Friday, February 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder projected as next CM
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Machhiwara, January 31
They have already started addressing him as Chief Minister. “But not in his presence. When he is around, they describe him as “future” Chief Minister. This is how workers and office-bearers of the Congress project Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, to voters here.

Yesterday, the PPCC chief was here to address election rallies of the party nominees for Samrala, Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon, and Mr Isher Singh Meharbhan from Kum Kalan, before going to Ludhiana for a similar exercise in favour of Mr Surinder Kumar Dawar (Ludhiana East).

Before the Captain arrived here shortly before 3 pm. , the stage secretary was repeatedly addressing him as “Chief Minister”. But when he arrived, the party candidate from Kumkalan, took control of the stage. Mr Meharbhan was, however, cautious and described the PPCC chief as “next Chief Minister”. And the PPCC chief returned the compliment by announcing at the end of his address that once elected, Mr Ishar Singh Meharbhan would find a berth in the Congress Council of Ministers.

The mood at the rallies, both at Samrala and Machhiwara, was upbeat. The response was overwhelming and the crowd responsive. He was accorded a warm reception on his arrival at Samrala by a special helicopter after which he drove down to Nankana Sahib Public School, where the turnout, according to those who witnessed a similar Akali Dal rally addressed by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal the day before, was more than double. Drummers preceded the cavalcade of the PPCC chief at Machhiwara. Mr H.S. Hanspal, former Rajya Sabha Member and president of the Namdhari Darbar, announced that all 4.5 lakh voters belonging to the sect would vote en block for the Congress. He described as “lie” that the Satguru of the Namdhari sect Jagjit Singh had blessed Mr Parkash Singh Badal as claimed by him here.

The PPCC chief made yet another “gigantic promise” that all electricity consumers who have been receiving “inflated and hefty electricity bills” would be given “refunds” after the Congress government sets up a commission to review such bills.

It was at the rally that he asked those in the audience to keep “slips” of their paddy sale as his party was committed to getting them “bonus” of Rs 30 per quintal to make up for the losses they had incurred by selling paddy at the MSP which was far below the actual cost of production.

Cong wave sweeping Punjab, he claims

“A Congress wave is sweeping Punjab,” claims Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief. Hoping to form the next government in the state, he put corruption, unemployment, development and drinking water high on his priority list .“The economy has to be put back on rails. Two top bankers of the country have promised to invest Rs 10,000 crore each in the priority sector in the state. An NRI from Canada has promised to invest Rs 1500 crore,” he says while maintaining that at present the debt of PSUs was Rs 30,000 crore in addition to the debt of the state which was a staggering Rs 33,000 crore. In 1997, the total debt of the state was Rs 11,000 crore.

“We have to cut on wasteful expenditure. We do not need a helicopter which costs the ex-chequer crores of rupees. Then we have to dispense with the services, including personal staff, housing and transport being provided to ex-Chief Ministers of the State. Each one costs about Rs 12 to 15 lakh a month. Talking about other priorities, he says that the number of youth who join the job market every year is about 2.4 lakh while the state generates only 11,000 jobs a year. “There is a huge gap. The industry has virtually shut down. Agriculture is in shambles. “We have to work on diversification and making agriculture remunerative. Infrastructure development is another area which needs immediate attention.” says the PPCC chief.


Sonia to address rallies in Punjab
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 31
Congress President Sonia Gandhi would address six rallies during her two-day tour of Punjab on February 5 and February 7.

AICC leaders said here that Ms Gandhi would address rallies at Balachour, Jalandhar and Abohar on February 5. She would address rallies at Talwandi Sabo, Sangrur and Morinda on February 7.

She would visit Uttranchal on February 4 and Uttar Pradesh on February 6. In Uttranchal, she would address rallies at Srinagar and Bageshwar while in Uttar Pradesh, her rallies would be held at Shahjhanpur, Bareily and an area adjoining Rampur.

The Congress is also pooling resources from the neighbouring states for its poll effort in Punjab with the high command deputing a large number of MLAs and former ministers from Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan as central observers for the Punjab elections. Surprisingly, no party functionary from Haryana has been made an observer for the Punjab poll.

While 29 observers have been appointed from Rajasthan, 21 have been appointed from HP, eight from Delhi and one from Karnataka. The central observers, distinct from the state observers appointed by the PCC, would report about the party’s poll preparations on a day-to-day basis to the high command. Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, MP from Faridkot, has been made co-convener of the campaign committee.


SAD, BJP will ‘regain’ power in Punjab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 31
Riding on the five-year “good governance” by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the SAD-BJP combine will emerge a victor in the coming Assembly poll in the state, BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy claimed here today.

“Some reports have painted a gloomy picture about the SAD-BJP combine’s prospects.

However, according to latest inputs available with me our combine will do good and will come back to power in Punjab,” Mr Krishnamurthy told a press conference.

The infighting in the Congress and the emergence of several Congress rebel candidates besides the electorate realising the good work done by the SAD-BJP combine had made the anti-incumbency factor a “non-issue” and “we will regain power”, Mr Krishnamurthy said, adding that there were over 10 days left for the poll and the combine would further strengthen its position.

As far as elections in UP are concerned, he maintained that ‘there is no state-wide national political party to challenge BJP electorally.”


Parties out to win faujis
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Kharar (Ropar), January 31
Ex-servicemen of the armed and the paramilitary forces, a class of over six lakh voters in Punjab, are forcing candidates of different political parties to remodel their election propaganda. To woo them, parties are making promises to address area-specific issues of ex-servicemen.

As every single vote will count, Congressmen and Akalis have a new task of identifying the influential ex-servicemen and wooing them.

Well aware of their position, most of the ex-servicemen are keeping cards close to their chest. Efforts to woo the urban section of the ex-servicemen in the Kharar Assembly segment today gained momentum when a group of retired personnel from the armed and paramilitary forces, led by Wg Cmdr M. S. Mander, organised a function to announce their support to the SAD candidate, Mr Kiran Bir Singh Kang. Issues like a dynamic leader, a local candidate and belonging to a family of an ex-servicemen were the criteria for supporting the candidate, said Wg Cmdr Mander. Over 10,000 ex-servicemen are in the Kharar Assembly segment, with around 5,000 in SAS Nagar town alone. The Congress and Panthic Morcha candidates from the Kharar seat are also redoing their homework to attract this “untapped” section of voters.

Candidates in the poll fray from different constituencies admit that “docile” and “passive” class of the voters could not be won over with liquor and money.

The Rashtriya Raksha Dal (RDD), a political outfit of the ex-servicemen, has fielded at least 12 candidates from Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot, Amritsar and Ropar district. A candidate each has been fielded from the Anandpur Sahib and the Chamkaur Sahib (SC) constituencies in the Ropar district.

Brig Harwant Singh (retd), vice-president of the RRD, said the candidates of their outfit would influence the winning prospects of main contenders . All 17 district units of the RRD, a political outfit of the Ex-servicemen League have been asked to closely study the election promises of their respective candidates. The district-level committees in each district have been asked to recommend the name of candidates of their respective area. The election manifesto of the major political parties were also being studied.

The SAS Nagar unit of the Ex- servicemen League has made a minimum four-point demand charter. It wants rehabilitation of ex-servicemen by providing them jobs, laws to protect the properties of the ex-servicemen on lines of NRIs and withdrawal of the excise duty on liquor.


Grand old man strides silently
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Bariwala (Muktsar), January 31
After a rather shaky start, the election campaign of a former Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, who is the Congress candidate for the Muktsar Assembly constituency, has begun to gather steam.

Mr Brar who has also served as the Governor of Haryana and Orissa besides being the Chief Minister of Punjab in August, 1995, is one of the oldest serving politicians of the state. His political career spans more than four decades. He and his family, including wife Gurbrinder Kaur Brar, son Sunny Brar, daughter Bubbly Brar and daughter-in-law Karan Brar, are all politicians in their own right. Interestingly, now his grandson Harsimron Brar, too has begun to take an active interest in politics and is taking a leading part in organising the election campaign of Mr Brar. All of them are actively involved in Mr Brar’s electioneering.

Mr Brar who first contested and won an Assembly poll way back in 1957 is the only Congress politician to have defeated present Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in the latter’s home constituency of Gidderbaha in 1966. Mr Brar was elected from Muktsar in 1992 and during his tenure, he conferred the status of district headquarters on Muktsar. He did not contest in 1997 due to ill health, leading to speculation that he would no longer be able to take interest in electoral politics. This led to the birth of several aspirants for the Congress ticket in Muktsar. Even Capt Amarinder Singh is known have favoured Mr Avtar Singh Sidhu for the party ticket here while Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, the sitting Congress MP for Faridkot supported the candidature of his younger brother, Mr Ripujeet Singh Brar.

But this was not to be. Mr Brar is now in his 80s. Advancing age may have slowed down Mr Brar, but he continues to evince a keen interest in politics. Mr Brar realises that this could be the last electoral battle of his long political career and says so.

Interestingly, although Mr Brar has himself remained Chief Minister of Punjab, yet nowhere in his election campaign does he express a desire to become Chief Minister again. As a matter of fact, Mr Brar and other speakers who address his poll rallies make it a point to emphasise that if the Congress forms the government after the poll, Capt Amarinder Singh would be the Chief Minister of the state.

Mr Brar has always been a man of few words. Even when he was Chief Minister, he would not speak for more than a few minutes at massive rallies which attracted thousands of people from all over the state. Even now, his speech seldom lasts more than a couple of minutes. Most of the talking at his poll rallies is done by other office-bearers of the Congress. He himself confines himself to seeking votes of all and sundry on the D-day.

The crowds attending his poll rallies, sizeable by standards, are responsive and cheer him and other Congress leaders when they take a dig at the Akalis. Women are also present at his rallies.

The nomination of Mr Brar as the Congress candidate for the Muktsar seat initially led to a virtual rebellion in the district unit of the party which found open expression at the Maghi fair held here last month when the supporters of Mr Sidhu took over the stage and prevented from Mr Brar from addressing the gathering. Since then, things have cooled down and Mr Sidhu who owes allegiance to the Punjab PCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, has allowed himself to be persuaded by the party leadership to support Mr Brar.

Mr Sidhu is now leading Mr Brar’s election campaign, spending most of the day with the former Chief Minister. Mr Sidhu has actually now become the star speaker of Mr Brar’s poll rallies, attacking the Akalis, lampooning its leaders including the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal and condemning what he describes as “all-round corruption” promoted by the Akali regime.


RSS sore over SAD’s Christian nominee
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 31
The RSS’s known antipathy for Christianity and the ongoing feud with its followers in various parts of the country has cast its shadow on the SAD-BJP alliance candidates in this district.

There is large concentration of Christians in the district. Because of this, the SAD headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal has fielded Mr Munwar Massih as its official candidate from the Gurdaspur constituency. In fact, all Akali MLAs who had won from this district last time, had compelled Mr Badal to allocate at least one party ticket to a Christian candidate to get the support of the Christian community in all constituencies of the district. Mr Badal opted for Munwar Massih, who had earlier been appointed a member of the Punjab Subordinate Services Board.

In the process, Mr Badal ignored his own party’s senior leader, Mr Kartar Singh Pahra, who had won from the local seat last time. Mr Pahra is now contesting as an Akali rebel.

However, according to reliable sources, the fielding of Mr Massih has not been liked by the top brass of the RSS. There are reports that the RSS leadership has instructed its rank and file in the district not to extend their support to Mr Massih.

But Mr Bal Krishan Mittal, the President of the Gurdaspur district unit of the BJP has vehemently denied this, saying that the RSS had not given any instruction to the BJP activists regarding Mr Massih. Praising Mr Massih, Mr Mittal said he had been put up as a candidate by the SAD-BJP alliance and the BJP activists would extend him full support.

Mr Mittal alleged that the rumours with regard to so-called instructions by the RSS were being spread by the Congress to create division between the SAD-BJP alliance here.

However, the SAD activists have not substantiated Mr Mittal’s claim. Senior Akali leaders, including Mr Hardeep Singh and Mr Gurbej Singh, both sarpanches of nearby villages maintain the BJP leaders were showing their reluctance in campaigning for Mr Massih.

The sources add that the senior leaders of the Christian community had made it clear to the SAD’s top leadership that either they should ask the BJP leaders to fall in line and extend their whole hearted support to the alliance’s candidate, otherwise the christian voters in other constituencies of the district would also told not support the alliances’ candidate in any constituency of this district. The constituencies in which Christians have significant vote bank are Gurdaspur, Kahnuwan, Dhariwal, Hargobindpur, Qadian, Batala and Dina Nagar.

Even the Congress has played a Christian card in this district. It has nominated Mr Salamat Massih as its official candidate from Dhariwal, which is adjacent to the local constituency.


Pawar opposes ‘palace’ politics
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 31
Former Union Minister and president of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) today claimed that the Congress had reduced itself to the culture of “palace politics” and it was against the ethos of the party.

Talking to TNS here today, Mr Pawar, in an oblique reference to the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, claimed, “The Congress has been confined to palace politics” which would spell doom for the party. He pointed out, “It is a paradox that the party had surrendered to the same people, against whom Sardar Patel had launched a war and made them surrender”.

Asked about the NCP prospects in the state, Mr Pawar replied, “We may not have any big stakes, but the presence of our candidates will make a difference”. He also justified his party’s support to Congress rebels, claiming, “Anybody, particularly those with Congress background are welcome in the NCP”.

The NCP leader held both the BJP and the Congress responsible for the miserable plight of the farmers. Mr Pawar also had a dig at the Akali-BJP government in the state for its claims of being pro-farmer. “Had it been so, there would not have been so many suicides by farmers,” he pointed out, while calling for the removal of this government.


Tohra, Mann boost morcha campaign
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 31
The whirlwind tour of the Sirhind constituency by two stalwarts of the Panthic Morcha, belonging to this district, Mr G.S. Tohra and Mr S.S. Mann, has intensified the election campaign of Mr Iman Singh Mann, the morcha candidate from the constituency. Both the leaders addressed more than 10 meetings and Baba Sarvjot Singh Bedi, Convener of the Panthic Morcha had also addressed the last election meeting at Sirhind town. The joint campaigning by both the leaders not only cleared the misunderstandings between the Tohra and Mann camps but also gave a boost to the campaign.

Sirhind is a prestigious seat for the morcha, as both the top leaders belong to this district and the son of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann is also contesting from here.

Addressing the election rallies, Mr Tohra called upon the people to root out corruption and the anti-people parties, the Congress and the SAD. He impressed upon them the need to bring the Panthic Morcha to power in the state. He also promised them a clean and responsive government.

Mr S.S. Mann also alleged that the interests of the state were not safe in the hands of Mr Badal. He has been offering water to Haryana for the sake of a costly plot and his association with Mr Om Prakash Chautala.


More mine blasts as people return
Kulwinder Sandhu & Anirudh Gupta

Gatti Masta (Indo-Pak border), January 31
With people returning to their homes, the incidents of mine blasts have increased along zero line in the Ferozepore sector.

Last evening at 6.30 p.m., when Tribune reporters were on a tour of villages near Mamdot, close to the Indo-Pak border, a powerful explosion rocked the entire area. The explosion took place about 100 metres from the car in which they were travelling. Simultaneously, three more blasts occurred. The road was dotted with signboards in Hindi and Gurmukhi, saying that the fenced area was dangerous. Gatti Masta is the last village on the border which is 300 metres inside the Indian territory. It is here that the Sutlej enters Pakistan.

As the reporters were talking to an Army jawan, another powerful blast took place about 500 metres away on the Mamdot side. This was perhaps an anti-tank mine. Even the jawan was confused as to what was happening. The 10-feet pucca road was the only place without mines.

Villagers said two minor blasts had taken place at about 8.55 p.m. last night in the same area. The exact reason was not known.

The residents of Ghore Chakk, Kishore Singh Wala, Gatti Hayat and Gatti Masta villages said mine blasts had become a routine since they returned. One of them said there was a mine blast almost every day.

When the senior civil and Army authorities were contacted to know about the reason behind the blasts, Mr S. R. Ladhar, Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, said there was a fault in the line along which the mines were laid down. Investigations were still going on by the Army and the BSF. However, no casualties had been reported. The district administration had also sought a detailed report in this regard.

The deputy commissioner said 27,127 hectares in 350 villages along the 210-km-long international border in the district had been acquired by the Army to either lay down mines or dig bunkers. Out of the total of approximately 1,18,500 persons who had migrated, more than one lakh had returned.

The district administration and the Army were educating the people on mines. Even then, seven cases of injuries had been reported so far. An unofficial estimate revealed that over 50 mine blasts alone had occurred in the Hussainiwala and Mamdot areas.

The administration had recommended compensating the farmers for their land. A village-wise survey had revealed that Rs 76.4 crore was required to compensate the farmers for their crop loss. Apart from this, Rs 3.6 crore had been demanded to compensate landless labourers at the rate of Rs 80 per day up to March. A senior Army official said every possible help was given to the injured. Artificial limbs and financial assistance would be provided to them with the efforts of the Army and the civil administration.


Normalcy returning to border villages
Our Correspondent

Moga, January 31
Farmers and villagers of Ferozepore district who had migrated following tension on the border with Pakistan are coming back to villages following decrease in tension.

A visit to several villages near the border area revealed that people were returning to villages. Also the transport services, which had been cancelled, are being resumed.

ABOHAR: The Army has started the process of restoring normalcy in border villages from where a large number of residents had migrated to safer places.

A medical check-up camp was held at Shehtirwala village yesterday in which Brig S.K.S. Rana said such camps were being organised to provide medical aid to people of the border belt. A team of Army doctors examined over 2,000 persons and medicines were given.


Jacob honours NCC cadets
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
The National Cadet Corps (NCC) should act as a stepping-stone for students to get commissioned in the armed forces, the Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd) said while speaking informally after honouring NCC cadets who had participated in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, at a function organised at Punjab Raj Bhavan here today.

The NCC was established to develop character and forge national unity besides providing military training. The military training in the NCC provided a base for the cadets to get commissioned as officers in the armed forces. General Jacob regretted that the basic aim of providing talent to the armed forces by the NCC was not being achieved fully. Exhorting NCC cadets to opt for a career in the armed forces, the Governor said that there could not be any better career than working for "defending your motherland".

Stressing the need for inculcating the spirit of adventure among students, General Jacob said that they should be encouraged to participate in adventure sports and learn to take calculated risks. Recalling his days in the Northern Bengal Mounted Rifles in 1936, General Jacob said that discipline, teamwork and the love for adventure learnt during those days had given a new shape to his life.

Emphasising the need for making NCC training in school and college mandatory, the Governor regretted that only 3 per cent of the students in Punjab were undergoing NCC training these days.

Earlier, the Governor honoured Amit Kumar (Hoshiarpur), Tarsem Singh (Mukerian), Manmohan Singh (Dakoha), Rajinder Singh (Hoshiarpur), Amandeep Singh (Jalandhar), Karan Mansotra (Jalandhar Cantt), Tarandeep Singh Gill (Ludhiana), Rohit Gurung (Ludhiana), Jeet Singh Bal (Ludhiana), Kirpal Singh (Ropar), Jaswinder Singh (Anandpur Sahib), Kamaldeep Singh Gill (Sangrur), Amanjit Singh (Patiala), Amanpreet Singh (Bathinda), Harpreet Singh (Ropar), Gurdhir Singh (Patiala), Upkar Singh (Patiala), Binod Kumar (Gurdaspur), Manpreet Singh (Amritsar), Gurmeet Singh Bawa (Amritsar), Jaspal Singh (Amritsar), Gurpreet Singh (Amritsar), Nikhil Bhardwaj (Jalandhar city), Gaurav Kochar (Jalandhar), Narinder Singh (Patiala) Balpreet Singh (Patiala), Ravinder Yadav (Patiala), Sarabjeet Singh (Patiala), Sukhjeet Pal Singh (Ludhiana), Sanjeev Sharma (Ludhiana), Ravinder Kumar (Ludhiana), Harpreet Singh Chhatwal (Ludhiana), Raman Sharma (Jalandhar), Sahil Sharma (Amritsar), Rajeev Kumar (Ropar), Harsh Kumar (Nangal) Ritu Jaswal (Jalandhar), Simarjeet Kaur (Jalandhar), Manpreet Kaur (Jalandhar Cantt), Sukhpreet Kaur (Ludhiana), Sukhmani Kaur Bajwa (Ludhiana), Jasvir Kaur (Sangrur), Sukhminder Kaur (Muktsar), Rakhi Sharma (Ferozepore Cantt), Gagandeep Randhawa (Gurdaspur), Jasveen Kaur (Amritsar), Raman Chhina (Amritsar), Vandna (SAS Nagar), Poonam Grewal (Patiala), Girish Arora (Patiala), Manish Mehta (Patiala), Avtar Singh (Amritsar Cantt), Harpreet Singh (Kapurthala), Neelam Sahota (Ludhiana), Avdhi Arora (Ludhiana), Isha Kaila (Patiala), Alisha Walia (Patiala), Madan Lal (Ludhiana), Digvijay Aditya Singh (Ludhiana), Amjid Ali (Ludhiana), and Palwinder Singh (Ludhiana) Seema (Ludhiana) and Sheely (Bathinda) for participating in the Republic Day parade.

Amrit Kaur (Hoshiarpur), Rajinder Singh (Jalandhar), Nikhil Bhardwaj (Jalandhar), Sarabjit Singh (Patiala), Raman Sharma (Amritsar), Sukhwinder Kaur (Ludhiana) and Rakhi Sharma (Moga) were honoured for being selected for the Guard of Honour at the Republic Day parade.

Tarsem Singh (Hoshiarpur), Amandeep Singh (Jalandhar), Jeet Singh Bal (Ludhiana), Kamaldeep Singh (Nabha), Harpreet Singh (Patiala), Ravinder Kumar (Ludhiana), Harpreet Singh (Ludhiana), Manpreet Kaur (Jalandhar), Sukhpreet Kaur (Ludhiana), Sukhmani Kaur (Ludhiana), Gangandeep (Amritsar) and Poonam Grewal (Patiala) were honoured for being selected for the Rajpath section of the Republic Day parade.

Ritender Pal Kaur Dhariwal and Supreet Bajwa of Patiala were honoured for attending a youth exchange programme in Sri Lanka and winning the 3rd gold medal in the XI GV Mavlankar National Shooting Championship at Asansol, West Bengal, respectively.

The Governor also honoured Nitin Sood, Aseem Modgil, Savita Saini, Monika Sahrawant, Gurjeet Singh, Neeraj Kumar, Rakesh Chand, Dilpreet Singh and Anup Pathania, all students from Chandigarh, for participating in the Republic Day parade from the Union Territory.


Cong makes inroads into SAD-BJP bastion
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 31
The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bhartiya Janata Party may have swept the eight Assembly seats in the district during the 1997 elections but this time the Congress is giving sleepless nights to the ruling coalition in Abohar, Fazilka, Jalalabad, Balluana and Guru Har Sahai segments.

Political observers say while the Congress has considerably improved its position after the first round of campaign in Abohar, Fazilka and Guru Har Sahai segments, the SAD candidates appear to be having an upper hand in the Balluana and Jalalabad segments. But Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s visit to the district may affect the existing trends.

Moreover, Union Ministers Mr L.K. Advani, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Ms Uma Bharati, are also expected to attend public gatherings at Ferozepore, Abohar and Fazilka.

The BJP leaders claim that the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, will attend a public gathering in Ferozepore on February 6. However, the district administration and the intelligence agencies have not confirmed this.

ABOHAR: The prestige of Jakhar family, stalwarts of the Congress, is at stake in this constituency. The former union minister and senior Congress leader, Dr Balram Jakhar, is campaigning for his son, Mr Sunil Jakhar, who is the Congress candidate. During the last Assembly elections, his other son, Mr Sajjan Kumar Jakhar, could not retain his seat, losing to Mr Ram Kumar of the BJP by 15,562 votes.

Women voters are expected to play a decisive role as out of 1,36,121 voters, 76,137 are women. Eleven candidates are in the fray, including Mr Sunil Kumar Jakhar (Congress), Dr Ram Kumar (BJP), Mr Charan Kamal (BSP), Mr Baljit Singh (NCP) and seven independents, Mr Om Prakash, Mr Sudhir Kumar, Mr Sudhir Nagpal, Mr Ram Kumar, Mr Kashmir Singh, Mr Mukesh Kumar and Ms Inder Kaur.

According to the statistics available, the Congress has won this seat five times since 1957. The Jansangh and later the BJP won from this constituency four times. An important factor that may go against the Congress is the rebel leader, Mr Sudhir Nagpal, who is in the fray as an Independent. BSP’s Ms Charan Kamal, daughter of the former union minister, Mr Iqbal Singh Jakhar, is also likely to affect the calculations.

FAZILKA: Six candidates are contesting the elections from this constituency, including the sitting MLA and Minister of State for Forests, Mr Surjit Kumar Jayani (BJP), Mr Mahinder Kumar Rinwa (Congress), Mr Subhash Chandra (BSP), Mr Kulwinder Singh (Panthic Morcha), Mr Roop Ram (Lok Priya Sangathan) and Mr Sunil Kumar (Independent). The total number of voters in this area are 1,26,765, which includes 59,986 women.

The Congress seems to have an upper hand with Mr Mahinder Kumar Rinwa, who has a considerable mass base in the area. Earlier, he had contested the elections against Mr Jayani in 1997 as an Independent candidate and managed to secure 29,669 votes. The then Congress candidate, Ms Snehlata had stood third, securing 14,533 votes. It appears to be neck-and-neck fight between the BJP-SAD and the Congress in Fazilka.

BALLUANA: Only three candidates the sitting MLA of the SAD, Mr Gurtej Singh, Mr Prakash Singh Bhatti (Congress) and Ms Usha Rani (BSP) are in the fray here. The total number 1,19,510, including 55,873 women.

In the last Assembly elections the SAD candidate defeated his nearest rival, Mr Babu Ram Chawla of the Congress, by more than 22,200 votes. The constituency has a considerable number of Dalit voters.

JALALABAD: As many as 1,50,753 voters will decide the fate of nine candidates, including the sitting MLA of the SAD, Mr Sher Singh, the state BSP chief and former MP, Dr Mohan Singh Falianwala, and former MLA Mr Hans Raj Joshan of the Congress. The other candidates are Channan Ram (NCP), Mr Pawan Kumar (Lok Bhallai Party), Mr Darshan Singh (Janata Dal(S) and Independents Mr Harbhagwan, Mr Jeet Singh and Mr Rajbaksh.

In the last Assembly elections, Mr Sher Singh of the SAD had defeated Mr Hans Raj Joshan, who had contested as an Independent by 3,397 votes. This time both the Congress and the BSP have changed their candidates. Jalalabad is likely to witness a triangular contest between Mr Sher Singh, Mr Hans Raj Joshan and Dr Mohan Singh Falianwala this time.

GURU HARSAHAI: The Congress is facing a tough time in this constituency with a strong opposition from former minister, Mr Sajwar Singh, who was denied the party ticket, which went to Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, a close confidant of the PPCC chief. Sajwar Singh is contesting as an Independent from this constituency which has 1,50,720 voters.

Apart from the sitting MLA of the SAD, Mr Parmjit Singh, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi (Congress), Mr Manoj Kumar (Shiv Sena), Mr Channan Singh (Panthic Morcha), Mr Joginder Singh (BSP), and Independents Mr Om Prakash, Mr Sajwar Singh and Mr Sukhdev Singh, are trying their luck. Infighting may mar the Congress chances here.

Overall, these five constituencies in the Ferozepore district are likely to offer a mixed bag of results as the ruling SAD-BJP combine and the Congress-CPI combine are evenly poised. A surprising result from the Jalalabad constituency in favour of the BSP is, however, not ruled out.


BSP promises graft-free regime
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 31
With “freedom from corruption” as its main poll plank, the BSP today released its manifesto. It promised tax exemption for small-scale industrial units, free health services for the poor, appointment of unemployed teachers on contract, free residential plots for Dalits and implementation of Mandal Commission report.

Releasing the manifesto, president of BSP Kanshi Ram said here today that since the SSI units had witnessed 50 per cent closure in the state during the SAD-BJP regime, rendering thousands of labourers jobless, the BSP had offered tax exemption for these units.

The party promised to formulate a new education policy, which could help students be self-employed. Besides, it had decided to appoint unemployed teachers on contract in government schools. The wards of poor people would be offered education free of cost up to the graduation level.

The party manifesto stated that it would implement the Mandal Commission report within 24 hours of assuming power in the state.

The party further criticised the ruling SAD-BJP combine government for promoting and patronising corrupt ministers and bureaucrats.

Regarding state of health services, the BSP promised to provide treatment and medicines free of cost to patients who earn Rs 2,000 per month and those earning up to Rs 5,000 per month will be provided free treatment with medicines at concessional rates at all government hospitals and health centres.

The manifesto further states that the party will launch Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojna in all villages having 50 per cent Dalit population. Loans will also be provided to Dalits for the construction of houses.


Clad in black, BJP rebels float party
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 31
Even as “rebel” BJP leaders, clad in black robes, staged a novel dharna around the statue of Mahatama Gandhi today to lodge their protest against “Inaction” of the BJP leadership against “corrupt” leaders, the state BJP chief, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, justified allotment of petrol pumps to his wife.

Disturbed over the “studied silence” and “inaction” on the part of the party leadership against two Punjab ministers and senior leaders of the BJP, the rebel camp led by former BJP state executive committee members, Capt Vikram Singh and Mr Bharat Bhushan Handa, announced the launch of a new party “Punjab Bachao Morcha”.

The Capt Vikram Singh camp has been demanding action against Punjab Ministers, Mr Tikshan Sood and Mr M.M. Mittal, for their alleged involvement in some shady deals.

Irked over the stance of the party leadership, a number of party office-bearers including Capt Vikram Singh and Mr Handa had resigned from the party in protest.

The rebel camp had also alleged that the state BJP chief Mr Rinwa had taken undue advantage of his position and had got petrol pumps allotted to his family.

On the other hand, Mr Rinwa, today launched a counter-attack by alleging that Capt Vikram had failed to furnish any proof about the alleged involvement of two party leaders in any of shady deals to the two-member enquiry committee formed to probe the matter.

Mr Rinwa, on his part maintained that there was nothing wrong if petrol pumps were allotted in the name of his wife, who is a party worker.


Cobbling support by shoeshine
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 31
Even as candidates of various political parties are spending lakhs on their campaign for the ensuing Assembly elections in Punjab, a cobbler, Mr Om Parkash Jakhu, who is contesting on the Lok Jan Shakti Party ticket from the Shamchaurasi constituency, believes money really is not required. He does not use cars, posters, handbills, loudspeakers and banners. He, along with one of his followers, Subedar Kapil Chander Pal (retd), begins his election campaign on his moped at 7.00 a.m. daily and goes from village to village to meet voters. During his campaign, he polishes shoes of voters and is served tea and breakfast. From 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., he earns his livelihood as a cobbler near the Clock Tower in the city and again starts his campaign after that. He has already covered half of the segment and has not opened any office.

Talking to this correspondent, he said if he won the election he would get houses constructed for the homeless and arrange free water and electricity for the poor.

He would also ensure ration to the poor on subsidised rates and make efforts to reduce unemployment by creating job opportunities. He has been a member of the District Telephone Advisory Committee, Hoshiarpur.


Local issues to determine fortunes
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 31
Pressing local issues such as lack of development, educational and professional institutions, basic civic amenities and the presence of Independent candidates are the pivotal factors which will determine the fortune of those in fray in this 10-year-old district.

One of the most backward districts of the state, Mansa will also decide whether the Cong-CPI alliance holds together in the state. Two of the 11 seats being contested by the CPI — Budhlada and Mansa — are in this district. An indicator of the rebellion is that the district Congress and the DCC president, Mr Sher Singh Gagowal, who is contesting against the alliance candidate, has been expelled from the party for six years. Similarly, the SAD too has not been free of dissidence with former Deputy Speaker Jaswant Singh Phapre Bhai ke contesting as an Independent.

While the SAD-BJP candidates are harping on the performance, development works and the stability factor, their counterparts from the Congress, the Panthic Morcha, the Lok Bhalai Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party are highlighting the anti-incumbency factor, nepotism and corruption issues in their campaign.

In Mansa, the non-construction of a railway overbridge, non-completion of the building of Nehru Memorial College, adequate sewerage system, good drinking water and auctioning of the cooperative cotton mill to the private sector are the major sore points.

The pitch for the sitting MLA, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh has been queered by the presence of a rebel, Mr Jaswant Singh. Although, Mr Aulakh enjoys a personal rapport with the electorate, yet Mr Sukhwinder Singh is expected to cut into the committed SAD votes. On the other hand the SAD(A) candidate, Mr Gursewak Singh Jawahar Ke too is driving at dividing the SAD vote besides the sizeable Dalit vote, although a BSP candidate is in the fray.

The CPI-Cong candidate is also facing non-cooperation from the Congress rank and file with many senior office-bearers staying away from his campaign.

In the totally rural Joga constituency, the opposition is highlighting that the ruling government has given short shrift to the home constituency of late Sant Fateh Singh, the patron of the Punjabi Suba movement. Promises made by the Chief Minister at Badiala village — a girls college, a grain market, a road linking the village to the Bathinda-Chandigarh highway besides basic development of the countryside have remained unfulfilled in the past five years.

Besides this, the opposition is also concentrating on the support being reportedly drummed up among devotees of the Sacha Sauda Sect (Sirsa), who have a considerable presence among the electorate here, to ensure the victory of the “outsider” Congress nominee, Mr Sukhraj Singh Nat. The SAD nominee, Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai, too is being touted as an “outsider”.

The SAD candidate on his past has pointed out the lack of development during the tenure of the four-time sitting MLA, Mr B.S. Khiala, who is now contesting on the SAD (A) ticket.


Govt did little for Dalits: Sohi
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, January 31
Atrocities against Dalits increased manifold during the SAD-BJP regime in Punjab, alleged Mrs Sheelam Sohi, the Congress candidate for Banur constituency, while addressing a series of poll rallies at Lohgarh, Kheri Gujrena, Dasmesh Colony, Zirakpur and several villages of Zirakpur and Banur today.

She said the Badal government had no right to call itself a well-wisher of the Dalits. She complained that a false case had been registered against the Dalit sarpanch of Kalaully village sometime ago. A similar case had been foisted on the sarpanch of Chhat village and certain women of the area on the orders of an Akali minister. She alleged that the youth responsible for the abduction and rape of a girl in Mahila Kalan village sometime ago were still roaming freely because of the protection they enjoyed from the Akali government. Mrs Sohi also said that although the Badal government claimed to have launched several welfare schemes for Dalits, their benefit had remained confined to only the near and dear ones of Akalis.


Morcha to support Badal’s rival
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 31
The Panthic Morcha will support the Independent candidate from Lambi, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh, who is contesting against his cousin and the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Announcing this here today, the convener of the Morcha, Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi, said the Morcha would also support Mr Milkiat Singh Chhaja, Independent from Anandpur Sahib and Mr Ravinder Singh from Hoshiarpur.


Setback for SAD(A)
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 31
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Mr Simranjit Singh Maan received a setback here today when dozens of his active supporters led by Mr Tirlochan Singh Sidhu, left the party.

This decision was taken at a meeting of the party workers held here under the presidentship of Mr Sidhu. They criticised the non-flexible attitude of Mr Maan and alleged that he encouraged some followers of Babu Piara Singh Bhaniarawala to contest the elections of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.


Minister weighed

PHAGWARA: The BJP-SAD candidate from Phagwara and the Tourism Minister, Mr Swarna Ram, was weighed against coins at Bhakhriara village. Mr Ram weighed about 85kg and coins worth over Rs 9,000 weighed against him. OC

CPI Support

PHAGWARA: The Congress candidate from Phagwara, Mr Joginder Singh Mann, got a boost for his campaign when local CPI leaders and activists came out in his support. In a press note by Mr Jai Paul Singh, secretary, CPI, Phagwara, on Thursday said the decision to join Mann’s campaign was taken at the party meeting on Wednesday. OC

Pawar campaigns

MALERKOTLA: Mr Sharad Pawar, President, Nationalist Congress Party, on Thursday addressed an election rally at the old grain market in favour of Abdul Gaffar, a former minister who quit the Congress and is the NCP candidate from here. Mr Pawar lashed out at the Akali-BJP and Congress leadership, saying the NCP would address the people’s problems which have been ignored by these parties. OC

Singla's plan

BATHINDA: Mr Surinder Singla the Congress candidate from Bathinda on Thursday said if our party was voled to power, a Rs 200 crore plan would be developed to solve the problems of drinking water, sewerage and drainage system in the city. While addressing mediapersons here he said during the previous government grants were given in instalments for the sewerage and for providing drinking water, but the money got wasted as it was used in phases. He said for tackling the problem one time investment was needed so that a master plan for the city could be developed. OC

‘Vote Badal out'

MALERKOTLA: Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD(A) and a senior leader of the Panthic Morcha, urged the people to oust the present SAD-BJP combine, while addressing a gathering in favour the Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Arshad Dali here on Wednesday night. He said Mr Badal had betrayed the trust of the masses, who had given him an unprecedented mandate. OC

Code flouted

ABOHAR: In a complaint to the EC, Mr Ram Kumar, an Independent from here said that more than one 1000 quintals of wheat was withdrawn for free distribution in the villages before the arrival of the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. The wheat was from the Central Warehousing Corporation godowns. It was allegedly distributed free of cost in the villages of the constituency through panchayat secretaries, in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. OC

NCP rally

DHURI: Mr Sharad Pawar, President, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Thursday urged the people of Punjab to vote for the NCP candidates to protect the interest of farmers, traders, labourers and to make the Punjab a prosperous state. He addressed an election rally here in support of Mr Rajwant Singh Ghulli, the NCP candidate. OC


Wooing with drugs
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 31
Elections bring cheer to drug addicts as a majority of the candidates use liquor, poppy husk and even opium to lure them.

The border district of Ferozepore has more drug addicts than other parts of the state and poppy husk, liquor and opium are being distributed by the candidates to woo them.

Although the Excise Department and police officials are under severe pressure from political bigwigs to ignore such cases, yet efforts have been made by the district police to reduce this practice.

According to the district police chief, Mr H.S. Sidhu, 2,999 kg of poppy husk, 211.70 litres of “lahan” (home-made liquor) and 659.32 litres of illicit liquor have been seized from different parts of the district between December 25, 2001, and January 25 this year.

Senior police officials revealed that opium and poppy husk was being smuggled from Rajasthan into the district. They did not rule out the involvement of cops posted at the check-posts on either side of the border.

Amarjeet Singh, a resident of Mamdhot, told TNS that opium, which was costly, was being served to influential persons.


Widow’s search for justice
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
How slow official machinery moves is evident from the case of Mrs Sawinder Kaur, who has been running from pillar to post for the past more than two years to get a plot transferred in her name after the death of her husband. The Chandigarh-based department concerned, New Mandi Township, Punjab, which keeps asking for one document or the other whenever approached by this woman from Amritsar district, is ironically also headed by a woman officer, Ms Kiran Rosie.

Mrs Sawinder Kaur, a resdient of Patti, moved an application for the transfer of plot (No 74) over two years ago. She was told that there was a disparity in the signatures in the will left by her late husband, Ajmer Singh. Thereafter her three children gave an affidavit stating that they had no objection if the plot was transferred in their mother’s name. Next she was told to furnish a “kursinama”, The department did not bother to inform her all the requirements in one letter, but each time the woman or some relative had to make countless visits to the office.

Thereafter, the move to merge the department with the Punjab Mandi Board led to litigation during which the Administrator expressed her inability to take any action on the matter. Although the case was decided in December, 2001, the plot transfer has still not materialised.

When contacted, Ms Kiran Rosie said the applicant was required to submit a certificate from the Amritsar Deputy Commissioner’s office that there was no other heir of the deceased.

Ms Sawinder Kaur, who was in Chandigarh to submit a letter in this regard to the Chief Minister’s office and consult a lawyer to take legal action against the department for causing her undue financial losses and mental torture, said it was unfortunate that such things were happening in a department run by a lady administrator under the Akali government.


Case against Kewal adjourned to February 4
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 31
The Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Surjit Singh, today adjourned the hearing on the bail application moved by former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib in a criminal case registered against him, his son Baljinder Singh and Joginder Kaur in connection with the alleged dowry death of his daughter-in-law, Sharnjit Kaur, to February 4.

It is pertinent to mention here that the police authorities concerned have so far failed to arrest the suspects despite the fact that a non-bailable warrant was issued against them by the court of the Judicial Magistrate, Talwandi Sabo, where they have been facing trials.

The Additional Sessions Judge neither granted anticipatory bail nor stayed their arrest today while hearing the bail application.

Giani Kewal Singh had to resign on January 10 after the registration of the case against him. Sikh circles argued that if Bibi Jagir Kaur could be asked to quit her post as SGPC chief after the registration of a case against her, so should he.

Sharnjit Kaur, who was married to Baljinder Singh in 1996, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1997. Her body was found from the sarovar of Likhan Sar Gurdwara located near the official residence of Giani Kewal Singh.

The Judicial Magistrate, Talwandi Sabo, issued summons against Giani Kewal Singh and his kin when they failed to appear, even after a non-bailable warrant was issued against them.


Programme for trade union leaders
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 31
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) for the first time in its history organised a programme for trade union leaders under the title "partners in progress" at the Power Management Institute of the NTPC, Noida. Planned with a view to understanding the role of trade union leaders in progress of the organisation and to draw an action plan for implementation by them, several inputs, including those on transmission losses and thefts, changing role of trade unions in the present economic scenario and self-development for effectiveness in union leader's role were discussed elaborately.

Several prominent speakers from the public and private sectors like Dr Navin Chandra, Prof V.V. Giri of the National Labour Institute, Mr Shammi Sukh from BHEL and senior officials from the PSEB shared their views on the wide-ranging issues and held panel discussions The participants suggested an action plan and gave feedback stressing on transparency in every area, exhibiting commitment and openness to new ideas.

The Director/IR of the PSEB, Mr R.P. Pandov, advised the trade union leaders to be a part of process to rejuvenate the PSEB and treat the PSEB management and trade unions as real partners in the progress of the organisation.


DC: adhere to model code
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 31
Mr Vikas Partap, District Election Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, has urged all contesting candidates of Sirhind constituency and political parties to strictly abide by the model code of conduct during the election campaign. He said stern action would be taken against candidates violating the model code of conduct.

He was presiding over a meeting of party candidates today to apprise the candidates of the provisions of model code of conduct and directions issued by the administration for smooth conduct of elections. Elaborating the directions in the model code, the Deputy Commissioner asked the candidates and political parties not to indulge in any activity, which might spark off hatred or tension among people of different castes, communities, religions or regions. Similarly, criticism on the basis of personality and personal life should be avoided, he said.

He further said it would be mandatory for the parties and candidates to submit prior information to the local police authorities regarding the venue and time of election meetings and processions. They would also have to inform about the time, date and route of the proposed procession in advance for the proper management of security and traffic.

He said all printed material related to elections must bear the name of the publisher and printer and a copy of each material had to be submitted with the Returning Officer concerned. Under the relevant Act, the violation of these instructions shall be a cognizable offence, punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine up to Rs 1,000 or both.


Ex-minister booked under Arms Act

Kapurthala, January 31
The police has registered a case under Section 29 of the Arms Act against veteran Akali leader and former Education Minister Sukhjinder Singh who is also the father of the Congress candidate from the Bholath Assembly segment.

Disclosing this here yesterday, SSP, Gurpreet Deo said the weapon used by the gunman of Mr Khaira to fire in the air during an election meeting at Chotti Maini village was a weapon in the name of Mr Sukhjinder Singh but the licence had expired. The firing incident took place on Saturday when the supporters of the rival SAD contestant and sitting MLA, Bibi Jagir Kaur clashed with Congress workers as a result the gunman of Mr Khaira fired in the air to scare the attacking party.

A notice has been sent to Mr Sukhjinder Singh to deposit the weapon with the police immediately. However, Mr Sukhjinder Singh has written a letter to the District Magistrate requesting that he be allowed to keep the weapon for his self-defence.

Meanwhile, Mr Sukhjinder Singh when contacted on telephone, said the weapon was left in the car of his son after an election rally. Due to some pre-occupation he could not accompany his son to Nikki Maini where the firing took place.

Mr Sukhjinder Singh claimed that he had deposited the fee for renewal of the license on July last year but it was not renewed. UNI


PhD in physical chemistry, but guide in another
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 31
The Research Degree Board of Guru Nanak Dev University has taken an unprecedented decision to allow a professor, Mr Surjit Singh, (who is a Ph.D in physical chemistry) to supervise the work of two persons who have enrolled themselves for Ph.D in computer engineering. The students — Mr Karnjit Singh Kahlon, son-in-law of former Vice-Chancellor, and Mr Hardip Singh - are Readers of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Interestingly, the matter had been approved by the degree board which was also attended by Mr Kahlon in his capacity as a member in which his controversial case was cleared. It may be mentioned here that as per procedure of the university a member of the board must be a Ph.D.

Dr Surjit Singh, when contacted, admitted that he was a Ph.D in physical chemistry. However, he said he had been serving as Director, Computer Centre and serving the department for the past many years.

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