Saturday, February 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Only paramilitary forces for Lambi
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The Punjab Assembly elections have caught the Punjab police on a damp wicket as the Chief Election Commissioner has directed the deployment of only paramilitary forces (PMF) both in Lambi, the home constituency of the Chief Minister, and Gidderbaha, where Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, a nephew of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, are seeking re-election.

The Punjab police has been facing the wrath of the Election Commission for some time now. Besides, the bomb blast in a Punjab Roadways bus at Garhshankar yesterday and a daring robbery in broad daylight at Zira today has put the police under more pressure.

In today's armed robbery, the suspects not only killed the cashier of a sugar mill but also managed to escape with Rs 10 lakh in cash. It is from the Zira Assembly constituency that Mr Kuldip Singh Bhullar (Congress) and Mr Inderjit Singh Zira (SHSAD) are contesting the election. Both Mr Kuldip Singh Bhullar and Mr Inderjit Singh Zira are closely related to Mr M.S. Bhullar, Director-General, Punjab Armed Police, Jalandhar. While Mr Kuldip Singh is Mr Bhullar's son, Mr Inderjit Singh Zira is his nephew.

The top posts in the police department are either vacant or are about to fall vacant in four districts Patiala, Muktsar, Batala and Ferozepore.The SP, Headquarters, Ferozepore, is under the cloud of the Election Commission and may be shifted.

Though 100 companies of paramilitary forces will be deployed for election duty, the Election Commission has issued specific orders that no Punjab police will be deployed on poll duty either in Lambi or Gidderbaha.

It is perhaps for the first time that the conduct of the Punjab police has come under such a severe criticism of the Election Commission. Many officers have been transferred either on charges of registering false cases or on charges of playing a partisan role in the coming elections.

The conduct of police officers, who are indirectly involved in the elections because of their close relatives being in the fray, is also under a constant watch. The "misuse of the official machinery", especially manpower and infrastructure, to favour candidates who are related to high-ranked officials in the police department, is also being brought to the notice of the Election Commission.

Sources reveal that more incidents of crime cannot be ruled out in the state in the coming days due to the prevailing conditions. With a section of police favourably inclined towards certain candidates, including relatives of senior officials of the department, and the top district police posts lying vacant, the focus on prevention of crime has taken a back seat

Yesterday, after the blast, the initial thrust was to prove that it was a mechanical failure that led to blowing off the engine. Only a concerted investigation, supported by circumstantial evidence proved that it was a bomb blast that killed two persons and injured 11 others. Today's incident is also considered serious as the suspects followed the cashier and snatched money from him. When he resisted, they killed him and decamped with the loot, sending jitters down the spines of both voters and candidates as they become apprehensive about the peaceful conduct of the February 13 elections.Back

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