Saturday, February 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Sonia dared to debate on coffin
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
The Union Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, today challenged the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to an open debate on the alleged coffin scandal.

Addressing a well-attended public rally at Haibowal, near here, in support of Mr Darshan Singh Shivalik, the Akali-BJP alliance candidate from Dakha (reserved) constituency, Mr Jaitley claimed that it had already been proved beyond doubt that the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, on the basis of which the allegations were being levelled, was not based on facts.

The Law Minister expressed surprise why Mrs Gandhi was trying to rake up an issue that she knew had already been cleared. He gave graphic details about various procedures adopted in purchasing the coffins.

He strongly denied the charges of the Opposition that the BJP was creating war hysteria with Pakistan. He pointed out that India had lost not more than 6,000 lives in four wars. ‘‘But we have already lost about 60,000 soldiers to terrorism’’, he pointed out, while saying ‘‘it (terrorism) was no longer a low intensity war but a high intensity war.’’ He said the war against terrorism had entered a decisive stage.

Earlier talking to reporters, Mr Jaitley argued that there was no ‘‘anti-incumbency’’ factor in Punjab. He hoped that the Akali-BJP alliance would return to power as it had done a lot for the state. He disclosed that there had been instances when the incumbent governments had again been voted to power just because people wanted the government to continue.


Advani cashes in on anti-Pak sentiment
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, February 8
The national leadership of the BJP has brought the issue of national security on the forefront in the Punjab elections. It is trying to make Pakistan its target keeping in view the fact that Punjab is a border state. Moreover, the atmosphere in the state is conducive to emotionally exploiting this issue as defence forces of both India and Pakistan have been deployed on the border in full strength for the past several weeks, especially in the Punjab sector.

The Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, built up his speech around Pakistan at an election rally he addressed here this morning in support of the BJP candidate, Mr Tikshan Sud, a minister who is a party’s candidate for the local seat. His speech was well received by a responsive crowd of this city.

Mr Advani said by sponsoring the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, Pakistan (which he described as Ravana) had crossed the ‘Laxman rekha’ and now there was no question of withdrawing the armed forces from the border. “We are moving ahead in the right direction against Pakistan”, he said without elaborating this point further.

His scathing attack on Pakistan was greeted with “jaikaras” of “Bole So Nihal …” and thundering applause.

Following Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 war, it changed its strategy vis-à-vis India and started the process of infiltration. It used Punjab as a laboratory to spread terrorism in India. However, the people of Punjab had defeated terrorism with their might. And soon, terrorism would be wiped out in other parts of the country. Our neighbour would not be allowed to succeed in its anti-India designs.

He did not spare the Congress also on the issue of national security. Mr Advani said, “The Congress’s attitude on the issue of national security has always remained negative. It even criticised the Pokhran tests without realising that such tests were needed in view of the anti-India clandestine operations of its next door enemy”.

Pakistan has been engaged in war against India for the past 20 years. But now it has crossed all limits. There would be no talks with it in the existing situation. Even the developed world has realised that what India was saying with regard to terrorism was true.

He asked people to vote for the SAD-BJP alliance as it has stood as a best guardian of country’s national security.

He praised the Sikhs for their role in the protection of the country . The BJP has cordial relations with its allies all over the country and is cooperating with them in principled manner. He reminded the role played by the Congress to defame Sikhs in the country and its role in anti-Sikh riots in various parts of the country in 1984. The Congress has been given a “ second class” citizens treatment to Sikhs, he added. Mr Advani said no one would have talked about Kashmir now if the Congress government had made Pakistan to sign on the dotted line at the time of authoring Simla Agreement with it. Pakistan was in the dock as its near one lakh army men were in Indian jails at that time. He said that Pakistan should have been asked at that time to leave Kashmir. As that opportunity had been lost, again opportunity would come, he asserted.

Mr Advani praised the SAD-BJP government in Punjab for the promotion of Hindu-Sikh unity and peace.

Mr Advani urged voters to vote for Mr Tikhsan Sud, as he had fulfilled all the promises made to the people of the local constituency and worked hard for its all-round development.

Varinder Singh adds from Jalandhar: Mr Advani on Friday advocated the need for a national debate on the functioning of “madarsas” in the country.

Taking a leaf from the reported statement of the West Bengal Chief Minister about “madarsas”, Mr Advani said it was high time to consider the spirit of the Kidwai Committee, which had suggested that only duly permitted “madarsas” should be allowed to function.

Talking to mediapersons here, he, however, cautioned that no one should be allowed to make sweeping allegations about “madarsas”, but steps should be taken to combat the ISI’s nefarious designs and the “madrassas” that are coming up on border.

“Even Islamic countries are worried about growing fundamentalism and some of these are taking preventive steps by registering madarsas. If Islamic countries can do that, why we cannot do the same?”

Mr Advani, however, was evasive about the long-pending demands of Punjab, for which the BJP’s alliance partner SAD had been organising morchas. “When both states ask for intervention, the Centre will intervene. These issues are vexed ones and could not be solved by the Congress during its long rule in the state and at the Centre.”

Later, Mr Advani, who was accompanied by Punjab BJP chief Brij Lal Rinwa, also addressed a rally at Partap Bagh.


Pak jealous, says Advani
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 8
The Union Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, today said Pakistan was jealous of the progress made by India since Independence, hence it tried two wars with India.

He said Jammu and Kashmir was just an excuse to keep Pakistan's public involved to help pay little attention to its own internal problems. Consequently, it had started a covert action in a proxy-war unleashed on India.

Addressing a BJP rally, Mr Advani said India had a tremendous capability to achieve greatness and it should now target itself to become a developed country. But due to bad governance things had taken such a turn.


Badal campaigns in Rayya, Faridkot, Moga
Tribune Reporters

Rayya (Amritsar), February 8
In a novel way of wooing voters, Mr Parkash Singh Badal today said that if a SAD-BJP candidate wins with a margin of more than 10,000 votes, the candidate would get a Cabinet rank of his or her choice so that the constituency could be nurtured according to the wish of voters and the candidate.

If a candidate wins with a margin of 8,000 votes, he would be accommodated in the Cabinet but the portfolio would be of Mr Badal’s choice. A candidate winning with a 6,000 margin could be allotted state ministry. However, a victory of less than 2,000 votes would mean that the candidate will remain only an MLA. ‘‘Now it is up to you (the voters) whether you want a Cabinet Minister of your choice, a state minister or nothing,’’ the Chief Minister said .

In a lighter vein, Mr Badal told the voters that they should take Ms Sonia Gandhi to a field to find out whether she was able to differentiate between wheat and paddy. ‘‘ All Akali candidate will withdraw if she is able to do so, ’’ he said.

Mr Badal also tried to exploit Operation Bluestar. Striking an emotional chord, Mr Badal said Mr Amarinder Singh had committed a blunder by presenting a sword to Ms Sonia Gandhi as she had not apologised for Operation Bluestar for which her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi was responsible.

Mr Badal also addressed rallies at Verka, Jandiala, Majitha and Rajasansi.

FARIDKOT : Mr Badal charged the Congress with adopting a divide-and-rule policy during its 45-year-rule in the country. “ They have set aside all democratic norms to remain in power,” alleged Mr Badal while addressing a rally here on Thursday in support of Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, party contestant from the Faridkot Assembly constituency.

The Chief Minister alleged that illiteracy and unemployment reached its peak during the Congress rule. He assailed the Congress for always adopting an indifferent attitude towards the Punjabis, particularly the Sikhs.

Mr Badal also held the Congress responsible for militancy in Punjab. He asked the people whether senior Congress leaders would be able to safeguard their interests.

Mr Badal claimed that the SAD-BJP alliance had played a key role in strengthening the democratic roots, besides maintaining communal harmony and peace in the state.

MOGA: Addressing a rally at Nihalsinghwala, Baghapurana and other villages Mr Badal said the SAD-BJP combine would form the next government in the state. He said his government had fulfilled all promises it had made to the people of the state and in future too would ensure proper development.


Electoral compulsions & party icons
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Mansa, February 8
Electoral compulsions have forced political parties to dump their icons besides abandoning their friends who no longer fit in their political arithmetic.

Gone are the days when political parties could not do without cutouts of leaders — past and present — at every venue. It was common to see cutouts at ever nook and corner of a city or town to be visited by the top leadership of the party. While the flags and buntings are there, the pantheon of cutouts of leaders peering onto the crowds are no longer there.

At all the rallies addressed by the leaders of the Congress, the most conspicuous absence both in speech and otherwise — is that of the late Mrs Indira Gandhi. Her photograph does not adorn the posters of any candidate nor does she find mention in any of the speeches.

Sources point out that instructions have been given that no references to the charismatic Mrs Gandhi are to be made — including pictures on posters — anywhere in the ongoing campaigning. The reason given is that people are still ‘‘hurt’’ by the 1984 Operation Bluestar and invoking her name might cost the party dear in the countryside, especially among the Sikh peasantry of the state.

The Congress is silent on the issue of tendering an apology to the people for the infamous action, the sources added.

At the rallies addresses by the PPCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, one could see cutouts of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. But for the rallies Rajiv — like his mother — is absent from all the publicity material being distributed by the party in the state. The pictures of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Capt Amarinder Singh adorn the posters in the state and in the spate of advertisements in favour of its nominees.

If the Congress has preferred to given a go-by to its past leaders, the Akalis are no better. While Mr Prakash Singh Badal hogs the limelight, eminent leaders like the late Sant Fateh Singh and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal have been completely forgotten. While the former is the architect of the Punjabi Suba movement the latter signed an accord with Rajiv Gandhi to put at rest the contentious issues which had been dogging the state for decades.

The sources pointed out that another notable absence is that of the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, who is also a close family friend of the ruling family. He has not been asked to campaign in the districts bordering Haryana since the apex court's directive on the SYL issue. This is affecting campaigning in Mansa district, which borders Rori — Chautala’s constituency. Rori is barely 3 km from Sardulgarh.

While Congressmen are strictly adhering to the directives of the party some of the rebel Akalis are openly seeking votes by invoking the name of the ‘‘dumped’’ party stalwarts.

Mr Baldev Singh Khiala, the four-time legislator from Joga constituency, is being actively helped by Sant Mukhtiar Singh Badiala, younger brother of Sant Fateh Singh. The Sant hailed from Badiala village in Joga constituency. Mr Khiala, who is contesting on the Panthic Morcha ticket after parting ways with Mr Badal, says: ‘‘The contribution of the Sant has been ignored by the party’’.

‘‘While the lives of the two sants was worth emulating nothing of this sort can be said of the present ‘corrupt’ chief of the SAD.’’ His campaign has also been buttressed by the presence of Mr Hardayal Singh Mofar, who was one of the persons injured in the attack on Sant Longowal. He too was denied a ticket this time. He is an uncle of Mr Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, the Congress nominee from Sardulgarh constituency.

Another person who swears by the contribution of Sant Longowal is former Punjab Deputy Speaker Jaswant Singh. He is contesting as an Independent and his posters prominently carry a portrait of the Sant.

‘‘The Sant laid down his life for the sake of the people of Punjab. The accord has not been implemented due to the vested interests of the leaders and what has been done to propagate his memory?’’, he questions.


Do bureaucrats make good politicians?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, February 8
Do bureaucrats, including policemen, make good politicians? A perusal of the records reveals that of several bureaucrats who ventured into electoral politics, only a handful of them have been successful.

The successful ones are Mr Suchet Singh Aujla, Mr Kapur Singh, Mr Chitwant Singh, Mr Sukhjinder Singh and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann while among the unsuccessful ones have been Mr Sant Parkash Singh, Mr N.S. Phoolka and Mr Anup Singh Minhas. Mr B.S. Dhanewalia, former Inspector-General of the Punjab police, floated a new political outfit but did not enter electoral politics.

This time, a retired DSP, Mr Bishambhar Dass , is contesting on the BJP ticket from Narot Mehra in the Majha belt.

However, Mr Kuldip Singh Bhullar, son of Mr M.S. Bhullar, Director-General of Police, and Mrs Razia Sultan, wife of Mr Mohammed Mustafa, a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, are contesting the elections as Congress candidates from Zira and Malerkotla, respectively.

Mrs Gurdial Kaur Khangurra, Congress candidate from Kila Raipur, is related to Mr G.S. Aujla, Additional Director-General of Police, as her son is married to Mr Aujla’s daughter.

In fact a few other names, including those of Mr Ajit Singh Chatha and Mr R.R. Bhardwaj, both senior bureaucrats, were being mentioned in Congress circles as probable candidates. The name of a police officer from Patiala, who reportedly quit the service, was also being mentioned as an aspirant for Congress ticket.

But police officers venturing into politics is a pre-Independence phenomenon. One of the oldest cases is of Mr Suchet Singh Aujla, who was an Inspector-General of Police in the erstwhile Kapurthala state. He later was elected to Parliament (1948-52) from Pepsu.

Mr Sant Parkash Singh, who was an Inspector-General of Police, unsuccessfully opposed the Union Minister, Mr Swaran Singh, from the Jalandhar Parliamentary constituency in 1967 as Shiromani Akali Dal candidate and polled 29.1 votes against 39.2 per cent votes polled by the Congress nominee.

Mr Kapur Singh, ICS, contested from Ludhiana in 1962 on the Akali ticket and defeated Mr Mangal Singh of the Congress narrowly. He polled 34.6 per cent votes against 34 per cent polled by Mr Mangal Singh.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann has been the most successful of all bureaucrat-turned politicians. He was elected from the Tarn Taran Parliamentary constituency in the 1989 elections with a massive mandate polling 89.2 per cent of the 63.6 per cent of votes cast. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha, this time from Sangrur in 1999. Before joining politics, Mr Mann was an IPS officer and had quit in protest against Operation Bluestar.

Mr Anoop Singh Minhas, also a Superintendent of Police, was also unsuccessful in his attempt to get into the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from Jalandhar cantonment as a nominee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann).

Mr Sukhjinder Singh, who had been an Akali minister, was a Deputy Superintendent of Police, before he ventured into electoral politics and was elected from Bholath more than once. Now his son is contesting on the Congress ticket.

Besides them, Mr Chitwant Singh also made a successful entry in electoral politics after serving police. He was elected from Patiala district.


Issues that wait to be tackled
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Elections are held within a time frame. But governance is a continuous process. If that be so, should people not be concerned more with governance than politics? And for correct political voting, should people not try to understand the nuts and bolts of governance and administration enabling them to make the right choice? Should people not be educated in this?

Poll promises and political gimmickry in elections is one thing, getting to the basics of what people and the state need is quite another. The present elections are being held at a point of time when people ought to know what is in store for them after the poll as much for the political parties vying to enter the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh.

The real issues that wait to be tackled right away were identified by Punjabi University’s former Vice-Chancellor, Dr S.S. Johl, while talking to TNS. He identified these as “corruption, infrastructure, education and health”. He was doubtful as to how corruption would be dealt with by the new government. He was certain that if corruption was eliminated, Punjab could be transformed.

There was no escape from building a strong, viable infrastructure in terms of the communication network (highways, bridges, etc.) and unless education and the health delivery system were given top priority in the rural areas, Punjab’s future development and growth would be stunted.

Dr Johl said that agriculture was the backbone of the state’s economy. Restarting this “engine of growth” was imperative and important for economic development.

People, perhaps, are unaware that agriculture is at the crossroads, says a government paper, with production and productivity getting plateaued, incomes declining, the subsoil watertable receding, markets not opening up and the debt burden increasing.

People, who are going to elect a government for themselves, also ought to know the problems that beset the administration — the financial crisis, the burgeoning army of employees and pensioners, deep in debt, loss-making public sector undertakings, the burden of outgo of money on the exchequer by way of salaries, wages, pensions, debt repayments, grants to educational institutions, non-practising allowance to doctors and veterinarians, poor returns from investments in the economic and social sectors, the top-heavy police and bureaucracy and cost of security, etc. Against this revenue expenditure, what is the revenue income?

People may feel pleased with the please-all sops announced by various political parties. But have they paused to ponder wherefrom the money will come? Who will foot the bill? Have the political parties addressed themselves to these problems and told the electors how they will tackle these?

If no, the wrong choice of a political set-up to govern for the next five years will further bleed Punjab—economically, financially and socially — resulting in a downslide in agriculture and industry.

Preparations are afoot on the basic framework of next year’s Budget (2002-03). While bureaucrats will provide the financial framework listing weak and strong points, the politicians will construct the edifice. This will be their first assignment. The people must know now what additional resources are proposed to be mobilised and how to reach the promised green pastures by way of sops and freebies.

People today need to know that Punjab’s debt burden is Rs 32,058 crore. Add to this another Rs 30,000 crore by way of debt incurred by boards and corporations. Is any political party prepared to arrest this rising trend? To do that it would mean manpower planning and the redeployment of the staff. After all, Punjab’s salary bill has shot up from Rs 2,139 crore in 1996-97 to Rs 4,428 crore in 2001-02. In the same way, the pension bill has risen from Rs 349 crore (1996-97) to Rs 1,150 crore (2001-02).

Will any political party have the guts to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme and redeploy the existing staff by assimilation and elimination of departments? Will PSUs be folded up, trimmed and restructured ? Punjab cannot afford more new institutions and projects. The existing ones should be financially well-fed and maintained. Will people seek a moratorium on new projects unless the existing ones are resuscitated?

Take non-practising allowance. The outgo is estimated at Rs 50 crore per annum. Yet, private practice continues. Now the Akalis have proposed pay to elected representatives at the grassroots as well. Has Punjab that much money?

The state spends Rs 10 crore to Rs 15 crore on the paramilitary forces on security at government organisations. Why cannot the Punjab police be trusted with that and excess police personnel on security duty with VIPs and senior bureaucrats, police officers and politicians the withdrawn and trained to replace the paramilitary forces? The state police itself requires a second look in terms of equipment and training, rather than having a large force.

The recovery on economic and social services is poor. It was 1.76 per cent in the social services and 11.51 per cent in the economic services in 1998. Yet political parties are promising more freebies, concessions, etc, to people. It is for people to understand and question the wisdom of what the politicians palm off as sops.

Punjab has to adopt the VAT (value added tax) system. The present tax realisation is less than Rs 3,000 crore annually. Capt Amarinder Singh promises to mop up Rs 4,000 crore per year by plugging loopholes and giving sops worth Rs 1,200 crore against Rs 1,500 crore already available from the Akalis. VAT, on the other hand, can fetch Rs 5,000 crore.

People get the government they deserve. If that be so, people should vote for what Punjab really deserves to bounce back to number one position. Will people do so on February 13?



Amarinder seeks quashing of defamation complaint
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, February 8
The Punjab Congress chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, today sought the quashing of the defamation complaint filed against him by the Punjab Chief Minister’s son, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Mr Badal was issued notice for February 21 by the UT Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr C.L. Mohal. In his complaint, Capt Amarinder Singh said Mr Badal had filed the defamation complaint with a view to misusing the forum of the court for political gains in view of the elections scheduled for February 13.

He further alleged that Mr Badal had opted for this method only to mislead the public on the basis of his oral testimony in the court that he had not received any favour from the Haryana Government for sacrificing the interests of Punjab. Counsel of the Congress chief appeared in court on his behalf.

Capt Amarinder Singh prayed before the court that any order on the complaint of Mr Badal should be passed only after the court summoned officials of the Haryana Government and the HSIDC with the relevant records to clarify facts relating to the allegations levelled by the Congress.

He further said that no action was taken by the Election Commission or by the Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, on similar complaints filed against him by Mr Badal, presumably because the allegations made therein were found to be false and baseless.

Capt Amarinder Singh said that a perusal of the official records of the Haryana Government and the HSIDC relating to the unprecedented allotment of a 17.75 acre industrial plot to Mr Sukhbir Badal showed that Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his son had misused official powers.

The Badals had misused their powers to obtain this gift of property worth more than Rs 500 crore by paying less than Rs 5 crore to the HSIDC, he added.

Meanwhile, the statement of the SGPC President, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, was recorded before Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mohal in connection with a defamation complaint filed by Mr Sukhbir Badal against the Punjab Congress chief.

Mr Badungar said that Mr Sukhbir Badal and the Chief Minister of Punjab were highly respected leaders of the Sikh Panth. He held both of them in high esteem.

Mr Badungar said that after having gone through the relevant advertisements their reputation in his eyes was lowered. Later he talked to both of them on the telephone and they tried to convince him that the same was not true, but their reputation in his eyes had not been restored.

The preliminary evidence in the case were closed today. The CJM adjourned the case for February 21.


Bhattal granted bail in criminal case
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 8
Mr B.C. Rajput, Special Judge-cum-District and Sessions Judge, today allowed the bail application moved by former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, in a criminal case registered against her under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code for her alleged involvement in bungling of the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

Mr Rajput accepted the bail of Ms Bhattal as per the direction of the Punjab and Haryana High Court given on the petition filed by Ms Bhattal after the special court issued non-bailable warrants against her.

Ms Bhattal, who was accompanied by her lawyer, Mr Rajdev Singh Khalsa, former MP, and Mr Jagdeep Singh Chohan former Additional Director, Public Relations Department, Punjab, was asked to submit surety bonds of Rs 15,000. Mr Sukhdev Singh verified the surety bonds submitted by Ms Bhattal.

Mr Rajdev Singh Khalsa took the plea that as Ms Bhattal was contesting the Assembly elections and was a serious candidate for the chief ministership after being elected as leader of the Congress legislature group so a later date for hearing the case should be fixed. Mr Rajput has fixed March 27 as the next date of hearing for the case.

Ms Bhattal, while coming out of the courtroom said she always had a high regard for the judiciary and was thankful for the bail granted enabling her to canvass herself in the Lehra Gaga Assembly segment and other constituencies.

Earlier, when Ms Bhattal appeared in the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Karnail Singh, in February in the same case for getting bail, as the Special Judge was on leave, she had to wait for long and her bail bonds were not accepted by the judicial officer.

The corruption case was registered against a former Chief Minister Ms Bhattal, for the alleged involvement in bungling in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and a complaint in this connection was moved by Mr Balwant Singh Dhillon, president of the local District Amateur Boxing Association, in the court of the then Special Judge.


CBI swoop on rice godowns
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
Special teams of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) yesterday descended on various godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at Nabha to investigate complaints of supply and storage of substandard paddy and rice.

Sources said that the raids continued until midnight last night at six godowns. The raiding teams took samples which are being sent for analysis.

The CBI raids covered Ajit Bansal & Sons, the Central Warehousing Base Depot, an A.K. & Co godown under the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, the Old Central Warehousing godown, the Punia Godown and Devki Godown also under the warehousing corporation.

The supply of rice to these godowns, all at Nabha, was made by Amar Rice Mills; Moti Ram Munna Lal & Sons Rice Mills; H.R. Rice Mills; SS Industries; Prem Chand Rice Mills; Achal Rice Mills and Om Rice Mills — all from Nabha.

The supply of paddy to these godowns was mainly from Amar Rice Mills, Nabha.

The sources maintained that until sample analysis reports were received, nothing could be said. Raids of such a magnitude have been conducted after a long time.

The Union Food Ministry and the top management of the FCI had been finding the rice and paddy procured in Punjab was “substandard”

Though certain relaxations are announced relating to the moisture content and broken rice, the complaints on the basis of which the raids were conducted, were about the quality of the rice and paddy.

“We will wait for the reports before taking the next step,” sources in the CBI said, maintaining that at some of the godowns, the stored paddy and rice was literally “rotting”.


Experience vs exuberance
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
It is experience on one side pitted against exuberance and the vigour of youth, which threatens to ride on the anti-incumbency factor. Long-standing BJP stalwart, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, who has won thrice from Nangal, is pitted against Mr K.P.S. Rana of the Congress. He has risen from village-level politics. Both are lawyers and started their careers from the district courts in Ropar. The BJP candidate is flaunting the Vajpayee card while the young Congressman says it’s time for a change. Mr Mittal has done nothing for which he should be re-elected, Mr Rana adds.

In this pre-dominantly upper-caste constituency the policies of the SAD-BJP combine to give 100 units of free power, pensions and shagun at the time of marriage for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes may prove costly. Employees are disgruntled. Several employees of the public sector giant National Fertilizers Limited located here, have lost jobs and the threat of privatisation looms. On the farming front land holdings are small here. Thus the policy of free power for tubewells benefits very few.

Completing the political triangle in this constituency, which has a sizeable chunk of urban votes, is Mr Mohinder Pal Gautam, of the CPM. He has his own bank of dedicated voters among the employees in Nangal. It is one constituency where poll pundits are not hazarding a guess. The field is very open and with several possibilities. With old-time Congressman R.P. Bali, having being ignored for the party ticket, Mr Mittal’s task seemed less tough. However, it is not as simple for the BJP to retain the seat. In the past one week Mr Rana has gone on intensive touring of the constituency. His initial image of being an outsider stands corrected to a large extent.

On the other hand, Mr Gautam of the CPM , has the potential of weaning away votes. He was second in 1997. Insiders say this was due to the silent help from disgruntled Congressmen. This time Congressmen smelling a chance of forming the Government may not vote for him and instead support their own candidate.


A face-to-face with candidates
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 8
A local non-government organisation, the Vigilant Citizens Forum (VCF), today kicked-up a hot debate by organising the first of its kind face-to-face open meeting of six main contestants of this Assembly constituency. The contestants were asked to answer 10 questions in the presence of mediapersons, representatives of various (NGOs, employee organisations, and prominent citizens of the district regarding their future plans.

Though it was Mr Surinder Singla who stole the show because of his experience as a former spokesman of the All-India Congress Committee, Mr Rajbir Singh Sidhu of the newly floated General Samaj Party and Mr Gurdeep Singh Brar, editor of a Punjabi Daily “Aaj Di Awaj” fielded by the Panthic Morcha also did a commendable job. The other three candidates in the court of public were Mr Charanjit Lal Garg, sitting MLA of the SAD-BJP, Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, the Congress rebel candidate, who has filed his nomination papers as an Independent and Mr Sham Singh Jaura, from the Bahujan Samaj Party.

All six contestants were asked 10 questions and given two minutes each to reply to them, with a condition that they would not indulge in personal attacks and only future plans for the development of the area would be highlighted. The participants did not adhere to the guidelines of the forum in letter and spirit and there was pandemonium in the house. People were apprehensive of the debate turning violent, but the same was prevented as the programme was to be aired on the local cable networks.

Answering the first question on the projects undertaken for improving the supply of drinking water in the city, Mr Singla said Rs 40 crore plan for the same would be prepared; Mr Brar said the disposal of effluents in the local canal would be stopped and more funds would be given; Mr Aggarwal, Mr Jaura and Mr Sidhu said corruption was taking a toll on the development plans and by stopping that all problems would be solved. Mr Garg kept on highlighting the development works undertaken during the past five years, despite being asked not do so by the representatives of the forum.

Answering the second question, Mr Brar said privatisation of government hospitals would be stopped and a population policy to control the population would be framed. While Mr Jaura and Mr Aggarwal, once again held corruption responsible for the ills of the health system, Mr Singla said as many as 10 new hospitals would be set up in the city for the improvement of health facilities. Mr Garg once again claimed that health facilities had improved during the rule of SAD-BJP, while Mr Sidhu again stuck to his party stand that till caste-based reservation ended, the facilities would not improve.

The issue of increasing cost of education put all participants in a tight spot. While Mr Jaura said he would ensure education free of cost, Mr Singla said at least 6 per cent of the total budget would be spent on education. Mr Sidhu and Mr Aggarwal also assured that budget on education would be increased. Mr Garg faced an embarrassing situation when he claimed that the SAD-BJP had not increased the fee for any course and the same was strongly rebutted by the gathering. Mr Brar said poor students would be given incentives and the cost of education would be brought down.

On the issue of corruption Mr Sidhu said till merit was honoured and caste-based reservation ended, corruption in government offices would not end. Mr Singla, Mr Brar, Mr Jaura and Mr Aggarwal pointed out that the procedures would be simplified and red-tapism ended. Mr Garg lodged a strong denial on the issue of corruption in the SAD-BJP rule.


Nine women contesting in Sangrur
Tribune News Service

Rajinder Kaur

Surinder Kaur Balian

Harchand Kaur

Sultana Begum

Rajinder Kaur Bhattal

Sonia Arora

Razia Sultan

Naresh Kumari

Sangrur, February 8
As many as nine women candidates, including five of the Congress and two of the BSP, are in the fray in seven of the 10 constituencies in the district.

All women candidates emphasise on development of their respective constituencies. Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, a former Chief Minister and Congress candidate from Lehra, wants to develop her constituency on the pattern of Chandigarh.

Ms Bhattal, who was born in 1945 in a Lahore jail, belongs to a family of freedom fighters. At the time of her birth, her father Baba Hira Singh and mother Harnam Kaur were in the jail.

Ms Bhattal entered politics in 1970 and was elected to the Punjab Assembly from Dhanaula in 1980, and later became an MLA from Lehra in 1992 and 1997. She became the Chief Minister of Punjab in November 1996 for three months. Besides development of Lehra constituency, she also promises a permanent solution to the Ghaggar problem.

Ms Sonia Deepa Arora is a Congress candidate from Sunam. She was given a ticket much to the annoyance of her brother Amandeep Arora, who filed his nomination papers as an Independent candidate but later withdrew from the contest. Ms Arora says that she will ensure development of the entire constituency and work for uplift of women.

Ms Razia Sultana, wife of a police officer, is a Congress candidate from Malerkotla. Besides promising development of the constituency she also wants to set up a hospital for women at Malerkotla.

Ms Naresh Kumari Bawa, an advocate and human rights activist, has been fielded by the BSP from Barnala. She joined the BSP in June 2001 and says that she will work towards making Barnala a full-fledged district.

Bibi Rajinder Kaur is contesting from Barnala as an Independent candidate. She was initiated into politics by Sant Harchad Singh Longowal in 1985. She contested the last Assembly elections on the SAD ticket from Barnala but lost to Mr Malkit Singh Kitu, an Independent candidate. She says she will work for setting up industries and college for women besides a district headquarter status for Barnala.

Ms Surinder Kaur Balian is a Congress candidate from Bhadaur. She has been a party activist for the past several years and has also worked in its Mahila Wing. She also promises an all-round development of the constituency.

Ms Harchand Kaur is a Congress candidate from the Sherpur constituency. She joined the Congress in 1985 and has served the Mahila Wing on many important posts. She has been a member of the PPCC for the past 10 years. She lost the last Assembly elections to Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla of the SAD.

Ms Sultana Begum has been fielded by the BSP from Dhuri. She joined the BSP just a year back. Earlier, she was with the Congress and the SAD for about 30 years. She joined the BSP as she considers policies of the SAD as “anti-poor”.

Ms Mohinder Kaur is contesting from Bhadaur as an Independent candidate.


Only SAD friend of farmers: Sukhbir
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 8
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP and General Secretary of the SAD while addressing an impressive election rally at Badali Ala Singh in support of Didar Singh Bhatti, the SAD candidate from the Sirhind constituency, warned the people of the state that certain forces are making all-out efforts to break the “duo” of Badal and Vajpayee; which benefited the farmers and commission agents of the state.

He said if these forces succeeded in their plan, the state would have to suffer a heavy loss and there would be no one to purchase their wheat and paddy.

The junior Badal appealed to the people to show maturity while casting their vote. Highlighting the achievements of the SAD government he claimed that the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had during the past 5 years fulfilled the promises made in the Election manifesto. He further said it was due to the personal relationship of Badal and Vajpayee that various major projects like the oil refinery, international airport, Ludhiana-Chandigarh railway line, Science City and Thein Dam were sanctioned for the state.

Lashing out at the Panthic Morcha leaders, he said they are in the fray as a “B” team of the Congress and they just want to benefit the Congress instead of winning the election. He asked Simranjit Singh Mann to tell the public why he had given the ticket to his son from Sirhind as he had always been accusing Badal that he wanted to make his son the Chief Minister.

On this occasion, SAD (A) workers, led by Mr Iqbal Singh Tiwana, press secretary to Mr Simranjit Singh Mann joined the SAD (B).


Cong promises pro-farmer policies
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 8
Dr Manmohan Singh, former Union Finance Minister, today said that bankruptcy in leadership had resulted in suicides by farmers and rotting of grain in godowns in this state.

Addressing a Press conference here, he said the Congress had drawn up a broad based plan for rescuing the state from the Rs 58,000 crore fiscal deficit. The Congress would provide investment friendly schemes, he said.

The Badal government had brought unprecedented crunch which was evident from one of the top agricultural universities, the PAU, aborting several research projects.

The Congress would introduce market reforms, long-term policy for extension services and research processing for agro-based industry and dynamic policies to invite big investors in the state, he said.

Dr Manmohan Singh favoured the deployment of para-military forces for free and fair elections in the state after the Patti shooting incident.


10 hurt as rival groups clash
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 8
More than 10 supporters of Mr Such Singh Langah and Mr Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who are contesting as the SAD and Independent candidates from the Dhariwal assembly segment respectively, were injured in scuffles between the two groups Roaidna and the Primary Health Centre, Kalanaur in this constituency.

According to sources, the supporters of Mr Dangah who were taking out a scootee rally to convas support for him had a clash with the supporters of Mr Such Singh Chhotepur at Roaidna. The supporters of Mr, langah and Chotepur started raising slogans in favour of their respective candidates and also raised slogans against their opponents. This led to an altercation between them causing injuries to nearly five persons of both the camps.

Later, the supporters of both the camps gathered outside the Primary Health Centre where exchange of blow, lathies and other weapons took place. The police had to resort to lathi charge to control and situation. Nearly five persons of both the camps were injured here too.


2 eves pitted in battle
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Khanna, February 8
The Khanna Assembly constituency is witnessing a battle between two high-profile women, both with a sound political backing. On one side is SAD candidate Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal, who was twice elected to Parliament from Ropar (1996 byelections and 1997 general elections). Battling her is Congress candidate Harbans Kaur Dullo, backed by MP husband Shamsher Singh Dullo.

Although there are seven candidates in the fray, the political wave is being dominated by women candidates. For the first time, the Khanna reserved constituency will send a woman to the Assembly.

An interaction with residents of most villages (Khanna has 85 villages and about 1,32000 votes) revealed that the battle between two was on an equal footing. Said Kuldip Singh of Lalheri, “It is a tough fight. Both the women are strong.” Bishan Singh of Rahon also admitted, “Done bibiyaan changiyaan ne.” Similar statements came from the residents of Kaudi, Badlakotla, Maniopur and Ismailpur.

While Ms Satwinder Dhaliwal is stressing upon developmental works she executed during her short tenure as MP, Ms Harbans Kaur is basing her campaign on the meagre development of Khanna during SAD rule.

There is a clear distinction in their campaigning styles. While Ms Satwinder Dhaliwal takes the crowd with a storm, saying, “Aye thwade maamon te naanon do sarkar hai” (with reference to the government's shagan scheme), Ms Harbans Kaur is a softer speaker.

As she has less experience in public life, she is mostly seen with husband Shamsher Singh Dullo, once a minister in Beant Singh cabinet. The campaigning style is simple — Shamsher Singh sets the pace with what has been lost during SAD rule and what the Congress can offer; Ms Harbans Kaur then takes over the stage, reiterating promises of welfare programmes and winds up in five minutes, saying, “Vote pake tanvaad manao.”

Ms Satwinder Dhaliwal is seen doing most of the talking herself. Being a reserved constituency, the Scheduled Caste vote will make a large difference in Khanna. Both the candidates are thus trying to placate this section. SAD is talking about the shagan scheme (under which Rs 5100 is given to the couple); the scheme under which a newly born girl is given Rs 4500 and its mother Rs 500. As the Congress traditionally commands SC vote, this time it is focusing on farmers. Dullo is seen stating, “There are more perks for landlords, less for small farmers. We will balance the benefits.”

Ms Satwinder Dhaliwal said, “Being an educationist, my concern is to provide a government college for girls in Khanna.”

In campaigns, Satwinder claims credit for the overbridge under way at Khanna. She promises to provide industries to solve the unemployment problem. When asked how the shift from Parliament to the Assembly feels, she said, “I had to follow high command’s order.”

Ms Harbans Kaur, meanwhile, is targeting farmers and using the corruption card against SAD. Asked whether she will be able to function independently of her MP husband, she laughed, “Women can tilt the balance whenever they want. I can handle the Assembly.”

In her campaign, she mostly talks about Ms Satwinder Kaur being a baharli (outsider). The issue has been raked up so much that Satwinder (who belongs to Samrala) has started staying in Khanna. Harbans also talks about cuts in old age and widow pension. Most of the time, however, she reminds people of her husband’s works.


Do or die: clash of titans in Congress bastion
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 8
Almost all 10 Assembly constituencies of this district will witness a direct fight between the ruling combine and the Congress.

During the last Assembly poll in 1997, while the SAD-BJP had swept the polls elsewhere, Jalandharhad given five of the total 10 seats to the Congress, which had a total of 14 members in the Punjab Assembly.

The claims of both sides notwithstanding, the district may register a change this time and may shower a few more favours upon the Congress due to the “anti-incumbency” and the alleged “non-performance” of the existing regime, even as the BSP factor may hit the Congress at a number of places.

KARTARPUR: The most interesting contest will be witnessed by this reserve constituency as stalwarts like Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal are involved in a direct tussle here. Mr Charanjit Atwal has shifted from Kum Kalan in Ludhiana after leaving his seat for his son. This seat has traditionally favoured the Chaudhary family for past about 50 years, with Master Gurbanta Singh, father of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, retaining the seat for most of the time.

ADAMPUR: This is another prestige point for both the combine and the Congress. Sitting MLA Kanwaljit Singh Lalli, who had retained the seat by a thin margin of six votes during the 1998 by-election by defeating SAD’s Dalbir Singh Dhirowal, is opposing Sarbjit Singh Makkar of the combine. What goes in Mr Lalli’s favour is his victory at a time when the SAD-BJP wave swept the region and his ability to strike rapport with people of the area.

On other hand, Mr Makkar, who is Chairman of the Jalandhar Improvement Trust is being considered as an “outsider” and another problem for him is the reported disenchantment of supporters of Mr Dhirowal, who are said to be supporting rebel Akali candidate Gurdial Singh. The BSP, which is banking upon the significant presence of Dalits, has fielded Mr Sukhbir Singh Shalimar.

Last time, the BSP’s Vidwant Kaur had secured about 9,000 votes. The Panthic Morcha has fielded Mr Sarbjit Singh Waryana,who also has a clout in the area, particularly among the farming class.

JALANDHAR (Cantt): Here if Congress nominee Gurkanwal Kaur represents the legacy of his father, the late Chief Minister Beant Singh, Parmjit Singh Raipur of the SAD is considered as a right hand man of senior SAD leader Bibi Jagir Kaur. During the last elections, Gurkanwal’s brother sitting MLA Tejparkash Singh had bagged the seat by a margin of 3660 votes, defeating Mr Surjit Singh Minhas of the SAD, who had secured 28766 votes. Mr Parmjit Singh Raipur, who had contested the last elections as an Independent may face a challenge from Mr Jagjit Singh Gaba of the Panthic Morcha and BSP nominee Hardev Kaur Shant. Dalits have again a strong presence here.

JALANDHAR (South): This seat is going to witness a triangular contest among former minister Mohinder Singh Kaypee (Congress), Mr Bhagat Chuni Lal (SAD-BJP) and Mr Pawan Tinu of the BSP. While Mr Kaypee and Mr Tinu have considerable influence among the Dalits, Mr Bhagat Chunni Lal’s forte will the Hindu vote, people belonging to bhagat community and his claim over a number of developmental projects in the area.

Mr Bhagat, who had secured 32, 708 votes last time, had defeated Kaypee by 6134 votes. Pawan Tinu’s last secured 23, 313 votes.

NOORMAHAL: It is all set to see a direct clash between Mr Gurdip Singh Bhullar (SAD-BJP) and MrGurbinder Singh Atwal (Congress). Interestingly, Mr Atwal had contested as an Independent in 1997, as he was denied the Congress ticket and had lost to Mr Bhullar by 448 votes as the latter had secured 27,600 votes.

Another interesting aspect is that it was Bibi Rajinder Kaur, who was the official Congress nominee, is contesting as an Independent this time. The edge for Mr Atwal this time is that he is the official Congress nominee again and has been able to contain the internal fissures.

JALANDHAR (Central): Mr Raj Kumar Gupta of the Congress is pitted against state Minister of Medical Education Mr Manoranjan Kalia (SAD-BJP). Former mayor and Congress rebel Jaikishan Saini is also in the fray. Mr Saini was defeated last time by Mr Kalia by 19,317 votes as the latter had secured 43,041 votes. Mr Satpal Dinkar of the BSP had got 2686 votes last time.

JALANDHAR (North): Considered to be stronghold of the Congress, this constituency is being represented by Mr Avtaar Henry, vice-president of the PPCC, who had won by 2170 votes despite a wave against the Congress in 1997. His opponent Mr Naval Kishore Kamboh of the BJP had secured 31,723 votes. This time, the BJP has preferred to replace Mr Kamboh with Mayor Suresh Sehgal, who will have to face an undercurrent of dissention created by denial of party ticket to Mr Kamboh, who is also president of the district unit of the BJP.

NAKODAR: Congress nominee Amarjit Singh Samra had secured victory during the past two elections and is known for his mellow behaviour and grassroot-level approach. Mr Gurmit Singh Daduwal is opposing him. Last time, Mr Samra had retained the seat by a margin of 10,848 votes defeating Mr Daduwal. Mr Gurbachan Singh Dhiman, who had fought on a BSP ticket last time had secured 22,881 votes. What may make Samra tread cautiosly are rumours that Mr Dhiman, a Nakodar-based industrialist, has thrown his weight behind Mr Daduwal. Dalit vote holds the key here.

LOHIAN: This Jat Sikh dominated constituency has been an Akali stronghold and is being represented by Mr Ajit Singh Kohar of the SAD since 1997 when he had registered victory by cornering 27160 votes. Congress nominee Darshan Singh had got 29,320 votes, followed by BSP’s William John, who had got 3912 votes last time. Mr Kohar is banking upon domination of Jat Sikhs in the area. Now, the congress has fielded former minister Brij Bhupinder Singh Lalli. This has led Congress leader Harbans Singh Chandi to put his weight behind the Akali candidate, which may make it difficult for the Congress.

PHILLAUR: Both the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine have renominated Mr Santokh Singh Chaudhary and Mr Sarwan Singh Phillaur, respectively.


HP Govt helping SAD-BJP?
Our Correspondent

Ropar, February 8
The Himachal Government was misusing the official machinery to help the SAD-BJP candidates in the constituencies bordering the state. The Cabinet ministers of the state were pressurising the government employees in Punjab to vote for the SAD-BJP candidates. The official machinery of the state government was also being put to full use in gross violation of the Election Commission guidelines. Mr O.P. Rattan, the spokesperson of the HPCC levelled these allegations while talking to The Tribune at Nangal last evening. He was at Nangal to campaign for the Congress candidate, Mr K.P.S. Rana.

The Former Himachal Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, also campaigned for the Congress candidate from the Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency, Mr Ramesh Dutt Sharma today. He addressed rallies at Anandpur Sahib Nurpur Bedi, Ghanauli and Ropar.

Addressing the rallies, Mr Virbhadra criticised the comment of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, about the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi.

He also alleged that corruption had reached its peak during the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.

Earlier, also the Himachal Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal and Mr Rikhi Ram Kondal, the Cooperatives Minister of Himachal had actively campaigned in the Nangal Assembly constituency for the BJP candidate, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal.


Son against father
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 8
Mr Mohan Lal Behram, who had basked in Akali power as MLA for five years, deserted the party last month after being denied ticket. He today campaigned against his father Swarna Ram, Punjab Tourism Minister-cum-SAD-BJP candidate from Phagwara.

Addressing the poll rally for local BSP candidate Harbhajan Singh Balalon, Mr Mohan Lal, who himself is now contesting as BSP candidate from the adjoining Banga constituency, told a gathering at Peep Trangi here that the BSP was the best party. “Congress ne sanu luttiya, Akalian ne sanu mariya kuttiya”, he alleged.

He lambasted SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal for denying him ticket and preferring Satnam Singh Kainth, BSM chief, from Banga.

He expressed his gratitude to BSP supremo Kanshi Ram for giving him ticket.

Interestingly, last week, Mr Swarna Ram, father of Mohan Lal, had appealed to the electorates of Banga not to vote for his son who had proved a turncoat by defecting from the SAD to the BSP on January 20. Mr Swarna Ram had politically disowned his son Mohan Lal on January 21 for joining the BSP.


Cong promises to ‘accommodate’ dissidents
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 8
To win over rebels, the Congress high command today appealed to them to work for the victory of party candidates, promising to accommodate them after coming to power in Punjab.

The chairman, Vichar Vibhag, AICC, Mr Ashwani Kumar, said that the gesture of dissatisfied Congress leaders during the impending Assembly election would be recognised by the high command.

He also assured the voters that all promises made in the election manifesto would be implemented in toto. If voted to power, the Congress would restore the economic position of the state.


All eyes on Morinda seat: Kanshi
Shashi Pal Jain

Kharar, February 8
Mr Kanshi Ram today appealed to the voters of Ropar district to vote for the BSP-Panthic Morcha candidate in the coming elections. He said the contest in the Morinda constituency was not for the election of MLA alone, but for making Mr Ravi Inder Singh as the next Chief Minister of Punjab.

Addressing a gathering at Kurali and Kharar this afternoon, he said his target was to install a Panthic regime in the state.

He said the BSP at present was the “third national party” and he wanted to make it the” first national party”.

Mr Kanshi Ram appealed to the people to vote for Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala for a “bright future”.

Mr Ravi Inder Singh, addressing a gathering in Kurali, said their endeavour was to make Mr Kanshi Ram the next Prime Minister of India.

Mr Raja Singh, a former MLA of Kurali, appealed to the people to vote for Mr Ravi Inder Singh. Mr Jasbir Singh Rode said the eyes of all Sikhs were on the Morinda seat.

Bhai Ranjit Singh said Mr Badal was blaming them for helping the Congress but it was Mr Badal who had his children married in to Congress families.

Among others, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala and Ms Jaswinder Kaur spoke on this occasion.


The Bahujan Samaj Party will claim 70 seats in the ensuing elections and will form government under the leadership of Ms Ravi Inder Singh, BSP supremo Kanshi Ram said at a well-attended rally here.

He assured that if the BSP came to power, Dalits would be given 85 per cent reservation in government jobs.

Those who addressed the rally included, Mr Bakshish Ram Kurli and Mr Jai Pal Singh Badana, president and general secretary of the BSP, Banur, Ms Karamjit Kaur, a BSP candidate from the Banur constituency, Mr Balbir Singh Lehli and other leaders.



Ex-Servicemen campaign

AMRITSAR: Highly decorated ex-Army officers, are campaigning for the Rashtriya Raksha Dal (RRD), a political outfit of ex-servicemen. Amritsar has the largest number of ex-servicemen in the state, after Gurdaspur. The RRD has fielded eight candidates in the forthcoming Assembly elections. OC

Lok bhalai party

Voters of the Bhadarkali and Nivi Abadi areas, who had earlier boycotted all party candidates from the Amritsar (south) constituency, were won over by the Lok Bhalai Party candidate, Dr Mukhtiar Singh Sandhu, here on Thursday. This was stated in a press note issued here. OC

‘Vote for Akalis'

AMRITSAR: The Dal Khalsa has urged the people in the state to defeat the Congress and the BJP candidates in the forthcoming Assembly elections and vote only for the Akali candidates. In a statement, the Dal Khalsa said there was no difference between the Congress and the BJP regarding their attitude towards the Sikhs. OC

Setback for SAD (A)

FATEHGARH SAHIB: The SAD (A) suffered a setback in the district when an official spokesman of the party, Mr Iqbal Singh Tiwana, and the personal secretary of Mr Simranjit Singh Maan, Mr Harvinder Singh Tiwana, resigned from the party and joined the SAD (B). They also decided to support the SAD (B) candidate from the Sirhind constituency, Mr Didar Singh Bhatti. OC

BJP gets boost

BATALA: Mr Jagdish Sawhney, BJP-SAD candidate from the Batala Assembly constituency, got a boost when residents of Prem Nagar mohalla handed over Rs 1,11,000 to him on Wednesday. Earlier, Mr Tilak Raj, president of the Rice Millers Association had given Rs 51,000 to Mr Sawhney. Mr Sawhney was also weighed with against coins on Thursday. OC

Additional force

PHAGWARA: Additional force has been deployed at sensitive booths in the Phagwara Assembly constituency. According to Mr Amarjit Paul, local SDM-cum-Returning Officer, besides the Punjab police, a company of the Border Security Force (BSF) has also been deployed. OC

Patriotic songs

PHAGWARA: Patriotic songs are being played on loud speakers by the candidates of almost all political parties. The songs are also interspersed with recorded pleas for vote and support. The most repeated numbers are those sung by Lata Mangeshkar, like ‘‘ai merey watan ke logo’’ and Mohammad Rafi’s ‘‘apni azadi ko hum hargiz mita saktey nahin,’’. OC

Lakhmirwala wighed

SUNAM: Mr Gurpreet Singh Lakhmirwala, Panthic Morcha candidate from the Suman Assembly constituency, was weighed against coins at three places on Wednesday. Mr Lakhmirwala said his position in the constituency, especially the rural areas, was very sound. OC

Workers anti-govt

ROPAR: Workers of closed-down units in the district, including the Punjab National Feritilzers Limited and Punwire, have started campaigning against the SAD-BJP combine. The workers allege that they had not been paid their dues by the government and the SAD-BJP was “anti-worker”. OC

Rana weighed

KAPURTHALA: Mr Gurjit Singh Rana, Congress candidate from the Kapurthala Assembly constituency, was weighed against coins at Bahui village on Wednesday. Mr Rana said the money collected would be spent on the development of the village. OC

Congress rally

KAPURTHALA: Mr Arjun Singh a former Governor of Punjab, will address a rally in favour of Mr Rajambir Singh, Congress candidate from Sultanpur Lodhi, on February 7. The Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms Sheila Dikshit, will also visit Kapurthala on that day. OC


Amritsar DC seeks more para forces
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 8
Eight companies of paramilitary forces (PMF) are being deployed in Patti and Naushera Pannuan area for maintenance of law and order, sources in the Punjab Government said today.

This deployment is in view of the ‘‘explosive situation’’ that has been developing in the border belt following a series of events that have taken place after the murder of Mr Ali Sher Khan, a migrant labourer.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Mr G.S. Cheema, confirmed that a request had been received from the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar for additional companies of paramilitary forces for deployment in the district.

‘‘We have forwarded the recommendation to the authorities concerned,’’ said Mr Cheema.

Sources in the Home Department, however, revealed that eight companies of PMF had been immediately despatched for deployment in Patti and Naushera Pannuan area. Mr Anil Kaushik, Inspector-General of Police, confirmed that on instructions from the Election Commission, eight companies had been despatched to Patti .

This deployment, the sources said, had nothing to do with election duty. ‘‘The immediate task for these additional companies is to help the district administration in the maintenance of law and order.’’

While a case was registered against Mr Gurpartap Singh Kairon, a brother of the Punjab Excise and Taxation Minister on February 6, a counter case has been registered against Mr Tejpreet Singh, alias Peter, in charge of the election office of the Congress candidate from Patti.


BKU men resort to ‘rail roko’ stir
Our Correspondent

Lehra Mohabat, February 8
Hundreds of activists of the BKU (E) today staged a sit in on the Bathinda-Ambala rail track near here as part of the statewide ‘rail roko’ agitation to press the government for the acceptance of their demands.

The farmers who came from nearby villages despite hurdles created by police sat on the rail track near the level crossing. They shouted slogans against the authorities who had ‘forced’ them to take drastic step like ‘rail roko’.

The BKU activists said there would be no let up in their stir. They said the agitation throughout the state showed that the condition of farmers was very poor in all districts of the state.

They said the step to disrupt rail traffic was taken by them after the authorities did not listen to their grievances. They said they would not stop till their demands were met.

The main demands of the farmers includes the waiving of their loans, compensation to those farmers whose cotton crop was destroyed by the American bollworm, legal action against money lenders who harassed farmers for taking back their money debted to farmers, legal action against those who were responsible for the suicide of Mithu Singh, a farmer of Sandoha, and other such incidents.

Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, district president of the union, said to curb the ongoing ‘waive loan’ campaign of the farmers the government was using unfair means. He said the Maiser Khana incident in which activists of the BKU were beaten up by the police was aimed at disrupting their agitation. He alleged that a number of leaders of the union were implicated in false cases so as to weaken the struggle.


Patrolling intensified in Amritsar
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 8
The SSPs of police districts falling in this border district, including Tarn Taran, Majitha and Amritsar, have been directed to intensify patrolling in their areas. In another development, four constituencies — Patti from where son-in-law of Chief Minister is seeking re-election, Beas, Naushehra Pannuan, Ajnala and Amritsar (West) — have been declared sensitive by the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections.

The District Magistrate has sought the deployment of 54 companies of paramilitary forces after the incidents of violence in these constituencies. While 17 companies would be deployed in Amritsar and Majitha police districts each, 23 would be deployed in Tarn Taran which was once known as ‘mini-Khalistan’ during the heyday of militancy. It may be recalled that many incidents of violence were reported from Amritsar district.

Though the Election Commission has reportedly directed that two DSPs of Patti and Bhikhiwind be suspended, they continue to attend their respective offices. Mr Shamsher Singh, DSP, Bhikhiwind, was found to be attending office and claimed that he had not yet received any official order regarding his suspension. Similarly, Mr Ashotosh attended his election duty today. However, Mr Swarn Singh, SHO, Bhikhiwind, was reportedly placed under suspension after the killing of one migrant two days ago.


Candidates, voters thrash it out
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 8
The Indian Medical Association (Hoshiarpur) in collaboration with Intelligentsia Forum has taken an initiative to organise a face-to-face interaction with a view to understanding the level of political aspirants and also to act as opinion makers and watchdogs for the future. The programme “Polls 2002-Programme and Promises” was convened at Hotel Presidency here last evening, where the candidates from the Hoshiarpur Assembly constituency were invited to have a face-to-face interaction with the intelligentsia. More than 500 intellectuals from deferent spheres like doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, ex-army personnel, industrialists and businessman attended the meet.

During a healthy interaction for nearly two hours, people expressed a desire for a change in the image of present day polity.

Ten of the 12 candidates from this constituency attended the meet to get a feel of the pulse of the people. While they highlighted their achievements, they avoided answering the questions regarding corruption, inefficiency and power hunger. The flip side of the meet was that both the polity as well as the intelligentsia showed concern about the prevailing situation.


Fighting against female foeticide
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh sahib
The district has to its credit a renowned doctor-cum-social worker, Dr N.S. Bawa, district president, Indian Medical Association (IMA), who was recently honoured by the Medical Council of India at a state-level function for writing a book, “Female foeticide: A crime let us fight it out”.

Written in three languages, the book is dedicated to those female babies who were killed before being born. The book was released by Dr J.S. Gujral, Vice-Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences, in the presence of Dr Ketan Desai, Chairman, Medical Council of India. Experts of UNICEF are studying this unique book. They have demanded 10 more copies of it.

Dr Bawa said he was not a regular writer nor had he thought of writing a book. It was a chance meeting with Dr Sabu M. George, who is one of the three petitioners in the Supreme Court for enforcing the PNDT Act, 1994. He said Dr Sabu told him Fatehgarh Sahib had the lowest juvenile sex ratio of 751 females for every 1000 males in the country. This shameful journey of female foeticide with black pages started from Amritsar and landed at Fatehgarh Sahib, both being the most religious places in the world. It was more shameful for the state which outsiders called daughter-maru (daughter killer). They also pointed their fingers towards the medical profession for being a major partner in this barbaric act.

Dr Bawa said after listening to Dr Sabu, he could not sleep for days. That’s why he took the pledge to do something for arresting, stopping and eradicating the practice of female foeticide.

He started collecting facts and figures, myths and realities and wanted to remove the black spot. Dr Bawa said he could not bear horrible pictures in which foetuses were being served as hot dishes in hotels of Taiwan, which is nothing but an act of cannibalism.

He said he started writing and compiled crimes and cries against a section of society worshipped as “Goddess”. The book was based on patriarchal-ego-society coming down since ages along with social evils and had taken a peep into all factors responsible for female foeticide. Through this book, he had requested every section of society to think about its disasters and consequences and keep in mind the need to save the next generation from its horrible results as in China 11 million boys would have no brides during the next 10 years and it could also happen in our country, if we failed to stop this horrible practice. He had also requested women not to allow converting their wombs into graveyards.

Dr Bawa said the writing of the book was nothing but a first step to cover a long journey. He said Dr O.P. Kande, State president, IMA, also encouraged him and provided him all help. He had especially mentioned that the book was not for commercial purposes and had urged the readers to circulate it for their knowledge and for saving the country from this shameful practice.


Stop PPSC interviews: Preneet
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 8
Lok Sabha Member Preneet Kaur today appealed to the State Election Commission to immediately stop the interviews being organised by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).

In a communication to the Additional Chief Electoral Officer yesterday Ms Preneet Kaur alleged that the interviews for the posts of lecturers and employment officers, besides others were being held despite the model code of conduct in the state.

Ms Preneet Kaur said the ongoing interviews were causing distress amongst the applicants concerned who were fearing favourtism to certain parties. Asking the Commission to take a serious note of the issue, she requested that the interviews and their results be kept in abeyance till the election were over.


29 hurt as bus overturns
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 8
As many as 29 passengers were injured when a bus overturned near Khanpur on the Kharar-Ludhiana road last night.

According to sources, the accident occurred when a Punjab Roadways bus (PB12-C-9337) coming from Ludhiana hit a tree and overturned. As a result 29 passengers, including the driver and conductor, were injured. The injured were brought to the Civil Hospital, Kharar, and seven persons with minor injuries were discharged. Eight persons were referred to hospital in Chandigarh. A case has been registered.


Tiwana, Dev honoured
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 8
Guru Nanak Dev University honoured Punjabi writer Dr Dalip Kaur Tiwana, and painter-poet Dev in recognition of their painter-poet Dev in recognition of their achievements at a special function organised by the School of Punjabi Studies here today.

Dr Tiwana was honoured for getting the Saraswati Samman-2001, for her novel, “Katha Kaho Urvashi”. The function was presided over by Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor. Dev had been awarded with the Sahitya Academi Award for his “Shabdant: 2001”. Dr Tiwana and Dev shared their experiences and Dev also presented some selected poems.


BDPO suspended for violating code
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, February 8
Block Development and Panchayat Officer Suraj Singh posted at Khuiya Sarwar in the district has been suspended from service with immediate effect.

Mr S.R. Ladhar, Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, informed that the BDPO, in violation of the Election Code of Conduct, had distributed cheques for Rs 22 lakh on December 31 in the form of grant for various developmental works in the block.

The inquiry conducted by the SDM, Fazilka, and the Naib Tehsildar, Fazilka, into the allegations found that the election code which came into force on December 26 had indeed been violated.


Poll rehearsals complete
Our Correspondent

Ropar, February 8
The last round of rehearsals for imparting training on the poll process and use of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to polling staff completed here on Wednesday.

According to the Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, Gurinder Singh Grewal, these rehearsals were conducted under supervision of Election Observers.


7 Akali, 2 Congress workers booked
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, February 8
The police has registered a case against seven Akali workers alleged supporters of Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Housing and Urban Development Minister, and two Congress workers supporters of Mr Rajanbir Singh Congress nominee from the Sultanpur Lodhi Assembly constituency, in connection with a clash that took place at Saddowal village on February 6.

Mrs Gurpreet Deo, SSP said a case under Sections 342, 427, 506, 148 and 149, IPC had been registered against them and five Akali workers had been arrested.

Six workers of both parties sustained injuries in the clash.

According to the police, Dr Upinderjit Kaur, nominee from Sultanpur Lodhi, was addressing a rally at Saddowal village when Congress workers and supporters of Mr Rajanbir Singh, in order to disrupt the rally, raised slogans in his favour.


10-year RI for raping minor
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, February 8
Mr Gurdev Singh, Sessions Judge, today convicted Harbhajan Singh a resident of Manjit Nagar locality, Ludhiana, under Sections 366-A and 376 of the IPC on charges of abducting and raping a minor girl of the Model Town locality here.

The Sessions Judge sentenced Harbhajan Singh to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 for raping a minor. In default of the payment fine, the judge ordered him to further undergo imprisonment for six months. The Judge also sentenced Harbhajan Singh to rigorous imprisonment for five years and to pay a fine of Rs 5000 for procuring a minor girl and in default pay fine. The judge ordered him to further imprisonment for three months.


Gang loots 2 temples
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, February 8
While the election fever is on, anti-social elements have become active in robbery and looting instances in some areas. A gang of kale kachchewala struck again in Noormahal town last night.

More than half a dozen miscreants of the gang entered the Sidh Baba Chup Shah Noormahal temple, tied the caretaker, Swami Satinderji with ropes and looted Rs 6,000 in cash, three watches, a tape recorder at late mid-night yesterday. The miscreants escaped after committing the crime.

In the second incident of robbery, the same gang went to Sadhu Ram Ka Mandir at Talwan road, Noormahal, and looted about Rs 5,000 in cash and some valuables from the temple.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr Satinder Singh, when contacted said the police had registered a case under Sections 458 and 380 IPC, and was investigating the matter.


Illicit liquor units raided
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 8
The police raided two illicit distilleries here and seized 4180 kg of ‘lahan’. According to reports, the police raided the two distilleries in Rajinder Nagar, and apprehended Tarsem Singh and Buta Singh and seized 2150 kg and 1950 kg of lahan from them respectively.

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