Tuesday, January 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Local issues dominate electioneering
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Kila Raipur, January 28
Larger issues of corruption, growing unemployment, deteriorating standard of education and healthcare supplemented by local issues are the dominant features of electioneering for the February 13 Assembly elections in the State.

Hardly anyone talks about the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal or the election manifesto of one party or the other. It does not mean that the SYL has lost its importance. It is a sensitive issue and people maintain that both the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal have been playing games to ‘‘befool the masses’’. ‘‘Once it comes to giving waters, no Punjabi will lag behind in making sacrifices to protect our waters,’’ says Mr Darshan Singh Grewal, a farmer of Kila Raipur.

Otherwise, the voters generally talk about the qualifications and disqualifications of the candidates in the fray.

Among the merits or demerits of a candidate, his or her bona fides as a ‘‘local’’ or as an ‘‘outsider’’ have been generating debates in some of the constituencies, while in certain others it is the ‘‘image’’ of the candidate which is being discussed.

In Ferozepore City, for example, voters in general talk high of Mr Dhyan Singh Mand, the nominee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann), for his clean record irrespective of his past, including his refusal to take oath as an MP as a mark of solidarity with the party chief, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann.

‘‘Who bothers about the election manifesto ? I remember what once former Deputy Prime Minister, Ch Devi Lal, remarked about election manifestos. He said that take the election manifesto of one party and replace the first page carrying its name and election symbol with those of another party. It would be the same,’’ says Mr Kamal Grewal of this village maintaining that ‘‘release of the election manifesto, its publicity in the media are the rituals which are gone through in every election without any sincere follow-up. How many voters actually get to see these manifestos ?’’

In Moga, a number of voters, including former Health Minister of the State, Dr Malti Thapar, feels that ‘‘harassment’’ of certain people, including elected village elders, is an important issue for the coming elections. ‘‘These village elders had to take to legal recourse to get justice,’’ she says, adding that many others were put to hardships by their ‘‘implication in false police cases.’’

‘‘These instances snowball into major issues during Assembly elections,’’ she adds. Her views are corroborated by former Socialist and MLA, Mr Rup Lal Saathi, and his son, Mr Vijay Saathi, Congress candidate from Moga.

Though the candidates of various national and state recognised parties maintain the election manifesto is an important document highlighting the policies, programmes and promises of a party to the voters of the State, voters at large maintain that they hardly have any access to these ‘‘documents’’ about which they only read in newspapers.

‘‘No party comes out with constituency-wise issues, highlighting the steps it would take to mitigate the grievances of that particular constituency. For example, if a village needs a bridge or its school needs to be upgraded from primary to middle or high school or allotment of land for housing, no one bothers,’’ says Mr Darshan Singh of Dakha. ‘‘The most important of all local issues has been the power supply. In certain areas, the power supply is almost nil while in a few others, it is just a few hours a day and that too at irregular intervals.’’

He says that all parties make ‘‘tall promises’’ and forget about them after the elections are over.

Other local issues, varying from constituency to constituency, are primarily about lack of basic civic infrastructure, connectivity, power and water supply, sanitation and also in some cases about community centres.

‘‘There are schools but no teachers, primary health centres are there but no medicines. Even doctors seldom come there,’’ complains Mrs Darshan Kaur, a resident of Gurre village in Ludhiana.


Don’t open “old wounds”, appeals Rinwa
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Punjab BJP president, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, disfavours the opening of “old wounds” and rousing peoples’ passions by the political parties by referring to and reviving memories of the happenings of Operation Bluestar, anti-Sikh riots, the phase of terrorism etc. Such bitter experiences would serve no purpose now when all that Punjab needed was “peace, prosperity, development, brotherhood and communal harmony”.

Addressing media persons at a programme in the Chandigarh Press Club today, Mr Rinwa said, “The way the sanctum sanctorum was attacked during Operation Bluestar stands out as a historical injury. I do not approve of the manner and methods used to achieve the objective of solving the problem at that point of time”.

On terrorism and contentious 1984 issues, Mr Rinwa said, “Apportioning blame will not help. It will only vitiate the atmosphere that the state can ill-afford”. He was candid to admit that because of political compulsions, often there was a “mismatch” between the deeds and thinking of what the political leaders said. “What they at times say is more by way of an expression rather than their conviction. Such is the system in our democracy”.

In his opening remarks, Mr Rinwa took cognisance of the Congress manifesto released here on Sunday and ridiculed the party’s premises on “corruption and bankruptcy” or for that matter “terrorism” by holding that the Akalis and BJP were responsible.

On corruption, he said rather than casting aspersion on others, the Congress would do well to look within. He quoted Rajiv Gandhi who admitted that out of every 100 paise released for development, 85 paise went into the pockets of bureaucrats and middlemen. “For us, peace and welfare of the people, across the board, was more important. In our priority, corruption came at number three”, he added.

Mr Rinwa sarcastically referred to the “auction” of tickets in the Congress for the current elections. The party had even failed to project a single “leader”, unlike the SAD-BJP that has one in Mr Badal.

On the pre-poll promises held out by way of sops worth Rs 1,200 crore by the Congress in its manifesto, he said most of what was being promised had already been done, e.g. abolition of octroi. And if by bankruptcy, the Congress was referring to the money doled out at sangat darshan or Rs 1,500 crore provided for development by the Prime Minister, what the Congress manifesto offered was no different. He welcomed the Congress resolve to mobilise additional resources worth Rs 4,000 crore.

To related questions, he said those who have any complaints on corruption could always approach either the Lok Pal or the high court. To charges of corruption within the BJP, he said nothing had been substantiated by those who made allegations against ministers. But he did promise that the functioning of the Punjab Public Service Commission and Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board would be streamlined and made transparent.

Mr Rinwa, however, faltered on the issue of declaration of “assets” by the ministers as promised in the 1997 election manifesto, saying that it was an “internal” matter of the party.

The BJP chief said the relationship with the Akalis was not for “power politics” or confined to “seat-sharing”. The relationship rests on the jointly laid foundation of sameness in “thinking, philosophy and beliefs”.

On contesting 23 seats only, he said sharing was mutually decided upon.


Vajpayee, Advani to campaign in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani will campaign for the Akali-BJP alliance candidates in Punjab in the Assembly elections. Stating this here today, the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said while Mr Vajpayee was scheduled to visit Punjab on February 6, the programme for Mr Advani was being given the final shape.

Talking to reporters after addressing a rally in the city outskirts here today, Mr Badal said, the alliance had wanted Mr Vajpayee to spare two days for Punjab. But it might not be possible for him. “However, we are still trying as we want the Prime Minister to cover most parts of the state”, Mr Badal said. He disclosed that Mr Advani will also address election rallies in different constituencies of the state.

On the contentious issue of dissensions, particularly in Ludhiana, where the party vice-president, Mr Amarjeet Singh Bhatia, is opposing the alliance candidates, including Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, Mr Badal hoped that all “annoyed leaders” would join the mainstream again. He said he had already established contacts with some rebel leaders in this contest.


Economic revival Cong poll plank in Punjab
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 28
As the AICC leader in charge of Punjab affairs, Mr Motilal Vora has been able to put the party on course to take on the Badal government in next month’s Assembly elections in the state.

A former Governor, Union Minister and Chief Minister, Mr Vora, 74, has coordinated the election strategy of the party in Punjab. Refusing to name the Chief Minister in case the Congress regained power in Punjab, he charged the Badal government with making pledges which had remained unfulfilled and were impeding the state’s all-round progress. As treasurer, he has seen the party switching to a more transparent way of mobilising resources.

Q: What are the prospects for the Congress in the coming Assembly elections?

A: Prospects of the Congress are good. The promises made by the party of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during the last Assembly poll have not been fulfilled. Punjab, which was at the top of development indices, has now been relegated to the 24th position. The main reason for this is that the Punjab Government has not paid attention to the problems of farmers. Youth have not been given employment as per the promises made. Industry is on the verge of collapse. Corruption has crossed all limits and charges have been levelled against the Chief Minister, Mr Badal, about which he has not given any clarification. There have been charges of corruption in the appointments being made by the state government. People are unhappy. Though farmers of Punjab are prosperous and hard working, they do not get payment of the minimum support price on time. Last year, foodgrains remained in the mandis for almost three months but the state and Central governments were slow to react. This year too, there were reports of farmers not getting payments on time and the pending amount was estimated at over Rs 1,000 crore last month. About 600 farmers have committed suicide in the past five years.

Q: What is Congress’ promise to the electorate.

A: The people of Punjab have seen the work of the Congress governments in the past. There was development. In our manifesto, we have outlined how to revive the state’s economy. Economic progress would be our main issue in the poll and we want to bring Punjab back to its position of pre-eminence.

Q: The Congress has been opposed to freebies. How does the party explain its promise of giving free power to farmers in Punjab?

A: We have made only those promises which we can fulfil. It is a question of mobilising necessary resources by taking into account factors like the power generated by the state and the transmission losses. Certain sections of people in Punjab were promised free power by the Badal government but it was not reaching the targeted group. We will strive to take the facility to the targeted group.

Q: The party’s senior leaders, including Mr Manmohan Singh had their reservations about giving free power?

A: No leader opposed the move. We gave it the final shape and included it in the manifesto.

Q: What about the problem of factionalism in Punjab Congress. There are reports that all the leaders are not actively participating in the poll campaign.

A: There is no factionalism. The aim of all Congress leaders is to bring the party back to power. Whatever differences existed were forgotten and for the past about eight months everyone has been working unitedly.

Q: Would the Congress raise the SYL issue in the poll?

A: We want that Punjab should be benefitted. What has the Punjab government been doing in the past five years. The state government has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court and the matter is subjudice.

Q: Who will be the Congress choice for Chief Minister in case the party is voted to power?

A: The issue would be decided by the newly elected MLAs. This has been the practice.

Q: Party ticket has been given to relatives in many cases.

A: The tickets have been given after considering the local factors.


Cong fails to curb dissidence
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 28
Even as the Congress is wooing top Bollywood actors to boost the party’s prospects in the coming Assembly elections, it has been unable to curb the problem of dissidence. The high command, which had sent senior leader Ahmed Patel to convince party rebels to withdraw from the fray, has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts with over 10 “strong” rebels still in the field after the last day of withdrawal of candidates.

Mr Patel, who spent about four days in Punjab, today gave his report to the AICC Treasurer Motilal Vora about his talks with the party rebels. Senior leader Jagmeet Singh Brar, who is unhappy over ticket distribution and his “sidelining” by the PCC leadership in campaigning, also met Mr Vora today.

AICC sources said Mr Patel apprised the high command of the situation faced by the party in about 15 seats where party rebels had declined to withdraw their nominations. Several Congress rebels are also contesting from seats given to the CPI.

The sources said seats where the party rebels were in fray included Tarn Taran, Samana, Lambi, Moga, Bathinda, Talwandi Sabo, Kapurthala, Jalandhar Central, Rajasansi, Amritsar (South), Ajnala, Jagraon, Kharar, Mansa and Ludhiana East. While the high command might take a liberal view of those rebels who had joined the Congress recently, it was worried over the impact on the results at other seats. The feeling was that those rebels who had recently joined the Congress from the Akali Dal would damage the prospects of Akali candidates more than those of the Congress.

Meanwhile, the efforts of the high command to involve Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar in active campaigning have not succeeded so far. Sources said Mr Patel would soon meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi to give his assessment of the situation in the state.

The sources said the party had approached some top Bollywood stars, including Govinda and Preity Zinta, to campaign for its candidates. Congress President Sonia Gandhi was also expected to address about four rallies in Punjab.


War clouds, corruption go against regime
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 28
Corruption, rural backwardness, unemployment, growing tension between India and Pakistan and lack of medical facilities are among the key issues emerging for the coming Assembly elections in this border district.

The candidates of the opposition parties are raising these issues against the SAD-BJP government to woo voters. However, the candidates of the ruling SAD-BJP parties are banking upon the development work initiated by the Badal government during the past five years.

The Congress candidate from the Ferozepore cantonment seat, Mr Ravinder Singh Babbal, accuses the BJP-led Union Government for the growing tension between India and Pakistan. He says that this situation was intentionally created to lure the voters on the sole plank of national integrity in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. Nobody thought about the fate of the people living in this border district if war broke out.

Another Congress candidate, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, from the Guru Har Sahai constituency claims that the people of this border area are peace loving. They have already witnessed casualties and financial loss during the past two wars between India and Pakistan. Their wounds are yet to heal.

However, SAD-BJP candidates avoid talking on this issue in the villages close to the border but are trying to win the confidence of urban voters, particularly the Hindu community, to initiate a wave of anti-Pakistan. The only main issue being raised by the SAD-BJP candidates in their defence is the development work. But this is being counter-attacked by the opposition parties by exposing corruption. Even common people talk about corruption.

Amarjeet Singh, a resident of Fazilka, says that the SAD-BJP government had failed to check corruption in the government departments. “My brother working as a teacher paid Rs 18,000 for his transfer against a vacant post. A close relative of ours paid a bribe of Rs 50,000 to get the job of a peon,” he further says.

Most of the people say that corruption is prevailing on a large scale in all departments. No work is done without exchange of money. Doctors are charging Rs 50 for medical certificates, patwaris are charging Rs 100 to Rs 200 for getting photocopies of intkal or jamabandi, munshis of police stations are charging Rs 500 onwards for registering FIRs and nothing less than Rs 2000 for even a small compromise.

Apart from this, the opposition parties are highlighting Tehelka, coffin and other corruption cases in defence deals against the BJP candidates in the Abohar, Fazilka and Ferozepore city constituencies.

Speaking at a massive gathering in favour of his son Sunil Jakhar, former union minister and senior Congress leader Balram Jakhar said the NDA government was among the most corrupt governments since Independence.

Rural backwardness, lack of medical facilities in the rural areas and ever-growing unemployment are among other issues being raised by the opposition parties.

However, medium and big landlords, particularly the Sikh families, praise the Badal government for free power supply to agriculture and curbing unnecessary harassment at the hands of police. It is worth mentioning that the rural Sikh families of the Ferozepore, Zira and Dharamkot areas had experienced police high-handedness and excesses on a large scale during the time of militancy. Mentally, they are yet to come out of the fear of police excesses.

The sitting MLA of the Zira constituency, Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, who parted ways from the SAD and is at present contesting the elections on the Panthic Morcha ticket with the support of the BSP is coming out in the public on the sole plank of having stood against police excesses to save the lives of hundreds of Sikh youths during the time of militancy. The political scenario seems to be favouring Mr Zira among the Sikh families who had witnessed police excesses as his main rival of the Congress, Mr Kuldip Bhullar who is the son of a senior police officer, Mr M.S. Bhullar, DGP (PAP). This issue is gaining momentum in the Zira constituency. Political observers say that the Congress might have to pay heavily for having chosen a son of a police officer.


BSNL mobile plans put off in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The much-hyped cellular and WLL mobile phone services of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited for the Punjab circle stand postponed. “It will only be after the establishment of a complete infrastructure for these facilities, which is not likely to happen before June, that we will launch these services”, said Mr D.P.S. Seth, Chairman and Managing Director, BSNL, while talking to newspersons here today.

Explaining the initiatives that BSNL will take in future to improve customer services, he said the existing customer centres will be replaced by call centres in Punjab and Haryana. “While two such centres, which will address customer complaints and enquiries, have already been established at Jalandhar and Patiala, there will be 11 such points in Punjab and call centres for all the SSAs in Haryana”. At a later stage, all centres will be interlinked for speedier information transfer.

Regarding cellular services, he said the BSNL had identified 51 pockets in Punjab and 34 in Haryana where such services would be provided during the initial phase.

Dismissing the allegation that the delay in the launch of the GSM-and CDMA-based mobile services was intentional or due to political intervention, he said: “It is only because of infrastructural establishment which is yet to be completed.

For the CDMA mobiles, BSNL needs nine Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs) in the UT and Punjab, which at present have only two BTSs. “It is likely to take more than six months for infrastructural facilities to be established. Only after that, the services will be launched. We are a government undertaking as a result of which the formalities that need to be completed take time”.

Cellular services would also be launched around the same time, he said.

Regarding the pending telephone connections, which are around two lakh in Punjab, Mr Seth said this list would be cleared by March, following which people in the state would be able to get telephone connections on demand — within one month of the receipt of the applications.

Stating that corporatisation has helped BSNL improve, he agreed that the scope of improvement is tremendous. “The ability of the employees to understand and fully accept the concept that the consumer is the king needs a lot of improvement”, he said. “However, we have started moving in the right direction and will hopefully come up to the customers’ expectations”.

Mr Prithipal Singh, Director (Operations), BSNL, and Mr R.C. Vaish, PGMT, Chandigarh, were present on the occasion.


Keep distance from Kanwaljit, Bibi told
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today "made it clear" to former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur that she and her followers should maintain a distance from her deceased daughter's "husband", Kanwaljit Singh, and his family.

Rejecting the application filed by him seeking the cancellation of anticipatory bail granted to Bibi, Mr Justice M.L. Singhal of the High Court also observed that the directions were necessary so that "there was no interference with the due course of justice and there was a fair trial of the case".

In his detailed order, Mr Justice Singhal ordered that "Bibi would not do anything which might have the effect of stultifying a fair trial of the case. She would not try to intimidate witnesses or tamper with evidence, nor would she allow her followers to intimidate the witnesses or allow them tamper with evidence". The Judge added that it would "also be ensured by Punjab's Director-General of Police that there was no intimidation of the witnesses or tampering with evidence either by Bibi or by her followers and there was no insecurity to Kanwaljit Singh or his family during the trial at Bibi's hands or at the hands of her followers. The security cover, already provided to Kanwaljit Singh, would also continue till the trial was over".

Turning down another petition filed by the CBI, Mr Justice Singhal ordered that the sessions court "may call upon Bibi to furnish fresh bonds to its own satisfaction so as to ensure her continued presence before it till the trial was over".

Going into the background of the case, Mr Justice Singhal observed: "In this case, the question for consideration before us is whether the order granting anticipatory bail to Bibi came to an end as soon as the challan was put up in court and after that she should have been left to apply for regular bail before the sessions court, or that in the order granting anticipatory bail no such time limit should be read and that the order should last till the trial was over, if not cancelled by the High Court.

"In this case, there is no time limit fixed by Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar of the High Court while granting anticipatory bail to Bibi. Even otherwise, in view of the observations of the Supreme Court, the normal role should not be to limit the operation of the order in relation to a period of time", he pointed out.

The High Court had earlier directed the premier investigating agency to conduct an investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Bibi's daughter, Harpreet Kaur. Mr Justice Amarbir Singh Gill had also ordered "necessary police protection" to Mr Kamaljit Singh. An extension of the order extending protection to "the life and limb" of the petitioner's family was also ordered.

Chosen candidates barred from joining

Issuing notice of motion for July 25 to the state of Punjab and the Punjab Public Service Commission on a petition filed by a part-time Punjabi lecturer with Hoshiarpur’s Government College, a Division Bench of the High Court today ordered that the selected candidates will not be allowed to join.

In his petition taken up by the Bench, comprising Mr Justice N.K. Sodhi and Mr Justice Jasbir Singh, Mr Kulwant Singh had contended that the selections could not have been made as the code of conduct was on. He had added that the same were carried out in an unjust manner.


‘Jago’, kites, caps enter poll arena
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 28
Even as organising mammoth rallies, distributing pamphlets, pasting posters, stickers, graffiti, hoardings and banners have traditionally been seen as a part and parcel of the election campaign, a section of candidates have introduced novel campaigning methods to attract more crowds.

The contestants, who have hired Punjabi singers to fetch crowds for their election rallies, have also been using various other modes to reach out to the maximum number of voters in their respective Assembly segments.

In the Bathinda Assembly segment, contestants have been taking out “jago” (a procession comprising music, light and other traditional items taken out a night before the day of marriage), distributing kites, caps, handkerchief and wrist bands carrying the name of contestants among children.

The contestants of Bathinda, including the sitting SAD MLA, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, the Congress candidate, Mr Surinder Singla, the BSP nominee, Mr Sham Singh Jaura, the rebel Congress, Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, the Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Gurdeep Singh and others have been leaving no stone unturned to make women, youths and children, to participate in their election campaigns.

With the sword limit of expenditure imposed by the Election Commission hanging on their head, they are adopting these new easier modes of campaigning.

Mr Chiranji Lal Garg has been trying to cash in on the Basant Panchmi festival, by distributing kites bearing the party symbol and his photograph on them. “While Basant Panchmi falls on February 17 this year, the Assembly poll would be held on February 13 hence most of the kites would be in the air advertising for us till then. It adds to the emotional appeal of the campaign also”, said one of the workers of the SAD.

The residents of the city were taken by surprise when Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, rebel Congress candidate, who would now contest from this Assembly seat as an Independent took out a ‘jago’ late night on Saturday. The highlight was the presence of a large number of women, who generally do not step out from the four walls of their houses due to the conservative culture of this city.

While it was kites for one candidate, Mr Surinder Singla, Congress candidate who is also seen as a potential threat to the defending candidate, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, used tricoloured caps, wrist bands and handkerchiefs to woo voters. Numerous caps were distributed amongst kids, youngsters and residents of the city to portray them as Congress workers.

The routine affair of weighing the candidates against ‘ladoos’ and coins also saw a new turn, with the rebel candidate of Akalis from the Rampuraphul Assembly segment, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, being weighed against “gulab jamuns” at a number of places.

Not only this, the SAD has started airing many advertisements on various Punjabi channels, highlighting the achievements of the SAD-BJP combine government in their five-year tenure vis-a-vis the previous Congress government. The Congress, too, is said to be ready with its answers to the advertisement campaign of the SAD-BJP and has reportedly made multimedia programmes to be aired on the various cable networks across the state.

Not only this, the candidates have been opening their election offices near one another, apparently to keep a ‘close watch’ over the voters and supporters who visit their opponents. What adds colour to the campaign of the candidates is that the voters keep looking for various catchy slogans drafted by political parties, to highlight their points and downsize the opponents. One of the announcers on a tonga, who has been campaigning for a particular party for the past more than 40 years said that no announcer picked up slogans coined by the others. “All candidates are fighting with each other, and not all against one, so their slogans have to be different, crisp, easy on the tongue and should downplay all others, while highlighting their own points,” he asserted.

It remains to be seen whether the crowd in various processions of the candidates turns out to be voters for them or not?


Amarinder challenges Badal to debate
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 28
Challenging Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to a public debate on five years of Akali “misrule” which has wrecked the economy of the state, PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh also cracked the whip on party rebels who have not withdrawn their candidatures against the official party nominees. He said a list of “undisciplined” leaders and their supporters would be released tomorrow. The time for withdrawals lapsed at 3 p.m. today.

“It is a painful decision for me, but then things have to be seen in a larger perspective. It will also be a disappointing moment for a disciplined party with a rich history where dissidence has never been a problem. No one is above the party and the party high command has made it clear that rebels have to go in the larger interests of the party”, he stressed.

Talking to the TNS after addressing an impressive rally in favour of Mr Boota Singh, the Cong-CPI candidate from Mansa here this noon, he said the motive behind the public debate, in the presence of media was to expose the “double speak” of the CM who was repeatedly misleading the innocent people on various issues such as corruption and other misdeeds of his kin, relatives and senior officers of the government.

Criticising the Badal government, Capt Amarinder said, “It is also a matter of grave concern that this government, which harps on being the messiah of farmers, has done nothing for more than 52 per cent of the poor peasantry of the state who own less than two-and-a-half acres of land. It is impossible for them to even have two square meals a day. What about the well-being and education of their children who are the future of the state and the country”, he questioned.

On the issue of action against rebels, he stressed that he would be sending a complete list to Delhi tonight, which would be finalised today itself and released by noon tomorrow. He said he was in touch with the DCC chiefs and this time action would be taken not only against the leaders but their supporters as well. No one will be allowed to flout the writ of the high command, he warned.

He, however, refused to name any rebels at this point. On the other hand party sources said the rebels likely to be expelled for six years would be the Mansa DCC chief, Mr Sher Singh Gagowal, Mr Darshan Singh Brar (Jagraon), Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu (both from Kharar), Mr Harry Mann (Samana), Mr R.P. Bali (Nangal), Mr S.S. Rai (Chamkaur Sahib) and Mr Mahesh Inder Singh (Lambi). At least 25 persons are contesting as Independents against the official nominees, the sources revealed.


Pilot’s ride in gadda to Assembly to be tough
Tribune News Service

Morinda, January 28
Mr Ravi Inder Singh, former Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, who has fought and won every Assembly election he has contested so far, faces a tough fight this time in the Morinda constituency.

A nephew of the first Defence Minister of independent India, Mr Baldev Singh who hailed from the area, Mr Ravi Inder Singh and his family wield a lot of influence in the place. A well-to-do businessman, he has been elected to the state Assembly from the Morinda constituency on four occasions, beginning with 1977. He was returned in 1980 and then again in 1985. He did not contest in 1992 because of the Akali boycott, leaving the field clear for Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang of the Congress who went on to become a minister in the Beant Singh Cabinet.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh contested again in 1997, beating Mr Kang by a few thousand votes. This will be Mr Ravi Inder Singh’s fifth contest but it will be a contest with a difference. All previous elections have been fought by Mr Ravi Inder Singh as a leader of the mainstream Akali Dal, namely the Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal. This time round, Mr Ravi Inder Singh is contesting as a nominee of the Panthic Morcha, a conglomerate of five Akali groups, including the SHSAD led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Akali Dal (A) headed by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Panthic Akali Dal led by Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, Sant Samaj headed by Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi and the faction led by Mr Ravi Inder Singh.

The former Assembly Speaker is one of the main pillars of the Panthic Morcha and a vocal critic of the Chief Minister. Incidentally, the Panthic Morcha does not have an election symbol of its own and its candidates have had to make do with the poll symbol of SAD (A), i.e. the cart.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh is a trained commercial pilot but, he says, he does not mind using the cart for the ride to the Assembly, if and when necessary. In any case, he told TNS, poll symbols were for the convenience of the voters who have now become very educated and alert. Gone are the days when people blindly stamped on the “scales”, the poll symbol of the SAD because the “Panth was in danger”. People now go for the candidates and their performance.

Although there are many candidates in the field, Mr Ravi Inder Singh’s main challenge comes from the SAD led by Mr Badal which has fielded Mr Ujagar Singh Badali and Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang of the Congress.

Mr Badali contested against Mr Ravi Inder Singh as an Independent candidate in 1997 but lost. When the Akali Dal split, he cast his lot with the SHSAD headed by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra before coming over to the side of Mr Badal. During the past few months, he has been making it a point to attend a series of sangat darshan programmes held by Mr Badal in the area where the Chief Minister doled out developmental grants worth crores of rupees.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang is confident of making to the state Assembly this time on the strength of the large-scale developmental work undertaken in the constituency when he was the Minister for Public Works. He points out that he lost to Mr Ravi Inder Singh in the last election just by a few thousand votes even when a pro-Akali wave swept the state. This time, there is no such wave. If anything, people are fed up with the constant Akali infighting between Mr Badal and Mr Tohra and want a change in favour of the Congress.

Incidentally, both Mr Kang and Mr Badali claim credit for scrapping of the Punjab Government’s prestigious Anandgarh project which would have led to a large-scale uprooting of villagers along the Shivalik foothills, forming a part of the constituency.


Mixed bag of voters may break citadels
Ajay Banerjee & Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 28
A mixed bag of voters divided on caste and religious lines, dissidence within parties, disgruntled small farmers and a not-so-happy section of employees, all add to make the five constituencies in Ropar a tough electoral battle for all parties and candidates.

Party workers of all candidates admit the contest is very keen and the margin of victory in at least Kharar, Morinda and Nangal, constituencies will be close, if not razor thin.

MORINDA: With a total of 1.35 lakh votes Morinda is one constituency which Mr Badal wants to win badly for the Akalis. Anandgarh, NAC status for Nayagaon – a residential enclave just north of Chandigarh – and the Panthic Morcha are important factors. Badal’s arch political rival and sitting MLA Ravi Inder Singh, is contesting against Mr J.S. Kang of the Congress, who had won in 1992, and Mr Ujagar Singh Badali of the SAD. Interestingly, Mr Badali claims that he was the person behind stopping land acquisition for Anandgarh township project. Mr Ravi Inder Singh reminds farmers that he had vehemently protested against Anandgarh. Mr Kang, too claims of having organised protests against Anandgarh.

NANGAL: This constituency has a total of 1.20 lakh votes. Punjab’ s Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Madan Mohan Mittal is pitted against K.P.S Rana of the Congress. Locals maintain that it will not be a cake walk for either of the parties. In the true Congress style, Mr Ram Prakash Bali , who was refused the Congress ticket refutes talk of dissidence saying, “I will work for the party.” Mr Bali had won in 1985 but is yet to come out openly in favour of Mr Rana. Mittal, who had won in 1992 and 1997, alleges Mr Rana is an outsider. Countering this, Mr Rana says Mr Mittal is misleading people “ I have my house in Khatana village which is very much a part of this constituency.”

KHARAR: It has a total of 1.75 lakh votes. A repeat of the anti Congress wave which saw the sikh and the non-Sikh communities voting for the ruling SAD -BJP alliance to power in the last Assembly poll in this constituency is impossible. The sikh community, predominant the Jat Sikhs are divided as three Akali candidates are pitted against each other. Against the SAD candidate, Mr KBS Kang, is a dissident Akali candidate, Mr Amrik Singh Mohali. It will not be a clean sweep of Akali votes for the Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala, as the non-sikh communities and the Dalits are finding it hard to associate themselves with any party. The non-Sikh community feels that the panthic morcha was a party with fundamentalist leanings. Being an outsider, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, the Congress candidate will have to ride on the anti-incumbency factor as two prominent dissident candidates, Mr H.S. Ghauran and Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu are giving him sleepless nights. A 50 per cent increase in the number of voters, from 1.10 lakh ( in 1997 elections) to 1.75 lakh voters now is expected to throw up interesting results. Mr Ghauran had won in 1992 while Rajbir Singh Padiala is the son of the sitting MLA Ms Daljit Kaur.

ANANDPUR SAHIB-ROPAR: It has a total of 1.30 lakh votes. Congress nominee, Mr Ramesh Dutt, who is expected to take the fight up to the sitting MLA Master Tara Singh Ladal, alleges that small farmers have to pay for power while buying it from the bigger farmers. Mr Badal faces a tough challenge due to lack of supports in urban Ropar. The constituency has a largely rural population with only the small urban pocket of Ropar having about 19,000 votes.

CHAMKAUR SAHIB (RESERVED): With a total of 1.5 lakh votes, it is said to be citadel of the ruling SAD group candidate. Mrs Satwant Kaur Sandhu. She expected to see a hot contest with a dissident of the Congress, Mr Shamsher Rai pitched against the party candidate, Mr Bhag Singh. The constituency has by and large has a rural character and has voters spread over 257 villages. Already having won from this seat thrice, Mrs Sandhu did not leave the fold of the main stream Akalis. Although confident of winning the elections once again, the SAD candidate is expected to feel the heat of the anti-incumbency factor. Mr Rai, who got 38 per cent votes in the Parliamentary poll claims to give a tough fight to the SAD candidate.


Patiala seat a no contest
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 28
The prestigious seat of Patiala, from where the PPCC President, Capt Amarinder Singh, is a contestant is likely to be reduced to a no contest with the SAD and the Panthic Morcha fielding lightweights against him. In contrast the Nabha seat in the district and the Sirhind and Amloh seats in Fatehgarh Sahib district are likely to witness fierce contests.

PATIALA: The going is likely to be easy for Capt Amarinder Singh from the Patiala town seat with the SAD putting up a former Municipal Commissioner Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal and the SHSAD, a political novice, Mr Jaswinderpaul Singh Chaddha. While Capt Amarinder enjoys a head start, he is likely to benefit further due to lack of interest being shown by the Improvement Trust Chairman and Patiala Urban SAD President, Mr Manmohan Singh Bazaz. Mr Bazaz’s son, Mr Inder Mohan Bazaz also a contender for the party ticket but could not get it due to the interest shown by the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh in Mr Sehgal’s candidature. The Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Jaswinderpaul Singh Chaddha is a lame duck choice after present legislator Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, who had resigned from the Badal ministry to side with Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, refused to enter the fray.

As the PPCC President is going to campaign across the state, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur is likely to manage the campaign on his behalf alongwith the District Congress Committee (DCC) President, Mr Ved Prakash Gupta, and senior leaders Mr K.K. Sharma and Mr Vishnu Sharma.

NABHA: The Nabha seat is likely to witness a fierce battle between SAD candidate Raja Narinder Singh, Congress candidate Randeep Singh and dissident Congressman and National Congress Party (NCP) candidate Ramesh Singla. Others in the fray include Mr Avtar Singh of the BSP, Mr Randhir Singh Rakhra of the Panthic Morcha and Independents Mr Manjit Singh Lassi and Mr Paramjit Singh Saholi. Both the SAD and Congress candidates are plagued by division in their traditional votebanks. While there is one SAD rebel in Lacci, the Panthic Morcha also has a rebel candidate in Saholi. Mr Ramesh Singla is likely to give jitters to the Congress candidate as he has a committed vote bank in the constituency.

SIRHIND: A fierce fight is likely in Sirhind where the Congress candidate, Dr Harbans Lal is pitted against two Akali candidates, Mr Didar Singh Bhatti and Mr Iman Singh Mann, son of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, who is fighting on the Panthic Morcha ticket. Things may be difficult for Dr Harbans Lal this time as compared to the last elections. In the last elections, the Akali votebank was divided between the SAD nominee, Mr Kirpal Singh Libra, Mr S.S. Mann, SAD (Amritsar) nominee and an Independent, Mr Randhir Singh Cheema. Dr Lal was able to win even though the combine Akali vote was two times more than what was polled by him. Though Mr R.S. Cheema had announced his decision to contest the elections this time also as an Independent, the Chief Minister has prevailed upon him to support Mr Didar Singh Bhatti

AMLOH: In Amloh (Reserved) seat, a triangular contest has emerged with the Congress, SAD and Panthic Morcha candidates being the main players. The Congress has fielded from legislator Sadhu Singh, while the SAD has gone in for veteran Akali leader Gurdev Singh Sidhu who has been shifted to Amloh from the Shutrana (Reserved) seat which he won in the last elections. The Panthic Morcha has fielded Mr Harnek Singh Diwana, while the BSP has fielded Mr Maan Singh Manhera. The Akali vote, which is divided between the SAD and Panthic Morcha candidates, may suffer a further erosion with present legislator Balwant Singh Shahpur, who was denied renomination by the SAD also in the fray as an Independent.


Educated youth make electoral debut
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 28
In the backwaters of south Punjab, considered the most backward region of the state, a new generation of educated youths has taken a plunge into public life by making their election debut in the February 13 poll as nominees of recognised parties and Independent candidates.

A perusal of the list of nominees for the coming Assembly elections and interaction with them, shows that more and more educated youths have decided to make it to the Vidhan Sabha in their bid to bring new concepts and ideas and make Punjab a fully developed state. The Malwa region of Punjab, having seven Lok Sabha seats out of the total 13 seats and 65Assembly seats out of total 117 seats of the state, which has produced the maximum number of Chief Ministers of the reorganised Punjab and always shaped its political contours, has also acquired the status of a nursery of the youth and educated politicians as far as the present Assembly elections is concerned.

More than 10 youths in the age group of 25 to 40 have jumped into the election arena as first timers despite the fact that they are professionally and technically qualified. They intend to endeavour to remove the “backward image” of south Punjab as some areas here are more developed as compared to Faridkot, Muktsar, Moga, Bathinda, Mansa and Sangrur districts of the Malwa region of state.

Ms Vibha Sharma, daughter of former Congress minister Opinder Sharma, who has been convicted by court in a criminal case, has jumped into the election arena a first timer as Congress candidate. She has done bachelor of electronics (BE) master of business administration (MBA) and was working as lecturer. She said she came into politics to fight gender bias and corruption. She is a direct contest from the sitting MLA and SAD candidate, Mr Mantar Singh Brar, who is also a law graduate youth and facing a rebel, Mr Kartar Singh Sikhwala.

Mr Binder Singh Mann, who has done bachelor in civil engineering and just crossed the minimum age required for contesting elections, joins the electoral battle for the first time as a Panthic Morcha candidate from the Talwandi Sabo Assembly segment in this district. He has been facing an Akali rebel, Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, a graduate in engineering who could not make it to the Vidhan Sabha the last time as a SAD candidate.

Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai, Shiromani Akali Dal candidate and Chairman, Milkfed, Punjab, is a postgraduate in history and did his schooling from Lawrence School, Sanawar (Himachal Pradesh). The 39-year old, has come into the fray with the motive that youths should take the challenge to change the complexion of the state. He faces the Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Baldev Singh Khiala, who has represented this seat a number of times and remained minister in Akali governments. Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, a senior youth Akali Dal leader, who is a graduate, has also made his election debut as an Independent candidate against the sitting MLA and official nominees of SAD, Mr Sikander Singh Malooka. Mr Kangar said his motive was to help the people of the area get rid of atrocities committed on them by the rulers in the past five years and expose their corruption.

Mr Parkash Doshi, a young law graduate, is trying his luck from the prestigious constituency of Gidderbaha in Muktsar district as an Independent candidate. He faces the sitting SAD MLA, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal and Congress candidate, Mr Raghbir Singh. Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, SAD candidate from Faridkot, is a graduate. He faces former Education Minister and Congress candidate Avtar Singh Brar as a first timer. His father, the late Jaswant Singh Dhillon and mother Bibi Jagdish Kaur Dhillon have already represented this Assembly segment earlier.

Mr Devinder Kohli, another law graduate and Mr Rajbir Singh Sidhu, a graduate in civil engineering and son of former MLA, Mr Surjeet Sidhu, are also making their election debut by fielding themselves from this Assembly segment for February 13 poll.

Mr Gaganjit Singh, son of former Chief Minister of Punjab and Governor, Uttaranchal, Mr Surjeet Singh Barnala, who is a young graduate, is facing his first electoral battle from the Dhuri Assembly segment of Sangrur district. In the Barnala Assembly segment, Mr Bhola Virk, a youth and a leading transporter, is also in the fray as the Lok Bhalai Party candidate.


BJP leaders to oppose two ministers
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 28
The BJP today suffered a jolt when five senior party leaders decided to oppose the candidature of two of its official nominees, Punjab ministers Tikshan Sood and Madan Mohan Mittal.

Mr Bharat Bhushan Handa, a state BJP executive member, said the leaders who had decided to oppose the candidates included Mr Mohan Lal Dua, member, state BJP executive, Mr Ranbir Singh and Mr Hari Dutt Kalia, former president and vice-president, respectively of the Hoshiarpur unit of the BJP, and Mr Satpal Khurana, a former vice-president of the local Municipal Council.

Mr Handa alleged that the leaders were disturbed over the high command’s decision to allot party tickets to those BJP ministers who were allegedly involved in human trafficking and other corrupt deeds. “The state BJP leadership should have conducted a high-level probe into the allegations before allotting tickets to these ministers,” Mr Handa said.

He said the party had lost its credibility among people of the state by patronising those who were indulging in corrupt practices.

Meanwhile, a senior BJP Dalit leader, Mr Dev Raj, also resigned from the primary membership of the BJP for its “anti-Dalit” policies and for allotting tickets to “tainted” ministers. Mr Dev Raj, in a letter to the state BJP chief Brij Lal Rinwa, alleged that he was resigning since the party was promoting corrupt elements.


Cong promises better medicare
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 28
The Congress, if comes to power, will improve rural medical and provide better working conditions in rural health centres, Dr T.C. Malhan, a former Director Health Services, and a member of the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee, said in a press note issued here today.

Dr Malhan said all existing buildings of health centres in the rural areas would be renovated and it would be ensured that basic drugs were available to the poor patients in these centres. Necessary steps would be taken to improve the basic infrastructure concerning health services, added Dr Malhan.

He said required number of posts of specialists and paramedical staff would be sanctioned in the upgraded hospitals being run by the Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC).

Dr Malhan criticised the decision of the PHSC to invite entrepreneurs and professionals to set up ultrasound, x-ray, CT-scan, biochemistry and histopathology laboratories, ECG and EEG machines in 17 district hospitals, 45 subdivisional hospitals and 92 community health centres.

He described this decision as unfortunate, unjustified and anti-people. The Congress would review this decision, said Dr Malhan.

Referring to the allegations made by medical and paramedical organisations against the authorities of the PHSC regarding misappropriation of funds, he said the Congress would constitute a high-powered committee for probing aforesaid allegation.

He said the Congress would review the service charges of medical treatment in government hospitals as well as the admission fees of medical students in graduate and postgraduate courses so that the poor can get treatment in hospital and students from poor families could pursue medical education.


Criminal case against Khaira
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 28
The Bholath police has registered a case under Section 188 of the IPC against Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a Congress candidate from Bholath, and his gunmen on the charge of violating prohibitory orders promulgated in the district under Section 144 of the CrPC.

A clash took place between the supporters of Bibi Jagir Kaur and Mr Sukhpal Singh in Miani Bhagupurian on January 26 during an election rally by the Congress in the village and the gunmen of Mr Khaira fired in the air to contain the situation.

The Bholath police arrested eight supporters of Bibi Jagir Kaur for allegedly attacking Mr Khaira and later on let them go on furnishing bail bonds. They were Nirmal Kaur, Gurbachan Singh, Gurnam Singh, Yadwinder Singh, Khazan Singh, Avtar Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Jagir Singh.

Meanwhile, Mr Sarabjit Singh has taken over the charge of SHO, Begowal, in place of Mr Pritpal Singh who has been transferred to the Police Lines on the charge of dereliction of duty.


SAD, Cong workers clash; two injured
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 28
Two persons were injured in clash between Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers in Zira last night.

According to reports, a few persons owing allegiance to a particular party entered the house of Mukhtiar Singh in Saddushah village last night and misbehaved with women. When Mukhtiar Singh and his son, Manga, returned home, they were persuaded by the villagers to back a compromise with the miscreants.

But Manga , accompanied by his friends and a few villagers, later went in search of them and attacked them with firearms. Two persons, namely Dayal Singh and Darshan Singh, were injured in the attack. They were rushed to the civil hospital, Ferozepore, where their condition was stated to be out of danger.

The police has registered cases against the two parties under Section 307, 354, 452, 148-49 of the IPC and under Section 25, 27, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act.

Further investigations are on, but no one has been arrested so far.

When contacted, Mr H.S. Sidhu, SSP, Ferozepore, admitted the incident was politically motivated, but said strict instructions had been issued to all SHOs to act impartially in all such cases.


Deed writers, stamp vendors lock horns
Our Correspondent

Mansa, January 28
Following the Badal government’s move to raise the limit on the sale of non-judicial stamps from Rs 1,000 to 50,000, deed writers are demanding a share in the commission being earned by stamp vendors. The stamp vendors get commission at the rate of 4 per cent on the sale of non-judicial stamps and the deed writers of the district are allegedly forcing them to pay a major share of the commission to them.

It is pertinent to mention here that on a sale deed valued at Rs 2 lakh, which is the sale price of one acre of land non-judicial stamps worth Rs 12,000 are required, thereby resulting in a commission of Rs 480 to stamp vendor.

Prospective buyers of land approach a deed writer for the execution of the sale deed and the purchase transaction is routed through the letter. For obliging the stamp vendor, the demand of commission arises.

The stamp vendors were demanding enhancement of the limit from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 but the state government, through its notification issued on December 21,2001, increased it to Rs 50,000. Earliers stamps over Rs 1,000 were sold by the treasury and the government did not have to pay any commission on this sale.

Inquiries made by this correspondent from the district treasury reveal that non-judicial stamp papers valued at about Rs 6 crore are sold annually in the district and local stamp vendors will get commission amounting to about Rs 24 lakh. The amount will run into crores in the entire state, thereby burdening the state exchequer.

With the enhancement of the limit, the number of persons seeking stamps vending licences has increased immensely in the district. Local stamp vendors have made a written complaint to Ms Raji P. Srivastva, Deputy Commissioner, Mansa, against the deed writers.


10.7 pc of medical college boys smoke: survey
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 28
According to a recent survey, 10.7 per cent of local medical college boys indulge in cigarette smoking.

The survey, conducted on a sample of 560 medical students studying in the 2001-2002 session, showed that a majority of the smokers were in the age group of 17 to 22.

The religion and sex of the students, in addition to social taboos, played an important part as a majority of the smokers were from religions other than Sikhism. Of the 282 girls interviewed, 0.7 per cent were active smokers.

The survey, conducted by Dr Kulwant Bhatia, Professor in the Department of Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases at the local Government Medical College (GMC), and Dr Gurinder Pal Singh, junior resident, in coordination with Prof A.S. Padda, Head of the Department of Community Medicine, GMC, showed that many students took to smoking when in high school.

The survey showed that the extent of smoking increased with the period of stay in the medical college. It rose to 13.5 per cent in final-year boys from 7 per cent in first-year boys of the medical college.

It was revealed that more than half of the boys and girls started smoking after joining the medical college.

In about 79 per cent of the cases, “curiosity” was found to be the most influential factor in starting the habit, while half of those surveyed started due to peer pressure, 28 per cent due to stress, 26 per cent to assert their independence and 15 per cent to create an image.

Even though the medical profession makes these students aware of the consequences and health hazards of smoking, about one-third of them admitted to feeling stimulated and good after taking a fag. A majority of them — 80 per cent — expressed their desire to quit, while half of these said they had tried to kick the habit out of responsibility to the profession and concern for personal health.

More than half the students used hostel premises to smoke even as almost all agreed that doctors played an exemplary role in convincing people to kick the habit.

A majority of them agreed that smoking should be banned in public places.


No one bothers about poll panel directions
Gurvinder Kaur

Politics is the dominant flavour in Patiala nowadays. With the Assembly elections scheduled for February 13, directives set down by the Election Commission are being flouted with impunity.

Almost all political parties are displaying their banners, hanging buntings, using loudspeakers to shout themselves hoarse about their promises and achievements, besides putting in use a cavalcades of vehicles, openly flaunting various flags, for the candidates.

Nothing is being done to curb posters defacing walls and buildings in the city , bearing photographs of local leaders rubbing shoulders with party candidates. The last day of the filing of nominations saw rows upon rows of small flags belonging to various political parties and banners bestowing felicitations and good luck on the candidates crowding the skyline.

Elections come and elections go, leaders come and leaders go, but the lot of the ‘junta’ remains more or less the same. If politics is the dominant flavour in town, the above is the dominant refrain in the town nowadays.

Meanwhile, conditions in Model Town here are far from model. As if garbage heaps dotting the area are not enough, residents have to contend with the menace of both stray and pet dogs of the locality. The number of stray dogs here can deter the most dedicated walker.

Not only do the stray dogs follow walkers but many of the residents and municipal workers have been bitten by them too. Being an upmarket area, its fashionable to keep dogs here but unlike other areas even pet dogs are as much a nuisance here as their stray counterparts. Some residents allege that most of the dog-owners, with total civic disregard, take the dogs out for walks unleashed and they lunge around at the walkers and in some cases have even bitten people.

Another complaint of the residents is that the small cemented dustbins built at certain corners in the areas should be replaced with large metal containers, in the absence of which the garbage often spills over to the roads creating an unsanitary environment, especially for those living close by.

The fact that a private ‘rehri-wallah’ comes calling to most houses and takes away the garbage everyday only to dump it in such corners, empty the contents and take away the polythene bags only compounds the problem. The open litter attracts a host of animals and cattle which scatter it even more during scavenging and the stench around these dumps is overpowering.

Funeral van

A funeral van to serve the destitute and needy has been put into service by the District Red Cross Society and Hospital Welfare Section recently. It was dedicated by the Deputy Commissioner to the late social worker, Bir Dasondhi Ram, who was noted for performing last rites of destitutes. The van shall be available 24 hours at the office of the society.

The District Red Cross Society has also installed six computers at their bhawan here and two qualified teachers have been appointed to provide free computer education to the underprivileged, while nominal charges will be taken from those who can afford to give them. Equal emphasis will be laid on teaching children and adults.


BSF jawan kills colleague for filing complaint
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 28
Lodging a complaint against a colleague proved fatal for a BSF personnel on duty on the Indo-Pakistan border last evening.

Kamlesh Kumar, a constable of 19 Bn of the BSF shot Head Constable A. Raju at a point Bank range killing him on the spot. He also opened fire at Subedar K.S. Vashisht, who had forwarded the complaint about his absence from the duty to the higher authorities.

Kamlesh Kumar was deputed at Wagha on the Republic Day. He remained absent from the duty and instead went to Naushehra Dhala village. It is learnt that in a fit of rage, the accused, who was deputed at bunker number 184, went to Raju’s picket number 190 and shot him dead. He also fired shots at Subedar Vashisht in the adjoining bunker, but the Subedar managed to escape. In the meantime, Assistant Commander Munish Negi of F19 Bn, BSF, caught Kamlesh Kumar.


Drive to check use of drugs, arms
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 28
To curb the use of narcotics during the elections, the police has made an elaborate arrangement and seized large amounts of opium, poppy husk, illicit liquor and lahan from different parts of the district.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, said in a press note issued here today that preventive raids were being conducted at various places in the district to check the use of drugs. He said the campaign launched against the smuggling of narcotics last year was very successful and the same strategy would be adopted during the elections.

Dr Jain said in the recent past, 22 persons had been booked under the NDPS Act for carrying opium and poppy husk. He said 1.2 kg of opium and 2,644 kg of poppy husk were seized from their possession.

Vigil on illegal distilleries had shown good results, he said adding that village Bir Talab where illegal distilleries were established during previous elections had been raided many times.

Meanwhile, the police was keeping a vigil on mischievous persons who could create problems during the elections. Residents of the district had been asked to deposit their licensed arms with the administration, Dr Jain said. He said the step had been taken to avoid the misuse of arms during the elections.


Make healthcare poll issue: PCMSA
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 28
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA) has decided to appeal to the public to ask leaders and candidates in the election fray about the steps they propose to take to improve the ailing health services in the state, if voted to power.

In a press note issued here today, Dr Hardeep Singh, president of the association, said it was a matter of regret that healthcare was not an issue in the ensuing Assembly elections in spite of the fact that dreaded diseases like AIDS were prevalent.

He said basic health services were not available to the common man even after 53 years of Independence. Doctors and paramedical staff had to work in rural areas in dilapidated buildings, without basic diagnostic equipment, due to which they had to face the ire of patients. Dr Hardeep Singh said there was shortage of essential drugs in rural dispensaries despite the fact that there were no chemist shops in rural areas.

He said the association, in collaboration with non-government voluntary organisations and social activists, would try to build a public opinion on the need for providing better healthcare services in the state.

He said the association was also concerned over the non-availability of potable water at many places.


Gen Vij is Col of Dogra Regiment
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 28
Lieut-Gen N.C. Vij, Vice Chief of Army Staff, today took over as the 10th Colonel of the Dogra Regiment and Dogra Scouts from Lieut-Gen Surjit Singh, GOC-in-C, Western Command.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Lieutenant-General Vij was commissioned in the Dogra Regiment on December 11, 1962. He is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College and has attended prestigious defence courses during his career spanning over 40 years. He was the Director General (Military Operations) during the Kargil conflict and was Army Commander, Southern Command, before taking over as a Vice Chief of Army Staff.


Street plays to be staged
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 28
To create awareness among people about theatre and to educate them about the problems being faced by the country, Venus Art Theatre in the city has launched a year-long programme to stage street plays in various parts of the city and surrounding villages.

One-hour street plays would be staged daily to influence the common man.

Mr Davinder Singh, organiser of the “nukad natak squads” of Venus Art Theatre, said in a press note issued here today that the shows would be organised near roundabouts, the court complex and main markets.


Medical camp
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 28
A medical camp was organised at Kalley Bander village yesterday, in which 440 patients were examined. Medicines were provided free of cost. The camp was sponsored by the Lions Club (Bathinda Fort). Mr D.S. Mastana, president of the club, said during the camp meals were also provided to the patients and their attendants.


Sepoy cremated
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 28
The mortal remains of sepoy Mohan Singh of 12 Sikh Infantry who was killed in action in Jammu and Kashmir were consigned to the flames at his native village of Ashifpur in Hajipur block of the district with full military honours today.

He was killed on January 24.

His body was brought to his village at 1.30 a.m. last night.


Total bandh in Samana
Our Correspondent

Samana, January 28
A complete bandh was observed in Samana today as all educational and business establishments remained closed as a mark of respect to the five youths who died in a road accident near Banur on Saturday night. Their funeral was largely attended.


35 Education Dept men transferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
At the instance of the Punjab election office, as many as 35 officials of the Education Department stand transferred either because of their long stay or their being posted in home districts.

The Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Ms Usha R. Sharma, today said most of the poll-related transfers were affected to ensure free and fair elections. Of the 688 complaints received, so far, of 458 had been dealt with effectively. Ms Sharma pointed out that the commission has permitted the use of public address system for campaigns from 6 am to 11 pm in rural areas and from 6 am to 10 pm in urban areas.


Two held in petrol station murder case
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 28
The Patiala police claims to have solved the case of petrol station murder of January 26. The Senior Superintendent of Police at Patiala said case under Section 460 of the IPC had been registered against two persons, Sucha Singh and Rajwinder Singh, residents of Gajewas village near Samana, for robbing the IOC petrol station at Gajewas on January 26 and attacked its caretakers with iron rods.

Both accused, who are relatives, worked at the same station till recently, which had made them familiar with the place. They said they had taken 15 days to plan the robbery and cut the telephone lines of the station before breaking open the glass door with iron rods and decamping with Rs 3,500. They said they had also hit the caretakers on their heads with rods.

The breakthrough came when the dog squad summoned from Sangrur led the police to the spot where the blood-stained stolen money had been hidden. When Rajwinder Singh was caught, he was wearing a blood-stained sweater and he revealed the name of his accomplice, Sucha Singh, his uncle’s son.


Two injured in robbery bid
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 28
Two employees of a local department were injured when four scooter-borne youths tried to loot Rs 7 lakh which they were carrying in a bag to deposit in a local bank at the Cool road here today.

Sushil and Dheeraj, employees of Ebony department store, were on their way to the bank on their motor cycle when they were attacked by four scooter-borne youths carrying baseball sticks near the Cool road.

While Sushil was injured, Dheeraj, who was carrying bag containing Rs 7 lakh, managed to run and hide in a nearby house.


Medical students boycott classes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 28
Students of the medical college today boycotted classes here today.

The strikers blocked traffic on the Majitha road for more than an hour and partially boycotted OPDs against the casual attitude of the medical college authorities in bringing the accused in a recent attack on students to book.

The Junior Doctors Association and the Non-Teaching Staff Union have also supported the strike. The blockade was lifted after the intervention of the SHO, Civil Lines, who assured to take action against the guilty.

In a memorandum to the Principal, Dr O.P. Mahajan, the students demanded security at the college proposing that only one gate be opened and uniformed guards be provided for security.

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