Wednesday, February 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Carry an identity card if you want to vote
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
As Punjab votes for the Twelfth Vidhan Sabha today, a perceptible change is foreseen in the polling pattern and poll percentage across the 116 seats. A silent swing is likely to affect the fortunes of the two main contenders for power, the Akalis and Congress, alongside their allies.

A look at the constituency profiles, undercurrents, trends and campaign contours reveals that the Akalis and Congress are vying for majority.

There are at least 90-plus seats out of which on 60-odd seats, the margin between the Akalis and Congress oscillates from 1000 votes to 2000 votes.

Reports indicate that Akalis have inched their way up in Majha (27 seats). In Doaba (25 seats), fights are tough, but the Akalis are likely to score a double digit. The real battle is in Malwa (65 seats), where the Congress has made inroads. If there are several rebel Akali and Congress candidates in the fray so are the two parties’ bigwigs — Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Balramji Das Tandon and sons and daughters of the high and mighty of the Akalis and Congress.

There is a clear perception in the minds of producers (farmers), middlemen, commission agents and businessmen in small mandi towns, about where their future lies. It is in agriculture. They are aware that the best bet is in Mr Badal. But it is also a fact that this segment of the electors (barring farmers) is disenchanted with the BJP. Therefore, if the Akalis suffer a setback, it will be on that account. Thus, much will depend on how Malwa responds to the aggressive campaigns that ended on Monday evening.

Poll predictions notwithstanding, the past performance of the Akalis and Congress cannot be lost sight of while arriving at any conclusion on the number of seats the two are likely to win.

The performance of the Akalis and Congress in the past Assembly elections is tabulated thus:

Year  Akalis  Congress
1967  24  50
1969  43  38
1972  25  64
(In all these elections the total seats were 104)
1977  58  17
1985  73  32
1992  (boycott) 77
1997  75  14
(In all these elections the total seats were 117)

This shows that the maximum seats the Congress bagged (77) was in 1992, when the Akalis boycotted the elections. In the pre-militancy and post-militancy elections, the maximum tally of the Congress was 64 in 1972. On other hand, the Akalis scored a low of 37 in 1980, while doing well in 1985 (73) and 1997 (75). The Akalis have always fielded lesser number of candidates than the Congress in all elections.

Therefore, it remains to be seen how much damage the Congress inflicts on the Akali rural vote-nest.

There is one important factor that the electors, perhaps, have overlooked. This is possession of at least one of the prescribed 16 parameters to establish one’s identity as a voter. Each voter will have to prove his identity on the basis of one of the 16 parameters. These parameters include ration card, driving license, yellow card, pension pay order papers, student identity card or department card, Election Commission’s photo-identity card, passport, arms licence, certificate to the effect one is a Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Backward Class, handicap, ex-serviceman, income tax identity (PAN) card, bank, kisan or post-office passbook and so on.

There are reports that despite one’s name in the voter list, the credentials will have to be proved before casting the vote. The instruction if followed strictly may see a large section of electors barred from exercising their franchise.

Since it is the voter’s day out today, much depends how decisively they would vote for a politically stable government.


Dang’s ‘eye-opener’ to Election Commission
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 12
Did poll observers perform their duties well or did they try to ignore "gross violations" of the model code of conduct enforced by the Election Commission for ensuring free-and-fair elections, especially in this border belt?

Though a Deputy Commissioner, two district police chiefs and a Subdivisional Magistrate were transferred and two DSP and an SHO were placed under suspension, yet many senior bureaucrats continued to violate the model code of conduct with impunity so much so that election observers themselves came under a cloud when the Chief Electoral Officer, Chandigarh, took a serious view of the excursion which was to be extended to them by the administration of three border districts.

Taking a serious view of the "biased" role of election observers, Mr Satya Pal Dang, CPI leader, wrote an open letter to the Election Commission which is an ‘eye-opener’.

The open letter reads "Buying votes by supplying free liquor is not a new phenomenon. It has been there since long. Unfortunately, the number of people/addicts wanting to get free liquor to their hearts' content in return for their votes has been increasing. Obviously this is harmful for the interests of the country".

There have been other changes also. Originally, illicit liquor was used for the purpose. Later, liquor began to be legally purchased from liquor contractors. Foreign liquor manufactured in India was first introduced during the elections of municipal corporation, Amritsar. A few middle class people too accepted it and promised to vote for the candidate on whose behalf it was supplied to them. Some even boasted that they had got stocks for a whole year.

It appears that the administration, under pressure from the government of the day, has not been able to put an end to this phenomenon. Observers of the Election Commission of India as also the state electoral authorities have had more or less the same attitude. The Chief Minister seems to have beaten all records of the previous governments in the matter of ensuring full freedom for his supporters to brew illicit liquor openly and to distribute it for getting votes.

For instance, during the by-election to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from the Majitha constituency, "bhattis" for brewing illicit liquor worked in daylight and for all to see. The print media even carried photos. No action worth the name was taken. And this is what is happening now.

Sometimes raids have taken place under pressure from the Opposition or public pressure in general. Only recently one such raid in Jalalabad district led to the arrest of an Akali MLA after he had beaten up the Excise Department party, which carried out the raid. Here is another example. The writer of these lines drew the attention of local police officials about illicit liquor being brewed and distributed in three erstwhile villages in Amritsar (West constituency) and one rice mill in Chheharta. What they said to me in reply meant that they were helpless though this was not said in so many words.

I took up the matter with the IG with regard to the three villages I mentioned, The IG said, "Raids would be organised". When I named a rice mill owned by a councillor (close to the Chief Minister), The IG in a changed tone said: "Elected people are respectable personalities. If we carry out a raid and the information is found to be incorrect., we may have to face defamation cases. If someone deputed by you can accompany the police, we can consider".

I wanted to tell him, "This rice mill is notorious for this. It was raided during the 1997 Assembly elections and information given was found to be correct. Illegal distilling was stopped though no one was prosecuted". I also wanted to tell the IG. "Surely the police can easily find out the correctness or otherwise of the information given. If found correct, it can also know as to what would be the appropriate time to conduct the raid. And it can conduct the raid accordingly. All this, in fact, is the duty of the police". As the IG had put down the receiver. I did not pursue the matter with him. The matter has been taken up with the Deputy Commissioner and the Excise Department.

"I had another interesting experience. A meeting of candidates for the Amritsar West constituency and their election agents was held by the returning officer on February 5. In this meeting the BJP candidate accused the Excise Department (to which the RO belonged) of raiding his supporters (for illicit liquor) at the instance of a highly influential Independent candidate. The department denied the allegation. It was strongly contended that they had in fact the stopped raids. When someone pointed out that raids should take place after verification of information to put an end to the evil of liquor for buying votes, there was lot of confusion and even harassment.

Can anyone expect free-and-fair elections in Punjab? At least no one can in the constituencies from which Mr Badal himself, his near relations and his confidants are contesting as the Election Commission of India listening?


BSF ‘seals’ Independent’s office
Supporters block traffic for 4 hours

Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 12
Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, an Independent candidate from this Assembly constituency, and his supporters received a rude shock this morning when BSF jawans allegedly sealed his main election office on Mall Road in the city and used derogatory language against Mr Aggarwal and his supporters when they tried to inquire about the reasons for sealing the office.

Mr R. Venkat Ratnam, District Election Officer, denied that the election office of Mr Aggarwal was sealed and added that BSF jawans were deployed near the election office to check the distribution of liquor there as information regarding the same was received by the authorities concerned. He added that the office was not sealed and its keys were with Mr Aggarwal. He added that the SDM, Mr Sukhminder Singh, also went to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Fear gripped Mr Aggarwal and his supporters when a BSF jawan held out a threat that if anybody tried to open the office, he would be shot at. Mr A.K. Srivastva, general election observer, reached the spot and asked the agitating supporters of Mr Aggarwal to open the office.

Mr Aggarwal, who filed his nomination papers as an Independent after being denied the Congress ticket, was senior vice-president of the District Congress Committee, Bathinda.

Hundreds of supporters led by Mr Aggarwal blocked traffic for about four hours this morning and raised slogans against the BSF, the district administration, the police authorities and the Election Commission authorities and their opponents when they did not receive satisfactory reply from the authorities concerned in connection with the sealing of the election office.

The situation turned sensitive and many senior officials of the district administration, including the SDM, the Tehsildar, the DSP (City), the SHO (Kotwali) and the general election observer, Mr A.P. Srivastva, faced a tough time answering the queries of the supporters of Mr Aggarwal.

The agitators alleged that the BSF jawans abused and threatened them. The BSF jawans had come to the office of Mr Aggarwal in a private mini-bus. One of the BSF officials said the higher authorities had issued the orders.

Mr Ratnam said the matter pertaining to the alleged misbehaviour by the BSF jawans with Mr Aggarwal and his supporters was being probed by the district police authorities and action, if required, would be taken after a report from the police authorities was received.


BJP MLA among 15 hurt in clash
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Batala, February 12
At least 15 persons, including Mr Jagdish Sahni, a BJP MLA seeking re-election from the sensitive constituency and four close relatives of the Congress candidate, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, sustained injuries in a clash between Congress and BJP workers on the eve of Assembly elections last evening.

The trouble started from Ward No 14 during the distribution of ballot papers by the Congress workers. Mr Naresh Mahajan, a former Municipal Councillor of the BJP, had a verbal duel with the Congress workers distributing the papers.

Mr Sekhri alleged that his brothers, Mr Abhinav Sekhri and Mr Anand Sekhri cousin Babbi Sekhri, Mr Jatinder Mahna and Mr Cheeku were injured when they were attacked by the BJP workers. Similarly, BJP leaders including Mr Naresh Mahajan, Mr Tarlok Chand and a few others received injuries during a clash between Congress and BJP workers at Batala Civil Hospital. The police had a tough time controlling the unruly workers of both the parties who had assembled in a large number inside and outside the hospital.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of the situation, jawans of the BSF held a flag march in the town.

According to eyewitnesses, after the assault on the relatives of Congress candidate, party workers attacked a BJP leader, Mr Manohar Lal Sharma, and injured him. Mr Sharma was then taken to the hospital. On hearing the news, Mr Sahni and his supporters reached the hospital where Mr Sharma was admitted. Later, Mr Ashwani Sekhri too reached the hospital. Mr Rajinder Sharda, the district police chief and other senior officers also reached the spot.


Congress expels 3 more
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
With less than a day to go for the polling, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, today ordered the expulsion of three senior party workers, including Mrs Sajida Begum of Malerkotla and Mr Ranjit Singh Waryamnangal, former MLA from Majitha, for their alleged anti-party activities and supporting rebel party candidates. The third person expelled from the party is Mr Desh Bandhu Sharma of Kapurthala.

Only yesterday, the PPCC had withdrawn the press note about the expulsion of Mr Ranjit Singh Waryamnangal.

It may be mentioned here that Mrs Sajida Begum, one of the oldest Congresswomen in Punjab, who was a confidant of the former Punjab Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister, Giani Zail Singh, had revolted against the decision of the party to give ticket to Mrs Razia Sultan, wife of a police officer, and “outsider”.


Will economic policies translate into votes?
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
When the Akalis decided to give ‘‘free’’ power and water to the agriculture sector, the decision drew flak from policy-makers, economists and various chambers of commerce, including PHDCCI and CII. It even created ripples in the relationship between the SAD and the BJP.

In the past five years ‘‘free’’ power, worth Rs 350 crore, and ‘‘free’’ water, worth Rs 50 crore, both per annum, were given to the farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of Punjab, contributing 43 per cent to the GDP and providing employment to 80 per cent of the workforce. If agriculture flourishes, so would political stability and peace. Punjab desperately deserves both after a turbulent decade. It is a different story that certain international lending institutions held back loans for basic projects because of the ‘‘free’’ power and water facilities available to farmers.

It now transpires that industry, which contributes 23 per cent of the GDP to the economy of Punjab, has, in fact, received much larger cost benefits. A perusal of the comparative data shows that the total overall cost benefits enjoyed by industry in Punjab, as compared to tariff rates in Haryana, UP and Delhi (2000-01) works out to be Rs 1,300 crore as compared to Haryana, Rs 1,200 crore as compared to UP and Rs 700 crore as compared to Delhi. Similar benefits accrued for 1999-2000.

As for the farmers the comparative cost advantage, as compared to Haryana, UP and Delhi, worked out to be a maximum of Rs 350 crore, per year. This only confirms that industry in the state has all along enjoyed four times the cost benefits against the ones available to the agriculture sector over which such a hue and cry had been raised. In addition, industry in Punjab also enjoyed the most conducive peaceful environment and the best of infrastructure. As per a recent study sponsored by CII, Punjab was rated at number six in India and number one among the land-locked states in terms of availability of infrastructure and industrial climate.

Punjab industry also has an advantage in terms of human resource development, though, more is required to be done for sustainable growth. But in spite of availing these advantages, the so-called representatives of commerce and industry kept harping on the impact on their competitiveness due to cross-subsidisation of the power tariff in Punjab.

These ‘‘silent’’ benefits that industry had enjoyed all these five years enabled it survive. Thus Punjab did well to nurse industrial development by giving it cost competitive advantages. And it is also being acknowledged only now that the next government should continue with this policy as a long-term perspective to encourage investment in engineering and industrial units which, in return, will regenerate much higher levels of revenue to the state exchequer in the form of taxes.

The SAD-BJP Government decided to encourage production and tax the produce (for example rural infrastructure cess on agriculture produce) that led to buoyancy in revenue collections. The mid-term impact of this policy will be more visible in the coming years when the tax exemption period of the industry will be over. A government document on tax concessions to industry and trade (July 1997-December 21) shows a massive ‘‘relief’’ in every conceivable manner. No wonder, in the short run, the state suffered on account of revenue income, while revenue expenditure remained unstoppable. But in the long run it is perceived as an investment for lasting peace and political stability in Punjab.

The question is will the economic policies of the SAD-BJP get converted into votes on February 13?


CBI closes FCI wheat sale probe
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has finalised its inquiry into the operation of the Open Market Sale Scheme in Punjab, known as the OMSS(D), ordered by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in pursuance of a suo motu public interest civil writ petition No 915 of 1997, giving a clean chit to Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Special Principal Secretary to the Punjab Chief Minister, who was earlier posted as the Senior Regional Manager of the Food Corporation of India.

The closure reports submitted by the CBI were accepted by the court of the Special Judge, CBI, Punjab, on January 29, according to information available here today.

The Ministry of Food, Government of India, had started wheat sale under the OMSS(D) in October, 1993, with the primary objective of releasing excess wheat stocks to reduce the carrying cost of buffer of wheat and to intervene in the market to create a sobering impact on wheat prices. Under the scheme, foodgrain licence holders of the state government, such as traders, wholesalers, retailers, roller flour millers, chakkis, cooperatives, super bazars and civil supplies corporations, were free to purchase wheat at a price fixed by Government of India from time to time.

Press reports had alleged in 1996 that wheat was being sold by the FCI all over India to non-existent, defunct or ineligible firms, who were illegally siphoning off the same for unauthorised exports for illegitimate gains. The high court took suo motu notice of some press reports and ordered the Deputy Commissioners to seize the records of the FCI for preparing factual reports and submitting their findings to the CBI, which was directed, in turn, to register cases, wherever necessary, against such officials or buyers of wheat who indulged in illegalities and acted in contravention of the policy guidelines.

On the receipt of reports from Deputy Commissioners, the CBI registered cases RC-3/98-CHG, RC 4/98-CHG and RC13/98-CHG under Section 120-B read with Section 420, IPC and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, against unknown officers of the FCI, Punjab region, and private traders in 1998. After investigating the cases for almost two years, the CBI submitted a closure report in February, 2000, on which the CBI court ordered further investigation. Abiding by the directions of the court, the cases were re-investigated and finally closed with the permission of the court last week after sending copies of the closure reports to the high court as per Section 173 (2)(ii) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The CBI submitted its report after checking the records relating to 311 cases of sale of wheat by the FCI officers and the process of its utilisation by private buyers. As regards the role of Mr Kaushal to ensure that FCI wheat should not be knowingly released to ineligible buyers or non-existent firms and traders in Punjab, the CBI came to the conclusion that “there is no instance of release of OMSS(D) wheat to any ineligible buyer and there is no allegation of any denial of right, discrimination, favouritism or any illegal act.”

During the investigations, the CBI concluded that wheat was released in Punjab only to the holders of foodgrain licences issued by the Punjab Government and, therefore, “FCI officers are not expected to suspect the bona fides of the state government in issuing foodgrain licences only to genuine licensees and not to non-existent, defunct or ineligible dealers, firms and traders.”

Further, the CBI reported that during the investigations, no evidence was forthcoming to prove the allegations that traders, FCI officials or Punjab Food and Supplies Department officials entered into a criminal conspiracy to siphon off FCI wheat. It was further stated that there was no act of favouritism by the FCI regarding the sale of any quantity to a buyer in excess of his right at the cost of any other buyer and there was no allegation of bribe, mala fide manipulation or wrongful act in the process of wheat allotment by the FCI.


Discounting reports of opinion polls, Shastri says no wave
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
Mr Sunil Shastri, All-India General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, today discounted reports about a possible Congress victory in the Punjab Assembly elections slated for tomorrow and asserted that the SAD-BJP alliance would again form the government in the border state for another five years.

"There is no wave sweeping in favour of any party in Punjab, as claimed by the Congress party and perceived by certain newspapers and periodicals. I must emphasise that opinion polls held about the likely results of elections in different parts of the country have proven to be way off the mark in the past", he said, adding that he would not be surprised if the opinion polls about the likely Congress victory at the hustings in Punjab also proved to be false.

Mr Shastri said the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab had gone to the people on the basis of the "solid performance" of the Badal Government during its five-year rule. Not only had the SAD's support base among the farmers remained intact, the ‘‘BJP too had not suffered any major setback’’.

The BJP leader said that much was being made of the "anti-íncumbency factor" which could go against the Badal Government in the Punjab elections but even this assumption had been disproved in the Mumbai civic elections where, contrary to predictions, the ‘‘BJP had once again put in a creditable performance.’’

Mr Shastri, who was speaking to the media at a meet-the-Press programme at the Chandigarh Press Club, also asserted that the BJP was set to form the government in cooperation with its allies not only in Punjab but also in UP and Uttaranchal Pradesh. As regards Manipur, his party would play a "dominant role" in the formation of the new government.

He said that the BJP was the only party which was in contest with different political formations, including the Samajwadi Party, in Central UP and the BSP in another part of UP. The BJP and its allies were contesting as many as 403 seats in UP. The BJP's electoral alliance with Mr Ajit Singh would also yield rich political dividends and Mr Ajit Singh's party was expected to pick up at least half the 37 seats it had been allotted.

Mr Shastri said that the performance of the NDA Government led by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee was the main electoral plank of his party in all the four states going to the poll. The terrorist attack on Parliament House on December 13 had brought forth a firm and resolute reaction from the government which had isolated Pakistan throughout the international community. The Musharraf regime had also been left in no doubt that unless it stopped cross-border terrorism, there would be no resumption of dialogue between the two countries to resolve the outstanding issues. The extradition of Aftab Ansari from Dubai in connection with the attack on the US mission in Kolkata was another feather in the camp of the Vajpayee Government.

Referring to the moves in Jammu and Kashmir by the Hurriyat conference to participate in the elections in that state, he said, the BJP would welcome their participation but the elections would have to be held under the Indian Constitution. There could not be any special dispensation for holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir.


Tension on poll eve
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, February 12
Though the local administration is all set to conduct polling in all 159 stations, including 34 hypersensitive ones, in the Banur constituency peacefully tomorrow, yet, being a key constituency, tension has gripped the area.

Amid tight security, the polling staff along with electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been sent to all polling stations and additional security arrangements have been made by the administration to avoid any untoward incident.

Highly placed sources revealed that some influential supporters of the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine, who belong to adjoining states, have sent their ‘‘men’’ to various parts of the constituency.

Mr Jatinder Singh Khaira, DSP, claimed that anti-social elements would not be tolerated and to maintain peace all precautionary measures had been taken.

Mr Pritam Singh Johal, Subdivisional Magistrate, who is also the Returning Officer (RO) for the constituency, said that 711 employees had been deputed for the election duty.

Twelve patrolling parties comprising an ASI and 10 constables each have been constituted to look after 10 villages till the completion of polling tomorrow evening, said Mr Khaira. Apart from this, 10 nakas have been put up at different sensitive points.



AICC observers

CHANDIGARH: Mr Arvind, General Secretary, District Congress Committee and Mr Surinder Sethi, Vice-president have been appointed as AICC Observer for Banur and Morinda constituencies, respectively as Ms Anita Verma’s services are required elsewhere, according to a press note issued by the AICC in Chandigarh. TNS

Cong support

FATEHGARH SAHIB: The Aggarwal Sabha, Sirhind, at its meeting held here on Tuesday has decided to support the Congress candidate, Dr Harbans Lal, an MLA from the Sirhind constituency. Mr Ashok Jindal, president of the sabha said a decision to support him has been taken keeping in view the services rendered by him in the constituency. OC

Jobless back cong

BATHINDA: Dr Dharminder Singh, president of the Unemployed Youths Union (UYU) said here on Tuesday that they would work for the ouster of the present government since unemployment had increased during the past five years. In a press note, he has stated that Mr Amarinder Singh, President of the PPCC, had shown interest in the problems of unemployed youths and that he had planned some changes in the economic policies to generate more jobs in all fields. OC

Appeal issued

ABOHAR: The Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal issued an appeal in favour of the Congress candidates on Tuesday. The state president, Mr Madan Lal Kapoor, said traders must support the Congress all over Punjab to ensure its victory. He held the SAD-BJP alliance responsible for the sad state of administration, exploitation of traders and corruption at all levels. OC

Section 144 imposed

FATEHGARH SAHIB: To maintain law and order during polling on February 13, Mr Vikas Partap, District Magistrate-cum-District Election Officer, has banned the use of mobile phones in the polling stations and counting centres. He has also imposed Section 144 of the Cr PC in the district. OC

Poll arrangements

FATEHGARH SAHIB: The District Election Officer, Mr Vikas Partap, informed that all parties had been given poll material for their respective polling booths and the electronic voting machines would be given to the presiding officers by the supervisors after 8 p.m. on Tuesday. OC

Fake I-Cards

JALANDHAR: The district police has arrested two persons for allegedly manufacturing fake voter identity cards and has seized computer and fake cards from their possession. Mr L.K. Yadav, SP, said here on Monday that the police teams raided the premises of the city based publishers who were engaged in making these fake voter and ration cards. OC


Encroachments galore, courtesy elections
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 12
Even as the district administration and other civil officials of the Punjab Government are busy making arrangements to conduct the February 13 poll in a free-and-fair manner, a number of incidents relating to unauthorised construction and encroachments have been taking place since the past one month after the election process started in the state.

Taking advantage of the busy schedule of the authorities concerned in election-related duties, a section of the shopkeepers encroached upon corridors of a market located near the old bus stand in the heart of the city by raising walls and putting up shutters.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that some buildings have come up in the city within a few days. A section of the owners of such buildings have either not got the site plan sanctioned or have deviated from the original sanctioned site plan.

Information revealed that the authorities, who were entrusted with the task to check unauthorised construction and encroachments, have adopted a unique method to make their presence felt in the city. They are harassing people who have raised four walls around their vacant residential plots so that these plots cannot be used as garbage dumps by the people. However, they are avoiding any legal or administrative action against those who are constructing multi-storeyed building, violating municipal and improvement trust laws.

In the past one month, a number of buildings have come up at a vacant site, where a big flour mill was located. Most of these buildings have come without any sanctioned site plan or if the site plan has been sanctioned, major deviations have been made from it.

Information revealed that ever since the municipal council, in which SAD-BJP councillors are in a majority, came into existence, the matter of unauthorised construction and encroachments has remained a focal issue. Even some municipal councillors alleged that unauthorised constructions and encroachments had been taking place in connivance with a section of officials.

Sources said though a senior municipal council official tried to stop the encroachment over the corridors in the market located near the old bus stand, interference by a section of politicians proved a hindrance.

Mr Shive Kumar Mittal, Executive Officer, municipal council, said he was aware of the matter and a case would be registered against the guilty for which a formal application had been moved to the police authorities. He added that as the police authorities were busy with poll-related duties, the municipal council authorities were finding it difficult to collect adequate manpower to demolish the encroachments.

However, when a Tribune team visited the market this afternoon, walls were being raised in the corridors in front of some shops.

Mr R. Venkat Ratnam, Deputy Commissioner, said he would not allow any encroachment in the city and added that as the matter had come into his notice, he would sent a demolition squad immediately to remove the same.


3,000 cops to ensure safe poll in Ropar
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, February 12
In view of fears of election violence in sensitive constituencies of Ropar district, at least 3,000 personnel of the police, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have been deployed to ensure free and fair elections.

The security forces will keep vigil on sensitive polling stations in the Kharar and Morinda constituencies. “At least 11 patrol squads have been deployed to keep a watch on unscrupulous elements,” said a senior police official. He said the total force for the Kharar constituency was about 700.

The police is keeping its fingers crossed after a statement of the Congress candidate for the Kharar seat, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, that any attempt by supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate to cast bogus votes may cause a clash. A company of the CISF has been deployed at sensitive polling stations in Phases VI, VII, IX, Mohali and Matour.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr Roopinder Singh, nodal officer for the Kharar constituency, said at least eight security personnel each, including six paramilitary personnel, had been deployed at the supersensitive booths.

For sensitive and non-sensitive polling booths, the police strength is five and three, respectively. Two parallel wireless networks have been made operational to ensure smooth communication. There will be special checkpoints to restrict the movement of vehicles near polling stations.

The Returning Officer (RO) for the Kharar constituency, Mr Jaipal Singh, said 205 polling parties, each comprising a presiding officer and three polling officers, had been sent to the booths. At least 25 parties have been kept in reserve.

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) were sent to the booths in the evening. There are 121 polling stations that have one, two, three, four or five polling booths.

To record elections, at least six video-camera teams have been deployed. These teams will move with election observers, assistant returning officer and supervisors.

According to the election staff, 20 ballot-tenders were being kept in each polling booth. When asked about the smuggling of liquor by candidates to woo voters, the Returning Officer said he had, so far, received no complaint in this regard. “However, the Excise Department and the police should remain alert to check the possibility of smuggling,” he said.

Rural areas of Ropar district have 446 polling stations and urban areas have 91. There are 160 sensitive polling stations in the district.

Poll heat

  • The town with over 64,000 voters may give a candidate landslide victory.
  • There are reports that bogus voters from Chandigarh, Haryana and towns of Punjab have been brought here by candidates of various parties. Reportedly, these voters have been kept in Kurali and Zirakpur.
  • Polling agents make calls on mobile telephones from polling booths to ask their candidate to arrange for bogus votes.
  • Closing of liquor vends on election days means little for candidates, as cheap liquor is being smuggled from Chandigarh and Haryana. The police is yet to make a big seizure.
  • Voters will have to bring along proofs of identity.

How sensitive is Ropar district

Constituency  Sensitive booths Other
Polling stations Polling
Kharar  27  94  121  205
Morinda  35  88  123  160
Chamkaur Sahib (SC)  31  78  109  129
Anandpur Sahib  28  72  100  157
Nangal  39  42  81  134


2 polling stations shifted
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, February 12
For the convenience of voters, the election commission has shifted two polling stations from their previous location in the local segment of the Banur assembly constituency.

Mr Pritam Singh Johal, Returning Officer (RO) of Banur and the SDM of Dera Bassi, informed that polling booth no. 9 (Government Primary School) has been shifted from Ramgarh Bhudda to Bishanpura (Government Primary School) where voters of Singhpura, Bishanpura and Bishangarh could exercise their franchise.

Similarly, polling booth no. 69 (SS Jain School, Dera Bassi) has been shifted to Government Primary School, Saidpura, for the convenience of voters from Bakarpur and Saidpur villages.


Centre blamed for slowdown
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 12
A former Union Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, said the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre had failed to develop confidence amongst investors, which had led to the slowdown of the Indian economy.

Dr Manmohan Singh, while talking to TNS said the present government at the Centre had adopted a policy of appeasing a particular section of society in one Budget and robbing the same in the very next. He pointed out that every time the Congress was weakened, the country had suffered on all fronts, be it economic development, employment generation, foreign exchange earnings, increasing exports, national income or development of the infrastructure.

He said the taxation policies were like playing the hide-and-seek game as the taxes were being reduced and increased turn by turn, in various sectors. He said when in 1989 a non-Congress government ruled at the Centre, the economy of the country was destroyed so badly that the government had to pledge gold with foreign countries to avoid being dubbed as a bankrupt state. The Congress government, which took over in 1991, did well and the national income was increased to 7 per cent, the exports increased by 12 per cent and the employment opportunities increased with the gradual opening up of the Indian economy.

To a question, Dr Manmohan Singh said even if there was a global slowdown, there was no reason that the Indian economy could not do well. He said while states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh lead the information technology revolution, Punjab, Haryana and even Himachal Pradesh lagged behind, due to the lopsided planning of the respective governments. The government agencies failed to make use of biotechnology to break the wheat-paddy rotation cycle and the agrarian economy had been completely destroyed by debt.

He said the repeated collapse of primary market and scams had completely destroyed the faith of the small and middle class investor in the equities and urgent corrective steps were needed to set things right. The money of the employees should not be invested in the equity market till safety of the return of principal amount and profits on the same were assured.


Harika’s wife, kin refused bail
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 12
Mr Sukhdev Singh, Additional District and Sessions Judge, here today dismissed the bail applications of Ms Sukhwant Kaur Harika and Ms Dalip Kaur, wife and mother-in-law, respectively, of Mr Naginder Singh Harika, Managing Director, Khalsa Dental Hospital and College, both Directors of Khalsa Rural Hospital and Nursing Training Institute of Nangal Kalan village in the district.

The two women had sought anticipatory bail in case FIR No. 54 of July 2, 2001, under Sections 406 and 420 of the IPC registered at police station sadar, here which was registered on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court while disposing of the writ petition of Ms Narinder Paul Kaur of Jalwana village in Sangrur district and Ms Ravinderjit Kaur of Kular village in Ludhiana district on December 12, 2000.

The petitioners had alleged that the institute had admitted them to B.Sc (Nursing) and B.Sc (Physiotherapy) courses respectively, but later it was found that both courses were not recognised.

Mr Naginder Singh Harika is already in judicial custody since May 1 last year in a case registered under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC on the complaint filed by Mr Suresh Kumar Sharma, an IAS Officer of the Delhi cadre and at present is lodged in Central Jail, Bathinda.


Women become more poll savvy
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 12
It’s an awakening that men in villages of Punjab are gradually learning to deal with and take in their stride. The cities, too, present a similar picture where the men wait in the wings while their women canvass for women candidates in the fray in the Assembly elections.

This new genre of village women with a mind of their own was more visible in the election campaigns of women candidates than ever before. Whether it was the operational part of organising rallies and planning the day’s schedule or “educating” the candidates of the needs of the public in various pockets of the constituencies, women do it all.

The veil was absent and instead of the submissive, coy village woman, one found a go-getter who had no qualms in putting her bet on women candidates. Women candidates, they staunchly believe, are no longer dummy candidates propped up by power-hungry husbands remote-controlling the show from behind the stage.

They claimed that candidates of the fairer sex made more humane and less corrupt administrators, were more alive to the complaints of the public and no longer the rubber-stamps they are made out to be. However, an undercurrent of disappointment on account of inadequate representation to women candidates was present in most villages.

In Raiyyan, a 70-year-old woman, Raj Rani, says, “Kise numayande ne kadi saadi nahin suni. Votan leke vekhde vi nahin, kam ki karna ai. Saadi kudian te kuj kam karaun giyan je mauka milya hai. Sanu pension davaa den te bahut hai.” She is hopeful of a better tomorrow if the reigns of the government came in the hands of a woman who can talk her mind and get her way.

At places where there are no women candidates fighting the battle for the seat, the realisation among women voters of the importance of their votes is tremendous though they admit that fielding a woman would have given that particular party a definite edge. In Jandiala, each afternoon, they sit together and weigh the prospects of each candidate fielded and analyse and discuss viewpoints.

“Our husbands are out most of the day in rallies and campaigns. This gives us ample time to make up our minds without any prejudices. A clean image is priority and village welfare the central issue. Our husbands no longer have the casting vote as far as choice of the candidate we vote for is concerned,” asserts Kartarodevi on behalf on the 10-odd women holding a meeting of their own.

In Amritsar city, it is party time in the women’s camp where a woman candidate fielded by the BJP is taking her male counterparts by storm. Wholeheartedly involved in campaigning for her, women have put family and work on the backburner as they went all out to secure votes for her.

One such supporter, Ms Janki Sharma, says,“Our battalion is prepared for the big day. We have prepared a schedule of duty and it is mostly women who are managing the show. Going by the hard work each of us is putting in and judging by the response our campaign has elicited, we will come out with flying colours. The show would have been merrier had more women been fighting at more seats in the state.”


Where ‘nukkad’ meetings dominated
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 12
Unlike Malwa and Majha, the election scene in Doaba has been without the posterbanner-cutout war or big rallies. In Doaba, “nukkad” meetings have remained the mainstay of candidates of almost all parties.

While in the other two regions candidates have been organising big rallies, putting posters and flags, and distributing liquor, Doaba presented a different picture this time. Here, candidates neither preferred to play spendthrift by putting up big shows of strength nor resorted to the poster-banner war. The people, too, did not display much of their liking for politicking and a high-pitch campaign. That the poll has almost been a lacklustre affair is visible from the fact that only a few posters or flags are visible in any of townships of the Doaba region, which even remained bereft of big political rallies this time. Both the PPCC supremo, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the SAD Chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, mainly concentrated on the Malwa region keeping in view the large number of Assembly segments there. What was preferred by almost all candidates of parties were “nukkad” meetings organised with the help of the locality leaders.

So much so, that both private and public buildings were largely without any flags, banners or posters, when The Tribune visited a few key constituencies like Kartarpur, Bholath, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala, where prestige of almost all major political parties is at stake. In Kartarpur, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, the leader of the Opposition and a Vice-President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee was seen holding a “nukkad” meeting with the FCI workers and a similar “nukkad” meeting was organised by his rival, the Punjab Assembly Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, a SAD candidate in a nearby village. Same was the case with Bholath, where both the Congress candidate, Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, and his SAD rival, Bibi Jagir Kaur, devoted most of their time going house to house. This politically surcharged township had only a few flags fluttering atop a few shops and that too flags of all parties. This only confused visitors and candidates about the political affiliations of people.

The “nukkad” meetings have also benefited the people in turn. “It enables us to directly can talk to candidates and seek clarifications about various issues,” said Sunita Sen, a resident of Basti Guzan. Another group of people in Jalandhar and Nawanshahr had announced the boycott of the poll over some issues like lack of potable water, poor condition of sewerage or sanitation. They had put up banners in a few localities of Jalandhar saying they will not vote for any candidate if attention was not paid to their problems.


Inquiry sought into alleged harassment of girl
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 12
“Girl students are unsafe in Punjabi University,” said the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt Amarinder Singh at a rally recently, even as a section of Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) appealed to the Chancellor of the University, Mr J.F.R. Jacob, to look into the matter of alleged harassment of Ms Saru Rana, a student of Fine Arts Department in the University. They have also appealed to the Chancellor to constitute a high-level inquiry by an independent agency.

Saru Rana had, in a letter to the Vice Chancellor a few days back, had alleged harassment and commented that she had been threatened with problems in her academics if she did not accede to the demands of the authorities and the research scholars, whom she alleges to be instrumental in causing mental harassment to her in the form of serving the university’s guests, decorating the Vice Chancellor’s residence and attending functions outside Patiala. Although, the teachers and several students of the Fine Arts Department insist that all is well and all her statements are exaggerated. They maintain that no such incident involving the Fine Arts Department has ever taken place.

In a statement released today, PUTA has also alleged that the girl students in the university are subjected to harassment as they are taken to far off places like Andhretta (HP) and Dehra Dun. They also allege that the girls are made to stay late into the nights and wear prescribed dresses against their wishes. They also allege that girls are threatened with poor grades in practical examination in case they do not fall in line.

Meanwhile, hundreds of students and several teachers, while participating in an electoral rally of Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, a Congress candidate from Ghanaur constituency, criticised the university authorities, including the Vice Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia regarding the alleged harassment of the girl student and for failing to initiate any concrete step towards an objective probe leading to action against the “guilty”.


Falling tree injures five
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 12
As many as five persons were injured and two vehicles damaged when an old neem tree came crashing down close to a ditch which had been dug up to lay sewerage at the Purani Tehsil complex, which has been taken over by the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) to build a commercial complex in the city.

Residents claimed the tree came down as ditch dug up close to it had loosened the earth. They claimed the ditch was dug up in the area about a year ago, but the sewerage was still to be laid.

The District Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) general secretary, Mr Amarjit Singh Ramgarhia, whose jeep was also damaged in the incident, said it was residents and BSP workers who took the injured to nearby health centre for treatment. He demanded that immediate compensation should be given to those persons whose vehicles had been damaged in the incident.


Sikh council opposes Cong
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 12
The World Sikh Intellectual Council has held the Congress responsible for the 1984 riots and Operation Bluestar and said that it should not be voted to power. A press note issued here today by Mr B.S. Balluana and Mr Tek Bahadur Singh Sandhu, president and vice-president of the organisation, said the Congress was responsible for the backwardness of the state.


Rain brings cheer to farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
A bumper crop of wheat will be ready for harvesting in a few weeks from now and it may well prove to be the first major test of the next government in Punjab. The issue at hand will be the minimum support price of wheat and its procurement.

The wet weather in the past two days has made all the difference to the wheat crop. It has brought cheer not only to farmers but also lakhs of other people who depend on the state’s agricultural economy.

The Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices had recommended the bringing down of the price of wheat last year. However, it was raised because of the efforts of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and his counterpart, Mr Om Parkash Chautala, who had lobbied at the level of Prime Minister to get it done.

According to a top official, the state government has recommended to the Union Government to fix Rs 760 per quintal as the minimum support price of wheat for the coming season. The cost of inputs required for the wheat crop has gone up tremendously in the past one year. In view of this, there is need for a quantum jump in the price of wheat, which was pegged at Rs 610 last year. In view of the thinking at present on the procurement of foodgrains at the Union Government level, it will be a difficult task at hand for the new government in the state to get the MSP jacked up from Rs 610 per quintal. The rain has been fairly widespread. It has been measured at about 14 mm in the state except in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts where it was been around 5 mm. Experts say the rain was timely for farmers.

Because of the rain, the day temperature, which had been rising in the past two weeks, has come down, becoming favourable for the wheat crop. Mr S.S. Bains, Director Agriculture, Punjab, said as the soil would have enough moisture, it would improve the nutrition level. Besides, there would be no need to irrigate the crop, which would save farmers from extra work.


Poll leave for Haryana staff
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
The Haryana Government will allow special leave on February 13 to employees who are residents of Punjab and registered as voters there, to enable them to cast their votes for the Assembly elections.

The Haryana Chief Secretary, in a circular issued here today, directed all heads of departments, divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners and SDOs (Civil) in the state that the employees seeking special leave on February 13 must give in writing about his/her being a voter in Punjab.

He warned that disciplinary action would be taken against anyone giving wrong information in this regard.

AMRITSAR: There will be a holiday in the teaching, non-teaching departments and administrative branches of Guru Nanak Dev University on Wednesday on account of the Assembly poll, according to an official announcement of the university here on Tuesday.


SHO, market panel employee suspended
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 12
Mr Dhian Singh, Station House Officer (SHO), City police station, was suspended by the district police chief, Mr Kapil Dev, allegedly for not performing his duty rightly.

Mr R. Venkat Ratnam, District Election Officer-cum-District Magistrate, in a press note issued here today, said that another employee of the Market Committee, Raman, Mr Darshan Singh, had also been suspended allegedly for taking part in the political activities during elections.

He added that 24 vehicles had been impounded by the police after 5 pm yesterday and today, allegedly for violating the Election Code of Conduct.

One salesman of a liquor shop had been booked in a criminal case for his involvement in the sale of liquor after 5 pm yesterday.


Liquor, opium seized in Patiala
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 12
A truckload of liquor and 5 kg of opium which had been concealed in the tyres of a Maruti car were seized in the city yesterday.

The police also raided a rice sheller on the outskirts of the city which was used to distribute liquor to voters of the Dakala constituency.

District police chief Paramraj Singh Umranangal said, besides this, 237 polling stations had been put on the sensitive list and more police personnel had been deputed for them.

Deputy Commissioner and District Election Officer Jasbir Singh Bir in a separate press note disclosed that machines and staff had been sent to all 1367 polling booths in the constituency.

Mr Umranangal said 1200 bottles of liquor had been seized from a truck near the city Kotwali police station. He said the truck had been seized after one person who was carrying a crate of liquor on his cycle was questioned by the police.

He said two residents of Rajasthan had been arrested and 5 kg opium seized from them in the city yesterday. The two had been identified as Lana Ram and Iqbal Mohammad, both residents of Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan and that they had hidden the narcotics in 1-kg packets between the tyre and the tyre tube of their car.

The district police chief disclosed that 50 bottles of liquor had also been seized from a rice sheller on the outskirts of the city. A police party had raided the sheller following reports that it was being virtually used as a “bar” by one of the candidates contesting from Dakala.

Mr Umranangal disclosed that the extreme sensitive booths in the district were in Lohgarh in Banur constituency where Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh is contesting against Ms Sheelam Sohi of the Congress, Rajpura town where Local Bodies Minister Balramji Das Tandon is contesting against Mr Raj Khurana of the Congress and Tripri township were former minister Brahm Mohindra and SAD candidate Surjit Singh Rakhra, besides others, are in the fray.

He said 78 polling parties were on duty in the district besides six companies of paramilitary forces. He said 35 police personnel had been put at the disposal of all DSPs to meet any exigencies.


4 get 7-yr term for attacking cops
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 12
Four persons involved in snatching a carbine from a policeman and attempting to murder the police personnel have been convicted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of seven years each. The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 each on the guilty. Convicted persons are Darshan Singh of Bajra village, Baljinder Singh of Bhattian village and Jaswinder Singh, Gurdeep Singh of Nandpur village.

The accused were booked under sections 397, 307 of the IPC at police station Focal Point, on October 10, 1999.

Constable Baldev Singh was admitted to Mohan Dai Cancer Hospital and then shifted to CMC Hospital, Ludhiana, for treatment.

The accused were nabbed by the police after some days. Though they pleaded not guilty before court. But finding convincing and substantial evidence against them, the judge sentenced them to 7-year RI.


Cong leader booked for abduction
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 12
Sukhwinder Singh a Congress leader and former MLA, has been booked under the Arms Act and Sections 364, 452, 148, 149 and 188 of the IPC by the Bhikhiwind police for abducting Ms Darshan Kaur of Lakhana village. Ms Darshan Kaur was injured in a firing incident at Bhikhiwind village on February 6 when Gurpartap Singh, alias Guddu, the younger brother of Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Minister for Excise and Taxation, Punjab, opened fire killing Ali Sher a migrant labourer from Uttar Pradesh. Police sources said yesterday that Sukhwinder Singh along with his 20 other men shot at and injured Mr Ranjit Singh Sarpanch of Margindpura village.


Sunday is no holiday for them
Raj Sadosh

Sunday is no more a holiday for students of local educational institutions who have chosen NCC as an optional subject. Cadets in other towns of the state are generally seen doing rehearsals for Independence Day or Republic Day parades but here hundreds of students, dressed nicely in uniform, can be seen not only participating in parade but also busy in honing their skills at the firing range somewhere in the subdivision.

They keenly participate in clearing obstacles in the field to keep themselves fit for accepting any challenge.

Col R.P.S. Dhillon, Group Commander, NCC Group HQ, Ludhiana, recently visited his units in Moga, Ferozepore, Fazilka and Abohar. After reviewing the training being imparted to cadets, he emphasised that more stress should be laid on activities like civil defence, firing by all cadets and keeping the weapons in a serviceable condition, first-aid and casualty evacuation, field craft and minor tactics training in the handling of weapons and map reading, patrolling and ambushes.

Briefing the Group Commander on the standards of training achieved so far, Col Bachittar Singh Saunkhala, Commanding Officer, NCC, Abohar and Fazilka, said intensive training was being imparted to the cadets in mini-training camps on Sundays and other holidays wherein maximum cadets recorded presence.

He added that concentration on civil defence measures was in full swing wherein 1000 cadets, both boys and girls, would be co-opted in the civil defence scheme in this border belt. NCC officers and cadets were educated on their role and reharsals being carried out. The morale of the cadets was very high when this correspondent interacted with them on Sunday. Each one of them was looking forward to be deployed in the interest of the nation.

NCC exams are scheduled for all certificates later in the month. The Senior Under Officer, Mr Sunil Parmar, had attended Air Force Para Training School at Agra last year and was awarded Para Wings. He had been selected for participation in the national integration camp to be held at Port Blair next month. Two NCC officers were recently inducted.

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