Tuesday, January 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SYL: Badal for filing review plea

Kandukhera (Muktsar), January 21
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today chose this vital Punjab village to reiterate his government’s commitment that not a single drop of water would be allowed to flow out of the state’s rivers in defiance of the “riparian principle”.

Kandukhera, bordering Haryana, falls in the Lambi Assembly constituency of the Chief Minister. It was this village which had broken the linguistic contiguity between Punjab and Haryana in the mid-eighties when a commission, set up under the Rajiv-Longowal accord, was tasked to determine Hindi-speaking areas in the Punjab’s Abohar-Fazilka belt which were contiguous to Haryana.

The then Akali government of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala had deputed a team of ministers to campaign vigorously in the area to persuade people there to declare Punjabi as their mother tongue so that Haryana’s claim on the Abohar-Fazilka as Hindi-speaking belt fell through.

It is Captain Amarinder Singh, now Punjab Congress President but then Agriculture Minister in the Barnala Cabinet, had camped personally at Kandukhera to carry out the command of his Akali government.

As per the accord, linguistic contiguity was to be determined with village as the basic unit and Kandukhera, determined as Punjabi-speaking, had come handy for the Akali government to deny Hindi-speaking area from Abohar-Fazilka belt to Haryana.

Mr Badal, who has initiated his election campaign from his native Badal village, said the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal was the legacy of “the Congress’ injustice towards Punjab”.

Punjab would file a review petition in the apex court, he added. UNI


CM ‘misinforming’ people on SYL
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 21
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab and SAD President, was misguiding people by saying the Punjab Government would file a writ petition against the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the SYL canal issue because the decision of the Full Bench of the SC was not reversed generally.

This was stated by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the SAD (A) and a senior leader of the Panthic Morcha, while addressing a rally here today in connection with election campaign of Mr Gurdeep Singh, a Panthic Morcha candidate from here.

Mr Mann said Mr Badal to save face from people of Punjab and as the decision of the apex court was against the interests of residents of state, which he said was a failure on part of the SAD-BJP alliance government.

He said his party would make every sacrifice and oppose giving water to Haryana. He said that the SAD leaders in order to woo voters were telling lies to them by saying that the Congress was responsible for the decision of the Supreme Court. He said both Mr Badal and Mr Darbara Singh, the late Congress Chief Minister of Punjab were responsible for the SYL canal dispute. He alleged that Mr Badal under some ‘considerations’ had ‘sold’ the Punjab water to Haryana.

Speaking about the tension on the border Mr Mann said that the governments of India and Pakistan should initiate a dialogue to resolve issues between them.

Mr Mann said ‘Bharat Mata’ (India) was in danger and if those who claimed to be patriots wanted to save it they should go to border. He said some of the constituents of the ruling alliance who claimed to be the saviours of the nation were talking about it only for getting votes.

Mr Mann said crops of farmers on the border were destroyed due to the movement of the armed forces adding that the condition of the residents of villages near Indo-Pakistan border was very poor. He said that these residents should be paid suitable compensation.

Earlier speaking to the mediapersons, Mr Jasbir Singh Rode, senior Panthic Morcha leader, said those members of the SAD (B), who wanted to join the Panthic Morcha, as they were denied ticket by their parent party could be given ticket by them. He, however, added that before giving ticket to candidates coming from the SAD (B), the candidates of the Panthic Morcha contesting from that seat would be taken into confidence. He said that a few of Panthic Morcha candidates could be changed in the process.

He said the manifesto of the Panthic Morcha would lay emphasis on overall development of the state. He added that agriculture would be made profitable. He added that for the development of the state in the field of Information Technology the NRIs would be invited to put up businesses in Punjab. He added that due to the indifferent attitude of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, most of the multinational companies who wanted to establish their concerns in Punjab shifted attention towards other states.

Mr Mann said if their government was formed, for the first six months, no taxes would be levied on the residents. 


Badal Govt mishandled SYL case: Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Sirsa, January 21
The Punjab Government lost the SYL case in the Supreme Court because of the careless handling by the Badal government. This was alleged by the Punjab Congress chief Capt. Amarinder Singh, here today. He was addressing mediapersons at Dera Sacha Sauda. The Congress leader came here to pay obeisance to the head of the Dera Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The Punjab Congress chief said if the Congress came to power it would file a review petition before the Supreme Court to present the case in true perspective.

Elaborating he said that first the Eradi Tribunal dispute has to be as per the Rajiv-Longowal accord.

Capt Amarinder Singh said Punjab was allocated 12MAF water for the 105 lakh acres of land whereas the Haryana was allocated 8MAF against 80 lakh acres. For this the water of Yamuna was not taken into account and only BBMB water was considered for distribution amongst these two states. With the addition of Yamuna water, Haryana will get additional 6MAF water is two MAF more than that of Punjab’s share. This way the purpose of dividing the water among the riparian States of Punjab and Haryana into 60:40 ratio is defeated.

To a question the Congress leader said the Congress would get two-thirds majority in the coming Assembly election of Punjab and claimed that a magazine had given 70-75 seats to the Congress. He denied resentment in the party over ticket distribution and said that minor problems which arose would be resolved after the withdrawal date of nomination.

To a question of who will be the chief ministerial candidate in case of the Congress won the Punjab Assembly polls, Capt. Amarinder Singh said this would be decided when the Congress Legislature Party in light of advice and guidance of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.


Stars to add glitter to poll campaigns
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 21
Come January 29 and Punjab will be flooded with not only the political elite of the country, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Home Minister Lal Krishan Advani and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, but also some top stars of Bollywood and the music world to add glamour to the February 13 elections in the state.

Both the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and the main Opposition Congress are trying to woo crowd pullers to infuse life into campaigning from January 29 to February 11, which until now has failed to gain momentum.

While the Punjab BJP leadership is confident that Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee would address at least four election rallies covering the entire state, the Congress has pinned its hopes on Mrs Sonia Gandhi who is expected to address two rallies in the Malwa belt and one each in Doaba and Majha.

Besides, the BJP wants to use its Gurdaspur MP and Bollywood star Vinod Khanna and his friends from the tinsel world to campaign throughout the state for the SAD-BJP candidates.

Mr Lal Krishan Advani, Mr Arun Jaitley, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Mr Arun Shourie , Mr Madan Lal Khurana and Mr Sahib Singh Verma are the other national leaders of the BJP who are expected to campaign for the SAD-BJP candidates, says Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, president of the Punjab unit of the party.

“We shall start our second phase of electioneering immediately after work on filing of nominations is over on January 28,” he says, maintaining that some other NDA leaders may also be invited to campaign for the alliance candidates.

These may include the Chief Ministers of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh also.

The PPCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, says that Mrs Sonia Gandhi will address at least four important election rallies at venues which are off the main Grand Trunk Road.

“We will avoid taking her to the places which she has visited in the recent past. We would like her to address rallies in Bathinda, Gurdaspur or Pathankot, Hoshiarpur and may be Mansa,” he said, maintaining that other leaders would also visit and campaign for the party candidates.

In fact, some candidates, including “rebels” of all major political parties, have resorted to a novel method of engaging some top pop and folk singers at their rallies and also at the time of filing of their nomination papers.

Harbhajan Mann has been performing for the Lok Bhalai Party. At the Fatehgarh Sahib Shaheedi Jor Mela, the Congress had Sunita Bhatti and her team to enthrall the mela audience.

Interestingly, both the Congress and the SAD had got in touch with the poker-faced star Jaspal Bhatti to shoot some of their “election campaign programmes”. He, however, preferred to do a serial for a Punjabi channel rather than doing any programme for any party.

This time not only the political parties but even the Election Department has decided to make use of the electronic media to reach to the masses. In Patiala, for example, the District Electoral Officer, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, and the Election Observer, Mr P.K. Gera, have been appearing on the local cable network to educate electors about the use of electronic voting machines.

On other hand, the SAD has been using a cable channel for highlighting its achievements through a comedy presentation by a folk artist.

This time, neither a folk singer nor a small or big screen star has declared to contest the Assembly elections so far.


Singla unfolds Cong agenda
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 21
Mr Surinder Singla, a former spokesman of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), who has been fielded by the Congress from this Assembly segment, while unfolding his agenda for development has alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had bartered away the interests of Punjab by “badly” handling the proceedings of a case pertaining to the SYL canal in the Supreme Court.

Addressing a press conference late last night, he pointed out that Mr Badal had deliberately arranged a favour for Haryana, where he (Mr Badal) owned a big piece of agricultural land, by not contesting the case in the Supreme Court with malafide intentions. He said the Congress, if voted to power, would file a review petition before the full Bench of the Supreme Court.

He pointed out that the Punjab Congress unit had secured full autonomy from its high command in certain matters of utmost importance for Punjab and if the Congress came to power in the state, a new era of development and a people-oriented administration would be provided to the masses apart from solving all intra-state and inter-state issues.

Claiming that he had played a significant role in the setting up of an oil refinery in Bathinda district, he alleged that Mr Badal delayed the completion of the same project as he (Mr Badal) was trying to extract undue benefits from it by controlling it through equity participation of the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC) with the HPCI. He said Mr Badal should be put behind bars for not implementing such a huge and prestigious project.

He alleged that in the past five years Mr Badal had bartered away the interests of Punjab as the party minister at the Centre, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, put his signature on POTO and the cabinet approved the brief of the WTO. He claimed that the Congress never agreed to those provisions of the WTO which were against farmers.

Mr Singla said the Bathinda assembly segment, which witnessed negligible development during the five-years rule of the SAD-BJP combine government, would be equipped with all educational, industrial, transport, civil, health and sports facilities.

He said three more senior secondary schools in the undeveloped areas of Bathinda city, a senior secondary school in every alternate village in this Assembly segment, a medical college and a professional college of management and information technology would be opened apart from expanding the local regional centre of Punjabi University, Patiala.

A sports academy, gymnasium in every village, introduction of local bus service with adequate rain shelters in the city, Yatri Niwas, youth hostel, home for aged persons more post offices dispensaries, super-specialty hospital and a poly clinic in place of the old Civil Hospital, four-laning of main roads and modern telecommunication services would be set up in the city.

Besides, an electrified double rail track between Bathinda and Delhi would be set up and a superfast train like the Shatabdi Express would be introduced.

All operations of railway stations, including the management of traffic, would be compurterised, besides giving a facelift by all platforms and equipping these with modern facilities.

To check unemployment in the state and generate more revenue to meet all liabilities for carrying out development, a petrochemical industry to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore would be set up in Bathinda district. Besides, NRIs and domestic entrepreneurs would be encouraged to set up their units at various focal points located in Bathinda by offering them good incentives.

Mr Singla added that deluxe bus services and night bus services would be introduced to various religious and other important places from this city. Modern machines would be used for the sanitations of the city and villages.


Voters fed up with SAD-BJP government’s corruption
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 21
Corruption, power bills, river waters, SYL canal, unemployment and escalating cost of education are emerging as key issues for the coming Assembly elections in Punjab.

Interaction with a cross-section of electors in the Gurdaspur-Hoshiarpur belt reveals that by and large voters are fully aware about the good and bad aspects of the SAD-BJP government. They feel concerned about the prevailing corruption, hefty power bills and high cost of education. The SAD-BJP candidates will face a tough time.

“If the bribe rate was Rs 5 during the Congress government, it rose to Rs 500,” says Mr Ajit Singh, a shopkeeper of Pathankot. Visit any revenue office and you will see officials virtually grabbing money from your pocket, Mr Ajit Singh added. He said he could make a list of rates for the registration of land deeds, mutation etc.

The SAD-BJP government failed on the corruption front. Though it promised to eliminate corruption, in its five-year rule, it had increased it manifold. Mr Shamsher Singh of a village near Tanda Urmar who runs a spare parts shop, narrated that he had gone to the patwari to get a copy of jamabadi a few days after the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, took over as Chief Minister. The patwari did not charge a single penny and even sent the copy at his shop. But a few months later, the patwari was a different man. He charged Rs 100 for a jamabadi copy.

A scooter mechanic, Sarabjit Singh, said that people in the rural areas feel upset over the rampant corruption in various government offices.

The most stunning revelation was made by a doctor posted at a civil hospital. He said that he was asked to pay Rs 50,000 for transfer to a place of his choice. Two of his colleagues paid Rs 25,000 each for getting their transfers cancelled.

The hefty domestic power bills is another issue. People by and large feel that as the SAD-BJP government gave free power to farmers, increase in the domestic power bills followed. Mr Sukhwinder Singh, a resident of the Sikri village near Bullowal said that earlier his domestic power bill used to be Rs 300. But it has gone up to Rs 800 now.

In urban areas, people feel that their domestic power bills have become unbearable.

Undoubtedly, people appreciate the development work done during the SAD-BJP government in rural areas. They talk about improvement in the condition of roads, pavement of streets in villages, etc. But urbanites say that the government has not done much to improve their lot.

A retired Army clerk of Naushehra Majha Singh, Mr Joginder Singh, who is a staunch Akali supporter, says that he was unable to secure a government job for his son as there was no money to pay. He said that he heard that the lakhs of rupees changed hands in government recruitments. But despite the shortcomings of the SAD-BJP government, he would support it in the elections.

Mr Gurcharan Sethi, a shopkeeper in Pathankot city, turned emotional when asked about the achievements and failures of the SAD-BJP government. He said all governments, including the present one, had the only one agenda: to mint money. One should not except anything better from the next one, irrespective the party in power. He showed his concern about the rising prices.

The growing cost of education, especially in professional colleges, has also disturbed the people. Mr Gurcharan Sethi says that though education had become costly, but there is no improvement in its standard. Mr Ajit Singh says that one has to pay over Rs 60,000 to seek admission in engineering colleges even after being top in the merit of the entrance test. Common man can not even think to send his ward to such professional colleges. It has happened during the past five years.

The abolition of the octroi has not made any worthwhile impact on shopkeepers in urban areas. “We used to charge octroi from customers as it was a shiftable levy,” said Mr Gian Parkash. Shopkeepers had only objected to the manner in which it used to be collected, he added.

There is a visible difference in the opinion of people about the performance of the SAD-BJP government: while people in the rural areas in spite of corruption, unemployment and power bills praise the SAD-BJP government, those in urban areas hardly say anything good in support of the government.

The SYL canal and the river waters have become a topic of discussion among realties. These are not an issue in urban areas. People feel that the government has failed to defend Punjab’s case regarding river waters.


“We will not let them befool us this time”
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Lalton Kallan (Ludhiana), January 21
Lalton Kallan is one of the biggest villages in the Dakha (reserved) Assembly segment with about 4,000 votes. Realising the importance of their numerical strength, the people here are determined to dictate their own terms to all candidates. The people have unanimously decided that whoever gets them a dharamshala constructed in the village will get their votes.

And they have already made this demand to all three main candidates — Mr Milkait Singh Dhaka of the Congress, Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa of the Panthic Morcha (he is the sitting MLA from here) and Mr Darshan Singh Shivalik of the ruling Akali-BJP alliance. And, predictably, everyone has promised them fulfilment of this grant on being elected.

Mr Ajit Singh Teeto, president of Gurdwara Harkiratgarh Sahib Ajaibpati, Lalton Kallan. He claims that they have been awaiting grants for many years and nobody bothered to take notice. “Now everyone has comes with a promise, ” he says. His claim is collaborated by Gurmeet Singh Bassi, of the Lalton Sports Club. He points out, “Politicians are seldom traced once they come to power with our votes Now is the time to put our demands.”

Not that the people here cannot afford to construct the dharmshala of their own as they are financially sound. For, Lalton Kallan symbolises rural prosperity in Punjab. This is primarily due to the migration of a large number of people to foreign countries like the USA, Canada, Germany and England. Every tenth person in the village is settled abroad. About 100 youths have gone to Toronto alone from this village. But the people here want that the politicians should be made to realise that they cannot make false promises and get away.

Prosperity seems to have added to the religious zeal of people over here. There are 10 gurdwaras, three temples, one mosque and a Muslim shrine. Although the mosque remains deserted since 1947, when the Muslims migrated to Pakistan, it has withstood the onslaught of time and people here have preserved it as a symbol of religious tolerance.

Like Lalton, people of other villages are sore and determined to “teach the politicians a lesson”, particularly those in power.

According to Mr Amrik Singh, former Sarpanch of Mehmasinghwala village in the Kila Raipur constituency, all politicians are the same. “Whether they are in power or out of it, they just take us for a ride,” he said, while pointing towards the poor condition of roads in his village. That is not the only problem. The electric and water supply remains erratic and people have got used to it. “But this time we have resolved not to let anyone, particularly the ruling politicians, to befool us,” he asserted.

And Mr Balraj Singh, former Sarpanch of Mundian village in Ludhiana (Rural) is equally sore. He feels that development, if any, takes place in urban areas as they serve as showpieces and the rural areas remain ignored and backward as ever. “Had it not been like that, the village would not have been the same as it used to be 30 years ago,” he observed. He says, now people are much aware and cannot be taken for granted.


Amarinder to probe Badal’s misdeeds
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Joga, January 21
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, today gave a clarion call to people to root out the ‘‘corrupt’’ and ‘‘anti-Punjab’’ Badal regime and promised that his party would appoint a commission headed by a sitting High Court Judge to probe the ‘‘rampant corruption and other misdeeds’’ of the Badal clan, ministers and the bureaucracy if voted to power.

He was here this noon to kick-off the Congress campaign in the state. A large number of senior party and CPI leaders, workers and women activists were present on the occasion. Mr Sukhraj Singh Nat is the Congress-CPI candidate from this constituency.

Capt Amarinder Singh appealed to the people to rout the Badal regime, which had scaled new heights in corruption and nepotism. ‘‘We have evidence that more than 11,000 middle and top-level jobs were sold in the market undeserving candidates. It is common knowledge that the going rate for the posts of peons was between Rs 1 and Rs 3 lakh and that of PCS, DSPs or tehsildars was between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 1 crore,’’ he alleged.

He pledged to bring about changes in the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) and other appointing authorities and said the corrupt members would be shown the door.

The PPCC president also assured the people that all appointments made during the past five years would be reviewed and the money accepted would be returned if it was established that merit had been circumvented and bribes accepted.

Similarly, suicides by farmers - 620 so far - would be probed and efforts would be made to bring in diversification thereby making farming more profitable and rewarding.

Commenting on the SYL canal, he alleged that Mr Badal had virtually sold the interests of the state down the river. How can we let a drop of water go to Haryana when there was an acute shortage of drinking water in these parts.

Talking to TNS, Capt Amarinder Singh, said the party would win by two-thirds majority on the plank of improving infrastructure, more all-round development, improving basic, primary and IT education, better medical care besides diversification in agriculture.

On large-scale dissidence in the party, he said action against the dissidents would be taken after January 28. Nothing was being done presently because the party had taken notice of the resentment among Congressmen who had been denied tickets.

He, however, ruled out the possibility of any changes in the lists announced by the party high command.

Capt Amarinder Singh said he would release a white paper on the disastrous rule of the Akalis on January 24 and the election manifesto on January 27.


Badal harps on progress
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Badal (Muktsar), January 21
The state Chief Minister and President, Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today visited his native village here to campaign for the February 13 Assembly poll.

Known as ‘‘Pash’’ to residents of the Lambi and Gidderbaha Assembly segments, Mr Badal urged the voters, some of whom are his long-time companions, to vote for development, which his government had carried out in the past five years.

Addressing from his chair fitted in a special vehicle, Mr Badal said, he had glorified the name of Badal village in the world and restored the dignity of Punjabis in the country.

Mr Badal stressed upon the people to compare the development carried out by his government in the past five years with the development carried out by the previous Congress governments of state and the Centre and their anti-Punjab attitude before exercising their right of vote. He claimed that the people of his area had urged him not to tour the Lambi Assembly segment for his election campaign as they had already decided to give the verdict in his favour to help him form a SAD government for the fourth time in the state.

He lashed out at the previous Congress governments for bartering away the interests of Punjab and dividing the people on the basis of caste, religion and region for their narrow political ends.


Too many Akalis may spoil broth
From Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 21
This district has too many Akali stalwarts from different ideologies and this fact has earlier worked against the Akalis and may again haunt Akali candidates from both the Sirhind and Amloh (Reserved) Assembly seats in the district.

The Sirhind seat has been a bone of contention among different Akali factions since the last election. Congress candidate Harbans Lal won the seat in 1997 because of the presence of three other Akali candidates in the fray — Simranjit Singh Mann of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Kirpal Singh Libra of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Independent candidate and former minister in the Barnala Cabinet Randhir Singh Cheema.

While Mr Harbans Lal polled 30,000 votes, the other three Akali candidates polled twice as much with Mr Libra polling 25,000 votes, Mr Mann 22,000 and Mr Cheema 15,500 votes. This time, too, Mr Harbans Lal, who has been renominated for the Congress ticket, will be looking towards the splitting of the Akali vote bank to see him through in the forthcoming elections.

The Panthic Morcha has nominated Mr Iman Singh Mann, son of Mr S. S. Mann while the SAD has given ticket to Mr Didar Singh Bhatti.

During the last elections, Mr Randhir Singh Cheema stood as an Independent to protest against the “unjust’’ award of the SAD nomination to Mr Libra on the dictates of Mr Tohra.

Even though Mr Tohra has been sidelined in Akali politics, he holds the key to success of the candidates in Sirhind and Amloh, with his native village of Tohra falling in Amloh.

The chances of winning of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann’s son are likely to be boosted with the support of Mr Tohra who has shifted his protege Kirpal Singh Libra to Payal. Mr Mann himself, who has also been cultivating the constituency will also be playing an important role in the election in order to establish his son politically.

Similarly, in Amloh, all eyes are on Mr Tohra. Though there are only two Akali candidates till yet, the Panthic Morcha has given the party ticket to a relatively new person — Harnek Singh Diwana vis a vis the veteran Gurdev Singh Sidhu who has bagged the SAD ticket and former legislator Sadhu Singh who is the Congress candidate. Mr Sidhu, who is the present legislator from Shutrana (reserved), was a Tohra loyalist, but he preferred to side with Mr Parkash Singh Badal following the falling apart of Mr Tohra with Mr Badal. He has been shifted to Amloh at the cost of former minister Dalip Singh Pandhi who has represented the Amloh seat twice and was a strong candidate for the SAD ticket.

The Congress candidate may benefit further if present SAD legislator Balwant Singh Shahpur, also enters the fray as an Independent candidate. However Mr Shahpur may find the going extremely difficult this time around as he does not enjoy the blessing of Mr Tohra unlike last time and is also not trusted by the Badal camp which denied him the party nomination after a virtual revolt in the party organisation of the constituency. There is, however, resentment in the Shahpur camp which feels their leader was used by the Badal camp to publicly criticise Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh and has now been left in the cold.


Migration from border may hit electioneering
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 21
The excitement of the coming elections to the State Assembly eludes this border district as clouds of war are still looming between India and Pakistan. Official figures of the district administration reveal that at least 1,18,450 people from 160 villages adjoining the border have already migrated to safer places.

Thus the polling percentage is likely to decline, particularly in Ferozepore, Ferozepore Cantonment, Jalalabad and Fazilka constituencies. The district administration has requested the Election Commission to set up special polling stations for the affected people.

As far as the political calculations are concerned, the SAD-BJP combination still has an upper hand in the district but may lose the Abohar, Fazilka and Zira seats. During the 1997 elections, the SAD-BJP combination swept all the eight seats of the district.

In Abohar constituency it will be a two-way fight between the BJP and the Congress. Although the Congress candidate, Mr Sajjan Kumar Jakhar, lost to Mr Ram Kumar of the BJP by a margin of 15,562 votes during the 1997 elections, this time the Congress stalwart of the area, former Union Minister Bal Ram Jakhar, has managed to get the party ticket for another son, Mr Sunil Jakhar, who is more popular than Mr Sajjan Kumar Jakhar in the area. Most of the population of Abohar and Fazilka constitutes of Rai Sikhs with marginal land holdings. Mr Surjit Kumar Jayani, State Minister of Forests, who defeated his nearest Congress rival, Mr Mohinder Kumar, is likely to face a tough competition this time from Mr Mohinder Kumar.

At least 10,000 voters from the border villages of Fazila have migrated to safer places which may upset the calculations of Mr Jayani. Mr Mohinder Kumar won the elections in 1992.

The Jalalabad constituency is likely to face a triangular fight between the SAD, the Congress and the BSP. The sitting MLA, Mr Sher Singh of the SAD, has been renominated for the seat while former MP of the BSP, Mr Mohan Singh Falinwala, has decided to fight the Assembly elections on the BSP ticket with the support of the Panthic Morcha. Former MLA, Mr Hans Raj Joshan, who won the elections in 1992 and lost to Mr Sher Singh in 1997 by a margin of just 3,397 votes is hoping to make a comeback to mainstream politics but his calculations are likely to be disturbed by Mr Falinwala as the Dalit votebank always plays an important role in deciding the fate of the seat. In the Guru Har Sahai seat it is likely to be a straight fight between the sitting SAD MLA, Mr Parmajit Singh, and Mr Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi of the Congress. Mr Sodhi is a new entrant in politics. He was allotted the party ticket at the cost of former Minister, Mr Sajwar Singh, who has also decided to contest the elections as an Independent.

The main reason for the Congress lagging behind in the Jalalabad, Guru Har Sahai and Balluana seats is that they have neglected the Rai Sikh community in the distribution of the party ticket. Rai Sikhs comprise about 34 per cent of the population in these areas.

The Balluana (reserve) seat is safe for the SAD. The sitting MLA, Mr Gurtej Singh, won in 1997, beating his nearest rival, Mr Babu Ram, by a margin of 22,031 votes. The BSP played a major role in the defeat of the Congress by securing 15.43 per cent of the total votes polled. The Congress managed to get 28.06 per cent of the votes while the winning candidate got 55.18 per cent of the votes.

As far as the Ferozepore seat is concerned, the BJP has an upper hand over the BSP and the Congress but the anti-incumbency factor may spell trouble for the ruling party. The BSP has a stronghold in the city area. Its candidate, Mr Mukhtiar Singh, finished second in the last elections by bagging 21,151 votes while the Congress stood third. Political observers say that the Ferozepore city seat is likely to witness a triangular fight as the BSP has emerged stronger following defections in the SAD and the Panthic Morcha supporting them. Former Minister during the Beant Singh Government, Mr Bal Mukand Sharma, is contesting the elections in this constituency on the Congress ticket while Mr Mukhtiar Singh will fight on the BSP ticket.

The Ferozepore Cantonment seat is likely to witness a tough competition with the ruling SAD candidate and Minister of State for Cooperation Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Congress candidate former MLA Ravinder Singh Babbal and BSP-Panthic Morcha candidate Mr Mehar Singh Sandhu in the fray. In the last elections, Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon defeated Mr Babbal by a margin of just 1,730 votes. In the 1992 Assembly elections Mr Babbal won the seat as an Independent candidate.

Zira constituency will witness an interesting fight between sitting MLA Inderjeet Singh Zira and his cousin, Mr Kuldeep Singh Bhullar. Mr Zira won the last elections as an SAD candidate over his nearest rival, Mr Naresh Kumar of the Congress, by a margin of 19,598 votes but later switched over his loyalty to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra by resigning as State Minister for Health from Badal's Government. Now he is contesting the elections on the ticket of the Panthic Morcha supported by the BSP. The ruling party has given the party ticket to Mr Hari Singh Zira. The Congress has come out with a new face from the Youth Congress, Mr Kuldeep Singh Bhullar, who is the son of Mr M.S. Bhullar, DGP (PAP). Mr M.S. Bhullar is also the real maternal uncle of Mr Zira. Mr Kuldeep Singh Bhullar is likely to face dissidence from within the Congress.


War takes back seat as elections approach
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 21
In spite of the military build-up on either side of the Indo-Pak border in the district, residents of the area have now diverted their attention to the Assembly elections. In the border constituencies of this district, including Fatehgarh Churian, Dhariwal, Gurdaspur, Dina Nagar, and Narot Mehra, political leaders are vying with one another to woo voters.

Residents of villages across the Ravi, including Lassian, Chebbay, Toor, Tash, Mummy Chakranga, Kookar and Shhord, who had mostly migrated due to the threat of war, have returned to their homes. Subhash Chander of Toor village talking to this correspondent today, said during the previous Assembly elections, villagers voted for the ruling BJP MLA who had promised to develop the area but later did not visit it during the past almost five years. He said this time villagers would only vote for the candidate who would ensure the development of the area.

Mr Dalip Singh Chountra, former Sarpanch of Chountra village, said people who had migrated had returned and were participating in election meetings being held in the village.

Baba Bedi, Sarpanch, Gahlari village, Thuru Ram, Sarpanch, Sangaur village, and Charan Dass, Sarpanch, Salampur village, all border villages, said the possibility of war was ruled out for the time being.

When asked that earlier residents of border villages were demanding the postponement of elections in view of the fear of war, the sarpanches said they were familiar with such situations. They said some of their colleagues had sent their valuables to safer places. The sarpanches said villagers would participate in the coming elections in a big way.


Border farmers feel the pinch

Amritsar, January 21
With thousands of acres of farming land having been mined by the Army all along the border, farmers have started feeling the pinch as not being able to venture in their fields to water and look after the wheat planted, peasants are claiming a dark future.

Crops worth crores of rupees will be destroyed all along the border belt as war clouds still hover and there doesn’t seem to be an early withdrawal of the forces claim farmers.

The farmers vent their grievances against the government for not coming to their rescue and claim that they are already under debt and if they are not allowed to go to their fields, they will be ruined. Harbans Singh, a young farmer of Rajatal whose farms have been covered with mines, remarks that for him the war has begun.

He says his lands have been taken over by the Army and have been cordoned off with barbed fencing. “Poor farmers like us will be starving soon if we are not given back our lands. It will be a big challenge for us if the Army stays for a long period”, asserts Harbans Singh.

Residents of the border belt are fed up with the situation existing on the forefront. “Either the war should start or troops should be withdrawn. It is difficult for us to digest that our crops are being destroyed in front of our eyes, without any reason”, stresses another farmer Gurbachan Singh of Mahawa village, where a landmine blast a few weeks ago had claimed 15 lives.

The case of Puran Singh, a retired Havildar of the Army from Cheema Kalan village, is an interesting one. His farmhouse is surrounded by his fields which have been covered with mines. The result is that he is living under constant threat of being blown up any time if anything steps in his fields. As he has no other place to go, he has decided to stay put, but with extra precautions.

He has tied his cattle and dogs and has warned his grandsons and other younger members in the family not to venture in the fields at any cost. Espousing peace, he says war may or may not start, but for him the war has already begun as he is a prisoner in his own home.

Meanwhile, the large-scale migration which had started in the border villages has reduced and at many places people have started coming back to their houses.

Cheema Bidhi Chand is a village having a population of 3,000. A large number of people had migrated following the growing tension about a fortnight back, but many have now returned.

The people who have come back to their village claim that though the threat perception has not reduced, how long could their relatives afford them to stay with them.

Ajit Singh from Narli village had, along with six members of his family, gone to Amritsar to stay with his cousin on January 5, but he has now returned because it was difficult for his relative to keep them for such a long period. Similarly at Asimgarh, Bhaini, Daoke and Bhaurpal also, people have started coming back to their abandoned homes. PTI


Rome summit: Vedanti to carry ‘kirpan’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 21
Following correspondence between the Akal Takht secretariat and the Vatican (Rome), Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, has been allowed to carry the “kirpan” during the international inter-faith religious conference being held in Rome from January 23.

Earlier, the organisers had objected to the carrying of “kirpan” by the Jathedar during the conference. However, the Akal Takht secretariat pleaded that “kirpan” was part of the ceremonial dress of a baptised Sikh and it would be difficult for the Jathedar to attend the conference without this.

Mr Prithipal Singh, personal assistant to Jathedar Vedanti, said the organisers had to accept the plea of Akal Takht so that the programme of Jathedar could be finalised. He claimed that it was for the first time that any Jathedar of Akal Takht would be attending such a conference with the “kirpan”.

Meanwhile, a seven-member delegation of Sikhs, led by Jathedar Vedanti would take off from Delhi tomorrow to reach Rome where the inter-faith conference is being organised. Other members of the delegation include Mr Prithipal Singh, Mr Amar Singh Barundi, Baba Daljit Singh, Mr Jasdev Singh and Dr Rajwant Singh of the USA (he will interpret the speech of Jathedar Vedanti in English during the conference. Jathedar Vedanti would deliver his speech in Punjabi during the “world peace conference” being held at Rome on January 24.

According to Mr Prithipal Singh, Jathedar Vedanti will also hold a meeting with Pope John Paul. Mr Prithipal Singh claimed that this will be the first-ever meeting between the Jathedar, Akal Takht, and the Pope. During the proposed meeting, Jathedar Vedanti will urge the Pope to use his refluence to save the Sikh community from attacks by miscreants in Christian-dominated countries.


Morcha alternative to SAD: Grewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 21
Senior Akali leader and the Panthic Morcha candidate from Kila Raipur, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, today said the Panthic Morcha had established itself as a “credible and forceful alternative” to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as it was the Panthic Morcha which had been pursuing the true Panthic agenda.

Addressing a series of election meetings in the constituency, Mr Grewal claimed that, “after Mr Badal left the agenda, there was a vacuum in politics, which was successfully filled up by the Panthic Morcha”. He observed that people were looking towards the morcha for an alternative to the SAD, which had forgotten the Panthic principles after assuming power.

He said the legislators who parted way with Mr Badal and sided with Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, were not lured by the power but by the Panthic principles. “Many of us left our ministries because we could not compromise on our Panthic principles”.

The morcha has so far announced 88 candidates and is awaiting an adjustment with the BSP.


Supporters victimised, alleges Mann
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 21
Senior Panthic Morcha leader Simranjit Singh Mann today alleged that the Badal government was victimising his supporters in the Sangrur area. He alleged that two of his supporters were arrested by the police yesterday from Sangrur on the false charge that they belonged to Babbar Khalsa, just to create fear among his supporters.

Talking to this reporter here today, Mr Mann claimed that there was a “Panthic wave” across the state, more so in Sangrur and the government had panicked. “Out of sheer panic, the government has now resorted to the victimisation of my supporters,” he alleged, while warning against such moves.

Referring to the SYL issue, Mr Mann said that Mr Badal had failed to plead the case of Punjab in the Supreme Court of India.


Rakhra blows his own trumpet
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 21
Senior SAD leader and party candidate from Samana constituency, Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, today claimed that he was the only candidate who had initiated development of the constituency through the Subedar Kartar Singh Trust.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Rakhra said his family had deposited Rs 1 crore in the trust and the Punjab Government had put in a reciprocal amount to ensure speedy development of the area. He said the trust had spent more than Rs 30 lakh on development of the area and that work had been temporarily suspended due to the elections. He said he had been the force behind pursuading the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to grant Rs 8 crore to the constituency under two sangat darshan programmes. He said Rs 7 crore had been spent during the past seven months on roads sewerage and toilets.

Mr Rakhra said Samana was the first constituency in the state which had been covered under the 24-hour power scheme on the urban pattern by the Punjab State Electricity Board. He said the Congress was seeking votes in the name of an outsider, Mr Brahm Mohindra, who did not know anything about the constituency.

Rebel Congress candidate, Mr Harinderpal Singh Mann, contesting as an Independent candidate from Samana constituency, held a public rally in Tripuri township today. He promised to improve the health facilities if voted to power. Mr Mann said the township also needed a full-fledged hospital. He also spoke about the deteriorating condition of government schools in the township.


Trouble brews over Sohi’s candidature
Our Correspondent

Zirakpur, January 21
Hundreds of Congress workers of Deepinder Singh Dhillon group today threatened to boycott Ms Sheelam Sohi, a party candidate from the Banur Assembly constituency in the forthcoming elections and not to vote in her favour.

The announcement was made at a resentment rally organised by them against the indifferent attitude of the party high command and denial of party ticket to Mr Deepinder Singh Dhillon, an aspirant from the Banur seat.

The supporters of Dhillon group expressed their resentment to Ms Praneet Kaur, sitting MP from Patiala and wife of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Chief, Capt. Amarinder Singh at Dhillon farmhouse on the Chandigarh-Patiala highway in Chhat village.

Interestingly, Ms Sheelam Sohi, the party candidate from Banur seat, and her supporters reached almost one and a half hours late the rally even though Ms Praneet Kaur had joined the rally in time.

Dhillon supporters from all over the constituency raised slogans favouring Mr Deepinder Singh Dhillon, Ms Praneet Kaur, Capt Amrinder Singh and the Congress. They expressed their solidarity with Mr Dhillon.

A majority of them said they had joined the Congress, after quitting the Shiromani Akali Dal, only because they were impressed with Mr Dhillon’s honesty, sincerity, and dedication.

They alleged that Ms Sohi had hardly visited their villages so far and would be unable to solve their problems.

While addressing the rally Ms Sohi sought support from the Dhillon group in the forthcoming elections.

She appealed to the people to accompany her to the office of the Returning Officer for filing her nomination papers tomorrow.

Ms Praneet Kaur, assured Dhillon supporters that Mr Deepinder Singh would be given representation at the rank of a general secretary in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.


‘Debar parties that don’t fulfil vows’
Raj Sadosh

Abohar, January 21
The Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal urged the Election Commission to use its offices to get the Representation of Peoples Act suitably amended so that the political parties, who make false promises could be debarred from contesting the next election.

In a letter sent to the Election Commission, Mr Madan Lal Kapoor, president of the Mandal, today said, that since there were provisions in the IPC and other Acts to book a person cheating individuals or the state, so there should be laws against political parties, who breach the trust of lakhs of people. The law should be amended so that the political parties, after assuming power stick to their promises made in the election manifestoes. Heads of political parties should be asked to submit signed copies of their election manifestoes, and if they fail to act according to the manifesto, they should be disqualified for next election. It would be good for healthy democracy to function in India, he said.


Civic body chief backs SAD-BJP man
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 21
A Senior Congress leader and president of the Nagar Council, Phagwara, Mr K. I. Gaba, today joined the BJP along with his supporters and pledged support to the SAD-BJP candidate from the Phagwara (reserved) Assembly constituency, Mr Swarna Ram, Punjab Tourism Minister, thus giving a boost to the ruling combine.

Addressing a press conference in the presence of Mr Swarna Ram and Mr Jarnail Singh Wahid, Mr Gaba declared that hundreds of voters of his Nankana biradari (community) would support Mr Swarna Ram. He accused the Congress of selling party ticket to undeserving candidates and ignoring time-tested leaders.

Mr Gaba alleged that he had been illegally and arbitrarily expelled from the Congress. And that he had no indulged in any anti-party activity. 


Capt releases book on govt works
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, January 21
The general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal and candidate of the SAD-BJP from the Banur Assembly constituency, Capt Kanwaljit Singh released a booklet ‘‘Asin nahin, sade kam bolde han’’, a report on the party rule in the state.

Talking to the mediapersons at Chandigarh, the minister said the SAD had fulfilled the promises made to the public prior to the previous Assembly elections.

He announced that none of his kin would enter politics in the future, but hoped some Youth Akali worker or members of the Istri Akali Dal would be the next Finance Minister of the state.

“Asin nahin, sade kam bolde han” focuses on all projects by the government in the past five years.


Veterans resign, Sultana unfazed
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, January 21
Ms Rajia Sultana, Congress candidate from the Malerkotka constituency, has said that there would be no adverse effect on the Congress campaign following the resignations of Mr Abdul Gaffar, general secretary, PPCC, and Ms Sajida Begum, Member, AICC, from the party last night.

The two veteran leaders of the Congress quit the party in protest against the allotment of party ticket to Ms Rajia Sultana. They announced their decision to join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Mr Gaffar would contest the election as a NCP candidate. Talking to newsmen here to day, Ms Sultana claimed that the Congress ticket had been allotted to her in view of her services rendered and her popularity in this constituency.


Scribes urge SHSAD not to field Kanjhla
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 21
The district unit of the Punjab-Chandigarh Patarkar Parishad at its meeting held at Bhawanigarh today warned the SHSAD against fielding Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla as candidate of the Panthic Morcha from Sherpur or extending its support to him.

The meeting also appealed to other political parties not to extend their support to Mr Kanjhla in the Assembly election as he had allegedly used indecent words against teachers, doctors, journalists, anganwari workers and sarpanches in the past. The meeting also appreciated the SAD for not allotting party ticket to Mr Kanjhla.

Mr Basheshar Ram, general secretary of the district unit of the parishad, said nearly 15 journalists participated in the meeting.


Cong leaders quit

Eight office-bearers of the district and block Congress Committees resigned on Sunday in protest against denial of party ticket to the Congress leader Mr Joginder Singh Mann. These leaders alleged that ticket had been given to Mr Balbir Raja Sodhi who had no standing in the Congress. OC


Check use of drugs to woo voters: PCMSA
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 21
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA) today urged the Election Commission to appoint special election observers on the pattern of observers (expenditure) and observers (general) to check the use of drugs and alcohol by contesting candidates in Punjab to woo voters.

In a press note issued here today, Dr Hardeep Singh and Dr Surinder Singla, president and general secretary, respectively, of the PCMSA, expressed concern over the possibility of free flow of drugs like opium and bhuki (poppy husk), besides alcohol, to lure voters in the elections. They said this practice was in violation of the election code in terms of expenditure (on purchase of drugs and alcohol), the NDPS Act and the Excise Act.

The association leaders also urged the Election Commission to take stringent action against the candidates and political parties involved in this malpractice.

Dr Hardeep Singh and Dr Singla said it was an opportunity for the Election Commission, political parties, candidates and social organisations to put an end to this activity and take stringent action against the erring persons.


Ranjit Sagar Dam running below capacity
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 21
The Ranjit Sagar Dam, which has a power-generation capacity of 600 MW, is producing 50 to 60 MW only and is on the verge of closure. The present level of the dam reservoir is 497 metres at present. It will be closed for power generation when the level falls to 496 metres.

Official sources said the 496-metre level was likely to be reached within this week and all four tunnels of the dam would be opened for repair, which will continue till May.

The sources alleged that the government was not bothered to run the dam project on a profit basis. The project has 7,000 surplus employees and their total salary bill amounts to Rs 130 crore per year. The management of the dam demanded Rs 70 crore from the government to run the project during last year but received Rs 2 crore.

So far, the government has spent Rs 3700 crore on the project but has only produced 1,538 million units valuing Rs 481 crore, the sources said.

They pointed out that the low generation was due to lack of demand of irrigation water by the Irrigation Department. They said the project could not run to full capacity till the Shahpur Kandi Dam project was completed.


Women empowerment theatre campaign
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 21
The National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS), Patiala, has launched a women empowerment state theatre campaign of its Punjab musical play ‘‘Daire’’ against female-foeticide here.

The chief guest, Mr J.S. Bir, Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, inaugurated the campaign by garlanding a picture of Lord Shiva’s ‘‘Ardhanareshvara’’ form.

Condemning strongly the menace of female foeticide, Mr Bir disclosed that Patiala district had only 789 females against 1000 males and the described female foeticide as an ugly form of terrorism. The NTAS, he said, deserved government and public support for relentlessly promoting value-based theatre under the dynamic guidance of Mr Pran Sabharwal.

A prominent and popular personality, Dr Sawraj Singh, NRI surgeon-litterateur in his presidential address blamed the western cultural invasion for eroding eastern cultural values. Dr Sawraj stressed the need for amending the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act.

Mr P. G. Dharchakrbarti, Joint Secretary, Women and Child Development, in a message read out on the occasion urged the people to help society in changing the attitude towards this evil practice by spreading the message against the practice in their homes and neighbourhood.


Anti-polio drops didn’t cause death: father
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 21
Though the six-month-old girl Rinkle, who died yesterday about an hour after the administration of anti-polio drops to her at Sular Gharat village, was brought dead to the local Civil Hospital as per an entry in the hospital records, a post-mortem examination was not conducted on her by the health authorities. It is reliably learnt that the UNICEF authorities, the Health Secretary, Punjab, and Director, Health, Punjab, have taken a serious note of this incident and have asked the Sangrur health authorities to submit a report soon in this regard.

Meanwhile, Dr C.P. Bansal, Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, along with two doctors, Dr J.R. Bansal and Dr P.S. Klair, today visited the house of the deceased baby at Sular Gharat village.

In a press note issued here today, Dr C.P. Bansal stated that the father of the baby had given in writing that she died at home due to natural causes and denied that the child’s death had anything to do with the administration of anti-Polio drops given to her at a camp yesterday. Moreover, another child of the same family who had been administered the drops at the same camp was absolutely normal.

Dr Bansal said 162 children had been given anti-polio drops at the camp in Sular Gharat village while 2,09,138 children had been administered the drops in Sangrur district the previous day but no complaint had been received by the health authorities from anywhere.


Probe panel on anti-Sikh posters
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 21
The SGPC has taken serious note of posters asking Sikhs in Kashmir to leave their homes. A three-member inquiry committee was formed to probe the pasting of anti-Sikh posters here today.

Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC chief, in a statement issued here, said the posters had created panic among the Sikh community. He said the probe committee would submit its report within a week.

The committee comprising Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Dr Harcharan Singh Gill and Mr Jaswinder Singh left today for Jammu and Kashmir. 


Gurpurb celebrated with fervour
Tribune Reporters

Phagwara, January 21
The birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh was celebrated here today with religious fervour. Poll candidates of various political parties visited local gurdwaras on the occasion. “Kirtan” and “langar” were organised as part of the celebrations. Houses and gurdwaras were illuminated and “nagar kirtan” was organised to mark the occasion.

UDHAMPUR: The Gurpurb of Guru Gobind Singh was celebrated here on Monday. “Shabad kirtan” started early in the morning at the local gurdwara and continued till mid-day. Thousands of devotees visited the gurdwara and partook of the “parsad”.


2 die in bus-truck collision
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 21
Two persons were killed on the spot while seven others were injured in a head-on collision between a truck and a bus near Dhilwan village on the GT Road, 20 km from here, today.

The dead have been identified as Darshan Singh and Nafe Singh, both drivers of the truck and the bus. Vishnu, the conductor of the bus, was injured.

According to a report lodged with the police, a Haryana Roadways Panipat-bound bus coming from Amritsar collided with the truck coming from the opposite side when the truck was overtaking a car. The police has registered a case.


Eye check-up camp
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 21
The Punjab Police, in league with a non-resident Indian, has put up a three-day eye check-up and operation camp, under which patients are picked up from their homes, operated upon and sent back through police conveyance.

The camp was inaugurated by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr I.P.S. Sahota. Surgeons Dhanwant Singh, R.S. Randhawa and Satinder Singh would operate upon patients. Around 120 patients would be operated upon during the camp. Lenses were being implanted on patients free of cost. Patients and their relatives were also being provided food. Around 1,000 patients would be checked up at the camp.


Rice straw turned into manure
Praful Chander Nagpal

In a major breakthrough on the fertiliser front, scientists have succeeded in converting rice straw into manure. Trials of this manure made in Punjab were carried out in Badha village on the outskirts of this town by two agriculture scientists, Dr O.P. Rupela of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, and Dr Viraj Beri of the Soil Science Department of Punjab Agriculture University.

The trial of manufacturing the manure was carried at Sri Ram Nursery and on the farm of Mr Prem Babbar.

Dr Beri, while giving details to mediapersons, said the paddy producing farmers of Punjab and Haryana had been facing the problem of utilising the remnants of rice straw after mechanical harvesting of paddy. Almost all farmers burn this straw in their fields to get rid of it because it cannot be used in manufacturing paper and paper board. Nor can the straw be consumed by animals. Moreover, its burning causes pollution and many a time the fire damages the standing paddy crops of farmers in adjacent fields.

Another adverse factor of the burning cited by the scientist is that soil nutrition is depleted which ultimately reduces crop yield.

The straw contains an abundant quantity of silicon hence it cannot be put to use. According to an estimate, the burning of straw results in nitrogen worth about Rs 60 crore to 65 crore being wasted annually just in the state of Punjab.

Dr Beri revealed that the Punjab Agriculture University had been striving for the past two decades to utilise the rice straw. After sustained efforts the scientists succeeded in converting the straw into manure.

Dr Rupela, who had succeeded in converting the rice straw into useful fertiliser named as valued-aided rice straw manure in Hyderabad, started working on this project in 1995. Later, with cooperation of PAU scientists, he succeeded in preparing the manure. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and PAU selected Fazilka for manufacturing the manure in Punjab.

Giving details of the production process, Dr Rupela said first of all the straw was collected and dipped in water containing urea for 24 hours. Next day it was dried to some extent and a thin layer of rock phosphate (6 p.c.) is applied on the partially dried straw and again covered with more straw. After a fortnight the straw is immersed in water. This process is repeated after another fortnight. The entire mass is allowed to decompose with rock phosphate and fungus. The accumulated mass is turned upside down. In 45 days the straw turns into biomanure.

According to scientists, the ready value-added rice straw manure contains 1.5 per cent nitrogen, 2 p.c. phosphorus and 2.5 p.c. potassium — the desired elements in fertilisers.

The scientists maintain that an additional advantage of this manure is that all these essential elements are available in it whereas otherwise different fertilisers are required to meet the need of these elements. The manure can be prepared at a substantially low cost and about 3 tones of it can be prepared in an area of about 5 sq metres. It can be used for paddy, wheat and other crops.

According to Dr Beri, eight quintals of this manure is needed for an acre. He pointed out that 80 p.c. of Punjab’s soils contains less than 0.4 p.c. of carbon and this newly developed manure is useful for such soils. Commercial production of this manure can be a cheaper alternative than fertiliser and result in higher yield.


Amritsar gets 10 poll observers
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 21
Ten poll observers were deputed for the 16 constituencies of Amritsar district in the forthcoming Assembly elections. Out of them three will also assess the accounts of candidates in the poll fray. This was informed by Mr S. S. Puri, Deputy Commissioner-cum-returning officer for the district.

Mr P. C. Mohantey has been deputed observer for the Amritsar (South), Tarn Taran, Naushehra Pannuan, Patti and Valtoha constituencies, Mr S. K. Sakia for Amritsar (West), Amritsar (Central), Ajnala, Rajasansi, Attari and Verka, Mr K. Annapatnabhan for Beas, Majitha, Khadoor Sahib, Jandiala and Amritsar (North).

The other observers are Mr S. K. Prabhakar, Ms Nita Chaudhary, Mr Balwinder Kumthar, Mr S. K. Joshi, Mr Anti Srivastava and Mr Ankur Garg.


Patwaris await training
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 21
Mr Satya Pal Dang, CPI leader, today raised the issue of delay in the commencement of training of candidate selected of patwaris with Mr B.K. Srivastava, Secretary, Punjab Department of relief and resettlement.

In a letter to the Secretary, he said Nishan Singh and 24 others had been selected as patwaris and were assured that their training would start soon. However, even after months it was yet to start.

He said three candidates were victims of terrorism and their training should be started immediately.


DC issues orders to printing presses
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 21
Mr R. Venkatratnam, District Election Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner today issued orders directing all printing-press owners of the district to print their names, telephone numbers and complete addresses on any document which they print for the coming Assembly elections.

Mr Venkatratnam said the printing-press owners would have to file a daily report indicating the nature of printing work done by them for any political party or candidate.

The complete record of election material printed by the printers would have to be kept and details given to the election office on a daily basis.


Space equipment on varsity campus at a risk
Sukant Deepak

Its present value is an approximate crore. A twentyfour inch telescope with all the associated electronics was installed with German expertise in 1987. It stands redundant today.

Punjabi University’s space observatory ceases to be accessed ever since the Astronomy and Space Science Department, under whose aegis it was conceived, was merged in the Physics Department on February 28, 1998.

Established with the aim of teaching and carrying out advanced research in the field of observational astronomy, it happens to be one of the most sophisticated ones in India, technically superior than even that of Delhi University. However, with no organised yearly grant being allotted to it, the telescope along with the other sensitive equipment like the astro and planetary cameras stand at a risk of being at the receiving end of zero maintenance.

Professor of astronomy, P.S. Guraya, who along with other two members of the space science faculty, is working in the Physics Department after the merger, attributes the closure of his department to the internal politics of the university during the reign of former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Joginder Singh Puar.

When asked whether an almost nil student strength in the Space Science Department could be a reason for its closure, as justified by the university, he insists” there are several departments in the university which have failed to attract less or any number of students, but have they been closed down? Astronomy and space science are frontline subjects in the world today and call for dedicated research and lack of sufficient students cannot be a reason for doing away with them. “He laments that a unique and expensive venture like the observatory should not be ignored and allowed to waste away like this. He also called for a permanent technical and research staff for the observatory. When asked if there is any plan to reopen the observatory for research, Dr Guraya is optimistic that his continuous negotiations with the university authorities on this subject will bring out a positive result.

A former student of the Science Department, quite nostalgically pleads: “There are some departments which are prestigious in context of realising the ‘relevance’ of an institution of higher learning. They infact are a base for future research and quick results in the literal sense of the word and in context of student strength in such departments should not be expected.”

Dr Salaria and Dr Darshan Singh, the other two professors of the former Space Science Department, declined to comment on any queries regarding the observatory.

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