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Slash fuel prices now, say truckers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 24
The All-India Motor Transport Congress, which spearheaded truckers’ agitation across the country about two weeks ago, have served another ultimatum on the union government asking it to either slash diesel price or face an agitation from February 16, the day Parliament session begins.

President of the congress Charan Singh Lohara, who was arrested in connection with the agitation, told The Tribune on Friday that the union government was deliberately delaying the decision on slashing the price of diesel and petrol.

Urging the Centre to issue a white paper on the revenue earned through the petroleum business during the past several months, Lohara said the government authorities had misled the people by projecting huge losses to oil companies. He said as the price of petrol had gone up to Rs 55 per litre and that of diesel to Rs 40 per litre, the collection through various taxes on petrol and diesel had enhanced several fold.

In fact, the government is even misleading people by telling them that it is giving petrol and diesel on subsidy. On the one hand it gives subsidy while on the other it is taken away by way of charging more tax on petrol and diesel. The Centre has imposed various taxes based on the price of petrol and diesel and not its quantity.

Questioning the system of toll tax, Lohara said every truckers paid Rs 2 per litre as road development tax. He pays Rs 180 per day as road development tax and in a month it comes to about 5,500. Where that money meant for roads is used when roads are built on a BOT basis by private companies and they are allowed to charge toll, he asked. Besides, truckers had to pay road tax, national permit fee and other charges. A truck owner has to pay about Rs 20,000 as toll tax per month.

He said under pressure from Reliance Petroleum Limited, the union government wanted to deregulate the oil prices.

Meanwhile, the Centre has proposed to set up a committee under the chairmanship of Transport Secretary Brahm Dutt. Other members of the committee will be Finance Secretaries of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Transport Commissioners of Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The Congress has been asked to send names of four persons to be put on the committee, which will look into the rationalisation of various taxes on vehicles and other issues related to the national permit system.

The government has already asked the Commerce Ministry to withdraw 14 per custom duty on imported radial tyres.

 

Thermal Power Plants in Private Sector
‘Only one may come up in time’ 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been claiming the state becoming power surplus in three to four years, but PSEB engineers claimed the chance of only one of the four “dream” private thermal plant projects seeing the light of day by 2012 was remote.

The Board Engineers Association, in a letter to the Chief Minister, which has been uploaded on its website, claims for a turn around in the board the state should also to take up the establishment of thermal plants for which funds can be raised by reducing power purchase and introducing nominal tariff for agricultural sector.

The association claims the PSEB be allowed to establish the 1,320 MW Rajpura thermal plant project for which Rs 270 crore is needed over four years. It says it will be easy for a government, ready to pay annual subsidy of Rs 2,600 crore to the PSEB, to arrange this money.

Only one company, Lanco, has responded with tariff of Rs 3.38, which will now be decided by the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC). It has also proposed to take up the 2,640 MW Gidderbaha plant as joint venture with the NTPC.
Association president HS Bedi said the letter stated out of the other three projects given to the private sector, the Talwandi Sabo thermal plant awarded to Vedanta group was yet to start with the group announcing cut in investment. The GVK project at Goindwal Sahib was also having disputes with the company approaching the Appellate Tribunal against the PSERC decision on capital cost. The Gidderbaha project was yet to take off after receiving poor response from the bidders. 
Quoting official data of the Central Electricity Authority, the association maintained only the 540 MW Goindwal Sahib plant had been included in the list of projects likely to be completed before March 2012.

The association also suggested establishment of a 1,000 MW gas power station at Doraha. It proposes saving from over Rs 6,000 crore annual power purchase bill, imposing a nominal cess of 10 paise per unit and utilisation of Rs 650 crore electricity duty. 

 

Deputy CM’s hoardings deface city
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 24
Heritage lovers feel upset at the disrespect shown to a national monument by erecting big hoardings and banners by the Akali Dal to felicitate Sukhbir Singh Badal on his induction as the Deputy Chief Minister.

The ruling party did not spare even the historic Jallianwala Bagh. Its entry gate has been eclipsed with a huge billboard and banner, covering the signage.

The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Committee is headed by the Prime Minister of the country. The Union Ministry of Culture recently decided to renovate the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial and its main entry was renovated.

The SAD also violated the directions of the Supreme Court, which had banned installation of such hoardings on the GT Road. A large hoarding can be seen on the overbridge outside the railway station.

Almost all roundabouts of the holy city have also been covered with the banners put up on behalf of MLAs, ministers and councillors.

Even the luminous boards indicating directions to important places of the city have not been spared and eclipsed at many points by hoardings with photographs of political leaders hailing the induction of Sukhbir as Deputy CM.

BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shavet Malik, mayor of the municipal corporation, recently launched a drive to remove the hoardings of politicians in the city. Sidhu had taken the initiative to remove his own posters near the Golden Temple The BJP MP had asked the mayor to issue notices to those who had put up big business hoardings on their highrise buildings, visible from the Golden Temple complex.

However, deputy commissioner KS Pannu said the city, especially heritage buildings, would be cleared of the banners of political parties soon.

A large number of unipoles with huge advertising hoardings have also occupied almost all pavements in complete violation of the Supreme Court orders.

Students observe strike

Sangrur (TNS) The Punjab Students Union (PSU) on Friday reportedly got a good response from students when they observed one-day strike across the state against the government move to “tamper with the heritage building of Jallianwala Bagh”.

In a press statement, the PSU state president Gurmukh Singh Mann and general secretary Dharminder Patran said students observed strike at various places across the state, including Patiala, Nabha, Rajpura, Patran, Sangrur, Ropar, Mastuana, Sandaur, Barnala, Sunam, Malerkotla, Dhuri, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Garh Shankar, Samrala, Kapurthala, Phagwara, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Batala and Ludhiana.

The student leaders said Jallianwala Bagh was a symbol of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim unity and a great source of inspiration for those who were struggling against government’s imperialistic policies.

The state-level rally which would be organised on February 12 at Amritsar would set a milestone in Punjab history, they added. 

 





 

Sukhbir’s R-Day speech in Amarinder bastion
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 24
The Yadvindra Public School (YPS) grounds, owned and managed by the family of Captain Amarinder Singh and Patiala, are all set to receive Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal amid gala arrangements like a full-scale escort by the Cavalry Unit of the Punjab police on Badal’s first visit to the city after his elevation.

Interestingly, the YPS grounds of the oldest and the most prestigious school of Patiala, is situated at a stone’s throw from Moti Bagh palace-the residence of Captain Amarinder. While Sukhbir would be delivering his first Republic Day speech from the YPS podium, it could be clearly audible in the nearby palace and the areas falling within the vicinity.

It was not that the venue of YPS was particularly selected for its close location to the Moti Bagh palace, the place has already witnessed a number of Republic Day functions for its sprawling lawns and serene environs.

It was a different matter that the enthused SAD workers and leaders, in their own right, were, however, trying to establish a link between the place and the SAD chief’s programme with overtones suggesting that Sukhbir’s loud voice would be heard in the palace-and obviously its owner. Political pundits were seemingly going a step ahead when they put the things in their peculiar own manner suggesting that the selection of the city was a crucial decision of the SAD and that it was indicative of the SAD chief’s tough resolve to throw a challenge to its arch rival for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

As per the protocol, Sukhbir would be reaching Patiala by Sunday evening and would be staying for the night at the local Circuit House. He would proceed to the YPS grounds in the morning and would reach there by 9.55 am. Upon his arrival at a chowk near the YPS entry, a contingent of Cavalry unit of the Punjab police would escort him to the venue amid welcome by the police band and cultural programmes put up by schoolchildren. He would be unfurling the national flag at 9.58 am.

Meanwhile, the Punjab police and the administration is leaving no chance in respect of security of the VVIP. The venue was personally inspected by ADGP Chander Shekhar, DIG Parmjit Gill and SSP SK Asthana, while sniffer dogs and explosive experts were pressed into service by the police authorities this evening as a precautionary measure. All routes leading the venue have been sealed.

A full-dress rehearsal was put up this evening and was inspected by Vikas Garg, district commissioner, Patiala.

 

Govt to bail out power board, says Manpreet 
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 24
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal highlighted the role of the private sector in bringing the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) out of the red. He said that private sector could play a pivotal role in setting up new power generation plants in collaboration with PSEB.

Badal was here to preside over the annual function of the Government Mohindra College and was interacting informally with newspersons on the sidelines of the function.

He said the Punjab government was committed to bailing out PSEB out of financial crisis and with a view to relieving the problems of the board, the government had reimbursed subsidy worth Rs 2,900 crore to the board which it had spent on account of free power supply to the agriculture sector.

Manpreet said the government was happy with the present system of the Punjab government lotteries and said that there was no proposal to make the lotteries of the state online. The finance minister said power generation, education and health were the priority areas of the government and these were also the thrust areas in the annual plan sent to the Union government. He said compared to last year plan of Rs 6,200 crore, this year’s plan had been pegged at Rs 7,500 crore.

He lauded the leadership qualities of new Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal who, he hoped, would give a new direction to the development of the state. Manpreet said he could not make it to the swearing in of Sukhbir Badal since his chopper had developed a snag. 

 

CPI (ML) to contest 3 LS seats
Announces Sangrur, Bathinda candidates
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 24
The CPI (ML), a Naxalite party, has decided to contest three constituencies in the forthcoming Lok Sabha (LS) elections in Punjab. This decision has been taken by the party to give a boost to its revolutionary struggle and stake a claim of its red flag’s independent supremacy in political circles of the country.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the party held under the presidentship of a central committee member of the CPI (ML) Swapan Mukherjee here last evening. The meeting was also attended by state secretary Rajwinder Rana, secretariat member Tarsem Jodhan, state committee members Bhagwant Singh Samao, Harbhagwan Bhikhi and Sher Singh Dhandoli.

Talking to this reporter today, Harbhagwan Bhikhi said the party had decided to contest the LS elections from Sangrur and Bathinda constituencies so far, while an announcement regarding the name of the third seat and its candidate would be made in February. He said Jodhan would be its candidate for Sangrur seat and Samao from Bathinda. He said the party would start its election campaign soon to give a tough fight to other parties as it had a mass base in these districts.

Bhikhi said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was only concerned with promoting his family in political power circles, while labourers, farmers and youth, who were facing unemployment and debt-like problems, had been largely ignored. He asked people to come forward and extend support to the candidates of the CPI (ML) for bringing a change in the existing social, political and economic set-up. 

 
 


Consumer forums in Punjab reel under staff crunch
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums in various districts in Punjab are facing shortage of staff and infrastructure, said Justice Ashok Bhan, president of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Elaborating on it, Justice Bhan said the forums were facing shortage of staff and the infrastructure at these forums was also not up to the mark. Moreover, the members of the forums were not sufficiently paid, he added. “Members of the forum are meagerly paid. Each member is paid an amount of Rs 500 per day, which turns out to be Rs 12,000 per month. We need to work on improving the facilities being provided to the members of the forum.”

On the methodology being followed by the forums to reduce the pendency of cases, Justice Bhan said the practice of disposing cases in groups would be implemented soon. Specifying on the criteria to be followed, he asserted that the cases with similar facts or those similar in nature would be clubbed together and order pronounced in one such case could be applicable to all.

Justice Bhan was in town to inaugurate the second Bench in the Punjab Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The forum had taken up the matter with the government of Punjab for the creation of second Bench for the last five years as the number of appeals in the court was piling up. The government finally gave its sanction on September 3, 2008. The newly appointed member in the additional bench is Piare Lal Garg while Jasbir Kapoor has been appointed as the presiding officer of the second bench. However, the post of judicial member is in process of being filled. Three new forums have been sanctioned for the districts of Mohali and TaranTaran.

 

Uninterrupted power on Jan 22 was sheer luck: PSEB chief
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, January 24
Uninterrupted power supply in the state on the day Sukhbir Badal was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister (January 22) was just a matter of luck and coincidence, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) chairman HS Brar said. He added that by chance Punjab had surplus power that day. "And it happened to be the Deputy CM's coronation and power was given the whole day," he said.

Brar was here to pay obeisance at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib. He denied that the PSEB had bought electricity for political interest, saying it was public's convenience that mattered. However, sources claimed that on January 22, the PSEB overdrew power from the national grid and procured 20 lakh units from Himachal. Also, instead of ensuring six-hour power supply to the farm sector, only four-hour supply was given.

Brar said a day before Sukhbir's coronation it had been raining, which led to decreased power consumption and later ensured uninterrupted power supply the next day.

As per arrangement, the PSEB borrows electricity from Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Himachal, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra in summers and returns it in winters.

As part of strategy to restore financial health of the board, Brar said it had been mooted to downsize the board staff. "For instance, I had an officer on special duty and other staff, who have been relieved of this charge. I can manage with the staff provided to me. Similarly, employees on deputation in the PSEB from other departments may be done away with," Brar added. He said cuts were being imposed to return electricity bought in summers. The PSEB will continue to give electricity till February 28.

“Keeping in mind the summer, we are propagating the use of CLF lamps replacing bulbs,” he said. The PSEB will convert 350 villages to complete CFL users and 190 of these have 100 per cent CFL lamps. Demand for power in the state is 925 lakh units and 815 units are being supplied. Brar hopes to ensure total supply in one year.

Also Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib will be provided hotline connection. There is a proposal of Rs 14.85 lakh, of which Rs 5.25 lakh has been collected with people’s help. Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda) is already getting 24-hour power supply.

 

Inside Babudom
Sukhbir opts for Aujla as Sports Secy
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has opted for a new Secretary for Youth Affairs and Sports. It is his first administrative order.

The present incumbent, Rajinder Partap Singh Pawar, a 1975 batch officer, has paved way for Paramjit Singh Aujla of the 1994 to take the additional charge.

The immediate provocation for replacing RPS Pawar, sources reveal, is the hosting of the first Punjab Gold Cup Hockey Tournament in Chandigarh from January 31 to February 9.

This tournament, feautring Olympic champions Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and India, will be organised by the Punjab Sports Department.

Sukhbir Badal, who is also the new Sports Minister, wants Punjab to play a pivotal role in reviving hockey.

The Punjab Gold Cup is a first major prize money tournament that has been cleared by the International Hockey Federation. Incidentally, the earlier Punjab Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Gulzar Singh Ranike, and the Sports Secretary, RPS Pawar, were reportedly not very keen on hosting the tournament.

Paramjit Singh Aujla, considered close to Sukhbir Singh Badal, had been a sportsman himself as he played basketball for Punjab.

Sources reveal that when Sukhbir took the first meeting of the organising committee this morning, Pawar attended it. Subsequently, the Deputy CM reportedly asked the Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh to give the additional charge of youth affairs and sports to Paramjit Singh Aujla.

Since yesterday was the last day for completion of revision of electoral rolls in Punjab, the administrative reshuffle is expected any time now. Since Deputy Commissioners are Returning Officers in Lok Sabha elections, they cannot be shifted midway during revision of electoral rolls. The Punjab Government is now expected to approach the Election Commission for clearance of its proposed administrative reshuffle, both in the civil administration as well as the police department.

 

Health camps to mark Republic Day celebrations
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The Department of Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, has decided to dedicate Republic Day celebrations to the health care needs of women, children and patients in hospitals. A meeting under the chairpersonship of Health Minster, Punjab, Laxmi Kanta Chawla.

Chawla had desired that the department should celebrate such events by providing special medical facilities to people of the state on the lines of August 15, 2008, celebrations by the department.

Dr SPS Sohal, Director, Health, said the department would organise a three-day special campaign starting from today. Today nearly 75,800 persons were examined at 300 camps organised in the state in all civil hospitals and community health centres. He said medicines were given to patients free of cost, besides conducting laboratory tests.

On January 25, special health camps will be organised in slums/backward/border areas/far-flung areas in all districts to provide medical check-up of people with emphasis on check-up of women and children. Laboratory services will be free of cost at these camps and medicines will be provided. Dr Sohal added that all civil surgeons had been directed to depute women doctors and paediatricians at these camps.

On January 26, all senior officers from the state headquarters will hoist the national flag at various health institutions of districts and also interact with patients in hospitals.

He said Chawla would visit Faridkot and Moga, AR Talwar, Principal Secretary, Jalandhar and Amritsar, MS Sandhu, MD, PHSC, Barnala and Muktsar, Satish Chandra, MD, NRHM, Ferozepur and Tarn Taran, CS Talwar, Additional Secretary, Mansa and Bathinda, Dr YC Markan Mohali and Kapurthala and he Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur.

 

BSF troops seize fake currency
Our Correspondent

Ferozepur, January 24
Alert troops of 43 Battalion, BSF, today foiled another attempt by Pakistani agencies to push fake currency inside the Indian territory. According to BSF sources, the troops on night patrol along the zero line of the border noticed some unusual movement through their sophisticated night vision devices near border pillar No. 214/13 close to border outpost Daulat Ram Dina Nath. They immediately sounded an alert and at the first light of the morning, a search operation was launched.

DIG, BSF, Ferozepur Sector, ML Wassan said during the search operation, the troops recovered a packet hidden in the fields between the barbed fencing and the zero line of the Indo-Pakistan border.

The DIG further said the fake Indian currency, worth lakhs of rupees, was found from the packet. In all, an amount of Rs 9,96,500, in denomination of 1,000, 500 and 100-rupee fake notes, were recovered. He said 498 notes of Rs 1,000, 797 notes of Rs 500 and 1,000 notes of Rs 100 were seized.

 

Class X to have 7 subjects
Sheetal Chawla
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 24
To make school education more meaningful, the Punjab School Education Board has decided to introduce seven subjects in class X from the academic session 2009.

Mathematics and science will be made compulsory subjects. Under the existing system, a student failing in one subject, including mathematics and science, could be promoted to the next class.

Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon, chairman of the Punjab School Education Board, today said the new system was being introduced to raise the standard of education. The seven subjects are English, Punjabi, Hindi, mathematics, science, social science and computers.

The students will be taught six compulsory subjects with computer education as elective subject. They will have to clear all six subjects.

Dr Dhillon said science and mathematics were being made compulsory. He revealed that more than 90 per cent students in border areas of Punjab were not appearing in the mathematics examination.

When pointed out that the CBSE had five subjects for class X, Dr Dhillon said, "We want to have better education than the CBSE." He added that modalities of the proposed system were being finalised.

Dr Dhillon said the semester system would be introduced for classes IX and XI from session 2009.

The state Education Department had suggested to the board to introduce seven subjects in class X a few months ago on the plea that the teaching of Hindi was necessary for Punjabi students to get jobs in other states. The teaching of computers has also become the need of 21st century. Punjabi being the official language of Punjab has already been made compulsory for all classes.

 

Fake Passport Scam
2 Chandigarh-based travel agents held
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 24
The police arrested two Chandigarh-based travel agents from their residences in Kharar in the fake passport scam on Thursday night. A local court has sent them to police remand.

SHO of Badhni Kalan police station Nachattar Singh told The Tribune that a woman identified as Kulwinder Kaur, daughter of Gurpal Singh of Rania village, made two passports with the same photograph, but with different names.

The first passport was made in 2005 on the name of Lakhveer Kaur and the second in 2008 of Kulwinder Kaur. The photographs were of the same woman.

Subsequently, two passports were issued by the Regional Passport Office, Chandigarh.

A case was registered in Badhni Kalan police station on January 8, this year, in this regard, said the SHO.

It was found that the woman applied for the second passport through the Singh Brothers travel agency having its office near the RPO office in Sector 34, Chandigarh.

The police raided the residences of the partners of the travel agency and arrested two travel agents, Hakam Singh, son of Amar Singh of Janta Nagar, Kharar, and Harmeet Singh, son of Ajaib Singh of Dashmesh Nagar, Kharar, late last night.

The main accused Kulwinder, her father Gurpal Singh and one Tarlochan Singh, who verified her antecedents, were still at large.

 





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