P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Farmers burn effigies of govt, CM
Tribune Reporters

Barnala, August 31
In response to a call given by nine organisations, farmers, including women, staged a demonstration here today despite a heavy rain and burnt the effigy of the Punjab Government to lodge their protest against the forcible acquisition of land of farmers of Fatehgarh Chhanna, Dhaula and Sanghera villages for the Trident group Of industries.

Earlier, farmers gathered in the local Nanaksar Thath Gurdwara, near the courts complex where they raised slogans against the state government, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and Mr Rajinder Gupta, Managing Director, Trident group of industries.

Led by Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), farmers in the form of a procession reached the local courts complex in front of the SDM’s office where they burnt the effigy of the Punjab Government.

Addressing the rally, Mr Ugrahan criticised Capt Amarinder Singh for forcibly acquiring farmers’ land in the state for big industrial houses. Mr Ugrahan said Capt Amarinder Singh’s policy of launching mega industrial projects to offer employment to the youth was anti-farmer as it would ruin the peasantry of Punjab. He made it clear that farmers’ organisations would not allow the government to forcibly acquire land for big industrial houses.

Mr Ugrahan warned Mr Rajinder Gupta that his card of buying farmer unions and farmers would not work at all.

The others who addressed the rally included Mr Jhanda Singh, state vice-president, BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), and Mr Bukkan Singh Saddowal, president, BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), Sangrur.

ABOHAR: Hundreds of farmers led by Mr Surjit Singh Dhaba, state vice-president of the BKU (Ekta), sat on dharna outside the office of the Executive Engineer, Punjab State Electricity Board, on the Malout road here to express resentment over the “anti-farmer” policies of the Congress government.

They raised slogans against the PSEB and the Chief Minister and burnt the effigy of the latter. The farmers also raised slogans against the MD of the Trident group for misusing the official resources to acquire land in the Barnala region.

He condemned the government for adopting anti-farmer policies to appease the multinational companies and promoters of mega projects. 


Panthic panels to form ‘Shadow SGPC’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 31
Various Panthic organizations today decided to form 'Shadow SGPC', to monitor the activities of the 81-year-old Shiromani Committee, called 'Mini Parliament' of the Sikhs.

The SGPC general house has 170 elected members, 15 nominated and five Sikh high priests (non-voting members).

The meeting of the Sikh conclave would be held on September 5 to finalise the next course to form the 'Shadow SGPC', comprising 'clean Shiromani Committee members'.

Addressing a joint press conference here today, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli — both SGPC members — and Mr Kanwarpal Singh, Secretary General, Dal Khalsa, said the 'Shadow SGPC' would keep vigil on the day-to-day working of the Shiromani Committee and bring 'corruption' in front of the Sikh masses by publishing 'facts'.

In yet another significant move, the Panthic organizations would also send posers to all the SGPC members to get 'self-appraisal' reports, enlisting their achievements in the field of 'Dharm Parchar'.

They said if any member of the Shiromani Committee would fail to send their reports within a stipulated time, the 'feed-back' of their performances would be sought from their respective constituencies.

Mr Calcutta alleged that the image of the SGPC had been damaged due to the appointments of Shiromani Committee presidents with sole criterion of 'serving' the 'political masters'. Earlier, the post of SGPC chief used to be occupied by Panthic stalwarts.

He called upon SGPC members to listen to their conscious and rise above party politics to serve the Sikh Panth.

Mr Calcutta said the SGPC members should not be accountable to their 'political masters' who wanted to gain political mileage by spending funds of Shiromani Committee.

Coming down heavily on Mr Badal, Mr Calcutta said that it was highly objectionable that he (Mr Badal) had snubbed the Sikh clergy and the SGPC President for honouring Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, at Talwandi Sabo yesterday. He said this development had showed that Mr Badal had been using Jathedars as 'puppets',

The Panthic leaders said the SGPC members must realize their moral and constitutional duties and work for promotion of the faith. 


Chatha put on notice over separate SGPC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 31
The SGPC president, Mr Avtar Singh, today presented a letter to the Haryana Agriculture Minister, Mr H.M.S. Chatha, conveying his opposition to any move for setting up a separate body for the management of Sikh gurdwaras in Haryana.

Mr Chatha is heading the committee constituted by the Haryana Government for obtaining feedback from interested parties and then suggest the state government whether the demand raised by a section of Haryana Sikhs regarding a separate SGPC for Haryana should be adhered to or not.

The letter, handed over by Mr Avtar Singh today, said the proposed move of a separate SGPC for Haryana was legally flawed as it was also wrong from the religious and political point of view. The letter cited that clause 3 of the Nehru-Tara Singh pact said any amendment to the Gurdwara Act should only be undertaken after obtaining the approval of the General House of the SGPC. It was further added that in the pact a convention might be established that such an approval should be accorded by at least two-thirds of the members.

The letter added that the General House of the SGPC had unanimously turned down the demand for a separate SGPC for Haryana when the members met at the Teja Singh Samundri Hall at Amritsar on May 31 last year.

The procedure adopted by the Chatha committee for collecting affidavits from the Sikhs regarding the demand for a separate SGPC for Haryana was wrong since it did not conform to the prescriptions of the Nehru-Tara Singh pact, the letter said.

The ideal thing for the Chatha committee to do was to make a recommendation to the state that the proposed move for a separate SGPC should be shelved once and for all, the letter said.


Marriage anniversary of Guru Nanak
Tribune News Service

Batala, August 31
The 520th marriage anniversary of Guru Nanak was celebrated with fervour here today. The devotees took out the “barat” of Guru Nanak from Sultan Lodi in Kapurthala district to Batala.

The “barat” comprises The Beloved Five and thousands of devotees. Langars are organised on roadsides for devotees. At Batala, the “barat” first reached Gurdwara Dera Sahib and then Gurdwara Kandh Sahib.

Guru Nanak was married to Bibi Sulakhni, daughter of Mul Chand Chauna. The district administration today declared holiday in the town for letting the devotees to participate in the ceremonies.

The CM has announced a grant of Rs 19 lakh for setting up the Bibi Sulakhni memorial gate at Umarpura village. The road leading to Gurdwara Kandh Sahib would named after Bibi Sulakhni.


Saifdipur joins SAD
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 31
The Congress today suffered a jolt when Mr Balwinder Singh Saifdipur, a close confidant of the Chief Minister, joined the SAD at a rally in Sanaur, near here.

The rally was organised under the banner of the International Bhau Bhaichara Organisation. The SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who was present at the rally, announced that Mr Saifdipur was appointed as general secretary of the party.

The massive gathering at the rally has created ripples among the Congress rank and file in the state as Assembly elections are just around the corner.

A section of senior Congress leaders, including Mr Sohan Lal Jalota, a former president of the Municipal Corporation, Patiala, had already left the Congress and joined the SAD.

When Mr Badal and Mr Saifdipur came on the stage, where almost the entire leadership of the party, except its general secretary, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, was sitting, activists raised slogans.

Mr Badal, while addressing the gathering, alleged that Mr Saifdipur had been harassed and implicated into false criminal cases by Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, despite the fact that Mr Saifdipur had been his close associate since 1978.

He said the government had been making youths unemployed by taking away their jobs and by bartering away the economic interests of Punjab with Reliance to fill his coffers.

The former Chief Minister also announced that when the SAD came into power, his government would take care of interests of the poor.

Mr Saifdipur, in an emotional speech, said though he helped Capt Amarinder Singh when he (Capt Amarinder Singh) was in political isolation, a number of false criminal cases were registered against him, his family members and servants after the Congress government came into power in the state. He added that the police was trying to arrest him for the past three days to sabotage his today’s rally.

He said he received a number of telephone calls from Capt Amarinder Singh last night and he was asked not to join the SAD.


Industrial waste, fertilisers spoil Punjab’s groundwater
Vishal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 31
As if falling groundwater levels were not enough, the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has ascertained that Punjab’s groundwater quality is not up to the mark either, courtesy rampant use of fertilisers and industrial effluents.

The shocking disclosure has come after the board, under its annual quality monitoring programme, collected water samples from dug wells and hand pumps located across the state.

Scientific analysis of the samples has led to the conclusion that chromium, lead, manganese and iron are present in concentrations exceeding permissible levels in a number of districts of the state.

Expressing concern over the situation, Mr C.P. Srivastava, Director, CGWB, North Western Region, Chandigarh, told The Tribune that given the increased groundwater pollution in shallow zone, the board’s thrust now was to promote the exploitation of deep aquifers.

“We will ask the state government to help promote the use of deep aquifers for drinking water supply and shun the shallow zone completely,” he said.

Mr Srivastava also stressed that by adopting scientific procedures for disposal of waste, effluents etc through regular monitoring of groundwater quality, the toxicity could be checked.

A major investigation, as a part of the programme, was carried out by the board in Amritsar to find the reasons for declining groundwater levels and deterioration in groundwater quality.

The investigation, based on 27 water samples, has found that shallow groundwater is comparatively more polluted than groundwater at deeper depths.The contamination is due to the discharge from municipal and industrial waste.

Presence of nitrate and heavy metals in shallow groundwater has confirmed contamination with sewerage and industrial effluents, the probe says.

Similarly in Ludhiana, the board investigation has revealed that groundwater is polluted with heavy metals such iron, zinc, nickel etc. Pollutants like chromium have been reported in areas around industries engaged in electroplating works.

Moreover, discernible pollution has been observed in shallow groundwater sources located close to industrial units.

The situation is not pleasant in Mandi Gobindgarh which boasts of a number of medium and large steel industrial units. The city’s shallow groundwater has been found rich in iron, copper, lead and nickel.

Apart from this, fluoride has emerged as a major polluting agent in various regions of the state.

Fluoride above 1.5 mg/l, the permissible limit in groundwater, has been reported in five districts — Bhatinda, Patiala, Faridkot, Muktsar and Mansa.

Warning that such water is not suitable for drinking, the board findings express alarm over the maximum concentration of 22.6 mg/l reported from Kachi Khanauri in Sangrur district.

In all, 16 per cent of waters in Punjab have fluoride beyond the maximum permissible limit of 1.5 mg/l.

And this is not all. Selenium is no less a threat than fluoride which though in small concentrations is beneficial but even a slight excess is toxic to crops and animals.

Symptoms of selenium toxicity, such as change in colour of hair and nails in humans, have been observed in parts of Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur districts.

The highest concentration of selenium was reported in a well water from Barwa village of Nawanshahr district. Also, to compound the problem, as many as four well waters in the state have recorded high arsenic values.

Dhilwan in Kapurthala district recorded arsenic values of 0.079 and Bara Chota in Ropar has reported high arsenic concentration of 0.096 mg/l.

The presence of heavy metals, highly carcinogenic in nature, and high fluoride content in groundwater can lead to serious health problems. It is high time the government woke up to the gravity of the situation.


Lalru incident to figure in Assembly session: Capt Kanwaljit
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, August 31
Setting the agenda for the forthcoming elections to the Punjab Assembly in 2007, the Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) today announced that the party would raise the Lalru incident in the coming Assembly session to "expose" the law and order situation under Congress regime.

Taking the Amrinder Singh government head-on on the issue of law and order, a senior SAD leader and former Finance Minister,Capt Kanwaljit Singh, blasted the government on its failure on all fronts, particularly the law and order front.The recent reported letter of the Punjab DGP to the SSPs directing them not to "victimise" the innocent persons speaks volume about the law and order situation, the Akali leader said while addressing an impressive rally here today.

Terming the release of 11 accused in the Larlu incident as "SAD victory", Capt Kanwajit Singh ridiculed the claims of certain Congress leaders that they had been released on bail with their efforts. It was with our efforts that the persons implicated by the police could get bail, he claimed.

The Akali stalwart alleged that development had taken a back seat in Punjab and that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was going all out to please Reliance Industries Limited(RIL) by offering land worth Rs 1,00,000 crore for a mere Rs 1,500 crore. However, the people would not accept the "bartering " away state's interests to any industrial house and teach the government a lesson during the next assembly elections, he asserted.

The August 19 visit of Patiala MP, Ms Preneet Kaur, to assuage the feelings of the residents in the wake of the alleged police brutality had proved to be a mere "eyewash" with the magisterial inquiry into the incident by Mohali ADC yet to be submitted. Instead of taking action against the guilty police personnel, the Congress government was diverting the issue and announcing grants for setting up a sports stadium at Lalru.

The Akali leader claimed that the Amarinder Singh government was on the way out in the wake of its "anti-people" policies. Not to talk of political leaders, the officials had no rapport with the common man with the result that the gulf between the administration and the general public had widened, he said.

Earlier, two rallies--one led by Capt Kanwaljit Singh from Jeoli village and another led by Mr Jasjit Singh Bunny from Chandiala village--converged at the local bus stand where an impressive rally was held.


DGP’s letter admission of guilt: Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 31
Reacting to a report in The Tribune about the DGP asking the Punjab Police to mend its ways, the president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said today it vindicated the stand of the SAD that the police was being used by the ruling Congress to intimidate SAD workers and register false cases against them.

Mr Badal, while talking to reporters after the meeting of the SAD legislative wing here, said,” The DGP’s letter was the loudest admission of guilt by a government official”. It clearly says that innocents were being booked while people with clout were getting away.

He alleged that the timing of the letter was itself a belated pre-election realisation of the DGP about the wrongs the police was committing in the state.


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