P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Capt distorting survey figures: SAD-BJP alliance
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 6
The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance today claimed a major swing in its favour for the forthcoming Punjab Assembly elections.

Quoting a survey conducted by a news weekly recently, SAD general secretary Sukhbir Badal and other alliance leaders claimed that 52 per cent voters were likely to vote for the alliance in the next elections. The alliance leaders also criticised the ruling Congress and the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for distorting the survey findings.

Mr Badal claimed: “The survey has predicted a landslide win for the SAD-BJP alliance in the forthcoming Assembly elections to the state showing that the alliance had touched a popularity level even higher than that reached in the last Lok Sabha elections when it won 11 out of 13 seats.”

He said the projection given by the survey for February, 2007, elections showed that more than 52 per cent of the voters would vote for the SAD-BJP combine and only 30 per cent would vote for the Congress.

Mr Badal criticised the Chief Minister “for deliberately distorting the findings of the survey which had rated him at the 13 rank”. He said the findings of the survey had shown that only 24 per cent Punjabis were satisfied with Capt Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister.

The SAD general secretary said: “The report puts Punjab at the 11th place on governance, even below Jharkhand, while in law and order the state faces even the worse ranking at 13.” Besides, he added that there had been a major slide down in the key areas like primary education where the state had recorded a negative growth rate, while primary health got the state a dismal fifth rank. He said barring agriculture and consumer market, Punjab’s performance had slipped on all other fronts.

Prominent among those present at the press conference were former minister and SAD general secretary Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, former Deputy Speaker Satpal Gosain, Ludhiana MP Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, district president Hira Singh Gabria, senior vice-president Amarjit Singh Bhatia, Mr Harish Rai Dhanda and Mr Jeevan Dhawan.


72 passengers stranded at airport
Manish Kumar Singal
Tribune News Service

Raja Sansi, September 6
“My children have to go to school and I have to look after my husband also who is in Toronto. How will I go there now?” were the words of Ravinder Kaur, one of the 72 passengers who could not board the Air India flight due to non-availability of seats.

Ravinder Kaur bought tickets for Air India flight 187AI that took off 9.55 am. Ravinder Kaur reached the airport from Jalandhar at 5 in the morning. But she was not informed in advance by the Air India authorities that seats were not available in the flight. “The Air India officials have asked me to come on Friday but not assured me that I will certainly get the seat in the next flight,” Ravinder Kaur added. She also levelled charges of corruption against the Air India officials saying they had however allowed some of the passengers after accepting graft.

Air India office- bearers, however, were not available for comments even after repeated efforts.

Sources said the situation had been same since September 2 after one of the flights of Air India developed some technical snag and was cancelled. Since then the officials had been trying to accommodate the passengers in other flights. But as the number of passengers was more, it was taking time to accommodate all of them, the official sources said.

Manoj Pal, a resident of Nawanshahar settled in Birmingham, was seen shouting at the Air India officials as he was not allowed to board the flight for the third time.

Another passenger that she was also to go to Toronto and her flight was scheduled today. But as she reached the airport, the officials said they did not have enough seats to accommodate all passengers.


Tribune Impact
Budda Nullah: HC for immediate remedial measures
Our High Court

Chandigarh, September 6
Taking a strong note of the continuing discharge of pollutants, including raw sullage and remains of dead animals into the Budda Nullah, resulting in the vanishing of the nullah, which was once the lifeline of Ludhiana city, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said it calls for immediate and radical remedial measures.

The current poor state of the nullah was recently highlighted by The Tribune in a series of reports, which attracted the attention of the High Court, which took suo motu notice of the reports.

In their order, the Judges comprising the Bench - Acting Chief Justice Mr Justice H.S. Bedi and Mr Justice Ranjit Singh - said they had read with consternation the news items that appeared in The Tribune pertaining to the nullah.

‘‘The news items reveal a startling state of affairs and it does little justice to what is regarded as the most prosperous town in the state. We find from the news items that we are facing a huge human tragedy, which calls for immediate and radical remedial measures,’’ the Bench remarked in its order.

Thereafter, the court issued notice of motion to the State of Punjab through the Chief Secretary.

The news reports had pointed out how the nullah had been reduced to a trickle due to unchecked flow of industrial effluent, comprising poisonous heavy metals like arsenic, chemicals like cyanide, harmful pesticides and toxic organic compounds, including phenols, detergents, DDT etc; remains of dead animals and chunks of freshly scraped animal flesh and untreated domestic waste.

As per the report, every day, over 3,00,000 kilolLitre (KL) of untreated domestic waste is discharged into the nullah apart from over 60,000 cubic metres of industrial waste.

The reports had also highlighted how the Ludhiana MC contributed up to over 95 per cent of the total waste discharged into the nullah.

The reports had also mentioned how the lives of the local population, particularly the slum dwellers, were endangered due to toxic wastes present in the nullah, which now resembles an open sewer. The incidence of respiratory disorders, TB, skin infections and hepatitis (jaundice and cholera) was found to be very high among people residing near the nullah.


PM to be on foundation stone-laying spree
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
There will be many a foundation stone to be laid by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, when he visits Punjab on September 27 and 28. Confirming the Prime Minister’s visit, sources in the state government today said its principal objective would be to launch the Congress campaign for the Assembly elections in the state.

The sources said that in the next eight weeks, the Prime Minister would visit the state twice. After the September-end visit, he was expected to go to Amritsar in October also. On September 27 and 28, the Prime Minister would be virtually on a foundation stone-laying spree. Besides, he was also expected to announce a relief package for Punjab farmers and also for terrorist violence affected families. A meeting to prepare the relief package for the farmers will be held in Delhi on September 8 under the chairmanship of the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar.

The Prime Minister will also lay the foundation stone of knowledge city at Mohali. Sector 81 has been reserved by the state government for this purpose, it is learnt. The state government will set up four institutions — the National Institute of Science, the National Institute of Biotechnology, the National Institute of Nanotechnology and the National Biotech Park — in knowledge city.

The sources said the Centre had asked the state government to give 400 acres free of cost for these institutes. Critics of this proposal say that the cost of the land is in the range of Rs 2,000 crore while the Union Government will invest only Rs 500 crore in the science institute and Rs 250 crore in the nanotechnology institute. The overall management control, including the recruitment of the faculty and scientists, will be with the Union Government. The state government should explore the possibility of setting up such institutes under its own control, say the critics.

The state government will be free to recruit local qualified youth in the institutions under its control. By investing Rs 2,000 crore, the state government can set up the best institutes. Instead of opting for land at Mohali, the state government can buy land near Banur, where it will be available between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore per acre.

The Prime Minister is also scheduled to lay the foundation stone in Ludhiana of the North-West rail corridor which will be exclusively reserved for the transportation of goods from this part of the country to Mumbai and Kolkata. The first phase of the corridor is to be completed in 2009. He will also inaugurate the rail track laid to link Chandigarh with Ludhiana and other cities.

The Prime Minister will also lay the foundation stone of the international airport at Halwara. Already, there is a big air base. The state government says the Centre has given approval for the airport at Halwara. The runway will be expanded for use by Jumbo aircraft. The Prime Minister is to also visit a farm at Laddowal. The farm is managed by a private company which exports vegetables to European and other countries.


Repatriation fear stalks state staff in BBMB
Tribune News Service

Talwara (Hoshiarpur), September 6
The fear of repatriation still stalks the Punjab Government employees in the BBMB. The Department of Personnel failed to withdraw its controversial letter issued in 2004.

In the letter the Department of Personnel had directed that all employees of Punjab Government who have either 2 years for retirement or had been working in the BBMB for last five years should be withdrawn from the organisation. Had the order been implemented, all employees of the Punjab Government working in the BBMB would have been withdrawn.

The justification behind the decision was that the employees of Punjab Government working in the BBMB were drawing higher salaries. The employees posted in the BBMB got higher salaries as the organisation adopted PSEB pay scales.

The Punjab Government employees working in the BBMB, however, maintained that they were not the only ones getting higher salaries. The employees of the other partner states such as Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh were drawing higher salaries in in BBMB.

The partner state contributed to the budget of the BBMB as per their share. The Punjab government had more than 50 per cent share in the BBMB and it had to contribute its share accordingly. If the Punjab Government employees were posted in the BBMB, their salaries would be paid by the organisation, saving money for the state government.

On the other hand, if the Punjab Government employees were withdrawn, the BBMB would have to take employees from other partner states or raise its quota of employees. In that case, the Punjab Government would have to pay the salaries of those employees.

The employees also alleged that the quota of Punjab Government employees in the organisation had reduced considerably as no officer from the state wanted to be posted in the organisation. If the decline in strength of Punjab employees in the organisation continued at the same pace, the state would lose control on one of most vital irrigation and power projects of northern India.

Following representations of the employees, the Punjab Government had formed a sub-committee. It included the Principal Secretary, Irrigation, the Secretary, Finance, and the Secretary, Personnel.

The committee, in its meeting held on March 13 held that if the letter of the Department of Personnel was implemented, it would lead to depletion of Punjab Government representation in the BBMB and financial burden on the state government. Hence the circular to withdraw employees from BBMB should be withdrawn.

The Department of Personnel had failed to withdraw its letter. This had led to uncertainty in Punjab Government employees posted in the BBMB. 


Malerkotla Muslims sing Vande Mataram
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
On the eve of centenary celebrations of the composition of Vande Mataram, religious leaders and representatives of Muslims and Sikhs gathered at Sector 17 plaza here today to recite national song.

On this occasion while addressing the mediapersons, the BJP youth leader, Mr Vineet Joshi, Member, National Executive( youth wing) and in charge, organisational affairs, J&K, said "We have invited the Muslim leaders from Malerkotla and other members, especially to remove fallacies being spread countrywide that Islam does not allow recitation of a national song". Prominent amongst the gathering were maulavis and many Muslim religious leaders from Malerkotla, who came all the way to the joint state capital to recite Vande Mataram publicly.

On this occasion Mr Abdul Qauyaam Raja Banat, National Executive Member, Minority Morcha, and in charge, organisational affairs, Punjab, claimed that the news regarding the 'fatwa' against the recitation of Vande Mataram was totally false and baseless. To authenticate it, he gave the reference of a news published in an Urdu newspaper in which the Principal of "Darulumak devand", a prominent religious body of Muslims, had categorically denied issuing any kind of 'fatwa' against the recitation of Vande Mataram. He further said that the purpose of this gathering was to convey their message to the fellow

Indians that the Muslims did not have any kind of religious reservation to recite Vande Mataram. "Islam is never against nationalism and spirit of love for one's country. Vande Mataram is a symbol of love for motherland and we have collected here to recite it" said Abdul Qauyaam Raja.

The maulavis who were also present in good numbers said they wanted to communicate to their fellow Muslims that tomorrow when they commemorate the centenary of Vande Mataram, we will stand together with other fellow Indians and sing this song in its true spirit. They said they wanted to convey this message very loud and clear to the Prime Minister that Muslims did not have any objection of making it compulsory in all educational institutions of India.

Other than Vineet Joshi and Abdul Qauyaam Raja, Mohammad Khalil Rahmani, General Secretary, Minority Morcha BJP Punjab; Maulana Mohammad Nazir, Kale Khan, 'gaddi nashin' of Dargah Baba Hazrat Sheikh, Malerkotla; Abdull Aziz, Member, Minority Morcha BJP Punjab; Mohammad Harun, Member, Minority Morcha BJP Punjab; Maulvi Javed Nadvi, in charge, Madrasa Malerkotla; Maulvi Rehman Sahib, in charge, Madrasa Malerkotla; and Sikander Khan, Member, Minority Morcha BJP Punjab.


Volte-face by SGPC chief on Vande Mataram
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 6
In a volte-face, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar today backtracked on his statement that the Sikh community should not sing Vande Mataram tomorrow.

In a statement issued here today, the SGPC chief said the SGPC had no objection to the singing of the National Song by the Sikh community.

He added that all Sikh institutions would continue singing ‘Deh siva var mohe ihae shubh karman pae kabhau’ with the National Song.

In another development, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Harvinder Singh Sarna said Vande Mataram would not be sung in DSGMC-run educational institutions as it was against the tenets, principles and philosophy of Sikhism.

He added that the National Anthem would continue to be sung in DSGMC-run educational institutions.

Mr Sarna claimed that Vande Mataram had been rejected by Baba Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh long back.


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