P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


SAD (Longowal) seeks Rs 700 as MSP

Sangrur, July 31
Dissatisfied over the meagre hike in the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy by the Union Government, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) has chalked out a programme to meet the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the Union Food Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, on August 7.

Talking to The Tribune today, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, president of the SAD (Longowal), said a deputation of the SAD (Longowal) would go to Delhi on August 7 to have detailed talks with the Prime Minister and the Union Food Minister over MSP of paddy. He said the Union Government had failed in protecting the interests of the farming community.

Mr Chandumajra asked the Union Government to fix MSP of paddy at Rs 700 per quintal in place of Rs 580 or Rs 610 per quintal.

He warned the Union Government that if it failed to hike MSP of paddy by August 19, the SAD (Longowal) would announce an agitation programme on August 20 at its rally to be organised on the occasion of death anniversary of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal at Longowal village.

Meanwhile, he held meetings in several villages, including Khanauri, Moonak, Ballran, Mandvi, Makor Sahib and Rai Dharana, to mobilise people for the rally to be held on August 20. — TNS


GND varsity to have Chair on freedom fighters
CM honours relatives of Shaheed Udham Singh

Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sunam (Sangrur), July 31
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today announced the setting up of a Chair, dedicated to freedom fighters and martyrs, at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and a memorial to all freedom fighters and martyrs from Punjab, either at a central place in the state or in Chandigarh.

The Chief Minister made these announcements while paying tributes to Shaheed Udham Singh on his 67th martyrdom day at a state-level function at New Grain Market here today.

Capt Amarinder Singh said he had decided to set up the Chair at Guru Nanak Dev University so that extensive research on the life and works of freedom fighters and martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Lala Lajpat Rai and Sukhdev could be done. He said a memorial, dedicated to martyrs and freedom fighters, including all Punjabi patriots who had spent precious years of their life in the cellular jail in Andaman, would be set up and their names inscribed there.

Capt Amarinder Singh announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for Prof Sikander Singh, who had done research on Shaheed Udham Singh during the past 18 years, to continue the research work.

He also honoured Prof Sikander Singh by presenting a shawl for his contribution to the field of research on Shaheed Udham Singh.

Lashing out at former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh said he would get the corruption cases, registered against Mr Badal, decided. He also levelled charges on Mr Badal and his family, saying that they had looted Punjab and Punjabis, so all of them would have to go behind bars.

He justified his decision to bring Reliance to Punjab, saying that this step would Punjab and its farmers prosper.

Capt Amarinder Singh said his government would give a bonus of Rs 50 per quintal on wheat purchased by private traders during the last wheat procurement season to farmers if the Centre declined to give the same. He said he would put pressure on the Centre to enhance the MSP of paddy.

Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president of the PPCC, lashed out at the Akalis, especially Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, saying that the Akalis observed martyrdom days of militants like Halwara and Bhindranwale, while the Congress observed martyrdom days of freedom fighters and martyrs.

The Chief Minister also honoured Mr Bachan Singh, Mr Khushi Nand and Mr Inder Singh, all distant nephews of the martyr, and Ms Inder Kaur, a distant niece of the martyr.

Capt Amarinder Singh presented cheques for Rs 26 lakh to 19 families whose houses were destroyed in 2001 after the digging of a bore for installation of a tubewell at Sunam. The Chief Minister laid the foundation stone for a scheme for water supply and sewerage in Sunam to be completed at a cost of Rs 5.65 crore. He also laid the foundation stone for a new bus stand to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1.14 crore here.

Earlier, Capt Amarinder Singh, along with Mr Lal Singh and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, both Punjab Cabinet Ministers, and Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president of the PPCC, paid floral tributes to a portrait of Shaheed Udham Singh at the function. They also paid tributes at the memorial to Shaheed Udham Singh in the local stadium.

On the occasion, nearly 500 Akali supporters from the Sunam area joined the Congress party on the persuasion of Mr Rajinder Deepa, a local Congress leader, in the presence of the Chief Minister here.


Punjab Govt overrules PSIEC in land allotment case
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
That the present Punjab Government is not a firm believer in the autonomy of various boards and corporations under its control is a fact well-known. The recent controversy over the allotment of Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) land worth hundreds of crores to Reliance Industries Limited at allegedly throwaway prices in complete disregard of PSIEC objections was one such instance.

Now, yet another instance of the Congress government trying to showcase its hold over the PSIEC has come to light.

In its reply filed in the Supreme Court in the pending matter regarding allotment of industrial land owned by the PSIEC for residential purposes, the Punjab Government has taken the stand that counsel for the PSIEC was not competent to inform the court that no final decision had been taken with respect to allotment of the land in question.

In fact, the government has claimed, allotment of the land in question to two IT majors has already been finalised.

On February 3, when the SC was hearing the special leave petition (SLP) filed by some "allottees" claiming that the land was allotted to them a year ago in the draw of lots for residential purposes, counsel for the PSIEC informed the court that no final decision had been taken to allot the land in Mohali to any company.

Thereafter, the court directed that no final allotment of the land would be made without its permission.

Several allottees of residential plots led by Mr Jasbir Singh Chhabra moved the Supreme Court yesterday after the Punjab and Haryana High Court had refused them the relief of allotting the plots in spite of allowing their petition challenging the Punjab Government's policy of altering the land use after the draw of lots in their favour on October 8, 2002, and reserving it only for industrial purposes.

However, major chunk of the land, it may be recalled, has already been earmarked for allotment to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro.

In its reply, filed by Mr V.N. Mathur, Additional Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Punjab, the government has claimed that under the land allotment policy, the competence to allot land measuring more than two acres vests with the government. Therefore, it asserts counsel for PSIEC was not competent to make any such statement.

The government has also claimed that the land in question, measuring about 80 acres, is the last piece of land presently available with the government until it goes in for fresh acquisition.

The government has also stated that out of the 80 acres, allotment of 25 acres to TCS and 39.3 acres to Wipro has already been cleared by the committee headed by the previous Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill. It has also claimed that a formal communication in this regard was sent to the PSIEC on January 20, that is before the SC stay on allotment.

Hearing of the matter is likely to resume in August.


5 dead, 15 hurt as mini-bus overturns
Tribune News Service

Khasa (Amritsar), July 3
Five persons were killed and 15 injured, two of them seriously, when a mini-bus (PAB 1157) overturned on the Bhakna road, near here today.

The deceased have been identified as Sukhwinder Singh (Bhakna), Mandip Singh (Hoshiar Nagar), Hira Singh (Kallehwal) and Kuljit Kaur (Mahawa village). However, a migrant labour, who was seriously injured and later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital, could not be identified.

A case under Sections 304, 279 and 323 has been registered at the police station, Chhehrta, against Ramandip Singh, owner of the bus, who fled after the accident. He was reportedly changing a cassette when the vehicle hit a pothole and the driver lost control. 


Bouncer ends young cricketer’s life
Ravi Dhaliwal

Patiala, July 31
Sport and death are at two different ends of the spectrum. Sport is synonymous with youthful exuberance. On the other hand, death signifies the end of life. In young Balwinder’s case, it was sport that sniffed out life from the budding 17-year-old cricketer.

Balwinder Singh, an up-coming cricketer, was hit by a cricket ball here yesterday that ended the youngster’s life.

Balwinder Singh, a Class X student of Government Multipurpose School, was selected in the school’s cricket team for the forthcoming zonal tournament in his endeavour to perform well, he decided to practise hard. To have a good knock, he decided to have a net session at the MES cricket ground in the Army cantonment area.

Once there, he called two of his colleagues — Parminder Singh and Jaspreet Singh — to bowl to him. That was the beginning of the end.

On Balwinder’s demand, one of the bowlers started bowling bouncers. However, one of the bouncers slipped out of the bowler’s hands and turned into a ferocious beamer. So violent was the impact of the beamer on the batsman’s helmetless head, that he slumped to the ground, writhing in agony.

By some sheer coincidence, an Air Force ambulance happened to pass that way and on the beckoning of Parminder and Jaspreet, it screeched to a halt. First aid was administered to Balwinder, but it was too late. Balwinder had died and according to Air Force hospital doctors, his death was caused by brain haemorrhage.

Later, his body was taken to Government Rajindra Hospital where it was kept in the mortuary before it was cremated at Balwinder’s native village at Kauli, near here, yesterday. His father is employed as a carpenter with the Military Engineering Service (MES).

Balwinder’s two sisters, both younger to him, are in a state of shock. His mother is inconsolable.

Mr H.S. Arora, who organises a lot of cricket tournaments for children at the MES ground, recalled that Balwinder would get Rs 50 per match while scoring in various tournaments and till yet he had saved Rs 800. From this money, the youngster had planned to buy a new bat which he had intended to use during the school zonal tournament. 


Uma trains guns on Left, Congress
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 31
Training her guns at the Left parties and the Congress and hinting that her party would have an ideological and political confrontation with both, firebrand leader Uma Bharti has equated the BJP with a dead body “devoid of any soul”.

Ms Uma Bharti, chief of the Bhartiya Jana Shakti Party (BJSP), said her party was not likely to have any sort of confrontation with the BJP as the ongoing “degeneration of the party would take it to a point in about one and half years, where, it would be left with just leaders and no workers.”

She made all out efforts to project her BJSP as a new ‘Avtaar’ and a comparatively more acceptable and aggressive version of the BJP at the national level. “I am not required to say anything about the BJP as it has become like a dead body, which, has to be sent to the cremation grounds with full honours and amid chanting of mantras.”

Ms Uma Bharti, who was accompanied by Mr. Pawan Valecha, chief organiser of the Punjab unit of the BJSP, was addressing an impressive state level, “Swabhiman rally” of the party here this evening.

“Left parties are nothing but a bundle of farce and deceit. They do their politics on the basis of the poor, but, at the same time encourage poverty in the country. While we would have a fight with the Left at the ideological level, our confrontation with the Congress would be political. The BJSP would be fighting for ‘Ram and Roti’.

Though, our party is like a new born child, but, it would wage a war against injustice meted out to farmers, workers, traders and the common people.

Lamenting the alleged failure of the BJP in making ‘Ram Temple’ at Ayodhya, Ms. Uma Bharti said though she was respectful towards holy books and places of Muslims, but, her party would not follow any policy to appease the Muslims. “I respect holy Koran and the Bible, but, I won’t like that somebody dubs me as a ‘Kafir’ only on the grounds that I am an Indian or a Hindu woman. I want equal treatment for all. At the same time, I wish that India becomes an economic and military super power. We cannot afford to be liberal on national security. “Why former defence minister Jaswant Singh sit over the information about presence of a mole in the PMO for 10 years? He should seek an apology from the nation,” said Ms Uma Bharti.

Taking the Congress to task, Ms. Uma Bharti questioned the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh about the atomic energy agreement with the USA. “ I want the PM to clarify whether the USA wants to make India as one of its bases in return. What amazes me is that the BJP failed to stand against this and against the WTO. I want to know as to why a foreigner like Ms. Sonia Gandhi has been made to sit over top secrets of the country in her capacity as the UPA chairperson. Is there no able Indian lady available for the job,” asked Ms Uma Bharti.

Lauding the role of Punjabis in the freedom struggle of the country, Ms. Uma Bharti said she was overwhelmed over the response given to her by the people of the state. 


Sushma Devi, Rimpy win

Ropar, July 31
Rimpy Kumar has been elected Municipal Councillor from ward-10 of Morinda, defeating Mohan Lal by 137 votes. Rimpy Kumar got 578 votes and Mohan Lal 441.

Sushma Devi was elected from ward-11, defeating Gurmeet Kaur by 151 votes. Sushma Devi polled 504 votes while Gurmeet Kaur got 353 votes. —TNS


4O SAD (B) workers join Congress

Moga, July 31
Nearly 40 Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) supporters have joined the Congress party under the leadership of local Congress leader Mahesh Inder Singh Nihalsingh Wala.

A function was held at Takhanvath Khurd village near here yesterday evening, in this connection. — UNI


Passengers raise slogans against Indian Airlines
Neeraj Bagga

Raja Sansi, July 31
Hundreds of passengers scheduled to board flights of AI 187 Amritsar-Birmingham-Toronto and AI 188 Amritsar-Delhi faced lot of inconvenience as both flights were cancelled at the 11th hour here today.

Agitated passengers raised slogans against the management of Air India in the lounge. To pacify them the local management announced to give Rs 1000 against a ticket. However, eventually, they were paid Rs 800 for a ticket.

A passenger Gurmit Singh from Nakodar (Jalandhar), said he along with family, including wife, daughter and son was scheduled to board the flight for Toronto, which was to take off at 10 in the morning today. However, just two hours earlier they were informed that it had been cancelled for some technical reasons.

He said their entire schedule and important assignments in Canada had also been put off due to this. He said that they came all the way from Nakodar by traveling in the midnight.

Another passenger Mr Rajan who was to board flight for Toronto along with his family said that he had bitter experience with Air India. He said their tickets were booked for July 29 of the same flight. However, they were informed on July 27 that the flight had been called off and the tickets were extended to July 31.

He said that the AI’s Toronto-Birmingham-Amritsar flight took off over eight hours behind the schedule when they were coming to India from Toronto in June.

Mr Kesar Ram, a US citizen of Indian origin, said that he along with his son and daughter was to board IA 188 Amritsar-Delhi at 12:55 the last midnight. He said they reached the International Airport at about 10 in the night from Banga. The family was supposed to catch Delhi-London-New York flight for New York from Delhi today morning.

All passengers remained in the lounge for all over the night and no arrangement either for their stay and refreshment was made except a cup of tea. He said that they did not know where to go in the night and when they made their grievance known by raising slogans.

When contacted Mr Norbhu, Manager, Air India, said both planes had been grounded owing to technical fault and engineers were working to rectify it. He said as per the requirement of passengers either taxi fare or seat in trains or buses was made available. He said accommodation in hotels were made available for those who want to board the next flight. He expressed his ignorance about the raising of slogans in the lounge.


Sajida Begum laid to rest
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla , July 31
Sajida Begum (66), a former MLA and wife of former Nawab of Malerkotla Janab Ifghkharr Ali Khan, who died at Fortis Heart Institute, Mohali, yesterday after a prolonged illness, was buried with state honours at the local Baba Bodle Shah graveyard, near Jarag Chowk, here today.

The body was brought to Malerkotla from Mohali late last night. Thousands of residents, including prominent leaders of political parties, were present in the Sheesh Mahal and at the graveyard to pay homage to the departed soul.

The body was taken to the graveyard with state honours through the main bazars of the city. Namaz was performed in the masjid at Sirhandi Gate.

Mr Surinder Singla, Health Minister, Punjab, was also present and paid tributes.

Sajida Begum was a veteran Congress leader and served the party for nearly three decades.


Proceedings stayed in kidney case
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, July 31
Taking note of an allegation that the trial court had committed legal impropriety by continuing with the trial without deciding an application filed by Dr P.K. Sareen on March 24, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed further proceedings in the lower court.

In his petition, Amritsar-based Dr Sareen, who is an accused in a case pertaining to causing death of a kidney donor, investigated by a special investigating team, has stated that while an application filed by him before the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Amritsar, seeking dropping of the charge relating to murder has not been decided, the trial court is rushing with the trial.

Incidentally, the final judgement in the trial stands stayed by the Supreme Court. The apex court will give its judgement on the issue of correctness of the charges filed against Dr Sareen.

During the hearing of the petition, Dr Sareen’s counsel, Mr Hemant Saini, told the court that the application sought dropping of the charge as the case does not even fall within the ambit of Section 304-A by any stretch of the imagination. Hence, the prosecution of the accused under Section 302 of the IPC was misconceived, arbitrary, illegal, unwarranted and resulting in the grave miscarriage of justice, Mr Saini told the court. He also stated that a decision on the application could well put an end to the entire trial.

Mr Saini also asserted that the petitioner was being made a scapegoat by the present government in its fight with the Shiromani Akali Dal. He also pointed to the fact that the ruling Congress had repeatedly claimed the unearthing of the alleged kidney scam as its achievement.

He also wondered how the investigating officer could carve out a fresh FIR from the earlier one registered against the doctor. The petitioner has also alleged quid pro quo between the state government and the police official investigating the alleged crime.

In this regard, he has referred to the fact that soon after the second FIR was carved out of the first one, the government recommended the name of the investigating officer (IO) in the matter for an award.

The action of the government in giving charge of the Central Jail, Amritsar, where the accused are lodged, to the IO has also been questioned. The petitioner has contended that this was done only to put pressure on the accused.

Today, Mr Justice Ajai Lamba, while staying further proceedings before the trial court in the matter, also sought the comments of the trial court judge.


NABARD sanctions 2 irrigation projects
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has sanctioned two Irrigation Projects, with a Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) assistance of Rs 84.42 crore. These projects will include lining of a distributory (Laduka distributory in Ferozepore district) and converting a canal from non-perennial to perennial (Banur canal) in Patiala district.

The former project would bring in an additional 2675 hectares of land under irrigation, and also deliver assured irrigation to 7247 hectares of existing command area. The project of converting the non-perennial Banur Canal into a perennial source of irrigation, would ensure a continuous supply of water to the existing command area of 4616 hectare besides bringing in an additional area of 1215 hectares under irrigation. The positive impact of these projects will lead to a definite enhancement in the agricultural production in these two districts.

Other than these, two other projects connecting 100 rural roads and 36 bridges have also been sanctioned, spreading all over Punjab. These projects involving RIDF support of Rs.291.72 crore will provide better connectivity to 1443 villages, 115 urban markets and 257 rural marketing centres, an official release said.


Crop diversification unsuitable for Punjab, says expert
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
At a time when the Punjab Government is strongly advocating crop diversification, an agricultural economist specialising on Punjab has rubbished the policy advocating wheat-rice cropping as the most economically viable proposition.

According to Dr H.S Shergill, “votaries of diversification somehow fail to understand that the era of diversified cropping pattern in Punjab agriculture is gone for ever and cannot be now resurrected. The only choice in Punjab agriculture today, therefore, is not between wheat and rice specialisation versus a diversified cropping pattern, as is naively believed by advocates of diversification”.

This is the finding of Dr Shergill’s study that has been released in the form of a book ‘Diversification of cropping pattern a re-examination’. Dr Shergill, a well-acclaimed agricultural economist and currently the Head (Punjab Economy Division) at the Institute for Development and Communication and has written extensively on ‘Poverty in rural Punjab”, ‘Rural Credit and Indebtedness in Punjab”, ‘Alternatives in Agriculture” and “Commercial Dairy Farming in Punjab”.

Dr Shergill argues, “Punjab farms having become fully commercialised over the past four decades could not escape the economic logic of profit maximisation and crop specialisation. Rather, the choice open to commercialised Punjab farms is limited to specialisation in wheat and rice cultivation versus specialisation in some other crop rotation combination cultivated on equally large scale”.

According to him, in the early 1960s, the cropping pattern in Punjab was quite diversified. Even wheat was planted only on 30 per cent of the total cropped area, and rice was cultivated only on 5 per cent of the cropped area. The remaining two-thirds of the cropped area was under a large number of other crops, each sown on a small area by most of the farmers.

The detailed economic evaluation of wheat and rice cultivation presented in the current study leaves little doubt on wheat-rice rotation being the optimal cropping pattern for Punjab agriculture. No feasible and near alternative crop rotation combination seems to exist that can replace wheat-rice rotation under the present parameters and constraints. The policy message is clear: Punjab should stick to wheat-rice rotation in the immediate short-run as well as in the long-run.

He has given many arguments for continuing with the wheat and rice cropping pattern which says that this cropping pattern yields the highest net income per hectare, no other crop rotation combination can match the yield stability of these two crops, the marketing prospects for Punjab’s surplus wheat and rice are assured for the next few decades, a sustainable minimum support price and assured purchase programme exists only for wheat and rice, which makes the Central Government more than willing to sustain the cultivation of these two crops. Besides Punjab has a clear comparative advantage in wheat and rice production within the domestic Indian market, and Punjab wheat and rice can compete successfully even in the world market once a level-playing field is created by the elimination of rich country subsidies.

Punjab farmers and farm labourers, he further says, have become experts in wheat-rice cultivation culture and it will be very difficult for them to acquire the same expertise in other crop cultures, wheat and rice crops are most suitable for shifting labour out of agriculture to speed up the structural transformation of Punjab agriculture, double cropping on almost the entire cultivated area is possible only with wheat-rice rotation, wheat-rice rotation scores over the alternatives in terms of economies of scope e.g. lower cost of land preparation and harvesting, benefits of fallow land even with double cropping, and wheat yield being the highest on rice sown lands etc, wheat-rice rotation is not responsible for the fall in water table per se. Fall in the water table will be the same with any other crop rotation; if double cropping is to be practiced on the entire area with the help of tubewell irrigation and the falling water table can be easily tackled through suitable legislation to regulate private tubewells and through a proper power pricing policy.

He feels that the need of the hour is to strengthen the cultivation of these two crops through active and effective public monitoring and management of the sowing, watering and marketing operations of these two crops. The state research establishment should focus its attention on these two crops. The competitive advantage of Punjab farmers in wheat and rice cultivation can be improved further with proper and active government intervention.

Reacting to the report, says Dr Pramod Kumar, Director, Institute for Development and Communication, “The justifications for a change in the cropping pattern were offered as per convenience. In the early 90s, it was ‘foodgrains not finding markets’, ‘rotting in warehouses’ that reinforced the predetermined solution. In the first decade of the 21st century, food surpluses withered away and a decline in the water table became the sole justification. Consequently, the focus of diversification shifted from wheat-rice to only rice. If appropriate technology for growing rice with the use of smaller quantities of water becomes operative, the proponents of diversification will have to look for other justifications”.


Officials get new assignments
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
The Punjab Government today ordered new assignments for one IAS officer and three IPS officers. As many as 28 officials of the Punjab Police cadre were also given new places of posting.

Mr Amitabh Pande, Principal Resident Commissioner, Punjab Bhavan, Delhi, has been sent on central deputation for appointment as Secretary, Inter-State Council Secretariat, Delhi.

Among the IPS officers, Mr J.K. Jain has been given additional charge as Superintendent, Ludhiana Jail, while Ms Vibhu Raj will hold additional charge of Deputy Director, Indoor, Police Training Academy, Phillaur. Mrs V. Neeraja will be posted as SP, Computers, Chandigarh. 


Petrol station robbed
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, July 31
Three armed persons robed Rs 11575 from Balwant Filling Station, Naushehra Pannuan 15 km from here last night and decamped two mobile sets while fleeing .

The Sarhali police has registered a case under Sections 392, 342, 34 of the IPC,and 25, 27 54, 59 the Arms act in this regards. Mr Vijay Kumar, a salesman of the station told the police in his complaint that a person came to the station to fill petrol for Rs 50 . When he was filling petrol two armed persons came there and they on a pistol point they robbed Rs 11575 from him and decamped two mobile sets while fleeing they locked him along with two others of the station in a room. 


Education panacea of all evils: Dua
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Bondli (Samrala), July 31
The people of the country seem to have lost the will to assert themselves by consciously choosing to accept the ills plaguing our society. Instead of taking steps to contain corruption and increasing criminalisation in politics, the masses are electing law beakers.

Stating this at a seminar on Contemporary India at the Malwa College here today, Mr H. K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune group of publications, said raising the literacy rate in the country was the panacea for various evils plaguing the nation. “Only an educated citizen can distinguish between a good and bad political leader and choose the right person from the grassroots,” he pointed out.

Briefly tracing the history of the country from 1947 onwards, he said somewhere during the 70s, the system went out of control and the people began to realise that the future of the nation was clouded. Citing the excesses of Emergency, he said a valuable lesson learnt during that period was: it does not help the people or the country if any pillar of democracy was disturbed.

Those dark days are gone and the country is poised to be an economic power of the 21st century. The growth rate is 8 per cent and will rise to 10 per cent in the coming years and we are racing ahead in various fields. Yet there is a feeling of despair and despondency in the common man. Why?, he questioned.

The reason is not hard to find. Today, the system has degenerated to such an extent that only the rich and influential can get things done to suit their needs while the common man is yet to know his democratic rights. There is a complete lack of housing, health care, education and basic amenities in the country. How can these deprived people be hopeful of a bright future, when imbalances are sapping their confidence, he said.

India is a socially divisive nation. Here, caste determines the destiny of an individual. This leads to greater social disturbances and coupled with corruption and other malaises has a cascading effect on the future of the country. Corrupt politicians and indifferent bureaucrats too use the situations to further their own ends, he added.

Yet, there was no need to be pessimistic as the nation has in Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Dr Manmohan Singh, two of the most educated and well meaning persons who are products of the present system, he added.

Mr Dua underlined that the solution was the need to shake the collective psyche of the people so that they consciously exercise their democratic rights. There may be some flaws in the present system, but the people operating it leave much to be desired. Even a good vehicle can be damaged by an inefficient driver, he added in a lighter vein.

Taking a dig at the general tendency of people to blame all ills on politicians, he said we need more confidence in our abilities to tackle our problems. We should not look to politicians for solutions but try to solve them on our own. Politicians are themselves a big problem, he quipped amid applause from the audience.

He also urged the youngsters to take a greater role in shaping the destiny of the country. They have great stakes in the future and it is up to them to question the happenings around them, he added.

Mr Dua also released a book, Nashiyan Da Chevan Dariya, a collection of essays on drug abuse in Punjabi, by Tarlochan Singh, on the occasion.

Earlier, the Editor-in-Chief was welcomed by Mr Shivdev Singh, President, Malwa Educational Council, Mr Shinderpal Singh, Principal of the college, and Mr Kamaljit Rattan, President of the College Alumni Association.

Others present on the occasion included MP Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, Kum Kalan MLA Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal and Mr Jagpal Singh Abu Khurana besides other eminent personalities of the area.


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