Wednesday, March 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Change of guard makes Malwa powerless
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune news service

Chandigarh, March 5
The hinterland of Malwa, a most powerful region in state’s political structure till recently, has become almost powerless with the change of guard in Punjab Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh.

In fact, a sort of power vacuum has been created in the hinterland. It is not yet known that how, Capt Amarinder Singh, new Chief Minister, will handle such a situation in the hinterland, which is known as a stronghold of the Akalis.

Capt Amarinder Singh will have to remain in touch with this region as communication gap with the people of this area will not be in the interest of the new government. Moreover, the former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has once again become active in the hinterland. He is also going around to share the concern of farmers where they have suffered loss because of a recent hailstorm.

The hinterland consisting of Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda, Abohar-Fazilka-Ferozepore, Moga, Muktsar, Barnala and Malerkotla belt has enjoyed tremendous power as after 1970s most of the Chief Ministers belonged to that area.

Among them were Giani Zail Singh, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar and Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

However, at today’s swearing-in ceremony of ministers, no one from this belt was sworn in either as Cabinet Minister or minister of state except, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. Mr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, who won from Fazilka, has been inducted as a Parliamentary secretary.

Interestingly, Ms Bhattal has been given the portfolios of the Rural Development and Panchayats and the Agriculture by the Chief Minister.

In a way, Capt Amarinder Singh has put an onus on her to promote his party’s interest in the areas where it performed poorly.

In the Badal’s government, there were 11 ministers from the hinterland. Among them were, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Mr Tota Singh, Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Mr Sikander Singh Maluka, Mr Surjit Kumar Jayani, Mr Nusrat Ali Khan, Mr Sujan Singh, Mr Ranjit Balian and Mr Gobind Singh Longowal.

The Congress has been, by and large, rejected by the electorate of Malwa. It failed to win even a single seat in Muktsar, Moga, Faridkot and Mansa districts. In Bathinda district it won only one seat. 


Vidhan Sabha session to end on March 27
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The inaugural session of the twelfth Punjab Vidhan Sabha will be a four-day affair, according to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. The session will conclude on March 27.

“Since there is not much to be discussed except to pass vote on account,” he said,” The inaugural session would be brief. It would start on March 21 or 22 and conclude on March 27 maintaining that the full Budget would be presented in May or June.”

Talking about the complaints against the Vice-Chancellors of Punjabi University, Patiala, and Punjab Technical University (PTU), Jalandhar, the Chief Minister said he was not aware regarding complaints on PTU.


Barssat appointed Political Secretary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The Punjab Government today ordered the formal appointment of Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi and Mr Harchand Singh Barssat as Political Secretaries to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

A formal notification said today that Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, Major Harminder Singh Bhullar and Capt Vikramjeet Singh had been appointed Officers on Special Duty to the Chief Minister.


Sidhu to be MD, Health Systems
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The state government has placed the services of Ms Kusamjit Sidhu, a senior IAS officer, at the disposal of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, for posting as Managing Director of the Health Systems Corporation and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of Punjab against a vacant post.


Balayogi's death ‘a great loss’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The staff of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha at a meeting held here today mourned the death of Mr G.M.C.Balayogi, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, in a helicopter crash.

In a resolution, the meeting, which was presided over by Mr Nachhattar Singh Mavi, Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha, recalled his services in the parliamentary field and his association with the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretariat staff during the presiding officers’ conference held in Chandigarh. "His death at this juncture, when the nation is facing problems both from inside and outside disruptive forces, is a great loss to the nation", it said.


Punjab’s financial situation ‘alarming’
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 5
The precarious financial health of Punjab tops the agenda of the first meeting of the Cabinet here tomorrow. Thereafter, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, leaves for New Delhi to apprise the Prime Minster and other ministers of the state’s requirements.

There are no soft options before the Punjab Government. The choice is either to plough a new financial furrow or continue to follow the path of least resistance, as the previous government did. In the saddle is a party that had once submitted a memorandum to the President of India to clamp a ‘’financial emergency’’ in the state.

Capt Amarinder Singh and his 19 colleagues have to decide if priority is to pay just committed expenses — salaries, pensions, debt servicing, grants to institutions and forget development or go in for measures to mobilise additional resources of revenue income. The expected revenue deficit is Rs 4,000 crore by the end of the financial year. Information is available on all financial matters and aspects. What the Cabinet is to decide tomorrow is where, when and how to begin. The major concern is declining revenue receipts from the transport sector and taxes. So precarious is the resource condition that even funding the core Plan will be difficult.

Sources in the Finance Department revealed to TNS that there was little scope to reduce the non-plan expenditure. It was stated that against a total revenue expenditure of Rs 13071 crore (2000-01) the committed expenditure, 85 per cent, was in respect of salaries, wages, pensions, interest payments, grants in aid.

The Congress government will be informed tomorrow that the state has created unfunded liabilities to meet committed expenditure. These were estimated to be around Rs 2,500 crore in the second half of the financial year, 1999-2000. These were systematically lowered to Rs 1,255 crore in August last. Therefore, the Cabinet tomorrow will have to decide that revenue receipts were at all times sufficient to meet committed expenditure.

The state is slipping into a serious debt trap. The debt position for the past five years shows that total debt has increased from Rs 15,356 crore (1996-97) to Rs 35,000 crore ( 2001-02). The interest payments for 2000-01 is Rs 2,445 crore; it was Rs 1,634 crore in 1996-97.

The Congress has committed freebies worth Rs 1,200 crore in its election manifesto. Capt Amarinder Singh has often repeated that every commitment will be met and the manifesto itself will be the government agenda. How will the Cabinet implement that when a serious resource crunch is forecast in the memorandum prepared for the Cabinet meeting tomorrow?


Work on DD tower resumed
Bid to check Pak propaganda
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Fazilka, March 5
The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in a bid to check PTV’s India-bashing propaganda in the border areas of Ferozepore sector, has resumed work on the Doordarshan relay tower here.

The project was initiated in 1998 by the Union Government and was to be completed within two years. It was delayed due to paucity of funds and lack of political will. According to the engineer in charge posted here, now the work would be completed within seven months.

It is worth mentioning that in spite of growing tensions between India and Pakistan, PTV continues to be a favourite source of entertainment for the people living near the border. More than Doordarshan or other satellite channels, it is PTV that people view in the evenings.

Signals released from the Lahore station are so powerful that viewers in the areas of Ferozepore, Fazilka, Jalalabad, Abohar, Zira, Talwandi Bhai, Faridkot and Moga do not need to put up an extra antenna, booster or cable.

Surjit Singh, a resident of Mamdot, told TNS that the signals of PTV are more clear than Doordarshan. Since they do not have a cable connection, there is no other option before them other than PTV for entertainment and information.

The growing tensions between India and Pakistan have not in any way deterred the people of the border areas from watching PTV. Most of the regular viewers of PTV feel that it is cultural affinity of Punjabis on either side of the border that makes PTV programmes click so well with the Punjabis here.

The TV tower likely to be commissioned by the end of this year at Fazilka would be able to cover the border areas of Ferozepore and Ganganagar districts. The proposed height of the tower is 302 metres, which is the highest in India and number three in Asia.

Sources working at the construction site of the TV tower revealed that the Union Government proposed to install a device at the tower to block signals of PTV and frequency of Lahore Radio.


Singla’s voters dismayed
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 5
Resentment prevails among a major section of residents of this Assembly segment as they feel cheated over non-inclusion of their representative, Mr Surinder Singla, MLA, into the Cabinet as Finance Minister. The non-inclusion of Mr Singla, an eminent economist and former chief spokesman of the AICC, into the Cabinet comes as a rude shock to the city residents.

A cross-section of the electorate approached this correspondent and lamented that they had been cheated by the central and state Congress leadership. Mr Singla has not been made Finance Minister, despite the fact that leaders like Mr Arjun Singh, member, Congress Working committee (CWC), Dr Manmohan Singh, former Union Finance Minister and Mr Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, Punjab, had sought votes from them during campaigning on the promise that Mr Singla would be made the next Finance Minister.

Mr Jagjit Singh Joga, district secretary, CPI, Bathinda, said the non-inclusion of Mr Singla into the Cabinet was an “undemocratic” step as it would send the wrong signal to the voters who had voted for him in the belief that he would carry out development of the area in a big way on becoming the Finance Minister.

Dr Mohan Lal Garg, a leading practitioner of the city, alleged that the Congress leadership was not trustworthy as it had failed to fulfil its promise made to the electorate. He pointed that in the previous SAD-BJP ministry, six ministers, including the Chief Minister, belonged to five districts — Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Muktsar and Faridkot — but the Congress leadership had failed to induct Mr Singla into the Cabinet, despite the fact that he was the only party candidate to have emerged victorious in these districts.

Mr Gurmeet Singh, president, Block Congress Committee, Bathinda, and Mr Ashok Kumar, general secretary, DCC (I), Bathinda, in a joint press note issued here today said the non-inclusion of a representative from the area could prove dangerous for the Congress as development could suffer in Bathinda, Faridkot, Mansa, Moga, Muktsar and Ferozepore, considered as pockets of influence of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. An official of the local Municipal Council, on the condition of anonymity, said after the abolition of octroi, employees had placed their hopes on Mr Singla, a well-known economist, but now they felt disappointed. He said people had voted for a Finance Minister and not Congress candidate.

Mr Krishan Kumar, an industrialist, remarked that all Congress-CPI alliance candidates in Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Moga and Faridkot districts had been defeated by their opponents. The non-inclusion of Mr Singla gave the feeling that the Congress leadership had “defeated” the verdict of the voters of this Assembly segment.

“Will the people of Bathinda ever believe the Congress leadership again? Can the Congress leadership explain to the people why Mr Singla was not made Finance Minister, despite the fact that he won by a margin of 14,000 votes,” he asked.


Punjab Cabinet—portfolios

Capt Amarinder Singh

Personnel, General Administration, Home Affairs, Jails & Justice Vigilance, Power, Wildlife, NRI Cell, Information & Public Relations, Cooperation, Defence Services Welfare, Sports & Youth Services Cultural Affairs & Tourism, Industries Civil Aviation & Horticulture Science, Technology and Environment

Mrs Rajinder K. Bhattal

Rural Development & Panchayats, Development of Women and Children, Agriculture

Mr Lal Singh

Finance, Planning, Food & Supplies

Ch Jagjit Singh

Local Government, Parliamentary Affairs Labour and Employment

Mr Khushal Behl

Higher Education & Languages Primary & Secondary Education

Mr P.S. Bajwa

PWD (B&R), Elections

Mr Tej Parkash Singh


Mr R.C. Dogra

Health & Family Welfare Medical Education & Research

Mr R.S. Puri

Housing & Urban Development

Mr Gurchet S. Bhullar


Ch Santokh Singh

Social Security, Welfare

Mr J.S. Kang

Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development & Fisheries

Mr Sardool Singh

Excise & Taxation

Mr Mohinder S. Kaypee

Technical Education & Industrial Training

Ministers of State

Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa

Public Health (independent charge) Rural Development & Panchayats (attached with Mrs R. K. Bhattal)

Mr Amarjit S. Samra

Revenue & Rehabilitation (independent charge) Agriculture (attached with Mrs Bhattal)

Dr Harbans Lal

Forests (independent charge) Food & Supplies (attached with Mr L. Singh)

Mr Rakesh Pandey

Printing & Stationery (Ind charge)

Mr Romesh Dutt Sharma

Removal of Grievances (independent charge) Health, Medical Education & Research (attached with Mr R. C. Dogra)

Mr Ashwani Sekhri

Cultural Affairs & Tourism (attached with CM)

Parliamentary Secretaries

Mr Gurbinder S. Atwal

Cooperation (attached with CM)

Dr Mohinder K. Rinwa

Science Technology, Environment & Horticulture (attached with CM)


Malout Assembly poll on April 4
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 5
The Election Commission of India (EC) has decided to hold poll from Malout Assembly constituency in Punjab on April 4.

The poll in Malout was countermanded due to the death of a candidate.

According to the EC, the notification for the poll will be issued on March 11, while the last date for making nominations will be March 18, scrutiny of nominations will be done on March 19 and the last date for the withdrawal of candidatures will be March 21. The entire election process will be completed on April 8 the EC said.


Darbari Lal to lodge protest with Sonia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 5
Prof Darbari Lal who has been elected from the city constituency for the third time is a sad man today as despite being one of the senior-most MLA, he has not been inducted into the Punjab ministry. His second grudge is that it is for the first time that the city remains unrepresented.

Prof Darbari Lal said he would meet Ms Sonia Gandhi to lodge his protest in this connection. 


Mann seeks to meet Prime Minister
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 5
Member of Parliament and the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, has sought an appointment with the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and High Commissioner, Pakistan, for seeking permission to send jathas to Pakistan on the occasion of Baisakhi which falls next month.

Talking to TNS today, Mr Mann said he had learnt that the Government of India was not making any arrangement for sending the jathas to Pakistan which was most unfortunate. Though the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had sent a communication to the Government of India for allocating special trains to carry devotees to Pakistan, yet its request is likely to fall on deaf ears. Mr Mann said the SGPC, too, was not making sincere efforts to send the jathas. He strongly criticised the statement of Bibi Jagir Kaur, an MLA and a former SGPC chief, that the jathas should not be sent to Pakistan unless Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) was disbanded. Mr Mann said instead of criticising the formation of the PSGPC, the Sikhs should be indebted to the Government of Pakistan which was the first Islamic nation to form such a committee to manage the Sikh shrines.

Mr Mann said the PSGPC should rather be made an international body so that the Sikh shrines all over the world could be controlled by a universally accepted management committee. He said his party was ready to spare the SGPC members who could be tipped to join the international body. He said radical Sikhs like Ganga Singh Dhillon should be involved for the formation of such a body.

However, Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary, SGPC, has said the SGPC had already made arrangements for sending jathas to Pakistan. He said a formal approval for clearance of the jathas was, however, still awaited. He said many devotees had already sent their passports to the SGPC.

On the humiliating defeat of the Panthic Morcha candidates during the recently held Assembly elections, Mr Mann said there was need for introspection so that corrective measures could be taken. He said he was likely to meet Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal in the near future.


Kidnapped girl’s father threatened
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 5
Dr Vineeta Gupta, general secretary, Insaaf International, today alleged that on the one hand a section of police officials had been threatening Mr Hari Nath, whose four-year-old daughter had been kidnapped a few months ago, on the other the accused kidnapper, who had been identified, was being protected by them.

In a press note issued today, she said Insaaf International had approached the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the DGP, Mr M.S. Bhullar to take immediate action in this case and provide justice to the needy.

She added that though the police authorities had failed to recover the kidnapped daughter of Mr Hari Nath, the police officials were threatening him to sign a false statement. When Mr Hari Nath refused to sign the statement, the officials recorded the false statement of Mr Tehsil Nath, a neighbour of Mr Hari Nath, alleged under duress.

She alleged that police officials had harassed and intimidated the complainants to such an extent that they had stopped pursuing their complaint.



DC installs stone in his name, despite protest

Gurdaspur, March 5
The installation of stone at Triangular Park after the name of the former Deputy Commissioner, who relinguished charge yesterday, has left a bitter taste.

According to Mr Rakesh Jyoti, president, Municipal Committee, the park is spread over 3 kanals and is the property of the Municipal Committee. More than Rs 4 lakh has been earmarked for the development of the park.

The park has a statue of Baba Banda Bahadur and a lion on its left. Few hoardings have also been installed there.

Mr Jyoti said the Deputy Commissioner all of a sudden on Sunday installed the stone in his name, dedicating the park to the citizens of Gurdaspur, despite protests by the municipal authorities.

The Deputy Commissioner called the contractor of the Zila Parishad and installed the stone under security.


1 killed, 13 hurt as bus overturns
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, March 5
A person was killed and 13 injured when a private mini-bus carrying schoolchildren and teachers overturned near Tahliwala village on the Ferozepore-Abohar road today.

According to the police, the mini-bus met with the accident after the driver lost control over the steering. Shingara Singh (70) of Mehma village died on the spot while eight teachers, three students and two other persons were injured. The injured were rushed to a local hospital.

One of the teachers Loveleen Gulati, is said to be in a serious condition. The other injured are Meenu Sharma, Pooja, Kanta, Alishia, Pushpinder, Sunita Chawla and Anuradha Sachdeva. Among the students Shruti Sachdeva, Sukhdeep Singh ans Sachin were injured. 


Hospital staff demand salaries
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, March 5
Three doctors, three paramedical employees and six Class IV employees of the emergency trauma ward and the post-mortem unit of the local Civil Hospital have not been paid salaries for the past three months.

Dr Hans Raj Malethia, representative of the PCMS Association, Ferozepore, Mr Sham Lal Chalana, organiser, Paramedical Employees Union, Mr Sarvan Kumar, president, Class IV Employees Union, Civil Hospital, Fazilka, and Mr Shashi Kant, senior vice-president, All-Employees Coordination Committee, Fazilka, today demanded that the Punjab Government should grant regular sanction for the posts and release their salaries without any delay.

They said the employees had been facing this problem for many years. Besides some of them had to file their income tax statements and pay tax during this month. Hence, their salaries should be released immediately, they said.


Kidnapping case takes new turn
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 5
The sensational kidnapping case is again in the limelight as the Civil Lines police station has registered a cheating case against two businessmen brothers Anil Dhawan and Pawan Dhawan of the Ranjit Avenue locality here last evening.

It may be recalled that the two were the same persons who were allegedly kidnapped and beaten up by 12-armed persons, including three policemen, on February 21. A news regarding the incident was published in The Tribune columns on February 22. Mr Rajesh Jaiswal, SP (city), was appointed inquiry officer of the case.

The complainant, Mr Davinder Singh Jagdamber, has alleged in an FIR that the brothers had taken Rs 1.2 lakh from him promising to send him to Dubai. He said the two neither sent him to Dubai nor returned his money. Later, they gave him a cheque which bounced.

However, Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, BJP leader, who had highlighted the case of abduction of the brothers alleged that it was learnt that the abductors were trying to effect a compromise with the brothers with the connivance of the police. She also alleged that the brothers were made to sign blank cheques during their confinement.

She expressed surprise that only one person in the case of abduction had been arrested while the kingpin was at large despite the fact that all accused were identified by the police and were in close contacts with them. When contacted, Mr Jaiswal said he could not proceed with the investigation as the case file had not been provided to him as yet.

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