P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Don’t marry daughters abroad, say NRIs
Girl’s murder shakes Punjabi community in Canada
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 13
Taking cognisance of the brutal murder of Amandeep Kaur of nearby Maksudra village allegedly by her father-in-law in Toronto on New Year Day, various organisations of Punjabis settled in Canada have appealed to their friends and relatives in India to be cautious while marrying their daughters abroad.

This clarion call has been given to Punjabis ahead of Lohri, which is now celebrated on the birth of the girl child also. “If you value your daughter enough, do not marry her abroad,” is the message.

Besides airing their views at the bhog of Amandeep in Toronto on Sunday, office-bearers of these organisations called their acquaintances in Punjab to warn them that thousands of Punjabi girls, who had been allured by swindlers to Canada, were acting as money-making machines for their in-laws.

According to Harbans Singh Jandali, general secretary of the management committee running the affairs of Dixy Gurdwara, office-bearers of various social and religious organisations had warned their relatives and friends in Punjab against exploitation of girls emigrating on marriage basis.

Greedy in-laws were forcing their daughter-in-laws to do hard jobs in factories and stores. Some of them were allegedly being exploited physically.

“Girls like Amandeep have been bearing their exploiters as they wish to call their parents and kin to Canada. In a majority of the cases, girls have been married to men double and treble their age,” said Jandali.

Meanwhile, to help the parents of Amandeep get justice from the Canadian government, social and religious organisations of Canada have called a convention at the gurdwara next Sunday.

Amandeep Kaur (24) of Issru village, was allegedly stabbed to death on New Year Day at her in-laws' house in Toronto. They did not even inform her parents back home about her death. It was only after the Canadian police and insurance companies started making calls that her parents came to know about the incident.

Her parents reached Toronto to join her funeral three days ago.


Nihang chief’s cavalcade ambushed
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda), January 13
Baba Balbir Singh, chief of the Shiromani Panth Akali Budha Dal, had a providential escape when his convoy, that was proceeding towards Muktsar this morning to attend the Maghi Mela celebrations, was fired at.

While the Baba escaped unhurt, one of his followers was injured in the firing that took place at village Bhagi Vandar, near Talwandi Sabo, in this district.

The Baba, who was sitting in his bulletproof black Scorpio, was going to attend the mela celebrations, at around 9.15 am in a convoy of seven cars. When the convoy reached Bhagi Vandar village, a white Zen (HR 51G 1296) abruptly came in front of the cavalcade.

As the road is under construction, the pilot vehicle and all cars in the convoy had to slow down. All of a sudden, miscreants opened fire at the convoy from the right side. Police sources said more than 25 rounds were shot of which five-six hit the bulletproof Scorpio.

The driver of Baba’s vehicle managed to drove away as the rest of his Nihang followers retaliated. A sewadar of Baba, Paranjeet, alias Kala, suffered a bullet injury in his left hand. A buffalo was killed in the firing.

According to the police investigation, the suspects had stopped over at a liquor shop near the bus stand of Bhagi Vandar village, from where used cartridges and empty liquor bottles were found.

The police has booked Dyal Singh, Joginder Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Kulwant Singh, Paramjeet Singh, Maahan Singh, Inderjeet Sing, his sister Chhinder Kaur, Gurbax Singh, Daya Singh and his brother Sham Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Satnam Singh, Sukhbir Singh and Kulwant Singh along with five-six unidentified persons.

A case has been registered under sections 364, 307, 120-B, 148, 149, IPC, and 25, 54, 59, Arms Act.

The police has recovered the white Zen and 25 cartridges of .315 bore and 14 cartridges of .32 bore were found in the car.

Talking to The Tribune, the Baba said: “The attack was pre-planned as the assailants targeted us at a suitable place. The accused are none other than the group of Surjit Singh, who has been trying to kill me ever since the succession issue arose.”

“Soon after the attack, I called up the DIG and the SSP of Bathinda, but they did not respond. Then I called up the DIG, Patiala, who passed on the message to police officers of Bathinda.

“It is not the first attack on me but the police and government have been taking it lightly. I have filed a writ petition for Z-plus security, but even after more than a year, it is still pending.”

Ajay Maluja, SP (D), who is investigating the matter, said: “Certain persons have been rounded up to ascertain the facts.”


Maghi Mela
Bring NDA to Centre: SAD
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

Power fails Badals

Badal had a taste of erratic power supply in the state when the public address system at the pandal of the SAD went off due to power failure as he criticised the Congress-led UPA government. The power supply remained suspended for about 15 minutes, causing embarrassment to SAD chief Sukhbir, who has issued statements regarding making Punjab a power surplus state. A little later, the Chief Minister resumed his speech on a battery-operated portable public address system, but the sound was too low to reach those sitting at the back.

Muktsar, January 13
With their political conferences on the occasion of Maghi Mela drawing huge crowds here today, the ruling SAD and the opposition Congress took the opportunity to set the tone for the coming Lok Sabha elections and launched a scathing attack on each other.

The occasion turned into a trial of strength between the two camps, in which the SAD took a lead with a large attendance at its pandal. The BSP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (A) also organised separate conferences.

Though former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh could not attend the mela due to leg injury, the MLAs belonging to his group were present.

SGPC chief Avtar Singh and BJP minister Manoranjan Kalia attended the SAD conference.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Kalia, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Cooperatives Minister Kanwaljeet Singh and others in the ruling camp urged the people to vote for the SAD-BJP candidates to bring BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, which can alleviate the miseries of the farmers of Punjab.

Sukhbir blamed the Congress for the electricity crisis in the state and other problems. Within three years Punjab would become a power surplus as four big thermal power stations were being established in the state, he added. Manpreet said each one should pledge to take steps towards removing corruption, illiteracy, female feticide and anti-national activities. Capt Kanwaljeet Singh, and Kalia also spoke.


UPA benefited Punjab: Cong
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 13
Opposition Congress leaders today resorted to mudslinging and promises in their rhetoric at the annual Maghi Mela here.

Former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar blamed the Akali regime for a “severe financial crunch” in the state. He said the SAD leadership, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, had unleashed a reign of terror in the state by targeting Congress men and other innocent citizens and the government had failed to keep its electoral promises of giving jobs to the unemployed and filling the vacancies.

Addressing the Congress congregation, Brar urged the people “to be patient” as the Congress would soon revive the state’s economy after coming to power.

Seeking mandate for the coming parliamentary polls, Sunil Jakhar, Abohar MLA, said it was the UPA government under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that tremendously benefited Punjab. “The people of Punjab are committed to the Congress leadership not because of any promises like jobs or subsidies, but because of their commitment to the Congress ideology,” Jakhar said, while pointing to his re-emergence in the last year’s assembly polls. He dubbed the Akalis as the enemy of the people of Punjab.

At the Congress congregation, Jagmeet Brar, Mohinder Singh Kaypee and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal were the key speakers. They accused the Akali-BJP government of spreading a “reign of terror and targeting the innocent people”.

Simranjit Singh Mann, president, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), said the union government was pursuing anti-farmer policies and the debt-ridden farmers were being forced to commit suicide.


After 10 yrs in jail, murder accused proved not guilty
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
Justice came a decade too late for Ajmer Singh. After spending 10 years behind bars, the Jalandhar resident has finally been set free by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.Ajmer Singh would have continued to languish in jail for a few years more, but coming to his rescue, a Division Bench of the high court directed his release after acquitting him of the murder charge.

Ajmer Singh was initially arrested on August 12, 1998, in another case. Thereafter, the police allegedly implicated him in an apparent attempt to solve a blind murder case registered six years ago in May 1992. They had even claimed the recovery of ornaments alleged to have been stolen at the time of the incident. The prosecution story, however, did not find favour with Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice LN Mittal.

The case unfolded before the Bench made it clear that Ajmer Singh was convicted for murder by an additional sessions judge at Jalandhar in March 2002. He was awarded life sentence and fined Rs 2,000.

Taking up his appeal, the Bench ruled: “We have gone through the record and seen that the appellant is in custody since 1998. Though bail was granted to him on March 19, 1999, by the additional chief judicial magistrate, Jalandhar, as he was in custody in another case he had not furnish bail bonds in this case and had the order of the bail withdrawn.”

Commenting on the merits of the case, the Bench further ruled: "A doubt is created in our mind as to whether the appellant had committed the murder. The appeal is allowed. Conviction and sentence of the appellant is set aside. He is acquitted of the charge framed against him. Appellant, if in custody, be set free forthwith, if not needed in any other case”.

Before parting with the order, the Bench also observed: “The recovery of gold ornaments was made after six years. If he and his companion had stolen these gold articles, they would not have kept them for such a long time in their possession, but would have disposed them off.”



Brar takes over PSEB reins
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
Technocrat and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal loyalist HS Brar, who was till now serving as member, Distribution, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), today took over as its chairman.

Brar takes over from YS Ratra, who has served the board for nearly six years.

The new chairman is known for his proximity to the Chief Minister. He is also credited with bringing in efficiency methods, including adopting re-engineering to re-use spare material in the distribution system, making substantial savings.

During his tenure as member, Distribution, Brar brought down transmission and distribution losses by 1.5 to two per cent. He is also credited with introducing the use of CFL technology on a large scale.

Brar has come up through the ranks. He did his initial schooling in a village and won a scholarship. Later he did his degree in mechanical engineering from Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana, and M.Sc Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, and rose to the position of engineer-in-chief. He was elevated to the rank member, Distribution, in April 2008.

Meanwhile, the PSEB Engineers Association welcomed Brar’s appointment as chairman. Its president HS Bedi said the government had fulfilled a long pending demand of the association to appoint a technocrat as well as professional to run the board.



Ratra, victim of politics?
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
The Punjab government today appointed HS Brar, member, Distribution, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), as board’s chairman for a period of one year after the outgoing incumbent YS Ratra reportedly had difference with his political bosses over the issue of unbundling of the PSEB.

It is learnt that in a meeting held recently, Ratra had told Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and others that Punjab had no choice but to unbundle the PSEB as required under the Electricity Act 2003.

The Centre had granted Punjab several extensions, the final one till November 30, 2008, to separate the generation and distribution work. As Punjab was denied extension beyond this period, Ratra reportedly wrote to the state government to abide by the Act. Since PSEB employees are opposing the setting up of companies to run the board in a more “ efficient and professional” manner as required by the Act, and Ratra being reluctant to play the Punjab government’s game, he was replaced by Brar.


Sandhu couple cremated
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, January 13
Thousands were present at the cremation of Dr Shivinder Singh Sandhu, orthopaedic surgeon, and his wife Manveen, known as “cultural ambassadors” in India and Pakistan, here today.

They died in an accident near Bikaner with two others on January 11. People from all walks of life, politicians, bureaucrats, educationists, doctors and social activists paid tributes to the couple and participated in the funeral. People were seen standing on rooftops of the cremation ground, unprecedented in the history of Amritsar.

Lahore’s noted theatre artiste, Madiha Gohar, who specially came here from Pakistan to attend the cremation, said the death of the Sandhus was a personal loss as Manveen was like her sister. “Both of us had shared a vision to bring about the folk culture of both countries on a single platform so that artistes could perform in most congenial atmosphere. A special morning meeting will be held in Lahore by artistes of Pakistan to pay homage to the promoters of Punarjot and Saanjh,” she said.

The Ajoka theatre of Madeeha Gohar will stage “Bulle Shah” in India to pay tributes to Manveen and her husband. The play is written by Shahid Nadeem, husband of Madeeha. Baba Bulle Shah was a beacon of hope and humanism who fought all kinds of tyranny in those times.


Oil men mull mass resignation
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 13
Perturbed over the cold response of the government towards their long-pending demands, officers of oil companies have decided to resort to mass resignation in case the “draconian punitive action” was not withdrawn by the management of the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and others. The ONGC has already terminated the services of 64 officers, while the IOC has removed three of its officers and suspended 10 others. Gail has fired three officers.

The oil officers, led by the Oil Sector Officers’ Association (OSOA), have pleaded respective chief managing directors for “mercy” and withdrawal of suspension and termination orders of oil officials as it would further “negatively affect the working environment in these PSUs”.

“Their action to resort to peaceful abstaining from duties against long government inaction should not be taken in anti-national context. They have always spearheaded the social cause and taken the national interest above all,” said an OSOA statement.

The association has alleged that they were “shown in a bad light” under a conspiracy hatched by the government. What seems to have irked the OSOA top brass was the projection of oil officers’ salary figures by a section of the media.

“We have put forth genuine demands and had given ample time to the authorities to resolve our problems. Still, we got projected as villains due to biased media coverage. It seems that the government has hijacked the media, particularly, the electronic media, which showed that the fault was not at the government’s end, but it was the responsibility of the OSOA alone to maintain normalcy in the system.

“As a matter of fact, Petroleum Secretary RS Pandey has stated that a junior most oil officer was getting a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month, whereas the salary of any entry level officer is between Rs 28,000-30,000 per month. The figures are misleading and fudged. At least, the media should have presented a correct picture,” said the OSOA president Amit Kumar in a statement.


Pharmacists warn govt
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 13
State president of the Paramedical and Health Employees Union Sham Lal Sharma today warned the state government that the health employees would paralyse the health services in the state if the government did not release those rural health pharmacists and multipurpose health workers who had been arrested during a rally of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at Bhawanigarh.

Sharma criticised the police for “beating up” pharmacists and health workers and also registering cases against them. He said the union would fight against the government till the arrested pharmacists and health workers got justice.


Aviation panel meets tomorrow
Neeraj Bagga and Ashok Sethi

Rajasansi (Amritsar), January 13
The draft policy paper on the revival of international a airport here will be submitted to the government for a decision after its clearance at a meeting to be held in New Delhi on January 15, said Dr Manohar Singh Gill, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, here today. He heads the Aviation Parliamentary sub-committee.

Singapore Airlines had announced to stop four-year-long flight operations from the airport from the next month. The government has not come out with a package to bail out the airport, which had also witnessed termination of daily Jet Airways’ Amritsar-London flight from December last.

Dr Gill said he would speak to officials of Singapore Airlines and Jet Airways to review their decisions to reschedule and resume flights from this airport.

The meeting in Delhi will discuss lowering of landing charges, uniform parking fee of Rs 60 for all categories and entry fee for all international airports from Rs 60 to Rs 45.

It will also take up formalising the functioning of the Electronic Data Interface (EDI) system at the air cargo terminus for the faster processing of duty draw back claims.


Mini-India comes alive at youth fest
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, January 13
The gala opening of the youth festival spread the traditional kaleidoscopic colours and it was a mini-India coming alive with young participants donning traditional attires to the win hearts of the audience on the second day of the 14th National Youth Festival which opened at Guru Nanak Dev University Sports Ground here yesterday.

Last evening the Indian Ocean band received a tremendous applause from the crowded stands. Today was day of Adventure Games which were opened at the historic grounds of Khalsa College by Dr MS Gill and director-general, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan formally opened the games.

Artistes from several states also showcased skills in their traditional art and craft and painting. They also organised food stalls. It was indeed a gourmets’ day.

In view of the Lohri festival, the evening was enlivened by the Punjabi pop singer Jasbir Jassi. Punjabi troups presented a colourful traditional gidha.

More than 3,000 youth had gathered in the city to hold cultural exchanges with their counterparts from different parts of the country.

Meanwhile, addressing the youth at GND University, Dr Gill said the youth were the real strength of the country. He said the government was planning to formulate a policy to channelise their energies for their comprehensive development.

Earlier, Vice-Chancellor of the university Dr Jai Rup Singh said India had emerged the fountainhead of intellect.

State Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare Gulzar Singh Ranike said the youth festival would provide an opportunity to understand the cultural diversity of the country and bring the youth closer to each other.


He made Chambal dacoits lay down arms
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 13
“National integration camps are much needed in India, as it has many religions and languages,” said Dr SN Subba Rao, director, National Youth Project, here today.

Dr Rao, who was instrumental in the surrender of 654 dacoits operating from the Chambal valley in the ravines on the Madhya Pradesh-Uttar Pradesh border, was here to interact with the youth participating in the 14th National Youth Festival here.

Sharing his experiences, Rao said he won the hearts of the dacoits who had gone astray and created a peaceful atmosphere to broker peace between the administration and the police on one side and vagabonds on the other side. He said it was a gigantic task to persuade the outlaws to lay down arms with assurance from the civil administration that they would not be killed but tried according to the law.

On surrender, he said he persuaded the police for 15-day ceasefire and succeeded to convince the dacoits about the futility of fighting a losing battle against the administration. Tehsildar Singh and the group of Maan Singh, Madho Singh and Mohar Singh were among the dacoits who had surrendered.

Feeling concerned at regionalism, Dr Rao, a freedom fighter, said the youth of India with 18 languages and several regions had been integrated as a nation and it was important to hold youth camps representing different cultural and ethinic groups to inculcate feeling of unity.

He said the youth had tremendous energy and potential and it needed to be seen it did not fall prey to temptations and bad habits.

He appealed to leaders to work out a consensus on all issues, especially the youth, for a policy on the education of youth and problems of the country.


3 cities to be under National Health Mission
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 13
Cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar will be brought under the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM)'s pilot project. Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla stated this at a press conference here.

Chawla was here for the Lohri celebration of the girl child and preside over a function held to educate people against female foeticide and burn the Rs 7.10 lakh-worth drugs seized from medical shops.

She added that the Centre would contribute 85 per cent for the NUHM and the state government 15 per cent. The three cities had been covered under the pilot project launched in the country.

Chawla said government efforts against female foeticide had started showing results. "Ten villages of Mansa have registered an increase in births of girl children compared to male children. Following this, a survey to study the improved demographic aspect had been undertaken," she added. The government planned to honour 20 panchayats which improved the infant sex ratio and Rs 1.5 lakh grant would be given to every panchayat.

On vacancies of doctors in the state, she said around 600 posts were vacant. This week 140 doctors would be appointed and another 100 selected through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). Besides this, 45 specialists would be appointed.


New MD for Punjab Housefed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
Members of the Punjab Housefed Karamchari Union have welcomed the appointment of Mukhtiar Singh as managing director of the Punjab Housefed.

Panoo Lal Rana, the president of the union, said in a statement issued here today. He hoped that the new MD would give top priority to resolving the pending demands of the union.


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