P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Lobbying on for cabinet berths
Kanwaljit may get Finance back

Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
Hectic political activity has started in Punjab ahead of Sukhbir Singh Badal’s induction into the Punjab Cabinet as Deputy Chief Minister on Wednesday. As the cabinet reshuffle is now imminent, lobbying has started by ministers for both changes in portfolios as well as attempts to retain their ministerial berths. Party sources indicate that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is contemplating handing over at least four or five departments to Sukhbir.

Sukhbir has expressed desire to head the Home, Public Relations, Power and Irrigation, Urban Development and Excise and Taxation Departments. Concerned about his political image, Sukhbir is keen that he is actively involved with the Department of Public Relations.

Media adviser to the Chief Minister Harcharan Bains has suggested that the Chief Minister’s Office (including that of Deputy Chief Minister) should take control of the media relations directly.

According to sources within the SAD, the departments likely to see some changes include Transport, Finance, Sports, Health and family Welfare, besides others. It is said Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon has expressed the desire to share more responsibility in the government and is keen to head additional departments apart from the Food and Supply.

Similarly, Manpreet Badal is expected to give up Finance because of his known difference with the party over the issue of subsidies.

It is being said the Finance Department may go back to Capt Kanwaljit Singh as he has both expertise as well as experience in running it. The Badals want to appease him to ensure a smooth ride for Sukhbir.

Another department that is likely to see a change at its helm is the Transport Department. Master Mohan Lal has had serious differences with the Badals over appointments of officers at the district level, besides issuing of permits. The Badals have strong interests in the transport business in Punjab and have felt that the Transport Minister has not been performing as they expected.

Both Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon and Deputy Speaker Sat Pal Gosain are reportedly prevailing upon Badal to give them a cabinet berth in place of their current assignments. A section in the BJP has voiced a change in the portfolio of Health and Family Welfare Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla too. Similarly, Gulzar Singh Ranike may be divested of the sports portfolio as per party sources.

Meanwhile, Vikram Bajwa, in charge of the NRI Cell of the state BJP, disclosed that more than 79 per cent NRIs from Punjab have endorsed the elevation of Sukhbir as Deputy Chief Minister as he would bring a new thinking in rural thought, with most senior Akali leadership being out of touch with the computer age.


Tight security for Sukhbir’s swearing-in
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 19
Black Cat commandos have been deployed at the venue where swearing-in of Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy Chief Minister will be held on January 21 here. Additional security forces have been requisitioned from adjoining districts.

DGP NPS Aulakh, Darbara Singh Guru, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, and SR Ladhar, Commissioner, Jalandhar Division, held a meeting at Circuit House here to review the security arrangements at the venue. Bikramjit Singh Majithia, who has resigned from the cabinet to pave way for the induction of Sukhbir, has been making all out efforts to ensure a big crowd during the swearing-in. They visited the venue at Ranjit Avenue.

After initial hiccups, the local unit of the BJP, headed by Col Amrik Singh (retd), has started making arrangements to bring its cadre at the swearing-in. The local BJP president, however, said sitting MP Navjot Singh Sidhu would contest from the Amritsar constituency as his candidature had already been announced by the party high command. He further said in case the party high command gave Sidhu some other assignment even then the BJP would contest the Lok Sabha seat from Amritsar. Meanwhile, Majithia denied the rumours that he wanted to contest the coming Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar.

Will contest Amritsar seat: Sidhu

Sidhu, while talking to The Tribune, said come what may, he would contest from Amritsar. He said the love and affection of the people of Amritsar was in his life and blood. He said he had got everything while playing cricket and, hence, could not demand more than serving the voters of Amritsar.

“I cannot think of fighting election from any constituency but Amritsar,” he said. However, he said he would bow to the decision of the party if it wanted him to give some other assignment.

He said he was feeling hurt that a calculated media campaign had been launched to harm him politically.

Sidhu said he would attend the swearing-in as Sukhbir personally invited him to the function.


State BJP to attend function
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 19
Bowing down to the orders of its central command, state BJP leaders have made up their mind to attend the swearing-in of Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy CM in Amritsar on Wednesday.

Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia, for whom the BJP workers had been demanding the post, said since the national leadership of the party had approved of the government decision, he had decided to accept it readily.

“I am a disciplined soldier of the party. Whatever be the orders, I have to abide by them,” he said, adding that he, along with party workers, would attend the swearing-in function.

Other BJP MLAs are also planning to join in. KD Bhandari said he, along with five party MLAs from the region, had gone to Patna for a meeting and were now planning to take a train tomorrow to Amritsar for attending the function. “Since our national leaders have endorsed the decision, we cannot defy or ignore it,” he added.

District BJP president Ravi Mahendru said he had not yet received any instructions from the state leadership for attending the function. “If asked to join in, we will all go,” he said.


Badal’s step autocratic, says BJP leader
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 19
Despite clear instructions from the BJP top brass to attend the swearing-in of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, a section of the party is of the view that the induction of Sukhbir is an “autocratic and desperate” attempt by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to anoint his son ahead of the parliamentary polls.

Sukhminderpal Singh Grewal, chief of the Investors Cell of the BJP, said the development had already sent a clear signal to the masses that the ruling alliance was on a shaky ground and had virtually accepted defeat ahead of the polls.

He said although BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley has humbly accepted the senior Badal as an elder member in the extended SAD-BJP family, but one doubts whether SAD will extend a similar gesture if the Chief Minister steps down accepting moral responsibility for the debacle in the polls, to pave way for a BJP Chief Minister in the state.

In fact, Badal had been forced to do so since an intelligence report had projected defeat of the alliance in the polls.

Sukhbir’s elevation has not only demoralised the rank and file of the party, but has also resulted in a sense of desolation among them, he added.

The consensus of the BJP office-bearers should have been taken on such an important issue, especially with the polls round the corner.


Manpreet to plead for relief in lieu of foodgrain tax
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
On January 21, besides the swearing-in ceremony of Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy Chief Minister at Amritsar, the empowered committee of state finance ministers in New Delhi will discuss Punjab economy.

Finance Minister Manpreet Badal is likely to skip the ceremony and attend the empowered committee meeting .

The draft of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to be introduced in the country next year has rejected Punjab’s plea to retain the tax it collects from the sale of wheat and paddy. This means in the GST regime, Punjab stands to lose over Rs 200 crore a year.

Sources add given the state’s contribution to the country’s food security, Punjab would be compensated for the losses. This compensation mode is also being worked out and likely to be discussed at the meeting.

“Current revenue of every state will be secured in the GST regime. In food grains, we are expecting the tax rate to be higher than current 4 per cent. This increase will offset any potential loss to the state,” said A Venu Prasad, Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Punjab.

He added the state had asked the empowered committee to consider allowing Punjab to retain the 4 per cent purchase tax.

Initially, the empowered committee considered several models of GST being used in more than 100 countries. However, now it is almost final that India will follow the “dual levy” model as part of which GST will be charged at the Centre and state levels, but uniformly.

Manpreet said he would be attend the meeting on January 21 as it was crucial for the state. “Punjab’s point that it stands to lose crores in the new regime has to be made. We are demanding that the tax on food grains should not be subsumed by the Centre in the GST regime. In case this demand has been rejected, we should be there to work out a compensation model for Punjab,” he said.


Inside Babudom
JP Singh tipped as Adviser to Chd Administrator
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
Chief Secretary of Goa JP Singh, an alumnus of Panjab University, is being tipped as new Adviser to the Administrator of Chandigarh. The present incumbent, Pradeep Mehra, who was initially expected to swap places with JP Singh, may now go back to New Delhi as his new posting is yet to be decided.

While JP Singh belongs to the 1977 batch of the IAS, Mehra is of the 1975 batch. Mehra have had a stint as Adviser to the Administrator of Chandigarh also.

Of late, the Administrator, Gen SF Rodrigues (retd), and Adviser to the Administrator Pradeep Mehra had been locked in a controversy over various mega projects and other administrative issues.

These changes are being made as part of the major administrative reshuffle in union territories and among officers of the UT cadre. A couple of years ago, JP Singh was here to propagate and market the Goa film festival.

A gold medallist and graduate in mechanical engineering from the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, JP Singh also holds a Masters degree in economics from Panjab University. Mehra is also a product of the same university. JP Singh has held important positions in Delhi, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh as well as in the central government.

As the Collector of Goa from 1982 to 1985, he helped set up advanced infrastructure facilities for the Heads of Commonwealth Governments’ meeting in 1983. He was the Development Commissioner of Daman and Diu when heavy industrialisation took place.

JP Singh was the project director for the new Capital Township, Itanagar, in Arunachal Pradesh and subsequently for the Dwarka Township as well as the Housing Commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority.

Some years ago, as Industries Commissioner and the CMD of the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation, he was actively associated with the design and implementation of the relocation project for shifting 16,000 industries to about 4,000 acres on the periphery of Delhi.

JP Singh also served the Union Government. He remained Deputy Secretary-cum-Director in the Ministry of Steel. He was also in charge of policy formulation in respect of the raw materials sector. On elevation, he became Joint Secretary in the same Ministry and was assigned the Steel Development Wing where issues relating to international trade, safeguards and other WTO matters were being examined and policies formulated.

JP Singh was also responsible for formulating the industrial policy for Delhi in 1998 and the new steel policy in the Ministry of Steel.


PMET scam ‘has national dimension’
SIT arrests SMO, chemist

Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
Probe into the Pre-Medical Entrance Test (PMET)-2008 has unmasked an all-India network and bright students from Bihar were roped in to impersonate for candidates for the examination.

These imposters took the entrance examination for 30 candidates from Punjab who paid from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh each, depending on the “results” fetched by the imposters.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Ist India Reserve Battalion (IRB) Commandant LK Yadav, which is probing the case, is proceeding to arrest the parents of candidates who paid huge sums for their wards’ success. Four arrests were made in the case in two days. Last night SIT arrested senior medical officer (SMO) of Amloh Dr Surjit Singh and Fatehgarh Sahib-based chemist Ranjan Kumar.

Yadav said the SMO confessed that an imposter from Bihar had taken the PMET examination on behalf of his son Surpuneet Singh. Chemist Ranjan also disclosed that someone else had taken the test by faking identity of his son Ajay Kumar.

Yadav added that probe into the examination had revealed that national-level dimension of the scam with modules in different states. “There is coordination and deliberate disconnect between the gangs involved in this scam to give an impression that every module was is independent in itself,” he added.

SIT has sent a team to Patna in Bihar and also Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh from where bright students were roped in, lured and taken to Delhi, operational hub of the scam. He said imposters had been identified.

The observers at the examination centre at Patiala, where the PMET examination was held, are also being summoned under Section 160, CrPC, to probe whether they deliberately allowed imposters into the centre as photographs of genuine candidates were doctored to make them tally with those of the imposters. It is also being ascertained whether the examination staff facilitated copying during the examination.

Meanwhile, both accused Dr Surjit Singh and Ranjan Kumar, arrested last night, were today produced in a court at Faridkot which remanded them in police custody till January 22.



SAD Anandpur Sahib candidate begins campaign
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 19
Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, SAD candidate from the Anandpur Sahib parliamentary seat, today began his election campaign from Amb Sahib Gurdwara here this morning.

Indicative of factionalism in the party, Kiranbir Singh Kang, SAD youth wing president, and Jasjit Singh, chairman of Punjab Cooperative Bank, were conspicuous by their absence.

After paying his obeisance at the gurdwara, Dr Cheema, while commenting on the issue of factionalism, said being the adviser to the Chief Minister, he had been handling the factionalism and would take along all the leaders along.

On being asked the BJP leaders being annoyed over the recent developments in the SAD, he said there was no such resentment. “Even Avinash Rai Khanna, who was the prospective BJP candidate from Anandpur Sahib seat, has come in my support,” he said, while adding that development issues would be his priority. Problems of Kandi area, infrastructure development in Mohali and water problem in villages were his core areas of concern.


Cong may request PM to contest from Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 19
The Punjab Congress may formally request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar. A resolution in this regard is likely to be passed in the meeting of the Punjab Congress Coordination Committee, scheduled to be held tomorrow in Chandigarh.

Congress Working Committee member Iqbal Singh said Dr Singh had neither accepted nor denied the request of Congressmen.


Majithia’s resignation accepted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
The Governor, Gen SF Rodrigues (retd), has accepted the resignation of Public Relations and Science and Technology Minister Bikramjit Singh Majithia from the Council of Ministers, official sources said here today. The resignation was forwarded to the Governor by the Chief Minister's office this morning.

Majithia had resigned from the Cabinet yesterday to pave the way for SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal's entry into the Council of Ministers as Deputy Chief Minister.


Canal breaches in Malwa flood wheat fields, orchards
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 19
Wheat fields and orchards at many places in the Malwa belt were inundated today as the canals breached due to increased water level.

Crop in 250 acres were destroyed in Mehma Sarja and Kot Fatta areas. The canal breached in Chief Minister Parkash Singh’s Badal village last evening and was plugged by the Irrigation Department.

Pargat Singh farmer of Mehma Sarja village said wheat crop in his 10 acres was destroyed. Another farmer Ajmer Singh said gushing water damaged the crop in his five acres .A 20 -foot -wide breach occurred in the Kot Bhai canal at midnight and was noticed by farmers at 6.30 am when they informed the Irrigation Department. However, engineers reached there at 9.30 am and it took time to arrange labourers and sandbags to plug the breach.

About 220 cusecs of water was released in the distributary when it breached. Engineers claimed the released water was 50 cusecs less than the normal. They pointed out the demand for canal water was reduced to nil because of rain in two days as a result of which the farmers plugged the outlets in fields, increasing the water level that triggered the breach.

Some orchards and wheat fields were flooded near Kot Fatta due to breach in Phul canal in the morning. Reports of such breaches from other areas were also pouring in.


Thikriwala remembered
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 19
Paying rich tributes to great martyr and torch-bearer of the Riyasti Praja Mandal Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala on his 75th martyrdom day at his native Thikriwala village, 6 km from Barnala, MP from Sangrur Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa today asked the gathering to follow the path shown by martyrs to convert their dreams into reality. He said in the freedom movement Sikhs had played a vital role, but the successive Congress governments at the Centre had always deceived them by not fulfilling their demands. He participated in a three-day annual programme organised to commemorate the martyrdom of Thikriwala, who sacrificed his life for the freedom of the country in a Patiala jail 74 years ago.

Dhindsa said the state government had installed a life-size bronze statue of Thikriwala on the Barnala bypass, near Sanghera village, which would be unveiled by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal soon. Dhindsa also gave a cheque for Rs 20 lakh on behalf of the Chief Minister to the Thikriwala panchayat. He also assured the villagers that he would talk to the Chief Minister to get the remaining demands of the village fulfilled.

Earlier, chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal also paid tributes to Thikriwala. Bhadaur MLA Balbir Singh Ghunas, SGPC member Sant Baba Tek Singh Dhanaula, former MLAs Malkiat Singh Keetu and Gobind Singh Kanjhla, and Harpreet Kaur Barnala were also present.


Smuggling of narcotics, arms dips along border
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 19
Pakistan army build-up along the Indo-Pakistan border after Mumbai strikes has led to decline in smuggling from across the border.

Sources in the Special Narcotics Cell (SNC), Intelligence wing of the Punjab Police monitoring smuggling of drugs and arms today said drug-trafficking along the Indo-Pakistan border had come down due to Pakistan army’s build-up and exercises.

The sources said the black sheep in the Pakistan Rangers helped smuggling from vulnerable points, especially in the riverine belt, and the army taking over the border posts across the border had stopped such elements.

Meanwhile, the SNC and 130 Battalion of the BSF seized China-made arms and ammunition, including five .30-bore pistols, nine magazines and 12 bullets of .30-bore pistols from the area of BSF outpost Jhugian Noor Mohammad in Khem Karan sector. The consignment was concealed in a polythene bag. Smugglers have been using this area for quite some time and major seizures of heroin, fake Indian currency notes and arms, ammunition had been effected in the area in the past.


Distinction for Dr Sumeet Chugh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
Dr Sumeet Chugh, who graduated from Government Medical College, Patiala, in 1988, has been selected as a professor and associate director of Heart Institute and director of Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology at the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, USA. He is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of heart-rhythm abnormalities and is leading a ground-breaking research on sudden cardiac arrest. He is considered as a world leader in this field.

Unlike heart attacks, which are typically caused by clogged coronary arteries, sudden cardiac arrest is the result of defective electrical impulses in the heart - what Dr Chugh refers to as “the ultimate heart rhythm problem”.

Dr Chugh’s research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a collaborative grant with the Johns Hopkins-Reynolds Cardiovascular centre. He has published more than 130 articles and abstracts in professional journals.

According to a press note issued by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USA, Dr Chugh is respected internationally as a brilliant researcher with unsurpassed clinical skills. He has acquired vast experience in diagnoctic procedures, the use of pacemakers, defibrillators and biventricular devices, and the performance of radiofrequency ablation procedures to correct heart rhythm problems. Ablation techniques are used to interrupt defective nerve pathways that cause rhythm abnormalities.


Finally, students visit science city
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, January 19
Pushpa Gujral Science City was jam-packed today as finally, a batch of 3,600 government schoolchildren visited the science city today.

A spokesman for the science city told The Tribune that two teachers with 50 students and an in charge from every district education office was allowed free-of-cost entry in the science city. The science city management provided refreshment to the students from its own pocket.

As per the schedule provided by the education department, 3,000 to 4,000 students of Classes VI to XII are likely to visit the science city every day.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had sanctioned Rs 1.25 crore for the tours of students to the science city.

Though the sanctioning letter had already reached the authorities concerned, the visit was delayed for one or the other reason.

The school education department had approached the science city management urging it to allow 4,000 students daily for which payment would be made later on. On the other hand, the management told the department that it would not be possible to do so as issuance of entry tickets was computerised and the money would have to be deposited before entry.

Later, the Punjab Roadways and the PRTC authorities also refused to take the students without getting money in advance.

When The Tribune highlighted the issue, the matter was sorted out and the students succeeded in visiting the science city.


Industries secy to probe irregularities
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
The Punjab government has initiated a probe into allegations of corruption against director, Industries, VK Janjua. Principal Secretary, Industries, SS Channy will hold the probe.

Sources say some industrialists had complained that Janjua had indulged in corruption while disbursing subsidy to industrial units in the state. Some affidavits said the subsidy had been granted to units not even in production, while some deserving units had been denied subsidy.

The complaints were submitted to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at sangat darshans. These were forwarded to the Principal Secretary for probe into the issue.

Channy said the probe was on, but not concluded. The complainants had been called for hearing and their statements were being recorded, he said. Janjua said the complaints were false.

The SAD government distributed subsidy worth Rs 250 crore in two years out of which Rs 100 crore was distributed in Janjua’s tenure.


Rajasansi: No Singapore flights from Feb 2
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, January 19
Singapore Airlines will stop flights from here from February 2. But Rs 140- crore modernisation and expansion project under way is likely to be commissioned soon.

Senior manager of Singapore Airlines Ang said it had been decided to terminate thrice-a-week flights for reasons like lack of cargo and J class load. There was no move to review the decision though they would like to continue the operations as they were getting sufficient economy class load.

Earlier, Jet Airways had stopped daily Amritsar-London flights in November last year, to the chagrin of NRI diaspora and vegetable exporters.

Meanwhile, the Goair has decided to launch flights from February 15 connecting the holy city with Mumbai and Srinagar. Traders and industrialists have hailed Goair for connecting the city with Mumbai and Jammu and Kashmir. Airport authority officials have yet to receive the flight operation schedule. 


Winter school on generic skills begins
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 19
A five-day winter school on generic skills development sponsored by the All-India Council for Technical Education, New Delhi, and the Union Ministry for Human Resource and Development, in collaboration with the National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR), Chandigarh, today began at the Bhai Gurdas Institute of Engineering and Technology (BGIET) here. It was inaugurated by director, NITTTR, SC Larohia and chairman, Bhai Gurdas Group of Institutions, Hakam Singh Jawandha.

Stressing upon the importance of soft skills, Dr Larohia highlighted the contents of various sessions. Prof PK Singla and Dr KM Rastogi also shared their views with the participants.


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