Thursday, February 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Don’t rake up coffin issue: PM
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, February 6
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today cautioned all those, including the Congress, against playing up the coffin case as it would demoralise the defence forces. He maintained that his government would never cover up any of its “misdeeds”.

Touching a variety of subjects during his 20-minute address at an impressive election rally here this afternoon, the Prime Minister not only reiterated that “Kashmir would be freed from the menace of terrorism soon”, but also justified the deployment of armed forces on the border, saying that “these are our forces and we have deployed them on our territory to defend our territory and it is our own decision.”

Weaving his address around terrorism, the Kashmir problem and the charges of corruption levelled against his government by the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Mr Vajpayee said, “I respect Mrs Sonia Gandhi as a woman and as a foreigner. But unfortunately, the way she speaks, I get worried about the Congress. It is on the verge of being wiped out from the country.

“In 1999 during the Kargil operations, we took a conscientious decision that bodies of all martyrs would be sent back to their parents. We decided to buy good coffins. Initially, they quoted rates of some expensive ones. But we opted for cheaper ones. Now they are accusing us of selling coffins. Tell me who will buy coffins. They are all gunning for Mr George Fernandes, a great patriot, who quit. But we brought him back. We do not want to cover up any of our misdeeds. But at the same time, it is a very sensitive issue. And we should not play it up as it would have a great impact on our soldiers defending the borders of the country,” he said.

Talking about Kashmir, he referred to the observation of “Kashmir Day” yesterday saying that “let them observe any day. Now they say that there would be no terrorism outside Kashmir. But why in Kashmir? Kashmir came to India by its own decision. When the British left, they left the states free. Pakistan, in its attempt to grab Kashmir, first tried to send in tribesmen. The Maharaja of Kashmir tried to face them with his force before deciding to go with India. It was the wish and will of the people of the Kashmir. Then Pakistan tried through its army. In all three wars, it has been defeated. Rather, Bangladesh got separated and became a free country,” he said maintaining that “terrorism would end soon in Kashmir”. “And with whose permission they are sitting and occupying a part of Kashmir?”

He said that even those Pakistanis in Kashmir could try their strength by participating in the elections. Pakistan cannot win Kashmir by use of weapons.

Calling General Pervez Musharraf an old friend, he said he did not bother whether during his Lahore visit he saluted him or not, he did not go to Pakistan uninvited. “I would not go to God unless called,” he quipped, saying that after 50 years of enmity, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had called him for friendship. “And I went. In both our countries, unemployment, sickness, illiteracy are the major problems. We want peace. We fought for our principles. We would never compromise on principles,” he averred.

The Prime Minister complimented the people of Punjab, security forces and the government for fighting unitedly against terrorism. “We have been facing terrorism propagated by Pakistan for 20 years. I remember coming to Punjab before 1997 when the bazars and shops would close in the evenings. There was an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in the State. But thanks to the people of Punjab, it is peaceful now. Communal harmony and universal brotherhood are back. Attempts are being made to divide the people again. See what the Congress did in Tamil Nadu or other states? It wants to divide people and rule. There is a big change in Punjab. Punjab has to progress and go ahead. You have to decide. I want you to give the SAD-BJP another chance to serve you. Delhi has always been with Punjab”.

Mr Vajpayee succeeded in establishing a direct rapport with those in the audience by playing to their sentiments and talking about “terrorism”, “Kashmir problem”, “Kargil operations” and deployment of defence forces on the borders” maintaining that while the future of the country was safe with the NDA government, he was worried about the future of Congress.

Coming to the local issues, Mr Vajpayee complimented Punjab farmers for making the country self-sufficient in foodgrains and urged them to go for diversification.

“We needs lots of oils, both for cooking and massaging. And we have to import them by spending foreign exchange. If farmers of Punjab accept this challenge, I am sure they can make us self-sufficient in oil seeds. We also need to grow other cereals and pulses,” he said, holding that the Punjab Chief Minister has always been fighting for the cause of the farmers and getting them justice.

Earlier, the Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, while highlighting the achievements of the SAD-BJP government during the past five years, described Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee as a great friend of Punjab to whom people of the state would remain indebted for ever.

Vinod Khanna, Bollywood star and local MP, who earlier welcomed the Prime Minister, also introduced him to the SAD-BJP alliance candidates from the area. Earlier, Master Mohan Lal, local BJP candidate, also cautioned the Congress against its attempts to create tension in the town by making baseless allegations against the SAD-BJP alliance. Others who addressed the gathering were Mr Satya Pal Saini, Mr Sita Ram Kashyap, Mr Jagdish Sawhney, Mr Munawar Mashih and Mr Bisambar Das.

Kulwinder Sandhu adds from Ferozepore: Addressing a public gathering organised in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh stadium, here, today Mr Vajpayee said the deployment of Army was not for unnecessary confrontation with neighbours but to defend ourselves.

He admitted that Kashmir was one of the issues of growing tensions between the two nations but there were certain other issues like opening trade and cultural relations to build confidence among the people on either side. Borders should be opened but not at the cost of nation’s security.

The Prime Minister reminded the audience that he had initiated peace process with Pakistan by starting the Delhi-Lahore bus service but said that India was betrayed. Although we again called President Musharraf at Agra to resolve the confrontation between the two nations but the hard posture adopted by the Army General resulted in failure of talks.

He castigated Mrs Sonia Gandhi for making irresponsible statements and advised the Congress to behave like a responsible and decent Opposition. Mr Vajpayee said we needed to work together to keep the Congress away from power.

The union government had always been kind to Punjab in providing help. The minimum support price of rabi and kharif crops was raised to the expectations of the farmers. But the need of the hour was to go in for diversification of crops.

He assured Punjab of all financial assistance in the future also. Employment opportunities would be raised by setting up industries and building infrastructure. He also assured the people of border villages that their problems would be resolved soon but did not specifically mention the relief package due to the code of conduct. He appealed the people of Punjab to vote for SAD-BJP-BSM candidates.

Chief Minister of Punjab and SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal praised the NDA government at the Centre for extending help to put the state back on the road of development after two decades of turmoil.

Earlier, Mr Vajpayee was received by Mr Jora Singh Mann MP at the helipad. He later greeted him at the stage by offering a turban, a shawl and a sword.


The stage secretary was Prof M.L. Anand who 40 years ago while conducting the proceedings of a party workers’ meeting here at Ferozepore, had predicted that Mr Vajpayee would one day become the PM of India.


Mr Vajpayee remembered his friendship with sitting MLA Girdhara Singh from Ferozepore city constituency by saying that “he was not among them” and he said “perhaps his son is contesting the elections”. Mr Girdhara Singh is bedridden from the past four-and-a-half years and his adopted son Sukhpal Singh Nannu is contesting the elections.


Though every speaker talked about the successes of SAD-BJP alliance and also sought votes for their candidates, the stage presented an atmosphere as if it was a BJP’s show. The stage was decorated with BJP flags only.


The CM, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, struck an emotional note by saying that his “ satkaar” (respect) for Mr Vajpayee had transformed into “shradha” (devotion).



174 cr package for border farmers likely
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 6
Farmers in Punjab’s three border districts are to be adequately compensated for having raised working capital to invest in rabi (particularly wheat) operations. The state has sought a Rs 174 crore package by way of compensation to be paid since no wheat production is expected with the Army having moved in. Punjab has a 531 km fenced border with Pakistan.

Informed sources told TNS that the request from the state Financial Commissioner, Revenue, was being processed in New Delhi. The money was likely to be released shortly.

The farmers in the 16 km belt will be compensated since their fields under the occupation of the troops have turned fallow.


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