Wednesday, January 15, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SYL echoes at Maghi Mela
Amarinder calls for unity
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh’s appeal to both the SAD and the BJP to participate in the special Vidhan Sabha session on Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal was responded to positively by Mr Parkash Singh Badal here today.

While the Chief Minister said that “unity was the need of the hour” on the vexed and important issue of rivers waters, the SAD chief said that “safeguarding the interests of the state were foremost for the Dal as it was ready to fight for Punjab waters in a peaceful and democratic manner.”

Both Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal, accompanied by their respective party leaders were here to participate in political conferences on the penultimate day of the three-day historic Maghi Mela.

The Punjab Chief Minister held that the delay in announcing the date of the special session of the Vidhan Sabha was on account of finalisation of the Governor’s Address. The moment the address was ready, the session would be convened basically to “ratify the decisions taken at the all-party meeting last week. But this time we hope that both the SAD and the BJP would participate in the session to express solidarity with the all-party decision. I appeal to them to attend the session.” “We need not call any meeting of the Political Affairs Committee to decide about our participation in the special session. We will attend it to present our viewpoint,” said Mr Badal in an interaction with The Tribune after the rally.

Cold-wave conditions and thick fog that had enveloped the Malwa belt had its impact on the mela participants as the start of the political rallies was delayed till 1 pm. Trains were running far behind schedule and as such many of national-level-leaders of various parties could not make it to this historic city. The fog also slowed down the vehicular traffic considerably.

Though none of the Central leaders of the Congress could make it to the Maghi Mela here, Mr Ashok Pradhan, Union Labour Minister, turned up at the SAD-BJP conference. The turnout at both the SAD and the Congress rallies was impressive. Sukhi Brar, noted Punjabi folk singer, was in attendance at the Congress rally.

The Punjab Chief Minister was critical of the NDA government at the Centre and the previous SAD-BJP government in the state. He said during their five-year rule, the SAD-BJP government never pursued the SYL case in the Supreme Court seriously. So much so that even senior and eminent lawyers were not paid their fee.

“In case the water goes to Haryana Mansa, Muktsar, Faridkot, Bathinda and parts of Ferozepore and Sangrur districts would become barren. More than nine lakh acres of land would turn into a desert. We do not have any water,” he said, clarifying that some water released to Rajasthan to meet drinking water needs in drought-hit areas was during the period when irrigation requirements of the state had been met. And this was done as a humanitarian gesture and for a limited period only.

“My government had to come and clear payments worth Rs 11.5 lakh to some lawyers which the SAD-BJP had initially engaged. Then these lawyers were replaced by junior lawyers to lose the case. I challenge Mr Parkash Singh Badal that his personal interests overweighed the state’s interests as far as the SYL was concerned. Except for some ancestral property in Badal and some land in Killianwali, most of the immovable properties of Mr Badal are outside Punjab. They are in Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Chandigarh and other states beside abroad.

“The SAD-BJP government did nothing for developing this historic town of Muktsar. the previous government, except for looting the state and its people, did nothing to create employment as 2.40 lakh unemployed youth are added to the state register every year. We are trying to woo back industry. Besides, we are also working on provision of drinking water and development of the rural areas.

“At present not only the entire country but the world is looking at Punjab. Our government is determined to weed out corruption from the state,” he added.

He also accused the SAD-BJP government for intentionally delaying the introduction of Bt. Cotton for trials as the cotton production and dropped considerably because of American wool worm. “We started experimental production and results have been excellent. We would soon be releasing Bt Cotton for cultivation in the state,” he said.

Lashing at the NDA government, the Punjab Chief Minister said in spite of his repeated meetings with the Union Food Minister and letters to the Prime Minister, little had been done to clear the huge stocks of levy sugar because of which the Centre owed Rs 423 crore to the state. “We want that we should be allowed to consume this sugar in our own state than getting our supplies from Maharashtra or other states. But the Centre has not responded so far. I am sending another letter to the Prime Minister,” Capt Amarinder Singh said.

The Chief Minister said clear directions had been issued to all officials that no farmer should be handcuffed. Directions had also been issued through Financial Commissioner (Revenue) that farm land holdings of farmers would not be auctioned from recovery of state dues. Accompanying the Chief Minister were Mr Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Mr Harbans Lal, Mr Harchand Singh Barsat and other leaders. Mr H.S. Hanspal could not reach here as he had to depute for the Chief Minister at the annual convention of the NRIs at Jalandhar.

Earlier, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, MP, said investigations must be held into all cases of embezzlement of panchayat funds by sarpanches of the Lambi area. He said it was Mrs Sonia Gandhi who, by refusing to accept a Haryana Congress rally on the vexed issued of the SYL, proved that she did not want the Punjab right on rivers waters to be diluted.

Others who addressed the Congress rally included Mr Sukhdev Singh Shahbajpuri, Mr Avtar Singh Sidhu and Dr Malti Thapar.

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