P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Rajindra Hospital
Of mismanagement and callous staff
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

  • Heater found near burnt photo-therapy unit
  • Crudely made kids’ platform sans thermostat
  • Staff members were sleeping when fire broke out

Patiala, February 2
More skeletons have started tumbling out of the “utterly mismanaged” paediatric wing of the local Government Medical College and Rajindra Hospital where five infants were killed in a fire on Saturday wee hours.

Meanwhile, the “selective suspensions” of certain officials have raised many hackles. Question being raised is why more senior officers of the hospital or its paediatric wing have not been acted against so far?

According to the preliminary probe into the incident, the most apparent cause of the fire could be an ordinary heater, which was allegedly placed on the platform on which the kids were put by “callous” staff of the unit. Ironically, the crudely made photo-therapy unit in the department did not have any thermostat or an auto-cut mechanism.

The ordinary “single-rod” electric heater, which was found lying on the photo-therapy platform and next to the charred infants, was being used to dry up wet clothes. Burnt parts of a blanket have been recovered from near the platform and the heater could have been used to dry up the blanket as well.

How unconcerned was the department towards the care of the infants was revealed by official sources, who pointed out that staff nurse Reeta and other officials, whose services had been terminated, were sleeping when the fire broke out.

They woke up to the sound of the blast caused due to a combination of fire, smoke and gases in the kids’ nursery. The nurse and other staff members had gone to sleep in a room, situated at a distance of about 20 feet from the nursery, after feeding the infants at around 2 am.

The nurses’ station had allegedly been shifted out of the nursery about five years ago on the verbal orders of a senior department official. “It might be the first neonatalogy unit in the world where nurses and doctors were not allowed to stay,” said a doctor of the department.

The sources said since the photo-therapy unit was made by an ordinary carpenter, it did not have any thermostat or auto-cut mechanism.

The Paediatric Department had allegedly undergone degeneration to such an extent that a large number of MBBS and MD students of the same department preferred to take their exams at the Ludhiana-based Dyanand Medical College.

“Even this year, 30-40 students preferred DMC over our college, particularly, due to their apprehensions that they would be subjected to ‘injustice’ by one of the department officials,” said a senior hospital official.

“Parents are made to pay through their nose as one MRI test costs around Rs 2,800. They are forced to get the test done even if MRI in their case is not needed,” alleged a doctor of the department.

Though a magisterial probe into the incident had kicked off on Saturday, the record of the department has not been sealed yet. “We are going to seal it,” said SDM Gurmit Singh.


No queries on Anandpur pact please: Badal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 2
A virtually embarrassed Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged mediapersons not to ask him any question on the Anandpur Sahib resolution even as Balbir Punj, national general secretary of the BJP and in charge Punjab affairs, said his party stand on the pact remained unchanged.

While the BJP has already taken a firm stand that the resolution can’t be on the alliance programme for the polls, the Congress has dubbed it “anti-national”.

Immediately after being sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Badal had announced that the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, passed by the SAD in 1973, would be part of the alliance manifesto.

The Chief Minister seemed upset when a mediaperson sought his comments on the resolution at Jandiala Guru where he had gone to address an election rally. “Don’t ask me such questions. The media should play a positive role instead,” Badal said.

Both Punj and Badal had come here in connection with the inauguration of Rs 82-crore Solid Waste Management Project, the brainchild of BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu.


Amarinder has a dig at Badals
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 2
Terming the induction of SAD chief Sukhbir Badal as Deputy Chief Minister in the cabinet akin to a “small boy in a big job”, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said the alleged unconstitutional acts committed by Sukhbir in the past have now been camouflaged.

The chairman of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Campaign Committee, who was here today to take part in a sports tournament at Kapurthala as part of a mass-contact programme of the party, told mediapersons at the residence of MP Rana Gurjit Singh that it was a matter of concern that a political novice had been pitch-forked just because of his lineage.

Taking a dig at the Badals, he said the ministry was already a large extended family and if developments were an indication, more family members would occupy political posts.

Referring to political alignments in the run up to the polls, he said a national party could not afford to tie up with outfits like the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) that were basically one-man shows. Though such alliances were necessary in politics, still the larger picture needed to be kept in the perspective, he pointed out.

The former Chief Minister observed that the Badals were trying to push back the state into the days of militancy by advocating the Anandpur Sahib resolution.

He also alleged that SAD was patronising political terrorism in the state and the Congress would expose it before the national media on February 9 in New Delhi. I will be reaching Delhi on February 8 with evidence, including photographic, that will be presented before the media as proof of the ground realities in Punjab. I will also plead to the CEC to send adequate paramilitary forces to oversee the polls that promise to be bloody than the panchayati raj elections, he added.

He said no decision had been taken as yet on the names of the candidates for the Lok Sabha elections as the Punjab State Election Committee of the party had not been constituted.

There are processes to be followed in our party, he said, while steering clear over the announcements to the contrary by PPCC chief Mohinder Singh Kaypee in the past few days.

Every individual is entitled to one’s views but the party top brass will make the final decision, he said.


Will forward Sood’s resignation to CM: Punj
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 2
Balbir Punj, BJP’s in charge of Punjab affairs, said today that the he was going to submit the resignation of Medical Education and Research Minister Tikshan Sood to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. “I am going to Chandigarh today and will forward the resignation to the Chief Minister this evening or in the morning tomorrow,” said Punj.

The national secretary of the BJP, who was here for the inauguration of a Solid Waste Management project, told the media that the fire incident at the Patiala hospital was unfortunate. It was the result of total administrative failure and responsibility should be fixed after holding proper inquiry into the incident.

Punj said Sood had submitted his resignation on moral grounds to him instead of directly submitting it to the Chief Minister because this was an alliance government and he was supposed to submit the resignation to the party first.

When questioned who would be the next minister from the party if the resignation of the Sood was accepted, he said the decision on this would be taken by the party only.

Meanwhile, the BJP has deputed Satpal Gosain, Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, to oversee the party election campaign. Punj said he would finalise his team after consultation with local BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu.

While congratulating the people of holy city for the project, he advised his party leaders to avoid wasting time on foundation stone ceremonies or inauguration of various local projects, as it was their duty to provide these facilities to the residents.

No resignation received: CMO

Chandigarh: BJP president Prof Rajinder Bhandari said the resignation offer of the minister had been sent to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO). However, Additional Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Gagandeep Singh Brar said the resignation of minister Tikshan Sood had not been received by the Chief Minister’s Office. He added that a decision regarding the acceptance of the resignation would be taken once the Chief Minister had a look at the resignation.


Manpreet arrives sans security, pays toll
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, February 2
Finance Minister Punjab Manpreet Singh Badal’s visit here to preside over a function of Dashmash Academy was quiet and low-profile.

Not only did he reach reached the venue of school function before time, leaving teachers and students surprised, but also paid toll at the Nakkian toll plaza. He reached school when students and teachers were making arrangements.

Manpreet Badal's visit surprised r even the district administration and police officials. After paying obeisance at Sri Kesgarh Sahib gurdwara and listening prayers, Manpreet moved to the Dashmesh Aacdemy. Half an hour later the area sub-divisional magistrate and th deputy superintendent of police reached the spot. The minister asked them to perform their usual duties and not to accompany him .

Addressing media persons he admitted Punjab was reeling from grim financial condition and paying Rs 4,800 crore loan annually.

He added the Budget would be sent to the Planning Commission by the end of February and presented in March. On more taxes , he said, " Even if our people pay present taxes honestly, exchequer will be greatly benefited." He assured people- friendly budget.

Addressing students he promised whosoever student passed NDA examination would be be given Rs 5 lakh scholarship. He asked children to follow example of American President Barack Obama.


Bhattal meets Guv, seeks higher compensation for acquired land
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
Leader of the opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has sought from the government adequate compensation to farmers of Sangrur, Patiala and Mansa distructs, especially Lehra constituency , whose land had been acquired under the Ghaggar project.

Bhattal today led a delegation of affected farmers to Punjab Governor S.F.Rodrigues and urging him to prevail upon the government to shun bias against the farmers. She pointed out while farmers of Lambi constituency were being awarded compensation of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh per acre , the farmers along Ghaggar in Khanauri area whose land was being acquired , were being offered about Rs 4.50 lakh.

She demanded either compensation be paid at the rate of Rs 30 lakh per acre or land in exchange of land be offered to the affected farmers enabling them earn honourable living. She underscored completion second phase of Ghaggar project which spanned over 17 km from Makraur Sahib to Karail (district Sangrur), to give respite to farmers from floods.

Bhattal also requested the Governor to direct the government to grant full compensation for deras, houses & tube wells coming under the Ghaggar project and also sought waiving of shifting charges of 'bores' by the Punjab State Electricity Board as special case. It was pointed out the government proposed to pay only Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 compensation for 'bores' whereas cost of installation of new 'bore' was Rs 1.5 0 lakh .

She stressed repair of roads should be done on top priority and similarly roads damaged due to floods and road from Khanauri to Mandvi Hamirgarh be constructed under the 'Prime Minister’s Gramin Sarak Yojna'.

Surinder Singla, ex-Finance Minister, Manjit Singh Jhalbooti 'Mansa', Rahul Inder Singh Sidhu and Jugraj Singh Hotipur, chairman ,Ghaggar Control Committee were also in the meeting.


Inside Babudom
HRD ministry post for Chandigarh’s Raju
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
Chandigarh’s Jagmohan Singh Raju will be the Joint Secretary, School Education and Literacy, in the Ministry of Human Resource Development as KC Verma of Jharkhand becomes the third IPS officer to head Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the Cabinet Secretariat.

Earlier, Jagmohan Singh Raju, who is son of KS Raju, a retired IAS officer of Punjab, was Resident Commissioner of Tamil Nadu in the Capital. Belonging to the 1985 batch of IAS of the Tamil Nadu cadre, tenure of his deputation to the Government of India will be five years.

Interestingly, the ministry, headed by former Punjab Governor Arjun Singh, also got a new Secretary after superannuation of the present incumbent Arun Kumar Rath. Anshu Vaish, an IAS officer of the 1975 batch, has taken his place. Vaish is from the Madhya Pradesh cadre.

Meanwhile, Ajit K Lal, an IPS officer of the 1974 batch and belonging to the Himachal Pradesh cadre, has been made Special Director in the Intelligence Bureau. He was earlier Additional Director in the bureau.

The committee approved upgrade of the post held by Ajit K Lal to that of Special Director. Otherwise, all officers belonging to the 1974 batch or earlier batches have already been cleared for appointment as director-general position in various central police organisations.

Incidentally, the RAW has got its third IPS officer as its chief. KC Verma, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch belonging to the Jharkhand cadre, will be the new chief of this organisation working as a part of the Cabinet Secretariat. Verma comes in place of Ashok Chaturvedi.

The earlier IPS officers to head RAW were AS Dulat (Rajasthan cadre - 1965 batch) and PK Harmese Tharekan (Kerala, 1968 batch).

AS Gill of Rajasthan has been formally cleared as the next Director-General of the Central Reserve Police Force. He will take charge of his new assignment from March 1 this year. He is due for superannuation on January 31, 2010.

Controversy between Chief Election Commissioner S Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla notwithstanding, Alok Shukla, an IAS officer of the 1986 batch belonging to the Chattisgarh cadre, has been appointed Joint Secretary-cum-Deputy Election Commissioner in the Election Commission of India.

Alok Shukla is at present Chief Electoral Officer of Chattisgarh. He will replace R Bhattacharya, who goes to the Planning Commission as Adviser.


Use of intelligence equipment
HC asks Punjab to file detailed affidavit
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
The Judges’ phone tapping is still ringing, Justice Ranjit Singh of the Punjab and Haryana High Court wants to know whether equipment purchased by the intelligence wing of the Punjab police is being used for other than the intended purposes.

In fact, Justice Ranjit Singh wants a responsible officer of the Punjab government to disclose to the court the use to which these apparatuses are being put to. The officer has also been asked to inform the court whether the equipment purchased is being used for purposes other than the authorities concerned are authorised to do.

Justice Ranjit Singh has asked the officer to furnish the requisite information in form of an affidavit. Keeping in view the past conduct of the state government, Justice Ranjit Singh has categorically stated the information should not be supplied in form of an unsigned note or affidavit.

The state had, only recently, run into trouble by introducing an unsigned brief note during the hearing of the equipment case. Taking a serious view of the action, Justice Ranjit Singh had ruled the action was contemptuous and had issued a notice to an under- secretary in this regard.

In his detailed order, Justice Ranjit Singh also took note of the fact that the information on the use of security equipment had still not been supplied to the court.

The issue of the possibility of the phones of the judges being tapped was brought to the fore in these columns. The high court had, subsequently, taken suo motu cognizance of the news report. The state had, however, submitted an affidavit stating it was not indulging in phone-tapping.

Describing the affidavit as “smart”, Justice Ranjit Singh, during the course of hearing, had earlier observed the equipment acquired did not require it to approach the service provider.

Justice Ranjit Singh further asserted the equipment was required to be used for subverting militant activity. But at the same time some irresponsible officer of the state could be using it for listening to the conversation of those holding constitutional posts. The case will now come up for further hearing on February 16.



‘BJP politicising EC issue’
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Ashwani may fight Gurdaspur seat

Union Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar may contest the Lok Sabha elections from Gurdaspur. He said he was neither willing nor unwilling to contest from Gurdaspur. Whatever the party high command directed him to do, he would do so, he added

Jalandhar, February 2
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Dr Manmohan Singh has isolated Pakistan diplomatically on the issue of harbouring militants, especially after the Mumbai strikes on November 26 last year.

Union Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar stated this after presiding over a meeting of Congress leaders here in respect of the Lok Sabha elections. He is in charge of the Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency.

Ashwani Kumar said militancy would be one of the issues for the Congress in Lok Sabha elections. The constitution of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and creating five hubs for the NSG indicated the UPA government was capable of curbing militancy, he added.

The minister alleged that the BJP was politicising the issue relating with Election Commissioner Navin Chawla. Terming it opportunistic politics, he asked the BJP why it was raking it up near the Lok Sabha elections and couple of months before the superannuation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

CEC N Gopalaswami has demanded the removal of Election Commissioner Chawla for being "partisan".

Declaring the economic condition in the country will also be an election issue, he said the UPA government handled the situation created by global meltdown. He said the Centre had succeeded in bringing down inflation from 12.2 per cent to 5 per cent in two months, despite economic meltdown and was trying to reduce it to 4 per cent after the recent reduction in petrol prices.

To a query, he said banks had been directed to provide loans at lower interest rate to small and medium-scale industries.


CM seeks votes for Ajnala
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 2
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today called upon Majha residents to defeat the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre in the Lok Sabha elections.

Badal said more SAD MPs in the Lok Sabha, especially in NDA regime, would mean sanction of central projects for this border region making Punjab prosperous again. Badal said Rs 555-crore development programmes were being sanctioned for the progress of people.

He said the SAD-BJP had fielded Rattan Singh Ajnala from the Tarn Taran Lok Sabha constituency and appealed to people of Jandiala Guru and Verka to ensure his victory to get their problems raised in Parliament.

The Chief Minister presented Rs 5.30 crore cheques for the Jandiala Guru Assembly constituency out of which Rs 2 crore for Municipal Council Jandiala Guru and remaining Rs 3.30 crore for panchayats. He handed over Rs 2.76 crore cheques for panchayats of the Verka constituency. He announced a vegetable research-cum-gradation centre in the Jandiala Guru constituency.

Bikram Singh Majithia, former minister and patron, Youth Akali Dal, also appealed people to vote for Ajnala.


Lay-offs hurting all sections: BJP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
BJP Investor Cell’s national convener Arun Singh today claimed that retrenchments as well as closure of industries had resulted in a complete loss of faith of people in the UPA government.

Arun Singh told newspersons here today that the weakening of the rupee as well as the increasing fiscal deficit and declining exports were harming the country’s economy. He said the cell was organising Niveshak Sankalp Maha Adhiveshan to discuss the 11-point agenda of the alleged misconceived, misdirected and mismanaged economy by the UPA government.


Punjab to promote sports
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal today announced that the Punjab government would soon announce a comprehensive sports policy to promote sports at the grass-root level in a big way.

Taking a review meeting of the sports department, Sukhbir Badal said the new sports policy would envisage developing world class sports infrastructure in the state, besides imparting training to the youth in different sports disciplines so that they could be groomed further for national and international tournaments.

Under the new policy, job opportunities would be provided to outstanding sportspersons of the state to check sports drain to other states.

He said efforts were afoot to provide modern infrastructure, scientific training and regular international exposure to the budding players.

He pointed out that four existing international hockey stadia with latest Astroturf facility would be upgraded besides constructing three state-of-art stadia in the state.

He said it was the endeavour of the government to upgrade the existing sports infrastructure to the international level to attract youth in sports activities.

Similarly, sports infrastructure in rural areas would be upgraded with the grant of Rs 1 lakh to each village panchayat. As many as 1,200 villages has been selected to be covered under this programme in the first phase.

Likewise, it has also been decided to grant Rs 10,000 to sports club of each village for the purchase of sports equipment to encourage youth to participate in the sports. He also announced that the existing pension of Rs 1,000 to the international players would be substantially enhanced.

Badal also stated that the Punjab government would also hold four-nation women hockey tournament in July 2009 on the pattern of the Punjab Gold Cup Men’s International Hockey Tournament being held here at Chandigarh.

“The objective of holding these international tournaments is to inculcate sports fervour amongst the youth and to encourage them to participate in these events,” said Badal.


Singapore Airlines stops flights
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, February 2
Singapore Airlines last evening stopped more than three-year-old flight operations from here with immediate effect.

A spokesman of Singapore Airlines that operated last thrice-a-week flight said they had to stop flights to revamp the schedule throughout the country. He said they had made Amritsar important international destination, but due to economic consideration and other factors were forced to give up this route. He refused to give a definite clue on restarting the Amritsar-Singapore flight in the near future.

Earlier, Jet Airways had to cancelled Delhi flights connecting Amritsar to London in November due to economic reasons. Curtailment of international flights has been seen as major impediment in the growth of this airport which saw phenomenal increase in passenger traffic in four years.

Airports Authority of India sources said there was drop in international aviation traffic, which had shown 8 per cent negative growth, had a cascading effect on Indian segment also. He said with the cutting down of aviation turbine fuel tariff and reduction in air fare by several airlines in the domestic segment would definitely see upswing in coming months.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary panel on civil aviation headed by Dr MS Gill, to go into problems of Amritsar airport in December have yet to submit report to the government to give bail-out package for airlines to restart operation. The panel visited Amritsar twice in the past two months and reviewed Rs 140 crore modernisation programme.


Passengers rue shortage of porters
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 2
Like other parts of the country, thousands of passengers have been suffering due to a shortage of porters at different railway stations in the region for the past several months. The reason being, the Indian Railways has not issued any licence to new porters after most of the earlier porters were elevated as gangmen last year.

At the Jalandhar city railway station, only 16 porters are working at present as compared to the earlier number of 132. The number is too low for thousands of passengers, who alight and board as many as 132 trains, which stop daily at the railway station. Moreover, only 12 of the 16 licensed porters work at the railway station as either some of them go to their native places or feel unwell to work.

Passengers have to carry luggage themselves. The most sufferers among them include senior citizens and women.

Advocate Diwan Chand Mohindru and his wife Vimla, both in their 70s, told TNS that they travelled by the Shatabdi (2014), which departed the city railway station for Delhi at around 6.14 am daily, but in the absence of enough porters, they had to carry luggage themselves.

Roop Rani Kalia of Karol Bagh in Jalandhar rues: “My father Hari Rattan Kalia, a retired railway employee, is suffering from the renal disease for the past several months and is undergoing treatment at the Railway Hospital in New Delhi. In the absence of porters, we face many difficulties.”

Admitting that new porters should be issued licence, president of the Jalandhar Porter Union Darshan Lal said Rail Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had assured them during a meeting in Jammu some time ago that the majority of eligible porters would be recruited as gangmen and the aged porters would be given pension. “The minister should fulfil his assurance by providing pension to aged porters like him, who has been working as porter for the past 55 years,” he said.

Jalandhar Station Superintendent Ashok Kumar said licences to new porters would be issued by the Ferozepur Railway Division.

However, Ferozepur-based senior divisional commercial manager Dharmendra Kumar said application for new porters had already been invited, but the Indian Railways had issued directions not to issue licence to new porters as some gangmen wanted to be reverted as porters. As soon as directions of issuing new licences received, new porters would be given licence.

Meanwhile, sources said some gangmen wanted to be reverted as porters as the duty of a gangman was very tough and disciplined as it was related with the safety of passengers.


Bt cotton causes health problems: Expert
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Jeffery M. Smith Chandigarh, February 2
Punjab farmers, who have been going out of their way to get good Bt cotton seed hoping for higher yields, may not be aware that genetically modified (GM) crops come with serious health issues. Studies in India as well the United States have established that contact with Bt cotton causes allergies and skin rash, besides its consumption has caused death in animals. In other words there is growing awareness about “irrefutable evidence about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) being dangerous for human health”.

This was said by Jeffery M. Smith, executive director of The Institute for Responsible Technology and author of Genetic Roulette and Seed Deception, who was here to support the nation- wide campaign against Bt brinjal. “There is enough evidence now to suggest that not much is being done to protect environment in India. There are inadequate safety mechanisms that have exposed Indians to serious health issues like obesity, diabetics, autism, allergies and cancer,” he said, adding that while no GM crop had been allowed anywhere else in the world, Indian regulators were pondering with the idea of allowing the first GM food in India in the form of Bt brinjal.

Talking to The Tribune soon after he made a presentation on the risks involved in allowing GM foods to Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Health Secretary, Jeffery said, “It is unfortunate that no one is conducting any research on the harmful effects of GM foods.”

Making his point Jeffery said current generation of GMOs was one of the most dangerous threats to human health. Not only would the GM food hurt the entire population through food supply, but once released in the environment, the self-propagating genetic pollution might outlast the effects of the global warning and nuclear waste, he said.

He pointed out that there were 65 known risks to the health from GM foods. These included cancer, skin allergies and many other new diseases with a new set of symptoms.

Though import of GM food is banned in India, but multinational companies were sending such food to the country illegally, while the governments chose to look the other way, he said. Four major GM foods in the US are soya, corn, cotton and canola and their derivatives.

Jeffery said even in Punjab farmers growing Bt cotton had shown signs of skin allergy and other diseases caused by toxins, but no institutions had undertaken any research to pinpoint the culprit. He suggested that the Punjab government must adopt a proactive role to check and spread awareness about its use.


Farmers protest against Punjab govt
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
Farmers hailing from villages of Ropar district today staged a protest against Punjab government at Sector 17 here seeking adequate compensation for their land acquired for GT Road. They alleged that the state government was taking away their land at meager prices.

The protestors were members of the Ujara Virodhi Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Ropar. Satrnam Singh Ajnala, president of Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, flayed the government for selling the government land to farmers in other districts while on the other hand they were depriving the farmers of Ropar district of their land by not paying the proper rates.

The representatives of the agitating farmers threatened that in case the state government failed to meet their demands, they would be forced to intensify their stir.


Defence canteen staff to go on strike
Kusum Arora
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 2
Members of the All-India Defence Civilian Canteen Employees’ Union (AIDCCEU) have decided to go on a nationwide hunger strike from February 17, seeking acceptance of their long-pending demand of providing the minimum of revised basic scales.

A decision in this regard was taken at a central committee meeting of the union in Delhi on January 16. The status of these employees has not changed over the years despite the fact that the Supreme Court had declared them central government employees through its orders (the copy of which is available with The Tribune) passed on January 4, 2001. The delay in the implementation of the orders affected approximately 10,000 civilians working in the URCs.

This was followed by a separate order by the Army authorities in which the Quarter Master General’s branch stated, “Minimum scales available to employees in the Canteen Stores Department (CSD) will be granted to URC employees”. Though the Army issued these orders on April 28, 2003, but they have not been implemented till date.

Talking to The Tribune, secretary-general of the AIDCCEU TS Chauhan said the non-implementation of judgment had created furor among employees. “The Army authorities have failed to adhere to their orders. They have revised the minimum basic pay of the CSD employees whereas the URC workers have been left out of this ambit”.

He added that it had been more than 15 years since they had been asking the Ministry of Defence to consider their long-pending demand, but to no avail.

“Our consecutive meetings with Union Minister of Defence AK Antony and the Army authorities have failed to yield results. However, now we are forced to take this initiative,” he maintained.

Though the basic scale of the CSD employees has been revised as per the Sixth Central Pay Commission, but that of the URC employees has not changed.

“There is no gratuity, bonus EPF, medical and other allowances available for us. All that we get is the minimum basic salary,” said Chauhan.

Adding, he said general secretary of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) Rahul Gandhi had invited the AIDCCEU members to discuss the issue with him tomorrow at his residence.


Dy CM to meet police chiefs regularly
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal today said he would hold monthly meetings with the district police chiefs besides directing officers to serve people politely.

The Deputy Chief Minister, who held a meeting with senior police officers led by Police Chief NPS Aulakh, Additional Director-Generals of Police and Inspector Generals of Police besides others, said principles of accountability would be enforced in the police department to ensure people-sensitive policing.

He also directed that District Control Rooms be strengthened as he had received complaints that they were not fully activated. The performance of police officers would be judged on the basis of cases solved by them, he said.

The Deputy CM also asked the police department to prepare a list of all unmanned crossings in the state which he said would be sent to the Railway Ministry with a request to install crossings to avoid accidents as had happened today in Ferozepur where three children school children lost their lives.

DGP Aulakh disclosed that he had on behalf of the police department acquainted the Deputy Chief Minister with the pending proposals, which were awaiting the nod of the Home Department.


Infants’ Death
Mulazam Sangh demands apology from Chief Minister
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
With the Punjab Chief Minister dithering over the issue of the resignation of Tikshan Sood, Minister of Medical Education and Research, public opinion continues to build up against the minister.

Members of the Punjab Mulazam Sangharsh Committee today demanded an apology from the Chief Minister for the incident and immediate acceptance of the minister’s resignation. Stating the entire incident in Rajindra Hospital as the result of the state government’s apathy, the members also demanded a change in the portfolio of the Health Minister Dr Laxmi Kanta Chawla.

The employees said in such incidents employees were made the scapegoats. Employees were not responsible for the lack of infrastructure or the wrong policies of the government, stated Ranbir Dhillon, convener of the committee.

He further pointed out that over the years the state had gradually reduced the budget provisions for medical education and research and there was a severe staff crunch in the three medical colleges of the state.


SAD, BJP form house tax sub-panel

Sangrur, February 2
At a meeting of the council held recently, 11 municipal councillors (six of the SAD, four of the BJP and one independent) succeeded in forming a house tax subcommittee of their choice, comprising BJP MC Roop Kaur and independent MC Harinder Singh Khalsa. From the Congress side 10 members were present. — TNS


High Court
Civil surgeon in dock for non-compliance with order
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
Barnala civil surgeon and senior medical officer are in trouble, apparently.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a notice to the two, asking them to show cause “why exemplary cost is not imposed on them” for willful disobedience on their part.

Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia has also asked them to remain present in the court on February 3. The copy of the order has been handed over to state counsel Mehardeep Singh for “onward transmission and compliance”.

The court had, on January 6, directed a civil surgeon to constitute a team of doctors to examine an appellant, who was before the court. Justice Ahluwalia observed: Instead of complying with the order, Barnala civil surgeon submitted on March 5 last year the appellant was admitted as an indoor patient. The photocopy of the bed head ticket was also sent to the court, without any report of opinion.

Justice Ahluwalia observed: Non-compliance of the order shows willful disobedience on the part of the officials concerned. Notice to show cause as to why exemplary cost is not imposed upon the civil surgeon, Barnala, and the senior medical officer, civil hospital, Barnala.

Conviction upheld

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has found no infirmity in the trial court’s decision of awarding life imprisonment to the husband and the parents-in-law of Jasbir Kaur.

The appeal, placed before the Division Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Lakshmi Narain Mittal, was filed against conviction and sentence by retired Punjab police inspector Bachittar Singh, his wife Palwinder Kaur and son Bhupinder Singh of Sohalpur in Jalandhar district.

The Bench did not agree with the defense of husband Bhupinder Singh, since no witness was produced to adequately prove he was away to a shop at the time of occurrence.

Referring to the burn minor injuries received by Bachittar Singh and his wife, the Bench observed: “It seems when Jasbir Kaur was set on fire, she moved towards them and it was she who caught hold of them as she knew she was going to die”.

Justice Gill and Justice Mittal also observed there was no conflict or contradiction of any kind in the dying declaration of Jasabir Kaur of Mehla Bahadur village in Hoshiarpur


Nominations to PCS (executive) challenged
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 2
If allegations in a petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are to be believed, candidates facing disciplinary proceedings, or with FIRs registered against them, have also been recommended for PCS (executive branch).

Taking up the matter, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Hemant Gupta today directed the petition be taken up with other petitions on the issue on February 11.

The petition, filed in public interest by Rahul Sharma of Mohali, also mentions the names of candidates close to the present government.

Counsel for the petitioner Gurminder Singh argued the criteria of seniority or merit was not being followed for the appointment to public posts as senior, and as important, as the PCS (executive branch). The method of nomination was also giving rise to nepotism.

It was also violative of the fundamental right to equality and right against discrimination under Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.

Gurminder Singh added the posts of under secretaries, deputy secretaries, sub-divisional officers, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, executive magistrates and deputy principal secretary to the chief minister, along with district food and supply controller, were some of the posts against which the appointments from PCS (executive branch) were made.

Besides this, appointments by promotion were also made to the Indian Administrative Service in the Punjab cadre.

The nominations, he added, were made from sources such as tehsildars, naib tehsildars, temporary members of class-II and class-III of state holding ministerial appointments, excise and taxation officers, block development and panchayat officers. The recommendations were made by the Chief Minister, Revenue Minister, Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, ministers, Chief Secretary etc.

The persons being recommended were, however, the ones close to the present government. The names now recommended for nomination in register A-II include Charanjit Singh, naib tehsildar OSD to Finance Minister; Seema Singh, sister of Sandeep Hans, OSD to Chief Minister; Harkaran Singh, son of the former member of SS board Kulbir Singh; Maninder Singh Sidhu, a close relative of present Chief Minister and Paramjit Singh, nephew of Akali leader Sewa Singh Sekhowan.

The other names mentioned are Sanjiv Kumar, brother-in-law of Sarup Singla, the Akali candidate from Bathinda; Sukhbir Kaur, daughter of Akali jathedar from Mukatsar; Lakhwinder Singh, son of Lambi Akali Dal president; Navpreet Singh, nephew of the Akali MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib; and Varinder Kumar Garg, relative of Chiranji Lal Garg, former MLA from Bathinda.


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