P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Teachers Blamed
State education has collapsed: HC judges
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 7
Blaming poor standard of education for degradation of society , senior judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court have called upon prosperous families of to contribute for opening institutes for providing ideal education to wards of rural families of the border state. Call came at the annual function of Maya Devi Public School near here today afternoon.

In presidential address, Justice Mehtab Singh Gill said state education system had virtually collapsed. He regretted majority of the students were compelled to copy during examinations as teachers did not teach in classes.

“Observations have revealed majority of the teachers in government schools simply visit schools and do not teach in classes. Students somehow clear high and senior secondary classes by adopting unfair means,” pointed out Justice Gill.

Justice Ranjit Singh Randhawa asserted there was a need that youth in general and students in particular should imbibe patriotism and nationality. Justice Permod Kohli emphasised on appointing qualified and experienced teachers.

Chairman of the institute Madan Lal Goel, national awardee Simla Aggarwal, Gurpreet Singh Bhullar SSP Ludhiana (rural) and A Bakshi director also were present in the function.


Potato distress sale
The last straw, say farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar,February 7
Farmers are agitated due to hardships being faced by them for some months. The latest one is distress sale of potato in some parts of the Doaba and Malwa regions and availability of sunflower seed on the black market. Earlier, they had problems with regard to the sale of cotton.

At the time of sowing of wheat and potato in November, farmers had faced difficulty in getting DAP fertiliser also. People in rural areas remain without power for the entire day. Power which is free of cost, for farm sector is for short intervals which made a section of farmers request the state government to give them power without interruption and they would be happy to pay the bill.

This has been happening under a popular government, which claims to be protector, guide and philospher of farmers, headed by Parkash Singh Badal.

Potato growers, instead of earning profit from the crop, are paying from pockets. While one bag having 50 kg potatoes fetches between Rs 40 and Rs 60, a farmer has to spend Rs 55 a quintal on picking, packing and marketing it.

On the economics of potato crop, BKU president Balbir Singh Rajewal, said labour charged Rs 20 for picking 50 kg of potato from field and then Rs 15 were spent to pack it in a bag. Transportation cost comes to Rs 10 per bag and Rs 10 per bag is charged in the market. It means a farmer has to spend Rs 55 per 50 kg whereas average price of potato per bag is less than it. “ And we have not taken into account rent that is Rs 20,000 per acre”, said Rajewal.

He said Uttar Pradesh had fixed Rs 300 per quintal state procurement price of potato and had also given 25 per cent transportation subsidy to help farmers. However, in Punjab, farmers have been offered Rs 25 per quintal subsidy to transport of potato. “ That amounts a joke on farmers”, said a senior member of the Potato Growers Association.

“Sunflower seed has virtually disappeared from the market. It is available only on the black market and costs Rs 2,200 to Rs 2,500 for one acre whereas earlier it price was Rs 400 to Rs 600 for one acre”, said Rajewal. Who was behind the sale of seed on the black market ? Badal should enquire, he added.

Farmers say Punjab government earned Rs 3,000 crore in form of VAT, market, rural development fund( RDF) and infrastructure development fund. From the Rural Development Fund which is headed by Badal, the state government could give relief to farmers hit by distress sale of potato and cotton. Rules of the RDF clearly say this fund could be utilised to help farmers. Hard cash is available in the RDF, say farmers. They have urged Mandi Board Chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal to impress up on Badal to spend the RDF for the welfare of farmers and their wards and not to distribute it at sangat darshans.


Wheat worries in Punjab
High temperature set to affect yield
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
The high day temperatures and almost negligible rainfall has now begun to affect the standing wheat crops on almost 35 lakh hectares of land in Punjab.

While aphid attacks have been reported at some places in the state due to high temperature, the early sown crop has started maturing atleast a fortnight before normal due to low rainfall, resulting in low yield.

Dr BS Sidhu, director, Agriculture, Punjab said the situation had become a cause of worry. “Compared to last year, both the maximum and minimum day temperatures have been higher than normal and it is now attracting pests to the crops. Aphid attacks have already been reported in many areas,” he said.

He added that the next 10 days were very crucial for the crops. “There has been an 80 to 100 per cent deficit in rainfall since last year. We need atleast one good spell of rain. In case there is no rainfall, substantial shortfall in the yield is feared,” said Dr Sidhu.

This year, from mid-January, the minimum temperature has been over three to four degrees above normal and the maximum temperature has been two to three degrees higher than normal. While the maximum normal temperature during this time of the year varies from 19.5 degrees to about 20.5 degrees, this year it has gone beyond 22 degrees on some days. Similarly, the minimum temperature varied from 6 to 11 degrees while the normal ranges between 5.5 to 6.5 degrees during this time of the year.

The effect of the unusually dry and warm winter is showing all across the state. In Landran, a farmer Gurjeet Singh showed the early maturing of his standing crops. “Wherever wheat was sown just after the rains, it has matured because of dry spell,” said Gurjeet.

“A. Howard wrote in 1924 that wheat farming is a gamble in temperature. Day-to-day temperatures affect the occurance of various development stages of the crop. Yield at many places is bound to be affected,” said Sidhu.

Encouraged by the bumper crop last season and an increase in MSP of wheat, this year there has been further increase in the area under wheat cultivation. Last year, the total area under wheat production was about 34.88 lakh hectares and it yielded 157.5 lakh metric tonnes of wheat. This year, while the area under cultivation is 34.90 lakh hectares, the yield is expected to be about 155.5 lakh metric tonnes. 



LS Election
Hurt Galib may turn to Akalis
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 7
Hurt by the party’s attitude towards him for many years and denial of ticket from Jagraon during previous Assembly elecytions , senior Congress leader and two-time MP Gurcharan Singh Galib may contest on Akali ticket from Ludhiana.

Galib, who commands considerable following in the area, has been sulking for not being given any party position .

Galib told The Tribune, he had been approached by the Badals to contest from Ludhiana. “I have been asked to convey my decision soon. I am consulting my supporters on this and will make an announcement in a day or two,” he said.

He said his parry too knew about the offer. Many senior leaders had advised him not to take the plunge. They were of the view his switchover at this juncture would affect chances of the party nominee.

“I have also been offered Rajya Sabha seat in case I choose to remain in the party. I have also been offered an Assembly seat for my son in the next elections,” he added.

He said he had been hurt over being cold-shouldered by his party. He hadn’t not been invited to any party functions and was not even asked to participate in ongoing mass contact programmes, he pointed out.

“I have come to know my party has already decided on the candidate and will make an announcement keeping this factor in mind in the coming days”, he added. However, sources close to him revealed he had made up his mind to contest on Akali ticket.

The SAD has been on the look out for suitable candidate since sitting MP Sharanjit Singh Dhillon has expressed inability to contest this time. The BJP has been asking for the seat from its alliance partner but the Akalis seem to be in no mood to leave this seat for it .

BJP chief Rajinder Bhandari was keen on contesting the seat this time and his party was willing to swap this seat with Hoshiarpur, but the deal did not materalise.

Congress sources said AICC spokesperson Mansih Tewari, who unsuccessfully contested the seat last time, was likely to re-contest this time too. 



Mangalore Episode
Ram Sene’s objective right, not method: Togadia
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, Febuaray 7
In significant difference of opinion between the two like-minded Hindu organisations, firebrand leader and general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Praveen Togadia today said though his organisation was against the pub culture and its serious repercussions on the youth, still the women ought to be shown respect.

Referring to recent beating up girls in a pub in Mangalore by activists of the Ram Sene, he said objective of the Sene activists was right but the method was not in conformity with our social and cultural values. All bodies working to safeguard the Hindu culture should come together to launch mass awareness against the pub culture and even the parents of young boys and girls ought to join hands to save the younger generation from falling prey to evils of the western culture.

Togadia was in city to address “dharam raksha sabha” later in the day, was addressing a news conference here. The VHP leader made it clear that no one was against expression of love between boys and girls but exhibition of such purely private affair at public places was what his organisation intended to curb. “It should be rather the duty of the parents. He disagreed with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that the construction of Sri Ram temple in Ayodhya was no longer a live issue for Lok Sabha poll. “I am not aware about any major deviation in the stand of the party on this issue. However, I have emphasised upon BJP president Rajnath Singh not only include construction of the Ram temple in their election manifesto but to go a step further and pledge to take legislative measures for this purpose if voted to power,” said the VHP leader.


Farmers rejecting GM crops, says US expert
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 7
Genetically Modified (GM) crops are promoted by foreign multi-national companies and the Department of Biotechnology of Indian government. They maintain GM crops have swept the world and adopted widely by agricultural and food sectors, especially in highly industrialised countries like the US.

Prof John Fagan, associate director, Institute of Science Technology and Public Policy, Ottawa, USA, stated this in a lecture on ‘Food Safety and Food Security in the Era of Climate Change and Biotechnology’ here today in Guru Nanak Dev University . The university and the Kheti Virasat Mission, Jaitu organised the lecture.

The professor said India was being prompted to open its doors to GM crops, or else it would be left behind ,losing competitive position in the global market. He said biotech scientists continued to promote GM crops. But in the broader scientific community, health and environmental safety of GM crops was highly controversial, as highly respected and impartial scientists continued to raise serious concerns.

Fagan added despite two decades of intensive and expensive promotion of GM crops, these had failed to penetrate the agricultural industry. When farmers had been given the opportunity of an informed choice, they had rejected GM crops. As a result, only four major GM crops, maize, soya, cotton, and rapeseed, had been commercialised, he added.

Professor Fagan said although the biotech industry had developed GM varieties of other major crops and governments approved those for commercialisation, farmers had refused these due to negative effects experienced from maize, soya, cotton, and rapeseed. 


Pak national to see world through Indian eye
Anshu Seth
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 7
“I am elated to see the world through the eye of an Indian,” said Ali Akbar from Lahore, Pakistan. An eye of a Jalandhar-based woman was donated to him after she died in a recent accident.

Akbar underwent corneal transplant at Dr Ramesh Super-speciality Eye and Laser Centre in Ludhiana. Despite tension between India and Pakistan, the embassies of both countries were prompt to accommodate this patient for a visa on medical grounds.

Ali Akbar said having spent huge amount on his treatment in Pakistan he was unable to get back his sight he had lost following an eye injury. “ My exporter from Ludhiana discussed my case with Dr Ramesh who agreed to do the corneal transplant and here I am looking at the world with the eye of an Indian woman.. I salute the gesture of her family as they have re-established my faith in humanity above the man-made boundaries,” added overwhelmed Ali Akbar.

On his preferring India over western countries for treatment, Ali Akbar said it was the ‘mehmaan nawazi’ in the state that made him take the decision.

Akbar, who had lost his left eye, has pledged his own.“There is a need of the organ donation campaign in Pakistan that is why there is no facility of corneal transplant also. I am going to promote the good cause in my Urdu weekly ‘Akbar-e- Jahan’, he added.

Dr Ramesh Kumar, corneal transplant expert promised to perform free operations for all patients coming from neighbouring state. “It is golden chance to spread the message of the noble cause of eye donation which is being carried on by the Punarjot Eye Bank Society." 


Satellite-based data centres for Bhakra, Pong dams
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
Water management of the Bhakra and Pong dams is set to become more efficient with the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) awarding a Rs 24-crore contract to a Danish firm to establish satellite-based data centres in the catchments of these dams.

The move will completely automate the process of data collection and enable BBMB to get accurate figures on water inflow into the dams, snow melting and outflows at the click of a button. BBMB authorities will, after the completion of the project, also be better placed as far as weather forecasts as well as flood warnings are concerned.

UC Mishra, chairman, BBMB, while talking to TNS, said the contract had been awarded to DHI Denmark, an expert in this field which had executed similar projects elsewhere. He said the firm had already established its office in Chandigarh and was presently collecting data on which basis it would start the process of establishing data centres in the catchments areas of both the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.

Mishra said presently the BBMB authorities were dependant on external authorities for supply of information, including intensity of snowfall, in the catchments of both its dams. He said the supply of this information took some time. The BBMB chairman said similarly information collected at manual gauging stations by its own employees sometimes resulted in delays and on few occasions also suffered from lack of accuracy. He said to do away with this, it had been decided to go in for complete automation of this system.

The BBMB has, meanwhile, also decided to shut down two of its important hydel channels to conduct repairs and plug leakages if any. Mishra disclosed that the Nangal hydel channel running from Bhakra to Ropar had completed 50 years of operation without a single shutdown. He said similarly the Sundernagar channel the Beas the Sutlej had also run continuously for 30 years.

Mishra said both Punjab and Himachal had been requested to give 15 days closure of both these canals so that BBMB authorities could examine as well as conduct repairs wherever necessary. Mishra said the closure of both channels was likely to happen in April. He said to buy further time, BBMB had started preparatory work, which included using water-proof cameras to examine the canals so that locations needing attention could be identified for repair at the earliest.


Golden Temple to have 100 CCTV cameras
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar , February 7
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee will install more than 100 CCTV cameras for more security in the Golden Temple and Akal Takht complex.

After a meeting with senior officials of the Delhi -based Consultancy Company, here today, SGPC chief Avtar Singh said all sensitive points would be covered with the CCTV cameras. Later, other historical gurdwaras would also have security cameras. Closed-circuit cameras will help keep round the clock check on all sensitive locations of Sikh historical places.

A decision to this effect was already taken at an executive body meeting of the SGPC chaired by chief Avtar Singh. Earlier, the proposal was mooted when Bibi Jagir Kaur was headed the SGPC.

The SGPC president said closed -circuit cameras would be installed by the end of April this year.

SGPC sources said the decision on CCTV camera was taken following attacks on religious places in South Asia. Cases of picking of pockets, garment thefts in the complex and reports of children missing prompted the SGPC to act on the proposal.

The SGPC will also bring accounts of all the historical gurdwaras online. The accounts could be accessed by any devotee, said SGPC .This is for transparency in the working of Shiromani Committee. History and accounts of important gurdwaras- 62, managed by the SGPC, would also be available online . Boards describing history would also be put up outside these gurdwaras.

The SGPC president said mobile jammers would also be installed at various locations of the SGPC to prevent cell users to disturb serenity of Sikh shrines.


22 APROs promoted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
As many as 22 assistant public relations officers (APROs) have been promoted by the Punjab government following a meeting of the department promotion committee.

The assistant public relations officers association, Punjab, has expressed a deep sense of gratefulness to the Deputy Chief Minister who, on taking over the charge of the department, felt the urgency to end the stagnation at this level at the headquarters as well as the districts.

Shikha Nehra, president of the association, said it was amazing that a key department which acted as a vital link between the government and the people, kept its officers in a state of callous neglect and complete indifference.

On behalf of the association, Shikha Nehra, along with vice-president S. Sukhdev Singh Randhawa, general secretary S. Satnam Singh Chhina and other executive members, held out an assurance to the government that now, after their long-standing grievance had been addressed, they would work with greater determination and involvement in carrying forward the policies and programmes of the state government. 


Ownership rights for 150 Rai Sikh tillers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
The state government has decided to allot ownership rights of evacuee land to nearly 150 tillers of Rai Sikh community.

A decision to this effect was taken by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to address issues of the community.

The state government had allotted this land first in 1979, and then in 1989 to the beneficiaries who fulfilled the requisite condition as per the policy.

The remaining cases of 150 beneficiaries are being scrutinised by the deputy commissioner, Ferozepur.

The state government had also decided to invite fresh applications in next three months from the beneficiaries of the community, who could not apply earlier.


200 ETT teachers held, freed
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, February 7
Nearly 200 ETT (Elementary Teachers Training) teachers were arrested by the Ropar police today and released in the evening.

The teachers were raising slogans against the government in support their long pending demands during Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's Sangat Darshan programme.

Senior police officials said arrests were a preventive measure. Since the teachers were marching towards the venue of the Sangat Darshan we have arrested them, said the senior police officials. 


HC notice to Vidhan Sabha secy, govt
Payment of MLAs’ income tax 
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
The Punjab and Haryana High Court will now decide how taxing Punjab MLAs can be on the state exchequer and the general public.

It’s Division Bench has put the Vidhan Sabha secretary and the state of Punjab on notice, after taking cognizance of the fact that amendments have been carried out to make the tax on their salaries and perks payable by the state government.

The Bench of Justice MM Kumar and Justice HS Bhalla has also fixed February 20 for hearing arguments to determine whether the state government is justified in paying income tax on their salaries, allowances and perquisites. The state counsel has been asked to furnish the details of the government’s stand on the issue by the then.

The issue was first brought to the fore in these columns on June 20, 2006, through an editorial “Aaj ka MLA wants you to pay his tax”. It seems the issue remained alive in the mind of 72-year-old Ludhiana resident Manmohan Singh.

The former head traveller ticket examiner in the railway department has annexed the editorial with his petition against the state and the Vidhan Sabha secretary for seeking orders from the court to do away with the practice.

Manmohan Singh has asked the high court to quash provision 3-AA of the Punjab Legislative Assembly (Salaries and Allowances of Members) Act, 1942, and Punjab Act number one of 2004. These “relate to exemption from payment of income tax on salaries, allowances and perquisites, payable to the members of the legislative assembly,” he has asserted.

Manmohan Singh believes the action is not only violative of the constitutional provisions, but is also ultra-vires of the Constitution. Besides this, it is an outcome of an arbitrary act on the part of the respondents and is also discriminatory. Quoting the contents of a letter written by him to the state Chief Minister on May 14, 2008, Manmohan Singh has further asserted: It was not justified to grant exemption to all MLAs from the payment of income tax, when all citizens of India, including small shopkeepers and public servants, pay income tax from their own pockets.

He has asserted the exemption was unjustified as “instances have been reported of farmers’ suicide”. Moreover, a large number of people were unable to meet their day-to-day expenses and the prices were skyrocketing.

The process of granting exemptions, he has claimed, started way back in 1976. Punjab Legislative Assembly Speakers and Deputy Speakers Salaries Act, 1937, was amended by inserting new Section 5 in terms of Punjab Act number eight of 1976. Their salaries, allowances and perquisites were notified to be exclusive of income tax and it was made payable by the state government.

In 2004, the 1942 Act was amended. As such, the total House stood exempted from the payment of income tax. The amendment was said to have been made “with a voice vote in the House, there being vested interest of all the members of the Legislative Assembly in bringing about such changes in the legislative enactment,” he has added.


Marriage scuffle leaves 3 dead
Gurdeep Singh Mann/Gurminder Grewal
Tribune News Service

Khanna/Samrala, February 7
Entering into an argument with a group of boys proved fatal for three persons, including a child, as the car in which they were travelling met with an accident after it was allegedly hit by the car of the accused. The incident left the couple and their child dead on the spot and two other injured here late in the evening today.

As the accused repeatedly hit the car of the victims on the Samrala-Chandigarh road near Ghulal village at around 8 pm, the victims were constantly in touch with their relatives, calling them for help over phone.

According to the police, a couple, Harvinder Singh (35) and Jasvir Kaur (30), and their eight-year-old son, Pavneet, had come to attend a marriage party in Samrala. The couple entered into a brawl with some boys from Dugri area of Ludhiana, after they objected to the lewd comments passed by the boys. This was followed by heated arguments and a minor scuffle. According to the victims’ relatives, Harvinder Singh stopped the boys from teasing orchestra girls who were performing at the marriage party. The boys threatened the couple of dire consequences and also broke windowpanes of the marriage palace.

The couple then decided to leave the venue in their Zen car after situation went out of control. One of their relatives Sher Singh, along with a 10-year-old boy, also accompanied the family in their car.

However, they were chased by the boys on the Samrala-Chandigarh road. The boys, in a Verna Car, allegedly hit the victims’ car repeatedly upto Ghulal village. The couple contacted their relatives for help who were still at the marriage venue.

In the meantime, the victims’ car went out of control and it hit a nearby tree. Even as the car occupants received serious injuries, the accused kept on hitting the halted car repeatedly and left the place when they got sure that all the occupants have died.

Sher Singh and Lovepreet received serious injuries and were rushed to a hospital. The relatives of the deceased revealed the identities of the attackers as Jassi, Raju (both brothers) and Ravinder, all residents of Dugri.

The SSP of Khanna, Arun Pal Singh, said a case under Section 302 of the IPC would be registered against the accused for the brutal murder. No arrests were made till the filing of this report. 


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