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Assembly polls: Which way will Bholath swing?
Kapurthala, January 29
With the Punjab Assembly elections on the horizon, Congress leaders in the district have started flexing their muscles. Efforts are being made to lure panches and sarpanches owing allegiance to the Akali Dal (SAD) camp to join the Congress ranks, say sources. Development grants from various departments are proving handy for the politicians of the ruling party to make SAD supporters step across the political divide, according to political observers.

The overcast sky turns orange during the sunset in Jalandhar
A Symphony of colours: The overcast sky turns orange during the sunset in Jalandhar on Sunday. — Photo by S. S. Chopra







EARLIER STORIES

 

NRI Commissioner told to furnish NRI Sabha records
Jalandhar, January 29
Following a petition filed by the NRI Sabha members alleging illegal amendments made by political leaders in the constitution of their NGO, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sent a notice to the NRI Commissioner and Chairman of the sabha to furnish various records by February 2.

Peasants get ‘shocking’ electricity bills
Jalandhar, January 29
Many economically-weaker families, most of them Dalits, in villages across Doaba are up in arms against the Punjab State Electricity Board. These villagers allege that they are being given “inflated” electricity bills.

Immolation threat: Four booked 
Jalandhar, January 29
The police today booked three local Congressmen for allegedly instigating a woman to immolate herself. The woman, Sonia, has also been booked. The incident occurred yesterday after Sonia, along with five other women, put herself in front of the car of SP City Surinder Kumar Kalia at the Police Control Room, poured kerosene over her body and threatened to immolate herself. The women were protesting against the arrest of four persons from Rasta Mohalla, one of whom is a relative of Sonia.

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Assembly polls: Which way will Bholath swing?
Arun Sharma
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, January 29
With the Punjab Assembly elections on the horizon, Congress leaders in the district have started flexing their muscles. Efforts are being made to lure panches and sarpanches owing allegiance to the Akali Dal (SAD) camp to join the Congress ranks, say sources. Development grants from various departments are proving handy for the politicians of the ruling party to make SAD supporters step across the political divide, according to political observers.

In Bholath, a politically-significant Assembly seat, consisting of 128 panchayats and three nagar panchayats of Dhilwan, Begowal and Bholath, with over one lakh voters, Mr Sukhpal Khaira, a Congress leader, is on a cheque distribution spree.

He recently finished distributing Rs 30 lakh as grants in villages of the constituency. He had already topped it with frequent road inaugurations. In addition to these, came several welfare schemes, including one ensuring fresh water supply to 68 villages through a project financed with over Rs 10.36 crore of NABARD’s money.

Interestingly, more than 10 sarpanches, along with some panchayats, including three Akali-dominated panchayats of Lamme, Tandi and Mander Bet, joined the Congress last week, if claims of Mr Khaira are to be believed.

Along with these reported “switchovers”, Mr Khaira, is also cashing in on the troubles plaguing Bibi Jagir Kaur, the present Bholath MLA.

But it will not be a cakewalk for the Congress leader to tilt the mandate, if one takes a cue from history, say observers. Since 1977, when this seat was carved out of the Kapurthala constituency in a delimitation exercise, the Congress tasted victory here 15 years later, when the Akalis boycotted the elections in 1992.

Mr Jagtar Singh Multani became the new MLA with 2,800 votes. In the assembly elections of 1977, 1980 and 1985, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Khaira, a former minister in the Akali government and the father of Congressman Sukhpal Singh Khaira, retained the seat for SAD.

In the elections of 1997 and 2002, it was the turn of Bibi Jagir Kaur. The SAD (Badal) candidate won with a margin of 28,000 and 11,000 votes respectively.

In the last Assembly elections, Mr Khaira needed nearly 5,500 to tilt the mandate in his favour.

This time, he may have to fight an anti-incumbency factor. Moreover, the caste factor had always been a visible influence in Bholath. The Lubana community makes up 25 per cent of the voters’ list. And Bibi Jagir Kaur is heading the religious dera of the Lubanas.

In addition to this, the Akali Dal already has its clout over the majority of the 45,000 Jat voters of the constituency, say observers. But as Mr Khaira, too, is a Jat, he may create a dent in the Aklai vote bank.

The rest in the list are the over 10,000 voters from the Backward Class category, 26,000 from the Scheduled Caste category and 7,000 from the Hindu community.

Incidentally, the Bholath constituency has the lowest number of Scheduled Caste and Hindu voters in the entire state.

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NRI Commissioner told to furnish NRI Sabha records
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 29
Following a petition filed by the NRI Sabha members alleging illegal amendments made by political leaders in the constitution of their NGO, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sent a notice to the NRI Commissioner and Chairman of the sabha to furnish various records by February 2.

This was confirmed by Mr N.S. Kalsi, NRI Commissioner, who said that a notice in this regard had been received in his office.

He said that he had not gone through the notice himself as the Additional Commissioner was looking into the matter.

The issue assumes significance as the elections for the post of the sabha president are scheduled to be held on February 3 after a gap of four years. The candidates in fray for the post apprehend that the poll could be stalled further in case the court finds those amendments unconstitutional.

In the petition filed before the court, members of NRI Sabha had alleged that proper procedure had not been followed while making the amendments.

They had pointed out that the constitution had stated that such amendments could be made only if the recommendations were passed in the Annual General Body Meeting. They had said that since no such meeting had been held in the past two years, there was no point in making amendments to the constitution.

Mr Pritam Singh Narangpuri, a member, said that the members were forced to file a petition before the court in December last after their demand to get the amendments withdrawn was ignored.

He said that the members had also been demanding that the elections for the post of the sabha president that had been pending for two years be held. But just a month after the petition had been filed, the department of NRI Affairs announced elections for the post of the sabha president.

Mr Narangpuri had alleged that it was not just the bureaucrats who were interfering with the NGO’s working, even two local ministers, in connivance with the bureaucracy, were trying to control its working for their petty interests and fight for supremacy. “Both Mr Avtar Henry, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, and Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Minister for Revenue, Rehabilitation and NRI Affairs, have been accommodated as patrons of the sabha through an amendment made by the Chief Minister, who himself has taken over as the sabha’s chief patron, through yet another amendment.

The CM initially was the patron and had the right to appoint one vice-patron as per the constitution framed in 1996 at the time of the sabha’s foundation. Since the last year, there have been a chief patron and two patrons,” he had pointed out. Interestingly, a couple of members of the sabha are in fray for the post of the president.

The list includes Mr Pritam Singh Narangpuri, the last president and ex-NRI from the US, Mr Resham Singh Hayre, a former president and ex-NRI from the UK, Mr Major Singh Sahota, an ex-NRI from Canada, Mr Jasbir Singh Shergill, who had opposed Mr Narangpuri in the previous elections.

A relatively new member of the sabha, US-based Prabhsharan Singh Kahlon of Amritsar, is yet another candidate vying for the post.

He has been promising the sabha members help on matters pertaining to land and revenue fights, tenancy problems and red tapism. 

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Peasants get ‘shocking’ electricity bills
Anuradha Shukla
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 29
Many economically-weaker families, most of them Dalits, in villages across Doaba are up in arms against the Punjab State Electricity Board. These villagers allege that they are being given “inflated” electricity bills.

Many, working as daily farm labourers, claimed that they had to borrow money to pay the bills. Mr Jit Singh, a security guard in Rasoolpur village, alleged that despite low power consumption, his bimonthly bills amounted to Rs 2,400. “I had to sell a part of the wheat that I had stored for my family’s consumption to pay the bill,” he claimed.

Ms Raj Rani from Kudowal village claimed that she had to take a loan to pay the bill. Mr Manohar Lal from Bada Chota village also claimed that he had to take a loan to pay his bill amounting to Rs 4,480.

The electricity bills of more than 150 persons from over 40 villages in the district ranged between Rs 1000 and Rs 10,000, found The Tribune during a random survey.

Since many were unable to pay their bills, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) had disconnected their power supply. According to sources in the PSEB, the department had lost more than 1,000 connections in these villages.

Meanwhile, the PSEB’s Superintendent Engineer here, Mr K.K. Vohra, when contacted, claimed that none of the affected families had approached the board and presented “inflated” bills. “In case a complaint is filed, it will be redressed on a priority basis,” he added.

He said the conditions for availing 100 units of free power had been clearly laid down by the government. “The heavy bills these families are talking about could be accumulated bills pending for some months,” he claimed.

But the leader of the Pendu Mazdoor Union, Mr Kashmir Singh Ghugshor, said the promise was merely on papers. The villages where “inflated” bills are being sent include Kuddowal, Dheerpur, Bhikhakalan, Malliyan, Pada, Bisrampur, Ghugshor, Brahmpur, Pattarkhurd, Fatehjalal, Dugri, Bada Chota, Mehtpur, Mustafapur Dittunanangal,Khusropur, Bakhunanagal,Narpur, Parjiyankalan,Sadakpur, Koharkalan, Kaniyankalan, Bagga, Kaniyakhurd, Fajiwal, Gillran, Kakarkalan, Baloki, Bir Baloki, Adranmal, Udowal, Sanghowal, Lohgarh, Samrai, Sunnarkalan, Farwala, Taggar, Pabbowal, and Mesampur and Tandahura. 

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Immolation threat: Four booked 
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 29
The police today booked three local Congressmen for allegedly instigating a woman to immolate herself. The woman, Sonia, has also been booked.
The incident occurred yesterday after Sonia, along with five other women, put herself in front of the car of SP City Surinder Kumar Kalia at the Police Control Room, poured kerosene over her body and threatened to immolate herself. The women were protesting against the arrest of four persons from Rasta Mohalla, one of whom is a relative of Sonia.

The police has registered a case under Sections 309 and 120 B of the IPC against Deepak Kumar Kalia, Amit Kumar, Sarup Singh and Sonia but no one has been arrested yet.

The protestors had reportedly raised slogans and demanded action against Ravinder Sharma, an SHO, for arresting the four persons.

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