Thursday, August 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SAD to oppose Uttaranchal Bill in RS
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, Aug 2 — Bitterly annoyed over the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar into the proposed Uttaranchal state, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today said it would oppose the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2000 in the Rajya Sabha besides taking up this issue with the NDA partners.

A final decision on the future course of action, including their future tie-up with the NDA, will be taken at the party’s PAC meeting to be held on August 5 in Chandigarh, SAD General Secretary Balwinder Singh Bhunder told reporters here.

The Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has already distanced himself from the report of the high-powered committee on Udham Singh Nagar district issue submitted by the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, and has also challenged the statement of Mr Fernandes in the Lok Sabha on the issue.

The committee with Mr Fernandes as its Chairman and Mr Badal and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Ramprakash Gupta, as members, was constituted by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, two years ago to prepare a report on the Udham Singh Nagar whether the residents wanted to stay with Uttar Pradesh or were in favour of their inclusion in the proposed Uttaranchal.

Strongly voicing his resentment against Mr Fernandes’ statement in the Lok Sabha, Mr Bhunder said “how come Mr Fernandes claimed that the committee supported the inclusion of the district in Uttaranchal, when the three-member committee which visited Udham Singh Nagar on July 29 to assess the views of the locals, could not even meet in Delhi to prepare the report?”

Meanwhile, burying hatchet, the Sarb Hind Akali Dal President, Mr G.S. Tohra, offered his party’s full support to Badal Government in Punjab for its full five-year term if the SAD withdrew support to the Vajpayee government at the Centre for ignoring the demand for excluding Udham Singh Nagar.

“We publicly commit to support the Badal government if only his party pulls out of the NDA government for betraying the cause of Punjabis on the issue of Udham Singh Nagar,” Mr Tohra told reporters.

Mr Tohra said if Mr Badal had any commitment, he should abide by his own party’s PAC decision taken in Chandigarh in September 1998, that the SAD would withdraw from the NDA government if Udham Singh Nagar was included in Uttaranchal.

“Now it is an opportune time for Mr Badal to act and revive the glory of the Akali Dal which had made the Sikhs and the Punjabis a strong regional force to reckon with in the country,” the former SGPC chief said.


Centre trying to appease SAD
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 2 — The Atal Behari Vajpayee government is now trying to accommodate the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, after having decided to include the Udham Singh Nagar district in the proposed new state of Uttaranchal.

Realising that the majority view of the people of the Udham Singh Nagar district had been summarily dismissed by the Union Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, who headed the three-member official committee, efforts are on to do the next best thing so that the economic interests of the Punjabi community is not crushed.

Mr Badal and his SAD which is a partner of the NDA government at the Centre are anguished at being let down by the BJP leadership. The Chief Minister expressed his displeasure on the Udham Singh Nagar district issue yesterday in no uncertain terms implying that certain crucial decisions were being taken unilaterally without proper consultations with the parties concerned.

The NDA regime which is leapfrogging from one crisis to another does not want to up the ante of an ally. This assumes importance for the BJP as it is a coalition partner of the ruling SAD in Punjab.

With Uttaranchal on the anvil and Udham Singh Nagar district forming part of it a foregone conclusion now, the central leadership wants to work out the next best formula so that the dominant Punjabi community is not alienated or compelled to migrate.

The Centre is actively considering bringing within the ambit of the proposed Uttaranchal state the command areas where sugarcane is grown in the five adjoining districts of Udham Singh Nagar so that economic activity does not come to a grinding halt.

The SAD President of the Uttar Pradesh unit, Mr H. S. Cheema, told TNS today that with the worst fears of the Punjabis having come true on the Udham Singh Nagar issue, thanks to Mr Fernandes and the machinations of the Congress, “we are keeping our fingers crossed so that some political and economic balance is maintained.”

Emphasising that there is no bondage of any kind with the people in the plains and the hills, Mr Cheema feared that reverse migration to Punjab would start taking place if the Centre did not address this burning issue calmly without being swayed by short term political gains.

Expressing his gratefulness to Mr Badal for having taken the cause of the people of Udham Singh Nagar with the top central leadership, Mr Cheema feared that the NDA government might club some villages cursorily from some districts of Uttar Pradesh designating them as the command areas of sugar.

“That will be catastrophic,” he said. Mr Cheema explained that as Udham Singh Nagar had agro-based industries, the districts of Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareilli and Pilibhit should form part of the proposed Uttaranchal state. “This is imperative for rice and sugar mills as well as the solvent units,” Mr Cheema added.

Meanwhile, Mr Fernandes denied reports in a section of the press that he had misled Parliament on Udham Singh Nagar becoming a part of the proposed Uttaranchal state. Clarifying, he said in a statement “I have recommended to the Union Home Minister that Udham Singh Nagar should be a part of Uttaranchal. I also said in the Lok Sabha that there were differing perceptions on this issue and there were certain apprehensions in the minds of the people of that region. I had also said in the Lok Sabha that I had made a separate set of recommendations for addressing these concerns.”

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