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TOP STORIES

Tourism Dept to set up 60 wayside amenities
Chandigarh, December 23
In a novel initiative, the Punjab Tourism Department has tied up with Milkfed and the municipal corporations of the state to create 60 wayside amenities on all major highways as well as in the major cities.

YEARENDER SGPC & Akal Takht
Controversies to the fore

Amritsar, December 23
The SGPC and Akal Takht hogged the limelight in 2010 due to one or the other controversy be it the ex-communication of the former Jathedar of Akal Takht in January or a row over the Nanakshahi calendar.

(Clockwise from top left): Prof Darshan Singh; SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar confronts HSGPC chief Jagdish Singh Jhinda; Avtar Singh after his re-election; the Sarna brothers from Delhi; SGPC men stage a protest outside the US Embassy in New Delhi; and the Patna Sahib Jathedar, Giani Iqbal Singh. File photos: Vishal Kumar



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POLITICS

Jor Mela turns into political arena
Fatehgarh Sahib, December 23
The three-day Jor Mela starting from December 26 at Fatehgarh Sahib has merely turned into an arena for political parties trying to wrestle it out in public.

Govt harassing Cong leaders: Amarinder 
Mohali, December 23
Capt Amarinder Singh at the Mohali district court Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh today said the Akali government was harassing the Congress leaders and framing them in false cases. Pointing towards Kharar MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu in the murder of the father of the Baralli sarpanch, he said it was totally wrong and the party leadership was with the MLA. He said all those who were targeting Congress leaders and party workers would be taken to task. 

Capt Amarinder Singh at the Mohali district court on Thursday. Tribune photo: Vicky Gharu

Chamkaur Sahib MLA Charanjit Singh Channi waves to supporters at Punjab Congress Bhavan in Chandigarh on Thursday. With him is Amarinder Singh. Channi extends support to Cong
Chandigarh, December 23
Independent legislator from Chamkaur Sahib Charanjit Singh Channi extended support to the Congress along with a large number of his supporters at a function held at Punjab Congress Bhawan here today under the chairmanship of Pradesh Congress president Amarinder Singh.


Chamkaur Sahib MLA Charanjit Singh Channi waves to supporters at Punjab Congress Bhavan in Chandigarh on Thursday. With him is Amarinder Singh. Tribune photo: Manoj Mahajan

Sangrur rally a flop: SAD
Patiala, December 23
Terming the Congress rally at Sangrur on Wednesday a flop, the SAD today took a potshot at the PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the state Congress leadership.

COMMUNITY

Doordarshan to upgrade infrastructure in border areas
Amritsar, December 23
To counter propaganda from the Pakistani side, Doordarshan has decided to upgrade its infrastructure, especially in the border areas. AK Maheshwari, Chief Engineer (North Zone) at a press conference here today said Doordarshan would install high-power transmitters in border villages besides starting digital transmission services.

State to provide burial space to minorities
Chandigarh, December 23
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced that the government would provide land for burial grounds to the Christian and Muslim communities in all towns and villages in the state.

Members of a jatha leave Amritsar for Pakistan to pay obeisance at Hindu shrines Jatha leaves for Pak temples
Amritsar, December 23
A 52-member Hindu jatha, led by the present incumbent of Shadani Darbar, Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Yudhishtir Lal, today crossed over to Pakistan to pay obeisance at various temples situated in the Sindh province.



Members of a jatha leave Amritsar for Pakistan to pay obeisance at Hindu shrines on Thursday. Photo: Vishal Kumar

Battle Honour Day celebrated
Chandigarh, December 23
Laungewala Battle Honour Day, commemorating one of the most significant battles fought by the Army, was celebrated by 23 Battalion of the Punjab Regiment somewhere in the Western sector today.

Brick kiln owners seek MNREGA workers
Bathinda, December 23
To protect themselves from facing allegations with regard to making workers bonded labourers, brick kiln owners have urged the state government to provide them MNREGA workers (holders of job cards issued under the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) at their brick kilns through a government nodal agency.

Employees joint forum to strike in Feb
Patiala, December 23
To lodge their protest against the non-acceptance of their long-pending demands, non-gazetted employees of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) and the Punjab State Transmission Corporation Limited (PSTCL) will remain on two-day statewide strike in first week of February.

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TOP STORIES

Tourism Dept to set up 60 wayside amenities
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
In a novel initiative, the Punjab Tourism Department has tied up with Milkfed and the municipal corporations of the state to create 60 wayside amenities on all major highways as well as in the major cities.

The initiative, which will ensure the creation of Sulabh toilet complexes as well as milk bars and snack shops, is expected to give a boost to tourism and improve sanitation in the cities.

Giving details of the project, Director, Tourism, Hussan Lal said there was a feeling that the creation of wayside amenities on the major highways would have a multiplier effect in the areas in which these would be located. He said the Tourism Department had persuaded Milkfed to provide land for the wayside amenities at its various chilling plants and complexes all over the state.

He said Milkfed stood to gain as the government would create a toilet complex in collaboration with Sulabh International on its land. Lal said Milkfed could open its milk bar as well as snack shop in the same complex, which would boost the sale of its products also. He said ATMs or shops, including souvenir and gift shops, could also be opened in the complexes in stages.

The wayside amenities are being built according to the needs of a particular place. This means major locations near cities like Jalandhar, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Patiala, Sangrur and Bathinda would have bigger facilities and smaller areas, smaller ones. Milkfed has earmarked land for 19 wayside amenities.

The Tourism Director said 41 wayside amenities were being built on land which had been earmarked by the Municipal Corporations of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Bathinda. He said these would improve sanitation in the cities.

He said the integrated project would come up at a cost of Rs 8 crore and that a memorandum of understanding would be signed with Sulabh International to decide on the revenue sharing mode for the bigger toilet complexes. Lal said Sulabh International would be responsible for constructing as well as maintaining the toilet complexes, adding these would be constructed as per Sulabh models, which were functioning successfully elsewhere.

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YEARENDER SGPC & Akal Takht
Controversies to the fore
Perneet Singh/TNS

Amritsar, December 23
The SGPC and Akal Takht hogged the limelight in 2010 due to one or the other controversy be it the ex-communication of the former Jathedar of Akal Takht in January or a row over the Nanakshahi calendar.

The year began on a stormy note with Akal Takht ex-communicating Prof Darshan Singh, former Akal Takht Jathedar, from the Sikh Panth for his controversial Rochester gurdwara (USA) discourse. It was for the first time that a former Jathedar of Akal Takht had been ex-communicated.

Controversies continued to dog the Nanakshahi calendar in 2010 too. A row erupted over the observance of the martyrdom day of Guru Teg Bahadur. Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh announced that the day be observed on December 10 instead of November 24 as the event fell within the two days of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 21.

However, the DSGMC, led by Paramjit Singh Sarna, went ahead and observed the event in Delhi gurdwaras on November 24.

Even some of the SGPC gurdwaras did the same. Now, Akal Takht and the SGPC have urged the Sikhs to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh on January 11 and not on January 5.

Akal Takht came face to face with another Jathedar this year - Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh - over the controversy that the latter had sparked off over the Raagmala issue. The Jathedar of Akal Takht barred him from attending a meeting of Sikh clergy till he gave his clarification on the matter in writing. Giani Iqbal Singh was conspicuous by his absence at the meeting of the Sikh high priests on December 15.

The year also witnessed confrontation between the SGPC and the HSGPC over the control of gurdwaras in neighbouring Haryana. HSGPC chief Jagdish Singh Jhinda had threatened to take over “sewa” in key gurdwaras while the SGPC said they were prepared to thwart any such bid. The showdown came to an end with the arrest of Jhinda and his supporters while they were staging a dharna near Gurdwara Chhevi Patshahi in Kurukshetra.

The last year of the decade gave a big jolt to the Sikhs as after generating a lot of enthusiasm among them US President Barack Obama skipped Amritsar from his itinerary during his maiden India visit.

The Sikh community, which was hoping that Obama’s visit would help it overcome problems it is facing due to mistaken identity and security barriers, was deeply disappointed. The SGPC and Akal Takht made it clear that Obama could cover his head with anything except a military hat.

In November, Avtar Singh was re-elected president of the SGPC for the sixth successive term. He was elected SGPC president for the first time in 2005 and is the second incumbent to occupy the top seat of the Sikh religious body for the maximum number of terms after the late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who had remained its head for 27 terms.

As the year draws to close, the SGPC is busy fighting for the issue of Sikh identity in countries like France and America . Already facing a tough time in France, where wearing a turban has been banned in schools, Sikhs received another setback when India’ s envoy to UN Hardeep Puri had to undergo turban frisking by the authorities at a US airport. The SGPC not only announced to roll out a global Sikh identity campaign to make foreigners aware of the seperate identity of the Sikhs but also staged a dharna outside the US Embassy in New Delhi to lodge its protest over the issue. 

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Jor Mela turns into political arena
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 23
The three-day Jor Mela starting from December 26 at Fatehgarh Sahib has merely turned into an arena for political parties trying to wrestle it out in public.

With newly-appointed PPCC chief Captain Amrinder Singh expected to make an appearance at the political conferences of Jor Mela after four years, splinter groups like the SAD (A) are also trying to make their presence felt, the event will have a different colour.

Senior leaders of various political parties, including the Congress, the SAD (B), the SAD (A) and others have been camping the historical city for past few days to oversee preparations at their respective pavilions. Jor Mela is organised every year to pay obeisance to younger sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh, who were bricked alive in Fatehgarh Sahib.

While the venue of the SAD (B) remains the same this time at a prime location in front of Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara, the Congress has shifted its pavilion due to waterlogging following heavy rains. Earlier, the stage of the Congress was setup in front of district courts now it will be installed near Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara.

“This year we have paid a rent of Rs 80,000 as compared to the last year’s Rs 50,000 for two-acre land. We will setup a tent on the land to address people,” said former Congress MLA Harbans Lal. He said, “The location of their party stage is better this time as it is near to Fatehgarh Sahib gurdwara and many people are likely to listen to the speech of the PPCC president, who will address people on Jor Mela after a gap of four years.” He said the land had been taken on rent from Rouza Sharif. 

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Govt harassing Cong leaders: Amarinder 
Tribune News Service

Mohali, December 23
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh today said the Akali government was harassing the Congress leaders and framing them in false cases. Pointing towards Kharar MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu in the murder of the father of the Baralli sarpanch, he said it was totally wrong and the party leadership was with the MLA. He said all those who were targeting Congress leaders and party workers would be taken to task. 

Capt Amarinder Singh was in the town in connection with the hearing in the Amritsar Improvement Trust Case registered by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau against him and others. The PPCC president furnished bond before the court in connection with foreign tour. 

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Channi extends support to Cong

Chandigarh, December 23
Independent legislator from Chamkaur Sahib Charanjit Singh Channi extended support to the Congress along with a large number of his supporters at a function held at Punjab Congress Bhawan here today under the chairmanship of Pradesh Congress president Amarinder Singh.

The occasion also saw Shinghara Ram, two-time MLA from Garhshankar, and Gurkirat Singh Thuhi, a close associate of the late Capt Kanwaljit Singh, joining the Congress.

Talking to reporters Channi said he had extended support to the Congress as he believed in the policies of the party as well as the steadfast leadership of Amarinder Singh. Thuhi said there was a sense of neglect among the SAD rank and file, particularly the supporters of the late Capt Kanwaljit Singh, and they would be joining the Congress soon.

The PCC President said everyone who had extended support or joined the Congress today had done so unconditionally.“Everybody is welcome to join the Congress unconditionally as long as he or she subscribes to the party’s policies and principles,” he said. His aide and Dhuri Congress leader Gurjeet Singh Jawanda said more Akali leaders would be joining the Congress in the near future.

To a question whether Channi, who is the sitting MLA from Chamkaur Sahib, had been assured the party ticket, Amarinder Singh said it was too early to say and it had always been the prerogative of the party high command to nominate candidates for the elections. The PCC president clarified that no meeting was convened or conducted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in connection with the economic situation in the state in New Delhi. He said the Congress President met the Punjab Congress delegates like those from other states for a photo session only after the conclusion of the 83rd plenary session of the party. — TNS

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Sangrur rally a flop: SAD
Aman Sood/TNS

Patiala, December 23
Terming the Congress rally at Sangrur on Wednesday a flop, the SAD today took a potshot at the PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the state Congress leadership.

SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra said today that the people of the state had no expectations from the Congress, be it at the Centre or in the state. “The Congress has nothing to promise and Capt Amarinder Singh is in touch with the Sarna brothers,” he alleged.

Chandumajra alleged that Congress leaders had nothing in store for the people of the state and their rally at Sangrur was limited only to flay “good work done by the SAD-BJP Government.”

“Amarinder Singh yesterday said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was missing for the past some time. But he should explain his own presence in the state politics and his constituency in the past three years,” he said.

Responding to a news item published in these columns today that Amarinder resorted to “anti- Badal” talks in dinner held in New Delhi that was hosted by the Sarna brothers, Paramjit and Harvinder, who manage the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Chandumajra alleged that the populace of Punjab knew that Amarinder and the Sarna brothers were hand in glove with each other.

He further said the Akali Dal was prepared for the conference during the Jorh Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib and their party would ensure that no political speeches were made from the religious stage.

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Doordarshan to upgrade infrastructure in border areas

Amritsar, December 23
To counter propaganda from the Pakistani side, Doordarshan has decided to upgrade its infrastructure, especially in the border areas. AK Maheshwari, Chief Engineer (North Zone) at a press conference here today said Doordarshan would install high-power transmitters in border villages besides starting digital transmission services.

He was here to participate at a two-day conference of heads of the engineering department of various areas under the North Zone. He said high-power transmitters would produce strong signals that would not only help in transmitting strong and clear signals in border areas but also weaken signals of Paksitani television channels. “Doordarshan will also start high definition digital transmission soon,” he said. —TNS 

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State to provide burial space to minorities
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced that the government would provide land for burial grounds to the Christian and Muslim communities in all towns and villages in the state.

Presiding over a state-level function before Christmas, Badal said the government would provide land for burial grounds to both communities either from panchayat land or, in the case of unavailability, even purchase land for this social cause.

The Chief Minister asked Chairman of the Punjab State Minorities Commission Munawar Masih, who earlier presented a memorandum of demands on behalf of the Christian community to him, to provide a list of such towns and villages to the state government where there were no cemeteries to enable the government to take prompt action in this regard.

The Chief Minister also announced to allot a suitable site of 4 kanals for the construction of a church and a community hall at Mohali and directed the Chief Administrator, GMADA, to initiate the requisite formalities for the allotment of the plot to the Christian community.

Felicitating Punjabis on the auspicious occasion, Badal said the gospel of peace, love, amity and compassion preached by Jesus Christ was as relevant today as was in his time.

The Chief Minister said the SAD-BJP government was committed to the welfare of the downtrodden and oppressed sections of society and many initiatives had been taken by it in this regard. The setting up of the Punjab State Minorities Commission was also a step in this direction to safeguard the rights of the minority communities.

Among the speakers were Agriculture Minister Sucha Singh Langah, Education Minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Bishop of the Jalandhar Church Anil Kuto, Father Prema Nand, member of the Minority Commission Abdul Shakur Mangat, Father Thomas and Pastor SS Sadiq from Ambala. 

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Jatha leaves for Pak temples
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 23
A 52-member Hindu jatha, led by the present incumbent of Shadani Darbar, Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Yudhishtir Lal, today crossed over to Pakistan to pay obeisance at various temples situated in the Sindh province.

During its 10-day visit, the jatha will visit Hayat Pitafi, Jarwar Mathelo, Adalpur, Khanpur Maher, Ghotki, Sukkur Deharki, Mirpur Mathelo and Lahore before returning to their native country on January 3.

Talking to TNS, Yudhishtir Lal said the jatha was organised to mark the 302th birth anniversary of Sant Shadaram, the founder of Shadani Darbar sect.

Some of the devotees were upset due to the denial of visa to several persons. However, playing down the issue, Yudhister Lal said the remaining would be granted visa within a couple of days while some of them could not reach Amritsar due to cold weather. “This is not a big issue. The remaining devotees will get visa within a couple of days,” he claimed. He added that due to disturbed conditions in Pakistan, people refrained from visiting there.

It is learnt that nearly 80 persons had applied for visa, of which 52 persons were granted the same.

Surinder Billa, president of the All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, urged the Pakistan and Indian Governments to issue visa to devotees liberally irrespective of their religious faiths as per the protocol between both governments.

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Battle Honour Day celebrated
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Laungewala Battle Honour Day, commemorating one of the most significant battles fought by the Army, was celebrated by 23 Battalion of the Punjab Regiment somewhere in the Western sector today.

It was on December 5, 1971, that a company from 23 Punjab, led by then Maj Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, held up an offensive by a Pakistani armoured formation in Rajasthan. This halted the enemy’s advance into Rajasthan and led to the Pakistani echelon’s decimation.

“The gallantry, devotion, patriotism and raw courage associated with soldiering were immortalised in this battle and will be remembered by students and authors of military history for times to come,” an Army statement said.

While Major Chandpuri, who retired as a Brigadier, was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the battalion earned two Vir Chakras, two Sena Medals, one Mention-in-Despatches and one Army Chief’s Commendation for steadfastly holding their position despite vastly superior enemy strength. The action was also recognised with the battalion being awarded the Battle Honour Laungewala and Theatre Honour Sindh. Sepoy Jagjit Singh and Sepoy Bishan Das were awarded posthumously for their bravery in the battle, which has been immortalised in the Bollywood film “Border”.

Besides a wreath laying ceremony at the unit’s war memorial, a special sainik sammelan was organised, which was attended by serving as well as retired regimental personnel. Among those present were Major-Gen SPS Sidhu (retd), Brigadier Chandpuri and other war heroes who had fought in the battle. The families of martyrs of the unit were also honoured.

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Brick kiln owners seek MNREGA workers
Sushil Goyal/TNS

Bathinda, December 23
To protect themselves from facing allegations with regard to making workers bonded labourers, brick kiln owners have urged the state government to provide them MNREGA workers (holders of job cards issued under the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) at their brick kilns through a government nodal agency.

Spokesman for the Bathinda Brick Kiln Owners’ Association Rajinder Raju Bhathewala said today that brick kiln owners wanted that the government should constitute a district rural development agency in every district nodal agency for providing MNREGA workers to brick kilns.

He said if the state government accepted this proposal, more number of rural Punjabi labourers would get assured employment at least for 100 days.

On behalf of brick kiln owners, he also asked the Union Government to amend the Bonded Labour Act to safeguard their interests. He added that if the government wanted to save the brick kiln industry, the Act should be amended for signing a contract with labourers at minimum wages recommended by the state government or the Central Government 

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Employees joint forum to strike in Feb

Patiala, December 23
To lodge their protest against the non-acceptance of their long-pending demands, non-gazetted employees of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) and the Punjab State Transmission Corporation Limited (PSTCL) will remain on two-day statewide strike in first week of February.

Confirming this, senior leader of Employees Joint Forum Karamchand Bhardwaj said date for the strike is yet to be finalised but it had been decided that employees of both power utilities would observe two-day strike in the first week of February. He claimed that under the banner of the Employees Joint Forum - a conglomerate of various unions of non-gazetted employees, thousands of employees of the PSPCL and the PSTCL would stay away from their duties during the strike.

Notably, thousands of Power Corporation employees had observed two-day statewide strike on December 8 and 9 and the employees had threatened to intensify the agitation in case the government fails to concede their demands. — TNS

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