P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


‘No plan to privatise state ITIs’
14 institutions are being upgraded as
multi-disciplinary academies
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 17
The state government has no plans to privatise the industrial training institutes (ITIs), 14 of which were being upgraded as multi-disciplinary academies at a cost of Rs 90 crore.

At the same time, streams of technical education and vocational training are being expanded by inclusion of more advanced technical courses at a cost of Rs 500 crore in the existing technical education setup.

“No ITI will be privatised. Rather, new courses are being started with the help of private companies. The government will have full control of these institutions,” Technical Education Minister Swarna Ram said. He was here to lay the foundation stone of a multi-purpose hall at the ITI.

The minister said the state government was laying more stress on expansion and growth of the ITIs in the state.

“As many as 14 ITIs were being converted into multi-discipline academies wherein the contribution of the Centre will be Rs 10 crore while, another Rs 80 crore would be extended by NABARD. From August, we are going to initiate studies in hospitality trade in as many as 11 ITIs. Another 77 ITIs in the state are being upgraded for which we have received a grant of Rs 50 crore from the Centre,” Swarna Ram said.

The Centre has also okayed an ITI at Ropar for which 120 seats have already been filled through Delhi campus.

The government has provided 550 acres at Birla Farm in Ropar for the purpose. The Centre, according to the minister, was spending Rs 760 crore on the project.

ITIs at Malerkotla, Ahmedgarh and Quadian were also being upgraded. Besides, skill centres at block levels were also on the anvil.


Misuse of Position
Ex-DGP Virk to join probe
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
Former Punjab Police chief Sarbdeep Singh Virk will join investigation against him by the Punjab Police, but has sought another date due to a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Police Housing Corporation he heads in Maharashtra.

In a communication to the investigating officer (IO), Virk has sought clarification of certain matters before joining investigation.

He has also charged SK Asthana, IO, with bias. Virk has asked under which provision of law a notice was sent to him as the charge sheet had already been filed.

Virk asked for resolution of certain legal issues. He has asked Asthana, “As the final report was filed on March 20, 2008, your duty as investigation officer came to an end. If any investigation is to be done where some new issue arises, it can be done under Section 173 (8), CrPC”.

He has asked whether court’s permission has been taken for this additional investigation?” A challan could not be presented piecemeal, he has pointed.

The Maharashtra cadre IPS officer has questioned Asthana’s haste in summoning him to appear before him in a case pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

“I have a feeling that the investigation is being done on the dictates of Sumedh Singh Saini and certain political leaders hostile to me. If the investigation was not complete, there was no reason to hurry up with the charge sheet”.

Virk has alleged that since Asthana took an active part in the “selection and purchase of equipment” mentioned in the FIR against him, how could he (Asthana) accept investigation of the case.

“When the investigation was entrusted to you, you should have informed the Principal Secretary (Home) about the active role played by you in purchase of the equipment and to recuse yourself from conducting the same”.

Virk has said since the case registered against him was not personal, but for misuse of official position, it would only be proper to send him the summons through the Maharashtra government.



Badal’s bid to win Kanwaljit in son’s favour
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 17
After “steering” the party mandate in favour of Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy Chief Minister, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today went all out to placate state Cooperation Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

Capt Kanwaljit had kicked a storm within the party by raising the issue of “kakaji” (Sukhbir) needing to prove his mettle in the Lok Sabha polls before donning any other responsibility.

Though Capt Kanwaljit had blamed the media for “misquoting” him, the issue was used by his opponents within the party to further marginalise him.

As a result, rumours about the growing differences between the Badals and Capt Kanwaljit were rife within the party.

In a bid to scotch these rumours and ensuring least opposition to his loyalist and political adviser Dr Daljit Singh Cheema’s nomination from Anandpur Sahib, Badal used the vikas yatra today to shower kudos on Capt Kanwaljit and his son Jasjit Singh Bunny.

By ensuring victory for SAD in the general elections, Badal wants to ensure smooth coronation of his son as the next Chief Minister.

After being embarrassed in the recent Zirapur MC election by NK Sharma, a Sukhbir loyalist, and Kanwaljit’s comments on Sukhbir having to prove his potential in the coming parliamentary elections, the public display of praise on the father-son duo surprised many.

“Badal is trying to quell all possibilities of dissidence since the elections are crucial and infighting can prove detrimental to Cheema’s prospects,” say political observers.

Interestingly, the anti-Capt Kanwaljit faction in the SAD supposedly close to the Sukhbir camp, were intentionally kept away from the sanagat darshan.

Clearing the air on the issue Badal said he talked over telephone with BJP president Rajnath Singh and LK Advani about Sukhbir's elevation as Deputy Chief Minister.

He also said it was not a question of father-son relationship but a collective decision of core committee of the SAD that had authorised him to take the decision.

On the party candidate from Anandpur Sahib, the Chief Minister said the former had an unblemished track record of serving the people with missionary zeal.

He said as far as candidate was concerned, the SAD-BJP alliance had unanimously chosen Cheema for Sri Anandpur Sahib Parliamentary constituency for coming Lok Sabha elections.


Ranike too offers to quit in favour of Sukhbir
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Kathunangal (Amritsar), January 17
Akali leaders of the Majha region seem to be vying with each other to get the SAD chief’s attention as a day after Bikramjit Singh Majithia, Minister of Information and Public Relations, offered to quit from the Majitha constituency in favour of Sukhbir Singh Badal to pave the way for his appointment as Deputy Chief Minister.

Akali leader and Animal Husbandry and Sports Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike also offered to resign as MLA from the Attari constituency here today.

Ranike said if the party high command felt, he would quit all posts. He lauded the decision to appoint junior Badal as Deputy CM. He said people of the Majha region had always made sacrifices for the Akali party.

Earlier, Majithia, addressing the gathering at Gurdwara Janam Asthan Baba Budha here appealed to Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, to impress upon the SAD president to fight election from the Majitha constituency. He said people of the area wanted the Deputy CM elected from this constituency.

Surinder Kaur Badal was here to motivate people of the constituency to undertake langar sewa at Sri Darbar Sahib on February 10. She assured to convey their sentiments to the Chief Minister and the SAD president.

Majithia said people of the area would support Junior Badal for his win. Rajmohinder Singh Majitha, MP, Amarpal Singh, MLA,  Santokh Singh Samra, member, SGPC, and Ranjit Singh Waryamnangal were  also present.


Akalis in hurry to make Sukhbir Dy CM: Dal Khalsa
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 17
The Dal Khalsa today termed the move of the SAD to appoint party president Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy Chief Minister just before the Lok Sabha elections as an outcome of assessment that after elections his popularity was going to hit low.

In a statement, Dal Khalsa secretary for political affairs Kanwarpal Singh said since the Akalis knew that the ensuing election was going to be tough for them, they had decided to elevate Sukhbir as Deputy Chief Minister lest his popularity hits low.

“At the back of their minds, the Akalis know they are not going to win so they have acted in a hurry,” he pointed out.

Although the passing of baton from father to son has always been talk of the town, the timing shows that the fear of losing the elections looms large in the minds of the Akalis, he remarked.

Supporting the idea mooted by Akali MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa for making election manifestos binding by law, the spokesperson said such a step would not only hold political parties accountable, but also prevent them from misguiding voters.

“There should be a law to prosecute those parties that fail to honour their election commitments after coming to power,” he said.


BJP high-ups okay with SAD chief as Dy CM
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
The BJP high command, including president Rajnath Singh and Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani, may have given ears to party leaders from Punjab, but did not dole out any promise of scuttling the move of Akalis in making Sukhbir Singh Badal Deputy Chief Minister.

Though the state BJP leaders had the consolation of giving vent to their feelings before the party high command, they have been politely commanded not to rake up any controversy that may “jeopardise” the NDA performance in the upcoming general elections.

“Larger issue,” they have been told,” is to work for displacing the UPA government. Any bitterness in relations with major alliance partner at this stage may land the party in a bigger soup, besides causing embarrassment.”

The state BJP leaders have been advised against making statements or expressing remorse publicly.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, sources reveal, may try to appease the BJP legislature party by elevating Manoranjan Kalia as Deputy Chief Minister as well.

Unperturbed by the state BJP leaders dash to Delhi, the Akalis are planning a grand show for the oath-taking ceremony.

“It has to be massive if not bigger as was the oath-taking ceremony of Parkash Singh Badal,” admits a senior Akali leader, adding: “The ceremony will not only be a show of strength, but also demonstrate the growing popularity as well as acceptability of the younger Badal.”

The sources reveal that none of the portfolios held by the BJP ministers will be disturbed. Sukhbir will probably hold a couple of important portfolios, including Home and Public Relations.

At present, Home is with the Chief Minister and Public Relations with Bikram Singh Majithia. The state machinery, too, has been activated to work out logistics.

Lists of officers to be attached to the Deputy Chief Minister too are being finalised. He, too, like CM, will have a full-fledged secretariat.

Administrative reshuffle that has been delayed because of revision of voters list will be among the first few orders the Deputy Chief Minister would like to start his work with giving out a message to the bureaucracy that only “performers” would stay.


‘Govt move on admin reforms panel a gimmick’
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
Senior Congress leaders, including Samana MLA Brahm Mohindra, have questioned the seriousness of the SAD-BJP government over the move to constitute the state administrative reforms commission.

Terming the move a political gimmick, he has pointed out that most of the state advisory committees of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha set up with similar objectives have remained defunct.

“Many committees, including some of which I am also member of, have not held a single meeting since the SDA-BJP came to power in February 2007. When the SAD chief talks of setting up the administrative reforms commission to improve governance, he should know that these committees are formed to frame policies of the government, implementing these and appraising the government on public interest issues. How can the ruling alliance talk about public interest when meetings of a majority of these committees have not even been summoned once in two years,” he said.

He said every year the committees were constituted and notified and the exercise was repeated the next year.

He supplied a copy of the notification of July 18, 2008, that lists the Chief Minister as chairman of several committees and secretaries of the government and MLAs of political parties as members.

“It is an opportunity for elected members to tell the head of the government and officials concerned about people’s problems. But redressing public grievances is not on anyone’s priority”.

Mohindra said he was a non-government member of the State Advisory Committee for Rural Development, Panchayats-cum-Election Department and the Committee for Vigilance and Justice.

But there were other 22 committees which had hardly ever met for any business. Mohindra said if government meant business it should activate these committees.

The MLA, who has been minister of industries, transport, health, medical education, social welfare, science and technology etc, said, “Instead of using the available mechanism for improving delivery, the ruling alliance, especially the SAD, is trying to promise people the moon”.

Most of the committees have three to five official members, including the minister concerned and senior officers from the government, along with 10 non-governmental members, mostly MLAs of various political parties, including the Opposition.

These committees can help improve governance. But many of these committees do not transact much business.


Punjab YC cells dissolved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
President of the Punjab Youth Congress Ravneet Singh Bittu said here today all cells of the state Youth Congress had been dissolved following directions of president of the Indian Youth Congress Ashok Tanwar.

In a press note here today Bittu said all cells were being re organised in a month to revitalise the organisation for Lok Sabha elections.

He said two-day camp for district and block Youth Congress presidents and delegates would be held in Chandigarh on February 2 and 3.

Youth Congress workers would be trained by senior Youth Congress leaders,
including Tanwar, to counter campaignof the Youth Akali Dal and the Students
Organisation of India.


23 Sena, 7 Vishisht Sewa medals presented
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 17
The Army is completely prepared to repulse any act of aggression by Pakistan though there are no signs of war from across the border, reacted Lt Gen TK Sapru, General Officer Commanding-in-chief, Western Command.

Interacting with mediapersons after handing over 23 Sena Medals (SM) and seven Vishisht Sewa Medals in the Army Investiture ceremony here today, Sapru proudly said the Indian Army was among the best armies in the world and efforts were constantly being made to match with technological progress.

Agreeing that currently there was shortage of officers in the Army, Sapru said once pay for entry level officer rank in the Army was raised meaningfully, it (shortage) would be met.

Sapru congratulated winners of today’s gallantry awards and felt their performance would encourage youth to don olive green uniform. He opined that the number of gallantry awards must be raised.

Sapru said, “The Western Army has a glorious tradition of valour and dedication and played a stellar role in preserving the territorial integrity of the nation”. He added that it was instrumental in blunting Pakistani aggression in 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars. During Punjab militancy, the command rendered yeoman’s service in combating terrorism and restoring normalcy”.

He said the command also won the hearts and minds of people of Punjab, Haryana and Himchal Pradesh by instant and sustained aid to civil authorities, be it flood relief, restoring of communication or assistance during natural calamities.


Kuka martyrs’ memorials for Sangrur
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Malerkotla, January 17
The state government will set up memorials of Kuka martyrs who were blown off with cannons by the British on January 17 and 18, 1872, here. The memorials will come up in seven villages of Sangrur district.

This was announced by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at a function at the Namdhari Shaheedi Samarak here today.

Satguru Jagjit Singh, the head of Namdhari sect, and MP from Sangrur Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa were also present on the occasion.

Vice-chairman of Kuka Martyrs’ Memorial Trust Surinder Singh Namdhari had asked Badal to set up these memorials at the earliest.

The Sangrur deputy commissioner had already identified places in seven villages
for the memorials.

Namdhari also said the panchayats of these villages were also ready to give 2 acres each for the purpose. The villages were Sakrodi and Dayalgarh in Bhawanigarh; Roorgarh and Pharwahi in Sherpur; Malumajra and Chak Shekhupura in Malerkotla; and Fallera in Sunam. About 18 Kukas from these villages were killed by the British, he added.

Badal said the Namdharis had submitted some demands to him that included setting up of memorials of Kuka martyrs in their native villages throughout the state and construction of stadiums and roads.

Badal also highlighted the sacrifices made by people of the state in the freedom struggle of the country.

He also said freedom movements like the Babbar, Kuka and Kama Gata Maru movements had played a vital role in getting the country freed from the British.


Students to visit science city from January 19
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 17
At last, things have fallen in place. Visits of students of government schools to science city at Kapurthala will start on January 19.

As many as 50,000 students of schools across the state will be benefited. Every day about 4,000 students will visit the science city. The Punjab government has sanctioned Rs 1.25 crore for the programme.

Official sources said a meeting of the district education officers was held in the office of the DPI (Schools) at Chandigarh on Friday. The officers were told to start taking students to science city from January 19.

They were told to coordinate with headmasters and other officials and make arrangements for transportation of students at their own level. However, the head office will reimburse the transportation charges.


Kharota Railway Crossing
Villagers suffer, courtesy BBMB
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, January 17
Fifteen villages of Anandpur Sahib are suffering due to Bhakra Beas Management Board’s (BBMB) alleged dilly dallying over issuance of a no-objection certificate (NOC) to construct an under bridge at Kharota railway crossing.

Villagers are reeling under various problems as their houses lie on one side of the crossing and agriculture land lies on the other. The aforesaid railway crossing (level crossing) is not open for general public.

It is a canal crossing and is provided for inspection of Nangal-hydel channel near Bharatgarh-Kharota on road constructed on one of banks.

This canal crossing is utilised and controlled by BBMB. Since it is not open for the public, villagers have to take 15 km longer route to reach their fields, schools, hospitals and other places. The crossing has a narrow path from where only two-wheelers can cross.

Area MP Avinash Rai Khanna has twice held rail rook campaign at the spot to convince BBMB to open the crossing for public use.

He had also raised question in Lok Sabha. Later, the Punjab government proposed to construct an under bridge at a whopping cost of Rs 90 lakh.

These expenses had been covered under the government of India’s Rs 105-crore package to Anandpur Sahib for its development.

While the railways have already given its consent, BBMB is yet to issue an NOC for the same. Thrice the Punjab government had written to the BBMB officials, including Chief Secretary, Punjab, chief engineer, PWD, B&R, Punjab and principal secretary, irrigation and power, Punjab.

BBMB is a joint collaboration of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. As per sources, the NOC could be given only when all the other three states give approval. Sources add that the Rajasthan government is not allowing NOC to be passed as it has got some pending issues with Punjab.

However, when contacted, BBMB chairperson UC Misra said no NOC was required
for the project.

“We have already made it clear to the Punjab government (in written) that no NOC is required on our part. We would be happy if the railway crossing is manned but we don’t have any role in providing an NOC,” he added.


Rainfall brings cheer to farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
Rain that lashed the region today has brought cheer to the farmers in the region. Other than the fact that the rainfall was beneficial for the wheat crop, it also provided relief from the power woes the farmer was faced with.

BS Sidhu, director, Agriculture, Punjab, said rainfall was good for wheat and vegetables and would cause the temperatures to fall which was needed during this stage of growth of crops.

According to the meteorological department, light to medium rain lashed the region last night and in some places it continued till early morning today.

The department added that in the next two days, there was a possibility of the temperatures falling further.


93 appointed medical officers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
The Department of Health and Family Welfare has appointed 93 doctors to regular posts of medical officer (specialist) in the Punjab Civil Medical Services cadre.

These selections have been made by the departmental selection committee constituted for the purpose.

State Health and Family Welfare Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla gave appointment letters to the newly appointed doctors.

She stated that it was after a long time that regular posts had been filled and asserted that selections had been made in a fair and transparent manner.

Chawla said 90 of the 93 doctors had been posted in the Malwa region where there was shortage of doctors.


Extension to retiring Raj Bhawan staff
brews resentment

Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
Punjab Raj Bhawan employees do not seem to retire even after reaching 58 years, the age of superannuation for Punjab government staff.

PunjabGovernor’s private secretary TS Mankotia and comptroller household Deepak Ahluwalia are on two-year contract following retirement. Amrit Lal Astha, an under-secretary in Raj Bhawan, has also joined them. He continues in his post even after retirement on November 30, 2008.

He was recommended for re-employment on contract on the same post by the Governor “convenience”, the reason given to allow Ahluwalia and Mankotia to continue for three years after their extension of two years, which ends in April and November this year.

While approval from the Chief Minister, ministers and Finance Department is pending, the said officer is already on the job.

He was shown retired in the service books, but was on the same job, same seat the next morning on contract. Even the drawing and disbursing powers (DDO) were withdrawn from the officer almost a fortnight after his re-employment.

Secretary to the Governor MP Singh said the Governor had written to the Chief Minister about Astha’s two-year re-employment and three-year extension to the other two officers.

“In the absence of any negative remark on the Governor’s letter by the Chief Minister, an approval is said to be granted in principle,” he said.

Sources point out that those in the Governor’s establishment are employees of
Punjab secretariat and in case of their re-employed an approval has to be taken
from the Finance Department after which the Chief Minister places the matter
before the Cabinet.

In this case, no approval has been taken . While all these could be read as “frivolous procedural” delays for the “decisive” Governor, the contract employments also affect junior superintendents and superintendents waiting to be promoted.

“Till the person above me in the list retires and vacates a post, how can I get promoted? Such re-employments are unfair to us and raise doubts about why those in the Governor’s establishment become indispensable?” said an affected employee of the secretariat.


Punjab turns heat on VAT defaulters
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 17
The Punjab government has systematised the ‘TIN locking’ provision in the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act of the state. Locking of the TIN (Tax Payer’s Identification Number) is a provision available with those states that have computerised the collection of VAT.

This number is ‘locked’ by the department in case the taxpayer defaults on any account. Once the number is locked, the dealer is not able to transact any business using this number and has to temporarily stop inter-state movement of goods.

“The system has been functional for the past five years and has had a deterrent effect on the state’s VAT payers,” said A Venu Prasad, commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Punjab.

He added that the system had been recently systematised so that a protocol was followed in case of locking of the TIN numbers.

“Punjab is among the very few states in India where the entire system of collection of VAT is computerised. We are able to lock a TIN number since the system is on our computers ,” he said.

Punjab’s department of excise and taxation also claims that VAT compliance in the state is almost 99 per cent.

“There are about 1.80 lakh registered dealers in Punjab out of which in only five to 10 cases of defaulters in a quarter reach a stage when their TIN numbers are locked,” said Venu Prasad.

“But TIN locking is the last resort as after this the defaulter is unable to carry on his business. We do it only in exceptional cases. And when the defaulter removes the reasons for default, the number is made available for use,” he added.

TIN is the registration number that is used for identification of dealers registered under VAT. It consists of 11 digits and is a unique number.

TIN is used for identification of dealers in the same way like PAN is used for identification of assesses under Income Tax Act.

The department recently notified the system of locking TIN numbers in the state. It has listed a host of possibilities for a registered dealer to be considered a dafaulter who is liable to TIN locking.

“In case any tax payer registered with the department fails to pay any tax, penalty or interest or does not file the returns or the annual statement by the prescribed date, the commissioner or designated officer can lock his TIN number,” states a part of the notification.


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