P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Scheme for landless farmers launched
Many get land ownership documents at R-Day functions
Tribune Reporters

Ludhiana, January 27
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday launched a scheme for granting proprietary rights to landless farmers, who had been tilling about 42,000 acres of evacuee land in the state since long, on the payment of a nominal price. He handed over land ownership documents to 15 such farmers to mark the 59th Republic Day here.

Addressing the gathering after unfurling the national flag, Badal said his government was committed to improving the lot of poor farmers and people by providing them employment avenues, better education and healthcare.

Recalling the contribution of Punjab in the freedom struggle, Badal said 80 per cent of those who had sacrificed their lives for the country, belonged to Punjab.

Our freedom fighters and patriots laid down their lives for the betterment of our countrymen but it was sad that their aspirations had not yet been fulfilled. They had dreamt of an independent India free from the maladies of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty.

He underscored the need for redefining the Centre-state relations in the changing scenario and casting a true federal structure to secure the state’s participation in the national development process.

He categorically stated nobody would be allowed to vitiate the congenial atmosphere at the behest of any political party or organisation. Corruption in the government offices could only be eradicated if people came forward to report against such officials.

Earlier, Badal inspected the parade and took the salute of an impressive march past by the contingents of the PAP (Jalandhar), Punjab Police, Punjab Home Guards and the NCC. A programme, including giddha, group dance and PT show, was presented by students from different schools. At least 11 tableaux from various departments depicted the ongoing developmental of the state government.

Badal honoured 12 freedom fighters. Besides, the Chief Minister also gave tricycles to physically challenged persons and sewing machines to poor women.

AMRITSAR: After unfurling the Tricolour at the Republic Day function here, minister of health and family welfare Laxmi Kanta Chawla said the state’s health department was in for a revamp and would soon be transformed into a department truly dedicated to serving people.

She claimed that owing to stringent steps taken by the government in the past 10 months, ratio of female child to male child had risen from 793 girls to 818 girls per 1,000 boys.

The minister honoured freedom fighters and other prominent person. She distributed 18 tricycles among the disabled and 16 sewing machines among poor widows. She handed over proprietary rights certificates to 21 occupants of government land.

The district-level functions were organised at Guru Nanak Stadium where she took salute of a march past. A function was organised at Guru Nanak Dev University Dr Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor, unfurled the national flag. Students of Music Department presented patriotic songs.

Members of the All-India Azad Hind Fauj Freedom Fighters’ Successors Association celebrated the day at Jallianwala Bagh by paying tributes to martyrs.

GURDASPUR: It was a Republic Day bonanza for 24 families, whom Vidhan Sabha speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon handed over documents of ownership of government land they had been tilling since long.

Earlier, the speaker took salute from 15 contingents of Punjab Police, BSF, NCC, scouts and guides. He distributed five tricycles among physically challenged and five sewing machines among needy women.

KAPURTHALA: Local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia, addressing the gathering at Guru Nanak Stadium here, stated 1,406 applications were received under the scheme to give land ownership rights to landless farmers in Kapurthala district. He handed over 19 such beneficiaries the documents of the ownership of land. Earlier, Kalia hoisted the national flag.

SANGRUR: Agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah unfurled the national flag at War Heroes Stadium here. He inspected the parade and took the salute of the march past.

Langah honoured freedom fighters besides distributing sewing machines among needy women and tricycles among disabled persons on behalf of the District Red Cross Society.

TARN TARAN: Minister for rural development and panchayat Ranjit Singh Brahmpura unfurled the national flag at a district-level function here. 


Let’s make state a front-runner: Guv
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 27
The Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), gave a clarion call to the people of Punjab to renew their resolve to contribute to the task of building up a “new India” and making the state a front-runner in the development race in the country.

Addressing a function to mark the Republic Day at the YPS Stadium here yesterday, the Governor said India had achieved a unique positions in different fields and the people of Punjab had made a significant contribution in the process aimed at making the country a super power.

“We have to further develop partnership in every field of activity and move ahead with faith and confidence to fulfil the dreams of the stalwarts of our freedom struggle,” he said after unfurling the national flag.

General Rodrigues said there was complete peace in the state and hoped the state would continue to play a pivotal role in national development.

The Governor said the Punjab government had put education and employment on its priority agenda.

Expressing serious concern over the various social problems like child abuse, drug addiction, female foeticide and dowry, he said that “we have to collectively make committed endeavour for their eradication and bring out social change in our society”.

The Governor inspected the parade and took the salute of the march past led by IPS Harsh Bansal.

Tent pegging by jawans of the Punjab Police and young riders of PPS, Nabha, was one of the attractions of the celebrations. Wife of the Governor Jean Rodrigues distributed sweets among children.

Meanwhile, president of the SAD (Mann) Simranjit Singh Mann today criticized the Punjab Governor for not holding the At Home ceremony at Patiala where he hoisted the national flag on the occasion of Republic Day. Mann said the Governor hosts the At Home in Raj Bhawan on the occasion of the Independence Day and on the occasion of the Republic Day. 


Padma Awards
Farmers feel overlooked
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
Farmers are upset as no one from amongst them has been chosen for the Padma awards. Industrialists, politicians, artistes, sportspersons, social activists and others are in the list of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibushan awardees made public on the eve of the Republic Day by the union government, but not a single farmer has been selected for such national honour.

Only a mango grower from Malihabad in Uttar Pradesh has been selected for the award for preparing hybrid varieties of mango, not that he is a farmer or horticulturist.

“We have been maintaining that farmers do not matter for the union government. Since Independence they are being treated as nobodies by the union government,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Bharti Kisan Union. Rajewal said the government should explain why farmers were being ignored at the time of bestowing national honours. Have farmers not made enough contribution for the development of this country? he asked.

Though the union government and others may take it lightly, it is a matter of concern that decision makers in Delhi do not recognise farmers as nation builders. He said farmers’ contribution in nation building should be recognised as that of Tatas, Mittals, Oberois, Dhars and others by bestowing top civil awards of the country on them.

Rajewal said farmers had made the country self-sufficient with own efforts, industrialists had not done so. There were several farmers who deserve award for individual as well as collective efforts to make country self-sufficient in foodgrains, said Rajewal. In fact, the crisis being faced for two years by the country was because of criminal neglect on the part of the union government towards farmers.

Rajewal also said while artistes, writers, film actors and industrialists had been nominated to the Rajya Sabha over five decades, but only one or two farmer leaders had been given this honour so far, he said.

The union government owed an explanation to farmers of the country for not conferring top civilian awards on them, he said.


Bhattal reminds Cong men of their commitments
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
Punjab Congress president and Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has called upon the Congress leaders and workers to fulfil their obligations and commitments towards the people conscientiously.

Addressing a gathering at the Congress Bhawan here yesterday, she emphasised that discipline in the Congress would be ensured by all means and due respect would be accorded to workers and leaders who would keep party before self and endeavour to maintain national unity, integrity, communal harmony and brotherhood.

She added that the party workers should be committed towards the party to bring about revolution in the country and to uplift the poor and the downtrodden. Bhattal recalled sacrifices of valiant freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, who had to face immense hardships, lay down their lives, to attain freedom for the country. And the first Congress government was formed, which led to the formulation of the Constitution ensuring a secular and sovereign republic.

She said under the dynamic leadership of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and farsighted guidance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India had made a mark across the globe and all international leaders regarded India as a democratic force to reckon with.

She complimented general secretary of the AICC Rahul Gandhi for taking initiative to impress upon the UPA government to provide guaranteed employment to the rural youth by extending the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme to all districts of the country. The Congress would wage a battle against social evils so as to maintain values and rich heritage of the country.


Subsidies on some schemes need review: Manpreet
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 27
To bring the state’s economy on the right track, subsidies on certain schemes have to be reviewed for boosting the financial position of the government. Minister for finance, planning and programme implementation, Punjab, Manpreet Singh Badal stated this at a press conference here yesterday.

There was nothing wrong with the state’s economy. However, keeping in view the increasing expenditure, its boosting was required, clarified Manpreet.

The government had planned an outlay Rs 5,100 crore compared with Rs 4,000 crore of the previous Congress government.

Manpreet expressed dissatisfaction with the funds specified in the budget plan and said it did not match with the status of Punjab. It should be of at least Rs 15,000 crore.

The annual collection of revenue through VAT was Rs 6,000 crore which should be raised to at least Rs 12,000 crore annually. Some drastic steps should be taken to improve the tax revenue collection in the state for raising the state government's income, asserted Manpreet Badal.

To a question, Manpreet said the government should not depend on grants and financial assistance from the Centre. The union government had to provide the state's share without any recommendation. The state government should create its own resources to raise income. 


Turban row: Sikh leadership sent ‘wrong message’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
London-based writer Nirpal Singh Shergill, who challenged the ban on turban in French schools, said the French government had not given a firm assurance to the union government on lifting the ban on turban in government-aided French schools.

He told The Tribune on phone from London today that it would have been better had the union government told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he would have to lift the ban as it was question of human rights of part of Indian community. He said France which is making efforts to sell defence hardware worth several hundred crores to India could not afford to annoy India at this stage.

He added it was of great concern that certain leaders wanted to get this issue resolved by flashing unsheathed swords while holding demonstrations. He said such leaders should realise they were causing considerable damage to the cause of the turban and also to the Sikh community by such actions. Flashing of swords would send wrong message not only in France, but also in other parts of the world where Sikhs were settled in large numbers.

He said it was most unfortunate most of the Sikh organisations were engaged in outsmarting each other on the turban issue instead of representing the case to the authorities concerned in a proper manner. The collective effort on the part of various Sikh organisations should have resulted into some positive result, he added. Instead of a collective effort, he said efforts by certain leaders and their organisations at the individual level must have sent wrong message to the authorities concerned. On getting so many representations on the issue, they must have realised what was happening around, said Shergill. He said Sikhs had been facing discrimination in Britain, Holland, Germany, North America and other parts of the world. 


Atta-Dal Scheme
Excess wheat to be released to Central pool
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
The excess stock of wheat procured for the atta-dal scheme is likely to be released to the Central pool to clear a part of dues of Markfed and Punsup. Markfed had procured wheat and Punsup had procured pulses and wheat for the scheme.

The Punjab Food and Supplies Department, which is running the atta-dal scheme, had asked Markfed to procure 3.30 lakh tonne for the scheme.

However, later it was told to procure 2.40 lakh tonne.

Sources said Markfed had been asking the government to release its dues worth Rs 35 crore spent on wheat.

The sources said so far about 60,000 tonnes of wheat had been lifted from Markfed.

The government has estimated that new wheat will arrive in April.

In the remaining three months, it will not be able to exhaust the entire wheat stock procured for the atta-dal scheme.

The remaining stock should be released to the central pool to help Markfed recover some of the amount it had spent on wheat.

And the same can be said in case of Punsup, which is to take money from the government to procure pulses for the scheme.

For procuring wheat and pulses under the scheme for the next financial year, provision will be made in the Budget to be passed by the Punjab Assembly in March.

The issue of clearing the dues came up today at a meeting of administrative secretaries.


Singh Sabha’s plea to Vedanti, SGPC chief
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 27
The Gurdwara Singh Sabha has urged Akal Takht Jathedar and president, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), to resolve the turban issue and other problems with the French government.

In a fax message here today to Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and SGPC president Avtar Singh, Singh Sabha president Raghbir Singh Randhawa said Sikhs in France were not allowed to work while wearing turbans in all government offices and private companies. He said people from the community were being asked to get photographed without turbans for getting passports, identity cards and driving licences. He said the Sikh students were not allowed to wear turbans.

Randhawa urged Jathedar Vedanti and Avtar Singh to take steps to resolve the issue as it had become difficult for the community to live in France a dignified life.


Employees for raising retirement age
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
Federations of employees have urged Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to raise the age of retirement of government employees from 58 to 60 years.

Representatives of various employee associations met the Chief Minister in Ludhiana today and said the delay in implementing the demand was causing resentment among the employees in Punjab and hampering the working of the government.

Balkar Singh Gill, president, Federation of Heads of Punjab Government Employees Associations, said there was resentment among the employees due to the different yardsticks being followed by the government. “While a Class IV employee retires at 60, other employees superannuate at 58. The same is the case with employees of PAU. The case of the non-teaching staff of various universities is also the same. Even a PCS officer in the judicial branch retires at 60, while those in the executive branch retire at 58.

He said while the national Pay Commission had finalised its recommendations, Punjab was yet to finalise the terms of reference of the state Pay Commission. During their meeting with Badal the representatives of the various associations demanded “either the state government should fix terms of reference of the commission or it should raise the retirement age to 60”.

A high-powered committee constituted under principal secretary B.R Bajaj had also recommended raising of retiring age by two years. 


‘The Suit’ to be staged in Amritsar today
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 27
“The Suit,” a theatrical fable by South African writer Can Themba, will be staged by the Chandigarh-based group The Company as part of the National Theatre Festival being organised by the Manch Rangmanch at Punjab Natshala here tomorrow (January 28). It is directed by Neelam Mansingh.

The play deals with a rather cruel moral dilemma faced by a young husband who finds his wife in bed with her lover. After the lover flees, leaving his suit behind, the husband forces the woman to treat the abandoned suit as an honoured guest, accompanying them on walks and at the dinner table.

Though intended as a constant and tormenting reminder of her infidelity, the suit becomes a witness as much to the husband’s own misery as to the slow mental disintegration of the wife.

Neelam Mansingh said, “I recall seeing this play in 1955 at the Tricycle Theatre in London during the London international Festival of Theatre (LIFT). It was first produced by the highly regarded Market Theatre and originally directed by the late Barney Simon, the theatre’s founder and artistic director. The play left a strange impact on me and I found myself referring to it in various conversations.”

“This, despite the fact that the play is deeply rooted in the politics of South Africa and the presence of the suit in the play is a metaphor for apartheid. In my production, I would say outright, the play is apolitical, rather it is not intentionally political,” she said.

When a story is translated from a different cultural context with a different political history, transformation is not an easy task. “The question that loomed before me was that while reading the story I myself could feel the anger of the characters, their sense of being betrayed by their own natures. Theatre, then, was bound to become a courtroom in which we judge ourselves and our mysteries,” she added.

The actors include Ramanjit Kaur, Vajinder Bhardwaj and Hatinder Kumar and the music has been composed by Meher Chand.


Road to Radha Soami Dera
Farmers threaten protest 
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 27
The Kisan Sangharsh Committee here today threatened to gherao the office of the SDM, Baba Bakala, on February 8 if the government “forcibly” acquired farmers’ land for 5 km road leading to the Radha Soami dera.

At a press conference, farmers’ leader Satnam Singh Pannu said there was no need to lay the road in question by depriving farmers of their source of livelihood. He said three farmers’ association -the Kisan Sangharsh Committee, the Jamhoori Kissan Sabha and the Kirti Kissan Union - were united in demanding the cancellation of the notification issued in this regard.

Jatinder Singh Chhina said the notification was in contradiction to the pool promise made by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He said the Radha Soami dera was already connected through three roads and there was no need to connect it to Mathiala by constructing another road.

The Badal government seems to have come under pressure from the dera and has gone back on its promise to cancel the notification in the interest of farmers. Our opposition is not to the Radha Soami dera, but to the construction of the road, said leaders of the three associations.

The farmers will launch an agitation in case the government goes ahead with the construction of the road, which will affect at least 30 families of farmers in the area, whose land is to be be acquired.

The previous Congress government had issued the notification to appease the dera on February 14, 2005, but could not go ahead with the plan because of resistance from farmers. The present SAD-BJP government was now following in the footsteps of the previous government, alleged the farmers.

Deputy commissioner Pannu said action was being taken for the construction following the notification as per the rule and compensation would be paid to farmers whose land was being acquired.@


4-month foetus found
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 27
The Dhuri police today recovered a four-month male foetus from a vacant piece of land of the Janta Nagar locality at Dhuri.

The police said one Jaspal Singh, a resident of Janta Nagar, informed it today that a male foetus was lying on a vacant piece of land near his house.

The foetus had now been sent to the Dhuri Civil Hospital for examination.


Jalandhar Killing
Autopsy confirms boy was murdered
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 27
Five days after the recovery of missing boy Lokesh’s body near the railway track close to the Bashirpura crossing, his autopsy report confirmed that he had been murdered with sharp-edged weapons.

The mutilated body of Lokesh (5) had been sent on Friday to Amritsar Forensic Science Laboratory to know the exact cause of his death as doctors at the local Civil Hospital had failed to determine the same.

The General Railway Police (GRP) received the boy’s postmortem report from the laboratory in which it has been clearly stated the boy had been murdered as his body born several injury marks with some sharp-edged weapons.

GRP SHO Dharmendra Kalyan said a tantrik sadhu had been suspected behind the murder. Lokesh’s family members had told the police that a sadhu used to visit their place now and then.

Lokesh, son of Prahlad, a resident of Kota in Rajasthan now living in the slums near the PTU on the Ladowali road, had gone missing along with his cousin Amarpal (9) in the last week of December. A report of missing was lodged with the city police a few weeks back.

While Lokesh’s body was recovered on Tuesday, the whereabouts of Amarpal were still not known.

Earlier, GRP SP Shamsher Jang Bahadur Sharma said somr residents said they had noticed the movement of some sadhus in the locality. 


Ex-minister’s kin involved in land grab case
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 27
In spite of a high-level probe into the sale and partition of shamlat land across the state, brother of a former minister in the Congress government, who allegedly facilitated the sale of shamlat land in village Hoshiarpur here has now helped the owner to “occupy” the land despite a stay from the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The land was sold and partitioned in connivance with the village sarpanch and revenue officials. Despite the fact that the land was clearly set aside for “common use”, the then commissioner also favoured those who claimed to be “owners” and ordered the partition of the land.

This order was challenged by the panchayat in the high court, which granted a stay on the commissioner’s orders.

The then ADC (Development) Ajoy Sharma recommended a probe into the sale of this land. Following a report of the BDPO, the sarpanch of the village Nachattar Singh was suspended and an inquiry ordered.

Currently the village panchayat is fighting for the occupation of the shamlat land against these “owners” in the court.

“But despite the stay, one of those who claim to be owners has taken a tubewell connection on the land and constructed a wall,” said Gurmail Singh, president of the Pind Sudhar committee who along with the panchayat is fighting to save the shamlat land. “This is for common use of the village and not someone’s property,” added Gulzar Singh, vice-president of the committee.

Sources in the village added that a large chunk of over 30 acres is owned by another well-connected Chandigarh resident reportedly being supported by some Akali leaders. “This person also has constructed a boundary wall and some houses inside,” said Gurmail Singh.

The villagers pointed out that no one in the district administration was taking action against the open loot of their land. “We have written complaints to the deputy commissioner, the Chief Minister, but no one cares,” rued Gurmail Singh.

In the detailed orders of suspension of the sarpanch, Gurdev Singh Sidhu, director village development and panchayats had stated that out of the total 1,492 kanal land in the village, almost 1,420 kanal is under the illegal occupation of various persons.

He noted that the village panchayat had won the case regarding the occupation of the shamlat land in 2004, but the land mafia in connivance with the sarpanch got parts of the land registered in the name of individuals.

A large part of this shamlat land is ‘gair mumkin nadi’ (river bed).


Girl falls victim to honour killing
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 27
A girl was strangulated by her father at Mahal village yesterday when she refused to marry any other boy except the one she was in love with.

According to police sources, Rajbir Kaur (24) had eloped with a boy some time ago, but returned home after her father assured her that she would be married as per her wish. The boy, whom the girl wanted to marry, belongs to a lower caste.

When Rajbir’s father Swarn Singh failed to persuade his daughter into marrying the boy of his choice, he strangulated her to death and cremated her immediately. The police arrested Swarn and seized the mortal remains of the girl. The police has registered a case under Section 302, IPC. 


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