P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


PUDA chief quits
Likely to be BJP’s candidate from Hoshiarpur 
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) Chief Administrator Som Parkash has sought premature retirement from the Punjab government. He has requested the state government to relieve him from February 16. The 1988 batch officer was due to retire on April 30 this year.

While the officer has cited domestic reasons for resigning, the move confirms that he is the top contender for the BJP ticket from Hoshiarpur for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The state BJP chief, Dr Rajinder Bhandari, said no final decision had been taken regarding a candidate from this seat. “Som Prakash has applied for the ticket. There are some other contenders also. We follow a process for choosing the candidate,” he said. Sources, however, add that Som Prakash resigned only after a clear indication was given from the party that his candidature was final.

The other contender in the race for the BJP ticket from Hoshairpur is Vijay Sampla, who is the chairman of the Punjab Khadi and Village Industries Board. Avinash Rai Khanna is the sitting BJP MP from the constituency. However, after delimitation the seat has been declared as a reserved parliamentary seat. The Congress, too, has not finalized its candidate from there.

With this move speculation regarding the seat sharing of the BJP with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections seems to have ended. It is almost certain that the BJP would be fielding its candidates from Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur.

Som Prakash joined PUDA in March 2007 and this has been his second stint in PUDA as its CA. Earlier, Som Parkash served as Deputy Commissioner of Faridkot, Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar districts. He has also served as Managing Director, Punjab Financial Corporation; Labour Commissioner; Director, Social Security, Government of Punjab, besides holding other important positions.

The officer has been instrumental in successfully disposing of government property worth Rs 1750 crore under Optimum Utilization of Vacant Government Lands Scheme. The money is being used for major development works in the state.


Dua calls upon youth to be tools of change
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 6
The country has lost 90 per cent of its forest cover since Independence, said H K Dua, Editor-in Chief of The Tribune, while delivering a talk on "State of the Nation", organised by an NGO named Jago at Government College for Women here today.

The veteran journalist said, "The wood plundered in the name of construction has not been even negligibly compensated. The survival rate of the big plantation drives launched as a part of the van mahotsavas was merely 35 per cent. The best way to bring positive results in plantation drives will be to involve youngsters. That way, children will grow with plants and also imbibe a sense of pride in caring for them."

“There cannot be any significant progress till our land bears the evils of casteism, communalism, corruption and criminalisation of politics. What progress can we envisage in the backdrop of 33 crore people of the country not being able to even sign their names? Public indifference is the biggest problem of the hour and the general public needs ‘critical consciousness’,” he remarked.

He called upon the youth to be the tools of change for a better future. Most politicians, bureaucrats and even social thinkers were not doing anything concrete on the casteism front, he maintained, adding that casteism meant a divided India.

Harish Rai Dhanda, chief parliamentary secretary, presented the presidential remarks, while Manjit Sodhia, president of Jago, proposed the vote of thanks. 


Watch out, you could become a petitioner without your knowledge 
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The next time you sit in front of a computer, just log on to the list of cases pending before the courts. Chances are that someone has filed a petition on your behalf even without your knowledge.

The petition, filed under your name, could be seeking directions from the courts to the authorities concerned on an issue you do not even feel strongly about.

This is apparently what has happened with three residents of Hissowal village in Ludhiana district. An inquiry carried out by Haryana district and sessions judge-cum-registrar (vigilance), on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, has revealed a civil writ petition was prima facie not filed by them.

The petition, civil writ petition number 962 of 2007, was purported to have been filed on behalf of Satnam Kaur, Mohinder Kaur, Gurwinder Singh, Amrik Singh Toofan and Jagtar Singh.

Directions were sought by the petitioners to the state of Punjab and other respondents to stop the work of excavation for sewage treatment pond with immediate effect.

Even as the matter was pending before the Bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh, three of the “petitioners” Mohinder Kaur, Gurwinder Singh and Amrik Singh reportedly filed affidavits before the department of rural development and panchayat stating they had no objection to the setting up of the sewage treatment plant at the present location on area owned by the gram panchayat.The affidavit also stated the deponents came to know someone had filed petition number 962 of 2007 in the high court, with which they were in no way concerned.

After the matter was brought to the Bench’s notice, an inquiry was ordered by the high court. In his report submitted in pursuance to the orders, the registrar (vigilance) asserted after scrutiny of the statements of the witnesses and the documents on record, he was of the view the writ petition was not filed by the three.

In fact, petitioner Satnam Kaur’s husband Harmel Singh was the writer, director and the producer of the whole story, the report had added. The matter now stands adjourned to March 27. 



LS Polls
Cong to ask EC to declare Punjab sensitive
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 6
The Congress is all set to approach the Election Commission (EC) for declaring Punjab a “very sensitive” area for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, said former Chief Minister and chairman of the PPCC campaign Amarinder Singh while addressing mediapersons here today.

“During panchayat and municipal bodies' elections, the SAD-BJP government misused government machinery and managed victory by hook or by crook. We apprehend even more damaging exercises in the Lok Sabha elections. Keeping this in mind, the Congress had decided to approach the EC for declaring all constituencies very sensitive," he added.

The former Chief Minister demanded that CRPF personnel should be deployed across the state during elections to prevent any untoward incident.

Lambasting the SAD-BJP government over inadequate power supply in the state, he said, "The industry is paying a price for this shortage. In the current times of recession, business is already badly hit and repeated power cuts have added to its miseries."

During the Congress regime, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) had bought electricity from other states to keep its power coffers full, but the present government has not bothered to dwell on this aspect," he alleged.


BJP leader Shahi joins BSP
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 6
In a setback to the ruling SAD-BJP combine, Dr Surinder Singh Shahi, BJP’s state working member, along with his supporters, today joined the BSP in the presence of Avtar Singh Karimpuri, member of the Rajya Sabha and state president of the BSP.

Dr Shahi had been associated with the Congress before joining the BJP two years ago. He had unsuccessfully contested state assembly elections as Congress nominee in 1985.

Karimpuri said a change was being observed in favour of the BSP across the country. People were eager to see Mayawati as next Prime minister. The BSP leader said his party was in no mood to have an election alliance.


Slowdown has not hit state, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 6
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday said there was no economic slowdown in the state and economy had showed remarkable improvement after the Congress regime was over.

He said allegations of economic crisis were baseless. Stating annual plan of the state for next year would be to the extent of Rs 8,450 crore, Badal said it had doubled compared to Rs 4,000 crore of last year of the Congress regime.

The Chief Minister said his detractors were spreading false propaganda that a vote- on-account would be presented instead of regular budget in Vidhan Sabha to avoid levy of taxes with eye on Lok Sabha elections. ''Time would wash off all mischievous propaganda,'' he remarked.

There was no reason for anxiety on the economy, he said. He said revenue had risen by 30 per cent from VAT and 25 per cent from stamp duty and registration fees. On government employees’ demands, Badal said pay commission’s report would be implemented in 15 days after it was received with effect from January 1, 2006. 


Gurdwara does its bit for social development
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Urapur (Nawanshahr), February 6
Religion can play a very effective role in social development. This model has successfully been practised in this village having a population of 10,000. Historic Shaheedganj Gurdwara here not only provides spiritual fulfilment to people, but it has also emerged as a focal point of social development in the area. However, local people keep religion separate from their agenda for social development.

The village stands out in the area for the role being played by its elders and youngsters in social development of women folks and in providing health care facilities to people of the area under the aegis of the gurdwara, without seeking any publicity.

Two committees have been formed at the gurdwara level. One is the Gurdwara Shaheedganj committee to manage its affairs. Any person of the village can be elected to this committee provided he or she fulfils the religious conditions laid down for becoming a member of the committee. The other committee runs Guru Nanak Mission Hospital and Guru Nanak Mission Girls College under the control of the gurdwara. Only a graduate can become a member of this committee, says Daljit Singh, president of the Managing Committee for Hospital and School. Women and Dalits have been given due representation on all committees and their members are elected by eligible voters of the village every three years.

The college, with more than 600 girls on its rolls, has kept tuition fee and other charges at the lowest possible level. Disadvantaged girls are entitled to 50 per cent fee concession.

With three doctors and five nurses in its rolls, the hospital has a well-equipped operation theatre and all facilities to handle gynaecological cases. Two ambulances are available round the clock.


Rs 222-cr project for Amritsar okayed 
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 6
The state government has given its approval to the detail project report with a total outlay of Rs 222.18 crore for the futuristic development of the holy city.

BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, who have been at the forefront for the development of the infrastructure, said under the Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Renewal mission guidelines, a detailed project report worth Rs 222 crore plus have been drafted by the corporation, including features for submission to the Central government, for its sanction.

Talking to the media, he said the project shortlisted in the detailed project report, including the clearing of entire garbage under the solid waste management project worth Rs 82 crore, along with construction of the inner Ring Road from Vallah Byepass to Tarn Taran, along downstream of the UBDC canal for Rs 26 crore, besides widening and improving of the GT Road, from Daburji Bypass of Naraingarh via railway station for Rs 53.80 crore.

Sidhu said the project had been approved by a state-level committee.


Potato growers hit back at Langah
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 6
Taking Agriculture Minister Sucha Singh Langah head on, potato growers of the state have said the former was “lying through his teeth in a shameful attempt to wriggle out of the whole situation.”

Instead of sympathising with the farmers hard hit by a potato glut by announcing some immediate relief measures, the minister was “adding insult to injury by blaming them for the entire crisis,” point out members of the Jalandhar Potato Growers Association (JPGA).

“We were looking up to the government to bail us out of the grim situation but the minister has mocked us by painting us as rank amateurs in this field. Perhaps he does not know that the techniques and the seeds that we have developed over the years are the result of our hard work and perseverance with no help from the Agriculture Department,” says Jaswinder Singh Sangha, general secretary of the outfit.

He also challenged the minister to name the places where the training camps/programmes were held for potato farmers and who were the experts who conducted such camps. We would also like to know the number of the farmers who had not suffered any losses, he added.

Raghbir Singh, JPGA chief, alleged that it was just another attempt by the government to wash its hands off the situation. If the Uttar Pradesh government could come to the aid of the government by announcing a liberal bailout package what was preventing the Punjab government.

Ironically, all their problems have arisen during the tenure of a party that always projects itself as a friend of the farming community.

Chief Minister should pull up his Agriculture Minister for the latter’s insensitive remarks, he added.

Iqbal Singh Chatha, secretary of the association, said

Langah should go through media reports since the glut was a nation-wide phenomenon. Our production accounts for just 7 per cent of the total potato output and we couldn’t be blamed for the crisis.


Dismiss convicted employees: Punjab vigilance
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The Punjab government has asked for immediate dismissal of all those employees who have been convicted of various offences by various courts of law, but are still serving the state government.

The Vigilance Department of the Punjab government has issued a letter to heads of all departments, Divisional Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners in the state to immediately forward them a list of such employees after taking suitable action against them.

OP Popli, secretary vigilance, Punjab, said the letter had been issued following an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that all such employees be dismissed.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Jasbir Singh had in November 2008 while disposing off a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate HC Arora ordered that “the state government should periodically monitor the action taken against employees, who are convicted for the alleged offences against them, and ensure that those deserve to be weeded out on account of their conviction in accordance with the rules on the subject, are dealt with strictly in accordance with the said rules.”

The state had told the court during the proceedings of the PIL that it had already dismissed 416 such employees. “This number related to the number of such employees dismissed till 2007. Now we have asked for action against such employees who might still be in service for the period starting January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2008,” said Popli.

The letter issued by the department on February 3 states that the list of such employees be provided forthwith, as it has to be submitted to the Punjab Chief Secretary.

The letter further warns that in case this information is not provided by any of the departments or offices, the high court would be informed of his negligence.

The heads of various departments and other offices have been asked to send these lists to the Director, Vigilance Bureau, Punjab, also.

The high court, in their orders, has also asked the state government to take action against the four employees who had been shown dismissed by the government in their list but were still in service.

“I have not been told if these four employees have been dismissed or not,” said the petitioner, HC Arora. 


Members of cooperatives to get goods at discount
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
In a bid to decrease the cost of inputs of state farmers, the state Cooperation Department has arrived at an understanding with various companies, including a tractor firm, to supply their goods at a 25 per cent discount to members of cooperative societies.

Disclosing this today during the release of the programme for a three-day national conference on “Revival of Rural Cooperative Credit Structure” starting from February 9 here, Cooperation Minister Kanwaljit Singh said the conference would suggest ways and means to further decrease input costs of farmers, besides pressing for a reduced interest of 4 per cent for loans given to farmers.

International Cooperative Alliance president Ivano Berberini will be the chief guest at the conference, which will be attended by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and ministers from ten other states.

Calling for a synergy between the corporate and cooperative world, Capt Kanwaljit said the debt of state’s farmers had crossed Rs 25,000 crore. Cooperation secretary BC Gupta said in 100 villages of the state 90 per cent agricultural operations were done through machinery provided by the cooperative societies.


Striking engineers to resume work today
Set Feb 16 deadline for their demands
Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 6
Around 200 engineers from the five municipal corporations of Jalandhar, Patiala, Amritsar, Bathinda and Ludhiana, who had gone on 3-day casual leave since Wednesday, met here today and decided to give the Punjab government time till February 16 to meet their demands.

Talking to The Tribune, Joginder Singh Sandhu, president of the Municipal Corporation Engineers Association, Punjab, said, "We have decided unanimously that we will get back to work from tomorrow. We have, however, given a deadline to the state government to clear its stand on our demands."

He said Local Bodies Chief Parliamentary Secretary Harish Rai Dhanda today came to meet them and assured them that the vacant seats of junior engineers, sub-divisional officers and senior engineers would be filled in a few days. "Dhanda assured us that the advertisement for recruitment would be published in the coming week, but the process of appointment would take around two months due to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections," he said, adding that they had also handed over a copy of memorandum of their demands to the CPS today. 


3 made joint directors in PR Dept
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
As part of the ongoing move to revamp the Department of Information and Public Relations, the Departmental Promotion Committee today promoted three deputy directors as joint directors and four public relations officers as deputy directors, besides other elevations. The promotions have come on the eve of the release of the Punjab government’s new media policy.

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who holds the portfolio of Information and Public Relations, has announced that he would ensure a good working relationship between the media and the government.

Opinder Singh Lamba, Dr Megha Singh and Rajinder Kaur have been promoted as joint directors. Four information and public relations officer promoted as deputy directors are Surinder Malik, PS Kalra, KS Mianpuri and Anil Sharma. The department would also shortly recruit 16 IPROs and 23 assistant public relations officers.

In the previous cabinet meeting, sanction was also given to the filling of posts of the APROs through the department selection committee.


Mega police city status for six towns sought 
KS Chawla

Ludhiana,February 6
The state government ,to modernise the police, has sought mega police city status for Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala , Bathinda and Mohali under the Centre’s scheme of according that status to seven metropolitan cities of the country.

NPS Aulakh Director- General of Police said yesterday the government had sent the proposal of the six towns to the Home Ministry for approval. The scheme, he said, was meant for cities with population of 50 lakh. The government pleaded to the Centre pace of urbanisation in the state was faster population of cities was rising. So modernisation of the police was imperative.

Aulakh said Home Ministry officials were told the state had witnessed militancy and borders Jammu and Kashmir. The state also has migrants from other states who work in fields and factories. SSP RK Jaiswal said Ludhiana had 20 police stations and four more police stations were sought under the scheme. 


Cess on border registries to go
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The state government has decided to exempt the 3 per cent additional stamp duty being charged as Social Security Cess on the registration of land in the villages within the radius of 5 km from 'A' class Municipal Committee towns in border areas of the state.

Disclosing this here today, a spokesman of the Punjab government said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal took a decision to this effect in response to the memorandum submitted to him by the residents of the border areas during a public rally at Fazilka.


Khangura writes to Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
Congress legislator from Qila Raipur Jassi Khangura has asked Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal to clarify his stand on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Reacting to Sukhbir’s non-committal response to the issue, Khangura has said as president of the SAD, Sukhbir should clarify the party stand as people want to know this in order to decide whether they extend or withdraw support to any political party.

In an open letter to Sukhbir, Khangura has said: “Your inconsistency on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and your current failure to respond to the questions on the issue has shocked many. In politics it is wise to only push a political issue where one is comfortable in defending and debating it for as long as it takes”.

“To refuse questions on a self-generated issue is a sign of failure and to display anger and aggression is a symptom of guilt,” he has said, asking the Deputy Chief Minister to clear air on the subject.


Prize for Mittersain
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 6
The Police Research and Development Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, has bestowed Pandit Gobind Vallabh Pant Prize upon Mittersain Meet for his creation “Ramrajya” for 2008-2009. The prize includes a certificate and Rs 14,000 in cash.

His numerous novels are part of curricula in various universities of Punjab and Haryana.

Earlier, the writer had received the Shiromani Punjabi Novel prize for his novel “Kaurv Sabha” for 2004.


Chaudhary is PSEB member (distribution)
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
Noted engineer KD Chaudhary, who is credited with the drive which has led to shifting of meters from inside residences to pillar boxes in many parts of Punjab, particularly Ludhiana, took over as member, distribution, of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

The new member has played an important role in introducing reforms like single-window system of redressal of consumer grievances. 


Preservation of Quila Mubarak
Court impleads Centre as party
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The Punjab and Haryana High Court wants to know whether the government of India has declared Quila Mubarak a protected monument.

The Bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh has also impleaded the Union of India, through the department of archeology, as a respondent.

The notice has been received by the Union of India’s standing counsel, OS Batalvi. The matter will now come up for further hearing before the Bench on April 17.

The query follows a petition filed against the state of Punjab and other respondents by Raj Kumar of Nabha and another petitioner. They were seeking directions to the respondents to quash the proceedings dated April 17, 2007, based on the state’s decision to lease out Quila Mubarak in Patiala district for 66 years. This, they had claimed, was illegal and without jurisdiction.

As the matter came up for hearing, the Bench observed: “It is not known whether the government of India has, at any stage, examined whether the fort in question, including the structure standing in the same, fall within the purview of the Ancient Monument and Preservation Act, 1904, or the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

“It is also not known whether the government of India has declared the fort and the structure as an ancient or protected monument. In these circumstances, we consider it just and proper to add as a party respondent the Union of India….”

Quila Mubarak forms the core around which the walled city of Patiala developed. It dates back to 1763 AD. Baba Ala Singh, founder of Patiala dynasty, built a “kachigarhi” or a mud fortress and named it Quila Mubarak. Later, it was reconstructed with baked bricks.

The Quila is spatially preceded by the Quila Chowk and encircled by three major commercial spines, the Gur Mandi, Bajaja Bazaar and Shah Nashin Bazaar. The Adalat Bazaar starts from the Quila and terminates at the Anardana Chowk.


Cancellation of Virk’s bail 
HC reserves verdict 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
The high court today reserved verdict on State of Punjab’s plea to cancel the bail granted to former police chief SS Virk in an alleged disproportionate assets case.

The case against Maharashtra cadre IPS officer Virk was registered at state vigilance bureau police station, Mohali, on September 8, 2007. He was arrested the next day from New Delhi-based Maharashtra Sadan. He was later admitted to PGI here. Justice HS Bhalla reserved the verdict at the conclusion of arguments put forward by Virk’s counsel, former Punjab advocate general Rajinder Singh Cheema, and state’s additional advocate-general Reeta Kohli.

District and Sessions Judge

Satya Pal Singh is Panchkula’s new district and sessions Judge. Earlier posted at Sirsa as an additional district and sessions judge, he replaces the sessions judge MM Sharma, who has now retired.

Budha Dal seeks Z plus security

Justice Rajan Gupta today asked ADGP (intelligence) to assess the threat perception to Budha Dal Nihang chief Baba Balbir Singh. He had only recently escaped unhurt when armed assailants ambushed his convoy near Bhagi Bandar village in Bathinda district. He is demanding “Z plus” security cover


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