Saturday, January 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India 


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab election scene hazy
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
The Punjab poll scene is hazy. Political parties are busy stitching coalitions. The rough patches on the political quilt still show. No one really knows which politician is on whose side. Power brokers are active players. In every party there is a scramble for seats. If the options are limited, so are alternatives in fielding “winnable” candidates. Groupism in every party makes selections all the more difficult.

Even as the first list of 43 candidates of the ruling SAD is now public, the announcement of the remaining seats has been held up due to inter and intra-party factionalism and squabbles in the SAD-BJP combine. The CPI and the Congress have reached an understanding. The former will contest 11 seats. Negotiations on seat sharing or pre-poll marriages of convenience among other parties, the Panthic Morcha, the CPM, the BSP etc, still continue. The Congress list is expected in a day or two.

Once the candidates’ line-up is clear, the political contours will emerge. The formal notification by the Election Commission of India is expected on January 16. By then, enough election heat would have been generated. The first major poll battlefield will be Muktsar on Maghi on February 14. That is the time when major political parties (allies and alliances included) will hold their conferences, sounding the election conch.

The Congress, its internal contradictions notwithstanding, is desperate to capture power. Its state unit president, Capt. Amarinder Singh, is on record as saying that the party treats the Akali Dal (factions included) as ‘’one, single entity’’. Defending its tenuous hold on power is the SAD-BJP combine. The real fight will be between the two. But who will inspire a wave?

Till the polling day, February 13, all political parties will rally the people with slogans and utopian visions. The shrewd voters that the Punjabis are, will keep the candidates guessing and on their toes. If the political stakes this time are high, so will be the price-tag on voters.

The Election Commission has already made its intentions clear. Much before the formal notification, the government and the commission are already tied in a battle in the high court here over the transfer of three deputy commissioners and the suspension of election-related officials. The commission has also frowned on the long caravan of the Chief Minister, who moved out from here on Thursday. The hawkish approach of the commission and the plea of the Congress to the President for President’s rule before Punjab goes to the polls are signs of keen contests and bitter political battles ahead.

However, neither the Congress nor the SAD-BJP combine can afford to turn a blind eye to ground realities when it comes to the governance of a state which is witnessing an economic slowdown. In Punjab, the annual salary, wage, pension and retirement benefit bill alone is a whopping Rs 6,056.19 crore, as per the budget estimates, (2001-02). The two also must remember that debt repayment (principal amount alone) is of the order of Rs 3,440.82 crore. The total debt was Rs 27,830.33 crore as on March 31, 2001. The interest liability, as per the current year’s budget estimates, is Rs 2,812.19 crore.

Let the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine also remember while campaigning that the state’s total revenue receipts and revenue expenditure for 2001-02 (budget estimate) were Rs 11,299.30 crore and Rs 13,956.23 crore, respectively.

To such figures one has not added the salary and wage bill of the police, including special police officers and Home Guards. That alone is Rs 850 crore per annum. Then there are the unmanageable departments of Education and Health, besides loss-making public sector undertakings. Both the Education and Health Departments are money guzzlers in terms of their wage bills alone. In fact, the outgo on grant-in-aid to educational institutions (schools, colleges and universities) is a major financial drain in addition to their regular salary-wage bills.

Therefore, when the SAD-BJP combine will talk of its ‘’performance, achievements and development’’ or harp on ‘’peace and communal amity’’ , the Congress (and also other Opposition parties) will present its ‘’chargesheet’’ against the government, accusing it of ‘’rampant corruption, nepotism and favouritism’’. Both sides will invariably turn the political scalpel in the old wounds again, vitiating the atmosphere. It will be for the people to make a judicious and conscious choice between the two when voting.

Punjab today is a ‘’sick’’ state (surveys notwithstanding), a festering wound whose economy is bleeding, whose unemployment is growing, whose social sector is neglected, whose bureaucracy is bloated, administration is unresponsive and where the element of accountability is missing. The Punjab economy is at the cross-roads. The political parties must find new economic paths.


Single-name suggestions in Punjab Cong disapproved
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
The entire list of Congress candidates for Punjab is unlikely to be cleared today with the Central Election Committee members not agreeing to many of the recommendations of the Screening Committee.

The committee, which met here today at the residence of AICC President Sonia Gandhi, did not agree to many of the single-name recommendations made by the screening committee. The members also stressed on sticking to party guidelines which discourage ‘outside’ candidates from getting ticket.

Sources said senior Congress leaders, including Mr Arjun Singh, Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Mr M.L. Fotedar, today met AICC Treasurer Motilal Vora, who is in charge of Punjab, before the CEC meeting and discussed the choice of party candidates. The leaders, the sources said, did not approve of the screening committee recommending single names in about 50 constituencies and suggested that more names should be added to have a better choice.

The CEC meeting began in the evening after the Congress reached a seat-sharing agreement with the CPI and gave it 11 seats.

While seats of Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts were discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the CEC, the committee today took up seats in the Malwa and Doaba regions.

The seats which are believed to have been cleared yesterday include Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (Fatehgarh Churian), Mr Darbari Lal (Amritsar Central), Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma (Amritsar North), Dr Rajkumar (Verka), Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri (Sujanpur), Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa (Beas) and Mr Sardool Singh (Jandiala).

The candidates who are likely to be approved today include Mr Vinod Sharma (Rajpura), Rana Gurjeet Singh Sodhi (Kapurthala) Mr Romesh Dutt (Anandpur Sahib), Mr Surinder Singla (Ludhiana West), Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang (Morinda), Mr Ashok Garcha (Ludhiana) Mr Sadhu Singh (Amloh), Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa (Ghanour), Rana Gurmeet Singh (Bathinda) and Mr Mahesh Inder Singh (Lambi).


Axe falls on Bhattal supporters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
It appears that by sealing an electoral agreement with the CPI today, the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt Amarinder Singh, has succeeded in clipping the wings of his opponents in his own party.

The most affected, because of the alliance will be Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, former Chief Minister of Punjab and senior leader of the Congress, as also, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, Congress Member of the Lok Sabha from Punjab.

At least on the five of the 11 seats allocated to the CPI, the supporters of Mrs Bhattal and Mr Dullo were aspirants for the Congress ticket. For instance, for Mansa, Mrs Bhattal was desperately lobbying to secure ticket for her staunch supporter, Mr Sher Singh Gagowal, and for Rampura Phul, she was lobbying in support of Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu, a former minister.

For the Dhuri constituency, Mrs Bhattal has been pushing the case of Mr Dhanwant Singh Dhuri, who had won the last time as an Independent candidate because then also the seat was allocated to the CPI. Mr Dhanwant Singh, who is a close relative of cricketer-turned-commentator Navjot Singh Sidhu, had oraganised a number of public meetings in support of Mrs Bhattal at Sangrur in the recent months.

For the Khanna seat, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, has been lobbying hard to secure the party ticket for his wife. Even former union minister Buta Singh has been in the run for this seat to secure the Congress ticket for his son.

With the allocation of the Shatrana seat to the CPI, former Congress Minister Hamir Singh Gagga’s fate has been sealed. From the Payal constituency, Mr Kartar Singh Boani, a CPI candidate, had contested as an alliance partner of the Congress the last time.


CEO yet to receive reply on transfers
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 4
While the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) dubbed the proposed appointment of the three PCS officers by the Punjab Government as OSDs at their home district Amritsar for assisting the Amritsar district administration for tackling the migration stirred by the war-like situation on border as an act of blatant violation of the model code of conduct, the office of the Punjab Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has not received any reply to its query about the proposed appointments from the state government so far.

The state government had sent a proposal regarding the appointment of three PCS officers Mr H.S. Nanda, Additional Chief Administrator, PUDA, Jalandhar, Mr Yashvir Mahajan, AMD, Punjab Small Scale and Export Corporation, and Mr Jagmohan Singh Dhillon, AMD, Punjab Tourism Development Corporation - as OSDs, to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer Punjab, which inturn had objected to the move on various grounds and had sought a clarification about it from the Punjab Chief Secretary.

Talking to TNS, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, senior Congress leader and leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, termed the proposal of the SAD-BJP government as “nothing but a move to appoint its own officers in their home district for seeking their help in the ensuing elections.

“Actually, the SAD-BJP government continues to misuse the official machinery and bureaucracy after the implementation of the model code of conduct blatantly and it is just another example. Is it not a proof of violation of the code that the three officers basically belong to Amritsar district?” questioned Mr Chaudhary demanding that no officer should be changed without the prior approval of the Election Commission authorities.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that the state government has not furnished its reply in response to the query of the Chief Electoral Officer so far. When contacted, Mr G. S. Cheema, Chief Electoral Officer, said his office had sought a clarification about the appointment of the officers, but had received nothing from the state government so far. He said the next step would be taken after his office received a report from the office of the Chief Secretary.


Graft poll issue for Oppn, but cops record fewer cases
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
While the Congress and other Opposition parties, including the Communists, want to make corruption a major issue in the coming Assembly elections, the Punjab police claims a steep decline in corruption cases in the state.

Compared to 87 cases registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act in 1999, the number of such cases fell to 71 in 2000 and to 55 in 2001. The figures, claim political parties , do not gel with the ground realities as no sphere of civil administration in the state is free from this “malaise”.

The statistics or figures, they maintain, do not necessarily reflect the true picture. For example, a look at the crime chart reveals that the year 2001 was much more peaceful than 2000. But they allege that dacoities, robberies, kidnappings, thefts and even burglaries have increased compared to previous years.

The police, however, maintains that Punjab was one of the most peaceful states in the country during 2001. Even terrorist crime was negligible compared to the previous years. Against 65 terrorists arrested during 1999, the number fell to 31 in 2001. The most important arrest was that of Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, an erstwhile chief of the Khalistan Commando Force, in Majitha police district in April last year.

Against 56.120 kg of RDX recovered during 2000, the figure fell to 29.320 kg last year. One terrorist surrendered against three in 2000.

The number of murders, says the police, fell from 836 in 2000 to 762 in 2001. Culpable homicide cases fell from 102 in 1999 to 76 in 2000 and dropped further to 52 in the year that ended four days ago. Attempt to murder cases fell from 606 in 2000 to 597 — a marginal decrease — while the number of cases of rape registered last year was 236 against 306 in 2000 and 260 in 1999.

There was, however, a substantial increase in cases of kidnapping which went up to 538 last year from 478 in 2000 and 457 in 1999.

Equally disturbing was that there was a more than 100 per cent increase in the incidence of dacoity and robbery in the state. Against 81 cases in 2000, the number shot up to 176 in 2001.

Burglaries and thefts, too, witnessed an upward trend. Against 1,350 burglaries in 1999, the figure was 1,625 in 2000 and 1,695 in 2001. The number of thefts increased from 2,212 in 1999 to 2,876 in 2001. In 2000, only 2,339 cases of theft were registered throughout the state.

Another area of concern was the increase in the number of road accidents. From 3,005 cases reported in 2000, these rose to 3,860 last year.

Interestingly, the recovery of narcotics was much lower in 2001as compared to 2000. For example, against the recovery of 1 quintal 19.354 kg of charas or hashish in 2000, the police recovered only 40.131 kg last year. In the case of heroin, it was only 21.222 kg in 2001 against 1 quintal 26.248 kg in 2000.


Minister denies Vikram Singh’s charges
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 4
Even as the Hoshiarpur police chose to be tight-lipped about the controversy surrounding the Punjab Minister of State for Excise and Taxation Tikshan Sood and his complaint against Bajrang Dal chief Vijay Singh, Mr Sood today said he was not involved in any human-trafficking scam and he was being targeted by BJP leader Capt Vikram Singh for some personal and political reasons.

He said he had not been issued any show-cause notice by the party high command, as reported.

Mr Sood said he was not involved in any such case and the entire story was being cooked up by Mr Vikram Singh who was denied the ticket by the party high command. He said Mr Vikram Singh was making malicious statements against him for another reason, namely, a long-standing property dispute between him and the former.

Stung by media reports that the party high command had issued a notice to him to explain his position in the light of allegations against him. Mr Tikshan Sood also held a press conference at Hoshiarpur today, where he clarified that he had not received any such notice from the high command.

“Actually, a notice has been issued to Mr Vikram Singh for his open outburst against me.” said Mr Sood. “On my part, I have left the entire mater to the party high command. It is upto the party high command to take a decision,” said Mr Sood, while talking to The Tribune.

When contacted to confirm whether Mr Sood had withdrawn his complaint with the police against Vijay Singh or not, the Hoshiarpur SSP, Mr Sanjiv Kalra, refused to comment on the issue, saying: “I cannot say anything about this matter for the moment.”

Meanwhile, party sources said the BJP leadership was quite upset over the allegations levelled by Captain Vikram Singh, particularly at a time when the Assembly elections were round the corner and especially after a brief truce between the two camps headed by Capt Vikram Singh and Mr Tikshan Sood.


Punjab to recruit 11,000 Home Guards
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
With war clouds forming over the sub-continent, Punjab has projected a requirement for 11,000 additional Home Guard volunteers (HGV) for its three border districts of Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Ferozepore, it is learnt.

Significantly, only ex-servicemen are to be recruited for fulfilling this requirement. The requirement, projected by the office of the Deputy Commandant- General, Home Guards, Punjab, has been forwarded to the state’s Directorate of Sainik Welfare, which is the link between the state machinery and ex-servicemen residing in the state.

Recruitment for the purpose is already in progress, with a recruitment rally scheduled to be held at Ferozepore tomorrow. A similar rally was organised at Gurdaspur yesterday, while one was held at Amritsar on January 1.

Sources say volunteers below the age of 45 are being considered for recruitment. While the target areas of recruitment are the three border districts, sources say other districts in the state, including Faridkot, Bathinda and Jalandhar, have also been alerted in case the desired number of volunteers is not available in the districts concerned. The sources rule out recruiting civilian volunteers.

The exact command structure for inducting additional volunteers is still being worked out. It is not yet clear whether newly recruited HGVs would be absorbed into the existing Home Guard battalions in the states or new battalions would be raised. In case new battalions are to be raised, a proposal has also been mooted to induct retired officers and JCOs into the command structure as company commanders and platoon commanders, sources add.

The idea behind recruiting ex-servicemen is that a vast pool of trained manpower would be available as a third line of defence in case of any exigency. While their formal charter of duties will be the same as that prescribed under law for home guards, sources say their superior training and experience will be useful to counter any infiltration or para-drop by the enemy in rear areas besides maintaining vigilance in the hinterland. Another advantage they will have is that since they would normally be operating in their own areas, they will enjoy ethnic affinity with the local populace.

On the other hand, being recruited as home guard volunteers will also benefit the ex-servicemen financially as they will be entitled to wages, allowances and uniforms.


Good response to vikas yatra
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 4
The “sadbhavna vikas rath yatra” was given a rousing reception in the home town of the state BJP president, Prof B.L. Rinwa, on its arrival here last evening. The yatra was received by Minister for Forests Surjit Kumar Jiyani and local MLA Dr Ram Kumar Goyal at Balluana village on the Malout-Abohar road where hundreds of party workers from rural areas had been waiting for three hours.

Professor Rinwa was garlanded by enthusiastic party workers on reaching Arorbans Dhramshala here where arrangements for the stay of the ‘yatris’ had been made. Those who welcomed the yatra here included the district BJP president Mr Faquir Chand Goyal, the president of the Northern India Arorbans Sabha, Mr Ramesh Chander Bajaj, and the local sabha president, Mr Arun Narang.

Professor Rinwa was accompanied by the BJP state general secretary, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, vice-president of the BJP Kissan Morcha, the state vice-president, Mr Sukhwant Singh Dhanaula and Ms Gurcharan Kaur Panjgrain, member of the Rajya Sabha.

Mr Avinash Jaiswal and Ms Saraswati Rinwa today claimed in an exclusive interview that the yatra had overwhelming response all over the route. People at some places kept on waiting for six to seven hours to receive the yatra braving chilly weather even at night.

They said they had to address some unscheduled rallies even on the way due to the enthusiasm of workers of the SAD and BJP. The move further strengthened social and political equations, besides policy-based understanding between workers of the alliance.

Mr Jaiswal said Professor Rinwa had taken over as state president of the party when organisational set-up was poor and the credit for enlarging the structure up to the village level went to the untiring efforts and broad vision of Professor Rinwa.

Talking to mediapersons before addressing the rally at the Gandhi Maidaan here, Professor Rinwa and Mr Jaiswal blamed the Congress for its policies which they said had nurtured terrorism in the country. Had the Congress not accepted the terms and conditions for the division of the country in 1947 and afterwards for Kashmir, our neighbour country would not have dared to create tension on the border.

Denying that there were strains in relations of both the partners over adjustment of seats for the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha elections, Mr Jaiswal said our principal object was to field candidates who could win irrespective of their party links.

He said there was no doubt about the re-victory of the alliance in the state as people by and large wanted to endorse the policies of the NDA government which was bound to complete its five-year term at the Centre. People could no more afford to vote in favour of the Congress which had been all over condemned for misrule for more than four decades.

He said it was unfortunate that the Congress leaders objected to tremendous development facilitated due to ‘sangat darshan’ campaign by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. The alliance had succeeded in getting Rs 300-crore relief for farmers from the Prime Minister. He said the BJP achieved its three major objects by getting octroi abolished, simplifying sales tax structure and restoring social and administrative dignity of the trade community. Electricity charges in Punjab were still lower than most of other states, and BJP was still committed to reduce tariff for commercial establishment.

Mr I.D. Swami, Union Minister of State for Home was to address the rally here but he had to cancel the visit due to bad weather at New Delhi. The train which he was to board at 11 pm last night had not arrived from Howrah at the New Delhi railway station till this morning, sources said.


I never opposed unity move: Dhindsa
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
The Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers and secretary-general of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, today denied that he was at any stage opposed to the rapprochement between the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

Mr Dhindsa was here on a private visit to attend the “shagun” ceremony of a nephew of senior Akali leader and former minister, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal. Mr Dhindsa spent about an hour with Mr Tohra, who had also come to attend the function. However, there was nothing formal in their meeting, both the leaders maintained. When asked in a lighter vein as how comfortable he felt in Mr Tohra’s company, he remarked: “I have always felt comfortable in his company”. When asked, whether he would like to formalise it, he said: “It is difficult to say at this stage.”

The senior minister strongly denied the reports that he was opposed to the unity and he had ever taken an oath against aligning with Mr Tohra. He said, this was absolutely baseless and far from the truth. He argued, “I was among the few who opposed the split even in 1999 and am still of the firm belief that Akali Dal can be stronger if the two join hands again”.

On the contentious condition laid down by Mr Tohra that Mr Badal should appear at Akal Takht before any talks on unity are initiated, he said, it was unrealistic. He asserted that Mr Badal did not need to go to ask for any pardon, since he had not committed any wrong nor had he flouted any “hukumnama” of Akal Takht, as maintained by Mr Tohra.

Mr Dhindsa had a grievance against Mr Tohra about his reported charge against him (Mr Dhindsa) that he had sworn along with three others that he would never align with Mr Tohra and nor would he allow Mr Badal to do so. He told Mr Tohra that when he read the statement, he tried to contact him umpteen times but he could not.


Badal harps on development
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 4
“What the SAD-BJP government has done for Punjab during its five-year rule was not done in the past 100 years and what the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, gave to Punjab on November 18 was not given during the past 50 years,” said Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while addressing a gathering here last night. “Going by our performance, the February 13 poll verdict is a foregone conclusion as it will go in our favour,” said Mr Badal atop a specially designed bus.

Without cordial relations between the Centre and the state, Punjab would have gone to the dogs, he added.

He sought votes for the SAD-BJP alliance stating that it would be easier for the combine to get Central aid. Mr Badal accused the Congress of having a divide-and-rule policy and discriminating against Punjab.

Mr Badal alleged that Congressmen had wished him ill when he was operated upon in Delhi. He said various PPCC leaders, especially Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, repeatedly rang up doctors to know the gravity of his injury and the duration for which he would remain bedridden thinking that he would not be able to campaign for the elections.

Pleading forgiveness for errors, Mr Badal called upon the electorates to give the SAD-BJP another chance for completing the remaining projects.

Significantly, Mr Badal did not criticise Panthic Morcha leaders during his 20-minute speech.

Mr Swarna Ram, sitting BJP MLA, and Mr Jarnail Singh Wahid, an Akali stalwart, welcomed Mr Badal.


AISSF to back SAD, BJP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
After a meeting at the Punjab Bhavan today, the All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) headed by Dr Manjit Singh Bhoma announced its support for the SAD-BJP combine in the coming Assembly elections. The federation also passed a resolution in this second.

After the meeting, the federation in a statement said the most important achievement of the Badal government was the consolidation of the Hindu-Sikh unity and brother-hood in the state.

In another resolution, Dr Bhoma has been authorised to strengthen the federations organisation set up. Among those who attended the meeting were, Mr Satnam Singh Dairywal, Mr Amarjit Singh Pathankot, Mr Ravinder Singh, Mr Harbax Singh Bhola, Mr Gurdeep Singh Leel, Mr Umarjit Singh, Mr Harinder Singh Badal, Mr Gurinderjit Singh Khaira and Mr Hardev Singh Ghamat.


SAD workers oppose ticket to sitting MLA
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
Workers of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), including two members of the SGPC and two presidents of the circle units of the party, at a meeting held at Pakka Kalan, 40 km from here, today passed a verbal resolution urging the President of the SD, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, not to give ticket to sitting MLA, Makhan Singh from Pakka Kalan Assembly segment.

In a joint press note issued here today, Mr Sarbjit Singh Doomwali, state delegate of the SAD, and Mr Bant Singh, sarpanch of Pathrala village, said five prominent party workers met the Chief Minister on December 27 in Chandigarh in this connection and told him that if ticket was given to Mr Makhan Singh, the party would lose Pakka Kalan seat.


BSP move to reduce poll expenses
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 4
To check the misuse of money power in the elections, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leadership has decided to carry out its entire campaign on bicycles and urge the electorate to give Re 1 each as election fund.

The party leadership has also decided to keep the election expenses under check and spend only Rs 1 lakh in each Assembly segment by minimising the use of vehicles for campaigning and motivating the electorate to set up elections offices and polling booths on their own at the grassroots level.

Mr Sham Singh Jaura, secretary, BSP, Punjab, talking to The Tribune said the BSP leadership had decided to curtail election expenses so that the need for election funds, which always bred corruption, never arose.

He added that the election campaign of the BSP would lay stress on corner meetings as the party leadership, led by Mr Kanshi Ram, had already held rallies in all Assembly segments of Punjab.

Mr Jaura said the party would hold a big rally, “Shakti Pradarshan,” at Ludhiana on January 20 and the party manifesto was likely to made public at that rally. He added that about 5 lakh persons would participate in the rally.

Mr Jaura said some Akali leaders, including Union Minster, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, were trying to confuse the electorate by claiming that talks with the BSP leadership were going on for an alliance. The Akalis were doing so far political gains.

He said the talks between the BSP leadership and the Panthic Morcha regarding seats adjustment for the coming Assembly elections were going on. He said the main issues on which the BSP would contest the elections included rampant corruption during the SAD-BJP combine rule. The BSP, he said, would ensure the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in Punjab and inclusion of people belonging to the Jat community into the Backward Class, if it was voted to power.


BSP undergoing image change
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, January 4
Dr Mohan Singh Phalianwala, President, Bahujan Samaj Party, Punjab, said here yesterday that the BSP had decided to go for an image change.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, he said, “The BSP was not against any individual or particular caste. The BSP was against a particular ideology which make the poor poorer and the rich richer and also helped to spread casteism”.

Dr Phalianwala said a decision on seat sharing between the Panthic Morcha and the BSP was yet to be finalised.


BKU to decide poll strategy on Jan 15
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 4
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) will extend support to any political party in the ensuing Assembly elections in Punjab only after making sure that the party pursues pro- farmer policies and agrees in principle to accept and implement all pending demands of the farming community.

This was stated by Mr Manjit Singh Kadian, secretary-general of the BKU, in a press note issued here today. He said a crucial meeting of the state executive committee was being convened on January 15 to discuss in detail the electoral strategy to be adopted by the BKU in the coming elections.

Mr Kadian said while senior leaders of various political parties were in constant touch with the BKU leadership, both at the state and district levels, to seek its support, the union would make no compromise in this regard. “We shall first ensure that the party concerned not only supports our pending demands but also includes these in the election manifesto.” The demands put forth by the BKU include the inclusion of Jats in the OBCs, remission of all agricultural loans and implementation of the Crop Insurance Scheme through the Punjab Mandi Board.

Quoting the BKU chief, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, he said mounting debt burden was among the biggest problems faced by the farmers.

Even though the present coalition government, headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had taken several measures to accelerate rural development but at the same time it was also true that a large number of farmers had been forced to commit suicides due to their inability to return farm loans. The BKU, he added, would make remission of loans a pre-condition for extending support to any party for the Assembly elections.

Mr Kadian has asked the state office-bearers and district chiefs to interact with farmers in their respective areas before participating in the state executive meeting on January 15.


Rashtriya Raksha Dal to contest poll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
The Rashtriya Raksha Dal, a political outfit of ex-servicemen registered with the Election Commission of India, has decided to contest the coming Punjab Assembly elections by fielding its candidates from those segments which have substantial population of ex-servicemen.

According to Col Harsharan Singh (retd), president of the party, a meeting of the core committee of the party comprising Air Marshal J.S. Punia (retd), Lieut-Col A.P.S. Dhillon (retd), Lieut-Gen K.S. Gill (retd) and Lieut-Gen B.S. Randhawa (retd) today decided that the Dal would initially focus on Ropar, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Faridkot and Pathankot.

He said ex-servicemen in these districts were most active and had been working hard at the grassroots level. The party was formed in 1999 and it had fielded candidates in the Lok Sabha elections.

“One of the reasons for our decision to participate in Assembly elections has been rampant corruption and non-governance in Punjab. All major political parties have been playing musical chairs with the people of Punjab. We will contest these elections on our own as we do not want to dilute our basic principles of transparency, integrity and overall development of all sections of society, besides ensuring economic revival in the state. We also want to focus on the sacrifices made by defence and security personnel in fighting terrorism.

“Our first list of candidates will be released tomorrow. We have decided to contest from Chamkaur Sahib, Nangal, Pathankot, Narot Mehra, Dinanagar, Gurdaspur, Sujanpur and Kahnoowan,” Col Harsharan Singh added.


Cong dissidents face expulsion
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 4
Former Union Agriculture Minister Bal Ram Jakhar has said if any worker opposes the official candidates of the party, he will be expelled from the Congress immediately and the door for him will remain closed for ever. Mr Jakhar said this here yesterday.

He plans to campaign for the party candidates in his home district Ferozepore besides discharging his duties in other states, including Uttar Pradesh.


CPM releases list of 11 candidates
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
The Punjab unit of the CPM today released the first list of its 11 candidates for the state assembly elections.

The candidates are Mr Mohinderpal Gautam (Nangal), Mr Darshan Singh Mattu (Garhshankar), Mr Kashmir Singh Cheema (Noormahal), Mr Paramjit Singh Ghandhri (Lohian), Mr Chand Singh Chopra (Sherpur), Mr Dharam Paul Singh Sheel (Ghanur), Mr Sohan Singh Bassi (Dakha), Mr Avtar Singh (Banga), Mr Tarsem Bhola (Verka), Mr Balwinder Singh Valtoha and Ms Sudha Rani (Sujanpur).


Border migration continues
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, January 4
Panic continues to grip residents of border area villages in the district in view of heavy concentration of armed forces on India and Pakistan border. Fresh exodus of population has started and more than 12 families have already shifted from Shahsherpur village in Dorangla sector. The families have reportedly shifted to safer places on the directions of the Army.

Residents of Salaach and Chountra, which also fall in Dorangla sector, have not shifted outside their village in spite of the directions of the Army, some villagers said. Meanwhile, air patrolling has been started in the district and command of the border has been taken over by the Army. The BSF has been moved to form the second line of defence.

It may be recalled that residents of the border area villages across the Ujh river and Jammu and Kashmir, which included BSF posts at Dhinda, Simbal, Scole and Khojkichak, have already sent their children, women and cattle to safer places, while men are helping the Army personnel in digging trenches.


Army officers tour Fazilka villages
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, January 4
Major-Gen R.N. Suryavanshi, GoC, has undertaken a tour of border villages of sensitive Fazilka sector and assessed the preparedness of the Army. He was accompanied by Brig S.K.S. Rana.

Both Army officers listened to the problems of villagers of the area and expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements made by the Army. Gen Suryavanshi boosted the morale of the villagers along the Zero Line.

An aged farmer, Mr Kirpa Ram of Churiwala Chisti village who was a witness to 1971 war, told this correspondent that the security arrangements made by the Army now appeared to be better than in 1971. This had enhanced the morale of the border area residents, he said.


Experts caution industries
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 4
Due to heightened terrorist activities in the region, the chemical and other hazardous industries in the region have been asked to take precautionary measures against bomb threats.

At a state-level two-day training programme on safety in hazardous industries that concluded at the Gujarat Ambuja Cement Plant here today, experts from various industries and the Labour Department expressed concern over the growing threat of sabotage in industries and the potential dangers posed to the general public because of it.

In the programme, organised by the Punjab Industrial Safety Council, a wing of the Labour Department of the state, the experts stressed on the need for emergency planning in industries to tackle bomb threats and natural calamities.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rajiv Sinha from the ICI Paints, Mohali, said keeping in view the current scenario, it should be made mandatory for all major industries in the region, especially the chemical industries, to make plans to tackle emergency situations.

He said industries should be issued directions to store minimum amount of hazardous material at the site. Bulk storage site should be created in areas away from the main plants and residential areas, he added.

Mr S.C. Awasthi, Joint Director, Factories, Punjab, while speaking on the occasion, stressed the need for creating facilities in hazardous industries for rapid detection of emergencies and the means of warning people at the site and surrounding areas.

Mr Daljit Singh, Assistant Director, Factories, Punjab, while speaking on the occasion, stressed the need for forming task forces to tackle emergencies in vital industries. About 120 workers from major hazardous industries of the region participated.


Octroi ordinance made into Act
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
In an undertaking before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the octroi abolition case, Punjab’s Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal today stated that ordinance pertaining to the matter has been converted into an Act.

Appearing before a Division Bench, comprising Mr Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta and Mr Justice Ashutosh Mohunta, the Advocate- General added that a copy of the Act would be produced in court on January 8. After recording the undertaking, the case was fixed for the same day .

In an application, former Municipal Councillor Mathura Dass had contended that the state should not be permitted to implement the decision to abolish octroi till alternate sources of income were provided to municipalities.

Claiming that the orders had been passed after violating the High Court directions, his counsel had added that as per the orders the respondents were required to place on record a copy of the decision and were expected to implement it after court permission. The respondents had nevertheless ordered the abolition of octroi from December 1 last year.

Notice to EC in DC transfer case

Taking up applications filed by the Election Commission of India seeking the vacation of exparte stay ordered in the DC transfer case before the assembly elections in Punjab, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion for January 7.

In one of its applications, the Commission stated that the decision to transfer Vivek Aggarwal from the post of Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer at Kapurthala was taken after he “failed to effectively supervise the work of preparation of the electoral roll in Bholath Assemble Constituency which was under his supervision”.

Mr Aggarwal, it may be recalled, had challenged the orders dated December 27 last year whereby the Election Commission of India had called upon the state government to transfer him from his present posting. After going through his petition, the High Court had stayed the operation of the order.


Pioneer of coop movement
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
Mr Surjit Singh Puri, a former Chief Secretary of Punjab, who died on December 30 in New Delhi, belonged to the 1949 batch of the IAS (Punjab cadre) and was one of the pioneers of the cooperative movement in the country. Regarded by his colleagues and subordinates as a perfect gentleman and distinguished bureaucrat, Mr Puri held several prestigious positions at the Centre, including Union Textiles Secretary, Union Agriculture Secretary and Secretary, Planning Commission. He also had a stint as the country’s Ambassador to the EEC.

In the last part of his career, he joined the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and was its Assistant Director-General for seven years.

A topper throughout his career, Mr Puri migrated to India during the 1947 partition and settled in Model Town, Ludhiana. At that time he was a student of Gordon College, Rawalpindi. He did law from Delhi University and topped the list of successful candidates. In 1949, he joined the Indian Administrative Service, which had replaced the Indian Civil Service. He was allocated the Punjab cadre.

After initial tenures as Deputy Commissioner of Gurdaspur and Kulu, Mr Puri initiated the cooperative movement in Punjab. He was the Registrar, Cooperatives, Punjab, before he was selected by Jawaharlal Nehru for permanent commission in the Union cadre.

He spent 25 years of his bureaucratic career in agriculture and cooperatives. In 1977, when the Akali Dal government came to power in Punjab, his services were requisitioned by the Punjab Government for appointment as the Chief Secretary. In 1979, he returned to the Centre as Secretary, Planning Commission. Later, he was appointed Secretary, Agriculture.

In 1981, he was appointed India’s Ambassador to the EEC at Brussels. Since his interest was agriculture and cooperatives, he preferred to join the FAO in Bangkok as its Assistant Director-General in 1982 and continued in that position for seven years. He served on several commissions and committees of the UN on food and agriculture. After retirement, he settled in Delhi.

He is also credited with a book on cooperatives in India. Besides his widow, he leaves two sons — Mr Manjeev Puri , an IFS officer at present posted in Cape Town, and Mr Tarunjeev Puri, working with a Foreign bank in Singapore.


PSGPC unacceptable, says Badungar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 4
Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of the SGPC, has said the existence of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) is unacceptable to the Sikhs as it was formed in violation of the agreement signed between both the countries.

Addressing a press conference here today, Professor Badungar said he would write to Prime Minister for taking up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart for arranging pilgrimages of Sikhs jathas to Pakistan so that obeisance could be paid in gurdwaras there.

Replying a question, Professor Badungar said the meeting of the executive committee of the SGPC would be held shortly wherein formation of “religious advisory board” would be announced.

He said the board was being set up as per the directive of Akal Takht. This board would give timely advise to the Jathedar whenever he would need. He said other sub-committees would also be constituted shortly so that ticklish issues like Nanakshahi calendar and Dasam Granth could be sorted out amicably.

He said the three-member committee constituted to probe allegations against Prof Manjit Singh and Giani Kewal Singh, both jathedars, would also submit the report in near future.

To a question, Prof Badungar said being members of the Akali Dal, he and other members of the SGPC would actively participate in the election campaign.


‘Probe functioning of State Chemical Lab’
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 4
The PCMS Association has demanded a judicial inquiry by a sitting High Court judge into the functioning of the Punjab State Chemical Laboratory at Patiala, where reportedly hundreds of viscera samples of post-mortem cases are under examination in the open in the backyard of the laboratory, as reported in a section of the Press.

Dr M.S. Randhawa, Dr D.S. Gill and Dr Manjit Singh, patron, president and general secretary of the association, in a joint statement said here today that the working of the laboratory had also raised many eyebrows earlier in September due to the mid-term transfer of the chemical examiner posted less than two months back when the examiner sought to be posted out of the laboratory after allegedly “feeling disgusted” with the “horse trading business” going on.

Dr Gill claimed that in an unprecedented order allegedly passed under political pressure, the assistant chemical examiner was given the power to “independently examine and report” on viscera received from the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Ferozepore, Jalandhar and Kapurthala.

Dr Randhawa said that the chemical laboratory here is the only one of its kind to examine human viscera sent after post-mortem in cases of murder and unnatural deaths, semen examination in cases of rape and cases of poisoning in attempted homicide and suicide. The laboratory also examines samples of opium, alcohol and other drugs under the Prevention of Narcotics Act.


Banking services paralysed
Tribune Reporters

Barnala, January 4
Normal functioning of the local branches of the State Bank of Patiala, Punjab National Bank, Punjab & Sind Bank, Central Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce was paralysed as employees of these banks observed stay-and-cease-work in their bank branches on Friday on a call given by the All-India Bank Employees Association. Mr Charanjit Singh Lali, secretary of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation and spokesman for the employees’ federation of banks, said the strike was observed in protest against the atrocities of the management of the Standard Chartered Bank on its employees retirement.

ABOHAR: In response to the call given jointly by the All-India Bank Employees Federation, employees of the local banks, except the State Bank of India, observed complete strike on Friday.

They assembled outside main branch of the Punjab National Bank and held a demonstration.

BATHINDA: On a call given by the All-India Bank Employees Association, employees of Punjab National Bank here observed strike on Friday.

Mr B.P. Garg, vice-president of the Punjab National Bank Staff Union, in a press note issued here said only few employees of the New Bank of India did not participate in the strike.


Hijacking case: court asks for record
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 4
The IC-814 hijacking case underway in the court of the Designate Judge, Anti Hijacking Act, today took a new turn with the defence asking that the record of negotiations between the hijackers, United Nations diplomats and Indian diplomats, be furnished to the court.

A petition to this effect was submitted in the court of Designate Judge S.N. Aggarwal by counsels B.S. Sodhi and H.V. Rai, who are representing the accused, Abdul Latif, Yusuf Nepali and Dalip Kumar Bhujail.

The petition said the prosecution had produced several witnesses but it had failed to prove its case to any extent. It said the accused had already made a request to the court following a news report saying the CBI wanted to take them to Delhi to identify the body of an alleged hijacker who was killed during the attack on Parliament, stating that the defence should be given prior notice of any such demand. It accused the CBI of wanting to coerce the accused to make a confessional statement identifying the body of the said hijacker as that of ''Burger'', one of the hijackers of IC-814.

It said, however, news reports had later appeared stating that the Indian Government had given a list of 20 terrorists to Pakistan for extradition which included a reference to the five hijackers of the IC-814 plane. It said since the accused applicants had been charged with conspiring to hijack the plane with the motive of freeing Maulana Masood Azhar and others, the prosecution story was based on the negotiations which occurred during the hijacking.


Vultures return
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 4
Vultures were spotted here yesterday at the carcass dump (called hadda — rodi in rural parlance), of Nangal-Sapror village, 6 km from here, along the G.T. Road. Nine vultures were seen near the dumps. Instead of usual dark brown or black, these were weatish on the head, neck and the underbelly.


Dera devotees seek CM’s intervention
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 4
A deputation of devotees, led by Sant Gurcharan Singh, Head of Nirmal Kutia Dera of Pandwa village, met Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here last night and presented a memorandum to him alleging that some persons were trying to dislodge Sant Gurcharan Singh and grab the property of the dera.

At least 12 panchayats and followers from various villages also sought Mr Badal’s intervention in the matter. The devotees and panchayats of Pandwa, Mauli, Jagatpur Jattan, Uchapind, Loharan, Khera, Rurki, Randhawa, Nihalgarh, Ghurko villages supported Sant Gurcharan Singh in writing. They also demanded disbanding of an illegal parallel trust floated by those who wanted to grab the dera land.


Team to check quality of road construction
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
On the receipt of information regarding “poor quality of construction” of rural roads in the Tanda area of Mukerian division of Hoshiarpur district. Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Special Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Secretary, PWD (B&R), has ordered the collection of samples of materials used and checking of adherence to specifications by a team headed by the Chief Vigilance Officer, PWD (B&R).

Mr Kaushal has further directed that the samples should be analysed not only at the Government Laboratory but also at the laboratory maintained by Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, and a report submitted for further action within two weeks.

The rural roads to be inspected are Khudda to Jai Natha, Khudda to Baba Teja Singh, Munak to shamshanghat, Bahadurpur to Mirapur, Kalyanpur to Phirni, Ch Hussain Lal Phirni, Miani to Talla, Talla to Tanda and Cholang to Kandhala, according to an official press note.


DC tells officials to stay vigilant
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 4
Keeping in view the tension at the border and to impart training to volunteers and NGOs in first aid in the district, a civil defence unit headed by ADC (G) at district head- quarters and at subdivisions headed by SDMs have been set up, according to Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner, who addressed a meeting of joint planning committee to review the arrangements for internal security.

Mr Partap said though war was not imminent one should still be prepared to face all eventualities and keep our infrastructure updated and operational. He said manpower was the most important factor. To raise the manpower, he directed the officials of the FCI, GRP, Industry and PWD (B&R) to keep the lists of their labour and employees ready.

He directed all district officials to maintain their machinery and infrastructure. He asked the officials concerned to maintain power, water supply and uninterrupted telecommunication services.

The DC directed the DFSC to look into the proper supply of essential commodities and asked the District Sainik Welfare Officer to provide the list of ex-servicemen in the district to the administration. He also directed all officials not to leave the headquarters without his permission as per the directions by the Chief Secretary, Punjab Government.

Among others who attended the meeting include the SSP, Mr P.S. Sidhu, ADC (G), Mr M.P. Arora, SDMs of all Subdivisions and the other district officers.


3 killed in road mishap
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, January 4
Three persons, including two family members of BSF personnel, were killed while four others were injured in a road accident on the Fazilka-Ferozepore road, near Amir Khas village last evening.

According to sources, two BSF jawans Ved Parkash and Hans Raj of 42 battalion and residents of Jammu along with their families were travelling from Fazilka to Ferozepore in a Tata Sumo when their vehicle collided with a Punjab Roadways bus coming from the opposite side.

While Raj Kumar, his three-year-old baby girl, and Ashok Kumar, driver of the Tata Sumo, died on the spot. Ajay Kumar, Asha Rani, Gehna Singh and an eight-year-old boy were injured. The injured were immediately taken to the Civil Hospital, Jalalabad. The seriously injured boy was shifted to a hospital in Ludhiana. The condition of others was stated to be stable. The driver of the bus ran away after the accident. The bodies were being taken to Jammu after a post-mortem in the local Civil Hospital.


Filling of posts raises controversy
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 4
Filling of posts during the fag end of the academic session and after promulgation of the model code of conduct in the state prior to the Assembly elections has raised a controversy in Punjabi University with its Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, being accused of making appointments on the dictates of the ruling party.

Punjabi University has gone in for fresh appointments during the past week and is still giving out advertisements for filling more posts.

The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) at a meeting held here today accused the Vice-Chancellor of flagrantly violating the model code of conduct by going in for selections and making appointments on a daily basis after the model code of conduct had been promulgated in the state. Forum president Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon said an attempt was being made to enhance the influence of the ruling party through such appointments.

Dr Dhillon also accused the university management of going in for “tailor-made advertisements” so that the entire procedure could be completed before the Assembly elections were held in the state. He said of particular interest was an advertisement which appeared in various newspapers for the post of Reader in Law at the varsity Regional Centre in Bathinda for which applications had been invited for January 7 with interview to be held on January 10.

This, he said, was also a clear violation of the varsity statutes as, according to rules, it was clearly stipulated that the selections should be made by inviting the bio-data and reprints of major publications of the candidate before the interview and getting them accessed by the same three external experts who were to be invited to interview the candidate. The forum said circumventing the statutory process and calling candidates “direct” for interview spoke volumes in this connection.

Meanwhile, the Vice-Chancellor when questioned on the issue, said he had no time to react to baseless and irresponsible statements of FEAR.

However, authoritative sources said the varsity had sent a communication to Mr G.S. Cheema, state Election Commissioner, asking whether the model code of conduct applied to it. However, the sources said there had not been any response from the Election Commission. The varsity is also going for appointments under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS).


Convention on higher education
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
A Joint Action Committee of 172 non-government aided and unaided colleges has decided to hold a state level convention on “Save Higher Education” on January 10, at Panjab University Law Auditorium.

The state-level convention is likely to be attended by representatives of managements, principals, teachers, students, political leaders and non-teaching employees.

The convention will focus on the proposal of the Punjab Government to generate resources by hiking fee structure and other funds.

Meanwhile, Dr Ishar Singh, Chairman of the Joint Action Committee, has constituted a committee for the January 10 convention which comprises Dr A.C. Vaid as convener and Principal P.S. Sangha, Prof Charanjit Chawla, Prof N.P. Manocha and Dr Jagwant Singh as members.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
121 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |