P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Anandpur Sahib pact row needless, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Referring to the controversy over the Anandpur Sahib Resolution as needless, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has always stood for the unity and integrity of the country and will continue to remain in the forefront to defend it.

“The SAD has always taken pride in being a party of great patriots and has made unparalleled sacrifices both for the independence of the country and for its defence since 1947. Any attempt to create misunderstandings about our true position on a strong and united India is the result of lack of understanding or of vested political motives,” the Chief Minister said in a statement issued here yesterday.

Referring to what he described as “needless controversy” about the resolution in some newspaper reports, Badal said the SAD had only demanded more fiscal powers for the states to make them financially strong.

He said the SAD’s demand for more financial and administrative powers for the states had been fully endorsed by all national and regional parties. It had also been vindicated by various commissions set up by the government of India for the decentralisation of fiscal powers and for recasting a formula for the devolution of funds.

The Chief Minister categorically stated, “Let no one try to create any confusion on the subject. The SAD always was, is and will remain the sword arm of the country and the party has stood for a strong India capable of assuming its role as a leader in the international comity of nations. Efforts by some vested interests to create confusion about the demand for more fiscal powers would not be allowed to succeed,” he said.


Sukhbir prefers to keep mum
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 1
Unlike his diplomatic and serene father, who makes it a point to seem to reply to even unsavoury queries, Badal Jr is a bit “lordly” when faced with unpleasant questions from mediapersons.

This was evident here yesterday when the SAD chief in the new role of Deputy Chief Minister paid his maiden visit to the city. So much so that he had to be cajoled by a section of the media to sit through the press conference with the promise that questions on the Anandpur Sahib resolution would not be posed again. This was done after he immediately got up on hearing the very first question on the 

“I have come to your city first time after becoming Deputy Chief Minister and you are asking me such questions,” he objected before getting up to leave the venue.

Only after when mediapersons assured him that they would not ask any further question on the resolution, Sukhbir agreed to sit back to reply on other issues.

In fact, journalists were taken aback at his refusal to entertain queries on this crucial subject that is being touted as one of the main poll planks of the Akalis. They were expecting that the SAD chief would spell out the nuances of the matter and clear the issue once and for all.

This at a time after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal stated last week that he would make the NDA understand the importance of the resolution for Punjab.

“You see, as per the demand of the resolution, states should be given more financial powers, which is even advocated by the other states also. What is the harm in it, as every state has a right to get its due from the Centre”, he added.

Asked about his comments on other issues in the resolution, which was vehemently objected to by the BJP and even its prime ministerial candidate LK Advani in his book “My Country My Life” as a separatist activity, Sukhbir preferred to remain quiet.


News Analysis
Sood resigns to uphold values
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
After suspending four officials, including a staff nurse, junior doctor and principal of Rajendra medical College Hospital - Minister for Health Education,Punjab, Tikshan Sood has taken the moral responsibility for factors, both under and beyond control, that led to tragic demise of five children yesterday.

“Since I am the minister of the department concerned, I own the moral responsibility for the entire tragic episode. I had made up my mind yesterday evening itself and informed Balbir Punj, who looks Punjab affairs in the BJP. I followed it up by sending him a fax message,” says Tikshan Sood holding that his “conscience did not allow him to continue as a minister after such a gory incident.”

He says that there is no need for him to send a copy of his resignation to the president of the Punjab unit of the party, Rajinder Bhandari.” As a loyal soldier of the party, I have informed the party high command. Since Balbir Punj looks after Punjab affairs, I thought it appropriate to forward my resignation to him.

Tikshan Sood admits that he had a brief meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal during his visit to Patiala hospital today. “But we did not discuss my resignation at that brief meeting. Rather, it was a chance meeting as Sukhbir Singh Badal had come for an on-the-spot study of the incident.

Tikshan Sood says that now it is for the party to decide when to send his resignation to the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. “My decision is influenced by my commitment to hold rich political traditions of owning up moral responsibility of such unpardonable acts.

There are factors that are under administrative control and there are other factors that are beyond our control. This has been a case where both types of factors were prima facie under play, adds Sood. “I took action against all - from the lowest level official to the highest - holding everyone, including myself responsible for this unfortunate incident. How can you allow such tragedies to be swept under the carpet? Inquiry will bring out the truth.”

Besides the overcrowding of wards, scarcity of funds and diminishing administrative control are the factors usually quoted as reasons when such tragedies take place.

Though it is the first incident of its kind that has hit the state government-run medical college-cum-hospital, functioning of the healthcare system in public domain has been under severe criticism.


‘Politics’ behind neglect of Patiala hospital
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Medical Education Minister Tikshan Sood’s conscience may have been pricked but apparently not to that extent as the minister has chosen to submit his resignation to his party rather than to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The minister “faxed” his resignation to BJP’s Punjab in charge Balbir Punj in Delhi rather than sending the two-line note to the Chief Minister here.

According to sources, the minister faxed his letter to Punj late last night. The resignation letter states that since he was inducted into the cabinet from the BJP quota, he felt it fit that the party should forward his resignation to the Chief Minister.

“Work on the upgrade of the Government Rajindra Medical College and Hospital was to start this year,” Sood said, adding that this decision had been taken by the Chief Minister himself. Upgrade work done at the hospital last year included outsourcing expensive diagnostic equipment like CT scan, he added.

Meanwhile, sources said politics could also be responsible for the state of affairs at the hospital with its former Principal Kiranjit Kaur being identified with the previous government of Capt Amarinder Singh. They said the institute, which had seen some modernisation done during Amarinder’s regime in Out Patient Department (OPD), has suffered during the present SAD-BJP tenure.

Besides, administrative functioning of the department is at its lowest ebb with senior most officers more engaged in settling scores by forcibly retiring their colleagues rather than giving any inspiring leadership. Joint Director PPS Cooner was forced into retirement yesterday at the age of 58 years even though he had asked to be transferred to a teaching department where the retirement age is 60. 


Patiala Tragedy
No danger to injured infants
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 1
The parents of the four infants, who have survived the fire in the Paediatrics wing of the Government Medical College and Rajindra Hospital here, are hopeful of their early recovery.

Ironically, the four newborns, who survived the fire, have been put under special care by the hospital authorities with a number of VVIPs, including Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, visiting the hospital to enquire after them. Five infants had perished in the fire while one critically injured infant had been shifted to the PGI, Chandigarh.

The hospital authorities have formed a four-member board of experts, including Dr Avtar Singh, Dr KC Garg, Dr Parbhat Sobha, to provide special treatment to the infants who, otherwise, were also suffering from jaundice.

Malkit Singh, a businessman based in Anand Nagar, had been shocked when he was informed this morning that his seven-day-old daughter was caught in the fire. But, now, he is a bit relaxed as the experts have told him that like other injured infants his daughter has also suffered only 10 per cent burns. “God has saved her life and I am thankful for that. Now, we are looking forward for her early recovery. She had suffered burns on her right thigh,” said a beaming Malkit while his wife Kuldip Kaur said she was sad and happy at the same time. “When I think loss of other parents, I turn sad, but the moment I turn to my child I happy a bit for she is apparently out of danger now,” said Kuldip, staring at her child through the pane of ward where none was allowed except for the experts treating the kids.

Patiala-based artisan Raju’s daughter, who was born on January 30, was also recovering at a fast pace. She, it was learnt, had suffered burns on the right foot. “Though, we cannot go and fondle our daughter, the doctors have told us that she is all right and this information has brought a lot of happiness to our family,” said Raju and his wife Gudia.

Doctors attending the injured infants said: “There is no need for parents of the injured infants to panic. All children are safe as far as burns are concerned. Plastic surgeons are treating them. All they have suffered are some blisters. While all of them are suffering from jaundice, one of them is afflicted by deep jaundice, which, though poses a slight degree of danger. Anyway, we are putting in our best of efforts,” said a senior hospital official.

While, the alleged negligence took lives of five infants on Sunday wee hours, the situation at the hospital is different now. Special care is being accorded to little patients, particularly after a number of VVIPs visited the hospital. “Had the same care been taken earlier there would have been no tragedy at all,” rued one of the parents.


Docs may lose right to practise
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
A well-intentioned, but legally questionable move by the Punjab Medical Council, could translate into most allopathic doctors in the state losing their right to practise by the end of this month, if they fail to comply with the council’s directive to re-register.

Initially proposed with the objective of upgrading the state doctors’ register, the council has sought the Punjab government’s nod to make re-registration of doctors every five years mandatory.

Besides, the council requires doctors to accumulate certain number of hours of continued medical education programmes to be eligible. The move has, however, not gone very well with a majority of 38,000 odd medical doctors in the state that feel that it not only violates the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act, 1956, but is also an attempt by the Punjab Medical Council (PMC) to accumulate powers that are not enshrined in it under any statute.

PMC president Dr Man Mohan Singh, however, denied this and said: “We have the legal sanction of the Punjab government vide notification number 11/47/2007-3HB32749 dated April 29, 2008. We can get other legal aspect examined”.

Punjab is the only state that is going ahead with the renewal process on the basis of a notification without amending a central Act. Based on a recommendation of the PMC to update the medical register, the state government notified the move, but what it failed to appreciate was that it was not empowered to undertake such an exercise as it violated the MCI Act, 1956, that registers a doctor for life and does not have any conditions attached.

“No doubt, the PMC may have noble intentions, but can it violate an Act of Parliament?” question most doctors.

Dr Man Mohan Singh said the PMC had not sent out any individual notices to doctors, but took out a public notice in some newspapers on September 7, 2008, that gave a schedule ordering “renewal or registration after every five years”.

The notice reads, “The Governor of Punjab is pleased to notify that every ‘registered medical practitioner’ shall get his registration renewal after 5 years and must obtain 50 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME), 10 hours per year, on the payment of renewal fee. The fee shall be Rs 500 for each five years and as amended from time to time. In the absence of such renewal, the registration of the ‘registered medical practitioner’ will be suspended with the expiry of the registration”. February 28, 2009, is the last date for submitting applications.

Dr BS Shah, a member of the PMC, said the purpose was to update the register since the number of doctors had risen from 700 in 1947 to nearly 40,000 today. The register needs to remove people who had passed away, retired or moved overseas in the past 62 years.

Doctors say this will increase the role of pharmaceutical companies in medical services, as it is the drug manufacturing companies that mainly organise and sponsor such CMEs.


Centre sets up panel to review toll system
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 1
Acting on demands of the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the union government has set up a high-level committee to monitor and review the toll-collection system on all national highways. It will also review the condition of public-funded toll roads and look into minimising the waiting time at toll palazas and setting up a mechanism to collect and redress public grievances with regard to the toll collection.

The committee will be headed by Brijeshwar Singh, chairman of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Besides four members, Charan Singh Lohara, president of the transport congress, and its other office-bearers JL Khanna, Gopal Naidu and Ramesh Aggarwal, the committee will have representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Surface Transport, Planning Commission, members of NHAI and other union government organisations.

Lohara told The Tribune that the committee had been set up on a permanent basis and would meet once in three months to submit inspection report to the union government authorities.

Another committee, the meeting of which would be held at Transport Bhavan on February 4, had been set up under the chairmanship of Brahm Dutt, Secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport. It comprised representatives of the transport congress, Ministry of Finance and other union government organisations besides Transport Commissioners and Transport Secretaries of certain states. It would look into the problems highlighted by truckers during their recent strike.

Meanwhile, Lohara, who is also member of the National Road Safety Council, has asked the Punjab government to make public the names of the members of the State Road Safety Council and to give details of meetings held by it in recent months.

Challenging the statement given by the Punjab government at a meeting of the National Road Safety Council held recently in New Delhi, Lohara said he was not aware of the existence of any road safety council in the state and any of a meeting held by it to discuss measures to check the increasing number of accidents. At the Delhi meeting, the Punjab government had informed the union government that it had a safety council. The incidence of road accidents is very high in Punjab.

“At least I am not aware of any such council. Though I represent such a vast body of truckers, I have no knowledge that such a council held any meeting,” said Lohara, who had attended the Delhi meeting.

“In fact, I challenged the Punjab’s claim regarding road safety council in the state made at the Delhi meeting,” he added. As the Punjab team of officials, led by Transport Minister Mohan Lal, had reached just a few minutes before the conclusion of the meeting in Delhi, it was Lohara who spoke in detail with regard to the problems faced by road users in Punjab.


Punjab farmer for Rs 1,768 as wheat MSP
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Punjab farmer needs a minimum support price of Rs 1,768 per quintal for his wheat produce in order to post a 15 per cent profit, according to a study conducted by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal).

The study says that an average farmer, with a holding of 10 acre, spends Rs 27,699 per acre to produce a single crop of wheat. The study, however, assumes a cost of Rs 12,000 for taking land on lease for the crop maintaining. It does not take into account electricity and water charges as well as the cost of organic manure used by farmers.

BKU (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal, while talking about the study with TNS, said as much as Rs 1,800 was spent per acre on tilling land. He said following this the per acre seed and sowing expenses, which included the value of seeds, insecticide for treating seeds and cost of sowing with seed drill, came up to Rs 1,690 per acre.

The farmer leader said per acre expenses of fertilisers and pesticides came to Rs 2,685 which included cost of urea, DAP, zinc sulphate and potash, besides pesticides as well as sulphur and manganese supplements.

Rajewal said though Punjab farmer was getting free power for his water, the fact that the water table in the state was decreasing every year and that each farmer needed to go in for a fresh deep bore every five years, was not taken into account. He said this cost came to around Rs 1.70 lakh and when calculated on a per acre basis, came to Rs 17,000.

He also detailed that harvesters took a minimum of Rs 650 per acre to harvest the crop. He has calculated the permanent labour cost of the average farmer at Rs 1,900 per acre. This includes irrigation and cleaning of water channels, spraying insecticides and fertilisers.

Unexpected costs and managerial expenses have been calculated at Rs 3,430 per acre and include ranging for pesticides and fertilizers. Cost of interest for money taken by farmers to buy inputs has been calculated at Rs 1,372 per acre.

Rajewal said average yield of wheat per acre in Punjab was 14 quintals but if one took into account better management, this could go up to 18 quintals per acre.

He said though the Dr Swaminathan Commission had recommended that a farmer should be able to earn a 50 per cent profit even if he was allowed a profit of only 15 per cent, the minimum support price should be Rs 1,768 per quintal.



CM trying to shift focus from Sukhbir: Cong
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Sangat (Bathinda), February 1
Though Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has now been terming the row over the Anandpur Sahib Resolution a needless controversy, the Congress is in no mood to let the controversy die down.

Taking cue from the issue, Raninder Singh, general secretary of the PPCC and son of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, said: “It is just the opportunism policy of the SAD, as whenever the Badal family takes any contentious step, Badal try to divert the attention of people raising some Panthic agenda. Now, the demand for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution is also a trick to suppress the controversy over the elevation of his son as Deputy Chief Minister”.

Raninder, who claims himself to be in the race for Congress ticket from the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat, was here today to address a public meeting as part of his poll campaign.

“After losing a number of leaders, including a Chief Minister, the people of Punjab now want to live in peace but the Badals are again trying to create havoc in the state,” he added. At last Raninder accused the SAD leaders, particularly Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir, of having no agenda but groping in the dark to find issues against the Congress.

Later, addressing a public gathering, Makhan Singh and Ajaib Singh Bhatti, MLAs, claimed Raninder to be the best of choice to give defeat the SAD in the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat.


Badal, son fuelling communal divide: CPM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The CPM, Punjab unit, today alleged that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal were fuelling communal divide in the state to hide failures of the government.

CPM acting state secretary Charan Singh Virdi said here his party viewed the Anandpur Sahib resolution gave communal colour to secular demand for more powers to the states and provided fertile ground for secessionism.

Virdi said real issue should not be to get the resolution included in the common minimum programme of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but demand more powers to the states through people’s struggle.

The CPM leader said the party felt the Chief Minister owed an explanation to people of Punjab why an issue put on the back burner for many years, now had been brought out into public again. He said the state CPM felt the Centre should transfer Chandigarh to Punjab, settle the territorial claims and ensure just distribution of river waters as per the Rajiv-Longowal accord. 


Cong seeks bonus on wheat
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The Punjab Congress has urged the state government to announce for farmers bonus proportionate to hike in wheat MSP effected by the Centre recently.

Congress leader and former minister Jagmohan Singh Kang has said, “If the SAD-BJP government is farmer-friendly, it should announce a matching bonus, at least Rs 80 a quintal in keeping with hike in minimum support price (MSP) of wheat by the Centre.

Kang said the SAD-BJP government in Punjab is blaming the UPA government for its follies, mismanagement and misgovernance to project itself farmer-friendly outfit, though the MSP of crops during NDA and UPA regimes shows it to be otherwise.

Kang said during the NDA regime (1999-2004) at the Centre of which the SAD was also partner, wheat MSP was raised from Rs 550 to Rs 630, whereas the UPA government increased it to Rs1,080 from Rs 630, increase of 42 per cent. Similarly, paddy price was increased from Rs 520 to Rs 580 by the NDA government. It has been increased from Rs 580 to Rs 900 by the UPA government. The NDA government gave no relief to farmers. The UPA government led by chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave first time Rs 60,000 crore agriculture loan waiver to farmers of the country.

Kang alleged that to hide its follies and failures, the SAD government was trying to divert people’s attention from real issues by blaming the Centre.

He said during the NDA rule at the Centre, the Akalis forgot the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, but now with no issue for the Lok Sabha elections, they were raising the bogey of Anandpur Sahib Resolution again. He claimed that during the previous regime in the state, the rabi and kharif crop of farmers was lifted in 48 hours, payment was made and due to congenial and investor-friendly atmosphere, many investors flocked to the state, farmers got a good price of land and became prosperous.


Nanhi Chhaan set to enter stage II
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Encouraged by the response to Nanhi Chhaan, a project to check female foeticide and to promote green cover in Punjab, the Punjab government has agreed to support the initiative. As per the understanding reached among Harsimrat Kaur, wife of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who launched the initiative, the SGPC and the Punjab Forest Department, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be signed to launch the stage II of the project.

While Harsimrat has already distributed over 3 lakh saplings as “buta parshad”, the Forest Department has agreed to take over four nurseries of the SGPC in Amritsar, Talwandi Sabo, Fatehgarh Sabib and Anandpur Sahib where it will produce plants for distribution under the project. The SGPC will also open a special wing that will focus on educating people against female foeticide, promoting environmental concerns and start a war on drugs.

Harsimrat said over 12 programmes held under the project had made a very positive impact. “I am very happy to see that many people celebrated Lohri for their girl child this time. We will now move from melas to schools, colleges and other educational institutions to motivate people’s opinion against this heinous crime”.

“Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s response to Nanhi Chhaan has been very positive and I am asking him to launch government initiatives whereby the mindset of people towards girls and their inheritance changes. He has promised to do his best”.

The Forest Department will grow plants like guava, tulsi, mango and other fruit-bearing plants to be given out as “buta parshad”. She hopes to give out 12 or 15 lakh saplings in one-year time.

Harsimrat said she was confident that the new wings within the SGPC would be able to provide the much-needed support to hold awareness meets in educational institutions. Quoting a study on the issue, she said: “Incidents of female foeticide drop drastically with education levels gaining. We are now concentrating on girl schools and colleges to spread the word”.

Sukhbir said the government would provide every logistic support in holding functions, distribution of plants, etc. “Besides, we are now persuading the organisers of Nanhi Chhaan to include in their programme fight against drugs. Both Harsimrat and I are very passionate about issues concerning the future of the youth and therefore I took the Department of Youth Affairs”.


One hurt in student clash; car damaged
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 1
There was tension in government medical college, here after two groups of medical students clashed this evening. Students of MBBS (first year) damaged a car of BDS interns who allegedly tried to thrash them.

Senior faculty members said reasons of the clash were being ascertasined. Cops have been deployed on the college premises for security.

The incident occurred after six BDS interns slapped a first -year MBBS student returning to hostel after the polio duty. Senior MBBS intern Charanjit Mauji was hurt when he tried to counsel the BDS students not to harass the junior students. However, the accused students thrashed him resulting in serious injuries, he said .They alleged all BDS students had barged into the hostel later and tried to beat them up again. Agitated over this the students gathered forcing the BDS students to flee from the site leaving their new car , having temporary number (PB-09-H-0278). SP Surjit Singh Mattu said the accused students were being booked .

The students alleged the police was pressuring them not to pursue case against the BDS students as they had links with higher-ups. 


IMA Conference
‘Doctor has lost patient’s trust’
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 1
Doctors should give more time to patients to improve doctor-patient relationship and the government frame proper health care policy to protect interests of doctors.

A panel discussion on “Has the doctor changed or is he facing changed society?” at the 61st conference of the Indian medical Association (IMA), Punjab (PIMACOM-2009), here today was of this view. More than 1,000 delegates from Punjab, including journalists and advocates, participated in the conference.

Former registrar of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences Dr SS Walia rued that due to commercialisation, doctors were not giving proper time to patients to gain their trust. He said it was important that doctors explained to patients about the disease they were suffering from and started treatment only after taking their consent.

National president of the IMA Ashok Adhao referring to attacks on doctors said, “Instead of going in for improving the doctor-patient relationship, we should concentrate on doctor-to-doctor relationship”. He said there were laws in the country to protect the interests of the doctors, but due to rivalry among doctors and political interference, the doctors were being framed in cases.

On the involvement of doctors in the female foeticide, he said there was change in society’s mindset towards the girl child, but due to the involvement of one per cent, all doctors were being blamed for this.

Advocate Vipin Bhasin said due to the enactment of an Act for protection of doctors and medical institutions 95 per cent cases were being decided in favour of the doctors. He said there was need for introducing a new syllabus for medical students to create awareness about laws for their protection.

Resident Editor, Hindustan Times, Kanwar Sandhu presiding over the session said the country had failed to protect the rights of the doctors as it had failed to frame any proper medical policy in six decades. He said even the ethics committee in the IMA had failed to pull up erring medical practitioners.

Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, adviser to the Chief Minister, who was the guest of honour for scientific session, assured the delegates to redress their grievances by taking up the matter with the state government.

Dr Shiv Charn Lal Gupta, joint secretary, headquarters, IMA, said there was need for pharmaco vigilance and doctors should take proper care in reporting the adverse side effects of medicines produced in the country. There were 27 pharmaco vigilance centres in the country, he informed.


BJP to take decision on Sood soon: Punj 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar , February 1
BJP’s national secretary and in charge Punjab affairs Balbir Punj has said he had received the resignation of Punjab Minister for Medical Education and Research Tikshan Sood and it is under consideration of the party.

Punj said here today Sood upheld e high traditions of the party by submitting resignation by taking moral responsibility of the incident in which five infants died in fire in photo therapy unit in the Neonatalogy unit of the Rajindra Government Hospital Patiala.

Punj said the party would take a decision on the resignation of Sood shortly.

However, Sood said though he was able to streamline the medical colleges during his stint as minister yet lot had to be done to prevent recurrence the tragedies. ‘I feel passing the buck by placing principal of the medical college or other staff members under suspension will not serve any purpose’.

He said he felt being minister he could not escape responsibility of the tragedy.

To another question, Sood said with the blessings of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal sufficient funds were earmarked for medical colleges of Patiala and Faridkot. However, tragedy struck even before the funds were invested to improve the infrastructure.

He said with the appointments of doctors/professors, the medical colleges of the state which were facing de-recognition from the MCI had started improving. Despite the achievements, it is my moral duty to own the tragedy’, said Sood.


Rural docs meet adviser to CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The Rural Medical Services Association, Punjab, a body of rural doctors and rural health met Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema, adviser to the Chief Minister and SAD-BJP candidate from the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha constituency, regarding regularisation of their contract jobs.

The rural doctors working under Zila Parishads were given jobs on contract by the previous government. Dr Aslam Parvez, president of the association, said they told Cheema about the state of rural health and the need for permanent doctors in rural areas. He said more than 450 rural doctors had left contract jobs since June 2006.

He said rural contract jobs had no provision for medical and earned leave, promotion, increments, 60 per cent post-graduate quota and other in-service benefits. Dr Aslam said the 1,193 rural doctors had been working in far-flung rural areas and paid only Rs 30,000 to run the dispensary which included payment to the paramedical staff, maintaining cleanliness and arrangement of provision of water, sanitation and pay electricity bills. These doctors were implementing national programmes and OPD attendance increased in village dispensaries.


Panel to go into demands of ETT teachers
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Lehragaga (Sangrur), February 1
The Punjab government has set up a committee headed by the Punjab Chief Secretary to look into demands and problems of government employees.

The Advocate-General, Punjab, and the secretary of the department concerned will be other members of every three-member committee. To a question on the shifting of ETT teachers from Zila Parishads to the Education Department, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said here on Tuesday that this demand of the ETT teachers would also be examined by the committee. He said the ETT Teachers Union met him at his residence. As the Chief Secretary had to go to court, he had sought time from the ETT teachers to convene a meeting of the committee to discuss their matter later, he added.

State president of the ETT Adhyapak Union Jaswinder Singh Sidhu claimed that Badal assured them the demand would be included in the agenda of the Cabinet meeting, to be held on February 3, for approval from the Cabinet. He said more than 12,000 ETT teachers, working in 5,000 elementary schools of the state, would benefit on being shift to the Education Department from Zila Parishads.


Farmers to offload potatoes on the road tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Punjab farmers will offload their potatoes on the road on February 3 in a attempt to “awake” the state government from “slumber” and persuade it to announce a subsidy for potato farmers who are forced to resort to distress sale of their produce.

Announcing this here today, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said the protest would be held at Khanna. He said farmers were being forced into this action because the government was not taking any step to mitigate their suffering.

Rajewal said the state government should give a subsidy of Rs 200 per quintal to all potato growers to help them recoup part of the losses suffered by them due to the present potato glut in the market. He said this was the only way farmers could be compensated as potatoes were selling at Rs 1 per kg.

The BKU earlier held a party meeting during which Lakhwinder Singh Peermohammad was nominated president. Rajewal also disclosed that the meeting rejected the minimum support price of Rs 1,080 announced for wheat. He said this would further pauperise the Punjab peasantry.

The BKU also passed a resolution rejected the recent reduction in the rates of diesel.


Slowdown blues: 6 lakh jobs lost
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 1
Owing to economic slowdown, six lakh persons had lost jobs in the organised sector in the country in a few months, said official estimate of the Union government. GK Pillai, Union Commerce Secretary, told a news channel that though the impact of global meltdown was not very severe in the country, people had certainly lost jobs. He said the government had estimated about six lakh workers had lost jobs in recent months.

Some of the companies have given pink slips to employees discreetly. However, the loss of jobs in the unorganised sector is much more than that of the organised sector. Due to collapse of the housing and infrastructure, lakhs of workers and skilled persons like masons have lost jobs. Afraid of losing money, banks hesitate to lend money to housing sector. In fact, heavy investment and loan of banks to housing and real estate sector in America led to the collapse of some of the biggest banks of the world there.

Economic slowdown started affecting India in September-October last year, whereas developed countries were hit by it earlier. The Union government hopes bail-out given to the Indian economy by the Reserve Bank of India will be effective in due course and check decline in country’s growth rate.

However, Gurcharan Dass, noted economist, said the effect of slowdown would be the hardest on employment market because of fall in the over-all growth rate of the country. Indian economy which had been growing at 9 per cent rate for a few years, might come down to 7 per cent, meaning loss of 40 lakh jobs. “One per cent growth in the economy creates about two million jobs. Obviously, if the economy grows at 7 per cent instead of 9 per cent, it means 40 lakh jobs will not be created,” he said.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) stated recently that there was a loss of five crore jobs the world over due to global meltdown. Rattan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group of Industries, had also stated that the industry could have hard time in the year. He had written to the CEOs of his companies informing them that there could be hard days ahead.


Hira Mahal: Jindal writes to Mann
Our Correspondent

Nabha, February 1
Clarifying his position, local businessman Om Jindal has written to SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann that he had purchased Hira Mahal from Maharaj Hanumant Singh in 2002 and Pritam Singh was living in a portion of the building. He never troubled Pritam, but during the past many days some mischievous persons were demanding money from him, threatening him that they would give a communal colour to the matter by constructing a gurdwara there.

He has requested Mann to constitute a fact-finding committee to which he and the other party could exhibit their legal documents pertaining to the palace.

Earlier, the SAD (A) had decided to launch an agitation demanding the reinstallation of the Nishan Sahib, which had been installed by Sikh leaders on the portion in possession of Pritam on January 11. The leaders had requested the SGPC to construct a gurdwara there making it a permanent abode for the relics belonging to Guru Gobind Singh.

The local administration, with the help of SGPC employees, had got the Nishan Sahib removed from the palace. 


Op Bluestar’s 25th Anniversary
Fissures in KAC
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 1
Intelligence agencies are keeping watch on preparations being made by the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC) for observing the 25th anniversary of Operation Bluestar in June.

A programme will be announced from Akal Takht on February 21 to mark anniversary of the Nankana Sahib tragedy.

Announcements on February 21 may embarrass the Shiromani Akali Dal since Lok Sabha elections are ahead. The intelligence agencies said mishandling the event could lead to some unsavoury situation.

The KAC convener said the demand of a memorial to Operation Bluestar in the SGPC complex would top the agenda of the next meeting. The SGPC seems to have dropped the idea of a memorial to those killed in Operation Bluestar as announced by SGPC president Avtar Singh.

Earlier, SGPC general house had resolved to raise an Operation Bluestar memorial at a meeting in 2002. Later, a special executive committee meeting at Anandpur Sahib on May 27, 2005, decided to organise Ardas Divas at Harmandar Sahib in connection with the memorial.

However, the meeting, called by the KAC in collaboration with other Sikh organisations, here failed to give details of the programme following minor fissures, appearing among the like-minded Sikh organisations. Though Bhai Mohkam Singh took Bhai Bittu into confidence before finalising the date of today’s meeting, yet the latter compelled the former to defer announcements to involve other Panthic bodies. The KAC convener said he would visit the leaders of various Sikh bodies urging them to participate in the functions in a big way. However, leaders of certain Sikh federations insisted on announcing the next course of action today itself. 


States asked to give land for driving schools
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 1
Responding to the demand raised by the All-India National Motor Transport Congress to establish driving schools and stands for truckers with the provision of toilets, etc, along main highways, the Union Surface Transport Minister has given an offer that any state government giving land free of cost for opening such schools would get adequate funds from the union government.

President of the congress Charan Singh Lohara said though drivers were blamed for about 77 per cent accidents in the country, unfortunately neither the union government nor the state governments have made any serious effort to set up training schools for drivers.

Now the union government has assured them that it would tell toll-collection companies to set up proper parking stands after a gap of every 60-70 km for trucks and other vehicles.


Chandigarh-Ludhiana railway line work in progress, says Punjab Chief Secy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Punjab state Chief Secretary (CS) Ramesh Inder Singh has stated that the work on the Chandigarh-Ludhiana railway line is in progress and will be completed within the timeframe.

Presiding over a high-level meeting with the authorities of the Northern Railways to review the progress of work on Friday, the CS pointed out that the railway link between Chandigarh and Morinda had already been completed and the work on stretch between Ludhiana and Sahnewal would be completed within next few months. After the completion of this stretch, along with electrification of the railway track, local train service between Ludhiana and Sahnewal would be commenced. He said work on stretch between Morinda and Sahnewal (50 km) would be commenced shortly after the land acquisition.

Vinay Singh, chief engineer, Northern Railways, revealed that Rs 114.55 crore had already been released for land acquisition and in addition Rs 100 crore had been deposited with the state government for the completion of land acquisition.

Panchayat by-polls on Feb 15

By-elections to vacant seats of 180 Punjab gram panchayats will be held on February 15, 2009.

According to an official spokesman, nomination can be filed from February 2 to 15. Nomination papers will be scrutinised on February 6 and candidates can withdraw their nominations by February 7. Elections will be held on February 15 and election process will be completed by February 18.

It is hereby clarified that February 7, 2009, is a holiday under the Section 25 of the Negotiable Instrument Act and, hence, candidates can withdraw their nominations on this date.


The Punjab government yesterday posted Manvesh Singh Sidhu, PCS, managing director, PRTC, Patiala, will also hold the charge of additional secretary to the Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, in addition to his own duties.


Heroin worth Rs 25 cr seized
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 1
Involvement of Nigerian nationals in an international drug cartel has once again come to the fore with the seizure of 5 kg of heroin, said to be worth Rs 25 crore in the international market, from the possession of two Nigerians here today.

The accused, Emeka Ugo and Ugba Odili Benneth, were allegedly carrying the contraband in two bags and caught during a naka laid by the narcotic cell of the Amritsar rural police at Rayya on the Amritsar-Jalandhar GT Road. On seeing the police, the accused tried to flee, but were nabbed by the police.

Iqbal Singh, SSP, Amritsar rural police, said during a search, the police team seized 3 kg of heroin from the possession of Emeka and 2 kg from Ugba. A case under Section 21 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act had been registered against them.

During preliminary investigations, it was found that the accused had connections with Arab countries. However, it was yet to be found out who had brought the consignment from the Indo-Pak border and delivered to the two Nigerians.

Emeka is a student of computer course in Chandigarh and has been living there for the past one year, while his accomplice has recently arrived India, it is learnt.


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