Friday, August 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal conveys displeasure to PMO
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 3 — The Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has dismissed the suggestion of the Union Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, that he is in favour of a larger hill state of Uttaranchal in case Udham Singh Nagar is not retained in Uttar Pradesh.

Bewildered by the clarification issued by Mr Fernandes yesterday that he had not misled Parliament on the Udham Singh Nagar issue, Mr Badal made it clear to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leadership that he had not propounded any time bringing the five adjoining districts within the ambit of the proposed Uttaranchal state.

Mr Badal’s emissaries here conveyed the Chief Minister’s anguish at having been misrepresented by Mr Fernandes to the Prime Minister’s office and the Union Home Ministry. They reaffirmed that Mr Badal had steadfastly opposed the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar in Uttaranchal.

Mr Fernandes, who was not available for comments today as he had accompanied the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and various Opposition leaders to Pahalgam.

The statement by Mr Fernandes once again caught Mr Badal off guard and provided a lever to the Chief Minister’s detractors and critics to attack him on the sensitive Udham Singh Nagar issue.

To put the record straight, Mr Badal informed the NDA leadership that he remained opposed to the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar in the proposed Uttaranchal state. It was precisely for this reason that he had convened a meeting of the political affairs committee of the SAD in Chandigarh on Sunday to decide his party’s future course of action.

Realising the predicament of the SAD on the Udham Singh Nagar issue, Mr Vajpayee is believed to have impressed upon the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, to actively consider the demands of the SAD unit of Uttar Pradesh.

Sources said Mr Advani had reservations in acceding to the demand of the Udham Singh Nagar Committee of an enlarged Uttaranchal. The Punjabis, who constitute 70 per cent of the total population of the Udham Singh Nagar district, are categorical in their demand that their very existence depended on this. The Prime Minister’s intervention is said to have activated the Union Home Ministry to look into the matter sympathetically.

The SAD president of the UP unit, Mr H.S. Cheema, along with other office bearers who camped here for several days, have been knocking at the doors of various NDA ministers urging them with maps that the five districts of Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareily and Pilibhit should form part of Uttaranchal state to remove political and economic imbalances.

He told TNS if the Centre did not accept this as the worst had already happened in Udham Singh Nagar being made a part of Uttaranchal state, “It will be catastrophic for the people who had toiled for the last 50 years to make the arid and barren zone into a green and prosperous belt in Uttar Pradesh. The people of Udham Singh Nagar want these districts to be included in Uttaranchal.”

Mr Cheema claimed that the minister of state holding independent charge of social justice and empowerment, Mrs Maneka Gandhi, also favoured her constituency and Pilibhit district being made a part of Uttaranchal.

Sources in the Union Home Ministry admitted that an exercise was on to see how the command areas, where sugarcane is grown, could be brought within the ambit of Uttaranchal. They were, however, highly skeptical of five districts adjoining Udham Singh Nagar being included in Uttaranchal. “At best the boundary of Uttaranchal can be drawn by including some tehsils from concomitant districts,” the sources added.




Air of despondency in US Nagar
From Baljit Singh
Tribune News Service

UDHAM SINGH NAGAR, Aug 3 — Now that the inevitability of inclusion in the newly announced state of Uttaranchal has settled in minds of the people there is an air of sullen despondency in the district, akin to the atmosphere in a small town whose home team has been mauled in the big league match the night before.

The fact that the adjoining hill districts have been celebrating their ‘victory’ with processions, fireworks, and gulal has only served to reinforce this surreal feeling. Yesterday the markets of all major towns of the district were closed in protest against its inclusion in the new state. Today the towns closed again since morning. This time as silent endorsement of the call by Bajpur unit of the Udham Singh Nagar Bachao Sangharsh Samiti for enlargement of the district although the call was only for Bajpur bandh.

There have been sporadic traffic blockades at various points and at one at Lalpur, 6 km from here, several buses were vandalised yesterday, and again today as well as. But the acts seemed driven more by frustration than anger. The riot police, which has been out since yesterday, soon dispersed the protesters without major trouble.

While the local BJP unit officially greeted inclusion in the new state with sweets in public they are more guarded in person. A local leader, on condition of anonymity, said that Mr George Fernandes and the state leadership had let them down on the issue, especially after they had scaled down their demand from exclusion to expansion.

Ironically Home Minister L.K. Advani, who is seen as the ‘villain’ in the inclusion of Hardwar in the new state (his effigies were burnt by protesters in Hardwar yesterday) has become the latest lifeline for US Nagar. His assurance in Parliament that the Uttaranchal Bill could be amended to include more areas when pressed by local M.P., Mr N. D. Tiwari, that the command areas of the local sugar mills be added, has rekindled hope.

In Kiccha groups of traders, rendered out of work by the bandh, were seen discussing the nuances of the Bill and the significance of possible expansion of the state.

In Kashipur members of the US Nagar Bachao Sangharsh Samiti were at the time of filing of the report closeted in a meeting with Mr Hardev Singh Cheema, president of the UP Shiromani Akali Dal and a Badal confidant, to discuss the significance of the Home Minister’s remark and to work out suitable response.

However, commenting on the prickly issue, a farmer and member of the committee, Mr Joginder Singh, remarked that it would be unfair if the adjoining tehsils, most of them populated by fellow Punjabis and others were steamrolled into the new state against their will merely to quell the anxiety of the inhabitants of US Nagar.

Moreover, even with inclusion of four adjoining tehsils, Majhola, Baheri, Bilaspur and Swar are likely candidates, the problem of being outnumbered by hill people would remain unresolved. Only there would be more fellow sufferers and a fresh spate of protests by a new set of victims.

But a trader in Kichha, Ved Prakash was emphatic on inclusion of new areas. When a fellow trader, Nandi, pointed out that the Home Minister’s assurance was merely a suggestion, and may not eventually be implemented, he countered with the feeble reply that even if there was no expansion at least within the plans areas US Nagar residents had nothing to fear.

Traders here were also guarded in their response to the new state’s effect on their trade, saying the taxes in UP were already fairly high and couldn’t get much higher even in the new state.

Farmers, who have been the backbone of the anti-inclusion movement also read hope into a clause in the Bill that the land laws of the new state would be same as that of UP. However, their defeated tone gave the lie to their emphatic assertion and showed that even as a young new state dawns on the Indian horizon its periphery is plagued with despair and anxiety — an inauspicious beginning.

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