P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Protest Against Dera Head
Summon Badals, KAC to Vedanti 
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 19
The Khalsa Action Committee (KAC) met Jathedar, Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti here today and sought summoning of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Badal for allegedly stopping a pr otest march against Dera Sacha Sauda and referring to a Namdhari leader as “Satguru”.

The KAC in a complaint to Jathedar Vedanti said the Chief Minister had violated the edict issued by the jathedar on May 20 last year, in which he had directed the Panthic organisations to hold a peaceful protest march against dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Later, while talking to mediapersons Jasbir Singh Rode, chief organiser, KAC, said Badal had ordered a crackdown on the activists of the KAC who were trying to hold a peaceful march against the dera head at Salabatpura. He alleged that the government had also stopped the Panj Piaras and Palki Sahib of Guru Granth Sahib.

Rode claimed that during a closed-door meeting, Jathedar Vedanti had assured them that it was a serious matter and would be taken up during the next meeting of the five high priests soon.

He further said the issuing of the ordinance for the publication of Guru Granth Sahib by the SGPC tantamount to direct interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. He said there was no need for the ordinance as anybody could publish Guru Granth Sahib with prior permission of  Akal Takht.

Bhai Mohkam Singh, convener, KAC, said the next course of action would be decided during its meeting to be held on February 21 at the Sarabha Nagar Gurdwara  in Ludhiana.

Answering to a query, Harinder Singh Khalsa, former Indian Ambassador, said an all-party meeting had also been convened on the same day by the International Human Rights Commission on the issue of ban on turban by the French government.

Meanwhile, no photographer was allowed to enter the office of the jathedar, Akal Takht.


Rail, road traffic hit during Punjab bandh
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, February 19
At least four farmers were injured, one of them seriously, in a clash with local traders when the former were forcing the traders to down their shutters to observe Punjab bandh here today.

The bandh call had been given by the coordination panel of 17 farmer, industrial and labour unions, in protest against the privatisation of various public sector units and hike in petrol and diesel prices.

Rattan Singh Randhawa, a senior leader of the CPM, alleged that the clash between the farmers and the businessmen was the result of some “mischievous elements”, who wanted to bring bad name to the coordination panel. He said they were for peaceful means for getting their demands conceded.

The shopkeepers attacked the agitating farmers when they went on the rampage in the local Gwalmandi Chowk. The traders alleged that some activists resorted to looting of rehriwalas and shopkeepers.

An industrialist reportedly held some farmers in captivity with the support of other businessmen on his premises. The traders also deflated the tyres of their tractor-trailers, it was alleged.

While activists of the coordination panel were successful in paralysing the rail service for about three hours, the bandh call failed to evoke any response in urban areas of the Holy City. However, it evoked a good response in small border towns, including Bhikhiwind, Khalchian and Tangra, while there was a mixed response in Ajnala and Rayya towns.

Farmers, including womenfolk, children and old men sat on the rail tracks for about three hours, resulting in the delay of several trains, including the Shatabdi.

At Rayya, farmers stopped traffic for several hours. Activists of the coordination panel stopped traffic on the Tarn Taran road, causing great inconvenience to the common man.

GURDASPUR: Activists of the Joint Action Committee staged dharnas here and in Pathankot during the Punjab bandh on Tuesday. They blocked rail and road traffic for more than two hours.

Activists of over 17 Left parties and trade unions staged a dharna at the Gurdaspur-Pathankot level crossing on the Amritsar-Pathankot-Jammu railway track for over three hours. Vehicular traffic was disrupted for over two hours as members of the “Nijikaran Virodhi Taal Mel Committee” staged a dharna outside the Pathankot bus stand.

Activists of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions, (IFTU), led by its president Gurmit Singh, stopped a goods train heading from Pathankot to Amritsar from 12.20 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. Another train to Pathankot was stopped by the Zamhiri Kisan Sabha activists.

The agitators raised slogans and protested against the government move for promoting privatisation in power, water, education, health and roads in the state.

HOSHIARPUR: There was a mixed response to the bandh call in Hoshiarpur district.

Activists of the Anti-Privatisation Coordination Committee (APCC) blocked rail traffic on the Hoshiarpur-Jalandhar section at the level crossing on the Hoshiarpur-Phagwara road for more than an hour.

All leaders condemned the SAD-BJP government for not fulfilling its promises made during the last assembly elections. The government had allowed private companies to loot the public in broad daylight by installing toll plazas by bringing all major roads under the BOT scheme.

BATALA: Rail and road traffic was disrupted here on Tuesday by activists of 17 organisations of labour workers and farmers for about three hours.

The workers gathered in thousands at the Gandhi Chowk on the national highway and the level crossing on the Dera Baba Nanak Road.

Gurmeet Singh Bakhapura, state leader of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions, Punjab, criticised the policies of the government.

BATHINDA: Activists of 17 farmer, labour and technical services unions, in response to a joint call for a day-long Punjab bandh, blocked rail and road traffic at more than a dozen places in and around the district on Tuesday.

The activists held up rail and road traffic at Rampura Phul, Bhai Bakhtaur, Nandgarh, Burj Gill, Mansa, Bhikhi, Sardoolgarh, Budhlada, Bareta, Barnala, Mehal Kalan, Faridkot, Sadak, Bhai Rupa and many other areas of the region from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

Reports also came in from Sadak in Faridkot and Bhai Rupa in Bathinda district, where traders joined the bandh and closed their shutters.

At Mansa, the Bathinda-Delhi rail link and the main road were blocked for three hours. Traffic on the Mansa-Sirsa road was also blocked at Bhikhi. Main roads were blocked at Sardoolgarh, Budhlada and Bareta.

The Barnala-Moga, Barnala-Sangrur, Barnala-Ludhiana and Barnala-Jaito roads were blocked. Railway line was blocked at Barnala. In Faridkot, the Kotkapura road and a railway line were also blocked.

SANGRUR: Vehicular traffic was today blocked for hours at Bhawanigarh, Dirba, Benra, Lehragaga and Sunam in Sangrur district. Hundreds of farmers and labourers took out a protest march at Bhawanigarh and later blocked the Sangrur-Patiala road near Bhawanigarh bus stand for more than three hours.


Govt has limited legal options
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 19
With the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) ordering withdrawal of all power subsidies in the state from March 1, the Punjab government has been left with limited legal options. If the state fails to find any legal remedy to the PSERC’s order then agriculture and urban consumers would have to pay increased power bills as decided by the PSERC in September last year for power consumed from March 1.

The PSERC had issued the order, invoking Section 65 of the Electricity Act, 2003. The state government can invoke Section 108 of the Act, under which the state can issue directions to the state commission in a matter of policy that involves public interest. In that case the directions of the state are binding on the commission. However, on the issue of payment of subsidy in advance, provision of Section 65 overrides the provisions provided under Section 108 to the state government to issue directions to the commission.

The state can also move Appellate Tribunal against the order of the commission. However, the recent order has been issued on the directions of the Appellate Tribunal. The state can only move the Supreme Court.

The state can also pay subsidy of over Rs 1,000 crore that it owes to the PSEB to seek review of the order. However, payment of such a large amount in view of the fact that the state is facing acute financial crises, it seems an uphill task. Sources available here said some of the farmer associations were contemplating moving the court to get the order stayed.

The silence of the government on the order seems a tacit admission to doing away with free power. This has, however, come in for sharp criticism from Congress leaders. Congress MLA from Nangal K.P.S. Rana said the state government had deliberately not contested the case before the commission. Free power to farmers was promised by the SAD and if it is now going back on its promise then it is ditching voters.


30 yrs on, freedom fighter’s widow awaits pension
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The country does not know how to honour her heroes, at least this is what 85-year-old widow of Subhas Chandra Bose’s bodyguard-cum-soldier in the Indian National Army Surjan Singh is claiming.

Fighting a battle for pension with the powers-that-be for over 30 years now, Gurcharan Kaur has alleged that the allowance, initially granted under the Swatantra Sainik Sanman Pension Scheme of 1972, has not been restored despite representations made to the authorities concerned.

Going into the background of the matter, the petitioner’s counsel asserted the pension was illegally stopped and discontinued in 1977. Even a detailed legal notice issued to the authorities concerned on March 10, 2005, failed to evoke a positive response, compelling her to move the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the Union of India, the joint secretary in the ministry of home affairs (freedom fighters division), the deputy commissioners of Amritsar and Tarn Taran, along with other respondents.

Gurcharan Kaur has added that all this was despite the fact that her husband, being Bose’s bodyguard, was awarded “Tamar Patra” by a former Prime Minister for his contribution to the country’s freedom struggle.

A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, comprising Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice T.P.S. Mann, has kept the case for final orders in the matter. 


Celebration time at Sharif’s native village
Varinder Walia and 

Jatti Umra (Tarn Taran), February 19
Residents of the native village of Nawaz Sharif, former Pak Prime Minister, remained glued to their TV and radio sets to know the results of elections in Pakistan throughout the day and later thronged the local gurdwara to perform ardas following the excellent performance of his party.

They prayed to the Almighty that Sharif should again become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. They feel that relations between India and Pakistan will improve with Sharif becoming the PM again. Mohinder Kaur, who had met Sharif in Lahore in November, hoped that like in India there would be a coalition government in Pakistan due to fractured verdict in the elections and that Sharif had a fair chance of becoming the PM on the basis of his experience. She claimed that Shariff had promised her to visit Jatti Umra year.

Gurbachan Singh, a former sarpanch, and Massa Singh, a panchayat member, also expressed similar views. The memories of Sharif visiting the village in 1982 are still fresh in the minds of the residents of Jatti Umra.

They said it was a matter of great satisfaction that the election results would end the rule of Pervez Musharraff who had brought misery to Sharif and his family.

On the other hand, the Qadian (Ahmaddiya Muslims), a persecuted community in Pakistan rued that they were denied the right to vote in yesterday’s elections.


Minority Issue Tarlochan for review
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 19
Tarlochan Singh, MP and a former chairman of the National Commission on Minorities, has asked the state government to review its stand on minorities. “We have already done great disservice to the Sikh community by dissociating the Sehajdhari Sikhs from the Sikh Panth”, he said.

Talking to The Tribune here yesterday, Tarlochan Singh said it was shocking that the counsel for the SGPC and the state government had pleaded in the Supreme Court that Radha Soamis are not part of the Sikhs.

He said by dissociating a large number of Sikhs from the community, the state government and the SGPC were not helping the Panth. Instead, efforts should be made to bring other sections of the Sikhs closer to the Panth.


11 colleges to be opened in backward areas: Minister
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 19
With a view to providing qualty educational facilities in the state, the Punjab government has decided to open 11 degree colleges and recruit 14,000 teachers, particularly in educationally backward areas.

Disclosing this to The Tribune here today, state education minister Dr Upinderjit Kaur said 33 per cent of the cost for the setting up these colleges would be borne by the Centre, while the rest of the expenditure would be taken care of by the Punjab government.

The education minister, who was here in connection with the annual prize distribution function of the government college, said a multi-faculty postgraduate college was being set up at Sardulgarh. Work on the project had already been initiated, she disclosed.

She said with a view to giving impetus to vocational education, the Punjab government had decided to set up premier management and health management institutes. She expressed optimism that institutes would professionally train the youths for gainful employment.

The Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Mohali had already become functional with admissions having been made. The process of identifying a suitable place had been initiated for the central university to be set up in Punjab, she added.

She said the government was alive to the problem of a large number of posts of teachers lying vacant in government schools and she had issued instructions for the speedy recruitment of 14,000 teachers.


Govt nod to cops’ weekly off
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
The Punjab government has given its nod to the proposal of a compulsory weekly off to policemen from the rank of constable to inspector. This was announced by the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on the occasion of Police Martyrs Commemoration Day parade.

In a press note here today, it was said necessary orders had already been issued and this facility was being extended on rotation duty in all units and sub-units.


Wrestler Chuselwaria attacked, serious
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 19
Salwinder Singh, alias Chuselwaria pehalwan, an Asian gold medal-winner, was injured when he was attacked by four persons with sharp-edged weapons here today.

The wrestler was admitted to the Civil Hospital here. His condition was said to be serious. Harinder Singh Chahal, SSP, said the attackers had been identified as Jagwant Sigh, alias AB, Pinder Singh , Bagga Singh,all residents of this town, and Jatinder Singh of Kairowal village .


Lyricist Sudarshan Fakir dead
Aparna Banerji
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 19
Renowned lyricist Sudarshan Fakir died here yesterday. He was 73.

The man who was loved by millions of ghazal fans across the world gave a whole new perspective to love, life and melancholy through his famous ghazals “ye kaghaz ki kashti…ye baarish ka pani” and “ishq mein ghairate-jazbaat ne rone na diya” touched every chord of the human heart.

The lyricist, who penned songs for stalwarts like Jagjit Singh and Beghum Akhtar, passed away after a prolonged illness at a hospital here on Monday night.

Spending the better part of his life in the city, Fakir did MA in political science and English from DAV College, Jalandhar.

Active in dramatics and poetry right from his college days, he directed Mohan Rakesh’s “Ashaar ka ek din” during his youth, which was said to be a hit with the city audience at that time.

He started working with the AIR, Jalandhar and later left for Bombay, where he cut albums with many music maestros. Almost all albums by Jagjit Singh, during the eighties, had ghazals by Fakir.

He also wrote lyrics for movies like Dooriyan and Prem Agan as well as dialogues for the film ‘Yalgaar’.

Sources said that the song, “Hum sab Bhartiya hain”, which is sung at the NCC camps across the country, was penned  by him.

Jasbir Rishi, a lecturer in psychology at a local college and a neighbour of his, said, “He was a man with a very high self-esteem. He never compromised on small things.”

“He loved watching cricket and liked leading a simple life,” she added.

Fakir is survived by his wife Sudesh, son Manav, daughter-in-law Ishita and grandson Aryaman.

He was cremated at Model Town here in the afternoon.


Minister, teachers to meet today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
Education minister Dr Upinderjit Kaur has invited the Punjab State Aided School Teachers and other Employees Union for discussion on demands tomorrow.

Ashwani Kumar Sharma, secretary of the union, said today the government today filled the post of deputy director to deal with issues related to government- aided private schools. Employees of many aided schools in Ferozepur, Ropar, Barnala, Mansa, Bathinda, Hoshiarpur etc had not got salary for several months due to virtual collapse of the school administration at the government level.

The union has either to hold demonstration to meet to the Chief Minister or the chief secretary to get the grant released for salary from the government. For years, the government had been promising to set up a mechanism to release the grant but it failed to do it.

Though aided schools are the backbone of school education in the state but the government is showing least concern to keep such schools in good shape. 


Paris-based institute to fund study
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
Paris-based National Institute of Demographic Studies has sponsored a study on the migration from Punjab to the USA, the UK and other countries of the world.

“It will be the first study to be conducted by involving the largest sample in the state,” said Aswini Kumar Nanda, a demographer working with the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) here.

Besides CRRID, the Centre For Development Studies based in Kerala will also be a part of the project. He said originally the proposal was to study the out-migration from seven states like Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The Union Ministry for Overseas had conceived this project and promised to fund it. However, the project did not materialise.

Now the Paris-based institute has agreed to fund the project that will be Punjab specific, he added. At present no authentic study was available on migration from Punjab within the country and outside. “Though focus will be on migration to other parts of the world, the migration from Punjab within the country will also be included in the project,” said Nanda.


High Court
Circular on facilitation charges withdrawn
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19
Less than a fortnight after a news report on “facilitation charges” was carried in these columns, a circular issued in this regard by the Punjab police chief has been withdrawn. The police chief, vide the circular, had allowed police officials all over the state to collect “facilitation charges” from the residents for rendering services like passport and character verification.

As the matter came up for hearing, Punjab’s additional advocate-general Amol Rattan Singh made a statement to this effect before Punjab and Haryana High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia.

Describing it as unauthorised and illegal, High Court advocate H.C. Arora had earlier sought directions for quashing the circular. In a detailed petition, he had contended that the circular had failed to mention the fund to which the charges collected by the police personnel for the services were to be credited. In fact, the circular spoke in so many words that the approval of the state government for this was being sought, implying it had not been authorised to collect such charges. As such, it was nothing, but compulsory exaction of taxes without authority of law, and amounted to abuse of office by the DGP.

Land scheme challenged

Challenging Punjab government’s “optimum utilisation of vacant government land” scheme, a Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate today claimed the government had no power to sell state land.

In a petition filed in public interest for quashing the scheme, advocate Harmeet Singh Grewal said there was no provision under the Punjab Infrastructural development and regulation Act, 2002, for undertaking the sale of the state lands.

In the event of sale of government land, the money so received has to be deposited to the state treasury, and not to any other fund, Grewal submitted in the petition taken up by a High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia.


The High Court on Tuesday issued notice of motion on a petition for removal of encroachment from government land in Sonam reserved for construction of a museum in the memory of martyr Udham Singh.

The petition by Sonam-based Social Welfare and Anti-Corruption Society, through its president Rajesh Aggarwal, said though the land was demarcated for the museum, some miscreants had started illegal construction on the land.

Taking up the matter, a Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice K.S. Ahluwalia, fixed May 13 as the next date of hearing.

Treatment plants

The sewage treatment plants under Sutlej Action Plan in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Phagwara and Phillaur are scheduled to be completed by April 30, according to a submission made before the High Court by the director (Planning and Design), Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board.

Giving details of the action initiated by the state to stop the discharge of sewage from the eight towns of Punjab into the Beas, he said treatment of waste water through treatment plants would commence by April 30. He added a project with an estimated cost of Rs 296 crore had been initiated. Out of the total, Rs 276 crore had been received so far. 


Singer Balbir Mann held for cheating
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 19
Punjabi singer Balbir Mann was today arrested b in connection with a case registered against him and his wife Sunita Mann under Section 420 of the IPC in October 2007 at the police station here. His wife is at large.

Sangrur SSP Arun Pal Singh said on phone tonight Balbir had been arrested for cheating a person for sending him abroad. He added Balbir had been produced before the police today by a person from Ealwal village.

On the complaint of resident of Sajuma village Gurmeet Singh, the police had registered a case on October 11, 2007 against two Punjabi singers, Balbir Mann and his wife, for allegedly cheating Gurmeet Singh on the pretext of sending him abroad.

Gurmeet had given about Rs 4.50 lakh to Balbir and his wife in April last year. 


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