Monday, January 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Infighting grows in Punjab Cong
By A.S.Prashar
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 14 — Within a month and a half of the “unanimous election” of Capt Amarinder Singh as the Punjab PCC chief, infighting has resurfaced in the party, undermining its image as a unified force ready to face the forthcoming elections to the state assembly.

While Capt Amarinder Singh’s camp remains gung-ho on the party’s electoral prospects and has begun to project him as the future Chief Minister of Punjab, there are unmistakable signs of a growing rift in the party between Capt Amarinder Singh on the one hand and prominent leaders like Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, MP, on the other. Both Mrs Bhattal and Mr Brar were aspirants for the post of PCC president but had to throw in the towel when the Congress high command made it clear that it would prefer Capt Amarinder Singh to head the party in the state. Consequently, the former Maharaja of Patiala was unanimously elected the PCC chief on November 25. But neither Mrs Bhattal nor Mr Brar appear to be missing any opportunity to queer the pitch for Capt Amarinder Singh.

Neither of the two leaders has put in an appearance at many of the political conferences organised by the PCC in recent days, the latest being the rally organised by the party on Saturday at Muktsar on the occasion of Maghi. Earlier the two had stayed away from the political conferences held by the party on the occasion of Jor Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib on December 26 and the Dakala conference where the Congress reportedly launched election campaign for the assembly poll.

As a matter of fact, Mr Brar went to the extent of organising a parallel show of force at Samana with the help of a party aide, Mr Harmohinder (Harry) Singh Mann, where Mr Brar was projected as the “future Chief Minister of Punjab”. This provoked Capt Amarinder Singh into initiating disciplinary action against Mr Mann and Mr Brar.

In Muktsar, Mr Brar declared Mr Raghbir Singh the president of the DCC who, he said, would also organise the Maghi rally at Muktsar. But the PCC made it clear that as far as it was concerned, Mr Avtar Singh Sidhu was the “real” president of the DCC and he alone would organise and supervise the conference. Eventually, this was exactly what happened with the result that Mr Brar stayed away from the conference.

As regards Mrs Bhattal, she complained, when contacted by Tribune News Service here today, that she had not been invited to any of the political conferences held in the recent past by the PCC chief. “It is a matter of deep regret and distress that I was not invited to participate in the rallies organised by the party on the occasion of Jor Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib, the Maghi fair at Muktsar and an earlier one held at Dakala-Ghanaur”.

She asserted that senior party leaders were traditionally invited to attend such conferences, and in this regard she pointed out that when she was the president of the PCC such invitations were sent to all concerned. Even when Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa, Mr Mohinder Singh Gill and Mr Darbara Singh were the presidents of the PCC, such invitations were routinely sent. It was regrettable that this practice was not being followed now.

The WTO and its impact on Punjab farmers has become another point of conflict between the PCC chief on the one hand and Mrs Bhattal and Mr Brar on the other. While Capt Amarinder Singh has asserted that the WTO would go a long way in ameliorating the lot of the farmers, Mrs Bhattal and Mr Brar are of the view that it would prove to be ruinous for the kisans of the country. Capt Amarinder Singh has asserted that the government stand on the WTO was finalised when Mr Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister and Dr Manmohan Singh the Union Finance Minister. Therefore, it was the Congress policy to support it. He has threatened to take disciplinary action against anyone opposing the WTO.


Amarinder writes to AICC 
Jagmeet Brar’s activities
From Our Correspondent

ABOHAR, Jan 14 — The PPCC President, Capt Amarinder Singh, has sent a detailed report to the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on “objectionable” activities of the party’s whip in the Lok Sabha, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar.

This was stated by the Captain himself while answering a volley of questions from mediapersons here last evening. He made it clear that the party’s name for a rally could be used only by the district Congress chiefs with prior approval of the PPCC. This had been endorsed by the AICC General Secretary, Mr Moti Lal Vora, also, he reminded. As the District Congress Committees were yet to be reorganised, only former presidents had been authorised to organise party functions.

Senior Congress leader Bal Ram Jakhar, former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar, Dr Malti Thapar and Mr Avtar Singh Brar joined Capt Amarinder Singh in denying that there was any factionalism in the state Congress. They maintained that petty differences on small issues would be resolved amicably. The DCC president, Mr Sajjan Kumar Jakhar, was present at the press meeting.

Denying that he was a supporter of the GATT, Capt Amarinder Singh said former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh had made a provision that import duty to the extent of 300% could be levied on imported goods. It was the moral duty of the NDA Government now not to succumb to the dictates of big powers. Even Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had recently stated that small countries like Vietnam should be included in world trade agreements. The Congress would not accept an “imperialistic” economy.

Lambasting the move to bring down the MSP for wheat, the PPCC President regretted that the SAD had not dared to register its protest over the said move with the Union Government. The MSP ought to be linked with the cost of the produce and the government would not be allowed to victimise the farmers, he said.

On the claim by SAD and BJP leaders that their alliance had strengthened Hindu-Sikh ties in Punjab, Mr Amarinder Singh said those who had been attending the bhog ceremonies of slain terrorists and describing them as heroes had no moral right to make such claims.

The PPCC chief and other senior Congress leaders declared that the Anandgarh project would be dropped if the Congress was voted to power because it was being launched only to benefit SAD leaders, their relatives and favourite officers who had allegedly amassed property at throwaway rates.

The party was opposed to the decision to legalise encroachments all over Punjab and termed it as an “incentive to law-breakers”. In fact, the party alleged, SAD workers had created illegal colonies in Ludhiana and other cities. The government intended to oblige them with pre-election sops in gross violation of rules and regulations.

Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Bal Ram Jakhar vowed that they would urge the party high command that no person with a criminal record should be given the party ticket in the next elections.

The PPCC president said the SAD-led government had misused official machinery to “collect a crowd” for the Maghi mela conference. This was a clear signal that the masses were fed up with “this corrupt and inefficient” government.


Police clueless on kidnappings
From Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — A distraught Meera Devi is inconsolable! Her 1-year-old child, held by her husband, cries for attention, but she remains unmoved.

Her four-year-old Kanchna’s body was found floating in the Ganda Nullah after being kidnapped on December 31. Her husband’s vegetable cart has been confiscated and she was recently robbed of Rs 4000 from her Namdhari Kanda residence here, all in three months since she arrived here from UP.

More than 150 kidnappings in Punjab were reported last year but in a majority of cases the police remained clueless. Prompt registration of cases by economically poor families is rare. Hence, kidnapping cases remain “unreported or untraceable”. In some cases the victims are murdered, says Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, BJP, MLA.

She says the rise in the crime graph in Punjab is not surprising when a seniormost government official close to the Chief Minister says “where 80 others are untraceable, another addition to the list is no big deal”.

She says the same official under the protective umbrella of the Chief Minister at another occasion, had said: “If parents cannot look after their children, they should not have them. What can the police do if they are lost”.

Mamta, missing since June 12 last year, the daughter of Jaidev Datta, a newspaper hawker, remains untraced. Representations to the Governor, the Chief Minister and the SSP have been of little help.

Similar is the story of Gurmukh Singh, a peon in the local municipal corporation, who, in a voice choked with emotions, recalls the kidnapping of his, seven-year-old son Jaswinder Singh, alias Bunty. “Bunty had gone to fetch milk for the family from somewhere close to our house. It was a daily routine. I had gone out to fetch flour”. The Verka police registered the case 3 days later after public protests in the area.

The children and wife of Shakti Chand (40), a driver with Tara Brothers Transport of Chandigarh, await the return of their father whose belongings — a bag, bank passbook and under garments — were found in the company taxi which he drove from Chandigarh to Delhi on July 23, 1998.

The taxi was later found abandoned in Ludhiana. The taxi owner did not registered an FIR on his “missing”driver. The case ping-ponged for a good six months from the Ludhiana to Chandigarh police, before Ms Chawla intervened and a case was registered.

The brother-in-law of the missing Jagat Ram alleges that he was offered Rs 50,000 by the SP (City) Ludhiana, Mr P.S. Virk, who became a mediatory for the opposite party to hush up the case.

Another taxi driver, Sukhdev Singh (25), the only son of Kundan Singh, a small-time carpenter in the university, remains shrouded in mystery. Sukhdev had been missing since November 15, 1999.

Mr Satya Pal Dang, veteran CPI leader, says to a question in the Assembly, the Chief Minister had said the total number of minor children “missing” from March, 1997 to August, 2000, was 289. Out of them 19 had been found murdered.

Among the number of registered cases of kidnapping, Jalandhar tops the list with 63 Ferozepore comes next with 49.

The Majitha police has registered about 20 such cases while the Amritsar revenue district registered a total of 36 kidnappings.

Not a single case of kidnapping was reported from Patiala, Barnala or Faridkot during the period.


Running from pillar to post for FIR
From Our Correspondent

ABOHAR, Jan 14 — Mr Ram Narain Bishnoi, a local resident, has been running from pillar to post for getting an FIR registered against four persons who took away his Tata Sumo on January 3 after beating him up.

According to a fresh complaint lodged with the office of the DGP, Punjab, four persons visited the local taxi stand on the evening of January 3 and hired the Tata Sumo (HR-26-E-6644) to Muktsar for Rs 600. Mr Bishnoi, driver, received Rs 200 as advance.

According to him, as the Abohar-Malout road was being repaired, they preferred to go to Muktsar via the Panniwala link road. As they reached the Panniwala crossing, the occupants said more passengers were to board the vehicle there.

Mr Bishnoi said finding that the police had put a naka there, one of the occupants who had gone to get the passengers returned saying that the women had already left by a car. They proceeded towards Chibranwali village. On the way, they asked Mr Bishnoi to stop the jeep and started consuming liquor near a hand pump. After a few minutes, they returned and allegedly dragged Mr Bishnoi out of the vehicle and beat him up. He was tied with a wire and the culprits fled in the vehicle.

According to the complaint, the SHO, Muktsar, reached the spot after a few minutes. He asked Mr Bishnoi to sit in his Gypsy and then chased the culprits. At the next naka, the SHO was reportedly told that the Sumo was seen going towards the Lakhewali side.

Mr Bishnoi was asked to lodge an FIR at Lakhewali. He kept waiting there for the whole day but no FIR was registered. He was reportedly asked to get the FIR registered in Abohar subdivision since he belonged to the area. The local police refused to register the FIR arguing that the incident had taken place at least 30 km inside the jurisdiction of Muktsar district.

Since then, members of the local Taxi Union have approached senior police officers in Ferozepore division but no FIR has been registered. The union pointed out that such incidents had become a routine affair but no arrest had been made by the police. In some cases, the drivers had also not returned home.


‘Right to define Sikh not in state’s domain’
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 14 — Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, today described as “misplaced and avoidable” the ongoing controversy over the definition of the term “Sikh” in the 1925 Sikh Gurdwaras Act, which created the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

In a statement issued here, Dr Ahluwalia, who is a well-known Sikh scholar and also President of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, said that ever since the coming into being of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1971, that confined the definition of a Sikh to a Keshdhari Sikh, voices had been raised from time to time to redefine this term in the 1925 Act which now treated Sahjdharis also as Sikhs, eligible to be registered as voters for the purpose of elections to the general house of the SGPC.

The 1925 Act, apart from the general definition of a Sikh as “a person who professes the Sikh religion”, also defined the terms “Sahjdhari” and “Amritdhari”, with reference to Section 2 of the Act to a Keshdhari Sikh also. All three categories of Sikhs were eligible to be registered as voters, though for contesting the SGPC elections, a voter had to be necessarily an Amritdhari Sikh. After the coming into being of the Delhi Act, a demand had been raised to altogether exclude Sahjdharis from the definition of the term “Sikh” in the 1925 Act.

Dr Ahluwalia said there was certainly a valid point in the argument that those who elected the SGPC members for the management of the Sikh shrines should be Keshdhari Sikhs. But the argument should not be stretched beyond this point to knock out Sahjdharis from the Sikh community — the traditional Sahjdharis as well as those who, though born in Sikh families, did not keep long hair or beard. “We have to realistically cope with the existential reality by distinguishing between the voters for the SGPC elections and the votaries of the Sikh religion, including those who were traditional Sahjdharis as well as those who did not keep long hair and beard or did trimming, though cutting hair was certainly an undesirable practice. But this practice should be tackled through the propagation of the Sikh tenets, and not through ostracising them legislatively. The simple, sensible and realistic solution to the present controversy would be to altogether delete the definitional expressions “Sikh”, “Sahjdhari Sikh, “Keshdhari Sikh” and “Amritdhari Sikh” from the 1925 Sikh Gurdwaras Act and to incorporate, in their place, the term ‘voter’ eligible to be registered as such for the SGPC elections, provided he, professing the Sikh religion, kept (uncut) long hair and beard. The deletion of the present definitional terms from the 1925 Act was also essential and this was most important aspect to the debate from the angle that the right to define a Sikh could not be surrendered to the State. If the Sikh leadership in 1925, and then in 1971, committed the unpardonable sin of surrendering this right to the government, at least now they should not go on repeating the commission of the sin.

“Guru Ram Das... has in his bani described as to who is a Sikh (Guru satgur ja ka sikh kahaye...). The right to define who is or is not a Sikh falls in the domain of the Sikh tenets and tradition, and not that of the State”, he declared.


Home after cycling through 26 nations!
From Rashmi Talwar

WAGAH (Amritsar), Jan 14 — Diplomatic hassles played spoilsport with the dream of Mr Rajpal Singh Chauhan to enter his home country on his bicycle to a standing ovation in his motherland, ending a historic marathon journey through 26 countries on a cycle expedition.

Authorities at Wagah loaded his bike onto a vehicle at Lahore to let him cross over to the Indian side from the joint checkpost much to the disappointment of his family which had come all the way from Delhi to receive him here today.

Mr Chauhan (41), an officer of the Rajasthan Administrative Service, along with his wife, Mrs Hamsavahini Singh (39), an Assistant Professor of German language in a women’s university in Rajasthan, and their eight-year-old daughter, Aditya Divya Singh, embarked on a cycle tour on January 19, 1999, from Rajasthan.

The Rajasthan Governor had flagged off the world cycle tour from Jaipur with a message of peace.

A public reception was accorded to him by CPI leader Satya Pal Dang. Talking about his journey, Mr Chauhan said he travelled alone during the first four months across India in 33 days.

He went to Bangladesh, Singapore, Indonesia and was travelling in Malaysia when his wife joined him in May, 1999. Since then, the family travelled together in Japan, the USA, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, etc. He was granted leave for his mission for two years. He covered more than 25,000 km and also visited the Czech republic, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Slovakia bringing the message of peace. 


Potato growers to dump crop
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, Jan 14 — Potato growers of the Doaba region, led by the Jalandhar Potato Growers Association, have decided to dump hundreds of truck-loads of the crop in front of office of the Deputy Commissioner here on January 16, to protest against the alleged indifferent attitude of the state government.

The farmers alleged that they had to sell their crop at throwaway prices, particularly since neither the central nor the state government had fixed the minimum support price so far to bail them out of the crisis caused by the excessive production of potatoes and less demand in other states which had resulted in a glut in the local market.

Mr Gian Singh, Chairman of the association, alleged that the glut was due to absence of any concrete government policy regarding purchase, sale and export of the crop. He said while there was no demand of the crop in the state, potato growers were being fleeced by commission agents of other states.

Mr Raghbir Singh, president of the association, said the prices were so low in other markets that potato growers were unable to pay even the transportation charges. He demanded that the minimum support price of the crop should be fixed by the government before the next season.


Rinwa accused of nepotism
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 14 — The appointment of Mr Sandeep Rinwa, son of Punjab BJP President, Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, as a member of the executive committee of the party’s youth wing has sparked a controversy.

The move has evoked criticism from several quarters, even as the suspended BJP leader, Mr Jagmohan Kaura, and his supporters accused Professor Rinwa of encouraging nepotism in the party. Earlier, Professor Rinwa was accused of helping his wife, Mrs Saraswati Rinwa, in becoming the Vice-President of the women wing of the BJP.

However, Professor Rinwa justifies these appointments, saying that his wife and son have been in active politics. While Mrs Rinwa has been in politics since 1977, Mr Sandeep Rinwa was earlier associated with the ABVP, a student organisation affiliated with the BJP.

While Professor Rinwa denies the charge of nepotism claiming that both his wife and son were the choice of the party rank and file, Mr Kaura and his supporters accuse him of setting a wrong precedent in the party which is opposed to “politics of dynasty” practised by the Congress.

Mr Sandeep Rinwa’s appointment as the executive member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha is also likely to annoy many in the party as the earlier appointment of Mr S.S. Grewal as its President has also angered a section of the youth leadership.

Pleading anonymity, some of those in the race for the morcha’s presidentship told TNS that Mr Grewal’s appointment was aimed at garnering support of Sikhs in rural Punjab by sidelining other deserving and experienced candidates.


News analysis
'We’re the best' is Maghi message
By P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 14 — Gleaning through reports on the conferences held by different political parties or factions thereof on Maghi at Muktsar on Saturday, one finds that the common refrain was “recrimination”, and the hidden message, “we are the best”.

Political conferences on such religious occasions provide a readymade and captive audience involving little political or administrative input to truck people. This is more true of the ruling party.

Though there is nothing outstanding about the real impact of the conferences, what does standout is that all political parties have got into the Vidhan Sabha election mode. One also comes across traces of poll-related issues raised there that are likely to spring up later.

For the ruling SAD-BJP coalition, performance in the past four years, the slogan of accelerated “development” in the last year of its term and the fallout of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime, effective from April 1 next, will be key issues. The favourite, however, will remain Congress-bashing, holding that party responsible for all ills that afflict the country due to its political, social and economic policies.

The Congress, fractured, fragmented and faction-ridden, still remains the main Opposition party. Besides zealously defending the signing of GATT that transformed into the WTO and fiercely attacking the Akalis for betraying kisans, it will harp on corruption and the criminalisation of politics. The CPI, which desperately tries to hold on to the apron strings of the Congress at election time, will also raise corruption as an issue. The split BSP will bargain, as usual, to demand its pound of flesh from any party, or contest independently.

As for the breakaway Akalis, may be the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the SAD (Amritsar) of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann or the Lok Bhalai Manch of Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, the main target will be Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who doubles up as SAD President and Chief Minister.

Besides charging Mr Badal’s government with nepotism, favouritism, corruption, promoting “family rule” and throwing the rule book out of the window, the Akali factions will also drag in religious issues, dubbing Mr Badal anti-Panthic and accusing him of betraying Akal Takht.

The most disappointing aspect of the political conferences that emerges is the absence of “issue- based” politics and policies. The conferences lacked substance and sense. Speeches delivered there showed bankruptcy of thought. Every speaker tried to be more strident than the other, levelling “uncivil” allegations and accusations against others.

Each one (individual, party or faction), perceives himself to be the “best” for governing Punjab, condemning and criticising the other through half- truths, blatant lies and unsubstantiated “facts”. Do these leaders sincerely feel that people are so ignorant of politics, political wheeling-dealing and administrative flaws?

The SAD and BJP presidents, Mr Badal and Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, respectively, have denied any “rift” or “drift” between the coalition partners. The latter did a volte face, owing complete allegiance to Mr Badal and declaring him to be the joint leader and Chief Minister even after the next assembly poll.

On the other hand, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, MP, was conspicuous by his absence at the conference held in his hometown. He was “protesting” against the “feudalistic” style of Capt Amarinder Singh. Even a former Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, stayed away. This again exposes chinks in the PPCC leadership.

The divisions in the Congress, which is yet to “re-root” after its rout in various assembly byelections (except for a solitary win in Adampur), are discernible now. It is yet to find its moorings. In fact, after the assassination of Mr Beant Singh in 1995, the Congress in Punjab has remained adrift. Neither the state leadership nor the party high command seems to have learnt any lessons since then.

A “weak” Opposition remains the “strength” of the Akalis, who will complete a full five-year term in office for the first time.

This once again evokes the time-worn question: “Will there be mid-term elections?” “No. Take an affidavit from me. There will be no mid-term elections”. This repeated answer by Mr Badal is now a cliche. Yet, doubts persist in the minds of people and political parties. But before the assembly poll Punjab will go through some other elections, namely the Zila Parishad, Block Samiti and SGPC, all a sort of forerunner or precursor to the “real” poll.

Therefore, the decisions and events, political and administrative, that the SAD-BJP camp unfolds in the foreseeable future will invariably be linked to the assembly elections. Given the “not-so-good” financial health, one wonders whether in an election year the government can afford freebies. Next year’s Budget (2000-2001), therefore, will also be soft, full of self-acclaim, populist and please-all.

But if what is reported to have been said at the Maghi conferences is any indication, it shows political leaders holding divergent views on the same issues within their own party, displaying different ideologies full of contradictions and lacking in substance.

This will once again make the constituents’ choice less in electing their MLAs — the same old faces, the same old parties with the same old issues (yet claiming to be the “best”), making new promises, seeking forgiveness for not fulfilling the old ones and begging for just one more chance to “serve” them.


Dullo tours villages to woo voters
From Our Correspondent

FATEHGARH SAHIB, Jan 14 — With elections for block samitis, zila parishad, the SGPC and assembly round the corner, the opposition, has stepped up its activities in the district to woo voters. Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, Congress MP, accompanied by Dr Harbans Lal, MLA, Sirhind and Mr Sadhu Singh former minister from Amloh took an intensive tour of more than 100 villages and towns in the district today.

He distributed grants to village panchayats in rural areas and to social organisations and clubs in urban areas for development activities. Addressing a gathering at Sirhind today, he criticised policies of the government.

Dr Harbans Lal, MLA, said the Congress was all set to gain power in the state.

Mr Dullo announced a grant of Rs 2 lakh for construction of a dharamshala to Nagar Sudhar Sabha and Rs 50,000 for Balmiki Dharamshala.

The function was attended by various Congress leaders and municipal councillors.


PPCC member quits post
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 14 — Mr Madan Lal Kapoor, who was chairman of the beopar cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, today resigned from the post.

In a press note issued here today, he said he had resigned from the chairmanship of the beopar cell due to personal reasons.

He said he had already faxed his resignation letter to Capt Amarinder Singh, President, PPCC.


Youth Cong drive from tomorrow
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — The All-India Youth Congress (AIYC) would launch “Kisan Bachao-Badal Bhajao” (save farmer and oust Badal) campaign from Tuesday from Patti — the constituency of the Chief Minister’s son-in-law.

Talking to TNS, Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, general secretary of the AIYC, said national leaders of the Youth Congress and the AICC would participate in the campaign. Mr Ranbir Singh Surjewala, president of the AIYC, Mr Amarinder Singh, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress, Mr R.L. Bhatia, Congress MP, Mr Sukh Sarkaria, district Congress president, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa general secretary of the PPCC and Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa, a former PPCC chief, would attend the rally.

Mr Dimpa said the AIYC would also organise conferences at Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Mansa, Bathinda and Ferozepore. He said Mr Parkash Singh Badal was acting like a ‘Block Development Officer by distributing cheques of small amounts during the Sangat Darshan. He said this was not a duty of the Chief Minister but of a BDO.

Lashing out at Mr Badal, Mr Dimpa alleged that the marginal farmer and labourer had been ruined due to ‘mis-management’ of Mr Badal.


Welfare fund for scribes announced
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 14— The Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ms Sushma Swaraj, today announced the setting up of the Journalists Welfare Fund. The fund will provide help to journalists who have suffered on various counts.

Speaking at a seminar on the “Accountability of media” organised by the National Union of Journalists of India (NUJI) here , the minister pointed out that during the past two decades, the journalists had become vulnerable to attacks which at times proved fatal. The fund would provide relief to families of such victims.

Responding to the demand by the NUJI for changing the pattern of nomination to the Press Council of India, Ms Swaraj said she had called a meeting of journalists’ associations and the chairman of the Press Council on January 19. She also hinted at the possibility of setting up of a media council.

Exhorting the journalists to be objective, she remarked they should draw a line between “interview and interrogation”, “criticism and opposition” and “aggressiveness and abrasiveness”.

She maintained that the journalists should try to understand the difference between news and analysis.’’ The monitoring of the Press should be healthy and unbiased’’, she added.

Referring to the accountability of the media, she said while the media needed to be accountable to society, politicians also need to be accountable to society.

The Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh to the welfare fund on behalf of the Punjab Government. The Punjab unit of the NUJ also announced a contribution of Rs 1 lakh towards the fund. The Punjab Food Supplies Minister, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, announced a grant of Rs 50,000 from his discretionary fund for the same.

Earlier, the Punjab unit honoured Shyam Khosla, the newly elected president of the NUJ, and gave him an award of Rs 1 lakh.


Sushma warns against cultural colonialism
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 14 — The Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ms Sushma Swaraj, has warned against the cultural onslaught from the west and exhorted people to safeguard their cultural roots.

Addressing a meeting organised by the district unit of the BJP here today, she stressed the need to draw a balance between the communication revolution and the need to stick to our cultural roots.

Referring to the growing exposure on the television, the minister said, she had resolved to make the television a family medium. In the same context, she said, a consultative committee had been constituted to monitor the f channel for 15 days. Only then a final decision regarding the banning of the channel would be taken.

Ms Swaraj also announced that the DTH scheme will be soon launched in the country. However, she clarified that all the safeguards would be taken against its misuse. She said, heavy penalty would be imposed on persons flouting the rules. The penalty would be to the tune of Rs 50 crore, besides cancellation of the licence.

She claimed that the NDA government at the Centre had proved to be one of the most stable governments of the country. She maintained that all the allies had an unfailing faith and confidence in the leadership of Mr Vajpayee.

The minister listed several achievements which she credited to the NDA government. She claimed that it was for the first time in the post independence history of India that both the United States and Russia had supported Indian stand on Kashmir. She also lauded the measures taken by the government towards seeking a solution to the long-pending problems faced by the country.

Ms Swaraj gave full credit to the leadership of Mr Vajpayee for successfully managing the coalition of different parties. She said, it had given a unique character to the government making it more representative in nature with diverse viewpoints and regional aspirations.

Earlier, she was accorded a rousing reception at the Ludhiana railway station by the BJP workers. These included, district president Harbans Lal Sethi, state secretary Anil Sareen, district vice-president Rakesh Sharma, PSIDC chairman Vinod Jain, Improvement Trust chairman M.M. Vyas, Ram Bhatia, Ashok Loomba, Kamal Chaitly, Arunesh Mishra, Vijay Sood and Brij Mohan Sharma.


‘Media needs to be accountable’
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 14 — Journalists and politicians are of the opinion that the media needs to be responsible and accountable. Speaking at a seminar on Accountability of Media organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) here today, speakers pointed out that the media had a tremendous power which could make or mar a person and there was need for responsibility and accountability.

Senior journalist and newly elected president of the NUJ, Shyam Khosla, in his keynote address, listed several reasons for the accountability of the media. He pointed out that while it was believed to be a mission during the freedom struggle with persons like Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Veer Savarkar wielding the pen, now the definition had changed. He pointed out that journalists had a social responsibility to report objectively what was happening and to interpret it in such a manner that the man in the street was able to appreciate the nuances of complex situations.

The NUJ president added that the media had an important public duty as a guardian of democratic values. He remarked that the freedom of the Press implied freedom from censorship or intimidation from any quarter — big business, political parties, governments or employers. He stressed that a newspaper was not a piece of property but a living personality with a character and tradition deriving not only from those who own or edit it but also from its readers. He highlighted the overbearing attitude of some proprietors who were misusing the media. He pointed out that many of the greatest challenges to a free and independent media came not from governments, but from many of the proprietors.

Addressing the gathering, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, while assuring all cooperation to the media, said it needed to be more responsible and accountable. He added that by and large the media in India was responsible and understood its duties well.

The Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ms Sushma Swaraj, said the NDA government was committed to the welfare of journalists. She pointed out that the Manisana Wage Board recommendations had been accepted with many improvements.

Among those who attended the function were Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Minister for Food and Supplies, Mr Satpal Gosain, Deputy Speaker, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib and Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, both MPs, and several senior journalists. The Chief Minister and the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting presented a memento to Shyam Khosla for his being elected president of the NUJ.


Sikh conference to discuss ‘maryada’
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — The international ‘Sikh youth conference’ being organised by ‘Akal Purkh Ki Fauj’ from January 18 to January 21 at Gurdwara Chheherta (Amritsar) will seek a consensus on issues like the Sikh “maryada”.

Taking a cue from Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, and Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Takht Kesgarh Sahib, to wean away Sikh youths from drugs, it will make arrangements for ‘thought-provoking’ discussions during the conference.

According to Mr Jaswinder Singh Advocate and member, SGPC, more than 500 delegates from various countries and parts of India would participate. As many as 26 delegates from the USA, England, Australia, Canada and Malaysia had sent their confirmation in this regard.

Mr Jaswinder Singh claimed the Government of England had recognition to ‘Akal Purkh Ki Fauj’.

Besides Prof Manjit Singh and Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedars of Shri Kesgarh Sahib and Shri Damdama Sahib, many Sikh intellectuals would participate in the conference.


Rs 35 crore for link roads in Punjab
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 14 — The state government has given a grant of Rs 35 crore for the development of link roads and all village roads will be repaired by June 30.

This was stated by Mr Tota Singh, Minister of State for Education and Chairman, District Roads Committee, who was here to attend a meeting of the committee. The roads with more traffic and outflow of goods would be identified and recommendations for new link roads would be called for from the MLAs concerned.

Half of the length of the Sant Fateh Singh marg would be completed in the current financial year and the other half in the next financial year, he said.

Mr Tota Singh said no new proposals for roads would be passed by any market committee if the funds were not available.

He also attended a meeting of the grievances committee of the district and settled five complaints. He ordered Mr Jatinder Jain, SSP, to conduct an inquiry into the bribe case against a veterinarian of Bladvijhu village. 


Regularise old colonies, Punjab Govt urged
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, Jan 14 — The Punjab Coloniser and Property Dealers Association has urged the state government to simplify the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995, and regularise the old colonies in different cities.

In a press note issued here yesterday, Mr Anil Chopra, Chairman of the association, said the Act was too stringent and was hindering urban development. It needed to be made simpler. He said the old colonies, inhabited by thousands of people, should be regularised and all cases against residents be withdrawn without any delay. The development charges should be recovered from plot holders and not from colonisers, he added.


How safe is Harike from fish poachers?
From Gurpreet Singh
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 14 — Two attempts by fish poachers to enter the Harike wildlife sanctuary near here recently shows that the migratory birds are not quite safe.

The two incidents that occurred in a row, first on December 28 and then on January 10, also reflect on the preparedness of the wildlife staff to deal with the poachers.

Although the wildlife staff seized boats and fishing nets in both the cases, the poachers are still at large. Those arrested on December 28 were, in fact, rescued by fish contractors from the captivity of the wildlife staff. The second incident is equally shocking as two fish contractors accompanied by over 20 labourers raided the sanctuary on the night of January 10 and forcibly entered the lake after detaining a daily wage worker of the wildlife staff.

The daily wage worker, identified as Raj, was forced to open the locks of the sanctuary gate by the assailants who were reportedly armed with guns. However, a guard on duty alerted his colleagues through a wireless set. Subsequently, a team of wildlife officials reached the spot and seized the boats and nets, but the fishermen escaped.

Confirming these developments to TNS, the Divisional Forest Officer, Mr Jagdeep Singh, said that his department has written separately to the police stations concerned for the registration of a case. While the police claims that action would be taken only after the investigation, a section of the wildlife officials allege that the cops were delaying the matter due to political backing of the “influential” fish contractors.

Although sources in the Wildlife Department attribute the two incidents to lack of weapons and demoralisation of their staff due to the “negligible” help from the police, the Wildlife Inspector, Mr Roopinder Singh, claimed that they were on round-the-clock duty to prevent poaching.

Denying that these incidents were a reflection of the “incompetence” of wildlife staff, he however, admitted that the unarmed guards on duty were partially demoralised due to frequent intimidation by the aggressive fish contractors.

“The lack of police assistance is also a cause of fear among the wildlife guards”, he pointed out.

Even the weapons from Punjab police armoury are yet to reach the Wildlife staff for self-defence. The proposal continues to hang fire, although the Punjab Wildlife Conservator, Mr R.K. Luna, had earlier told TNS that the weapons seized from the terrorists by the police were being purchased by the department to arm its field staff.


Scheme estimates for Amritsar approved
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — At a meeting with the Finance and Contractor Committee, the Mayor, Mr Brij Mohan Kapoor has reiterated his resolve to propel development projects in the city. Scheme estimates of Rs 1.05 crore for civil works and Rs 61.50 lakh for the improvement of water supply and sewerage were approved at the meeting. In addition to this, estimates were drawn on streetlights, garbage removal and cleanliness of the city.

The Mayor ordered the committee to give an early start to the projects with complete details on technical specifications. 


IA package for Sharjah travellers
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — Indian Airlines, which operates flights twice a week from here to Sharjah, has offered a special package with the return fare of Rs 14,100. According to an Indian Airlines spokesman the offer will remain open till February 21 in view of the Dubai Marathon Fair currently on in the desert metropolis.

The spokesman added that besides the concession in the fare, hotel rooms would also be made available at a considerable discount.


2 lakh disabled, widows to get pension
From Our Correspondent

PHAGWARA, Jan 14 — The Punjab Tourism Minister, Mr Swarna Ram, has declared that another 2 lakh beneficiaries comprising handicapped persons and widows will be given pension.

In a press note issued here yesterday, the minister said at present 6.75 lakh beneficiaries were getting pension. He claimed that Punjab was the first state to start the Shagun Scheme to facilitate the marriage of the daughters of the Dalits and Rs 12 lakh had been distributed under the scheme to 234 beneficiaries of Phagwara Block.

He further disclosed that Rs 312 crore were being spent on the welfare of the Scheduled Castes under the component scheme. For a balanced rural-urban development, Rs 330-crore package had been sanctioned by the state government, he added.


Lok adalat for bank loan cases
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 14 — A state-level lok adalat for bank loan cases at the pre-litigative stage as well as for those pending in various courts of Patiala will be held in the district club complex with the cooperation of the district administration and the District Bar Association on January 28 here. Various bank functionaries who are competent to accord concession to the borrowers in bank loan cases will also be participating in the lok adalat.

In a press release issued by the District and Sessions Judge, Mr S.N. Agarwal, the pre-lok adalat was held on January 6 and 13 and would be held again on January 20 and 27. 1177 applications have been received from various banks and these cases will be taken up in the pre-lok adalats and the lok adalat to be held on January 28 along with courts at Rajpura, Nabha and Samana.


Howrah train suspended
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — The Howrah train plying between Amritsar and Kolkota had been suspended for a period of five days. According to the Railway authorities here, the train, which was cancelled on Friday will start operating from January 17 onwards. This had been done to meet the Maha Kumbh Mela rush to Allahabad. 


Telephones dead despite complaints
From Our Correspondent

NABHA, Jan 14 — Resentment prevails among residents of the town over the callous attitude of the Telecommunications Department towards their complaints regarding their ‘dead’ telephones.

According to a complaint, the problem started during the storm and rain on December 31. In spite of repeated complaints, the residents alleged that no steps have been taken so far. Alok Kumar, a PCO owner, complained that besides dead telephones, the PCO owners here had to face frequent STD link failures and meter jumps.


Probe appointment “scandal”: Dang
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 14 — Alleging a “partisan attitude” of the local corporation in making appointments, Mr Satya Pal Dang, a veteran CPI leader, has said the case of Dr Rita Chawla, a gold medallist, has been put in “cold storage”. Dr Chawla had applied to the corporation two years ago for the post of an ayurvedic doctor.

Contrary to her expectations of being top in the list on the basis of her merit, she was repeatedly denied the post by the Assistant Commissioner, in charge of appointments.

She has alleged that the officer is detaining her case despite several directives from the President and the Prime Minister through the Punjab Government for forwarding her case after she sought their help.

Mr Dang says: “It seems all appointments of BAMS doctors are being made without following the prescribed procedure. Whenever a post falls vacant, the case of a person who is favoured is sent to the government for approval”.

“The case is then sent to the General House which makes the appointment for a particular period. Subsequently, the same person is re-appointed or given an extension. Ultimately, his/her appointment is regularised. This method results in injustice to many like Dr Rita Chawla,” he adds.

In a similar case, an applicant whose name was approved by the government was refused appointment because a relative of a ruling party councillor was interested in getting the job. In a letter to Mr N.K. Arora, Principal Secretary, Local Government Department, Mr Dang has urged him to order an inquiry into the “scandal” and ensure that proper procedure is followed while making appointments. 


Institute takes student for ride
From Our Correspondent

MANSA, Jan 14 — Even after meeting the Senior Superintendent of Police, Moga, and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during the first ‘Sangat Darshan’ at Bhupal village, Pritpal Kaur is running from pillar to post since January 20, 1998, just to appear in the ANM course examination.

Mr Naginder Singh Harika, Managing Director of Khalsa Rural Hospital and Training Institute, Nangal Kalan, in Mansa district, took Rs 10,000 on January 20,1998, from Pritpal Kaur and admitted her in the institute for the ANM course. She studied there for 18 days only, when Mr Harika allegedly instructed her to go home and come for the examination, when called. Again after one year, on January 24, 1999, she deposited Rs 30,000 more to institute allegedly on the demand of its managing Director.

Pritpal Kaur alleged in a statement that now the Managing Director had demanded another Rs 18,000 to appear in the examination. She visited the institute with Mrs Amarjit Kaur, Municipal Councillor and district secretary, All-India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA), but the chowkidar did not let them in.

They reported the matter to the SSP, Mansa, but nothing was done by the officer, says Mrs Amarjit Kaur.

Pritpal Kaur met the Chief Minister on November 3, 2000, at Sangat Darshan in Bhupal and told him about the case, but nothing has been done despite an assurance given by the Chief Minister.

Mrs Amarjit Kaur has demanded an inquiry into the working of Khalsa Rural Hospital and Nursing Training Institute as many other students of the institute, like Pritpal Kaur, too are allegedly facing a similar problem even after getting admission by donating a huge amount to the Managing Director. 


Roadside garment sales dip
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA: Even though chilly winds have started sweeping the area, roadside garment sellers have not been able to attract customers in large numbers as in previous years.

About 100 such roadside “shops” have come up here in the past few days with the sellers hoping that the chilly winds will compel people to buy their items.

For the first time, a Tibetan market has also been set up. So far, the response from customers has been poor.

In previous years these roadside sellers used to do brisk business, adversely affecting the sales of the main garment shops in the city on account of the price factor.

A roadside seller said business had not picked up as migratory labourers, who constituted a major chunk of the buyers, had gone to their native places without making the usual garment purchases.

He said another reason for the poor sales was that the main shops had introduced various discount schemes at the beginning of the winter.

Another seller said that earlier persons belonging to the middle class were tempted to buy their items due to the low prices and the huge variety of designs. However, this time not many such customers had turned up so far. Besides, there had been a considerable increase in the number of permanent garment shops in the city over the past few months.

He said if the sales did not go up in the coming days, they would suffer huge losses as they had made full payment to Ludhiana-based mill owners.

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