P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Farmers’ protest on Sept 13 against land acquisition
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 7
To demonstrate growing support for their slogan “Punjab is not for sale”, nine organisations of farmers will hold a demonstration here on September 13, a day before the Vidhan Sabha holds its two-day session.

Farmer ‘dies of shock’

Gurmukh Singh, a farmer of Pandori Mahima, one of the seven villages in Amritsar where fertile land is being acquired by the Punjab Government for SEZ, died of shock on August 28, claimed members of the Kisan Ujjaara Roku Committee.

He died after he learned that his land was being notified for acquisition, claimed Ranjit Singh Jheete, Sarabjit Singh Rampura, Sarbarinder Singh Nikke Jheete and Gurdial Singh of the committee.

The committee has demanded an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased, job for one member of the bereaved family and waiver of loan of Rs 2.5 lakh on the deceased from the state government.

“We want to remind the state government that its role is to work for the welfare of people and not act as a realtor for multinational companies and big industrial houses,” asserts Bhupinder Sambhar of the Punjab Kisan Sabha and member of the Kisan Action Committee spearheading the agitation.

He said the idea of holding the demonstration one day ahead of the Assembly session was to give a copy of draft resolution, which they plan to adopt at the rally, to all members of the state legislature.

This draft resolution, if approved by the Assembly, will help in pulling farmers out of the suicide and debt trap.

Challenging the government’s move to acquire fertile and cultivable land, leaders of the organisations, including the Kisan Sangarsh Samiti, the Punjab Kisan Sabha, the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta and the Democratic Kisan Sabha, maintain that they would not allow the government to succeed in its endeavour.

Mr Sambhar said the Punjab Government had recently issued a notification to acquire 1,218 acres of fertile agricultural land of seven villages of Amritsar district to hand it over to the Delhi Lease and Finance (DLF) Company for developing a special economic zone (SEZ).

“The state must make public as to what use the land acquired in previous years has been put to. Hundreds of acres of agricultural land acquired in Goindwal Sahib, to develop an industrial township, was now being planned to be sold as residential plots. A couple of industrial units that came there in early 80s have closed down.

“Similarly, huge pieces of land allotted to industrial units in Amritsar at nominal rates earlier are now being disposed of at exorbitant rates. Same is true for other parts of the state where industrial units were making huge profits by selling or commercialising their land holdings. Industry in the state was on a brink of closure. Sixty per cent the of industrial units in Amritsar have closed down. Batala is no different, with most of the industrial units having turned into commercial complex, marriage palaces and even residential areas,” said Mr Sambhar.

“We are not opposed to industrialisation. What about reviving the existing industry? What steps has the state government taken to check the flight of industry from Punjab to neighbouring states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal,” asked Satnam Singh Pannu and Rattan Singh Randhawa, other members of the Action Committee.

They ridiculed the government claims that the new SEZ policy would revive the state economy. Quoting the Union Finance Minister, they said, the country had lost around 34,000 crore in revenue because of SEZs.

They also blasted the government claims that the SEZ policy would create new jobs.

“When the present government came to power five years ago, there were 16 lakh unemployed youth. Now the number was 40 lakh. And if they take away agricultural land, they would only add to unemployment and make the country dependent for food grains.

The leaders added that an action committee was being formed in each district of the state to fight government’s move.

Some members of the Kisan Ujjaraa Roku Committee — Ranjit Singh Jheete, Sarbjit Singh Rampura, Sarbarinder Singh Nikke Jheete — accompanied by members of the Action Committee met the Land Acquisition Officer of the Industries Department and submitted objections filed on behalf of 1,500 land owners of seven villagers of Amritsar here today.


Farmers’ suicides: woes recounted
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 7
“Big business houses are out to destroy small farmers. There is an urgent need to wage a struggle for the formulation of a law like the erstwhile land alienation Act under which land, house and livestock of a farmer can’t be taken away from him, stated Dr Vandana Shiva of the Research Foundation, Delhi, while addressing a “public hearing on farmers’ suicides” at Haji Rattan Gurdwara here today.

Flaying the entry of the Reliance group into the agriculture scene in Punjab, she said: “We don’t need industrial houses like Reliance to produce foodgrains. Farmers of the state, who have fed the entire nation till now, should be allowed to retain their land and continue farming.”

She said Punjab was a shining example of prosperity in 1970s, but now farmers were caught in a debt-cycle.

She claimed that the farmers were losing Rs 1 lakh crore annually due to WTO policies being pursued in the country. She said the skyrocketing prices of agricultural inputs and denial of remunerative prices of produce had added to the farmers’ woes. She exhorted women at the gathering to start small industry to rebuild their lives.

Earlier, hundreds of suicide-hit families of farmers from eight districts converged at the gurdwara and narrated their woes to the jury.

Manpreet Kaur of Saidoke village in Ferozepore said her husband, Sukhbir Singh, jumped to death in a canal after a commission agent got their seven-acre land transferred in his name in lieu of Rs 10 lakh debt. She attributed the debt to use of sub-standard sprays and bad crop. At present, she has given her remaining 3.5 acres of land on contract to eke out a living.

Kulwant Singh and his son, Harjinder Singh of Ratta Ther village ended their lives because of debt. When Kulwant committed suicide he had a debt of Rs 6 lakh and was under tremendous stress to repay it. Harjinder was yet to recover from the shock, when a commission agent seized his entire wheat produce in lieu of his debt. He, too, consumed pesticide to end his life.

Sixty-year-old Jeet Singh of the same village set himself ablaze on the day when bank officials were to serve him notice regarding the payment of his loan.

Meanwhile, BKU Ekta General Secretary came out with figures of farmers suicides during the programme. He revealed that as per a survey conducted by farmer bodies, 2,860 farmers have committed suicide in eight districts of Punjab in the last 15 years.

These include: Sangrur (1,046), Bathinda (750) Moga (475) Mansa (424) Ferozepore (77) Muktsar (61) Faridkot (25) and Ludhiana (12).

Dr Shiva, Dr Brahma Dev Sharma, Dr Parminder Singh, Dr Manmohan Sharma and Dr K Gopal Ayer were the jury members.


Fund for pension to old farmers demanded
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Badrukhan (Sangrur), September 7
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) today asked the Punjab government to create a “farmers’ relief fund” to pay pension of Rs 1,000 per month each to the farmers over 60 years’ old. It has also asked the Punjab government to pay Rs 112 per quintal as bonus to paddy growers from this season.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal, national general secretary of the BKU (Rajewal), said the creation of “farmers’ relief fund” was need of the hour for the aged farmers. He said on the pattern of government employees who enjoyed pension after completing 58 years of age the government should also fix retirement age for farmers as 60 years to grant them pension of Rs 1,000 per month for social security. He said due to ceiling on land the farmers had now small holdings due to which in many cases even the sons of old farmers either disowned them or did not look after them properly.

Mr Rajewal, who was here in connection with a conference of the BKU (Rajewal) and the BKU (Lakhowal), added the Mandi Board collected two per cent rural development fund (RDF) and two per cent market fee (MF), of Rs 500 crore every year, at the time of procurement of crops. He said as there was now no need to spend on the development of grain markets so with the half (Rs 250 crore) of the amount of the RDF and the MF every year a farmers’ relief fund should be created to give farmers pension as social security in old age.

Mr Rajewal said the Punjab government had sought Rs 762 per quintal as minimum support price (MSP) of the paddy from the Centre, but the Centre had given only Rs 650 per quintal as MSP of paddy so the remaining difference of Rs 112 should be given by the Punjab government to farmers in the form of bonus. He said the government should also link the MSP of crops with wholesale price index by considering 1966-67 as base year. He said till now the farmers had got the MSP on political basis in place of scientific basis.


Appointment of granthis: Vedanti, SGPC chief on collision course
Varinder Walia

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 7
Jathedar Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti and SGPC chief Avtar Singh seem to be on a collision over the installation of three granthis for the Golden Temple.

While, Jathedar Vedanti has convened an emergency meeting of Jathedars of all Takhts and granthis of the Golden Temple on September 9 here, the SGPC chief hurriedly postponed the ceremony (installation) proposed to be held on September 12 indefinitely. Agitating Sikh organizations, including the Damdami Taksal and Nihang factions had also convened a meeting at headquarter of Harianwelan tomorrow.

When contacted, Giani Gurbachan Singh, head granthi confirmed that an emergency meeting had been called to discuss the proposed installation of Granthis and other Panthic matters.

It is learnt that the emergency meeting would finalise the parameters for the appointment and installations of the granthis and Jathedars.

Sikh organisations in India and abroad, including both factions of the Damdami Taksal and a section of the Sant Samaj were up in arms against the appointment of three Sikh high priests against the appointment of three granthis (Sikh high priests) of Darbar Sahib. Akal Takht had received a number of petitions against the proposed installation of the granthis since the SGPC had not taken Sikh organisations into confidence before clearing their appointments.

This is for the first time that such confrontation had arisen between the two Sikh Institutions.

Describing the installation as ‘un-democratic’ and a ‘violation’ of the Sikh traditions, the Damdami Taksal, headed by Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa had said that he would boycott the installation ceremony and also oppose the move by all means. He said neither Nihang factions nor other Sikh organisations were taken into confidence before the appointment of the three Sikh priests. The decision to oppose the installation ceremony has been taken by a number of Nihang and Sikh organisations.

This is for the second time that the SGPC had to postpone the installation ceremony which earlier was fixed for August 8 in wake of the opposition by the Sikh organisations.

The names of the new three Sikh high priests who are proposed to be installed are Giani Maan Singh, head granthi Takht Damdamda Sahib, Giani Jaspal Singh of Ludhiana and Giani Gurbax Singh Gulshan or the U.K. The Damdami Taksal chief alleged that except Giani Maan Singh, other two priests had never served in any SGPC run gurdwara.

Certain Sikh scholars had alleged that Giani Gulshan had challenged the authenticity of ‘Rehras Sahib’ in a book authored by him which could not be tolerated.


Action against docs, SHO recommended
Foetus recovery case
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 7
Following a magisterial probe into the recovery of a foetus, the Deputy Commissioner has recommended appropriate action against a doctor couple, three government doctors and an SHO.

Investigation into the incident revealed that in February 2004, a woman employee of Garg Maternity and Nursing Home, Rampura, threw some medical waste on a garbage dump nearby to which a neighbouring shopkeeper objected. Later, he discovered that she had thrown a foetus and reported the matter to the police. A case was registered against Dr Lakshmi Garg and her employee Champa under Sections 315, 318 and 34 of the IPC on the complaint of Mr Ashok Kumar on February 7, 2004.

The foetus was sent to a medical lab in Faridkot. The police investigated the case and stated that the foetus was of a woman named Sabeena and it got aborted due to health reasons. The police then produced a cancellation report in court and the case got cancelled on March 12, 2005. However, objections were raised against it by various quarters, after which its inquiry was handed over to Talwandi Sabo SDM K.K. Yadav. The magisterial probe found lapses on part of the police while carrying out investigation into the case. The SDM came across various discrepancies in the statements of Sabeena and Dr Lakshmi Garg. It was also discovered that Dr Krishan Gopal, husband of Dr Lakshmi, Dr Daleep Singh, Dr BD Gupta and Dr DP Bansal worked in her favour after her arrest on February 7, 2004.

These three government doctors referred her to Patiala, stating that she was suffering from a heart ailment. Interestingly, she reached Faridkot after being referred to Patiala. The probe also revealed that reports of her test conducted in Faridkot and Amritsar were normal. The refer register had a timing of 8.30 pm written on it, while she left Rampura Phul at 11.45 pm. Many other anomalies were found in the record related to the case. Rampura SHO Des Raj was also found guilty of concocting a story of Sabeena’s foetus getting aborted due to health reasons.

The DC, Mr Rahul Bhandari, said Dr Lakshmi Garg had violated the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, and the Bio Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998. The SSP has been asked to register a case against her. He said the PNDT Cell was filing a appeal in the high court regarding the cancellation of the case against her by Rampura Phul court.


CM lays stones of three Rs 126-cr Kharar projects
Banur-Tepla road to be 4-laned, modern bus stand planned

Our Correspondent

Kharar, September 7
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, laid the foundation stones of three development projects here today to be carried out at a cost of Rs 126 crore.

The four-laning of the Banur-Kharar-Tepla road under World Bank project will be done at a cost of Rs 118 crore even as a modern bus stand will be constructed on the national highway here by spending Rs 5 crore. The Randhawa road from Kharar-Bajheri-Garanga will be widened at a cost of Rs 3 crore.

Later, while addressing a massive rally, the Chief Minister expressed concern over the lowering groundwater level and shortage of power in the state. He laid stress on diversification of crops and the need to shift to drip irrigation because of a decline in the levels of groundwater and the river water. He pointed out that the level of river water which was 17.1 MAF in 1970 had now considerably reduced to 14.3 MAF and if this trend continued, Punjab would gradually become barren during next 25 years.

Capt Amarinder Singh said as landholdings in the state were getting smaller farmers should go in for those varieties of crops which gave the maximum yields.

The Chief Minister said Punjab had 5700 MW of power and a blueprint was prepared to augment the power supply to 7200 MW. He said that the empowered committee on mega project had approved 235 mega industrial and housing and township projects worth Rs.83000 crore and by the end of December 2006 these investments would touch Rs.1 lakh crore with an employment potential of 20 lakh jobs.

Later, while addressing mediapersons, Capt Amarinder Singh said eminent IT companies like TCS, Satyam, Infosys and Wipro had tied up with Punjab Government to set up their units at Mohali and 36 more such companies were in the queue but they did not have enough land to provide them. He, however, said Mohali would soon emerge as a leading player in the IT sector at the international level.

He ruled out the possibility of having any poll alliance with the Left parties as he said that Communist votes were not polled in favour of the Congress.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Kharar MLA, said developments works were carried out in every village of the Kharar constituency. Among those who spoke on the occasion were Mr Jagjit Singh, Minister for Local Government, Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan, former minister, and Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, OSD to the Chief Minister.


SGPC chief’s volte-face on song criticised
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 7
The Dal Khalsa has criticised SGPC President Avtar Singh for his volte-face on “Vande Matram” song. Mr Kanwar Pal Singh, general secretary, Dal Khalsa, in a statement issued here today said the SGPC President had made mockery of himself by issuing a self-contradictory statement. He alleged that Mr Avtar Singh backtracked from his stand after Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD, President, scolded him following the BJP pressure.

By succumbing to political pressure, the SGPC President had belittled the significance of the post and dignity of the institution, he alleged.

He said “Vande Mataram” was penned by Bengali revivalist Bankim Chander Chatterjee in his famous writing “Anand Math’ wherein he painted India as the mother goddess to be worshipped by the blood of “Yamas”. It resulted in terrorist-activities in the early 20th century in Bengal which led to the killing of white-coloured Britishers.

Meanwhile, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the Punjab Pradesh Congress Seva Dal (PPCSD) and numerous other educational institutions celebrated the centenary of national song “Vande Matram” here today.

Activists of the BJP led by Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP, saluted the National Song by standing while it played. They also paid tributes to martyrs.

Mr Sidhu said the song ignited the spirit of patriotism and was once a potent weapon against the British rule.

He said the song, which had been an inspiration and a cohesive force among the country men, must be kept above politics.

The National Integration Multipurpose Artists Association, the Freedom Fighters’ Successors Association and the Dharm Suraksha Vikas Parishad organised a function on the occasion. The Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal also held a function.


Clash averted between BJP, SAD (A) activists
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, September 7
The police averted a clash between activists of the BJP and SAD (Amritsar) during a demonstration by the latter to oppose the “Shatabadi Yatra” of Vande Matram, led by Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, MP, and BJP chief, Punjab, at the local Adda Mahilpur today.

The yatra, consisting of about 175 BJP activists, including their leaders, Mr Rajinder Bhandari, general secretary of the state unit, Mr Romesh Sharma and Mr Rajesh Nakra, both members of the state executive, and Mr Vijay Aggarwal, president, district unit, Hoshiarpur, started from the party office for Chandigarh today. After passing through the main bazaars of the town, when the yatra reached near local Adda Mahilpur, about 50 workers of SAD (A), led by their district president, Mr Gurdip Singh, carrying black flags staged a demonstration against the yatra and raised slogans against the BJP and Vande Matram. This act of the SAD (A) activists agitated the BJP leaders and workers.

Meanwhile, some BJP activists came down from their vehicles and tried to move towards the SAD (A) activists, but the police force, which was already deployed there, intervened and averted the clash.


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