P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Huge leap in Punjab’s fiscal state: Singla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
Rejecting the allegations levelled by Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, Finance Minister Surinder Singla has said his party will prove with facts that the state has made unprecedented development during the past four and half year rule of the Congress.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Singla said Punjab had got the award of best state recently on the basis of improvement in its fiscal condition since 2002 when the Congress came to power. The allegation levelled by the Akali leaders that the government bribed to get the award was false, he said.

Mr Singla said during the last year of the SAD-BJP government, the revenue receipts were Rs 8,928.62 crore and it had more than doubled during the past four years. In 2005-06, the receipts were 17,891.09 crore, he added.

The revenue deficit that was Rs 3,781 crore in 2001-02 had come down to Rs 1,389 crore, he added. The debt percentage of revenue receipts, which was Rs 460.39 crore during 2001-02, had come down to Rs 333.62 crore and the growth rate which had come down to 2.18 per cent in 2001-02 had gone up to 5.38 per cent, he added. All these figures indicated vast improvement in state’s over all economic condition, he asserted.

To a question, Mr Singla said it was fact that health and education sectors could not be given due attention, but the reason was empty treasury handed over by the SAD-BJP government to the present government in 2001-02. “It took us three years to put the state’s economy back on rails. Now when the financial condition has improved, we are allocating funds to these sectors, he added.

When asked about a survey, which had projected that the Congress would perform poorly in the coming elections, Mr Singla said he had not seen any such report. “It is all false propaganda being made by Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal”, he added.

Mr Singla informed that the service providers had been re-designated as rural health officers and they would be given benefit of rural service while considering them for admission in the postgraduate medical courses.

He said medicines would only be purchased from the companies having turnover of more than Rs 5 crore and each Deputy Commissioner would be having earmarked fund of Rs 25 lakh at his disposal to carry out any urgent repair works at rural dispensaries.


Row over hike in MSP of paddy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
A fresh controversy has erupted relating to the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy.

A few weeks ago, the Union Government had stated that it had increased the MSP of paddy by Rs 40 per quintal, raising it to Rs 650 per quintal. But now the farmers are made to understand that Rs 40 per quintal has been given as bonus and it will not be the part of the MSP.

While SAD President Parkash Singh Badal described the government’s decision to convert the hike in the MSP into bonus as a cruel joke and a stab in the back of the beleaguered peasantry, Mr Manjit Singh Kadian, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), said it was a cheating on the part of the government.

There would be a net loss of Rs 55 crore to the Punjab Government in the form of various taxes it collected from paddy trade. And as paddy’s floor price, which was earlier pegged by the Centre at Rs 610, had not been increased, next year the government would increase the MSP by considering Rs 610 as base. He said the farmers would be the losers in this regard.

In a statement here today, Mr Badal said the issue had exposed the hollowness of the claims of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who had been wasting hundreds of crores of rupees to publicise his so-called achievements.

Mr Badal reminded the Chief Minister that a massive backlog of Rs 300 crore was already lying unclear because of the non-payment of Rs 20 per quintal, which was promised by the CM as paddy bonus to the farmers of the state before 2002 Assembly elections. He said far from fulfilling any promise, the Amarinder Singh government had snatched all facilities and social welfare schemes implemented by the SAD-BJP government.

The Akali leader also said his party supported farmers’ agitation against the adverse policies of the government. He also condemned the inhuman repression by the police against the farmers protesting against forcible acquisition of their lands.


Pact with Brazil anti-farmer, says Chandumajra
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 12
The SAD (Longowal) president, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, today accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of taking an anti-farmer step by entering into an agreement with the Brazil government to carry out cultivation of sugarcane in that country by Indian farmers.

Mr Chandumajra, addressing a press conference, alleged that Dr Manmohan Singh had signed an agreement with Brazil under which the Indian farmers would cultivate about one lakh hectares in Brazil. This would set a new trend and would make the Indian farmers till someone else’s land instead of tilling their own land.

The SAD leader alleged that the UPA government had also cheated the farmers by converting the Rs 40 hike in MSP of paddy into bonus.

He said the SAD (Longowal) which had decided to contest the Assembly elections as members of a joint front of non-Congress, non-BJP and non-SAD parties, would discuss its election strategy on September 21 in Ludhiana.

Asked whether his party could contest on the symbol of the BSP, he said a proposal to that effect came for discussion within his party’s forum but no decision had been taken so far.

Reacting to the action of the Sikh clergy under which it cancelled the appointments of head granthi made by the SGPC, he said the Sikh clergy should not interfere in such matters.


Airport awaits opening 18 months after completion
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

The main entrance of the Pathankot civil airport
The main entrance of the Pathankot civil airport. — A Tribune photograph

Gurdaspur, September 12
Commercial activity at the Pathankot civil airport has failed to take off even after about 18 months of its completion. The Civil Aviation Ministry has failed to start flights from the airport much to the chagrin of locals.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials said the construction had been completed, and they were waiting for its inauguration.

The work was started in 2001. The apron of the airport has been linked to the runway of the Indian Air Force station. Civil planes would land and take off from the runway of the Air Force and would be parked in the apron constructed by the Airports Authority of India.

The apron can accommodate three Airbus 320 at a time. The lounge can accommodate 110 passengers. It is fully air-conditioned and equipped with all modern facilities.

The airport has been brought up on 23 acres. Till date, Rs 15 crore has been spent on its construction.

The approach roads have been constructed by the Himachal Government as per the MoU.

Officials said the decision regarding the flights to be operated from Pathankot was to be taken by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The Union Minister of State for Industries, Mr Ashwani Kumar, claimed that a study conducted on the project had revealed traffic of just 15 passengers a day from Pathankot. Owing to this only smaller aircraft could be operated from the airport. The flights would start as soon as the ministry procures smaller aircraft.

The BJP MP, Mr Vinod Khanna, has, however, been claiming that the flights have not been started as Congress leaders from the area feel that the credit will go to him.

However, residents of Pathankot and surrounding areas are demanding that the flights be started immediately as this would give fillip of tourism in Dalhouise. Besides, the commercial operations would help the orchid farmers of the area.


Superintendent at DEO’s office killed in mishap
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 12
A Superintendent with the DEO (Elementary) office was killed in an accident while a driver sustained serious injuries here last night.

The Superintendent, Jagtaran Singh, was on his way to fax a report about promotion quota in primary schools in the district to the DPI (Elementary) from the office of the DEO (Elementary) in the Mini-Secretariat here when he met with the mishap.

The accident took place around 12 midnight near Rashoolpur village when Jagtaran and driver Rajinder Singh were on their way from Roorkee Hira to the office of the DEO (Elementary).

The car in which they were travelling was hit by a heavy motor vehicle and it was badly damaged.

Jagtaran was taken to the Civil Hospital here around 4 am, where he succumbed to his injuries. Rajinder was admitted to the Civil Hospital here with serious injuries.

The police registered a case of causing death due to rash and negligent driving.

Staff unions demanded that a criminal case be registered against the DPI (Elementary) for demanding a report late at night when it could be sent the next morning.

Double compensation was demanded for the next of kin of the deceased as he died while performing official duty. DEO (Elementary) Roshan Lal said the fax carrying details about promotion quota was sent to the office of the DPI (Elementary) around 7 pm yesterday.

He added that he received a telephone call from the office of the DPI (Elementary) around 10.30 pm to fax the report again as the fax sent earlier was not clear and the report required certain amendments, following which he asked the Superintendent to send the fax.

Refuting the allegation of directing the Superintendent to fax the report late at night, DPI (Elementary) Jagtar Singh Khatra said he did not direct any employee at his office to get a report late at night.


Museum plan at Chhota Ghalughara gurdwara uncertain
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 12
The museum at the historic gurdwara commemorating the Chhota Ghalughara (massacre) of Sikhs at the hands of Mughals in 1746 is in limbo. The Punjab Government had announced the construction of the museum at the gurdwara and Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Minister for PWD and Education, had announced a grant of Rs 1 crore for the construction.

The museum was planned at the spot as many ancient artefacts, bones of persons massacred and pieces of weapons were recovered from the area around the Tibri cantonment. Keeping in view the importance of place, the government decided to build a museum depicting scenes of the massacre and artefacts recovered from there.

However, the local management committee of the Chhota Ghalughara gurdwara has opposed the bringing up of the museum as it apprehends that the government will take control of the place.

Mr Bajwa when contacted said they were planning a museum at the place as it would have protected the history of an important event. “However, if someone has objection we can spend the planned amount at some other place. We do not want to create any controversy over the issue,” he said.

According to historians more than 10,000 Sikh warriors were massacred by the Mughal armies at this place.

The massacre at the place was carried out on the orders of Yahiya Khan the then Mughal Governor of Punjab. The Mughal empire had weakened and Sikhs took its advantage and resorted to guerrilla warfare. A band of Sikh youths entered Lahore and slew those who had been instrumental in awarding punishments to Sikh captives. Yahiya Khan ordered immediate military action. Jaspat Rai, a brother of the then Diwan of Punjab, Lakhpat Rai, led the offensive against Sikh youth. He was killed in an encounter at Rori Baba Nanak near Lahore.

This led to the beginning of a massive offensive against the Sikhs in April 1846. Yahiya Khan and Lakhpat Rai personally led the offensive. Several skirmishes took place but Sikhs were helpless against artillery. Hundreds of women and children were accompanying them. At last they were surrounded by the Mughal army on the right bank of the Beas, 10 miles south of Gurdaspur.

They were outnumbered and massacred in the areas surrounding the present site of the gurdwara.

The local historians have, however, demanded that a museum should be built at the place. President of the History Society Gurdaspur Raj Kumar said, “History should not be made part of petty politics. Already a large number of important monuments and places in Gurdaspur are in a state of decay. If steps were not taken to preserve them they would be lost.”


Unruly crowd irks Cong leader Digvijay Singh
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 12
Mr Digvijay Singh, senior Congress leader and General Secretary, All India Congress Committee (AICC), faced unruly Congress crowd at local Congress Bhawan at Hall Bazar here today.

He stood watching the indiscipline of the party men while senior Congress leaders were trying to pacify the workers eager to get their photographs clicked with Mr Singh. Eventually, Mr Singh showed his annoyance when he held arms of several workers and asked them to leave.

Later, talking to this correspondent, he said it was unfortunate that national song "Vande Mataram" which inspired generations for decades was dragged into controversy. Taking a dig at Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, he said top Muslim scholar of his time Maulana Abul Kalam Azad used to sing the national song.

Lashing out at “communal parties”, he commented that they were exploiting national and other issues under the garb of religion in order to divide the country.

"The Congress had made many sacrifices for maintaining the unity and integrity of the country and would continue to do so", he added.

He said that his party at the Centre and in the state gave a clean and visionary rule which set the country on the path of development.

The former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh paid obeisance at Harmander Sahib and Durgiana Temple and paid tributes to martyrs at Jallianwala Bagh.


SGPC meeting on granthis’ appointment today
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 12
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee president, Mr Avtar Singh, is reportedly in a dilemma over the unsavoury situation that arose after the rejection of the appointments of three granthis for the Golden Temple by the Sikh clergy, even as the crucial SGPC executive meeting is proposed to be held at Fatehgarh Sahib tomorrow.

The SGPC chief who reached here, one day in advance to consult various Panthic leaders on the appointment of the granthis.

However, it is reliably learnt that the Mr Parkash Singh Badal has warned the SGPC chief against taking any rigid stand against the jathedars, which may boomerang in the forthcoming Assembly elections, slated to be held in February next.

On the other hand, Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, has also convened an emergency meeting here on September 14.

This is for the first time in the history of the SGPC since 1925 that four secretaries had been appointed to run its affairs.

Interestingly, one of the secretaries who was dismissed on the charge of acquiring the job on a fake certificate was also holding the charge of a personal assistant.


Khalsa Raj Party ties up with anti-quota Front
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 12
Khalsa Raj Party headed by Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan and Anti-Reservation Front, Punjab, headed by Davinder Singh Saini has decided to contest the forthcoming assembly elections jointly. They have also decided to forge alliance with like-minded party in the coming elections.

The decision was taken at a meeting held here today. The other issues taken at the meeting include working together for the development of the state.

Both the parties, who have launched 'Punjab Bachao Morcha', said that people from other states should be given work permits but not the right to vote in Punjab as it could harm the interest of Punjab people.

Addressing the meeting, Dr. Jagjit Singh Chohan said the laws framed by the British imperialists should be reviewed as the police mostly register false cases and implicate innocent people in false cases. The courts also pronounce judgment on false evidence.

Instead, there should be open courts (Lokan Di Adalat) to give on-the-spot justice to the people. He also demanded that a Sanskrit and Persian University should be established in Punjab.

Speaking on reservation, he said that if all the people were equal under the constitution of India, then where was the need of reservation. No reservation should be given on the basis of any caste system as it gives a message of inequality which was against the Constitution of India, he added.


SAD workers join Congress
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 12
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) today claimed that a section of workers of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from Tarn Taran district joined the Congress at a ceremony at the Punjab Congress Bhawan.

The Akali workers were welcomed by the PPCC chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo. The workers were led by Mr Sukhbir Singh Shaheed, son of former MLA Gurdeep Singh Shaheed.



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