the entire stretch of The Mall outside the head office of the PSEB was filled with thousands of farmers and employees. They held a rally outside the board’s head office under the presidentship of Gurdial Singh Bhangal.

Bhangal and Sekhon alleged the decision to privatise the board had been taken under pressure from outside agencies. They said a large number of employees had been victimised and the government was trying to crush their agitation.

 

Mann sees RSS hand in Sehajdhari issue
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
Now, directions to the SGPC regarding the definition of a Sehajdhari Sikh come from Nagpur.

Stating this here yesterday, Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) said a conspiracy had been hatched by the RSS at Nagpur to change the definition of Sehajdhari Sikh and vigilant Sikhs had been able to scuttle their nefarious designs. The SGPC had to withdraw the affidavit submitted in the court. He said the RSS and the BJP were unnecessarily interfering in the issues related with the Sikh religion and the panthic organisations would continue to oppose that.

Coming down heavily on the central government for imposing customs duty on the export of basmati, Mann said this was a discrimination against the farmers who had been hopeful of shedding their debts by getting remunerative prices from the export of basmati.

 

Princess of Faridkot cremated
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, January 7
Princess of Faridkot state Devinder Kaur, who died at the PGI, Chandigarh, yesterday, was cremated here this evening.

Devinder was the daughter of Kanwar Col Manjit Inder Singh Brar, Bans Bahadur of Faridkot, and niece of late Raja Harinder Singh Brar, Bans Bahadur. She was the granddaughter of Maharaja Rajinder Singh of Faridkot.

Davinder’s mother Kanwarani Jagdish Kaur was a direct descendent of Maharaja Ranjit Singh through his fifth son Kanwar Peshawra Singh.

Known amongst friends as Wendy, the princess had worked for many years with the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Known for her gracious manners, Devinder, who had lived in Chandigarh and Shimla since 1970, was known for her love for animals and nature, particularly the mountains. She had a passion for military history, literature and the Scottish bagpipes. The princess was unwell for the past few days and died at the PGI just before midnight.

The princess leaves behind a child Hemender Kaur.

 

CM caught in crossfire of police officers
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Punjab and Haryana High Court may have been behind the preparation of the new police officers gradation list in Punjab, but it is Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who is caught in a crossfire with as many as 25 officers trooping in to meet him in support of the new list today evening. Earlier, representatives from among a dozen officers who are likely to be demoted once the new list comes into force had met the Chief Minister demanding their seniority be maintained.

The new seniority list, which is set to be notified soon, is a result of an eight-month-long exercise conducted by a committee headed by secretary, Home, Kirandeep Singh Bhullar. The high court had in its order on April 10 this year directed the state government to affix seniority between direct recruits and promotees within three months.

The Chief Minister has not disclosed his mind to either delegation that called on him. He has told both delegations that the state would ensure justice to all concerned.

According to sources, SSP, Ludhiana (rural), Gurpreet Bhullar and SSP, Mohali, Jatinder Aulakh have briefed the Chief Minister on behalf of the 25-member group of direct recruits who stand to gain by the new seniority list. The officers who called upon the Chief Minister today included four DIGs, including Jagdish Mittal, RP Mittal, Parampal Singh and Nirmal Singh Dhillon.

The direct recruits impressed upon the Chief Minister that whatever the group of promotee officers had told him had already been rejected by the high court.

Earlier a delegation of promotee police officers had met the CM and stressed that they had only got their due while serving the state during a turbulent period. They claimed that it would be difficult for them to be in a situation where they would have to salute three to four dozen officers who are presently junior to them. The affected officers include DIG, Patiala, PS Gill, DIG, Jalandhar, Narinderpal Singh, SSP, Tarn Taran, HS Chahal, SSP, Gurdaspur, Lok Nath Angra, IG, Railways, GS Garewal, SP Surinderpal Singh and sportsmen Kartar Singh Pehalwan, Surinder Singh Sodhi and Devinder Garcha.

 

Consider additional storage space: HC to Punjab
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
The Punjab and Haryana High Court says it expects Punjab to seriously consider the issue of increasing the storage capacity, in case of deficiency.

Taking up a public interest litigation, a Division Bench of the high court has asserted that it expects the authorities concerned to bestow their serious consideration to the question of adding to the available storage accommodation, if there is any deficiency.

The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh, has added this was to ensure that the stocks were not exposed to the vagaries of weather and consequential loss, except in totally unavoidable and extreme conditions.

The observations follow a petition filed against the State of Punjab and other respondents by petitioners Daljinder Singh of Chandigarh and Inderjit Singh of Fathegarh Sahib. The two petitioners had sought the high court’s intervention for saving foodgrains from damage due to weather and other factors.

In fact, the petitioners had sought directions to the respondents to make arrangements for providing properly covered storage spaces for protecting the food grains procured by the state procurement agencies and the Food Corporation of India.

The petitioners had contended that the need for issuing the directions stemmed from the fact that stock required protection from high temperatures, rainfall, and other calamities. Besides this, the rodents and the rats too were a source of constant menace.

The counsel for the petitioners contended the storage facilities in the state, as of now, were just not adequate and the need of the hour was to upgrade the same for preventing losses.

Taking up the petition, the Bench took into consideration a judgment passed earlier by another Division Bench of the high court, while hearing a matter raising a similar issue. The Bench observed the matter had already been dealt with.

The Bench did not pass any specific directions as such, but disposed of the matter with the onus on the authorities concerned to look into the existing infrastructure and carryout the additions, if need be. 

 

Relief for lecturers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
Lecturers serving for years in privately managed recognised colleges before being selected and appointed to the government-run colleges in Punjab are entitled to benefit of past service in private colleges. 

Justice KC Puri has made this clear, while disposing of writ petitions involving 89 lecturers. The bench held the petitioners were covered by a verdict delivered on August 5, 2008, by the division bench.

 





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