Wednesday, January 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PM to campaign in Punjab
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is believed to have kept aside three days to campaign for the Akali Dal-BJP combine in Punjab next month even as intense factionalism continued to manifest itself in the rival camps of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s SAD and the Congress.

Though the dates for Mr Vajpayee’s campaigning in Punjab will be firmed up in tandem with Mr Badal, other stalwarts in the BJP comprising L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley will also be trying to make their presence felt in the sensitive border state.

Growing resentment in the SAD and the PPCC about the distribution of ticket for the February 13 Assembly elections is a delicate aspect which cannot be wished away. The discomfiture among the leadership of the SAD and the Congress because of the simmering anger at the choice of certain party nominees is all too evident.

“Dissatisfaction in some quarters on ticket distribution is not something new to the Congress though every effort has been made to accommodate all sections,” maintained senior Congress strategists.

They contend that the cacophony of dissent sought to be raised against PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh in some areas of Punjab is temporary and will die out as the campaigning gains momentum.

Congress MPs from Punjab are also disturbed at what they describe as being “stonewalled and sidelined” in the choice of party nominees though all of them are quick to assert their unqualified support to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

There are still a minuscule few left out of the mad scramble for ticket trying to influence the Congress high command to make adjustments in respect of the 11 seats made available to the Communist Party of India (CPI).

Sources claim that Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, who is in charge of Punjab, and party General Secretary Kamal Nath have found merit in the argument that there should be at least one trade unionist among its nominees contesting the assembly poll in Punjab.

This pertains to Srihargobindpur and two other constituencies which have gone to CPI’s way once again despite the fact that in the last election the Left candidate had lost all three seats by a huge margin.

Clearly, lobbies are at work to compel the Congress high command to make necessary adjustments before it is too late on the plea that it serves no purpose to have an electoral arrangement with the CPI at least in those seats which it might lose again thus squandering the advantage to Mr Badal’s SAD.


EVMs are ‘safe, tamper-proof’
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 15
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are safe and tamper-proof as they incorporate a microprocessor that has “burnt-in” software which cannot be altered or replaced, says Mr P.K. Gera, Election Observer for Patiala, maintaining that their use would not only make polling “free, fair and fast” but also ensure that there are no invalid votes.

Last year, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, had organised a demonstration of how the “microprocessor” of an EVM could be tampered with and manipulated to transfer votes of one candidate to another. He had demanded that the Election Commission of India should revert to conventional polling by ballot papers.

“The Election Commission has taken this observation of the PPCC chief seriously. Though the EVMs are tamper-proof and error free, still we have taken a number of steps to pre-empt any possibility of any misgivings in the mind of anyone about the fairness of the system,” Mr Gera said maintaining that the commission appointed Election Observers who reached their destinations even before the EVMs were transported into the state.

Accompanied by the District Electoral Officer, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, and the Returning Officer for the Patiala Town assembly constituency, Mr M.S. Narang, and the Assistant Commissioner, Mr Rahul Gupta, Mr Gera organised a special demonstration on the working of the EVMs and the numerous “ inbuilt features against tampering and misuse”. Besides, each machine has to be sealed at several places and several times to eliminate all possibilities of its “misuse”.

It is from Patiala Town that Capt Amarinder Singh is contesting the February 13 elections.

“On January 7, we had called a meeting of representatives of all political parties, asking them that if they wanted they could travel with the official teams to Midnapore from where the EVMs for use in Patiala district are being transported. Nominees of the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal and others attended the meeting. These representatives were told that the EVMs would be loaded and unloaded in their presence.

“On January 10, the Election Observer, Mr P.K. Gera, arrived in Patiala, and inspected the place — the Central Library — where the EVMs have been stored. The EVMs arrived on January 12 and again the nominees of all political parties were called and in their presence these were unloaded. One set of the keys of the rooms where these machines have been stored are with the Election Observer and the other set is with me. Every movement to the storage room is recorded by the men and officers of the CRPF who are guarding these strongrooms,” says Mr Jasbir Singh Bir maintaining that now when the engineers of the Election Commission come to test and certify these machines as “error free”, the nominees of all political parties would be called again after giving them advance notice.

Mr Gera, an IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre at present serving in the Union Ministry of Textiles in New Delhi, will stay here until another Election Observer comes later this month.

Mr Bir explained that on the day of the polling, a mock polling exercise would be conducted an hour before the actual polling. He said that the printing of the ballot paper, locking of the remaining keys on the ballot unit, sealing of the machine and sealing of the control unit were all steps to be taken in the presence of the nominees or agents of the contestants.

The EVMs were so safe that in case of emergency or apprehension of booth capturing, the Presiding Officer could close the “polling” after which polling could resume only with a new EVM.

Similarly, the Presiding Officer has a very limited role. The only thing he could do was to check at intervals the exact number of ballot papers released by him and the votes actually cast. Both Mr Gera and Mr Bir said that after the end of the polling, each machine had to be meticulously locked in the presence of the agents or nominees of the contestants. The EVMs were then packed in their carrying cases, which were sealed. Even the agents could put their seals on the carrying boxes, they said.

At no stage is there a possibility of tampering unless someone decides to break the machine and replace the microprocessor. “There is a remote or no possibility of this. No machine can be programmed until the list of the candidates is finalised. And since EVMs remain in the joint custody of both the Election Observer and the District Electoral Officer, the chances of even getting the machines out for replacing the microprocessors does not exist.

“And, further, each machine will be used for mock polling an hour before the actual polling begins,” they said .The use of EVMs would make polling fair and fast by eliminating the chances of any invalid vote. Even if an elector pressed two buttons on the machine, only one vote on the button which he or she had pressed harder would be cast. In case he decides not to cast his vote after getting the ballot paper released, the Presiding Officer has to record “no vote cast” before releasing the same ballot to the next elector.

In the 1967 Assembly elections, 5.23 per cent of the total votes polled were declared invalid while in the 1992 elections, this percentage was 4.23. And in the 2002 poll, there will be no invalid votes.


Code brings change in electioneering
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
The Model Code of Conduct is a unique document evolved by the political parties for themselves. This is, perhaps, a singular contribution by the political system in the country to the cause of fair and free elections.

There is always a tendency and temptation of the political parties to outsmart one another. In the process, the provisions of the code are violated. Yet, the firm enforcement of the code by the Election Commission of India over the years has brought about a sea change in elections and electioneering.

The code has received judicial recognition as well. Interestingly, the entire process of elections wherein the code is in play, is over within four days. Yet, the ruling parties remain under persistent attack because of their temptation to flout it. The code, basically, is a means to provide a level playing field to the parties.

There were occasions when some parties and governments observed the code, albeit grudgingly, and some instructions issued by the commission have been questioned in courts. This is a disturbing trend.

Since the code comes into effect from the day elections are announced, the political parties start sending complaints to either the commission or the state election office from day one.

Take the case of Punjab. The election office in Chandigarh has received over 350 complaints till date, each one alleging “violation” of the code. These complaints, obviously, are against either the government or candidates of the ruling SAD.

What is the nature of these complaints? Inquiries with the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr G. S. Cheema, revealed that the complaints received, by and large, do not strictly constitute any violation of the Code of Conduct. “These are one man’s words against another’s,” he added.

Most of the complainants seek “transfer”of officials, alleging overstay or partisan conduct or participation in favour of one or the other political party. Transfer is usually sought of teachers, police officials, staff of rural development and panchayat or cooperatives or revenue departments etc. There are complaints against ministers and MLAs of misusing official machinery (for example, more than the prescribed number of vehicles) in the campaign. The other complaints relate to intimidation of voters.

To charge the ruling parties of misusing official machinery to bolster their poll campaigns is a common practice. Paradoxically, many parties complain against one another, where they are in the Opposition, and also where they are ruling. The complaints are made on the same count. These are also aimed at causing political harassment.

The Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Ms Usha R. Sharma, said often the complaints were lodged to prepare a “record” for filing election petitions later as also to impress the voters. The commission and the state election office deal with the complaints. The latter has no means of its own to cross-check. The complaints of “serious” nature are referred to the government and decision or necessary direction depends upon the reply. In the next few weeks, the deputy commissioners would get busy sending time-bound replies to queries from the commission and the election office.

In fact, there has been talk of imposing President’s rule on the state where elections are announced.


EC orders action against IAS officer
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
The Election Commission of India has directed the Chief Secretary, Punjab, to initiate disciplinary proceedings for a major penalty against Mr Samir Kumar, IAS officer and Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation, Jalandhar. The action has been proposed for his “enthusiastic participation” in the rally held in honour of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in Jalandhar.


Panthic Morcha, the third force
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
Consisting primarily of several Akali factions, the Panthic Morcha is trying to project itself as a viable third force in the Punjab politics. The Panthic Morcha has five components, including the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SAD (Amritsar) headed by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Panthic Akali Dal led by Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, the Akali faction headed by the former Punjab assembly speaker, Mr Ravi Inder Singh and the Sant Samaj.

Although the morcha describes itself as an anti-Congress and anti-Badal platform, it is the common antipathy of morcha leaders towards Mr Parkash Singh Badal which is the driving force of the morcha. And they have made no secret of their intention to do everything possible to ensure the defeat of the Congress and Mr Badal’s candidates to keep them out of power in Punjab. The morcha can influence Sikh voters in a large number of constituencies which in turn make difference in the poll outcome.

Although the Sant Samaj chief, Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, is also the convener of the Panthic Morcha, the Sant Samaj itself is not contesting the elections, leaving the field clear for the other four components of the morcha. Mr Tohra’s SHSAD has not been able to cut much ice with the people in the elections in Punjab, both the state Assembly as well as the Lok Sabha, failing to win even a single seat ever since it came into being after the split in the SAD headed by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. But in its role as a spoiler, it can and does give sleepless nights to the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.

Hence, the anxiety on the part of many in the SAD as well as the BJP to somehow bring the two warring factions together to improve their electoral chances at hustings. Vigorous efforts have been made in recent weeks by well-wishers in the SAD, the BJP and the SHSAD to bring about Akali unity. BJP leaders, including the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh as also the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, have tried mediation to bring Mr Badal and Mr Tohra together, but to no avail so far.

There are reports that the MLAs belonging to the SHSAD are as keen as anyone for unity because it would dramatically improve their chances of success at the hustings. But now that the names of candidates have been announced for various constituencies by both the sides, the chances of unity between them have receded considerably.

And no one is more nervous over the prospect of unity between the SAD and SHSAD than the other constituents of the Panthic Morcha. Mutual suspicion among the morcha leaders is palpable. Its leaders, especially Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, have been openly complaining that they are being kept in the dark by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra as regards talks for unity of SHSAD with the SAD. The fact of the matter is that the SHSAD is the most important constituent of the morcha. It would be no exaggeration to describe it as the backbone of the Panthic Morcha. And if the SHSAD were to walk out of the morcha, it would collapse in no time.

The Panthic Morcha’s attempt to forge an electoral alliance with the BSP led by Mr Kanshi Ram have come a cropper, mainly because the BSP supremo wanted a lion’s share of seats for his own party. This was not acceptable to the Panthic Morcha which felt that it could not accept the role of a junior partner in any alliance with the BSP. Now, the Panthic Morcha plans to have seat adjustments with the BSP in some constituencies.

The Panthic Morcha has announced its intention of contesting between 80 and 84 seats. Interestingly, many of the important leaders of the Panthic Morcha are not contesting the election. They include Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra and Mr Jagmohan Singh Toni.


Traditional Congress stronghold

Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 15
Jalandhar — this heartland of the Doaba region and a traditional stronghold of the Congress since Independence — is likely to witness a direct clash between the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress this time.

This was the only district in the state from where the Congress was able to manage victory from four out of 14 seats even during the strong ‘‘anti-Congress’’ wave during 1997 elections. The fifth seat — Adampur — fell in the lap of the Congress when its candidate, Mr Kanwaljit Singh Laali, defeated the SAD candidate by a thin margin of six votes in the November 1998 byelection.

The BSP, which has entered into an alliance with the Panthic Morcha, has considerable influence in certain pockets, particularly, where there is a sizeable number of Dalit and backward class voters, who have never been known to be traditional supporters of the SAD-BJP combine.

The one single factor which can mar the poll prospects of the Congress is that it has got stamped as a ‘‘late starter’’ for the delay in the announcement of its candidates and the absence of senior leaders from the poll arena at a time when the SAD-BJP has already kicked off its campaign. On the other hand, the BSP supremo Kanshi Ram has already mobilised party workers by touring almost all constituencies in the district. The Panthic Morcha may have little impact in the district and in Doaba region as most of its top leaders, except for Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, either belong to Malwa or Majha regions.

Though most of the seats are considered safe for the Congress because of the good rapport of its leaders with the masses, yet what is disturbing the Congress leadership is the possible breakout of an internal or open revolt in certain seats like Jalandhar Cantt and Jalandhar (South), where comparatively new faces have been introduced in Ms Gurkanwal Kaur, who is the daughter of late Chief Minister Beant Singh, and Mr Raj Kumar Gupta.

Mr Balbir Singh, MP, is said to be a bit disturbed as his wife was not chosen as a party candidate for the Jalandhar Cantt seat, but he has not said anything openly so far. However, Ms Harsimarjit Kaur, the former Chairman of the Punjab State Welfare Advisory Board, has already shot off a letter to the AICC President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, objecting to the selection of an ‘‘outsider’’.

The allotment of the party ticket to Mr Raj Kumar Gupta from the Jalandhar (Central) segment may invite the annoyance of other contenders for the seat like the two PPCC secretaries, Mr Tejinder Bittu and Mr Anil Dutta, and former Punjab Minister Jaikishan Saini. Mr Saini's supporters are believed to have given a vent to their ‘‘anger’’ by sending a letter to the AICC headquarters in protest.

The internal bickerings in the SAD-BJP camp are too obvious as far as the Jalandhar Cantt constituency is concerned where the party has fielded Mr Paramjit Singh Raipur, a close aide of former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur. This is believed to have sparked annoyance in the camp of Mr Surjit Singh Minhas, a former Punjab Assembly Speaker who is said to be close to the Uttaranchal Governor, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala.

Though the combine may feel elated over its past performance in the Jalandhar (Central) constituency as its candidate, Mr Manoranjan Kalia, had emerged a winner by a margin of 19,370 votes, but things may not be the same this time. The Jalandhar (North) seat has been retained by Mr Avtaar Henry, Vice-President of the PPCC, since 1992.

The same is the case with the Jalandhar (South) constituency from where the BJP is to field the sitting MLA, Mr Bhagat Chunni Lal, who will face Congress candidate and former Minister Mohinder Singh Kaypee, who had lost to Mr Chunni Lal in 1997 by 6,134 votes. While Mr Chunni Lal will have to combat the anti-incumbency factor, Mr Kaypee is likely to benefit from the legacy left by his father, Mr Darshan Singh Kaypee, a senior Congress leader who had fallen to the bullets of terrorists.

Again in Adampur, the SAD candidate and Chairman of the Jalandhar Improvement Trust, Mr Sarabjit Singh Makkar, is likely to be dubbed an ‘‘outsider’’. His rival is sitting Congress MLA Kanwaljit Singh Laali, who had managed victory for the Congress even during the November 1998 byelection when the Congress had fallen victim to the Akali wave. The BSP has a considerable vote bank here.

Noormahl is likely to witness a direct contest between Congress candidate Gurbinder Singh Atwal and Mr Gurdip Sing Bhullar of the SAD. Mr Atwal, who had contested the 1997 election as an Independent for being denied the party ticket and had lost to Mr Bhullar by just 448 votes, may give a tough fight to Mr Bhullar.

Former Punjab Minister Santokh Singh Chaudhary is the Congress choice for the Phillaur constituency, where his rival is Punjab Minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur. While there is no apparent challenge for Mr Chaudhary, Mr Sarwan Singh may have to face some internal challenges posed by a faction of workers owing allegiance to Punjab Minister and SAD leader Ajit Singh Kohar. On the other hand, Mr Kohar appears to be very comfortable in his Lohian segment, which is dominated by ruralities. He will be given a challenge by former Punjab Minister and Congress leader Brij Bhupinder Singh Lalli. Mr Lalli's candidature is believed to have annoyed Mr Harbans Singh Chandi, who was also a front-runner for the Congress ticket.

While it may be just a cakewalk for Congress leader Amarjit Singh Samra, who had retained the seat during the 1997 and the 1993 byelections, the SAD's Gurmeet Singh Daduwal is facing the people for the second time and will have to work hard to prove his mettle as he may face internal opposition posed by a faction of SAD workers led by Mr Gurbachan Singh Dhiman, who was second in the race as a BSP candidate during the 1997 elections.

Kartarpur will be witnessing the most interesting contest as Congress candidate Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, and the Punjab Assembly Speaker and senior SAD leader Charanjit Singh Atwal have locked horns here. If Mr Atwal's candidature and his seniority will bury the internal fight of the SAD, he is likely to be dubbed as an ‘‘outsiders’’ for he belongs to Ludhiana. Mr Chaudhary had retained the seat in 1992 and 1997 and is known to have earned the image of a ‘‘leader of the masses’’.


HC tells varsity to file reply
Reports of sexual harassment
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 15
Taking suo motu action on the two reports published in The Tribune regarding cases of sexual harassment, Guru Nanak Dev University has been directed to submit a reply in this regard by January 21.

Dr R.S. Bawa, Registrar, GND varsity, said the high court had issued notice of motion to the university and sought a report on the issue. The court had also sent clippings of the news items which read “Sexual harassment cases mar image of university” and “Rusticated, fined for dating”. He said the high court had also sought a CBI inquiry, if needed, into the whole matter.

It may be mentioned here that veteran CPI leader Satya Paul Dang, in his confidential letter written to Lt-Gen J.F.R Jacob (retd), Governor-cum-Chancellor of the university, had highlighted certain cases of sexual harassment.

The university authorities are busy preparing a point-wise reply of the cases related to sexual harassment. Dr Bawa revealed that as per the preliminary draft of its reply, the university had mentioned that there were three cases of sexual harassment and action had been taken against all those who were found to be guilty. “No case remains pending as due action has already been taken,” he said.

The confidential letter of Mr Dang had mentioned the case of sexual harassment of an unmarried lecturer by the Head of her department. When she vigorously pursued the case, she started getting threats. When she approached the higher authorities, a committee was constituted to probe the matter. However, the committee violated the law as laid down by the Supreme Court.

The committee was then reconstituted with a woman teacher being its head. Mr Dang also alleged that though there were several cases of sexual harassment in the university, especially guides of PhD in the past, not even in one case had deterrent punishment been given by the university authorities.

Mr Dang had also alleged that in many such cases, victims chose to keep quiet for obvious reasons. The letter further said: “It seems that there exists a clique in the university which indulges in such anti-social activities. The clique tries to manage every Vice-Chancellor and has obviously been successful with some of them. It is a pity that such things happen at a university named after Guru Nanak Dev”.

However, Dr Bawa claimed that there were only three cases of sexual harassment and action had already been taken in this regard. He said the university would submit to the high court that a lower court had already decided the case against one of the complainants and the Head of the Department had already filed a defamation suit against her. So far as the case of the unmarried lecturer was concerned, it was still under investigation.

The committee which was constituted as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court had held three meetings. Dr Bawa claimed that in another case of sexual harassment, a Professor of English was reverted to the post of Reader and he retired as such. Another case highlighted in the confidential letter was about impersonation and an employee of the university was dismissed from service and lecturer of a private college was debarred from examination duty.

Dr Bawa said students found dating were heavily fined and the matter was reported to their parents. He said these cases were related to university “indiscipline” and due action was taken.


Pawar offers to field rebel Cong men
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
The President of the Nationalist Congress Party, Mr Sharad Pawar, has jumped into the political arena of Punjab. Today, he established contact with rebel Congressmen offering them to field them in the coming Assembly elections on his party’s symbol.

This was disclosed here today by Mr Romesh Singla, former president of the Punjab Youth Congress and general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, who has revolted against the party.

Accompanied by Mr Harry Mann, another senior Congress leader from the Samana area, Mr Singla, who has been denied the Congress ticket from Nabha, said at a press conference that a meeting of the 20-odd rebel Congress candidates would be held tomorrow. The matter would be taken up with Mr Pawar on setting up the NCP’s unit in Punjab.

He said that if they were against joining hands with the NCP, the rebel Congressmen would form a front to contest the Assembly elections. He announced that he would contest from Nabha and Patiala Assembly constituencies. Mr Harry Mann would contest from Samana against Mr Brahm Mohindra, official candidate of the Congress. Immediately after the press conference, Mr Singla held discussions with Mr Jagjit Singh Sangwan, president of the Haryana unit of the NCP.

Mr Singla said that nearly 25 former Congress ministers and MLAs, who were denied ticket, were willing to contest the elections by forming a front or joining hands with the NCP.

He claimed that Mr Hamir Singh Ghagga, Mr Rajwant Singh Gulli, Mr Dhanwant Singh Dhuri, Mr Abdul Guffar, Mr Madanjit Singh Dhanula, Mr Kirpal Singh Makha, Mr Sher Singh Gaggowal, Mr Guljar Singh Bathinda and Mr Guljar Singh Kapurthala, Mr Surinder Kapoor, Mr Harpreet Hero, Mr Naresh Kataria, Mr Sajawar Singh, Mr Joginder Singh, Mr Jagtar Singh Multan, Mr Gurmail Singh Cheema, Mr Jai Kishan Saini, Major Rajbir Singh, Mr Shamsher Singh Rai, Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan and several others were prepared to form the front.


Badal promises voters more progress
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Lambi (Muktsar), January 15
Even as the first ray of the sun was yet to touch Punjab, Punjab Chief Minister and President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was out from his ancestral house in Badal village to launch his formal campaign himself in this Assembly segment, today.

Mr Badal, who tried to reach out to the maximum number of electors, having personal equations and close relations with most of them, despite his physical injury, got an encouraging response from the people in the corner meetings held in the villages of Kheowali, Lambi, Panjaba, Kakhanwali, Bhittiwala, Roranwali, Sikhawali, Fatuhi Khera, Kuttianwali, Tarmala and Khema Khera.

Despite the foggy weather, a major section of residents of every village turned up at the corner meetings to listen to Mr Badal, who addressed the gatherings using local idioms. Speaking from a special chair fitted with a lift in a vehicle, he asked them to vote for SAD-BJP in the February 13 poll for their “better and secure” future.

Braving cold winds and pain due to his injury, Mr Badal addressed about 15 meetings and small rallies organised by village level workers of the party within about six hours. He formally started his election campaign from Kheowali village, located at a stone’s throw distance from Badal.

In almost all his speeches, Mr Badal urged the people that their “tractors” could run only if its tyres of both sides would be of the same specifications and for this they should return the SAD-BJP alliance into power again as BJP, which was ruling at the Centre and the SAD-BJP government in Punjab would be the two perfect tyres of “tractors”.

He cautioned the voters that if they did not exercise their franchise in favour of SAD-BJP and the Congress came into power, they would be deprived of their genuine rights on one hand and on other, they would get themselves economically ruined.

Lashing at the Congress for causing caste, region, class and religion based division among the people for their narrow political ends, he alleged that the previous Congress governments at the Centre and in Punjab also snatched its fair share in river water, Punjabi speaking areas and Chandigarh.

Lashing at Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and making a oblique reference for his contribution in disturbing the peaceful atmosphere of Punjab, Mr Badal alleged that hundreds of youths of Punjab remained behind bars as Mr Mann kept on instigating them by raising “hot” slogans. He added that on the other hand, Mr Mann kept enjoying all the comforts of life.

He claimed that those who had formed the Panthic Morcha for supporting the Congress indirectly in the coming elections were a bunch of leaders, who had been repeatedly rejected by the people. All these rejected leaders had been indulging in “negative” politics, as they had no agenda for the development of Punjab and welfare of its residents.

He claimed that the SAD-BJP alliance was seeing votes on the basis of huge development carried out at the grassroot level in the state and peace which it was able to maintain in the past five years.

He promised that the SAD-BJP alliance, if voted to power again, would execute all those works, which could not be taken up in the past five years. He also promised that aspiration of each individual would be fulfilled.


Cheema quits SAD, announces candidature
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 15
A former minister, Mr Randhir Singh Cheema, today resigned from the primary membership of the Shiromani Akali Dal and announced his decision to contest as an Independent candidate from the constituency in protest against denial of SAD nomination to him.

Mr Cheema held a meeting of his supporters at his native village Karimpura near here to finalise his strategy. He also formed a 11-member committee, which would hold parleys with the Panthic Morcha leadership to see whether he could be given the morcha nomination from the Sirhind seat. The morcha had announced the candidature of Mr Iman Singh Mann, son of Akali Dal (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann, from the seat.

Addressing his supporters at Karimpura village, Mr Cheema said he has been ignored by the SAD though he was a loyal party worker and had been assured of the SAD ticket by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He said the party had given the ticket to Mr Didar Singh Bhatti, whose supporters were bragging that they had bought the party ticket.

Mr Cheema might face an uphill task as Fatehgarh Sahib was considered as Mr Simranjit Singh Mann’s pocket borough and he would not like Mr Cheema to be accommodated as the morcha candidate in place of his son. Mr Cheema said in case he did not get the nomination of the morcha, he would contest as an Independent.

During the last Assembly elections, he had contested as an Independent, but had asked for votes in the name of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, claiming the Mr Kirpal Singh Libra had got the SAD nomination due to former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra. He had been placed fourth last time, behind Mr Harban Lal of the Congress and SAD candidates Kirpal Singh Libra and Simranjit Singh Mann.


Another peeved Akali minister quits
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 15
Mrs Mohinder Kaur Josh, State Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, revolted against Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister and President, SAD, in a protest for not allotting party ticket to her from the Sham Chaurasi segment in the coming elections of the state Assembly. Mrs Josh resigned from the state Cabinet and has sent her resignation to Mr Parkash Singh Badal this afternoon.

The Sham Chaurasi segment has been left for the Bahujan Samaj Morcha under the SAD-BSM alliance this time. Mrs Josh won from this segment as SAD candidate in the byelection after the death of her father Arjun Singh Josh who represented this constituency.

At a well-attended meeting in her residence here today, Mrs Josh announced her candidature as an Independent candidate from Sham Chaurasi.

Talking to this correspondent, she said that keeping in view her work for the development of the segment, her supporters compelled her to contest as an Independent candidate in the absence of SAD ticket. Bowing to their will, she took this decision.

Mr Sohan Singh Bodal, MLA from the Garhdiwala segment to whom party ticket has also been denied, is also contesting as an Independent candidate.

Of the four SAD MLAs in Hoshiarpur district, party ticket have only been allotted to Mr Balbir Singh Miani, State Minister for Higher Education from Tanda, and Mr Sohan Singh Thandal, State Minister for Civil Supplies, from the Mahilpur segment.


Rebels’ ultimatum to high command
Tribune News Service

Bhawanigarh (Sangrur), January 15
Following the denial of ticket from Sangrur to Mr Parkash Chand Garg, a working committee member of the SAD and Chairman of the Punjab Land Development and Reclamation Corporation, two circle Jathedars, 1,100 workers, and Mr Garg himself postponed their decision to resign from the party by a day to give the party high command time to review its decision.

Mr Baldev Singh Dhillon, Jathedar of Bhawanigarh circle, said the resignations had to be announced today but someone from the high command had assured them this morning that the allotment of ticket to Mr Sanmukh Singh Mokha would be reviewed.

He was addressing an Akali protest conference organised in favour of Mr Garg at the grain market here. More than 2,500 persons, including panches, sarpanches, members of various youth clubs and arhtia association, participated.


PPCC’s charge against cops
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 15
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has charged the Kapurthala police with misuse of powers by extending “undue” help to Bibi Jagir Kaur, SAD candidate from the Bholath constituency.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, the PPCC secretary and the Congress candidate from Bholath, Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, alleged that officials and incharges of three police stations — Subhanpur, Begowal and Bholath — falling in the constituency were playing the role of poll organisers for Bibi Jagir Kaur. He also said the Bholath DSP had completed more than four years’ service, but still he had not been transferred by the state government, which was a violation of the model code of conduct. “The police officials heading these police stations are going to the extent of organising poll meetings for Bibi and are influencing the local leaders for siding with her”, alleged Mr Khaira, who also charged the DSP with similar allegations.

“On the one hand the state government had transferred even those PCS officers who had not completed four years’ service at one place and on the other hand no step had been taken to transfer the Bholath DSP, whose tenure had exceeded the prescribed limit of four years”, said Mr Khaira, who asserted that the party workers were working to defeat the SAD-BJP combine.

However, supporters of Bibi Jagir Kaur denied they were doing anything which violated the poll code.


Pasla to seek separate poll symbol
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 15
Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, leader of the breakaway group of the CPM in the state, will seek a separate election symbol from the Election Commission for his candidates in the forthcoming assembly elections.

Mr Pasla while talking to this correspondent at Nangal today said that he would held 22 candidates in the elections and they all would contest on a single symbol. “I will meet the Election Commission tomorrow to seek a separate symbol for my candidates, he said.

Mr Pasla, who was at Nangal today to chair a meeting of his party workers, claimed that his faction was the real CPM in the state as it had the support of about 80 per cent of the party workers. However, they would not be allowed to contest on the official symbol (sickle and hammer) of the CPM because the General Secretary of the party, Mr Harkishen Singh Surjeet, was against them.


Field Dhillon against Badal, say supporters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 15
Supporters of Mr Maheshinder Singh Dhillon, who had recently joined the Congress, have urged the party high command to review its decision with regard to the allotment of the party ticket for the Lambi constituency. Mr Dhillon, a close relation of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had joined the Congress on the promise that he would be fielded by the party against Mr Badal from the Lambi constituency. However, he has been denied the party ticket.

If Mr Dhillon had been given the party ticket, it would have been impossible for Mr Badal to move out from the Lambi constituency, his supporters claim.

Mr Bhupinder Pal Singh Dhillon, a close associate of Mr Maheshinder Singh, said that there was resentment among the supporters against the party high command.


Maghi Mela ends on colourful note
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 15
The three-day annual Maghi Mela, organised to commemorate the sacrifices made by 40 “muktas” (liberated ones) while fighting under the command of Mai Bhago against Mughal forces, culminated on a colourful note at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib here today.

The last battle between the Mughals and Guru Gobind Singh, who evacuated Anandpur Sahib on the intervening night of December 5-6, 1705, was fought at the Khidrana Ki Dhaab, now known as Muktsar, in which the Mughals suffered a crushing defeat and had to run away from the battlefield. However, for this victory, the Sikhs too had to make supreme sacrifices. The most prominent among the martyrs were the 40 “muktas”. Guru Gobind Singh personally cremated the martyrs on the “sangrand” of Magh, the day following Lohri.

On the concluding day of the mela today, a procession comprising a large number of people was taken out amid chanting of “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”.

The procession, which was comprised of hundreds of vehicles also, started from Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and passed through various markets of the town and the Gurdwara Tibbi Sahib before returning to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, thus marking the formal end of the mela.

The “Panj Piaras” led the procession which was organised by a religious organisation. Many religious and social figures also accompanied the procession. A fireworks display and a band show were also organised at various places.

Several Nihangs, also accompanied the procession, attracting the attention of pilgrims who came in large numbers despite the tension on the Indo-Pak border due to military build-up on both sides. The spectators remained spellbound when the Nihangs played “gatka.” The horse manship displayed by Nihangs was also appreciated.

The SAD-BJP conference organised on the occasion yesterday attracted a large number of people as compared to the conferences organised by the Lok Bhalai Party, the Congress and the Panthic Morcha. Some other parties, which also organised their conferences, did not attract large crowds.

Community kitchens (langar) were organised by the people and several religious and social organisations on various main and link roads approaching the town. Dhadhi jathas and Kirtan darbars also regaled the pilgrims.

Mr Kultar Singh, district police chief, said no untoward incident was reported from anywhere during the mela and it went off peacefully. He said foolproof security arrangements were made for the pilgrims. More than 2,500 police personnel were deployed for various mela duties, he said.

Though the mela formally came to an end today, pilgrims from nearby areas of will continue to come here to pay obeisance at the historical gurdwaras for a week or so on the occasion of Maghi.


Exodus from border areas continues
Tribune Reporters

Ferozepore, January 15
People from the border areas of Ferozepore sector are still migrating to safer places fearing the possibility of a war between India and Pakistan. According to information from the district administration, 1,18,450 persons from 160 villages adjoining the Indo-Pak border in this sector have gone to their relatives while a few have chosen to take shelter in relief camps.

Mr S.R. Ladhar, Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepur, said 99 relief camps had been established, out of which only 17 were functional. At least 1,610 persons had opted to take shelter in the camps and the rest had shifted their families to their relatives away from the border areas. Apart from this, 8,482 livestock had also been taken to safer places.

Mr Ladhar visited the affected villages to review the ongoing relief works.

Residents of these villages told the Deputy Commissioner that the Army movements and laying of land mines had affected their crops and demanded adequate cash reimbursement as relief. The district administration later recommended their cases to the Union Government.

Panchayats have been asked to constitute security committees comprising villagers to check the entry of outsiders in the area. The Deputy Commissioner also held a meeting with officials of the BSF.


Harassment by PUDA alleged
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 15
Ms Kaushalaya Devi of the city has alleged that despite the stay orders of the court the officials concerned of the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) had demolished a part of her house and were forcing her to vacate it.

In a legal notice sent to PUDA officials, including Estate Officer, Superintendent and Junior Engineers, she has alleged that she had obtained a stay order against the demolition of her house situated on the power house road in 2000 from the high court, but the officials demolished a part of her house and asked her to vacate it otherwise her belongings would be seized by them. She said she was under stress due to the behaviour of the officials.

A civil suit filed by her is pending in a local court and as per the orders of the high court PUDA can’t take the possession of the dwelling till the suit is decided.

Mr Kaushalaya Devi has alleged that when the officials came to her house, she showed them the orders of the high court regarding the stay but they said they did not bother about it. When some residents of the colony interfered the officials stopped the demolition, she added.

A senior official of PUDA said the allegations of Ms Kaushalaya Devi were baseless. The land on which she and other residents of the colony (Guru Arjan Dev Basti) had built dwellings belonged to PUDA. Many dwellings, including a portion of a convent school, were got vacated by them, he added.

The official said the high court had stayed the operation of demolition but it was not in force when they had demolished the dwelling.

He claimed that when a civil suit was initiated in the local court, the stay orders were cancelled by the high court. Only that part of the house was demolished which was recently constructed.

The women was trying to encroach upon the land owned by PUDA, he added.


Espionage case accused get judicial remand
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 15
Narpat Singh Rathore, Shanker Parker and Dashrath Singh who were arrested for allegedly taking photographs of vital installations on the longitude and latitude basis on January 10 were today sent to judicial remand till January 29.

The three were arrested on January 10 while they were roaming in different parts of the state in a vehicle with red light atop it and fitted with the global positioning system and digital global positioning system. They were allegedly taking photographs of vital installations.

Hundreds of photographs of vital installations of four states were seized from them. They were taking photographs under the garb of making a survey for laying the optical fibre cable for telephones.

They had taken the photographs of vital bridges including roads, rai- tracks, military stations, railway stations, telephone exchanges, post offices in Sirsa, Rohtak, Hansi, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Bawavar, Ratlam and Bathinda.

Meanwhile, the alleged culprits who were arrested on January 12 allegedly for making fake currency have been sent to police remand till January 18.


Probe ordered into murder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 15
The police has ordered an inquiry into the murder of Sukhbir Singh Sukh on New Year’s Eve.

Mr Jhilmil Singh, DSP, has been made the inquiry officer.

The deceased man’s brother, Harjinder Singh, had alleged that the murder of his brother was the handiwork of Harbhajan Singh Brar, his son, Meharban Singh, his wife Sukhjit Kaur and certain others who had earlier been involved in an attack on him.

However, the police has stumbled upon another theory which points to the involvement of a third party, which allegedly took advantage of the enmity between the two groups to settle old scores.

According to Mr Harnek Singh, SSP, the questioning of the victim’s family led to unconvincing statements. Hence, the involvement of the third party could not be ruled out, he stated.

Meanwhile, the deceased’s brother in letters to the Chief Minister and Inspector-General of Police has complained that police inaction after the first attack on the deceased led to the murder of his brother. He claimed that Sukhbir was murdered in front of his own eyes.

However, the SSP, refuting the claims of the deceased’s brother, revealed that the family had not even once approached him.


SGPC may reinstate dismissed staff
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 15
Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee President Kirpal Singh Badungar today indicated that the committee would consider the cases of all 489 employees who were dismissed at the behest of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission.

In a press note issued here today Prof Badungar appealed to the employees not to resort to the confrontational path as their cases would be decided on priority basis. The SGPC would take care of their future, he added.


Patient’s attendants attack doctor
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 15
A doctor of the local Civil Hospital, Dr Ajay Kumar, was attacked last night by attendants of Nasib Kaur, who died while she was undergoing treatment. The police has registered a case.

It was learnt today that patient from Hadiabad who was hospitalised here in a serious condition suffered from brain inflammation and died last night. The attendants of the patient slapped and roughed up Dr Ajay Kumar who was treating her. The doctor, however, denied the allegations.


Ferozepore steals Citrus Show
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 15
Fruit growers of Ferozepore district won the shield at the two-day state level Citrus Show by bagging 70 out of 123 prizes. In all 4,110 entries were received, 3,500 of which were from kinnow growers of various districts of the state. Prizes were given jointly today by Mr N.S. Rattan, Financial Commissioner (Development), and Dr. K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agriculture University.

Eight first prizes in different categories went in favour of kinnow growers of Abohar subdivision, the winners were Ms Rajni Setia (Pattibilla), Mr Nitin Ahuja (Khubban), Mr Mahi Ram (Azimgarh), Mr Ravi Kumar (Khubban), Ms Satwinder Kaur (Jhorarkhera), Mr Nikhil Setia (Pattibilla), Mr Luxmi Narain (Azimgarh) and Ms Vijayluxmi (Shergarh). Mr Sushil Periwal of Khippanwali (Fazilka) won three top positions in the contests for kinnow, malta jaffa and blesslate. His sister Ms Yashoda Devi, was adjudged the best in the blood red citrus category and his son, Mr Shailesh Periwal, in the mausami category for the third consecutive year.

The show, along with a seminar, were jointly organised by Punjab Agriculture University and the Department of Horticulture at the Regional Fruit Research Station here to boost the cultivation of citrus fruits, mainly mandarin and sweet oranges, in Punjab. Experts from PAU, CIPHET, NRCC, Nagpur, and the Horticulture Department participated in the seminar to educate fruit growers regarding latest technologies and know-how for improving the citrus industry. Dr Jagtar Singh Maan, Director, Horticulture, said the area under citrus orchards had decreased from 35,000 hectares to 13,500 hectares in the state. He said kinnow growing was now practically confined to Hoshiarpur and Ferozepore districts. He blamed unsystematic plantation, cultivation of other crops in citrus orchards, poor maintenance by owners and excessive watering for this.

Dr Maan said five estates were being developed to promote fruit production in the state. He said the government offered subsidy on insecticides, spray pumps, plastic crates, waxing and grading besides other facilities to kinnow growers. Incentives to growers transporting fruit to areas located at a distance of more than 500 km would also be given, he said.

Mr Surender Kumar Jakhar, Director, IFFCO and KRIBHCO, exhorted fruit growers to take up marketing by forming cooperative societies. He said modern implements could be made available to such societies.

Mr Gurdial Singh Khehra, Joint Director, Agriculture, said farmers would have to face new challenges in respect of quality due to WTO agreement. He said there should be diversification in farming. It would be better to cultivate pulses and oilseed crops, besides switching over to the allied sector, he said. The state government keeping in view the limited resources, had launched a pilot project for the judicious use of canal water for irrigation by promoting farming of crops which required less quantity of water. Gumjal and Ramsara villages in the subdivision had been selected under the project, he said. Weather information cells would be set up soon at Abohar and Hoshiarpur for the benefit of fruit growers, he added.

Mr S.S. Rahul, AGM, State Bank of India, Ludhiana zone, offered productivity-based schemes to promote fruit cultivation. He assured that besides making available technical assistance, the bank was ready to help in importing hi-tech agriculture implements for the development of agriculture and horticulture in the state.


120 Moga booths sensitive

Moga, January 15
The administration has identified 120 of 315 polling stations spread over the Dharamkot, Moga, Baghapurana, Nihalsinghwala and Panjgrain constituencies of this district as sensitive, a police officer said here today. Senior Superintendent of Police Sharad Satya Chouhan said that of the 315 stations, 39 were urban.

To ensure a free and fair poll, 2,900 personnel, including 550 special police officers and home guard jawans, will be deployed on February 13 which is polling day.

The district police chief had directed his officers and men to remain neutral and warned of severe action against those found guilty of violating the Code of Conduct. UNI


Keep check on new mosques, DCs told
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 15
A joint meeting of Deputy Commissioners, district police chiefs of the border area, including Ferozepur, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, presided over by Mr Rajan Gupta, IG (Border) here today decided to keep a close vigil on the activities of suspects in the region.

Mr Gupta urged the Deputy Commissioners and district police chiefs to get first hand information about the newly constructed ‘mazaars’ (mosques) in their respective districts.

They were also asked to cooperate with the Army in every manner. Mr Dharmveer, Commissioner, Ferozepore division, Mr S.R. Ladhar, Deputy Commissioner (Ferozepore), Mr Swinder Singh Puri, Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar and a representative of Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur, attended the meeting.

There were reports about the suspicious activities of ‘gujjars’, who have been using ‘madrasas’ in the region. 


Govt staff told not to go on leave
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, January 15
As a precautionary measure, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Babu Lal, has issued strict guidelines to the heads of department of the district directing them to ensure that employees do not go on leave in view of the Assembly elections.

He added that in case of an emergency, employees could get leave after taking permission from the Deputy Commissioner. Maternity leave or leave in case of an accident would not be covered under this ban. But the heads of department of such employees would have to inform the Deputy Commissioner and the district election office immediately.

Even on holidays, the heads of department would deploy at least one class III employee to receive messages regarding elections. Addresses with telephone numbers of the employees would be available in offices.


College staff rally on Jan 23
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 15
The Managements Federation, the Principals Federation, the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union and non-teaching employees will hold a state-level protest rally at Jalandhar on January 23.

Dr Ishwar Singh, Chairman, Joint Action Committee, said earlier the venue for the rally was Amritsar. The protest rally is being organised for immediate implementation of the pension-cum-gratuity scheme approved by the Punjab Cabinet on December 12. The committee is also demanding the release of pending grants under the 95 per cent grants in-aid scheme, release of arrears for teaching and non-teaching employees after pay revision.

The rally shall be followed by a protest march to criticise anti-higher education policies of the Punjab Government and the dilly-dallying attitude towards their pending demands.


Change in school timings extended
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 15
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Vikas Paratap, in an order issued here today, extended change in timings of all schools in the district. He had earlier ordered that all government, private and aided schools in the district would be open from 10 am to 3 pm while primary schools would be functional from 10 am to 2 pm till January 15.

Mr H.S. Bhullar, District Education Officer, said as cold wave conditions and fog persisted, the Deputy Commissioner had ordered extension of changed timings till January 31. He added that senior secondary schools would function from 10 am to 3 pm and primary schools from 10 am to 2 pm till January 31.


Joint convocation

Amritsar, January 15
More than 224 graduates and postgraduates of chemistry, physics and mathematics (under science faculty); and food technology, pharmaceutical sciences, textile chemistry and sugar technology (under applied sciences faculty) would receive their degrees during the joint annual convocation of science and applied science faculties of Guru Nanak Dev University on January 19.

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