Monday, March 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Kalam leaves villagers mesmerised
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Kharoudi (Hoshiarpur), March 23
A “delighted” President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam left hundreds of villagers mesmerised with his “inquisitiveness” and “simplicity” as the country’s first ever VIP village — Kharoudi — opened its arms to receive the Head of the State here this afternoon.

Here in the village, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam turned out to be the “people’s own President” as he preferred to walk down the streets of the village, exchanging greetings and receiving flowers from both women and children of the village, stopping every now and then, making some inquiries, evincing a keen interest in various projects taken up scientifically here. It was his first visit to the state after assuming the country’s highest office.

He did not want his personal security to come between him and the people. Though his arrival was delayed by almost an hour, he made amends for it by spending almost 45 minutes, more than double the time of his scheduled stopover in the village.

The President in his brief address stressed on connectivity — physical connectivity through roads, electronic connectivity through telephones, knowledge connectivity through Internet and economic connectivity through scientific processing of foodgrains and milk — to usher in a new era of development by taking urban civic amenities to rural areas.

He said he was happy to see how the problems of sanitation, drinking water and sewage had been handled. “It was with the help of good-hearted NRIs that a programme of taking urban civic amenities to villages could materialise,” he said while congratulating all who have been involved in the project.

It was the first visit by any President to this small village, on the outskirts of Phagwara, which thanks to the Village Life Style Improvement Project initiated by a group of educated and professional NRIs has set in motion a new trend in “self-development”, focussing mainly on the provision of basic civic amenities.

“Delighted to visit the village. Excellent effort to make the village clean. My greetings to village members and great minds who love service”, wrote the President in the Visitors’ Book of the village after he had a quick round of the village and its various projects, including the sewage treatment plant, solar lights, solar water pump and concrete streets and pavements.

The President on his arrival was given a guard of honour at the village school where he witnessed a video of some of the innovative programmes under the project. When he was on his way to the sewage treatment plant and solar energy centre, village women and children showered flower petals on him and singing a welcome song in his honour as he posed for photographs with some and gave printed cards carrying his pictures and autographs to enthusiastic schoolchildren of the village.

Accompanying him were the Punjab Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal; Public Works Minister Partap Singh Bajwa, Health Minister R.C. Dogra and local MP, Charanjit Singh Channi. several senior bureaucrats, were also present.

Dr G.S. Gill, one of the pioneers of VIP project, told the President that out of Rs 68 lakh spent on the Village Life Improvement Project, Rs 50 lakh came from 31 NRIs who also helped in importing technology for the upgradation of civic amenities. Of the 250 households in the village, nearly 100 have one or more persons abroad.

Now each house in the village has piped water supply, flush latrine, sewer connection, solar street-lights, sewage treatment plant, concrete streets and pavements, besides a computer lab in the school, a park and a clock tower in the central park where names of all donors are inscribed. Mr Charanjit Singh Chani, MP, appreciated the lead taken by the NRIs and said that involving NGOs not only accelerates development works but also cuts off corruption part as is commonly witnessed in governmental works.

Mrs Bhattal presented a memento to the President who suggested to Dr G.S. Gill to start an Internet kiosk in the village.


Emulate sacrifices of martyrs: Kalam
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam evinces keen interest in the photographs connected with the life of Shaheed Bhagat Singh at the museum in the latter's ancestral village, Khatkar Kalan, on Sunday. 

President Kalam pays floral tributes at the "samadhi" of Shaheed Bhagat Singh at Khatkar Kalan. 

The President enquires about the family history of Shaheed Bhagat Singh from the latter's younger brother Kultar Singh. 
— Photos by Pradeep Tewari

Khatkar Kalan, March 23
The President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, urged the youth to emulate the sacrifices of martyrs and said the rich history of Punjab and the sacrifices made by the martyrs had greatly moved and inspired him.

On his first-ever visit to this border state on the occasion of the 72nd Martyrdom Day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the President stayed in the village for one and a half hours during which he not only interacted with family members of the martyr but also laid a wreath at the memorial, went around the museum and inaugurated India’s largest grid interactive solar photovoltaic power plant in the village.

Despite his hectic schedule and unprecedented security measures, Dr Kalam obliged waiting mediapersons by answering a couple of questions. Reacting to a query on the ongoing US attack on Iraq, he said: “The world is a beautiful place, we should make it peaceful and that India can give a message to the world.” Commenting on the role of the youth in the path to progress, he said: “They can do a lot.”

Earlier arriving by a helicopter, he drove to the memorial site accompanied by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and paid tributes to the great martyr. He evinced keen interest in rare exhibits, especially the photographs, depicting the life and philosophy of Bhagat Singh.

He then visited the ancestral house of the martyr and interacted with Mr Kultar Singh, younger brother of Bhagat Singh, and other relatives. He went around the house and enquired about the people and relatives who had lived in the modest house built of Nankshahi bricks. Before leaving the house, now a protected monument, he wrote in the visitors’ book: “I am inspired to visit Bhagat Singh’s ancestral house. Such great persons brought freedom to the nation.”


Cong wins post of president, vice-president
Tribune Reporters

Jaitu (Faridkot), March 23
Mr Mantar Singh Brar, MLA, Kotkapura, and six municipal councillors belonging to the SAD (Badal) today staged a walkout from the meeting held in connection with the election of the president and vice-president of the local municipal council in its hall today to lodge their protest against the “high-handedness” of the civil and police administration “to facilitate the members of the ruling party to grab these pests by hook or crook.”

Mr Mantar Brar, who has also voting right in the election of president and vice-president of the local municipal council, alleged that both Congress and the SAD (B) had equal number of municipal councillors in the municipal council. He added that when candidates of both parties got the support of equal number of municipal councillors when the election was held, it was decided to have a toss to decide whether the post of president goes to the SAD (B) or the Congress.

He alleged that when the SAD (B) won the toss, the civil officials, who were supervising the elections, refused to recognise the same under the pressure of the Congress government functionaries and said that both posts of president and vice-president would go to Congress municipal councillors. He added that at this point he along with the SAD (B) municipal councillors staged a walkout and did not put their signature on the proceedings recorded in connection with the elections.

He said that SAD MCs would approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court for getting justice as they had been denied their democratic rights by the officials concerned under the diktats of ruling masters. He alleged that some of the MCs, who had pledged their support to SAD candidates for the post of president and vice-president, were taken into custody by the police and threatened of dire consequences if they voted in favour of Akali candidates.

Meanwhile, after Mr Brar and municipal councillors staged a walkout, the Returning Officer, Mr Nirbah Singh, declared Mr Amarjit Singh Bhola and Ms Bholi Mahant elected president and vice-president, respectively.

A large number of SAD workers and a section of residents of the town raised slogans against the Congress government when Mr Brar came out from the venue of election and announced that he along with others had staged a walkout in protest against the “bunglings” by the officials concerned.

Residents also raised slogans against the police as it allowed only Congress workers and its functionaries to enter the municipal council hall where the election was held. Even the mediapersons were not allowed inside the municipal council’s office. The residents alleged that the police played a partisan role in the election. Punjab Cabinet Minister Jasjit Singh Randhawa and former Congress minister Upinder Sharma were present in the hall when the election process was going on.

Mr Nirbah Singh, Returning Officer, when contacted, while denying the allegations levelled by Mr Brar, pointed out that there were nine MCs, who were present in the election as six other MCs along with Mr Mantar Brar went outside the hall on their own. He added that all the nine MCs unanimously elected Mr Amarjit Singh Bhola and Ms Bholi Mahant as president and vice-president, respectively.

NABHA: Narinderjit Singh Bhatia, Suman Vij and Parmod Jindal — all belonging to the Congress —were elected president, senior-vice president and vice-president, respectively, of the Nabha Municipal Council at a meeting held here today.

The candidates got elected without facing any competition from six opposition members as the Congress enjoys majority in the municipal council.


Stagnant farm sector worries Punjab
P.P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
For Punjab, the stagnant agricultural sector is a cause of concern because rooted in this is the overall economic growth. Agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) with a two-thirds of its population living in the villages.

The Budget (2003-04,) to be presented tomorrow, is expected to focus on this sector, which recorded a growth rate of less than 1 per cent (2001-02). It was 76 per cent while the annual economic growth rate was just 3.44 per cent in (2000-01) and 3.47 per cent (2001-02), against the national percentage of 5.5 and 4.4, respectively.

Punjab talks of a “second push” and ‘’diversification’’ in agriculture aimed at reducing the area under wheat and paddy as over a period of time. Once these two were an engine of growth, today their productivity, particularly of paddy, has slowed down.

Will the Budget show a roadmap for an integrated approach to agriculture and rural development, taking into account the social and economic services the state provides to people at a very high cost and also passes on its inbuilt lethargy and inefficiency to the people? Will the Budget enhance the allocation for research and development in agriculture and allied fields for evolving ‘’models’’ for small, medium and marginal farmers as moving from one crop to another alone may be only half a step to what is intends to be achieved?

Unless this integration happens, neither farm production productivity will increase nor agro-industry develop opening employment avenues. The Industrial policy alone will also not generate jobs. It is new ‘’technology’’ and ‘’knowledge-based’’ transformation of the small-sector industry that will provide the required farm-factory linkages and, perhaps, job opportunities.

In this backdrop, the Budget will present a statement of revenue receipts and expenditure for the current financial year and projections for the next. But will it also bare the government strategy how it proposes to dovetail all three sectors of the economy to human resource development as continuity and consistency are the hallmark of any Budget. People are keen to know what impetus the Budget will give to its ongoing reforms so as to unshackle Punjab from debt-trap. Punjab’s interest burden is also the highest — 4.2 per cent of the GDP, which hiked its debt:GDP ratio to 37 per cent (1999-2000).

Besides fiscal parameters, it is imperative to improve Punjab’s debt profile to ‘’stabilise’’ fiscal management for “sustainable” development. As fiscal reforms and governance are at the core of Capt. Amarinder Singh’s agenda, will the Budget re-assert the government’s role as an agent of rather than a drag on development, as the World Bank assessment reports says.

Indications are that the Budget, is pregnant with ‘’threats and opportunities’’. In the current fiscal situation the cost of social and economic services, particularly of the manpower involved, is between 90 and 95 per cent. Punjab is way down the line in the tax:GDP ratio—6.1 or sales tax: GDP — 3.5. This poses a “threat” to the state’s economy.

In view of the expected stability in the fiscal, revenue and primary deficit, will Punjab translate over a period of time its fiscal numbers into economic growth rate despite political compulsions and populism? However, one cannot wish away electoral politics in any fiscal or economic reforms programme. Punjab, however, may not travel very far in controlling its runaway salary pension bill, which is the ‘’primary source of fiscal stress’’, as the World Bank report says.

Will Finance Minister Lal Singh focus on curtailing government expenditure or on revenue generation? How he juggles politics with finance is certainly a hard task.


CM has failed to fulfil promises: Badal

Amritsar, March 23
SAD President Parkash Singh Badal today lashed out at the Punjab Government accusing it of backtracking on its poll promises.

“The Amarinder government has failed to fulfil most of its poll promises, including continuance of free power to the farm sector,” he told reporters here.

Alleging that the Congress Government had adopted a “vindictive” approach towards its political opponents, Mr Badal said “the allegations against some of his own ministers are being ignored”.

The former Chief Minister also accused Capt Amarinder Singh of not taking the Opposition into confidence on some of the vital issues concerning people of the state. “The Chief Minister has shown unwillingness to seek the Centre’s help on development works in the state which are carried out with the Union Government’s help.”

Mr Badal refuted charges that the work of the Khalsa Foundation Project at Anandpur Sahib was progressing slowly. “We are not slow on the project. Such projects take time before they come up,” he said.

Meanwhile, SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar said a jatha of nearly 100 Sikh pilgrims would go to Pakistan on the Baisakhi eve. PTI


Infighting mars Cong chances for top posts
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 23
Infighting in the Congress party in this district marred its chances to win the post of president and vice-president in the election of the nagar council Kotkapura held here today. Although the Congress had won only six seats out of 23 during the municipal council polls on March 9 in Kotkapura, it mustered the support of nine more rebel Congress and independent councillors today, raising its strength to 15. However at the last moment of the election process, two Congress councillors, including Mr Harnek Singh Channi and Mrs Neelam Rani, besides an independent women councillor Ms Sunita Garg supported the opposition candidate.

It is learnt that Mr Ujjagar Singh, Ms Dayawanti, Ms Sushma Kataria — all Congress, Mr Sutantar Singh, Mr Ravi Deora, Ms Neeru Goel, Mr Ranbir Singh, Ms Baby Rajpoot, Ms Krishna Rani, Ms Kanta Rani supported the official nominee of the Congress party. Mr Mohan Singh Matta in the election process, whereas the opposition candidate, Mr Kamaldeep Singh Bhullar, a Congress rebel leader, and brother of Mr Kirandeep Singh Bhullar Deputy Commissioner Hoshiarpur was supported by Mr Harnek Singh Channi and Ms Neelam Rani, both Congress municipal councillors, Mr Darshan Singh Banga, Mr Bhalla Bhagat, Mr Bharat Bhushan, Mr Darshan Singh Thekedar, Mr Balkaran Singh, Mr Jora Singh and Mr Gurdev Singh Nambardar and Ms Sunita Garg — all independent and rebel Congress councillors. Mr Mantar Singh Brar, MLA, SAD, Kotkapura, also supported the opposition candidate in the election. Dr Harkesh Singh Sidhu, ADC, Faridkot, who was conducting the poll, offered the toss system to decide the matter, which was turned down by Mr Mantar Singh Brar. 


Dhindsa against SAD unity: Riar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
The local unit president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Gurpartap Singh Riar today pointed an accusing finger at the Union Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, for attempting to stall the unification process of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

“If Mr Dhindsa wants unity at heart, then he should play a positive role but it seems he lacks the will,” a press release purported to have been signed by Mr Riar said here today.

The release said it was observed in a meeting today that Mr Dhindsa was not happy with political use of youth leader Sukhbir Badal and the Union Minister had been trying to lower the status of Mr Parkash Singh Badal. The meeting also observed Mr Dhindsa was trying to create a group within the party.

It said the coming together of Mr Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra under one constitution and one banner was a welcome move but some leaders with vested interests were trying to stall unity.


JEs threaten to intensify stir
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 23
The Junior Engineers of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) yesterday threatened to further intensify its agitation in case the board management took any step to restructure or privatise the PSEB. It also announced that junior engineers would take out a mass procession from the cricket stadium in Sector 17 in Chandigarh to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on March 24 to protest against the recommendations of the Haldea committee.

In a statement here, Council of Junior Engineers president Pal Singh Mundi and General Secretary Davinder Singh said any responsibility for instensification of the agitation would rest with the PSEB. They said all council members would wear black badges on Marcy 26 to express solidarity with PSEB employees agitating against restructuring and privatisation of the board.

The engineer leaders maintained that corporatisation and privatisation of the board would not serve any purpose. They said the concept of open access and free trading in electricity was impracticable and spoke of government’s inclination towards pro-market forces. They said the only viable solution was internal reforms.

The leaders claimed that the model suggested by the Haldea committee was a mere replica of the World Bank model of reforms which had failed miserably in Orissa, Haryana and other states. They said this model had failed to achieve its objective of providing reliable electricity at affordable rates.


Youth hostels to be built in all districts
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 23
The Punjab Government has decided to construct youth hostels in all districts of the state in a phased manner. The Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, Punjab, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, gave this information to newsmen at Anandpur Sahib today. He was here to lay the foundation stone of the youth hostel building being built near Jhinjri village in Anandpur Sahib.

Mr Kang said that though Ropar already had a youth hostel at the district headquarters, another one was being built at Anandpur Sahib keeping in view the historic significance of the place. At present, six youth hostels at Ropar, Amritsar, Sangrur, Patiala and Jalandhar were functioning in the state. However, the government has decided to extend this facility in all districts.

Later, the minister presided over the state-level function organised by the Department of Youth Services to commemorate the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh. Mr Kang said the state government would organise state-level youth rallies on March 23 every year to commemorate the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh.

He announced that a sports stadium would be built at Anandpur Sahib. The government was also considering the idea of involving youths in various social service programmes, he said.


18,511 bank loan cases settled
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, March 23
As many as 18,511 defaulting bank loan cases have been settled at 49 special Lok Adalats held at different places in the state so far. This was stated by Mr H.P.S. Mahal, Member Secretary of the Punjab State Legal Authority, during a seminar here yesterday. He said the banks did not have to spend a single penny for getting decree in these cases and for settling disputes as these were settled at the pre-litigation stage.

He said similarly, four Lok Adalats for settling labour disputes had been held at which 12,783 cases were settled.

He said at a Lok Adalat held at Muktsar some time ago for settling money disputes between arhtiyas and farmers, 905 cases were settled. 


Analyse folklore, say experts
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 23
Folklore and literary creations need to be analysed in all dimensions. This was the opinion of critics who spoke at the concluding day of a seminar on “Folklores, tradition and modernity” organised by the School of Punjabi Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU). Experts emphasised on the need to integrate folklore studies with literary criticism.

Dr Satinder Aulakh, Director of the seminar, hoped that the folklore studies would gain substantially from the papers presented at the seminar. At least 12 papers were presented at the seminar. The valedictory session was presided over by Prof Harjit Singh Gill of Jawaharlal Nehru University.


Effigy of Bush burnt
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 23
Activists of local units of the All-India People’s Resistance Forum, the Kirti Mazdoor Union, the Punjab Radical Students Union and the Dhodhi Union today burnt the effigy of US President George Bush in protest against military action against Iraq.

The activists also held a protest march throughout the town.

They also held a rally in the complex of the main bus satand here and adopted a resolution urging the USA to immediately stop military action against Iraq. All speakers condemned the US action. The rally also demanded that international community should punish Mr George Bush for attacking Iraq.


Boy traced after 20 months
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 23
A minor Dalit boy, Sunil Kumar, who was kidnapped was traced after about 20 months by the police. Joyous residents of the local Guru Nanak Colony organised a “jagran” here last night on the occasion.

The boy was kidnapped by a woman on July 19, 2001, from a local temple. This had led to dharnas, rallies and demonstrations by local residents.


2 Bangladeshis arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 23
The BSF arrested two Bangladeshis while they were trying to cross over to Pakistan through Attari border last evening.

According to information, Mohammad Ibrahim and Mohammad Bulal, both residents of Bangladesh, entered India from West Bengal border on March 15. A case has been registered.

Meanwhile, Jasbir Kaur died after consuming some poisonous substance. The police has registered a case against her husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Mr Sham Singh, father of the victim, alleged that her in-laws used to torture her for bringing more dowry.

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