P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


State rejects Centre’s plea on BBMB
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 28
The Punjab government has rejected the Centre’s plea that status quo should be maintained in case of appointment of members of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), one of the most powerful body engaged in power generation and management of water for irrigation and flood control.

Responding to Punjab government’s plea that member (irrigation) this time should be appointed from the panel of names of chief engineers sent by it, the union government has replied that status quo should be maintained in case of appointment of members. For the past several years, the member (irrigation) had been appointed from Haryana and member (power) from Punjab in the BBMB. The Punjab government has argued that there is nothing in the BBMB rules and regulations that makes mandatory the appointment of member (irrigation) from Haryana.

“Let the appointment of member (irrigation) be made on a rotational basis. For the past 30-40 years, the member (irrigation) had been appointed from Haryana and now this slot should be given to Punjab”, said a senior officer of the Punjab government. “If the union government did not relent on this issue, we will move the Supreme Court to seek justice”, said the officer.

He said there was a reason for seeking the slot of member (irrigation) for Punjab. “There will certainly be better management of water for irrigation and flood control if the slot of member (irrigation) is given to Punjab”, he said.

As Haryana is not affected by the release of excess water from Gobind Sagar in case of heavy inflow from hills during the monsoon or during the filling of the reservoir to its capacity, as happened during the monsoon this year, Punjab bears the brunt. Because of this factor, the control regarding release of water, regulating intake in the Gobind Sagar, etc, should rest with Punjab. Appointment of member (irrigation) from Punjab would resolve this problem to a large extent.

Moreover, in future, the usage of water will be most important fact as already a large number of private companies had entered in power sector and because of this generation of power will not be a big issue. Punjab has been pumping out 28 MAF of water from ground to meet its irrigation requirement as only 14 MAF is available to it from rivers. “With better management of water from Gobind Sagar, Punjab can drastically cut its usage of groundwater”, said the officer.

The issue of appointment of member (irrigation) will be discussed at the political level soon. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal may also take up this issue with the union government.


Lahore chamber for boosting trade ties
Tribune News Service

Aftab Ahmad Vohra
Aftab Ahmad Vohra

Chandigarh, November 28
The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry today called for the creation of a ‘friendship park’ on the Wagah border to offset expected squeeze in extending visas following the terror attacks in Mumbai besides opening a dedicated gate for trade on the border.

The chamber also urged that visa offices be opened both in Lahore and Amritsar so that businessmen did not have to visit either Islamabad or Delhi to get visas.

Speaking at the international conference on “Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South Asia” at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) here, Lahore chamber representative Aftab Ahmad Vohra said both countries could jointly establish a walled park extending into each other territories. He said businessmen from both sides could then be allowed free access to the park, without any visa restrictions.

Vohra said Man-to-man interaction and negotiation was necessary for meaningful trade to take place and that the park could become a hub not only for trade negotiations but also a convention centre. He said it could also be expanded to include an advanced health care centre, hotels and other infrastructure to create an impetus to commerce in the region. The Pakistani representative said the issue had been discussed with the Pakistan government but that it was necessary to take it up at the highest political level.

He also called for designating a dedicated gate for trade at Wagah, saying that the retreat ceremony was eating into the time available for movement of goods. “Trade at Wagah is at present only held from 10 am to 3 pm and this much time is insufficient keeping in view the rising traffic”, he added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan trade representative Ahmed Khan said at present the “so called” warehouse at Wagah was just a ‘maidan’ and that proper infrastructure, including residential facilities, should be created. He also called for the constitution for a high-powered dispute resolving committee that could adjudicate on disputes between businessmen from both countries.

Pakistani trade representatives, while indicating they were enthusiastic about trade with India, said the latter country must be ready to make some sacrifices being a much bigger economy. They said Indian entrepreneurs could finance projects in Pakistan and also accept Pakistani imports on lesser duty to remove fears among traders, who felt they would be adversely affected in case of free trade with India. They said Pakistan on its part could offer cost-effective transit of goods from Indian Punjab to Karachi for export, saving money for traders, who have to export goods through Mumbai.

There was support for the Pakistani demands from economist Dr Ranjit Singh Ghumman, who said all issues raised by the Pakistani delegates needed to be addressed so to ensure trade picked up at the ground level.

Afghanistan wants to do trade through Wagah

Afghanistan urged Pakistan to open the border for import and export of goods from India to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asia.

Afghanistan claims that according to an agreement with the Pakistan government in 1965, it was allowed full right to import and export goods from Wagah border. Its trade and commerce representative, Daud Moosa, while speaking at the international conference on “Cooperative Development in South Asia” at CRRID here, said Pakistan was not following the agreement despite repeated requests.

Moosa said the Afghanistan government had been requesting Pakistan since the last seven years to honour the agreement but the latter country maintained that opening of the border for Afghanistan was not part of its policy.


Govt bails out PSEB
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 28
For the time being, the state government has bailed the PSEB out of the financial crisis. The government has agreed to stand guarantee to a loan worth Rs 7,000 crore proposed to raised by the PSEB to pay instalments and interest on Rs 12,000 crore loan raised by it earlier.

Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal said he had cleared the file of the PSEB in this regard. He said the PSEB had been told to use the money to be taken on loan to meet its capital expenditure and not to spend the same on running day-to-day administration.

The PSEB had put up a proposal before the state government to stand guarantee to the loan to be raised by it to meet its emergency fiscal requirements from January to April this year. Sources said the PSEB was to pay as instalments and interest about Rs 700 crore in next a few weeks. Without state’s guarantee, no financial institution has been ready to advance loan to the PSEB, the credit rating of which in the financial market has become very poor.

By raising Rs 7,000 crore, the PSEB, which has about Rs 12,000 crore as loan already in its book besides a loss worth Rs 8,000 crore, will be able to meet its capital fiscal needs for the next two years.

Manpreet Singh said the PSEB was an engine of Punjab’s economic growth and the state government would do whatever it could do to save it from financial ruin. He said the government was fully aware of the fiscal problems being faced by the PSEB and had recently paid Rs 320 crore as an instalment of subsidy to it in lieu of providing free power to the farm sector.


Global meltdown not to affect state: CM
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Rakhra (Patiala), November 28
In an effort to give a ray of hope to the people and to dispel their misconceptions about the possibilities of dwindling fiscal growth, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today that global meltdown would not cast much of its shadow on the economy of the state.

“Punjab’s economy is largely based on agriculture and food grains are always in demand,” said Badal, who was here to participate in a function organised in connection with the anniversary of the SAD’s NRI wing chairman Surjit Singh Rakhra’s parents late Kartar Singh and Jaswant Kaur.

The chief minister assured that the government had already initiated a process to strengthen the economy of the state by ensuring a foolproof tax collection system.

“I urge the farmers of the state to grow quality flowers, fruits, vegetables and oilseeds in accordance with their demand in the world market. This would fetch not only a good yield for them but will also save them from any meltdown effects,” said Badal.

Commenting on the Mumbai onslaught by terrorists, the chief minister said, “It was unfortunate that innocent people are being targeted. We, as a whole nation, should combat the threat posed by terrorism at this juncture. Our police and intelligence system are well in place and able to tackle any threat,” said Badal.

Talking about the alleged misuse of official cars by certain government officers, Badal said he had directed the chief secretary to ensure that an officer has been allowed to use only a single car.

He asserted that the SAD would win all the seats in Punjab in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Referring to the selection of the party candidate for the Patiala seat, Badal said a high-level committee, constituted by the party for this purpose, would take the decision regarding this. He also indicated that the state government had not taken any decision on unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board as yet.

Others who were present on the occasion included, Punjab transport minister Mohan Lal, former SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar, former ministers Baldev Singh Maan, Raja Narinder Singh and Harmel Singh Tohra, advocate Dalbir Singh Mahl, member Punjab public service commission and other SAD-BJP leaders, Lachman Dass Sewak, Mohinder Singh Lalwa and Harinder Pal Singh Maan.

‘Include farm labour in survey’

Chandigarh: Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal directed the state financial commissioner (development) to get the cases of suicides committed by the farm labour included in the ongoing survey conducted by PAU, Ludhiana. The Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union had urged the Chief Minister regarding this.


Badal’s plea to Guv
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
In a significant move, aimed at ensuring expeditious possession of urban properties from tenants in Punjab to NRIs, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has urged Governor S.F. Rodrigues to implement the amended East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act 1949 in union territory of Chandigarh.

In a communiqué addressed to General Rodrigues, the Chief Minister said the Punjab government had amended the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act 1949 vide issuing notification on May 31, 2001, for paving the way for NRIs to get quick possession of their properties. He pointed out that though Chandigarh was the capital of Punjab, the said amendment was not still applicable in Chandigarh.


IAS officers shifted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
The Punjab government today transferred four IAS officers with immediate effect.

A.R. Talwar, principal secretary, defence services welfare, has been transferred as principal secretary, health and family welfare; Jasbir Singh Bir, secretary, personnel and in addition secretary, general administration, becomes commissioner, Patiala division; Seema Jain, secretary, public grievances and pensions and in addition secretary, printing and stationery, goes as director, information technology; and Iqbal Singh Sidhu, MD, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, has been given the additional charge of secretary personnel and general administration.



BSP sends names to Mayawati
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 28
After the declaration of candidates for six Lok Sabha seats, Sangrur, Anandpur Sahib, Ferozepur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Fatehgarh Sahib, some time ago, the Punjab unit of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has now recommended names of its candidates for two more LS seats, Faridkot and Gurdaspur, to the party chief Mayawati. As the names of these two candidates have been sent to Mayawati for her approval, so even the state BSP president Avtar Singh Karimpuri is not ready to disclose these names by saying that if the names are approved then Mayawati will announce the same.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Karimpuri said these two names had been recommended by the state unit of the party after procuring opinion from the party workers of Faridkot and Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituencies, while the names of candidates for remaining five LS constituencies would be recommended to the party president by the end of December after gathering opinion of the party workers.

Earlier, he addressed a “Sankalp rally” at Sunam, about 13 km from here, where workers took a pledge that they would strive to make Mayawati next Prime Minister.


Central panel inspects export facilities
at Amritsar airport
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, November 28
A 3-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce today made an on-the-spot study of the export infrastructure in the state.

The international trade through airport, land and rail route has been facing a series of bottlenecks due to lack of hi-tech infrastructure and has failed to enthuse the business community, already reeling under global meltdown.

Leader of the delegation Kanshi Ram Rana, former union minister of textiles, along with E. Punnuswamy and Nikhil Anandasar, all sernior members of the Rajya Sabha, visited the international aircargo complex at the Rajasansi International Airport, International Railway Station at Attari and the Attari/Wagah joint check post and inspected the facilities at all these trade points.

Talking to The Tribune, Rana said poor infrastructure was a major impediment to hassle-free trade from the major the major international trading points in the border region of Amritsar. He said they would prepare a comprehensive report and strongly recommend the points raised by the exporters associations vis a vis the poor and inadequate facilities, which were hampering the trade.

Senior officers of the airport, Customs and the DGFT apprised the delegation of the present scenario and the available infrastructure. The group of MPs grilled the officers about the delay in providing state-of-the-art facilities to expand international trade in view of the tremendous potential in the northern region, including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.


Agro-Tech 2008
Cos to launch AC tractors
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
Big is strong and small is beautiful. In a major shift from manufacturing farm equipment for large-scale holdings, top tractor companies today showcased sleeker models of tractors, tillers and harvesters for the small- holdings farmers of Punjab and Haryana.

Leading tractor companies of India are displaying their latest products at Agro-Tech 2008, a Confederation of Indian Industries event, which opened here today.

Other than launching higher horse-powered and upgraded versions of the existing models of tractors, companies are now also offering tractor attachments for “off-season” use.

Mahindra and Mahindra, the leading tractor manufacturers in India announced that the company would be launching its small tractor “Yuvraaj”. The 15 horsepower tractor would cost less than Rs 2 lakh and is expected to be the small farmer’s best buy.

A mini-walking tractor already in use in the hilly terrain in Himachal is being manufactured by a Ludhiana-based company and has been launched for Punjab. “This rotary tiller is most suited for small holdings and also can be used as a weeding machine in large farms,” explained Vicky of Amar Agricultural Equipments, Ludhiana. Another Ludhiana-based company has brought out a three-wheeled open reaper-binder, which harvests the crop and also binds it in ropes.

Mahindra’s “Shaan” a built-in trolley-tractor for the small farmer is already a major hit in Uttar Pradesh where it is being used in brick kilns. “It is a 25 HP tractor trolley with a turning radius of only 3.2 m. It is primarily for the small farmer,” said Gautam Nagwekar, chief operating officer of the company.

“Innovation in farm equipment is essential as the world over there is a severe shortage of farm labour,” added Nagwekar. Mahindra’s “cane thumper” used to harvest cane is one of the many products showcased today, which can undertake an otherwise labour intensive exercise. The cane grabber, corn harvester were some other such products on display at the exhibition.

After months of deliberation, if the Punjab and Haryana farmer wanted an air-conditioned cabin to sit in on his tractor, some companies have finally decided to launch the first AC tractors. John Deere, a multinational company, is all set to introduce its four-cylinder turbo charged 89 HP AC cabin model.

“AC cabins are already available in majority of the models which are used in European farms but here it would be a new thing,” said Mahesh Boolchandani, deputy general manager of the company.

Redlands Ashlyn Motors tractors launched a “track” type combine harvester at the expo today. “The track version is very useful to facilitate mobility in waterlogged areas,” said MB Prasad of the company.

Claas company latest product “Tiger 60” on show is a combined harvester. “This has mechanised the harvesting of basmati rice which is otherwise a labour intensive exercise,” said Bhanu Sharma executive vice-president (Sales).

Escorts launched a 55 HP Powertrac tractor with four cylinders at the exhibition, while HMT launched a 50 HP tractor during the inaugural session of the expo. New Holland launched its 37 HP tractor today.


44 lakh tonnes of wheat lying in open
FCI to lease private godowns
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has decided to take private godowns on lease in view of 44 lakh tonnes of wheat lying in the open.

This new policy, which is likely to come into effect before the wheat harvest next year, is expected to give some relief to the FCI as well as procurement agencies of Punjab and also lower the damage caused to food grain when lying exposed to natural elements.

Stake holders were invited to discuss the Warehousing Act 2007 at a seminar organised by FICCI here today in which problems of storage as well as how to create optimum storage capacity were taken up.

According to sources, the storage situation in Punjab is grim with the state unable to stretch the capacity of its present plinths. Food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh has been repeatedly requesting that the movement of wheat outside the state be sped up. The state is expected to procure more than 125 lakh tonnes of wheat during the current procurement season.

FCI regional manager Sarvjit Singh disclosed that Punjab had a protected storage capacity of only 106 tonnes and that this was full and 44 lakh tonnes of food grain was lying in the open. He said even if the state tried its utmost and movement of foodgrain out of the state was smooth, only 22 lakh tonnes of wheat would move out of the state by the next harvest.

Sarvjit said keeping this in view it was decided to formulate a policy whereby quick storage capacity could be created by involving the private sector. He said Punjab’s share in wheat production was 100 lakh tonnes out of the total purchase of 223 lakh tonnes.

FICCI executive director R.K. Saboo disclosed that if the Centre was to make arrangements for warehouses, the cost would run up to Rs 4,000 crore. He said private godown owners were also being offered a good deal in the Warehousing Act, 2007 by proposing to let them use their godowns for other activities also. He said farmers too would benefit as they would be able to use these private godowns to store their food grain and could also take loan against the food grain if required.


Sugarcane farmers lift dharna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) and sugarcane farmers today decided to lift its ongoing dharna being held here to demand immediate payment to sugarcane growers besides other issues after the government released Rs 17.5 crore for payment of arrears to the growers.

Disclosing this here today, BKU (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said this news had been given to the union by D.S. Guru, principal secretary to the Chief Minister.

Rajewal said the government had also assured that it would try to find a solution to other demands of the union, including resolution of the problems of sand mafia, power shortage, and discrimination against Punjabis by the Canadian Embassy.


Cong MP seeks paddy bonus
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
Senior Punjab Congress MP Rana Gurjeet Singh yesterday asked the Badal government to announce additional bonus of Rs 50 per quintal on paddy on the pattern of bonus announced by Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

In a statement issued here today the Congress leader said the Centre had fixed minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 850 per quintal on common variety of paddy this year. But later in response to demand from farmers across the country and various state governments for increasing the MSP, the Centre announced bonus of Rs 50 per quintal as incentive on the procurement of paddy, thus taking the MSP to Rs 900 per quintal.

Rana Gurjit said because of enhanced MSP and the bonus the state government had been able to collect unprecedented Rs 2800 crore by way of different levies imposed on paddy procurement.

This includes 2 per cent market fee, 2 per cent rural development fee, four per cent purchase tax (VAT) and 3 per cent infrastructure tax. This increase is 40 per cent more than the revenue collected on paddy procurement last year.


Sobha’s art gallery turns into boozers’ den
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Sri Hargoindpur (Gurdaspur), November 28
Famous painter late Sobha Singh seems to have become alien in his own birthplace thanks to the indifferent attitude of the state government.

While the status of the house in which the internationally acclaimed painter was born is not known to the authorities, the gallery set up in his memory about three decades ago, which housed valuable works of the painter, now houses a sub-tehsil.

Instead of working towards restoring the glory of the art gallery, officials of the state government have been using it as a safe place to consume liquor.

The insensitivity of the government towards the “divine painter” can be judged from the fact that no effort has been made to recover the valuable paintings, once hanged on the walls of the gallery, allegedly stolen by police personnel and civil officials during the days of terrorism when a police party camped in its premises for years together.

Sobha Singh was born on November 29, 1901, in this village. His childhood was spent making figures on sand with his hands, sculpting the sandstone with his penknife and sketching the faces of his classmates on their notebooks. At the age of 15, Sobha Singh joined Industrial School, Amritsar, for a one-year course in art and craft. In 1919, he joined the Army as a draughtsman and spent four years in Baghdad where he tried to develop his techniques by studying books on European painting.

Sobha Singh Yadgar Trust was floated on September 26, 1986, when Surjit Singh Barnala was the Chief Minister of Punjab. The gallery was set up to promote art apart from preserving the valuable works of Sobha Singh.

After the gallery was vacated by the police party, it was used by homeless beggars without any check by the authorities and many of them spent their whole life while keeping themselves confined to its four walls. Many of them had even died inside the gallery.

Few years ago, a sub-tehsil was shifted to the gallery by the revenue department without bothering about the memorial of the great painter, who did unparalleled and excellent work on Sikh masters, famous national heroes, and Hindu religious figures. Documentaries on his life had been made by the BBC, London, and the ministry of information and broadcasting apart from the issuance of a commemorative stamp by the government of India.

Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, deputy commissioner-cum-chairman of the trust, said sub-tehsil was shifted to the art gallery as it was being grabbed by some unscrupulous elements. He said the state government was in the process of sanctioning funds for constructing a new building for sub-tehsil and the trust was ready to hand over the gallery to any organisation that could run it as per the expectations of art lovers.

Tajinder Pannu, president, Sobha Singh Memorial Foundation, said the foundation used to hold a festival here every year on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Sobha Singh, but for the past three to four years, the foundation had not been able to do so due to financial constraints.


4 killed in bus-car collision
Tribune News Service

Mullanpur Dakha, November 28
Four persons, including two children, were killed and one was injured when a Sirsa-bound PRTC Bus (PB 11 AB 5840), coming from Pathankot, hit a Maruti car (PB 10 G 6052) near Bhanohar village this evening.

They were coming after attending a marriage at Malak village, near Jagraon. Mandeep Singh (24) of Aitania village, near Raikot, a JCB operative with the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, who was driving the car, was among the dead.


Militant sentenced to 10-yr RI
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, November 28
Mohommad Hanif, alias Shakur Ullah Khan, alias Amar Singh Gill, a divisional commander of the Lakshar-e-Toiba and resident of Pakistan, was today sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment each by two local courts in two cases.

Khan was involved in a number of bomb blasts that took place in different parts of Punjab many years ago. He was operating from Ludhiana and was living under a fake name, Amar Singh Gill.

He was arrested by a police team comprising then SP, Pathankot, Manminder Singh and sub-inspector Sulakhan Singh in September 2004, along with huge quantity of arms, ammunition and explosives.

Additional district and sessions judge (ad hoc), fast track court, Harbhajan Dass, while holding Khan guilty of various offences under the Explosives Act, Arms Act and the Indian Passport Act, sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years, five years and six months, respectively.

Khan and four others were sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment by additional sessions judge (ad hoc), fast track court, G.S. Dhillon in a case registered against them under Sections 307, 148, 149, 489-B and 489-C of the IPC and Sections 3, 34 and 20 of the Indian Passport Act in 2004 in one of the police stations of the district.


Cable Business
Small-time operators fear implication
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28
If allegations in a petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are to be believed, small cable operators in the State of Punjab are being harassed by big-time operators in connivance with the local police. Not only this, they are being implicated in criminal cases.

The issue was brought to the notice of the high court by a “small cable operator”, Ragini Thakur. In the petition placed before the Bench of Justice Pritam Pal, the petitioner has categorically alleged that the major players in the signal distribution industry are conniving with the police to implicate their business rivals.

Claiming to be a victim, the petitioner said the intention behind targeting the small cable operators was to pave way for the creation of monopoly in the cable business, especially in Jalandhar and Amritsar areas.

The counsel for the petitioner-operator said directions should be issued to the State of Punjab and others to restrain the local police from harassing and implicating the petitioner in false criminal cases at the instance of three major players, who were named as respondents in the petition.

As the matter came up before Justice Pritam Pal this morning, the Judge took note of the allegations and issued notice of motion to the state and other respondents. The case will now come up for further hearing on February 20 next year.

The petition is the second of its kind to be filed in the high court. In another petition filed earlier this year, the Punjab Cable TV Association Action Committee had sought CBI probe into alleged attempts to grab their business by a close associate of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

In the petition filed through Moga-based president Sanjeet Singjh, alias Sunny Gill, directions were sought against implicating association members in false cases and to give at least seven days’ advance notice if they were required in connection with any investigation.


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