P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


State may ban electric bulbs
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The state government is contemplating a ban on the sale and use of electric bulbs. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting on energy conservation headed by chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh on Wednesday. The recommendation has been sent for legal opinion after which the government will issue a notification that will call for a complete ban on the sale and use of electric bulbs in homes, institutions, offices and commercial establishments.

Once in place by March 2009, Punjab will be one of the first few states in the country that will have successfully moved to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) from electric bulbs. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has already directed the Punjab Energy Development Authority and the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) “to initiate a joint campaign on a war-footing to achieve 100 per cent efficient lighting in the domestic sector by the end of March 2009”.

The meeting also recommended that the move be extended to the commercial sector as well.

The government has decided to “ban use of incandescent bulbs and normal tubelights with magnetic choke” and replace all bulbs with CFL and efficient tubelights with electronic choke.

It has been decided to send special raiding teams to check the kind of lighting used in rooms attached to tube wells drawing free power for the farm sector. If these rooms do not have CFL, power supply to the tube well will be disconnected.

Sources said there was a partial ban already in place, but especially those drawing free power were not following it.

According to some officials, instead of a complete ban, the government should initially suggest replacement of at least four bulbs with CFL in every house.

The PSEB has been directed to make at least one village completely CFL user in each of its 110 divisions. Thirtysix villages in the state have already become CFL villages and the remaining will be covered over the next two months.

The Chief Minister and the Energy Minister have directed the PSEB to launch an awareness campaign to educate consumers about the advantages of CFLs. 


Residents of Daad village vow to boycott ‘kuri maars’
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 9
The age-old method of social boycott as punishment will now be adopted by residents of Daad village, who today took a lead in fighting a battle against female foeticide.

The villagers, in a function organised by the Guru Gobind Singh Circle, today vowed to socially boycott those supporting female foeticide in any form.

After taking the vow, the villagers announced to boycott families forcing their women carrying the female foetus to terminate pregnancies and their facilitators on the conclusion of a seminar held at Gurdwara Sangat Patti Daad today.

Sarpanch Gurdev Singh presided over the seminar and Satnam Singh Sallopuri, director, Youth Services of the organisation, was the chief guest.

Addressing the gathering, various speakers regretted that a large number of families had been going for termination of pregnancies by exploiting medical technologies which were invented for knowing disorders of foetuses.

Members of the elite class, including physicians, were among the facilitators of sinners better known as "kuri maars" (daughter killers), rued the speakers. Though there was a provision for punishment for violators of the PNDT Act, the administration had failed to implement the act in letter and spirit.

According to Dr Varinder Singh, director, Bhai Gurdas Archives and Research wing, and Dr Pushpinder Singh, the organisation had decided to involve office-bearers and activists of other social and religious organisations so that the evil of female foeticide could be eradicated from the root.

Claiming that residents of this part of Malwa were enthusiastic to curb the menace, Varinder asserted that identification and isolation of the sinners was the need of the hour.

The organisation has drafted an extensive programme for educating masses in general and Sikhs in particular about the deleterious effects of gender imbalance.

Besides organising seminars at public places, special teams of experts will arrange workshops for couples and their parents separately. 


Guess what, MPs’ funding helped mostly the dead
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
MPs of Punjab are focusing the most on cremation grounds, dharamshalas and streets and drains even as health facilities take a back seat while distributing grants from their MPLAD (MP Local Area Development) funds.

The MPs say it is the people who want cremation grounds and they are only fulfilling their wishes. Similar is the case of building dharamshalas and improving streets and drainage systems. They claim there is hardly any demand for grants for health infrastructure in rural areas and the demand is almost non-existent in case of libraries.

According to the information taken through the RTI Act by Charanjit Bhullar of Bathinda detailing the expenditure of eight MPs till September last year, the MPs have spent a negligible amount in the health sector. Zora Singh Mann (Ferozepur) and Avinash Rai Khanna (Hoshiarpur) have not spent any money in this sector. The biggest spender in this category is Patiala MP Preneet Kaur with an expenditure of only Rs 20.54 lakh. Sukhbir Badal (Faridkot) has spent only Rs 2.50 lakh and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa Rs 4 lakh.

Khanna says there is a little scope for spending on health. However, he says he has recently spent Rs 1.50 lakh on constructing a physiotherapy room at the Hoshiarpur Civil Hospital.

Preneet says MPs follow what the people want, adding that she has spent the maximum on creating facilities at cremation grounds (76 lakh) and building dharamshalas (Rs 2.94 crore).

Mann says people in villages earlier had open cremation grounds. “Now, they are influenced by the cremation grounds in cities and want the same facilities in villages”. Among the big spenders on cremation grounds include Ludhiana MP Sharanjit Singh Dhillon (Rs 1.33 crore) and Ropar MP Sukhdev Singh Libra (Rs 1.12 crore). Most other MPs have spent between Rs 40 and Rs 80 lakh on cremation grounds.

The MPs may not be spending on health, but they are giving money to improve the condition of village schools. Sukhdev Singh Libra has spent Rs 1.43 crore, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon Rs 1.33 crore and Avinash Rai Khana Rs 1.18 crore on creating education infrastructure.

“People ask money for school buildings and libraries are the not their priority,” says Preneet. She has spent nothing on them. Khanna has spent Rs 2 lakh on building a library, Sharanjit Dhillon Rs 4 lakh and Libra has spent a maximum of Rs 10 lakh among all MPs for this purpose.

Sukhbir is one of the few MPs who stress giving money for sports clubs (Rs 90 lakh) followed by Dhindsa who has given Rs 78 lakh for this purpose with the aim of keeping youth away from drugs. Mann has spent the lion’s share of his fund on paving streets and constructing drains (Rs 5.15 crore).



Sukhbir’s aim — power surplus Punjab
Chander Parkash & Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 9
To make Punjab a power surplus state is on the development agenda unfolded by president of the SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal here today. To achieve this aim, Sukhbir has virtually been functioning as the chief executive officer of four proposed mega thermal power projects.

Talking to The Tribune, he said only three thermal power plants had been set up in Punjab ever since it came into existence in 1966. This was despite the fact that the state had been ruled by the Congress for a major period of time and the Centre also remained under its rule for a considerable time.

These four thermal plants are being set up at a cost of Rs 32,500 crore in one go to add 6,480 MW to Punjab power generation within three years.

“Before the SAD-BJP alliance took over the administration, such a big exercise was unthinkable. It has become possible only as he means business and wants to deliver. Now, no one can stop Punjab from jumping into the elite class of modern states of the world.”

The power projects included 1320-MW Rajpura Thermal Power Project (Rs 6,600 crore), 1980-MW Talwandi Sabo Thermal Power Project (Rs 10,000 crore), 540-MW Goindwal Sahib Thermal Power Project (Rs 2,700 crore) and 2640-MW Gidderbaha Thermal Power Project to be set up at a cost of Rs 13,200 crore.

He said the foundation stones for such projects in Banwala in Mansa district and Goindwal Sahib had been laid and work started. The foundation stones of other two thermal plants would be laid by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal shortly.

‘Admn reforms in three months’

Daulat Pura Newan (Moga): Sukhbir Singh Badal has said the state government is committed to removing all difficulties being faced by the common public in the government offices. He was addressing a public rally here.

He said the Administrative Reform Commission would submit its report within three months and it would be implemented immediately.

Justifying the allotment of party ticket to her, he said: “The SAD is a party of the common man so it has preferred to give ticket to the people who work for the welfare of the masses”.

He distributed cheques worth Rs 2 crore among 46 panchayats of the Baghapurana and Rs 3.52 crore among 137 panchayats of the Dharamkot Assembly constituencies.

He distributed cheques worth Rs 2 crore among 46 panchayats of the Baghapurana and Rs 3.52 crore among 137 panchayats of the Dharamkot Assembly constituencies.

At Dharamkot, he promised to provide potable water purified with reverse osmosis (RO) system in all panchayats of this district, besides, initiating a scheme for laying sewerage in villages.

At Moga late in the evening, he gave a cheque for Rs 3 crore to Barjinder Singh Brar, president of the local municipal council, for development works. Badal said his government would make Moga a model town.


Give SAD a chance: Harsimrat

Bathinda, January 9
On the second day of her mass contact campaign here today, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of SAD president Sukhbir Badal, urged people to give a chance to the ruling SAD to represent the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat by voting for the party’s candidate.

Addressing public meetings at seven places in the town, Harsimrat said she was unable to understand as to why people lost sight of the development during the SAD regime and voted for the Congress. “Give us a chance this time and see that Bathinda will become a dream city.”— TNS


Inside Babudom
‘Nepotism in PCS nominations’
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
If anger expressed in their representations to the Chief Minister and other senior functionaries of the state by various organisations of aggrieved employees are any indication, recommendations made by the state government to the Punjab Public Service Commission for nomination to the Provincial Civil Service (PCS Executive Branch) smack of nepotism.

The state government has the power to nominate suitable candidates under various registers for appointment to its premier civil service. For example, these registers give the state the right to nominate candidates from among naib tehsildars and tehsildars, ministerial staff and from the excise and taxation, rural development and panchayats and engineering departments.

The allegations are that only those related to senior leaders of the ruling SAD-BJP alliance or top bureaucrats have been recommended for appointment to the PCS.

Claims of various senior members of feeding cadres, including revenue, rural development and excise and taxation, have been overlooked. Even merit, besides seniority, has  been overlooked.

Investigations reveal that none of the 20 district revenue officers figures in the recommended list of 26 candidates, of which the Public Service Commission will appoint 12 to the PCS. Most of the naib-tehsildars and tehsildars on the recommended list allegedly are those who had been recruited by the previous SAD-BJP government. Normally, the Financial Commissioner (Revenue) sends the names. The Revenue Minister can recommend one name, while the Chief Minister as many  as he likes.

Sources reveal that the Chief Minister has recommended only one name and of the 26 candidates, 22 are naib-tehsildars and four tehsildars. There are 80 tehsildars in the state, besides 20 district revenue officers. So out of 100 tehsildars and DROs, only four got the nod. To recommend more naib-teshildars, the government also changed the eligibility criteria by reducing the experience from 10 to eight years. Among those nominated is OSD to a senior minister and he is otherwise a naib-tehsildar. Even personal assistants to the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary figure on the lists.

There are others working with the top brass of the state administration, including the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, some ministers and even Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, who have been recommended for appointment to the PCS.

Merit and seniority, allege various associations, have been given a go-by the state government.


Appointment of Ayurveda director under scanner
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The Punjab government that procrastinated for 25 years for filling the post of director, Ayurveda, when woken from its slumber, could not wait for a single day to notify new rules that would make the newly appointed incumbent “ineligible”. To put it more simply, the government notified new rules only after it managed to get a preferred candidate securely into place.

The Ayurvedic doctors in the state are now up in arms at this move that has sealed all avenues for them being elevated to this coveted post for more than a decade. Casting direct aspersions on people managing the Health and Family Welfare Department, Ayurvedic doctors have dashed a letter to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to “hold an inquiry into the appointment of the director, if he is really serious about his professed fight against corruption.”

According to allegations that have been substantiated by file notings and other documents with The Tribune, the Health and Family Welfare (HFW) officials took a memorandum to the Punjab Cabinet on January 9, 2008, where the council of ministers approved a memorandum of amendment to the qualification clause of experience for the post of Director under 1963 rules, which already stood nullified.

Again, while getting the approval, the department concealed that more stringent qualifications for the post of director already stood approved on December 7, 2007, and getting an approval for the 1963 rules was a climb down in standards.

The department also concealed from the council of ministers that the new draft rules were already operative and under these rules, 10 posts of senior Ayurvedic physicians were promoted vide letter Pb-2001/11079-11107 dated August 16, 2001.

The department further failed to reveal to the council of ministers that the post of director did not exist in the 1963 rules in which the qualification was sought to be amended.

The department also chose to keep the council of ministers in the dark about the directive of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that had asked for the notification of the new rules. Interestingly, the post of the directors had been advertised through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPCC), inviting applications till November 26, 2007, under the 1963 rules which firstly did not have such a post and secondly after the new rules had already replaced the old rules.

But the PPSC did not find any of the 54 persons, who had applied, eligible and intimated the government accordingly. 


Relax norms, say basmati exporters
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
Rupees 4,300-crore basmati export business in the country has been facing a crisis with there being no takers for Rs 6,000 crore worth of paddy in the world.

Several leading exporters and various rice export associations have been hit by the government decision to impose a levy of Rs 8,000 per tonne on basmati last year.

The All-India Rice and Punjab Rice Millers Exporters Association had sent several representations to the finance ministry to relax the taxation rules, which had rendered Indian basmati costlier by $ 500 per tonne vis a vis Pakistani rice.

Spokesman for the association KRS Sobti pointed out that during the last year, India had achieved a record export of 1.18 lakh tonne of basmati valued at Rs 4,334 crore but it had almost halved this year.

The present global economic crisis has affected purchases by leading rice importers like the West Asia, EU, US, Canada and other countries. Arab countries and the Europe had bought only 10 per cent of their annual requirement.

A leading exporter, Arvinder Pal Singh Manchanda, said Indian traders had managed to secure a wide market for its basmati through dint of hard work, but erroneous government policies had made Pakistan replace India as the main exporter of basmati.

Manchanda said with the joint efforts of the Centre and state government, backed by the rice exporters’ association, a major diversification drive to boost the basmati cultivation had been launched. During the past two years, a bumper paddy crop not only helped in arresting the declining water table but also the farming community fetched handsome returns.

The future of the trade hinges on the decision of the empowered committee constituted by the Prime Minister on the basmati trade, he added.


Clear cane arrears, CM tells Sugarfed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today directed Sugarfed to clear cane arrears of all state co-operative sugar mills amounting to Rs 28.90 crore for the last crushing season positively by January 31.

A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting held here last evening which was presided over by Badal.

The Chief Minister also directed the Rural Development Board to immediately release an amount of Rs 15 crore to Sugarfed for the payment of the cane arrears. He also asked Sugarfed to arrange balance funds to the tune of Rs 13.90 crore from its own resources.

The board today released the payment of Rs 15 crore to Sugarfed which was further transferred to the respective cooperative sugar mills and the mills had been instructed to start disbursement of cane arrears by Monday.


Power crisis: Farmers suggest way out
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 9
As prolonged power cuts in the domestic sector and inadequate power supply to the farm sector has started hitting the economy hard, the Bharti Kisan Union has urged the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to provide power for eight hours to the farm sector at least on alternate days if it is not possible daily.

“At present, the power to agriculture sector is provided for two or three hours. That is proving costly to farmers as they had to engage the labour for the entire day when they just get the power three hours and that also on a staggered basis”, said Balbir Singh Rajewal, who have held a meeting in this regard with PSEB chairman YS Ratra.

“Ratra has asked the member (distribution) to do the needful in this connection and the publicity department of the board has also been told to announce the power supply schedule circle wise,” said Rajewal.

Farmers need the power supply most at this stage to protect their crops from cold weather. “Light irrigation of wheat and other crops is a must at this stage to save them from frost,” said a farmer. “This is also the recommendation of the Punjab Agriculture Department,” he added.

Potato growers have also been asking for a similar arrangement. “We don’t mind paying to the PSEB provided it ensured power supply for about eight hours daily,” said a spokesman for the Potato Growers Association.

“We cannot operate generators as the strike by officers of oil companies have hit the supply of diesel hard,” he said.

“They (SAD-BJP leaders) have been making claims to make Punjab power surplus after three years but they are unable to make arrangement even to provide adequate power supply to domestic sector,” said Tirath Ram, a local trader. 


Advisory panels for Sangrur
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 9
As the Chief Minister feels that the participation of the public in the administration improves its functioning, Sangrur district will soon have 10 district advisory committees, besides 10 subdivisional advisory committees in each subdivision of the district. These committees are being formed for 10 departments, namely excise and taxation, public health, police, education, electricity, irrigation, food supply, urban amenities, SCs/BCs and social security.

Sources said for the formation of the committees, the district administration had begun the process by asking area in charges of the SAD of different Assembly constituencies and the leadership of the BJP.The area in charges had been told to give the names of persons of their choice within three days, so that these committees could be formed by January 15. There would be at least 21 members in each district advisory committee and 11 members in each subdivisional advisory committee.


6 towns to get 100% water supply
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board today announced that six towns viz Ropar, Nangal, Balachaur, Garhshankar, Mahilpur and Anandpur Sahib will be provided with100 per cent water supply and sewerage facilities.

This was announced here by board chairman Baldev Raj Chawla in the presence of Hoshiarpur MP Avinash Rai Khanna after a meeting of municipal council presidents of the towns at the board office here.

Chawla said projects had been finalised for all six towns and that Rs 56.77 crore would be spent on Ropar, Rs 11.49 crore on Nangal, Rs 17.40 crore on Balachaur, Rs 19.15 crore on Garshshankar, Rs 10.10 crore on Mahilpur and  Rs 13.82 crore on  Anandpur Sahib.


Blows exchanged over gurdwara headship
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 9
Over the issue of handing over of headship (post of chief administrator) of Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib, Mastuana Sahib, near here, supporters of two sides exchanged blows at the gurdwara during the bhog of “mukh sewadar” (chief administrator) Sant Baba Roor Singh, who had died on January 2. However, the police intervened before anyone could be injured.

Sources said the bhog had been organised by a five-member committee, which had been constituted to look after the affairs of the gurdwara after the death of Sant Baba Roor Singh. Sant Baba Sadhu Singh, a brother of Sant Baba Roor Singh, and Baba Surjit Singh, were also members of the five-member committee.

After the performance of “ardas”, it was announced from the stage that the committee would look after the affairs of Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib. Villagers of nearby villages opposed the committee and demanded that Sant Baba Sadhu Singh should be made chief administrator of the gurdwara. Villagers rushed towards the dais and at that time blows were exchanged.

Later, villagers took Sant Baba Sadhu Singh to the residence of Sant Baba Roor Singh and appointed him chief administrator there by presenting him “siropas”.

The gurdwara had more than 1,000 bighas of land.

General secretary of the SAD (A) Jeet Singh Alloarkh, at a press conference here today, alleged that Sant Baba Roor Singh had not died a natural death .


Canada Sikhs for langar edict review
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
A delegation of Canadian Sikhs, led by Giani Kewal Singh, a former Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, held closed-door meeting with SGPC president Avtar Singh here today evening to demand reviewing of the hukmanama (edict) on langar, issued by the then Jathedar, Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh.

The hukamnama was issued by Bhai Ranjit Singh on April 20, 1998, in his capacity as Jathedar, Akal Takht. In many gurdwaras abroad, especially in Canada, clashes were witnessed between pro-hukamnama and anti-hukamnama Sikhs. The edict had directed the Sikh sangat not to partake of langar on chairs and tables as prevalent in several gurdwaras abroad. A large number of NRI Sikhs were excommunicated from the Sikh Panth for violating the hukamnama. Among those who met the SGPC president included Bhai Gurdev Singh and Bhai Nirmal Singh, both from Canada.

Interestingly, Giani Kewal Singh was one of the signatories of the edict, issued by Bhai Ranjit Singh on the letter head of Akal Takht.


Sukhbir on Baba Farid varsity board
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
The Board of Management of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences has been reconstituted with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal and senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon as its non-official members.

Though, unlike the past practice, no chairman has been named in the new 14-member management board, its composition indicates that orders will flow from the SAD chief in the meetings that will start either later this week or early next week.

Interestingly, the board has been constituted with retrospective effect, from August 29 last year, for a full term of three years with eight non-official and six official members.

In 1999 when the then SAD-BJP government constituted the Board of Management of the university under the chairmanship of Dr JS Bajaj, Vice-Chancellor Livtar Singh Chawla resigned quoting personal reasons for his decision. It had raised a controversy as to why the V-C should not be the chairman of the board of an autonomous university with the Governor as its chancellor.

Dr Bajaj, who is vice-chairman of the state Planning Board and personal physician of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, however, does not find a place in the new board.

Besides Sukhbir and Tandon, other non-official members include Advocate-General HS Mattewal and two retired defence officers, Air Marshal MS Boparai and Lt-Gen Paramjit Singh.


Special maths, science test today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9
About 90,000 students of Class V and VIII of government schools in Punjab would be appearing for a special Maths and Science test being conducted by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Authority, Punjab, tomorrow.

As many as 38,998 students of Class V for Maths, 48,643 of class VIII for Maths and 48,672 students of class VIII for Science have got their names registered for the first ever test of this kind in the state. The highest number of candidates for class VIII exam — 12,358 — are from Amritsar district and 4,766 for Class V from Sangrur district.

Elaborate arrangement has been made for smooth conduct of exams under the supervision of Avtar Singh, deputy director, SSA Punjab, who will also be the controller of this examination. Special flying squads and observers have been deputed to check the use of any kind of unfair means. The entire responsibility for creating examination centres, distribution of question papers etc at the district level, has been given to district education officers (secondary education). A total of 408 examination centres have been created.

“The aim of this examination is to inculcate scientific temper in students and to prepare them for future competitions. Prizes worth Rs 2,100, 1,500 and 1,000 would be given to students getting first three positions in each district. Concerned teachers will also be honoured. “After the declaration of results at district level, a state- level competition will be held for select students in the last week of January,” said Krishan Kumar, project director, SSA, Punjab.


Wooing IT units
Punjab minister to visit B’lore, Hyderabad
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 9
To woo IT industry in the wake of sops offered to it by the Punjab government under the proposed IT-friendly industrial policy, Industry and Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia will visit Bangalore and Hyderabad to persuade leading IT majors to set up units in the state.

Information Technology (IT) Policy, 2009, draft envisages sops for the IT industry, including subsidy on capital investments, almost free of cost land offer, regular power supply and exemption from conversion charges, stamp duty and registration charges.

The policy has been drawn up with inputs from Kalia who said units coming to Punjab had huge employment potential. “IT is the only industry in which scope of jobs is still high despite meltdown, largely for the growing demand for software and hardware products,” he said.


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 |