Wednesday, January 17, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Talwandi’s volte face on Sikh definition
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 16 — After drawing flak from various Sikh religious and political organisations for his declaration that the issue of defining a Sikh had been referred to the Minority Commission of India, the SGPC chief Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi today went back on the issue claiming that he had been misinterpreted and misunderstood on the subject.

Talking to reporters at his residence, a visibly subdued Mr Talwandi said it was the issue related to the admissions in various educational and vocational institutions run by the SGPC that had been referred to the commission. The SGPC, he said, wanted that its institutions should be treated like other minority institutions with a discretion to provide reservation for the Sikh students.

Regarding the issue of defining Sikh, Mr Talwandi said it would be decided by the Religious Advisory Committee, which would be constituted very soon. He added that the membership of the committee would be widened. Asserting that he had not said anything regarding the referring of the issue to the Minority Commission, Mr Talwandi remarked, “It was not on the agenda so there was no scope for any comments from me”.

The SGPC chief also denied that he had any differences with Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti on the issue. He said he had a telephonic conversation with Jathedar Vedanti today and he had endorsed the SGPC decision to constitute an advisory committee on religious affairs.

Reiterating his stand that the issue regarding the RSS had already been settled, Mr Talwandi added that the RSS leaders at a meeting with the members of the commission in Delhi today had clarified that it (RSS) believed in a separate and distinct identity of the Sikhs. He said he had been informed about it by one of the members of the commission.

He also declared that his party was ready for the SGPC elections. He sought to clarify that the elections were due for the month of November and not October as claimed by certain quarters.

The president of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) and former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, and the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, have reacted sharply to the SGPC move of referring the issue of definition of a “Sikh” to the Minority Commission of India, describing it as a “deep- rooted and dangerous conspiracy against Sikhism fraught with dangerous consequences”.

Addressing two separate press conferences here today, Mr Tohra and Mr Mann described the SGPC move as a meek surrender. Not surprisingly both leaders blamed the Chief Minister for the same, while accusing him of doing it at the behest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Both Mr Tohra and Mr Mann pointed their guns at Mr Badal accusing him of having bowed before the RSS. “We have been resisting the government and the RSS interference in our religious affairs and Mr Badal has surrendered everything to the Minority Commission”, Mr Tohra remarked, while trying to give a clean chit to the SGPC chief, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi.

The former SGPC chief claimed that Mr Talwandi had been forced to make such a statement by the Chief Minister. He said, “Whenever Mr Talwandi acts on his own, he takes correct and mature decisions in the interest of Sikhism as was illustrated by his reaction on the RSS issue. But now he seems to have come under some pressure”.

Mr Tohra said the executive committee of the SGPC had no right to take such a decision. Any such decision that had direct implications on Sikhism should be discussed in the general house of the SGPC. He pointed out, that when the SGPC was recognised to be the highest Sikh parliament then why should it surrender the right of defining a Sikh to the commission which had no such authority.

Asserting that it was Mr Badal who was playing the shots, Mr Tohra claimed that the issue (of the definition of Sikh) was not discussed at all at the executive meeting. Quoting some executive members owing allegiance to him, Mr Tohra said, the issue was not on the agenda of the meeting. He said, “I and no other Sikh is prepared to accept the definition or interpretation of Sikhism by the commission”.

The SHSAD president warned that this move by Mr Badal was fraught with dangerous consequences as it would once again lead to bloodshed in Punjab for which the responsibility would be that of the Central and the state governments. He said, the very move amounts to undermining the authority of the SGPC.

In a similar tone, Mr Mann also warned against any such move and accused the Chief Minister of “playing into the hands of the RSS”. He attributed the SGPC move to the RSS agenda, which he said was continuously interfering in the religious affairs of the Sikhs.

Mr Mann listed a number of reasons to justify his charges against the RSS. “Earlier the RSS interfered in the Nanakshahi calendar, then stopped the Sikh jathas to Pakistan, besides trying to keep Ramayan in gurdwaras and describing the Sikhs as keshdhari Hindus”.

The SAD (A) President claimed that Mr Badal was deliberately trying to sabotage peace in the state to prevent the SGPC elections, which are scheduled to be held in October. Blaming Mr Badal for the controversy, Mr Mann claimed that Mr Baldev Singh Sahjara, lone executive member of the SAD (A) had told him that the issue was not discussed at the meeting, Mr Talwandi received a phone call after which he decided to make the controversial announcement.

Mr Mann disclosed that he met Mr Talwandi today and urged him to convene a general house meeting of the SGPC to discuss various issues concerning Sikhism. He said the meeting had become necessary in view of yesterday’s decision of the SGPC. 


Drugs: Badal’s silence baffling
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 16 — The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s silence over the drug issue, raised by the Sikh head priests, has baffled all concerned.

Without mincing words, the Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and the Jathedar of Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Prof Manjit Singh, have held the SAD-BJP government and its official machinery responsible for “spreading the drug menace” in the state.

However, neither Mr Badal, who is the head of the SAD- BJP government, nor the police authorities have broken their silence on such a significant issue so far. It is a fact that the state, especially its youth and marginal farmers, are facing a major threat from drugs.

Some SAD Ministers have raised their voice against the World Trade Organisation by branding it anti- farmer but they have done nothing to address the drug issue which poses a far bigger threat to the farming community. One can meet thousands of youth in the countryside wrecked by the use of poppy husk. The Tribune has been raising the drug issue in its columns regularly for the past four years or so.

It is the first time that the Sikh head priests have taken up such a serious issue in a big way, and have struck hard by saying that the government and the police were patronising drug peddlers, harming society in general and the youth in particular.

The head priests have not made the statement without any basis. Informed sources say that someone from the police ranks and from among politicians have provided them with inside information about what is happening with regard to the sale of drugs, especially poppy husk, in the state. Otherwise, they would have never pointed their finger at the government and the police.

But it is a fact that politicians — they may be of any hue — will never raise this issue. Neither will they press for the starting of a campaign for curbing the menace. It does not suit them to raise their voice against drugs. It is well known in political circles that some of the smugglers operating in the state finance politicians to have their “blessings.” Go to any village in the Malwa belt and one will come to know instantly the names of drug peddlers and politicians and police officials having a nexus with them.

If people in villages know all about the drug mafia operating in their respective areas, it is impossible to believe that the police authorities concerned have no knowledge about it. But it is a trade in which big money is involved. According to an estimate poppy husk smuggling in the state involves a turnover of several crores of rupees. “Earlier, it was an unorganised trade but now it fully organised”, said a senior police officer who has served in the Malwa belt as a district police chief.

In 1999, over 904 quintals of poppy husk, about 4 quintals of opium, 29 kg of charas and 4 kg of heroin were detected by the police in the state and in 2000, over 1,177 quintals of poppy husk, 1.13 quintals of charas, nearly 7 quintals of opium and 1.26 quintal of heroin were detected.

It is an open secret that poppy husk was distributed in tonnes in the byelections held in Punjab in recent years. The Sunam byelection will be known for poppy husk distribution for years to come. The number of drug takers in the state, especially in the Malwa belt, which is considered a stronghold of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, has increased to such an extent that no politician can afford to annoy them.

Both head priests stated that a large number of youth in the state had become drug addicts. Prof Manjit Singh has played a significant role in organising drug deaddiction camps at various places, including Anandpur Sahib.

There are several entry points for poppy husk and other drugs in the state. But the most popular is the Guhla-Cheeka route. Through this route, poppy husk in trucks and on horseback is distributed in the Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Fazilka and Ferozepore areas. It is brought from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In those states, it is available at a low price. For instance, if a bag of poppy husk weighing 40 kg is available to a smuggler for Rs 6,000, he sells it to peddlers for Rs 10,000, who further sell it to consumers at rates varying between Rs 500 and Rs 600 per kg.

Most of the smugglers unload their trucks in the Guhla-Cheeka belt, from where it is taken on horseback to various parts of the Malwa belt. There are several villages on either side of the Punjab and Haryana border near Samana where ponies are specially reared for transporting drugs. The villages are Daban Kheri, Ratta-Khera, Taran Wali, Ansu Majra, Majri and Battian, according to the police. The Ghagga and Shatrana police have several times captured ponies used for smuggling. 


Khalra case: Human Rights Panel to move HC

CHANDIGARH, Jan 16 (UNI) — The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has decided to move the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the enforcement of its recommendations of compensating two ex-militants and a human rights activist as the directions were defied by the state government.

The full Bench of the PSHRC, at its meeting here yesterday, decided to move the high court following the receipt of a letter from the state Home Department which suggested the commission to review the recommendations made to the state, including the compensation of Rs 50,000 each to the two former militants and the rights activist Rajiv Randhawa who was the witness in the infamous Khalra murder case.

The PSHRC, on July 6 last year, issued the directions to the state government to compensate the three for their illegal detention in police custody and for “wrongly accusing them of forming a fresh terrorist outfit — Tigers of Khalistan”.

The three had been accused in July, 1998, of forming the terrorist outfit and a case had then been registered at the police station “D” division, Amritsar by the then Inspector Lakha Singh posted at the station.

“In view of the factor that the state (Punjab) government has not accepted the recommendations of the commission and that the commission has decided to go to the high court for the enforcement of its recommendations, the proceedings against DSP Lakha Singh are kept in abeyance till the decision of the high court in the writ petition yet to be filed by the commission,” the order of the PSHRC’s full Bench said.

It was on November 20, 2000, that the IGP, Litigation, sent his report on the matter in which he had challenged the investigations of the PSHRC into the FIR lodged against the three accused in July, 1998, and requested the commission to re-examine and review its recommendations.

It was after this that PSHRC Chairman Justice (Retd.) V.K. Khanna felt desirable to place the case before the full commission of the PSHRC.

According to the PSHRC findings, Rajiv Randhawa, Rachhpal Singh and Sarabjit Singh had been picked up by the police from different places in Amritsar on July 15, 1998, while an FIR prepared by the police next day stated that they were nabbed from Gol Bagh in Amritsar where they were planning to commit a dacoity along with other militants who fled the scene.

The other four roped in by the police as “terrorists of Tigers of Sikh Land” included Akaljit Singh, Upkar Singh, Padarath Singh and Bhupinder Singh.

The PSHRC investigations had earlier also revealed that Rajiv Singh, the eyewitness in the Khalra murder case, had joined the investigations into the reported killing of Jaswant Singh Khalra in October, 1995 at the Jhabbal police station.

Moreover, the PSHRC observed that despite its orders that the challan in the said FIR registered on July 16, 1998, should not be filed in a court till the final disposal of these complaints, it transpired that the challan had been put in the court although the matter was still pending before the commission.

“It appears that the Punjab Police has not so far been sensitised regarding the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993” and the state government as well as the commission have to take active steps for doing so,” the full Bench of the PSHRC observed.


Dreams of Badal and worries of Punjab
By Surinder Singla

CHANDIGARH: An exercise in contemplation and reflection, as the modern means of “political meditation”, seems to be the in-thing.

Apparently inspired by US President by Clinton’s regular retreats, away from his official timetable, Mr Vajpayee followed suit. His musings from Kollam on controversial topics like Ayodhya, charting a new line for Kashmir and expressing a commitment to economic reforms constitute a pioneering effort in the Indian context. While giving him credit for doing something exclusive that no other Indian Premier has chosen to do, the act is open to misgivings about his latent desire to project himself as something of a unique human being, a different breed altogether.

Close on the heels of Mr Vajpayee’s sojourn to Kollam, down south, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has made a similar rendezvous up north, to pep up his contemplative mood and explore the streaks of brilliance in his thought process while interacting with the Press over breakfast at his official residence.

While admiring him to be a part of this emerging trend in public life and allowing the people to have a glimpse of his thought process, one cannot help but call it as an exercise in day-dreaming without any concrete plan for designing a better future for Punjab. Conceding that politics is his passion, I find in him a “political bone” that never tires (in fact, he tires everyone else), his “dreams and worries” seem more of an expression of helplessness and frustration at not being able to write home any real achievement of his four-year rule.

Dreaming of an all-round development and better economic life for kisans and calling them as the saviour of mankind, one cannot help commenting that in the climate of an interdependent relationship that we are a part of, the contribution of all sectors, including politics and business (in no way diluting the contribution of farmers), is equally important for development and prosperity. However, the score card of his four-year stint, carrying a detailed manifesto under his arm, purportedly for improving the lot of farmers and their all-round quality of life, shows that rural Punjab and its farmers have been the worst suffers during this time. His other dream of speeding up the administrative decision-making process is an overt admission of his own vulnerable administrative skills. He worries, as a detached saint, over the burgeoning population, increasing poverty and the rich getting richer, but not caring to offer any solutions.

Away from the maddening crowd, he has chosen to talk about the WTO that worries him like the “death knell” for small farmers. This is despite the fact that the WTO has, so far, not affected Punjab at all, and not a single grain of paddy and wheat (major crops of Punjab) has been imported till date. Hinting that the issue may be the major concern during the next assembly elections, it is amazing that till date, during the past four years, he has done nothing what he promised to do in terms of adopting any policy on agriculture. In fact, his partner. The BJP, is in the process of abandoning the Congress’ carefully through-out policy of minimum support price, in vogue ever since it inspired the Green Revolution in 1968. The recent economic resolution of the BJP, however, gives enough indications of the upcoming policy on agriculture. While conveniently opting to remain mum at that time, he wishes to raise the bogey now. His desires and dreams thus are not in tune with his actions.

Again, his concerns at education or the lack of it, and the longing for its “vocationalisation” seems quite bizarre, considering the opportunities that he has awfully wasted. The Akalis and the TDP are both partners in the NDA. Relatively speaking, however, the benefit that the TDP has accrued out of the Centres resources and discretion, in terms of institutions for higher learning for the state of Andhra, far outweighs the returns to Punjab. He again kept mum. Punjab will always rue at this lost opportunity.

The biggest victory, according to him, is the regional forces ruling the country and the evolution of an era of true federalism, as also the formation of the constitutional review committee. His claims however, seem redundant when it comes to cashing on the Akalis alliance with the Centre. The greatest beneficiary of the regional forces, however, has been the TDP that has usurped much of the Centre’s resources for the location of its projects in Andhra Pradesh. The Akalis have been content with the constitutional review committee and been gloating over it ever since. The only landmark achievements, that he never misses to mention, during the past four years in the shape of “Punjab refinery” and the “waiving of loans” also owe their genesis to the foresight of the Congress. The Punjab refinery was approved by Mr P.V. Narashimha Rao in 1996 in his letter to Mr H.S. Brar, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, and the waiving of loans was the stand taken by Mr Rao and Mr Manmohan Singh and later by the Gujral government (supported by the Congress). The fact of the matter is that he has not been able to point out even a single achievement of his, and all he reminisces about is the feeling of helplessness and inadequacy.

His controversial comments about the “historical discrimination against Punjab” have to be analysed in the right perspective. His assertion that the Congress was responsible for Chandigarh not being given to Punjab and the non-settlement of the water dispute comes to a big naught, considering the present political equation that they are a party to, as of now. The Akalis, being part of the coalition government in New Delhi and Mr Badal’s family friends running the government in Haryana, it is amazingly curious that he has failed to take up these issues, either with the Centre or Haryana. Although Mr Badal and the Akalis normally talk of historical discrimination by the Congress, his silence during this time is sufficiently eloquent.

Is he afraid of taking up the demand for Chandigarh that has been the major political demand for Punjab? Is he apprehensive that the demand may not be misused by militants and extremist elements aided and abetted by elements in his party and people like Mr Mann and Mr Tohra to rekindle the movement of separation? While linking terrorism to the “mistakes of the Congress”, he, however, conveniently forgets that it was he and his party that started the “Dharam Yudha” morcha at the Golden Temple, which was the beginning of terrorism in Punjab.

All in all, his prime intention, apparently seems to be focused on the ensuing elections, and he has geared himself to it. He has gathered extra energy for the electoral agenda that he has invented for himself in terms of the five postulates of survival of small farmers, “resuscitation” of the rural economy, improving the living conditions in the city, providing the essentials and ensuring secularism. His score-card, as of now, however, on these issues reads a dismal story. “Weighty” matters do not move him at all; rather they weigh him down. Sheer grit and perseverance, yes! That is what enables him to keep him in power and move on.

I wish that instead of a “meaningful discussion” on development, its effective implementation could provide him the “kick” that he talks about so fondly.

The writer is a former Rajya Sabha member of the Congress.


Power on urban pattern for 3,000 more villages 
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 16 — About 3,000 more villages are likely to get uninterrupted power supply before the onset of monsoon under a rural electrification scheme which envisages providing electricity on the urban pattern to all villages in the State within the next three years .

Addressing a press conference here, PSEB Chairman G.S. Sohal said the scheme was two-pronged. It envisaged raising the standard of living of people in the villages as well as providing a fillip to rural industry by encouraging growth of commercial centres at villages.

He said a total of 2,318 villages had been commissioned up to December 2000 under the urban supply pattern out of 3,729 villages registered under this scheme. He said REC Limited, Delhi, had passed a loan of Rs 150 crore for the further implementation of the scheme under which 3,000 more villages would be taken up.

Mr Sohal said a modified scheme had been introduced which would not only be less expensive but also help the board in reducing system losses in the rural network. He said the scheme was also expected to provide employment to rural youth.

He said extensive monitoring of revenue collection on a daily basis had resulted in substantial increase in the monthly revenue.

He said it was estimated that at the end of the financial year, the increase in revenue could be to the tune of Rs 850 crore. He said this would enable the board to wipe out the losses incurred in the earlier year to some extent.

He disclosed that the board had detected a revenue leakage of Rs 109 crore in the last year. He said these figures were almost double as compared to the power theft figure the year before. He said 9.9 lakh connections had been checked with 2.4 lakh cases of theft having been detected.

He said a programme to spread computer literacy among the staff had been launched under which 20,000 employees had been selected. He said a programme to train 1,000 officers and employees every year under this programme had already been approved. It had been decided to train 8,400 persons every year all over the state for which a proposal was under the consideration of the management. 


SC list: Badal for PM’s intervention

NEW DELHI, Jan 16 (PTI) — Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and sought his intervention for the declaration of Ramdasia, Ravidasia and Mazhbi Sikhs as Scheduled Castes.

Badal made the plea in the light of a recent Punjab and Haryana High Court judgement that Ramdasia Sikhs would no longer be entitled to the benefits enjoyed by the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes because they did not figure in the 1950 Presidential order.

Pointing out that these castes had been included in the Scheduled Castes list of Punjab, he told Mr Vajpayee that Ramdasia and Ravidasia had been mentioned as Ramdasi and Ravidasi in the Presidential order.

Mr Badal requested Mr Vajpayee that a clarification should be issued by the government to resolve the complicated issue affecting a large number of people in Punjab.

A state government release said the Prime Minister assured Mr Badal to look into it.

Mr Badal was accompanied by some of his ministerial colleagues, including Chaudhary Swaran Ram, Sohan Singh Thandal and Bibi Mohinder Kaur Josh. 


Speaker adjourns case on  disqualification
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 16 — The Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, today adjourned the case pertaining to the disqualification of 11 MLAs of the Shiromani Akali Dal to March 31. The case was adjourned following a request made by certain legislators that the counsel of one of them was unable to argue the case because he was ill.

As many as five Ministers of the Badal government had filed two petitions requesting the disqualification of 11 MLAs on certain grounds.


Cong threatens to expel Jagmeet loyalist
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 16 — The Patiala District Congress Rural President, Mr Hardial Singh, today urged the suspended Congress leader, Mr Harinderpal Singh Mann, to reply to the show cause notice given to him till January 25 failing which further action would be taken against him .

Mr Mann, who had held a function to felicitate the Lok Sabha member, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, in Samana, recently against wishes of the Punjab Congress, had in a statement yesterday claimed that he had not received any notice from the District Congress besides claiming that Mr Hardial Singh was no longer president of the district unit which was still to be reconstituted .

Mr Hardial Singh furnished receipts of the registered letter sent to Mr Mann at his Samana residence to prove that the suspension order had been sent to him. Mr Hardial Singh also claimed that the Pradesh Congress President, Capt Amarinder Singh, had made it clear that he was still President of the District Rural Unit and was thus competent to take action against Mr Mann .

The DCC (Rural) President said action had been taken against Mr Mann after various block presidents of the party submitted complaints to him regarding Mr Mann’s anti-party activities, which included making statements against party’s policies and programmes besides criticism of the PPCC President as well as the senior party leadership.

He said he had already sent a interim report of the anti-party activities of the suspended leader and that a full report would be submitted to the PPCC soon. He said the interim report clearly detailed the activities of Mr Mann which had led to his suspension. He said if Mr Mann continued with his belligerance and did not submit a reply to the show cause notice given to him, further action, including his expulsion from the party, could be taken against him.


Sink differences, say Cong leaders
From Our Correspondent

FARIDKOT, Jan 16 — The District Congress Committee (DCC) here has sought the intervention of the AICC President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to sink the differences, if any, among the Punjab Senior Congress leaders. Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr S. K. Gupta, DCC President, said similar views were expressed by many leaders of the party at a meeting held at the residence of Mr Harcharan Singh Hero, former PPCC president, at Makhu yesterday.

The leaders, who attended the meeting included Mr Balram Jakhar, former Union Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, former Chief Minister, and Mr Avtar Singh Brar, vice-president, PPCC. They had gone there to attend the betrothal ceremony of the son of Mr Hero.

Mr Gupta stated that the participants laid stress on unity among all party leaders, besides restrengthening the base of the Congress in the state.

Denying any dispute with Capt Amarinder Singh, President, PPCC, Mrs Bhattal appealed to all party workers to unite in the interest of the party. However, she regretted for not being invited to the party conference at Maghi Mela in Muktsar. Mr Jakhar said he would discuss the issue in detail with Mrs Sonia Gandhi shortly.

Mr Gupta said although Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Congress MP, had expressed confidence in the leadership of PPCC President at a function at Jaito yesterday, yet there was an urgent need to convene a joint meeting of all senior party functionaries immediately to sort out the matters. He urged Mrs Sonia Gandhi to send a delegation of central leaders to Punjab in this regard.


Ravi Inder blames Badal for Punjab’s ills
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 16 — Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his government has crossed all limits collecting money by unfair means. He has established rule of his family in the state.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh rebel Akali leader and MLA while talking to The Tribune here alleged that Mr Badal had misused power to the extreme for filling the coffers of his family forgetting people of the state. He said that there was total misgovernance in the state. He alleged that the one-point mission of the state machinery was to keep Mr Badal and his family in the good humour although even at the cost of people.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh said that a mini-parliament runs at the residence of Mr Badal in which his wife and son were the rulers. Mr Badal before taking any decision takes the approval of that parliament. Mr Singh added that it was for the first time in the history of Punjab that the government was run by the family members of the Chief Minister openly. He added that he had in his knowledge some of the cases in which the employees who wanted to get transferred had to seek blessings of the family of Mr Badal.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh further alleged that Mr Badal was misusing the religious places. He said that the trend of interfering in religion by Mr Badal would have devastating effects in future.

On the third front in Punjab Mr Ravi Inder said that the third front which existed at the national level had no relevance in Punjab as the Samata Party (SP) was almost non existent in Punjab and the Left parties had very low followings in the state. Therefore, he added that if in Punjab the third front is formed it would include rebel factions of the Akali Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and other right-thinking parties.

Mr Ravi Inder said that in the four years of the rule of the SAD-BJP the public has been unhappy with its performance. He added that the Badal government could not keep the people with it because it had not fulfilled most of the promises it made before elections. He said that there were many schools running without teachers. Criticising the policy of the government on upgrading the schools without giving the facilities, he said that such practice had adverse effect on the studies. He added that mere converting a school from primary into middle or from middle into high would not serve any purpose till funds for construction of new buildings and sufficient teachers were not given to the schools.

Mr Ravi Inder alleged that the SAD (Badal) distributed drugs to woo the voters in byelections. He added that the practice was against the tenets of the Sikh religion. He alleged that the function of the government was to ask people not to use drugs but the members of the ruling party were to patronising the drug smugglers.

On mid-term polls Mr Singh said that he felt that Mr Badal would not order the polls mid terms, but he added that if that happened they would fight it with full strength he said that he could make alliance with the Sarb Hind Akali Dal and other factions of Akalis to throw Mr Badal out of power.


YC to ‘teach lesson’ to corrupt officials 
Tribune News Service

PATTI, Jan 16 — Without naming Bhai Ranjit Singh and Giani Puran Singh who incidentally belong to Amritsar district, the All-India Youth Congress on today alleged that the ruling SGPC had removed two Sikh high priests due to their links with the ‘Majha region’. The Indian Youth Congress leaders alleged that “Majha” was being discriminated against on all fronts.

Addressing first state-level “Punjab Bachao, Badal Bhajao” (save Punjab oust Badal) rally in the heart of the Majha region here today the AIYC leaders announced that its activists were preparing a list of ‘corrupt’ officials who would be thought a lesson after the formation of the Congress government after the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Addressing the rally, Mr Randip Singh Surjewala, national president of the AIYC said the Youth Congress had launched a campaign for “ousting Badal government” as it had ‘ruined’ the economy of the state. He announced that the ‘mis-deeds’ of the Badal government would be exposed before during the state-level conferences to be held in the Malwa, the Doaba and the Majha regions. He alleged that Mr Badal had promoted his “family” members at the cost of common people. The economic health of the state was pathetic.

Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, general secretary, AIYC, alleged that activists of the Youth Congress and the Congress party were being implicated in “false“ cases at the behest of “Kairon family”. He alleged that there was law of the jungle in the state as kidnappings, killings and crime had risen to unprecedented level. The family members of Mr Badal were dictating terms to the police and district administration.

Mr Randip Singh, President, All-India Youth Congress Committee has warned that the Congress party under the presidentship of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, President of the party, has decided not to allow the proceeding of Parliament if the government implemented the decision to decrease wheat price from Rs 580 to Rs 520 as recommended by the Price Recommendation Committee.

Mr Surejewala was addressing the rally at Patti in which the Punjab Government and the ‘Kairon family’ was criticised sharply for implicating political rivals in criminal cases. Mr R.L. Bhatia, MP criticised the Union Government’s alleged communal policies and said that these policies had created tension in the country in which minorities felt insecure.


10,000 awaiting old-age pension
From Our Correspondent

GURDASPUR, Jan 16 — More than 10,000 persons whose records have been verified are still awaiting old-age pensions. According to sources, about 37,000 persons under the old-age pension scheme have been given pension during the current financial year.

Some of the pensioners who had come from far-off places today complained that they were being made to shuttle between the office of the district security officer and banks to receive the pension, but in vain. They said when they visited the office of the district social security officer, they were told that pension cheques had been deposited with the respective banks. But when they approached the banks they were told that the cheques had not been received so far.

The sources said the department was holding camps in the constituencies of the respective MLAs and ministers to register new eligible persons under the scheme. One such pension camp would be held at Sekhwan village on June 30. Earlier, the camps had been held in the constituency of Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat’s, at Fatehgarh Churian and Dera Baba Nanak.

The sources said the procedural formalities had to be completed which in a number of cases took more than two months.

Mr B. Vikram, Deputy Commissioner, said all cases of pension, including those under the old-age pension scheme, widow pension scheme and handicapped pension scheme, registered with the District Social Security Department till December 31, had been cleared. Rupees 4.25 crore had been distributed in this district in this regard during the past three months.

As many as 1,864 cases were pending under the shagun scheme, he said. However, all cases registered with this district till December 31 during the current financial year had been cleared and in certain cases the cheques which had been issued to beneficiaries had not been cleared due to clerical errors. As many as 780 beneficiaries were recently given the cheques.

The beneficiaries complained that they had to visit offices several times to get pensions and cheques under the shagun scheme which caused a lot of inconvenience.


He built education complex from scratch
From Parmod Bharti

NAWANSHAHR: The foundation of the Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust, Dhahan village in Nawanshahr district, set up for the welfare of mankind appears to be nothing short of a miracle. To conceive and materialise such a gigantic project is the result of years of long relentless toil, devotion and planning of a far-sighted personality like Budh Singh Dhahan. Popularly known as Babaji, he single-handedly has been mobilising philanthropists both here and abroad for more than two decades. The trust runs a 250-bed hospital with 10 specialities, a nursing school and college, a secondary school and a deaddiction centre.

Babaji got inspiration and direction to involve himself in during his stay in Canada by observing how Jews, Muslims and Christians did yeoman service to their respective communities. He wanted to provide better health and educational services to the people of his state. He discussed his dream project with his family members and well-wishers and after getting a response from all quarters he constituted the trust in 1979 and obtained 23 acres of land from the Dhahan village panchayat and 7 acres of land from Kaleran village panchayat. He launched the project with a meagre amount of Rs 1.10 lakh and the foundation stone was laid by Bhagat Puran Singh, founder of the Pingalwara Ashram in Amritsar.

Then started his long struggle and his sincere and dedicated efforts bore fruit. He travelled abroad many times to mobilise funds to the tune of Rs 20 crore for turning his dream into reality.

In 1984, Mr BD Pandey, the then Governor of Punjab, inaugurated the hospital. In 1987, the trust started an English medium school to provide quality education to about 1,000 children belonging to 72 villages.

To provide health services at the door-step of the poor, the trust also organises medical checkup camps in villages with the help of NRIs. To provide vocational education to girls, a nursing school and nursing college linked to the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Canada), is being run by the trust.

Baba Budh Singh is now striving hard to put his long cherished dream of setting up a medical college and to make the school residential. Two societies Canada-India Guru Nanak Medical and Educational Society, Vancouver, and International Akal Mission, UK, have been formed to raise funds to the tune of Rs 25 crore. He is confident of realising his dream in two to three years.


Police raj in Punjab: Tohra 
From Our Correspondent

SAMANA, Jan 16 — A rally was organised by the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) at Doger bazaar here today. Addressing the gathering, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the party, said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who failed to fulfil promises made to people had started using police cats to harass the opponents.

Even those policemen, who had been facing trial for killing innocent people during militancy were being defended with government money. He said there was “police raj” in Punjab. He alleged even today, vehicles carrying workers of rival parties were denied entry into the venue of the conferences.

He said the formation of the third front would be announced on February 21 at a rally in Ludhiana.

Mr Badal was leaving “no stone unturned” to promote his family members into politics. Mr Jagtar Singh Rajla, MLA, alleged that the Badal government had stopped development works in Patiala district and Samana Assembly constituency.


AIDS workshop organised 
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 16 — A workshop on the spread and prevention of AIDS was organised at the Teachers Home here today. As many as 125 school heads of the district participated in the programme which was organised by the District AIDS Control Organisation (DACO).

Ms Raj Gupta, chairperson of DACO, while speaking on the occasion said AIDS was killing 7,000 persons daily in the world and a majority of them were in the age group of 15 to 45.

As per the report of UNAIDS, published in December last year, AIDS would kill about 50 million people by 2010, she said.

She also spoke of the origin, transmission, signs and symptoms of AIDS, and appealed to the school heads to create awareness about it amongst the youngsters.

Dr Anuradha, psychologist, spoke of the psyco-social problems faced by the AIDS patients. “As the disease has no cure, but is fully preventable and is not transmitted by air, water or food, the patients should not be looked down upon”, she said, adding that educational institutes had a very important role to play in the awareness drive.


Four killed in incidents
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 16 — As many as four persons have died in various incidents in the district during the past 24 hours.

In the first incident that took place near Bhuchu village, Joginder Singh, who was travelling by a Jeep, was hit by a truck. While he succumbed to injuries on the spot, his associate Makhan Singh was seriously injured. A case under Section 304-A of the IPC has been registered at the police station Bhucho Mandi.

In the second incident, Balwinder Singh (55), was hit by an unidentified vehicle and was crushed to death, while he was on his way to Kotkapura. His body was handed over to the relatives after a post-mortem examination and a case has been registered in this regard.

In the third incident, a middle aged person was found dead at the Subhash Market, in the city. His body was cremated by volunteers of the Sahara Jan Seva, after a post-mortem examination in the Civil Hospital.

In the fourth case, Ms Amarjeet Kaur of Sanagat Mandi village was allegedly killed for dowry. A case against her husband Sukhwinder Singh has been registered on a complaint lodged by the father of the deceased. The body was handed over to relatives after a post-mortem examination. 


Protest against Gurdas Mann song

JALANDHAR, Jan 16 (UNI) — Hindu activists today held a protest march in the city against alleged denigration of Hindu deities in a Punjabi song sung by noted folk singer Gurdas Mann. The song was telecast by Punjabi satellite channel Alfa on the occasion of Lohri festival a few days ago.

Nearly 300 activists first held an assembly in Mahalaxmi temple on the jail road in the city and then marched to the office of the Deputy Commissioner where they submitted a memorandum, demanding apology within a week from Gurdas Mann, writer of the song titled “Jat Risky Risky After Whiskey’’, and Alfa channel.

The activists burnt an effigy of Gurdas Mann in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office, alleging Shiva and Parvati had been denigrated in the song.

Political, social and religious leaders of the community, including Varinder Sharma, Editor of a Hindi daily, district women Congress (rural) president Chander Kanta, Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) state senior vice- president Vinay Jalandhari, Baba Kailash Nath and Rekha Dhall among others led the march and addressed the protesters.


Stone of development project laid
From Our Correspondent

NAWANSHAHR, Jan 16 — The Minister for Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mr Swarna Ram, yesterday laid the foundation stone of a development project at Happowal village, about 15 km from here.

Under the project, streets and drains of the village would be constructed at a cost of about Rs 5 lakh.

Addressing the gathering on the occasion, he said the Badal government had chalked out a comprehensive plan to accelerate the pace of development in the state.

During the year, Rs 2,700 crore would be spent on the construction of bridges and roads and Rs 330 crore for providing the facilities of sewerage and drinking water in the state, he said. He also distributed cheques for Rs 22 lakh to 23 village panchayats of the Banga Assembly segment and cheques for Rs 8 lakh to 160 beneficiaries under the Shagun scheme.

He also announced grants of Rs 50,000 for the construction of a village panchayat ghar and Rs 1 lakh for building a road from SC Colony to a local school.

Mr Mohan Lal, MLA from Banga, and Mr Pritam Singh Johal, SDM, were among those who spoke on the occasion.


Canal breach floods 100 acres
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 16 — Nearly 100 acres of land was flooded due to a breach in Tiona minor of Kotli Sabo village of Sangat block on January 14 mid night.

A farmer had to suffer loss as water remained in his field for 40 hours. Cause of the breach could not be known.


Book on Nawab Sadruddin
From Our Correspondent

MALERKOTLA, Jan 16 — Major Balwant Singh, former minister of erstwhile Malerkotla state, has successfully published a book relating to the 500-year history of the ruling family of late Nawab Sheikh Sadruddin Sadar-e-Jahan (1449 to 1948) with the cooperation of Punjabi University, Patiala.

Mr Chaman Lal Jain, a close associate of Mr Balwant Singh, said the book was an outcome of the fulfilment of the Nawab’s wish that a book on the history of the royal family be published and placed at the local Dargah Sharif.

Mr Jain said a copy of the book was now placed at the dargah as a tribute to the Nawab.


AIFUCTO to meet in Hyderabad
From Our Correspondent

JALANDHAR, Jan 16 — The national executive council of the All-India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (AIFUCTO) will meet in Hyderabad on January 29 and 30 to chalk out an action plan to get the agreements made by the Ministry of Human Resource Development more than two years ago implemented.

A press note issued by AIFUCTO here yesterday stated that since the Central Government had failed to honour the commitments made on September 5, 1998, the apex body of four lakh university and college teachers would consider boycotting university examinations and a nationwide indefinite strike during the meeting.

AIFUCTO has also demanded that the Punjab Government should implement all clauses of the UGC notification and claim the balance amount of Rs 32 crore from the Central Government for payment of arrears to the Punjab college teachers.


GND varsity to host Maths conference
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 16 — Guru Nanak Dev University will host the first international conference on “Industrial and Applied Mathematics in the Indian subcontinent” being organised by its Mathematics Department from January 22 to 25 at the university’s Guru Nanak Bhavan auditorium.

According to Dr Pammy Manchanda, Head of the Mathematics Department and organising secretary of the conference, Prof P.N. Srivastava, former Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, and former member of the Planning Commission, will inaugurate the conference.

Dr H.S. Soch, Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, will preside over the function. 


FEAR demands jurisdictional reorganisation
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 16 — The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) said Panjab University, Chandigarh, should be developed as a centre for excellence as envisaged earlier and the colleges of Punjab should be divided between the Punjabi University and the Guru Nanak Dev University with the Beas river acting as the dividing line .

The forum welcomed the Punjab Government’s proposed move regarding the jurisdictional reorganisation of universities of Punjab, which the forum said, was long overdue but at the same time cautioned the state government to carefully finalise the considerations without being in haste.

The members of the forum brushed aside the idea of Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, in which he pleaded all the colleges to be affiliated with the Punjabi University.

The forum was of the opinion that Panjab University should have Punjab Governor as its Chancellor in order to avoid administrative and financial difficulties. They alleged that till then, the colleges of Punjab should be affiliated to Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and the Punjabi University, Patiala, with dividing line of the Beas river.

The members of the forum also felt that the Centre should meet 100 per cent expenditure instead of the present 60 per cent on Panjab University, Chandigarh. The 40 per cent expenditure met by the Punjab Government should be spent for the development of the educational institutions of Punjab.

The forum further felt that Panjab University, should be developed as a centre of excellence, as such institutions were envisaged in the Government of India’s Educational Policy, 1986, the Gnanam Committee report, 1990, and the 9th Plan of the UGC (1997-2002).

The members pointed out that the jurisdiction of Punjabi University may be extended by a simple notification of the government and an ordinance need not be passed as under Section 5 of the Punjabi University Act.

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