P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab gets ready for a mini poll battle
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
It is time yet again for another election in Punjab — a byelection in Kapurthala and Garhshankar Assembly constituencies. Just as during the parliamentary elections, when serial-campaign had vitiated the political atmosphere, politicians are back to their trade-mark rhetoric, trade barbs, raising non-issues, drumming up accusations and abuses. 

It is a mini-poll battle! Watch out as the poll date, October 13, draws closer.

As the campaign picks up, the Opposition (read SAD-BJP) will make all-too familiar allegations, painting the Congress black, while projecting itself as a “victim” of political vendetta. It will occasionally be seen sulking and cribbing or writing and running to the Election Commission.

In fact, allegations against the Congress are already flying thick and fast—irregularities in voters’ lists, biased election duty staff, misuse of official machinery, police high-handedness, demand for independent observers, deployment of the paramilitary forces etc.

The Congress, in response, continues to rubbish allegations as false and dismiss them as signs of Akalis’ frustration.

Therefore, expecting the politicians to show any concern for what worries the people is expecting too much.

No one will say when 20,000 vacancies of school teachers will be filled or why these have not been filled up or what justification is there for a decorative Subordinate Services Selection Board.

No one will refer to the poor quality or deteriorating delivery system of socio-economic services — health and education.

Is anyone worried about skewed sex ratios or emerging shadows of caste-conflicts in villages?

No one will talk of the army of law officers or parliamentary secretaries or appointment of MLAs and others as chairpersons of loss-making public sector undertakings.

Politically, the election is crucial to the Congress and the SAD led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal. After the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has had no time either to analyse the factors responsible for its poor performance or improve its housekeeping and governance. The Akalis have been too busy with SGPC elections and celebrations.

The PPCC did not appoint any fact-finding committee to analyse its defeat, except its President H.S. Hanspal submitting his own assessment to the high command. The fate is not known of the report, if any, by Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder appointed by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to report what went wrong, where and why and suggest correctives.

Nevertheless, these elections are slated to be a “referendum” on the performance of the government, as the Chief Minister has stated. The Akalis will ensure that people passed a “no-confidence” vote against the government.

As the political scene evolves, palpable discontent in the Congress, the SAD and the BJP will cast its shadow on cohesive campaigning. The intra-party alliances that finally emerge will be watched with interest, given internal contradictions in all parties. The traditional political “engagement” is missing, while “estrangement” is visible.

The disturbing factor, however, is that both the Congress and the Akali Dal have failed to work together for the state and its people because of their inherent political acrimony, animosity and confrontation.


Badal predicts Congress rout
Tribune News Service

Darajke (Amritsar), September 26
The Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal today predicted the rout of the Congress in the byelections for Kapurthala and Garshankar seats and thundered that after the formation of the SAD-BJP government in the state, Captain Amarinder Singh would be put behind bars on corruption charges.

Addressing a public gathering held in this border village here today to commemorate the unparalleled martyrdom of Baba Gurbax Singh, Mr Badal claimed that his party would win both the seats with a comfortable margin.

He said after formation of the SAD-BJP government in the state, Captain Amarinder Singh would be put behind the bars on corruption charges.


Open border, advocates Pakistani MP
Chander Prakash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 26
Mr Pir Mohammad Aslam, Member Parliament (MP), Pakistan, said that border between India and Pakistan should be opened for the free flow of people and trade among both the countries to facilitate the development of cordial relations between them.

Pir Mohammad Aslam, who made a visit to his ancestral Sarawan Bodla village in Muktsar district for the first time after the Partition, said that the need of hour was that both India and Pakistan must grow together economically by removing the irritants.

He said that when the residents of both the countries were in favour of cordial relations between the two countries, the respective governments should respect their sentiments and should take steps in that direction.

“The war has no relevance in the current era as the people of both the countries have paid a heavy price during and after the wars, which have been fought between India and Pakistan. The people now want that they should be allowed to express their love and affection for each other without any hindrance,” he pointed out.

“I am sure that there is no possibility that border line between India and Pakistan can vanish any time but I am certain that continuous interaction among the people and increase in trade among both the countries can unite the countries emotionally,” said Mr Aslam, who was representing the Mian Channu district in the national assembly of Pakistan for third time.

Pir Sanallah Bodla, father of Mr Aslam, who migrated to Pakistan after the Partition, had also represented that area in the national assembly for three times.

He said that it was painful that a number of people living in India had been finding it difficult to meet their close kin living in Pakistan and vice versa.

To overcome this problem, both the countries should introduce significant relaxation measures in granting visa for visiting India and Pakistan. Apart from it, both the countries should give a boost to the people exchange programmes.

The Hussainiwala border in Ferozepore district should also be thrown open for trade and for the people, he added.

When asked that how he would rate the status of democracy in India and Pakistan, he said that democracy in India was much stronger than in Pakistan. He, however, added that democracy had been becoming strong under the presidentship of Mr Pervez Musharraf. Not only the democracy, the Indo-Pak relations had also got a boost in the regime of Mr Musharraf.

Mr Aslam, who enrolled himself as a member of Welfare Association Of Sons of Sarawan Bodla, having branches in five countries, said that he was also in favour of giving permission to Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), to send its jatha to carry out the repair of historically important gurdwaras situated in Pakistan so that sanctity of Sikh architecture of these structures could be kept intact. He also said that he had requested the residents of Sarawan Bodla village to preserve the historical well, which was used by his forefathers. 


Uma wants to see Amarinder behind bars

Kapurthala, September 26
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Uma Bharti, expressing her anguish against the Punjab Chief Minister, has said she would ensure the arrest of Capt Amarinder Singh during the rule of Akali-BJP government in the state.

Addressing an election rally in favour of Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) candidate Raghbir Singh here last night, Ms Bharti alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh had hatched a conspiracy with Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann to show disrespect to the National Flag by attacking the “Tiranga yatra”.

She said the country’s development had stopped after the rule of NDA government at the Centre.

Lashing out at Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Ms Bharti said Ms Gandhi could not become the country’s Prime Minister because the countrymen would not tolerate her because of her foreign origin.

Praising the high integrity of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said the Prime Minister should have the courage to remove the tainted ministers from his Cabinet and if he was unable to do so, he should come out of the government.

She appealed to the voters to vote in favour of Mr Raghbir Singh to teach a lesson to the alleged corrupt rule of the Congress in Punjab.

Addressing the rally, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal lauded the role of the Election Commission for taking prompt action against the bogus voters in Kapurthala. — UNI

Head Granthi criticised for honouring Uma
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 26
Bhai Ranjit Singh , a former Jathedar Akal Takht today criticised Giani Puran Singh, head Granthi, Akal Takht for honouring Ms Uma Bharti, senior BJP leader with a siropa. He said it had hurt the sentiments of the minorities in the country due to the action of Ms Bharti for hoisting tricolour at a mosque in Karnataka, leading to killing of five persons.

Talking to newspersons, here today, Bhai Ranjit Singh said that the action of Giani Puran Singh had reminded the days when Gen O. Dwyer was honoured by Roor Singh at Akal Takht after the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh.

He said the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid by Sufi saint Sain Mian Mir and honouring of the controversial leader who had hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community would go into the Sikh history as ‘black day’.

Earlier too, Giani Puran Singh in his capacity as Jathedar, Akal Takht, had denigrated the age–old Sikh institutions for which he was sacked.


Mann ready to face probe on foreign funds
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, September 26
Hitting back at BJP and SAD leaders for using abusive language and levelling serious allegations against him at the concluding Jallianwala Bagh Tiranga Yatra rally yesterday at Amritsar, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, SAD(A) President and former MP, today dared the BJP and the SAD to enquire the alleged flow of foreign funds to his party and the huge amount stacked in foreign banks by the Badals and foreign money being received by the BJP for engineering conversions of Christians and Sikhs into Hinduism.

He was addressing newsmen here this afternoon while on his way to Kapurthala to pitch his election camp there for campaigning for Panthic Morcha candidate Jagir Singh Wadala in the Kapurthala assembly bypoll.

Mr Mann admitted that his party got funds from abroad because his party represented the real face of the Akali Dal. “Everything is transparent and I have no hassles to face any probe as the foreign amount received by my party benefited the country,” he claimed.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal had his strength of MPs in Parliament also and had full control over the SGPC. Why is he waiting for the NDA government to come to power for instituting an inquiry against me as he can get it done even now, remarked Mr Mann, referring to the threat of Mr Badal to get Mann’s foreign money probed on coming to power.

“Mr Badal can also appeal to Sikhs abroad not to send me money,” he suggested. Besides, Mr Badal can give a tip-off to the Income Tax Department about the funds and get 10 per cent prize money, he satirised.

Mr Badal, whose Akali outfit had become a right wing RSS show, his son, wife, son-in-law all stacked huge amounts in Swiss accounts which should also be probed, demanded Mr Mann. Similarly, the BJP was getting money from abroad for engineering conversions among the Sikhs through the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat as well as among Christians and these funds should also be probed, demanded Mr Mann.

On state BJP Vice-President Laxami Kanta Chawla’s allegation that his grandfather had honoured General Dyer, who was responsible for the Jallianwala massacre, Mr Mann saud he had already tendered apology for it in the general house of the SGPC and was regretful about it now. However, Mrs Chawla tied rakhi on the hands of Mr K.P.S. Gill, the former DGP, Punjab, who outdid Hitler and Dyer in killing Sikhs, he remarked.

He took Atal Bihari Vajpayee to task for calling Miss Uma Bharti, a Durga. Earlier Mr Vajpayee had called the late Indira Gandhi as Durga when she had ordered Blue-star Operation in the Golden Temple complex in 1984, he alleged.

Mr Vajpayee should clarify as to who was the real Durga, the one that had spilled the blood of the Sikhs and desecrated the complex or the other who had done the stunt of Tiranga Yatra to tease and torment the Sikhs, asked Mr Mann.

As for Mr Arun Jaitley calling him Shikhandi, Mr Mann reserved his comment as he was yet studying the meaning of the metaphor which the former union minister and BJP spokesman had earlier used for Dr Manmohan Singh.


Calcutta asks Badal to probe mischief mongering
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 26
Jathedar Gurcharn Singh Tohra had merged his Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) into the Shiromani Akali Dal, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, during his lifetime, by sinking their differences and bringing about a complete unity in the party. However, some ‘disgruntled leaders’ who could not get the coveted post of SGPC chief, were indulging in ‘mischief mongering’ with a view to creating division in the party again.

Talking to TNS, here today, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a member of Political Affairs Committee of the SAD and member SGPC, said that certain party leaders wanted to create misunderstanding in the party over the appointment of Bibi Jagir Kaur as the SGPC chief. He said he too, was party to the decision to appoint Bibi Jagir Kaur as President of the SGPC following consensus over her name. He said there was no question of criticising her appointment as the decision was taken in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.

Mr Calcutta, who was architect of the Badal- Tohra rapprochement and merger of SHSAD into SAD, today complained to Mr Badal and urged him to order a high-level probe to unmask such leaders who were working against the party. He told Mr Badal that a senior SAD leader was conspiring to lower his (Mr Calcutta’s) credibility in the eyes of partly leaders. He said he was a loyal sepoy of the party and could not think of saying anything which amounted to indiscipline.

Mr Calcutta said that Mr Badal had been authorised by all SGPC members to name the candidates for the post of SGPC chief and other office-bearers and hence nobody could challenge the decision.

He, however, admitted that he had raised certain ideological points concerning the SGPC. He said after the demise of Jathedar Tohra, the SGPC had earned adverse publicity due to various reasons. He said the SGPC was the supreme body of the Sikhs and there was a need to protect its distinct identity.

Mr Calcutta said that he had asked the Sikh sangat to follow in the foot steps of Jathedar Tohra. Praising Bibi Jagir Kaur, Mr Calcutta said that instead of going to her own house, she had preferred to visit the native village of Jathedar Tohra to seek the blessings of his widow.

Mr Calcutta said when he had direct access to Mr Badal as to why he would convey anything to him indirectly by raising the issue publicly. 


Hawala operators making crores through land deals
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 26
About 50 big and small hawala operators in the Doaba region and Ludhiana are busy raking in money worth crores in a month.
Meanwhile, huge loss is being reportedly caused to the state exchequer by way of stamp duty evasion as major property deals are being settled abroad by NRIs, who circumvent the tax procedures by using power of attorney as a facilitator.

Though the big fish of the trade are based in Delhi, Ludhiana, followed by Jalandhar, Phagwara and Goraya have become other major hawala money distribution centres in the state, where average monthly hawala transaction figures touch Rs 200 crore, sources claim.

Each hawala operator makes any thing between Rs 1crore to Rs 10 crore, depending upon the size of his “business”, allegedly being patronised in some cases by influential NRIs, politicians, businessmen and even police officers.

The modus operandi is that if anyone wants to send money to India from any other country he will deposit the money in pounds or dollars with the main link or his agent in that country. The agent will charge anything between 2 to 5 per cent as commission. The destination is told to the Indian agents. The money is then delivered to the party concerned in Indian currency through their “salaried” staff.

The delivery, the sources reveal, can be made directly from Delhi, Ludhiana, Jalandhar or through the “local” operators, who retain delivery men at salaries ranging between Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000 a month in accordance with the volume of the business.

The sources pointed out that more and more NRIs, who have property back in Punjab, have started finalising property deals in their respective countries through power of attorneys.


When Kumedan speaks, Badal and Amarinder listen
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
Neither does he run any consultancy firm, nor has he set up any institute of so-called scholars to offer readymade solutions to various issues, problems etc. He also does not hold any high-grade academic degree to flaunt. But even then he is the most sought-after man in top political and apolitical circles. What he says is taken seriously by all concerned.

The man is Mr Pritam Singh Kumedan. He has earned fame as an expert on river waters, territorial matters, financial issues and legal and constitutional nuances.

He is a man of diverse academic interests and tastes. He has the quality to study problems layer by layer. His knowledge of law, its complexities and finer points is tremendous. He is a master in the collection of rare documents, relevant books and even routine newspaper stuff such as articles on topics of his liking.

Punjab’s demographic characteristics are on his tips. He is, perhaps, the only non-official person who has to his credit of being member of committees set up by the Punjab Government from time to time to deal with the most controversial and complex inter-state issues.

He was on the committees constituted by the state government to deal with Mathew commission, Venktaramaiah commission, Eradi Tribunal and also another panel set up to present Punjab’s view to the Constitution review committee.

Political leaders like Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Mr Bir Devinder Singh and Mr Harcharan Singh Brar have discussed important inter-state issues with him whenever it was necessary. Even Capt Amarinder Singh values his opinion. Mr Badal gives the highest respect to his opinion.

Mr Kumedan has been the brain behind some of the best speeches made by various eminent politicians on river waters disputes in recent years in the Punjab Assembly and outside. He was very close to the late Sant Harchand Singh Longowal.

But what is great about him is that he has never accepted any political office from any government. He retired as Subdivisional Magistrate and was posted at Ropar when Punjab’s boundaries were redrawn in 1966. He has been a witness to some significant historic events.

Interestingly, his first love is hunting and sport. Only few people know that he is one of the founders of the Punjab Olympic Association in 1948 after the partition of the country. The two others were Mr G.D. Sondhi, a legendary figure in Punjab’s history of sport, and Mr F.C. Arora. From 1985 to 1989, he remained a member of the Indian Olympic Association, an organisation dominated by Patiala’s royal family since 1924.

Himself a good sportsperson, Mr Kumdan once headed the Punjab Weightlifting Association and also Gymnastic Association.

In 1997 he prepared a detailed note seeking from the Centre Rs 20,000 crore spent on the security forces to deal with internal disturbances in Punjab. He cited the relevant portion of the constitutional provision to justify the claim.

Ask Mr Kumedan his age. He will laugh away this question gently by saying “Guess yourself please”.


Diversification has failed, say economists
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
Contract farming in Punjab has failed. It was introduced in February 2003, as a follow-up on the diversification plan submitted by Dr S.S. Johl in October 2002. It was launched without much thought and in a hurry. Neither the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) at Ludhiana nor the state Department of Agriculture nor even the author of the report were consulted.

The implementation of contract farming was confined to the newly set-up Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation (PAFC) and some select private corporate houses. The only signs of this scheme visible are on select Punjabi TV channels and not in the field, where farmers have harvested bitter yields. There are several contributing factors for this failure, which have been cogently brought out in a case study by an economist of Punjabi University, Patiala, Dr Sucha Singh Gill.

Contract farming was to be introduced on four lakh acres in 2003-04 and subsequently raised to 25 lakh acres in 2007-08. The break-up for the intervening years was, nine lakh acres in 2004-05, 13 lakh acres in 2005-06 and18 acres in 2006-07.

The idea was to shift area from under wheat and rice to pulses, oilseeds, maize, basmati, fruits, vegetables etc. Select crops were shortlisted for the purpose.

The programme was aimed at generating employment, provide higher and assured incomes to farmers and help the state reduce responsibility in procurement of wheat and paddy and control environment degradation, save depletion of sub-soil water and also power that water-guzzling paddy consumed in kharif every year. More power was consumed if it turned out to be a draught year, as it was this year.

The case study by Dr Gill of some Patiala villages and interviews with farmers, who had opted for contract farming and had suffered in the process has brought out the following failures. The contract farming did not produce the desired results.

In the first year itself, the objective of taking four lakh acres away from under wheat and paddy was not achieved. Instead, area under the two had increased in 2003-04, while kharif area had decreased under oil seeds and sugarcane.

Farmers in Sudran (Dera Bassi), Ajrawar (Rajpura), Ramgarh Chhanna (Nabha) and Khatriwal (Samana) had complained of “inferior” quality of hyloa seed and mustard, peas, carrot and sweet chilly. The farmers were sore that winter maize seed did not sprout. The Department of Agriculture was aware of these facts but helpless. Farmers could not be compensated in any manner, though cheated by private companies, who had dealers and traders as their agents.

These companies did not have research labs in different agro-climatic zones to test suitability of the seeds. These companies had also failed to provide promised consultancy services and later did not buy the produce on one pretext or the other, while PAFC looked the other way.

Even the claims made by PAFC and the companies concerned about the area contracted proved to be incorrect , when compared with the field record and data collected by the Department of Agriculture in respect of selected crops say hyola for example to replace wheat and paddy.

Contrary to its cultivation in 910 acres, the actual area was just 109 acres in 2003-04. On top of all this collective failure, farmers were made to cough up Rs 150 per acre as “consultancy” charges by the private companies; a service never provided to them.

Marketing proved to be another disappointment, when it came to farmers who had opted for sowing basmati. Non-working cleaning and grading machines in the markets caused harassment to farmers. They were paid a price of Rs 1,100 per quintal to Rs 1,250 per quintal during the procurement period. But once the companies withdrew, the prices shot up by Rs 100 per quintal to Rs 150 per quintal, causing loss of income to farmers, who had entered the contract.

The study showed that when the private firms breached their own agreed contracts and cheated the farmers, no one from the government was there to hold their hand. Consequently, contract farming worked to the disadvantage of the farmers.

The study concluded that the private companies, Indian or foreign, were interested in only “trading” not in “agro-processing”. While this experiment may have failed, the government has lost credibility.

Dr Gill said the model needed restructuring, if farmers were to be taken out of their crisis and introduce farmer-friendly policies and solutions. The clauses that govern contract farming also needed re-writing.


Dreaded terrorist arrested
Our Correspondent

Patiala, September 26
The Patiala police today arrested a terrorist Surinder Pal Singh who it claims was an accomplice of another dreaded militant Harnek Singh Bhap of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), at present in jail.

Surinder Pal Singh has been detained at the Urban Estate chowki under Sections 212, 216 and 216 (A), IPC.

The SSP, Mr A.S. Rai, said Surinder Pal was an active member of the KLF and the Sikh Students Federation (SSF).

He had been regularly helping terrorists who were either on the run or were declared proclaimed offenders during the days when terrorism was at its peak in Punjab.

Surinder Pal told the police that he not only used to provide financial aid to Harnek Singh but also arranged accommodation on a regular basis for him.

Surinder Pal used to reside in house No 1070 in Urban Estate and earned his livelihood by selling packaging material to sweet shop owners and in addition to this he also edited a Punjabi language magazine.

The SSP said that Surinder Pal came in touch with another dreaded terrorist Maheshinder Singh at Sangrur during his college days. Maheshinder Singh was one of the alleged assassins of Akali leader Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and was later declared a proclaimed offender.

It was through Maheshinder that Surinder Pal got in touch with several pro-Khalistani terrorists and sympathisers like president of the SSA Daljit Singh Bittu, at present lodged in the Nabha jail, Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon and Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, Bitta, who is responsible for the murderous assault of Congress leader Maninderjit Singh Bitta, Navneet Singh Kadian and Manjinder Singh.

Surinder Pal told the police that after he returned from the USA in 1992, he got in touch with leaders of the SSF and tried to revive militancy in the state.

However, these efforts failed and he was nabbed by the police in the same year but was let off as the police failed to provide concrete evidence against him.


PM’s claim on turban row an eyewash, says Badungar
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, September 26
Former SGPC president and a co-opted SGPC member Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar Prof today said that nine minister PM Dr Manmohan Singh’s claim that the turban now in France was resolved was an eye wash. He made this claims in New York yesterday. Prof Badungar said that the French Government had allowed Sikh students to wear a particular type of headgear in place of turban. He said he had verified today from France and Germany about it and was told by Sikhs there that the issue stood still unresolved, he claimed.

Talking to mediapersons here this afternoon, Prof Badungar asserted that the so-called discreet patqa, as the French authorities call it, can not be a substitute for turban. Turban was an integral part of the religious symbol, dress code and maryada of Sikhs, he asserted. The Gurus had ordained Sikhs to be “sabat soorat dastar sira” (to have unshorn hair and turbans on heads), he continued. The patqa was not acceptable, as it violated the Sikh ethos and maryada, he asserted.


Gas network in Punjab soon
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
The Gas Authority of India Limited ( GAIL) has in principle agreed to extend the Hazira-Vijaipur-Jagdishpur ( HVJ) gas distribution network passing through Panipat to various destinations in Punjab. A decision in this regard comes in the wake of a favourable feasibility study that shows there was huge demand for gas in the north-western region, particularly Punjab.

Mr Viswajeet Khanna, MD of Punjab State Industrial Corporation (PSIDC), said negotiations were on at an advanced stage between the GAIL authorities and the PSEB and the modalities for the laying of the infrastructure were being worked out.

Besides this, the Punjab Government has received demand requests from various industrial quarters seeking gas linkages with the National Gas Grid for meeting its energy requirements.

Punjab has a huge market for using gas as a fuel for energy, but is still not linked to the grid while states like Rajasthan and Haryana were linked to the grid.

Mr Khanna said the PSEB would be a major beneficiary as it planned to set up a 1000 MW gas-based power plant at Doraha, near Ludhiana, as part of its 10th Five-Year Plan. The extension of the pipeline to the industrial belt in Mandi Gobindgarh, the steel capital of Punjab, Khanna and Ludhiana, would also catalyse the industrial growth in this region while providing ready market for GAIL’s gas, he said.

Mr J. Wason, Zonal General Manager, GAIL, said the company had agreed to lay the infrastructure to make available gas in the region as the demand potential in the state was in excess of the minimum required level. An MoU in this regard was likely to be signed between GAIL and the PSIDC shortly to facilitate the setting up of this project.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, on his visit to Delhi last week had taken up the issue with the Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar. The proposed joint-venture project with the PSEB would also ease power shortage in the state, besides meeting its energy requirements.


Red tape stalls panchayat’s working
Ravinder Sud

Hoshiarpur, September 26
The gram panchayat of Khera Kotli, Dasuya block, has not been functioning since February, 2004, owing to the appointment of an administrator following a protest by the village sarpanch against inaction on their demand to probe irregularities committed by the outgoing panchayat and failure to remove illegal occupation from the panchayat land.

Mr Apar Singh Ghuman, Sarpanch of the village, claimed that the former sarpanch of the village withdrew sums of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 30,500 through two different resolutions passed on May 22, 2003, just two months before the changeover of the panchayat.

The money was withdrawn for repayment of loans. The resolution, however, did not reveal when and for what purpose the loans were taken.

No entries as regards these amounts were made in the cash book. Despite various verbal and written requests, the outgoing sarpanch did not clarify on the issue.

He claimed that the loans appeared to be fake adding that a balance of Rs 40,886 was also not accounted for.

In some cases, there were no supporting documents for payments. Expenditure revealed by payment vouchers in respect of works executed by the outgoing panchayat did not tally with entries in the cash book.

He alleged that about 15 acres of panchayat land was under illegal occupation and no action was ever initiated to get it vacated.

He said requests had been made to the Block Development and Panchayat Officer, Dasuya, to institute a formal inquiry into financial irregularities and get the land vacated, but to no avail.

Fearing exposure, the perpetrators managed to obstruct the panchayat’s working by getting an administrator appointed by the District Development and Panchayat Officer, Hoshiarpur.

Consequently, the working of the panchayat came to a standstill, he alleged.

He said he had apprised the District Development and Panchayat Officer of the financial irregularities and illegal occupation of the land and had also sent a copy to the Deputy Commissioner in this regard, but no action had been taken.


DC’s staff sees red over police ‘humiliation’
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 26
The Deputy Commissioner Employees Union has accused a police official of "misbehaving" with them during the last day of a function at Baba Farid Mela , following which the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Alok Shekhar, has sought a reply from the official concerned.

A delegation of the Union, in a letter to the DC, alleged that the police personnel and officials "humiliated" the civil officials who were on duty at the concluding ceremony of the Mela. They also accused the SP, Mr Vijay Sharma, of "misbehaving" with them.

They further alleged that the duty passes of these officials were snatched and torn by the police officials and they were forced out of the venue.

They have demanded action against the police officials involved in this matter. They have also passed a resolution announcing that they would not offer their services during the Baba Farid Mela in future.

On the other hand, the Police Department said that the security was beefed up following the reports of the sale of VIP cards, which irked the administration employees due to which they were making these complaints.

When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner said that he had sought the version of the Police Department and he would be able to comment on the issue after getting the same.

Meanwhile, denying allegations levelled against him, the SP, Mr Vijay Sharma, said that neither he had any scuffle nor any reply had been sought from him.


Report charges MLA with stealing water
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 26
Following the orders of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), a Special Secretary of high court has submitted a report after probing into the alleged water theft by former Parliamentary Secretary and Ferozepur Cantt MLA Ravinder Singh Sandhu from Sapanwali Minor.

The Special Secretary has found the allegation levelled by farmers of about six villages true. Sources said the panchayats of Ghoniwala, Sadhanwala, Chughewala, Gulamiwala, Mumara and other villages had complained to the PSHRC that Mr Sandhu was irrigating his land in Ratta Khera village after stealing water from the Sapanwali Minor canal owing to which water was not reaching them.

They alleged that they had complained to the authorities, but to no avail. The PSHRC appointed Special Secretary S. S. Oberoi as local commissioner on August 20. Mr Oberoi visited these villages, besides inspecting Sapanwali Minor and fields of Mr Sandhu.

The local commissioner, in his report to the PSHRC, confirmed that the MLA was indulging in water theft. In his report, he mentioned that Sapanwali Minor originated from Sirhind Feeder Canal and passing through Mr Sandhu's village it reached these villages. The report also stated that Mr Sandhu was irrigating his 40-acre land by stealing canal water.

The PSHRC has handed over copies of this report to the parties concerned and has asked the Ferozepur police to probe the matter and submit a report to the commission before November 10. The commission has also sent a copy of the report to the litigation for necessary action.

Mr Sandhu's lawyer H. S. Dhindsa assured the PSHRC that he would ask his client not to indulge in such theft in future. The commission has fixed November 20 as the next date of hearing in the matter.

It may be mentioned here that a case was registered against the affected farmers at Ghal Khurd police station in Ferozepur after they lifted the pipes used for stealing water from Sandhu's land. However, the PSHRC had stayed their arrest when they approached the commission in this matter.


Ex-servicemen decide to form NGOs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
To encourage self-employment and to avoid financial losses, the Punjab Ex-servicemen Corporation (PESCO) has initiated a policy of forming non-governmental organisations (NGO) comprising ex-servicemen, rather than offering them direct employment in different establishments.

Under this policy, initiated a few months ago, two NGOs, one associated with rural development and the other with adventure tourism, have been formed. More are in the offing.

"The idea behind this policy is to avoid government funds being virtually thrown into a well or being put to unproductive use," PESCO chairman, Major-Gen G S Randhawa (Retd), told The Tribune.

"This way we can encourage self-employment and generate better results," he added.

PESCO would provide necessary administrative support and back-up to ex-servicemen desiring to set up NGOs.If the NGO is profitable, PESCO will be entitled to 10 per cent of its profits. At present, PESCO's major employment schemes entail security units and running a stitching centre for service uniforms.

"Any officer or JCO can approach us for setting up an NGO in fields such as rural development, horticulture, floriculture, medicinal plants or adventure tourism," General Randhawa said.

"Though they can use PESCO's name in their ventures, they would be independent," he added.

One of the NGOs set up has adopted a backward village near Chandigarh for its upliftment. Though this is yet to take of fully, ex-servicemen from this village were sent to Humra village near Ahmednagar for undertaking development activities, which produced remarkable results.

"This village has adopted almost all government developmental schemes and has become a model for others to follow," General Randhawa said.

"Governors and chief ministers of other states as well as officials of SAARC countries have been visiting this village," he claimed.


Tired of hiding, they want to live without fear
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
In spite of being protected by a court order, a Muslim youth and a Sikh girl, who chose to tie the nuptial knot as per Hindu rites in a temple, is forced to live a life in hiding because of threat to their life by their kin.

Though united by the Ambala court, the couple — 23-year-old Nazim Hussain and 21-year-old Manjeet Kaur — is living scared of the relatives and society, which is yet to accept inter-religious marriage.

They are so terrified that they cannot even muster courage to approach the police or the judiciary seeking security.

They fear that they may be implicated in some case at the behest of their relatives or forcibly separated.

They have sought to appeal to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) and society at large through The Tribune to be left alone.

The couple, belonging to Sahnewal, got married after a seven-year affair in April this year.

They stayed together for just a few weeks as the relatives of the girl forcibly took her away.

Early this week, the girl ran away from her house and both have been in hiding ever since.

“Love cannot be bound in chains of caste, religion or society,” says the couple explaining their earnest desire to live together.

“None of us has changed our religion or name after the marriage but still no one seems to understand our problem,” says Hussain while wiping his tears.

Hussain is a tailor. He lived as a tenant near the house of Manjeet Kaur in Sahnewal.

Hussain’s father died several years ago. His mother lives along with three brothers and two sisters near Delhi.

Manjeet lived with her parents, two elder brothers and two younger sisters.

Hussain took a room on rent near her house in 1996. Both liked each other and started meeting secretly.

Early last year, they informed their respective parents about the affair.

The families were vehemently opposed to the relationship, which forced the youth to leave the town. He went to live in Ambala but love reunited them. The girl left her house and both got married in a temple in Ambala.

However, their relatives again separated them. The youth then approached a court in Ambala.

The court decided in their favour in April this year. They again started living together but the joy was short-lived. The relatives again separated them.

Last week, Hussain and Manjeet again got together. Despite all hardships, including police harassment, rounds of courts, threat to life, they have held ground.

Both are in hiding now. Manjeet has learnt tailoring and both are confident they can live a comfortable life if left alone.


Rights panel summons SP
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, September 26
Taking suo motu notice on the news published in The Tribune on September 19, as ‘Man saves girl from being raped’ The Punjab State Human Rights Commission, has registered a case on the news item, and summoned the SP and the SHO Pathankot, along with the record of the case.

A full Bench comprising, Mr Justice N.C. Jain, Chairman, Mr Justice R.L. Anand, Mr Justice B.C. Rajput, Mr Justice V.K. Sibal, and Mr Justice N.K. Arora, held that ‘in view of the gravity of the matter, inquiry under Section 17(ii), of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, was ordered.

On September 17, night Mr Brij Mohan Kapoor rescued a four-year-old girl from being raped and as the parents of the victim, did not want to pursue the case, the police did not registered a case.

The commission directed the SP and the SHO to appear before the commission on 14 October, 2004. The summons were sent to them through IG (Litigation) Punjab. 


Meet the Kohinoor of Pathankot
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Smriti Sharma
Smriti Sharma

Pathankot: Smriti Sharma has become a symbol of dance today. She looks like a dancing doll while in action. A well-known TV artist and solo dance performer, Smriti is a class VII student of the local Kendriya Vidyalaya. Daughter of Air Force Officer Anand Kumar Sharma, Smriti started learning dancing from the age of five and at the age of 11 she was the solitary example of a Bharat Natyam dancer who successfully completed the five-Meetyear course in this dance form in the region of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and J&K.

Born on June 30, 1991, Smriti got the first break in choreography when the Enaldu group of Hyderabad offered her a chance to perform in an ad film for Priya toffee. After this ad film, she was booked for three more ad films.

Due to her performance and artistic shows, her admirers and classmates often called her as the Kohinoor of Pathankot. She gives all credit to her father who encouraged her at every step and did not even hesitate to accompany her during the shows.

Smriti had acted in two telefilms--one of them is based on the story of Kashmir migrants. These are ''Haqeeqat'' and ''Kartare da Viyah''. She has also performed a solo dance at DD Bharti and a children's show ''Rimjhim'' produced by DD.

She was adjudged the best dancer in classical solo (junior category, 2003) and bagged the second prize in classical solo (senior category, 2004) organised by the Friends Club in collaboration with the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Punjab. She had acted in four catwalk ramp shows and presently she is busy with a pop song album being produced by T-series.

Her dream is to become a star dancer of Bollywood and at the top of the Bharat Natyam choreographers, for which she has been working hard. Her hobbies include listening to music and learning the latest techniques of classical dance.


Relaxation in selection norms sought
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, September 26
The people of the Dhar Kalan area of the subdivision here have demanded relaxation in height criteria, for recruiting the BSF and the Army personnel. The demand was raised in a rally organised by the Rajya Sabha member, Mr Ashwani Kumar, in the area to know the problems of the people.

The Dhar Kalan area was a hilly area of Punjab adjoining Himachal. Being a hilly area the people here have comparatively lesser height. However, the Dhar area being a part of Punjab, the people of the area are subjected to criteria identical to those adopted on the plains.

Due to which the youth of the area find it hard to get recruited in the BSF or the Army.

The physical criteria for recruiting the youth from the area should be identical with that of the youth of Himachal or the other hilly areas. Mr Ashwani Kumar assured the people to take up their demand with the Defence and the Home Ministries.

The people also demanded that the government should setup some industrial unit in the area. Being a semi-hilly area the people here hardly have any source of income. The land here is mostly barren.

They complained of the poor telephone services, erratic supply of drinking water and the LPG.

Earlier, while addressing a rally, Mr Ashwani Kumar said he would take up matter of giving industrial concessions to industries in the border areas of Punjab.


Blood shed over water drops

Moga, September 26
A 70-year-old man killed his neighbour with his gun following a dispute over a trivial matter here this morning. The old man , Jagir Singh, who shot dead Ajit Pal Singh residing in adjoining house, has been arrested.

What irked Jagir Singh was that some drops of water made his dress wet when his neighbour was washing some households on the first floor of the house. After a verbal duel, Jagir brought his .12-bore gun from inside and shot his neighbour dead at point blank. — UNI


79 devotees donate blood
Our Correspondent

Abohar, September 26
Seventynine devotees donated blood at the concluding ceremony of a 79-hour akhand bhajan organised by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Punjab, at Arorvansh Bhavan here today.

Teams from the District Red Cross Society, Ludhiana, and the Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital here collected 58 and 21 units of blood, respectively.

The donors, including women, had come not only from the urban and rural areas of this subdivision but also from other parts of the state. 


Two spies arrested
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 26
The police claimed to have arrested two spies from the cantonment area here. A case has been registered against them at City Kotwali police station.

Sources said that Army officials nabbed two motor cycle-borne youths in the cantonment area when they were roaming about there in a suspicious manner. Their motor cycle didn’t have a numberplate.

The accused were identified as Gurtej Singh of Sadik and Harpreet Singh of Shahzadi village.

They were reportedly providing secret information to anti-national elements. They were spotted gathering details like movement of units and the number of security personnel on duty.

They have been booked under Sections 3 and 4 of the Indian Official Secret Act, 1923, and Section 140 of the IPC.


Two women drugged, deprived of valuables
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, September 26
Ms Saraswati Devi (80) of Adarsh Nagar, Phagwara, and Ms Usha of Faridkot, were last night drugged in the Hardwar passenger train and deprived of their valuables, including two gold ear-rings, two rings and two bracelets. They were hospitalised in the Civil Hospital here today.

On regaining consciousness, both ladies told reporters this afternoon they had boarded the 329-Up Dehradun-Amritsar passenger train at Hardwar last night. Another family had also boarded the same train.

They offered them milk mixed with tea leaves (dhudh-patti) at Hardwar railway station. They fell unconscious immediately after consuming it. The family got down the train somewhere after taking all their valuables.


New disease attacks cotton crop
K.S. Chawla

LUDHIANA: Although Punjab is expecting a bumper cotton crop this year, a new type of disease known as tobacco caterpillar has attacked it in a big way.

Experts of Punjab Agricultural University who have detected this pest have warned cotton growers to take timely steps and spray the crop immediately failing which, they may face disastrous results. The cotton growers could not detect this new disease because it is similar to the American sundi or what is known as pink boll worm which has been hitting the crop since early nineties as a result of which Punjab lost its place of having produced the maximum cotton crop in the region.

Dr G.S. Chahal, Additional Director of Research (Agriculture), PAU, says that the cotton scientists very well realised that the problem of a new pest could become a threat to not only Bt cotton but the entire cotton crop of the state.

Still more serious is the fact that the most potent and recently recommended chemicals — spinosad and avaunt — for the control of American sundi are not effective against tobacco bud worm, said Dr Chahal.

He said that unfortunately the caterpillars of heliothis and tobacco bud worms were quite similar to which the cotton farmers could hardly differentiate and take these as those of American sundi. The new pest tobacco bud worm would certainly dash the hopes of getting bumper cotton crop. The young caterpillars are green with dark band at the end of thorax and the grownup caterpillars have triangular spots on each abdominal segment.

The Punjab state is expecting a bumper crop of 15 lakh bales this year against 12 lakh bales last year. The area under cotton has also increased this year to 5.50 lakh hectares.

Although the central government has not yet recommended any Bt cotton variety for cultivation for Punjab, the farmers purchased Bt cotton seed at higher rates from other states like Gujarat and sowed this year. Punjab Agricultural University has tested eight varieties of Bt cotton and found them fit for cultivation. But the ICAR asked them to test the same for three years at least before their release.

The Punjab state is likely to get some Bt cotton varieties which would be officially released for cultivation from the next year.

The Union Government has asked the companies owning these Bt cotton varieties to multiply the seed for supply to the Punjab farmers. These varieties are RCH-134, RCH-138, RCH-317 and MRC-6301.

According to Dr Chahal, the development of Bt cotton and its acceptance in the USA, China, Australia and Brazil provided a new ray of hope to control the American sundi which is beyond the control of existing types of insecticides.


Record cotton output expected this year
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, September 26
India is all set to have a record cotton production this year thanks to the weather gods. The overall cotton production will rise by 10 per cent, according to captains of the textile industry in the country.

Inquiries show that cotton production in the country is likely to touch about 200 lakh bales this year against 175 lakh bales last year. The area under cotton has increased from 76 lakh hectares to 84 lakh hectares this year.

The major factors responsible for a good crop this year are favourable weather conditions coupled with sowing of quality seeds.

Cotton production in the northern region comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan is also likely to be a record this year. The three states are expected to have 40 lakh bales of cotton this year. Punjab alone will have about 15 lakh bales this year.

The area under cotton has increased in Punjab to 5.52 lakh hectares from 4.52 lakh hectares. Punjab cotton growers got the maximum price for their produce last year which ranged from Rs 2500 to Rs 2800 per quintal which provided couragement to them to bring more area under cotton this year.

Moreover, the Punjab cotton growers have sown Bt cotton in a large area this year despite the fact that the Central Government has not officially approved the Bt cotton varieties for Punjab so far. The Punjab farmers purchased Bt cotton at a higher premium and purchased the same from dealers of Gujarat.

As the new cotton crop started arriving in mandis of Abohar, Muktsar and Mansa, the prices being quoted range from Rs 2100 to 2400 per quintal. These markets are receiving about 1200 bales at present. The cotton arrivals will pick up next month.

The cotton crop in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan is comparatively free from the attack of bollworm-American ‘sundi’ this year.

According to Mr D.L. Sharma, Executive Director of Vardhaman Spinning Mills, cotton prices in the international market have witnessed an increase. The New York futures were quoted at 52 to 53 cents per pound.

Mr Sharma disclosed that the cotton production in the world is also expected to be a record this year. The area under cotton in the world has increased from 32 lakh hectares to 35 lakh hectares.

The cotton crop in Pakistan is also in good condition. The consumption of cotton in Pakistan is more compared to the consumption in India, said Mr Sharma. Pakistan also imports cotton from India and Mr Sharma pleads that the Wagah border should be opened for trade between the two countries. This will facilitate trade of all kinds.

Textile mills in Punjab have also played their role in bringing awareness among cotton growers by educating them through experts at Punjab Agricultural University and the state Agriculture Department.

The textile industry has even instituted prizes for outstanding cotton growers besides providing them crop management practices. The textile industry has adopted 10 villages — five each in Bathinda and Mansa districts — for the development of cotton cultivation. The textile industry spends about Rs 10 lakh every year on these farmers in educating them and awarding prize money.


BDS students restive over fee issue
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sunam , September 26
Resentment prevails among BDS (II) year students, especially those who have re-appear in the first year, of the local Guru Nanak Dev Dental College against the college management over the non-refunding of excess money paid by them as the fee and other charges for 2003-2004 and non-adjustment of the excess amounts in the BDS (II) year fee 2004-05.

Some BDS(II) year students told The Tribune that the college authorities had “forced” them especially those with re-appear in the first year, to deposit Rs 1.65 lakh as the fee and other charges for 2004-05 otherwise their forms for taking re-appear examination in November-December would not be sent.

They alleged even though some students had deposited Rs 1.65 lakh with the college authorities, the authorities had not yet issued any receipts.

The students claimed that the fee fixation committee, headed by Justice G.R. Majithia, had fixed Rs 55,000 as the fee for BDS students admitted in 2003-04, besides Rs 5,000 as security and hostel charges of not more than Rs 12,000 per year. They claimed as they had deposited Rs 2.16 lakh as the fee and other charges for 2003-04, the college authorities should refund the excess amount of more than Rs 1.20 lakh each even after adjusting Rs 67,000 (Rs 55,000 as the fee and Rs 12,000 as the hostel charges) in the BDS(II) year fee during 2004-05, the college authorities should refund more than Rs 50,000 each to them. What to talk of refunding Rs 50,000, the college authorities were “forcing” them to deposit Rs 1.65 lakh as the fee and other charges for 2004-05.

Dr Vikram Sharma and Mr Ashok Bansal, Chairman and Director, respectively, of the governing body of the college, refuted the allegation that the college charge Rs 1.65 lakh as the fee and other charges from BDS(II) year students, who had re-appears in the first year.

The fee-structure devised by the Justice G.R. Majithia committee was provisional while the final decision was yet to be made.

They claimed as the fee fixation committee had been formed in June, 2004, it had no jurisdiction to reduce the fee and other charges with a retrospective effect i.e. for the year 2003-04. They also denied that the college authorities were not sending the forms of candidates to take the re-appear examination. 


Institute lacks basic facilities
Rajnish Sharma

Nabha: Boys of local Government Para-Medical Health Institute have to bear the scorching heat because the institute has been without electricity for the past two years.

The institute shows apathy of the center as well as the state health authorities. The present complex of the institute at the Civil Hospital was inaugurated in 1995 by the then Chief Minister Mr Harcharan Singh Brar. Three such institutes are being run in Punjab by the Health and Family Welfare Department. It is solely dependent on the grants from the Union Government for giving salaries to its employees and for the development of infrastructure. Lack of grants has prevented its growth and development

Sixty students and staff members are forced to live with the bad conditions prevailing here. The institute is presently devoid of basic facilities. Cracks have appeared in all walls of the hostel and the main building. Most of the bathroom fittings are stolen because the doors are made up of cardboard instead of wood. These can be easily broken without using any tool.

Out of the 18 rooms of its hostel only four are in workable condition where 20 students are accommodated. The other rooms are declared unsafe and are leaking during rains. The poor students hailing from distance places are unable to pay high rents for private accommodation. So they are putting up in the hostel. During this season congress grass grows around the main block and the hostel. Moreover, there is complete darkness at night. The electric supply was disconnected as the health department was unable to deposit the pending bill amounting to Rs. 1.75 lakh and this amount is piling up as the PSEB is issuing fresh bills amounting to Rs. 8000 as meter charges after every two months.

A 30-seater Mitsubishi bus meant for carrying the students to various dispensaries for training purpose has been parked for the past five years.

Gurpreet Singh, a student from Bathinda, said that the students had to perform their routine chores before and took their dinner at 6 pm. They added that no one was ready to take the mess contract because of deplorable condition of the building and lack of electricity.

One of the staff members, pleading anonymity, told this correspondent that the staff was also inadequate because no one was ready to stay at the institute due to its bad condition. He said that out of the four sanctioned posts of class IV employees, two clerks, two Deputy MEs and one sanitary inspector, only half the employees were working presently. Citing the reason for this, he said that the employees of the institute were not getting regular pay because it was receiving grants after five or six months.

When contacted Principal Dr Jaspreet Kaur said that she had brought the prevailing conditions to the notice of her higher-ups many a time.


Punjabi varsity abolishes late admission fee
Our Correspondent

Patiala, September 26
Punjabi University today abolished late admission fee for the regular students from the session 2004-2005. Heads of various departments have been instructed that the already paid late fee would be adjusted towards the dues of the next semester.

In cases of reappear and students of the semester examination, fee would be charged 60 per cent of the total examination fee from private candidates for one paper and 80 per cent for two papers.

The university has also abolished the discrepancy fee for regular students.

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