Saturday, February 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD-BJP all set to launch final assault
Badal to release party manifesto today
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance is all set to launch a ‘‘massive final assault’’ from tomorrow for the coming Punjab Assembly elections.

Sources close to the Chief Minister and President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, say that he would not only release the party manifesto himself here tomorrow but will also soon shed his ‘‘special vehicle’’ to go on stage and address six to eight election rallies a day.

The BJP, too, will be releasing its manifesto here tomorrow at the Sector 27 Press Club. Initially, the Chief Minister wanted either Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa or Capt Kanwaljit Singh to release the manifesto. But now he wants to do it himself by making a special trip to Chandigarh.

Besides, the entire BJP national leadership will start descending on Punjab from next week to launch a blitzkrieg of electioneering campaign covering the entire length and breadth of the State.

The efforts of the SAD-BJP will be supplemented with the release of both audio and video cassettes which have been prepared by Gurpreet Singh ‘‘Ghuggi’’ and Satwinder Satti besides a few other artistes of both Punjab and Delhi, the sources said, maintaining that a concerted offensive through newspapers would also be unleashed from Monday.

‘‘We are trying to counter the newspaper advertisement propaganda launched by the Congress,’’ the sources said. ‘‘We are leaving nothing to chance,’’ he added, maintaining that both the SAD and the BJP would improve upon their 1997 performances.

Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr L. K. Advani, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Mr Arun Jetley, Mr Arun Shourie, Ms Uma Bharti and Mr Pramod Mahajan would be visiting Punjab from February 5 onwards. Leaders like Mr Madan Lal Khurana, Mr O.P. Kohli and others are already camping in Punjab.

The SAD-BJP campaign managers also maintain that some top film stars, including Vinod Khanna, MP, and Hema Malini will also campaign in Punjab. The State singer of Punjab, Hans Raj Hans, will also campaign for the ruling alliance. But he will be leaving for abroad this evening. ‘‘The magnitude of the campaign for the remaining 10 days of the electioneering would be unprecedented," they claimed.

In the election manifesto, the SAD is not only focussing on unemployment but also on agro-processing in an attempt to revive the economy. New avenues of marketing agricultural produce, both as raw material and as processed food, are being promised by involving international agencies. Tie-ups with major export organisations are being promised.

The poll managers are also hopeful that the SAD-BJP alliance would improve its position in Doaba belt, especially in certain traditional Congress strongholds.

The Dal leadership also does not want to act in haste while handling the cases o f ‘‘dissidents’’ and ‘‘rebels’’.

The sources maintain that of seven to eight serious rebels, at least four of them could damage the ruling alliance. ‘‘Some of the dissidents may be expelled from the party,’’ they maintain, hoping that the Dal President himself would announce the action the party was taking against these ‘‘rebels’’.

Sources close to the Chief Minister also maintain that the present Congress euphoria was reminiscent of the one the PPCC chief had in 1992 when he floated a new Dal and suffered a crushing defeat a the hands of the same party which he is heading now. At that time the mainstream Akali Dal had boycotted the elections.


EC must stop Cong ad campaign: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, general secretary of SAD, today lodged a protest against the “false and malicious” campaign launched through advertisements in newspapers against his party by the Congress in the current election campaign in Punjab.

Talking to media persons here, Mr Badal said it was strange that on one hand, the Election Commission was taking suo motu notice of reports published in newspapers against the ruling SAD-BJP government and ordering the suspension of officials like BDOs in the Lambi constituency and on the other, it was keeping its eyes shut on “vicious and factually wrong” advertisements being published by the Congress against SAD even when these had been specifically brought to its notice by the party. “We demand immediate action by the Election Commission to stop this advertisement campaign launched by the Congress,” he said.

Representatives of the party, including Mr Paramjit Singh Bajwa, lawyer of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, met the Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, here today and handed over a memorandum to him on the subject. The memo emphasised that the “sole objective of the Congress campaign was to bias the mind of the electorate”. This action on the part of the Congress “apart from being violative of the principles of fair play, was also a blatant violation of the Election Code which is in force.”

Mr Badal accused the Congress of launching a “false personal attack against him by alleging in one of the advertisements that he had taken a personal benefit from the Haryana Government which allotted him 22 acres of land in exchange for the construction of the SYL Canal. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter was that only 17 acres of land had been allotted to me and that too, with the orders and approval of the Supreme Court of India,” he said.

Mr Badal said this constituted a clear violation of the Election Code of Conduct which forbade personal attacks in the election campaign.

He also said that despite false and malicious propaganda against SAD by the Congress, his party would not adopt similar tactics because it believed in a democratic system and free and fair election. He claimed that there was a wave in favour of the Akali Dal and it was sure to return to power in the state after the poll on February 13.

Nothing wrong in ad: Congress

PATIALA: The Punjab Congress on Friday made it clear that the advertisement campaign carried out by it in the print media on the SYL issue in which it has accused the SAD of betraying the interests of the state for personal ends, was within the ambit of the Code of Conduct.

Reacting to the objections raised by the SAD to advertisements attacking the Badal government for its alleged sellout on the SYL canal issue, party spokesman and Chairman, Media Committee, Sant Ram Singla, said SAD had no business to talk about ethics and morality when it itself had been using the media for its ulterior motives. He said the SAD seemed to have forgotten the advertisements placed by it in the media, claiming that Mr Parkash Singh Badal was the best Chief Minister of the state since Independence. Mr Singla said the statement of former MP Sukhbir Singh Badal on the issue was an outcome of panic. He said the audio, visual and media campaign of the Congress party was within the ambit of the code.


They left bullet for ballot
Varinder Walia and Gurbax Puri
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, February 1
Many gun-totting youths who had compelled the Shiromani Akali Dal to boycott the February 1992 elections, can now be seen taking an active part in the electioneering. Most of them had surrendered before the security forces a decade ago to lead a normal life in their respective villages.

Mr Lakhwinder Singh, alias Lakha Mararh, a hardcore militant belonging to the Babbar Khalsa International who lost his right hand while launching a rocket launcher aimed at a police station, can be seen campaigning actively for Mr Harminder Singh Gill, President, All-India Sikh Students Federation, who is contesting the elections on the Panthic Morcha ticket in the Patti constituency. Earlier he had supported Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, son-in-law of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, during the last Assembly elections. Mr Lakhwinder Singh had surrendered before the security forces on November 23, 1992. Talking to The Tribune, he said the militant organisations had given a call for boycotting the February 1992 elections due to lack of coordination at that time. He said he had faith in the democratic process and firmly believed that the ballot was more powerful than the bullet. “My younger brother, who was later killed in a police encounter, was an Independent candidate during the June 1991 aborted elections,” he said.

Mr Uday Singh, younger brother of the Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, had personally visited Mr Lakhwinder Singh’s house to ensure his support for the ruling party.

Another former militant, Mr Vigyan Singh, an activist of the Kama Gata Maru Force (an offshoot of the Khalistan Commando Force, headed by Parmjit Singh Panjwar), who had surrendered before the security forces, is now running a tea stall in front of the Sarhali Police Station. He is actively supporting Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Cooperation Minister, who is seeking re-election in the Naushehra Pannuan constituency. When asked about the boycott of February 1992 Assembly election, he said he was not in favour and had opposed the very idea which led to the formation of a Congress government at that time. Yet another former militant, Mr Sulakhan Singh, who belongs to Sarhali and was among the 24 militants who had surrendered before the security forces after the formation of the Beant Singh government in 1992, said they all (except three who died few years after their surrender) had been taking an active part in the election process.

It may be mentioned here that the AISSF President, Mr Harminder Singh Gill, was also instrumental in getting at least four militants to surrender before the police so that they could lead normal lives. They are Mr Gurdial Singh, Mr Arjun Singh, Mr Sukhraj Singh and Mr Nirmal Singh. As a gesture of goodwill, they are now campaigning for Mr Gill from the Patti constituency.

Mr Balwinder Singh, alias Bohra, a former hardcore militant is now bed-ridden as he had lost his memory after a road accident. However, his wife, Harjit Kaur, said the family was supporting the ruling party these days.


Winning over dissidents Amarinder style
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Border belt (Amritsar/ Ferozepore), February 1
Mr Gurinder Singh Kairon, Congress candidate from Tarn Taran, sits with PPCC president Amarinder Singh in a private helicopter, which takes off from the Rajasansi international airport at 10 a.m. Before landing at Tarn Taran, Mr Kairon briefs the PPCC chief on the trouble he has been getting from rebels who were denied party tickets.

On the request of Mr Kairon, Captain Amarinder visits the houses of dissidents, including those who are close confidants of Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, a Congress MP who has been nominated the vice-president of the campaign committee by the party high command.

Reciprocating the goodwill gesture of Captain Amarinder, Mr Manjit Singh Gaseetpura, Mr Gurminder Singh Rataul, Mr Manjit Singh Behla, a former MLA and Prof Gurvinder Singh Ramanke accompany him to the venue of Congress rally at Tarn Taran. They assure the party chief that they will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the victory of Mr Kairon. On this, Mr Kairon thanks Captain Amarinder and say he has won half the battle.

However, a senior party leader complains that Dr Surinder Singh Shahi, who was also an aspirant for the Congress ticket from Tarn Taran, has been campaigning for party candidate in some other district. Captain Amarinder assures that he would ensure that he (Dr Shahi) focuses on Tarn Taran only. “I won’t tolerate any disobedience”, he says.

Before going for campaign, captain Amarinder held a meeting with Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary, CPI, at Amritsar. Both leaders agreed to ensure that the workers of their parties campaign intensively to defeat the ruling SAD-BJP combine. “I assure you that the Congress would honour alliance with CPI in letter and spirit”, the PPCC chief told Dr Dayal.

At Patti, from where Mr Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, son-in-law of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is seeking re-election, the PPCC chief succeeded in winning over at least seven out of nine dissidents who were denied party ticket. Mr Manjinder Singh Patti, Mr Jugraj Singh, Mr Onkar Singh Sodhi, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Buttar and Mr Tejpreet Singh Peter who had sought party ticket from Patti were sitting with captain Amarinder during the rally. The PPCC chief listened to the grievances of dissidents and assured that each of them would be accommodated suitably if Congress was voted to power.

The next halts of the helicopter were Amarkot (Valtoha), Ferozepore Cantt and Ferozepore City, where captain Amarinder addressed election rallies.

Captain Amarinder maintains that with the help of the helicopter, he would be able to cover all Assembly constituencies quickly.

While addressing an election rally at Patti, he promises the voters to put Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a former Congress MP and close relative of Mr Badal behind the bars as he was responsible for getting a number of "false cases" registered against innocent persons. "We will definitely settle scores with this (Kairon) family after coming into power", he says. While addressing a rally at Amarkot, which is a border area, he promises that the Congress government will give adequate compensation to the residents of border areas who had been displaced frequently due to Army build up in the area.


Advani must explain blast: Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 1
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Amarinder Singh has sought an explanation from Union Home Minister L.K. Advani on incidents of violence during elections in the state.

Without naming the party, he alleged that the bomb blast yesterday at Garhshankar could not be taken in isolation, claiming that it seemed that a conspiracy had been hatched to vitiate the atmosphere.

Talking to press persons here today, the PPCC president released a “vision document” for the next 25 years which would balance and mitigate the fiscal deficit in the state.

He stated that many large industrialists were willing to invest in Punjab and the Congress would provide 48 hours’ clearance for any industrial initiative in the state.

Regarding the defence build-up on the border, he said it was done merely to arouse popular sentiments as an election gimmick by the BJP.

He defended the ouster of rebels from the Congress as a step to weeding out undeserving persons from the party.

TARN TARAN: Addressing an election rally here on Friday in favour of party candidate Gurinder Singh Kairon, Capt Amarinder Singh announced that after the formation of the Punjab Government by the Congress, a commission would be formed to inquire into the amassed assets of Mr Badal. He challenged Mr Parkash Singh Badal to go to the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court with him where both will declare their assets.


Congress to work for women’s upliftment: Preneet
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February1
Addressing an election rally near the bus stand here Congress MP Preneet Kaur assured the gathering of the Congress’ commitment to the implementation of reservations for women. She said Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi was taking several steps in this connection. Alleging that the BJP had failed to show any sincerity in this regard she emphasised that only the Congress was sincere when it came to reservations for women, and it would take an initiative in this regard when it came to power.

Lashing against the ruling SAD- BJP rule in the state, she blamed the combine for the pathetic condition of the state economy, which she said was showing a downward trend. She added that, the ruling party had failed to continue with its policies like senior citizens’ facility and yellow card facility for the poor. She stated that the Congress had chalked a comprehensive plan for the revival of the state economy and to curb unemployment. Other leaders who spoke on the occasion included Mr Bhupinder Kaur, Amarjit Kaur Mrs Bhattal and Mr Ved Prakash Gupta.


Bank employee shot dead

Ferozepore, February 1
Two unidentified motor cycle-borne armed men shot dead a bank employee and escaped with Rs 10 lakh near Zira in the district today, the police said.

It said that Darshan Singh, an employee of Ferozepore Central Cooperative Bank, Zira, was going to the nearby sugar mill when the motor cycle-borne miscreants fired at him near Lehra Rori village.

He was rushed to the Civil Hospital at Zira where he succumbed to the bullet wounds. The miscreants escaped with the money, the police said. PTI


Jagmeet factor looms large
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 1
The “Jagmeet factor” is looming large in nine Assembly segments of Muktsar, Faridkot and Moga districts of Punjab where the Congress is locked in a contest for power with the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.

Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar is the sitting Congress MP representing the Faridkot parliamentary constituency which consists of nine Assembly segments. These include Moga, Baghapurana, Panjgrain, Muktsar, Lambi, Gidderbaha, Malout, Faridkot and Kot Kapura. An old warhorse, Mr Brar wields vast influence in these constituencies and is widely perceived to be in a position to make or break the electoral prospects of most, if not, all Congress candidates in the area.

Mr Brar won the Faridkot Lok Sabha seat in 1999 by about 5,000 votes, defeating the sitting MP and the then Minister of State of Industries, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is the son of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. The families of Mr Brar and Mr Badal have been political rivals for decades. Before Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, his father, the late Gurmeet Singh used to be Mr Badal’s rival. After his death, Mr Brar has been carrying on the battle against both Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir.

Mr Brar contested against Mr Badal for the Gidderbaha Assembly constituency in 1980 and 1985, but lost on both occasions. In 1989, he fought in the Ferozepore parliamentary constituency, but lost to Mr Dhian Singh Mand of SAD (Mann).

Mr Brar was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1992 from Faridkot constituency as Congress nominee when the Akali Dal boycotted the poll. In 1996, he contested as an Independent and lost to Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal. Ms Bubbly Brar, daughter of the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, who was the Congress candidate, also lost in the election. Two years later, he again lost to Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal who went on to become the Union Minister of State for Industries in the Vajpayee government.

Mr Brar, however, came into his own only in 1999 when he defeated Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, despite vigorous campaigning by the Chief Minister. He is now regarded as one of the contenders for the post of the Chief Minister of Punjab if the Congress comes to power in the state after the poll.

During the distribution of party ticket, Mr Brar wanted the Congress ticket for a number of his supporters . These included his brother Ripujit Singh who wanted to contest from Muktsar and Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Badal from Lambi. Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Badal is a relative of the Chief Minister and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar was instrumental in his induction into the Congress a couple of months ago.

It was publicly promised by Mr Brar at the time that the Congress would field Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Badal against the Chief Minister in Lambi. But Mr Brar’s efforts to secure the Congress ticket for Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Badal did not succeed. What really put him off was his inability to secure the party ticket for his brother, Mr Rupujit Singh for Muktsar. The Congress decided to field the former Chief Minister, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar. Annoyed, Mr Brar refused to take part in the Congress poll campaign for days together.

Finally, he made his appearance in Moga on Thursday to campaign for the party nominee, Mr Vijay Sathi.

Most of Mr Brar’s supporters are now allegedly working for party rebels or the Akalis contesting against the official Congress candidates in these constituencies. This is, however, vehemently denied by Mr Brar’s camp. Mr Brar is credited with the view that “wrong distribution of party ticket” would cost the Congress dearly.

The Congress could have won eight of the nine Assembly segments in Moga, Muktsar and Faridkot districts. Now the outcome is anybody’s guess.


Pacified, Jagmeet to join campaign
Vimal Sumbly

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
Senior vice-president of the Pradesh Congress Committee and co-chairman of the Campaign Committee of the party in Punjab, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, said here today that the first phase of campaigning of the Congress was lacklustre compared to the others. However, he hoped that the party would soon make up the loss. Mr Brar also said that he was not in the race for chief ministership, but would not decline the responsibility if the party offered it to him.

Mr Brar, who has been appointed co-chairman of the Campaign Committee in Punjab, also warned against making the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal (SYL) an election issue as he observed this was a sensitive issue related to the sentiments of Punjabis.

Mr Brar, who has so far remained quiet, is expected to join the campaigning after this appointment. He received a communication from the Congress treasurer and the in charge Punjab, Mr Moti Lal Vohra, yesterday. Capt Amarinder Singh is the chairman of the committee, while Mr R. L. Bhatia is convener.

The PCC leader criticised the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for raising the SYL issue at this time. He pointed out that it was Mr Badal, who had issued land acquisition notice for the construction of the canal and also accepted Rs 2 crore from the Haryana Government.

He clarified that although his party was against making it an election issue, it had consulted legal experts for filing a review petition in the Supreme Court. He favoured disciplinary action against rebels.


Doughty Captain vs young widow
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 1
A doughty former Captain of the Indian Army takes on a widow in the backward constituency of Banur. The battle is being closely watched due to the potential of the Capt Kanwaljit Singh to make it to the top post in SAD.

The young widow, Sheelam Sohi, who has got the Congress ticket on the basis of the popularity of her husband Ravinderpal Sohi, is making her electoral debut in the constituency.

The state Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, is accompanied on his campaign trail by Ajit Singh Baltana, the chacha of Sheelam Sohi, who seems to leave no opportunity to run down the Sohi family.

Development done in the constituency during the past five years is the main plank on which the Finance Minister is going back to the people.

He is banking on such works as development of irrigation facilities by the boring of 115 deep tubewells in the constituency, construction and repair of roads and giving grants for dharamshalas and religious places of worship.

Accompanied by a contingent of youngsters, Capt Kanwaljit Singh claims, “Vote for me again and I will start computer courses in the sewing centres opened in the villages.” While youngsters are lured with jobs, farmers are wooed with a promise of better irrigation facilities.

Being on a first-name basis with women also seems to be helping him as a large number of women come out to listen to him at Sirseen and Sadhanpur villages in Lalru.

On other hand, the campaign of his rival Sheelam Sohi is not so well oiled. The Congress candidate needed singers to bring in people at a public meeting organised in Banur city. She is also handicapped by the fact that all Congress leaders of the constituency are not working vigorously for her.

Not being able to counter Captain Kanwaljit on the development front, she is projecting herself as a daughter of the constituency who is standing for elections on their insistence.


Rebels hold key in Bathinda
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 1
The elections in the Bathinda Assembly segment has divided most of the important families of this area over the support to the contestants.

Though there are 16 contestants in this Assembly segment, including Mr Surinder Singla, an eminent economist and the Congress candidate, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, the sitting MLA and the SAD candidate, Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, a rebel Congress candidate, who has been expelled from the party for six years, Mr Sham Jaura, the BSP, candidate, Mr Rajbir Singh Sidhu, the General Samaj Party (GSP) candidate and Mr Gurdeep Singh of the Panthic Morcha.

Mr Singla, earlier opposed by a section in the Congress as an outsider.

Mr Garg is trying to cash in on the projects in the area, including the railway bridge over the Paras Ram Nagar level crossing, and his personal rapport with people the local BJP unit supports him completing Mr Aggarwal, a leading commission agent is banking upon his relations with the farming community and his personal support.

Mr Jaura, Mr Sidhu and Mr Gurdeep Singh are also leaving no stone unturned to reach out to maximum number of people. The constituency is likely to witness a multi-cornered contest.

Rampura Phul: An interesting contest is expected in the Rampura Phul assembly segment where the sitting SAD MLA Mr Sikander Singh Malooka, a former minister and the Congress candidate, Mr Harbans Sidhu, the rebel independent candidate, Mr Gurpreet Kangar, the Lok Bhalai Party candidate, Mr Nachhattar Singh Sidhu, and the BSP candidate, Mr Surjeet Singh, are among the 10 contestants here.

Mr Kangar, a youth Akali Dal leader and a close confidant of Mr Badal’s family, may upset the apple cart of the major contestants. Mr Kangar has also got the support of a close kin of the SAD candidate, Mr Sikandar Singh Malooka.

Mr Sikander Singh Malooka, who witnessed a number of controversies during his tenure as minister in different departments, has been trying to regain the support of his former supporters.

Talwandi Sabo: The Talwandi Sabo Assembly segment, which houses the fifth Takht of the Sikh religion, Takht Damdama Sahib is witnessing a multi-cornered contest as the Congress candidate and the sitting MLA, Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, is facing tough competition from the rebel Congress candidate, Mr Niranjan Singh Kutiwal, who has now joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), while the SAD candidate, Mr Mohan Singh Bangi has also to contest with the rebel candidate, Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, who unsuccessfully contested the last election from here on the SAD ticket. Mr Barinder Singh, the SAD (A) candidate, and Mr Jagdeep Singh Gogi, the BSP candidate, may also prone to the decisive factors.

Nathana: In this reserve Assembly segment, there are nine candidates, including Mr Jasmel Singh of the Congress, Mr Gura Singh Tungwali of the SAD, Mr Pushpinder Pal Singh of the BSP. Mr Teja Singh of the SAD (A), Mr Makhan Singh Khemuana of the NCP and Mr Ranjit Singh of the Lok Bhalai Party. The contest is likely to be mainly between the Congress and the SAD.

Pakka Kalan: In this Assembly segment though there are eight contestants, including Mr Gurjant Singh Kutiwal of the CPI-Congress alliance, Mr Makhan Singh, the sitting MLA and the SAD candidate, Mr Gulzar Singh, a former Congress minister and the NCP candidate. Mr Darshan Singh of the SAD (A) and Mr Jodha Singh of the BSP. A direct contest is likely between the SAD and the CPI - Congress alliance candidate. The state CPI leadership sprang a surprise when it allotted the ticket to Mr Gurjant Singh Kutiwal, a senior Congress worker and a strong aspirant for the Congress ticket, as the CPI candidate.


A computer-savvy candidate
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
In the forthcoming Assembly elections in Punjab, information technology is playing a key role. Mr Brahm Mohindra, a senior Congress leader, has made it a point to start his day by switching on his computer terminal to have a review of the Samana constituency from where he is contesting as the Congress candidate.

Mr Mohindra himself plans and schedules the day’s proceedings. He has been elected from the Patiala constituency thrice during the past 20 years. But this time, he was asked by the high command to contest from Samana. He feels that with the aid of computerised information, he will be able to have a knowledge of all segments of this constituency. Though he had a fair idea and morphological knowledge of the area, yet it was the computer which helped him in getting details about more than 100 villages in Samana and 92 colonies in outer Patiala city which also come under the constituency.

It may be recalled that when Mr Mohindra was allotted the ticket for Samana, he had talked to a software company based at Chandigarh to work out the modalities on these lines. He said with the help of the Election Commission, he was also able to prepare the voters’ list of the electorate of the area which was now fed into his computer.

Mr Mohindra claimed that with everything fed in the computer, the problems of the people would be considered on a priority basis since the required data was available with him.

He added that a web camera was also installed along with the computer in which the photographs of all village panches, sarpanches and other prominent and social workers would be stored along with their problems.


Badal dares Morcha to back Congress openly
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 1
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, while addressing an election rally at Sirhind town today in support of SAD candidate Didar Singh Bhatti, lashed out at the Panthic Morcha and Congress leaders. He said a true Sikh couldn’t vote for the Congress as “it has destroyed us religiously, politically and economically during its 45-year rule.” He advised the morcha leaders to join the Congress instead of helping it indirectly. He ridiculed the statements of morcha leaders regarding corruption stating that during his 25-year tenure in the SGPC, Mr Tohra could not eradicate corruption from gurdwaras.

He said there were a number of parties and groups in fray, but only the Congress and SAD were contesting seriously. He said the Congress had committed atrocities and adopted a divide-and-rule policy. He said several Congress leaders were alleging that party tickets were being sold.

Highlighting the achievements of his government, Mr Badal said the development of the state had been done on a war footing. He said last year Rs 4,200 crore were spent on various development schemes, 4 per cent sales concession was given to industrialists, commission of commission agents was increased, the truck operators were given concessions and the octroi was waived on the demand of traders.

Mr R.S. Cheema, a former minister, Mr Didar Singh Bhatti, the party candidate, Mr Gupreet Singh Bhatti, president of the Youth Akali Dal, Mr Rajeshpal Singh Lalli, Mr Swarn Singh Chanarthal, district president of SAD, and Mr H.S. Sidhu, district president of the BJP, also addressed the gathering.


SAD govt will be voted out: Surjeet
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, February 1
The CPM General Secretary, Mr Harkishen Singh Surjeet, while addressing an election rally in favour of the CPM nominee from the Banga assembly segment, Mr Avtar Chand, at Banga town today accused the BJP-led NDA government of deserting the traditional policy of non-alignment by supporting the USA. The change in the foreign policy had led to deterioration in India’s relations with neighbours, he added. He said the Badal government would be voted out of power as the graph of the BJP had gone down in the country and any party having an alliance with it would face defeat, quoting the examples of the recent assembly poll held in Assam and Tamil Nadu.

He expressed concern over the non-formation of the third front in Punjab and appealed to the voters to cast their vote in favour of the Left candidates.

Prof Balwant Singh, Secretary of the state unit of the CPM, while addressing the rally accused the Badal government of ignoring all its pre-poll promises and said corruption had touched new heights.

Mr Rakesh Nayyar, vice-president, DYFI, Mr Ram Singh Nurpuri, Mr Balbir Singh Jadla, Mr Gurmej Mandali, Mr Avtar Chand also addressed the rally.


Uma blames Congress for terrorism
Our Correspondent

Batala, February 1
Union Sports Minister Uma Bharti today visited the town and addressed a rally at Leekwala Talaab in support of Mr Jagdish Sawhney, the BJP-SAD combine candidate for the Punjab Assembly elections.

Ms Bharti urged the gathering to cast their vote in favour of Mr Sawhney to strengthen the BJP-SAD combine in the state.

She said she had visited the town earlier when terrorism was at its peak. She alleged that terrorism was the creation of the Congress, which, was also responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and other parts of the country.



The Minister for Information and Technology, Mr Sat Pal Saini, the SAD-BJP candidate from the Sujanpur constituency received a setback when one of his close associates, Mr Vinay Mahajan, severed relations with Mr Saini. Mr Mahajan is the president of the Municipal Council. OC

Following the strict directive of the EC, the District Election Officer, Mr G.S. Grewal, has ordered all the publicity material of various political parties dotting public and private properties. Workers of almost all the political parties in the district here put posters and flags despite the warnings of the District Election Officers. OC

Mr Amarjit Singh Sandhu, DSP, Sardulgarh, and Inspector Baljit Singh, SHO, Sardulgarh, have been transferred for violation of Code of Conduct on the directions of the EC. Opposition candidates had said the officers were misusing their position to support Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, the SAD nominee from the Sardulgarh Assembly constituency. Mr Sandhu has been transferred to Chandigarh and Mr Baljit Singh has been transferred to Jalandhar. OC


Village youths to get incentives if Congress wins
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 1
Mr Surinder Singla, local Congress candidate, said today that the rural youths would be given incentives to start their business if the Congress was voted to power in the state.

Mr Singla, while addressing rallies at different villages of the constituency, said although the SAD-BJP government claimed that it had given loans to the rural youths for starting self-employing professions, but a visit to the villages of the area showed something opposite to claims. He said efforts would be made to fix MSP of cotton. He said the government would keep a check on the pesticide dealers so that spurious pesticides could not be sold in the market.


Chairman of Cong cell
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Mr Balwant Rai Kapoor has been appointed chairman of the labour and employment cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, according to an announcement by Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, general secretary of the PCC.


Flags proclaim loyalty, support
Chander Parkash

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 1
The contestants in all the five Assembly segments falling in this district are trying to reach out to a maximum number of voters by adopting all means of campaigning. While the urban voters are keeping them guessing, the rural voters are expressing their support, loyalty and commitment by putting up party flags on their entrances and rooftops.

In all the five Assembly segments namely, Bathinda, Nathana, Pakka-Kalan, Talwandi Sabo and Rampura Phul in this district, flags and banners are the most visible signs, even covering the watts of cattle sheds.

Though there seems to be no wave in favour of any party as witnessed during the 1997 Assembly elections, the rural electors appear to be participating with enthusiasm.

“Why should I hide my liking for any candidate? When I want to support him. I shall do it openly so that I can get here to support the candidate of my choice. The best way of supporting the candidate is to erect his banner and flag in front of the house,” says Natha Singh, a resident of the predominantly rural Assembly segment of Pakka Kalan.

All the Assembly segments have also witnessed an erosion of traditional vote banks as politicians shifted political allegiances. Mr Jasmel Singh, who was the Akali MLA from the Nathana (reserve) Assembly segment in 1985 is now the Congress candidate from there.

Mr Gurjant Singh Kutiwal, who was a strong aspirant for the Congress ticket for the Pakka Kalan constituency, is now contesting as the CPI candidate from the same seat and Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who was instrumental in Mr Sikander Singh Malooka’s victory from Rampura Phul Assembly segment in 1997, is now contesting as an Independent candidate against Mr Malooka and may upset Mr Malooka’s applecart. Similarly Mr Jeet Mohinder Sidhu, the SAD candidate from Talwandi Sabo in 1997, is now in the fray as an Independent candidate.

These changes in the election scene may well play a major role in these Assembly election.

On the other hand the urban voters are keeping the contestants guessing as no trend seems to be emerging.


Employees hold the key
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 1
Employees and their families, traditionally a silent vote bank never coming out openly in support of any party, may hold the key in four out of the five Assembly constituencies in Ropar.

Stretching from Nangal to S.A.S. Nagar (Mohali), this is a belt where a sizeable number of employees in the government and semi-government sectors live. And it is this segment of voters which is rather angry. Between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of the 6.75 lakh votes in the district are of employees or their families. With the exception of Chamkaur Sahib, employees and their families play a decisive role in the Nangal, Anandpur Sahib-Ropar, Kharar and Morinda constituencies. Some employees of the Thermal Power Plant, Ropar, are supporting a statewide morcha called the General Samaj Party with thousands of members. Employees who are not covered under the caste based reserved category are silent due to their jobs. Mr Narinder Singh, former Sarpanch of Dakala village in Ropar and president of the Ropar unit of the party says their demand is, “We will not support anyone who supports caste-based reservation in jobs and out-of-turn promotions.”

The recently incorporated 92nd Amendment of the Constitution by the Government of India to overrule the Supreme Court verdict in the Ajit Singh Janjua case has ruffled employees in the general category. This restored caste-based accelerated promotions which was stopped by the Supreme Court. The thermal plant alone has about 3,200 employees of the upper castes.

Another issue is that in the past eight months, payment of provident funds, gratuity and other benefits of retired employees have been held back. A Nangal-based retired employee of the Punjab Government, who is struggling to make both ends meet, told The Tribune, “I have been waiting for the past seven months to get my own money.” Probably the state had no money for employees, he said. Another Ropar-based employee of the Punjab Government showed a bill on which the Anandpur Sahib Treasury office has given in writing that no payment can be released.

Payment vouchers presented by serving employees on account of travelling expenses or other expenses have not been encashed for months. The terse remarks are that payments have been stopped. Officials at the Treasury offices have been telling employees, “Asi ke kariye phone ainda Chandigarh toon ki payment rok deyo”.

Well placed sources said the practice of allowing payment and then stopping it all of sudden has been going on since the past two years.

On the other hand, enchasing of cheques doled out during sangat darshan by the Punjab Chief Minister has led to further resentment. Punwire, a semi-government concern in S.A.S. Nagar, has closed down. With it, thousands of people have been rendered jobless. For the past several months, employees are sitting on dharna right at the entrance from where the national highway enters S.A.S. Nagar. Talk of the Punjab Government dis-investing its share from Puncom is on. Employees have held agitations in the past few months. Punjab National Fertilisers Limited, Nangal has also shut down, rendering about 600 people jobless.

The “employee factor ” is in fact not lost on the candidates. Nayagaon, sharing a common border with Sector 12 of Chandigarh, falls in the Morinda constituency. So does Kansal located north of Chandigarh’s Sector 1. Both places have a good number of Classes III and IV employees and their families. The same is true about S.A.S. Nagar where several boards and corporations have their offices. Thousands of serving and retired employees and officials of Punjab and Chandigarh live here and also in Kharar. They will cast their votes under Kharar Assembly segment. Employee presence is also in Kansal, Ropar, Nangal.


Poll to hit health?
Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, February 1
The Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, Ferozepore, has appointed several Class IV employees, including sweepers, dhobis and ward servants of the Health Department, Punjab, as polling officers for Punjab Assembly election. Not only this, the office has issued orders to nearly 400 employees of the Health Department, which include more than 300 paramedical employees performing emergency duty.

In the order issued on January 26, the employees concerned have been directed to attend rehearsals on February 2 and 7 and present themselves for poll duty on February 12 and 13. Due to this, the health services, especially the emergency services, in the district are likely to be crippled.

The paramedical employees put on poll duty include nearly 150 pharmacists, 50 laboratory technicians and radiographers, besides 100 health workers and clerical staff. Surprisingly, around six Class IV employees of Civil Hospital, Fazilka, including a sweeper, a dhobi and several ward servants, have been appointed polling officers. Sources of Health Department said the office of the Civil Surgeon, Ferozepore, sent the list of its employees to the office of the Deputy Commissioner. Apparently, the lists were not properly scrutinised and Class IV employees and entire paramedical staff on emergency duty has been put on poll duty. As a result of this health services are likely to be affected.


Harassment cases: Dang writes to Jacob
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 1
Mr Satya Pal Dang, CPI leader, expressed his dismay over the way in which sexual harassment cases were handled at Guru Nanak Dev University here. In a correspondence to the Governor, Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob, he said punishment given to the main “culprits” in such cases was inadequate and not a deterrent for the magnitude of the crime.

Talking to The Tribune, he alleged that there was no indication that the matter was being taken seriously by the authorities concerned. On the contrary, it seemed that the authorities were concentrating of flimsy aspects, for instance a reported news about the university formulating some provisions to punish women who made false complaints.

Mr Dang said the possibility of a woman levelling allegations was remote. In three more recent cases of sexual harassments, he said it was found that the guilty person, a Reader, did not only go scot-free, but was promoted and made Professor. Another Reader accused of such an act was only asked to resign from headship of the department. The resignation was attributed to some personal reasons.

In another case, a Head of the Department, after being found guilty, resigned on health grounds.


Global status for Ropar, Kanjli wetlands
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The Ramsar Convention Bureau, Switzerland, has included Ropar and Kanjli wetlands in the Ramsar list. With the inclusion of these two wetlands, India has now eight wetlands of international importance, covering 194,521 hectares of area. Talking to TNS today, Mr N.S. Tiwana, Executive Director, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, said these wetlands had been declared as Ramsar sites. A communication in this regard was received by the council’s office yesterday. At present, three wetlands from Punjab find a place in the list.

“Eleven more of these have already been received at the secretariat and are at present being studied by the Bureau staff and it is understood that as many as 25 may be added to the list in total”, says the communication from the Bureau.

Dr Satnam Singh Ladhar, Principal Scientific Officer (Environment), PSCST, said both wetlands were significant in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology and hydrology.

The Ropar wetlands, which were formed with the construction of a barrage over the Sutlej in 1952, are an important habitat for some threatened species in the Shivalik foothills like scaly ant-eater and the python. These are also an important breeding place for smooth Indian otter, hog deer, sambhar and pangolin. Nearly 35 species of fish have been recorded. The wetlands, which are spread over 1365 hectares, play a substantial role in recharging ground water and a source of water for distant areas through canal and the Bist Doab canal.

The Kanjli wetlands, which were formed in 1870 with the construction of a head regulator near Kanjli village on the Kali Bein rivulet in Kapurthala district, are an extremely important ecosystem in the region. Spread over an area of 183 hectares, these have similar values like the Harike wetlands.


Villagers examined at Army medical camp
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, February 1
The presence of the Army in villages along the international border might have caused some initial inconvenience to the residents of these villages but the Army men are now lending a helping hand to them.

Brig S.K.S Rana, said this at a free medical camp organised by the Army in Shahtirwala village, 17 km from here on Wednesday. Mr Rana advised the Army and BSF doctors in the camp to educate the villagers about the prevention of diseases like AIDS, hepatitis. He directed to take special interest in solving the problems of women and creating awareness among them.

A record number of 2215 patients turned up at the camp. Most of the people had come from adjoining border villages of Roop Nagar, Bareka, Shahtirwala, Jandwala Miran Sangla, Kabulshah Khuban, Azamwala, Bandiwala, Sivana and Sabuana. The Army had arranged vehicles for the transportation of the residents of these villages. Brig. Rana further said patients of chronic disease who needed hospitalisation could take treatment in the Army hospital. He said weekly camps shall be arranged in border villages of Asafwala, Bhaini Ram Singh and Mauzam.

Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu, Sarpanch of the village appreciated the Army for its helpful attitude. Mr Krishan Beniwal of Sivana village said the Army jawans helped them in harvesting the sugarcane from fields where landmines had been laid.


Roadways men flay SAD policies
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 1
The joint action committee of the Punjab Roadways Employees Association has flayed the Akali government’s policies and its alleged indifferent attitude towards the demands of the roadways employees.

At a big rally organised here the Ferozepore division of the association criticised the Akali government for not paying any attention towards their demands and the deteriorating condition of the roadways buses and other infrastructural facilities. The committee and a large number of roadways employees attending the rally pledged full support to Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, former Chief Minister of Punjab and the Congress candidate for the Muktsar Assembly constituency, who also addressed the rally. He assured them that if the Congress came to power immediate action would be taken on all their demands.

A committee leader speaking at the rally admitted that it was a “big mistake” on their part to have supported the Akalis in the last Assembly poll. The employees were determined to “set their mistake right” by backing the Congress this time.


Border villagers get arms training
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 1
Villagers of Kassowal located on the Gurdaspur-Amritsar border closed to the Indo-Pak border, who have returned to their houses are feeling more secure and modified now. They said they Army had made efforts to develop a rapport between the Army and locals.

The Army celebrated Kassowal Week from January 21 culminating in the Republic Day celebrations at Ghanien ke Bat village.

During this week, the Army organised a special arms training camp for the villagers. A medical camp was also organised and medicines were given free of cost.


Baba Kundan Singh dead
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
Baba Kundan Singh of Kalerawale, head of Gurdwara Nanak Sar near Jagraon died at a local hospital here today. He was 78. Baba Kundan Singh had succeeded Sant Ishwar Singh as head of the gurdwara in 1963. His mortal remains will be consigned to water at Harike on February 3.


Suicide by bride, in-laws held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 1
Three persons were booked in a dowry case by the Sultanwind police after Harjinder Kaur committed suicide. She had consumed poison a few days ago.

In an FIR registered on January 30, Mangal Singh, father of the deceased, has alleged that Harjinder was harassed and beaten up by her husband Sukhwinder Singh, mother- in- law, Satwant Kaur and sister- in- law Bholi. They were demanding more dowry A case under section 306,34 of the IPC has been registered.

In another incident, an eight year-old girl of Nizampur village was allegedly raped by Kuldeep Singh of the same area on January 30. According to reports, the accused called her into his house when Pyar Kaur was returning after an errand to market. The accused raped her and fled. A case was registered under Section 376 of the IPC on the statement of Balwinder Singh, father of the girl.

Meanwhile, the police has seized 41litres of illicit liquor and apprehended five persons Satnam Singh, Balwinder Singh, Virsa Singh, Ajit Kumar, Satnam Singh in separate incidents in the district. Cases have been registered.


‘Benami’ property dealer held
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 1
The district police yesterday arrested Bhushan Dhawan for making “benami” property deals on behalf of Naresh Kapur, an accused in multi-crore Indira Vikas Patra case.

Mr L.K. Yadav, SP, stated here that Bhushan Dhawan, a resident of local Green Model Town locality, invested money raised through loans from different banks by pledging Indira Vikas Patras and Kisan Vikas Patras allegedly stolen from Patna railway station by Naresh Kapur.

Bhushan was an accomplice in the sale of Kapur’s properties in different cities, including Mumbai, Dehra Dun and Kolkata. Naresh, a proclaimed offender, used to stay at Bhushan’s house during his visit to the city, Mr Yadav added.

Bhushan was arrested from his house last evening. A case has been registered under Sections 465, 467, 468, 369, 216 and 120B IPC and Section 3 of the Benami Properties Prohibition Act 1988.


Man kills wife, arrested
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
In a gory murder, a middle-aged man allegedly murdered his wife after torturing her with a hot iron to make her confess about an illicit relationship. The police has arrested the accused and said the man suspected his wife’s character and used to beat her often.

The accused Arjun allegedly murdered his wife today afternoon and dumped the body in a storeroom of the house before fleeing. The body was spotted by two children of the accused, when they returned from the school. The deceased was working as computer operator with the local municipal corporation while her husband had been working in a bakery shop. The police authorities said it was on the lookout of two friends of the accused who allegedly helped him in the crime.


PUTA general body meeting ends in chaos
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 1
The long-awaited Punjabi University Teachers Association's (PUTA) general body meeting ended in chaos today with rival factions clashing over the right to convene the meeting.

Immediately after the meeting started, association secretary N.S. Atri claimed that only he could preside over the meeting which was objected to by another group which wanted joint secretary S.M. Verma to preside over the meeting. This led to a verbal clash between members of both groups leading to the disruption of meeting.

Both groups, however, claimed that the meeting had been organised by them and released separate press notes. The dominant group in PUTA led by its president D.S. Dhillon claimed that the meeting was convened by the joint secretary as the Secretary, Dr Atri had earlier been suspended for not obeying the directives of the executive.

Dr Dhillon claimed that a few supporters of Dr Atri tried to disrupt the proceedings of the house by using indecent language. He said taking serious note of this, the house approved a resolution seeking the suspension of Prof U.C. Singh and Dr Mann Singh Dhindsa from the general house for three months. He said the house also approved and confirmed the decision of the executive committee regarding the suspension of Dr Atri and authorised Dr Verma to perform the duties of the secretary.

The PUTA president claimed that the house also approved the charter of demands, including immediate promotion of the remaining teachers under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) on the basis of seniority, implementation of the scheme with effect from July 1998, raising the retirement age to 62 years, reintroduction of re-employment scheme and raising house rent allowance to 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, in a separate press note, Dr Atri and three other members of the executive — Dr K.S. Sidhu, Dr Jaswinder Singh and Dr R.S. Ghumman — claimed that the PUTA president had left the meeting in a huff after failing to convince the members of the constitutional validity of the meeting.

Dr Atri claimed that the house unanimously rejected the unilateral and unconstitutional resolution under which he had been suspended by “Dr Dhillon and company”. He said the house also condemned the PUTA president for the gross violation of PUTA constitution, being instrumental in the victimisation of teachers, mortgaging the interest of teachers and instigating teachers to assault fellow teachers at the meeting.

The secretary said the general body also condemned the Vice-Chancellor for his partisan role in dividing the faculty and not restraining the PUTA president. He said the house also expressed concern over the alleged harassment meted out to girls as reported in a section of the Press and demanded a high-level inquiry into the matter.

Meanwhile in a separate press note, the Forum for Educational Action and Reform also took a serious view of a letter written by a girl of the Department of Fine Arts to the Vice-Chancellor, regarding the exploitation of girls in Punjabi University. 


National youth festival begins
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 1
A five-day All-India Inter-Varsity National Youth Festival commenced at Guru Nanak Dev University here today amid much fanfare.

More than 1,000 student artists from 62 universities are participating in the festival which was inaugurated by the Governor, Lt-Gen J. F. R. Jacob (retd).

The festival, sponsored by the Association of Indian Universities, Ministry of Youth Welfare and Sports, will see 22 competitions in music, dance, theatre, literary and fine arts.

The Governor said participation in these events not only brought out hidden talent, but also gave bigger responsibility for social reform.

Dr S. P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the university, said such events had become a vital part of the education system and gave the youth a chance to shape their personalities.

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