Friday, December 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Blame game at Jor mela
Old-age pension to be restarted: CM
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 26
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that contrary to exhortations by the Shiromani Akali Dal, SAD, his government did have proof of the corrupt deeds of its president and former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and he would be arrested only after the investigation being conducted against him was complete.

Addressing an impressive public rally at Jor mela here, the Chief Minister said: “We will place details of Mr Badal’s corrupt practices before people so that they can know about them also. Then he will be arrested according to the law.” Mr Badal was resorting to a propaganda that the Congress government had not been able to find anything against him in the past 10 months and that he (Amarinder Singh) wanted to arrest him only because of personal rivalry, he added.

The Chief Minister, gave a detailed speech both on the political front targeting the policies of the previous government as well as detailing development programmes envisaged by the Congress government. He also announced that English would be introduced from the first standard in government schools and that four gates would be built in Fatehgarh Sahib to commemorate those who had come out in support of the two Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh who were bricked alive here.

Speaking about Mr Badal, he said the former Chief Minister had only resorted to a “tamasha” through his sangat darshan programmes. He stressed the need for cleansing political life by focusing on the leadership of the state if state politics was to be cleansed.

On the development front, he announced that the state expected to earn a revenue of Rs 800 crore by the end of the financial year and that another Rs 800 crore was expected from the World Bank for drinking water supply projects. Detailing other development works, he said four bridges were planned over the Sutlej to better link the Doaba and Majha areas. He said 42 overbridges were being constructed over railway crossings and that 900 new roads would come up before March 31. The Chief Minister also announced that he had directed the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to release 20,000 new tubewell connections before March 31 and that 20,000 more tubewell connections would be released in the next financial year.

Announcing the introduction of Punjabi as a medium of study in all government primary schools from the next session, Capt Amarinder Singh said it was felt that this was the need of the hour. He also announced that old-age pension would be restarted from January 1. He said it was also envisaged that henceforth the panchayats would themselves handle the execution of all development works in the villages.

Reacting to former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral’s comment that he should go to Delhi with Mr Badal to get the state’s loan waived, he said this would not serve any purpose. He said Mr Badal had befooled people of the state by saying that Punjab’s loan had been waived adding a loan of Rs 58,000 crore still stood against the state. He said he had taken up the matter with the Prime Minister recently who claimed that he did not even know about the issue and that he would get it looked into. “This show how much Mr Badal pursued the loan case”, he added.

The conference was addressed by Pradesh Congress President H.S. Hanspal who made the demand for constructing four gates in memory of Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan of Malerkotla, Diwan Todar Mal, Moti Lal Mehra and Banda Bahadur, who had supported the cause of the Sahibzadas. Others who spoke, on the occasion which also saw the release of a book on Fatehgarh Sahib written by Gurkirpal Singh Ashk, were minister Dr Harbans Lal, MP Shamsher Singh Dullo and Fatehgarh Sahib DCC Chief Dr Sikander Singh.


Govt ignoring promises: Badal
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 26
Two of the smaller players on the state’s political horizon — the Akali Dal (Amritsar) and the Lok Bhalai Party — raised bigger issues, including the Sikh sovereign state and the rejection of politics of plunder and loot, as the bigger powers — the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal — indulged in political bashing at the political conferences organised on the penultimate day of the three-day Jor Mela here today.

Interestingly, all political conferences got mild to enthusiastic response from an unending sea of humanity that converged here to pay tributes to Sahibzada Jorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh.

The SAD enjoyed a clear edge over all its political opponents as far as the turnout was concerned. It was again the SAD conference which got a central leader in the BJP’s main spokesman and former Union Minister, Mr Arun Jaitely. Otherwise, it was state leadership of parties which used this occasion to deliver their political messages.

Congress, SAD, BJP and SHSAD leaders focused on the oft-repeated issues of the revival of shattered economy, corruption, failure to keep pre-poll promises, ignoring development and confrontation with various sections of society, including farmers, employees and urbanites.

The ruling and opposition parties blamed each other for the shattered economy, growing unemployment, unsatisfactory health care and education system and growing debtness of the state.

Almost all Akali factions were critical of verdict in the Sajjan Kumar case holding that justice had been denied and a sense of insecurity had crept in minds of minorities.

Though a resolution of “throwing Congress out” was adopted at the SAD conference at the behest of its general secretary, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, the Lok Bhalai Party gave a call for a movement to uproot “politics of plundering and loot” from the soil of Punjab.

The tone and tenor of speeches at almost all conferences was of vengeance and anger. Of the ruling party, the anger was directed at the Akalis as well as the NDA government at the Centre for “ignoring the legitimate demands of Punjab”, while the Akalis (Badal) were targeting the present government for its “confrontational policies” and “politics of vendetta”.

Mr Arun Jaitely, who came specially to address the SAD conference, said the BJP and the SAD were natural allies. He wanted the Congress government in the state to desist from “victimising its political opponents” and held that the NDA government was firmly behind its alliance partner.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal accused the present government of ignoring all its pre-poll promises. “Instead of concentrating on development, the ruling class was after the Akalis. It had no time to fight for the demands of its people, its farmers. It is why the farmers did not get anything remunerative or satisfactory from their produce of wheat and paddy.”

Earlier, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, main organiser of the Akali conference here, said after levying new taxes worth Rs 3,000 crore, the Congress government was yet to initiate any development work. He wondered where the money was going. All welfare schemes had been discontinued. Even the old-age pension scheme had been discontinued, he added.

At the Sarb Hind Akali Dal conference, where after a long time, the party supremo, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, was absent, various issues, including an immediate end to disinvestment, both at the Centre and in the state were raised.

SHSAD speakers were critical of the verdict in the Sajjan Kumar case holding that such orders threatened the existence of minorities. The SHSAD leaders gave a call for the formation of the National Democratic Minorities Front as leaders of two other minorities - Muslims (Mr Rafiq Qazmi) and Christians ( Mr John Dyal) — also participated in the conference.

Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra said the callous and indifferent attitude of the Congress government, corrupt and selfish outlook of the SAD chief Mr Parkash Singh Badal and the Centre’s apathy were making Punjabis suffer for no fault of theirs.

The Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, created a stir when he condemned the “judicial murder” of Mr Devinderpal Singh Bhullar by the apex court and the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar by a Delhi court. He maintained that he had never backtracked from the demand for a Sikh sovereign state and that he and his political party would pursue this demand in a democratic and peaceful manner.

Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia of the Lok Bhalai Party talked about various important social issues that he had raised in the recent past saying it was his efforts that more than 20,000 illegal Punjabi youth in Italy would get their stays legalised there. He said he was also fighting single-handedly the battle of thousands of Punjabi girls who had been cheated and deserted by their NRI husbands.

“Be it Akalis or Congress, they all have been plundering and looting Punjab without ever bothering for the interests of the people of the state,” he added.

The Dal Khalsa criticised both the BJP and the VHP for raking up the bogey of Hindutva to blackmail the minorities.

The Dal Khalsa organisers displayed photographs of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and also distributed a paper on “gurudom” where sects, including neo-Nirankaris, Radhasoami, Sacha Sauda, Ashutosh, Bhaniarawala and Kukas denigrating Sikhism and Sikh principles have been analysed.

Main spokesperson for the organisation was Mr Kanwar Pal Singh, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, Mr Baldev Singh, Mr Kabul Singh Kang, Mr Shinder Pal Singh, Dr Sukhedev Singh Ghariala and Dr Jagdev Singh were the other speakers. 

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