P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Manmohan in Ludhiana today
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, will visit Ludhiana tomorrow. His special plane is scheduled to land at the Halwara airbase at around 9 am. From there he will fly in a helicopter to PAU. From PAU, he will be taken to Guru Nanak Stadium. He will be accompanied by the Railways Minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, and senior officers of the Ministry.

At Halwara airbase, he will be received by the Governor, Lt-Gen S.F. Rodrigues, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues. Although the Prime Minister will fly from Halwara to the PAU campus, the local administration has made alternate arrangements also.

The Prime Minister will spend most of his time in the stadium only. He will inaugurate the North East Dedicated Freight Corridor, Amritsar-Haridwar Shatabdi Express and the Chandigarh-Morinda railway line. He will also address a public rally in the stadium.


SAD times stir to coincide with PM’s visit
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
By timing the launch of its agitation from Ludhiana on September 27, the day the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, arrives there, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has set the alarm bells ringing among the top brass of the Punjab Government as well as in the police force and intelligence agencies.

The general secretary of the SAD, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who will lead the first jatha of Akali agitators to Ludhiana on September 27, today declared that his party’s dharna in Ludhiana on that day would signal the start of an "anti-loot" agitation to stop rampant corruption under the regime of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. He declared that the agitation would continue till either a CBI probe was ordered into the Rs 2,100 crore Ludhiana City Centre scam or the Chief Minister was removed. He reiterated his party’s demand for the immediate sack of the Chief Minister to clear the decks for the fair conduct of an independent probe.

The SAD has timed the launch of its agitation with the two-day (September 27 and 28) visit of the Prime Minister to the state. The state government has planned a political rally at Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on September 27. Dr Manmohan Singh and Capt Amarinder Singh, among others, will address that rally.

The SAD strategy is two- pronged. First, to put the ruling party in an embarrassing situation on the issue of the alleged scam and, secondly, to minimise the impact of the Prime Minister's visit to the state. Launching of the agitation by the SAD will naturally attract the attention of the media almost as much as the visit of the Prime Minister.

When questioned in this connection, a senior officer of the Punjab Police confirmed that in wake of the SAD agitation plan, the authorities concerned had drawn up a strategy to deal with all possible eventualities on that day. The venue of the SAD agitation would be at a considerable distance from that of the Prime Minister's proposed rally.

And the Prime Minister's motorcade will also not pass near the venue of the Akali agitation. But the toughest task for the security forces in Ludhiana will be the screening of the crowd arriving for the rally.

The security forces will have to ensure that no Akali supporter sneaks into the rally. And then there are sections of employees, unemployed youth and farmers who are annoyed with the state government and have been creating problems to disrupt the programmes and rallies of the Chief Minister in the past weeks. The police is taking all these points into consideration. Policemen have been deployed in thousands in Ludhiana.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh has alleged that the state government is misusing official machinery to stop people from taking part in the SAD agitation. He said that during his tour of the region in connection with the launch of the agitation, he had come across hundreds of cases where the civil administration had been trying to pressurise the local representatives of the people to dissuade them from going to Ludhiana. 


City Centre: firm was not qualified to bid, says SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 26
A day before the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is scheduled to visit Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today produced documents to claim that Today Homes, the company that was awarded the contract for the City Centre in Ludhiana, was a loss-making firm and was not even qualified to bid for the project.

The general secretary of the SAD and MP from Faridkot, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, demanded that the Prime Minister should order a CBI probe into this and alleged that the company was favoured in the contract.

He presented photo copies of documents at a press conference here which, he claimed, were balance sheets of Today Homes. It had an authorised capital of just Rs 1 lakh when it was awarded the Rs 3,000 crore Ludhiana City Centre project.

“Since the Prime Minister is coming to Ludhiana tomorrow, we demand that the Punjab Chief Minister should be dismissed”, Mr Badal said.

Documents produced at the press conference also showed that Today Homes had accumulated losses of Rs 28.38 lakh in March, 2004. The turnover was just Rs 2.10 crore during that fiscal year. Mr Badal alleged the original tender condition said the company should have a turnover of Rs 100 crore to be eligible to participate in the bidding process.

He said: ‘’We want to know why even internationally reputed construction giants like DLF, Bestech and MGF, with a net worth of over Rs 1 lakh crore, were bypassed in the allotment of the Ludhiana project’’. Describing the company as” totally unqualified for the job”, Mr Badal said: “Amazingly, as per its own balance sheet, the company did not even own the basic infrastructure for construction. It had no machinery or equipment nor did it have any plant for carrying out construction activity,” “The Chief Minister intervened to get the pre-bidding qualifications changed”, he alleged.

“Even today, the Chief Minister is acting more like an advocate of the company rather than a custodian of the public exchequer in Punjab,” said Mr Badal.

He claimed the company earlier existed as Sunder Resorts and Retreats Private Limited and changed its name in January, 2004.

The SAD also issued a handbill, “Amarinder jawaab do” posing queries to the Chief Minister. These included the following: “Why did the CM not stop the construction of City Centre immediately when the scam was unearthed? Why is the CM not sealing the accounts of Today Homes? Why did the CM overrule the 55 objections which were put forth by the Punjab Local Bodies Secretary to safeguard the interest of the government? Why was the construction of the City Centre allowed to start and continue when the plans of the project are still not sanctioned and the new design scheme violates bylaws?”

Separately, when questioned about his party’s policy on land acquisition, Mr Sukhbir Badal said: “We will make the farmer a stake holder in development and give him not just the cost of the land but also compensation for displacement.”

Efforts to contact Today Homes and Infrastructure, New Delhi, for its version on the allegations levelled by Mr Sukhbir Badal failed. A call was placed to its office this evening. The person attending the call said the office had closed for the day and he was not authorised to give the telephone numbers of the residences of the directors or their mobile numbers. He asked this correspondent to call back tomorrow morning to speak to the directors. 


CM, Bajwa thank God for saving them in chopper crash
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Kahnuwan (Gurdaspur), September 26
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PWD and Education Minister Partap Singh Bajwa today organised a ‘Shukrana’ rally to pay obeisance to God for saving them in the helicopter crash during a recent visit of the Chief Minister to Sri Hargobindpur area of the district.

An Akhand Path was organised and ardas was performed to thank God for saving top leadership of ruling party in the state. The Chief Minister also paid obeisance at the Chhota Ghalugara gurdwara.

Congressmen also used the occasion to gain sympathy of audience present at the rally and take advantage of religion for Assembly elections. Religious leaders addressed from the stage and sought support for the Congress in the elections.

Baba Kashmira Singh, head of the Sant Samaj, on the occasion pledged support of all Sant Samaj members of the state to the Congress in the elections. Lauding on the Chief Minister and Mr Partap Singh Bajwa he also promised to open a cancer treatment hospital in Gurdaspur district.

Father Franco, a representative of the Christians of the area, also said their community would support the Congress in the elections. He said the Christians were feeling safe in the state during the rule of the present government.

Mr Tanvir Ahmed, a representative of Ahmadiyya community, also assured support to the Congress.

The Chief Minister speaking on the occasion, said it was the rarest of rare chances, that anyone survives even when a helicopter got entangled in high tension lines. I believe God had saved me for serving the people of the state. It is a good signal for the Congress party for forthcoming elections.

The Congress government will provide jobs to 20,000 youths in coming months. It will also fulfil almost all promises made in its election manifesto, he said.

Mr Partap Singh Bajwa praised Rajputs of Kahnuwan for donating 16 acres area for a modern mandi in the area. He said the government would build a road and a gate in the name of Maharana Pratap at Kahnuwan. He also said he had been saved from crash due to good wishes of the people of his area.

The district administration this time took every care to not repeat the mistake that led to the accident. The helipad this time was made at a proper place in Tibri cantonment of the Army. The Chief Minister visited all other places by car rather than covering small distances in helicopter.

Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president of the PPCC, Chaudhary Jagjit Minister for Local Government, Mr Ashwani Sekri, Parliamentary Secretary from Batala, Mr Raman Bhalla, member of the PSEB and Mr Ashok Sharma MLA, Pathankot, were also present in the rally.


Ticket: Dhindsa admits to differences with BJP 
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 26
Secretary-general, SAD, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa today indirectly admitted that the party was having differences with the state unit of the BJP over the distribution of ticket for the coming Assembly elections.

Mr Dhindsa, who was here today at the opening ceremony of the national boxing championship, while talking to the mediapersons, said state BJP leadership had adopted a stubborn attitude over the number of ticket.

He said though the BJP high command had been categorically made clear that winnability should be the basis of distribution of ticket, the state BJP leadership had been continuing with its stubborn attitude over the number of ticket for its nominees.

He said the views of the state unit of the BJP were not in consonance with those of the central leadership in connection with the distribution of ticket in Punjab. He said there was no quota fixed for the distribution of ticket between SAD and BJP candidates.

Mr Dhindsa disclosed that informal talks with the BSP leadership and the party led by Ms Uma Bharti were going on for reaching a poll alliance for the coming elections.

On Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, he said as per his information Mr Sidhu was not keen on contesting from Patiala. 


Stir in Punjab politics
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, September 26
The events have covered full circle. In the previous Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections, Captain Amarinder Singh went to the electorate on the slogan of corruption and mal administration. This time Mr Parkash Singh Badal wants to go to the electorate on the same slogan. Events that are unfolding seem to be helping Mr Badal. The recent discovery of Ludhiana City Centre scam has come handy for the opponents of Captain Amarinder Singh within his own party and the main opposition. Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Mr Sukhbir Singh, are out to exploit the situation and they are fully gearing up the machinery for the purpose. Unprecedented scenes were witnessed in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha which have been described as a rare phenomenon in the history of a democratic institution. The Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha suspended all the opposition members. They were asked to vacate the House. But they continued to sit in their seats and raised slogans against the Chief Minister and the Local Bodies minister.

The Badals have started a media campaign with caricatures of Captain Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues to highlight the scam. It seems the Badals will go to the polls with the slogan of corruption. The Badals got another handle to embarrass Captain Amarinder Singh when the Ludhiana police beat up students of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Science University at the Annual Kisan Mela of Punjab Agricultural University on September 21, which was inaugurated by the Chief Minister himself. The students were demanding jobs and recognition of the university.

The police went berserk and did not spare even girl students who were beaten and molested. This was condemned by one and all. The Chief Minister first supported the lathi charge and then directed the Deputy Commissioner to hold an enquiry into the same. Now the police has withdrawn the FIR registered against the students and also tendered an apology. This has left a bad taste for the Chief Minister.

Captain Amarinder Singh, after taking over as Chief Minister, state was able to catch hold of Ravi Sidhu, Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission. The Chief Minister also launched the prosecution of Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his family members and former Akali ministers. The matter is now before the Supreme Court.

At present Captain Amarinder Singh seems to be interested in exploiting the degradation of values in Sikh Institutions under the influence of Mr Parkash Singh Badal to woo Sikh voters and a section of Akali dissidents to defeat Mr Badal. In Sikh politics, these days, the only relevant slogan with the opponents of Mr Badal is ‘Oust Badal’ and save the Panth.

Captain Amarinder Singh would like to help all such elements to return to power. With this scenario, the elections will witness a tough contest amongst Akalis and the Congress.

The BJP which was till recently finding itself irrelevant in Punjab politics is trying to cash in on the Ludhiana City Centre scam and the personality of the charismatic Navjot Singh Sidhu. They hope that they will be able to attract Hindu votes in big cities of Punjab by organising dharnas and rallies on these slogans.

Such sharp contests everywhere is sure to bring in irresponsible elements and create a situation where violence could erupt.


ITC funds: Takht action against SAD likely
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 26
The DSGMC president, Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna , has played a master stroke by sending a missive to Jathedars of all five Takhts to know whether accepting party fund or donation from a tobacco company by the SAD was justified as per rehat maryada.

The Akal Takht secretariat has received hundreds of petitions against the SAD, demanding action against Mr Parkash Singh Badal for allegedly violating Sikh maryada.

The Jathedar of Akal Takht is under pressure to take up the matter at the forthcoming meeting of the Sikh clergy.

According to sources, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht, has already started discussing the matter with Sikh intellectuals so that some way could be worked out without “harming” the SAD President, especially at a time when the Assembly elections are round the corner.

Mr Sarna said as per the maryada, the consumption of tobacco was prohibited. He said after the breaking of the news that the SAD had accepted a huge donation from the ITC, a number of queries had started pouring in the office of the DSGMC.

Mr Sarna urged Jathedar Vedanti to clarify his position on the issue. Sikh circles feel that no Jathedar can justify the donation from the ITC and hence they would be left with no option but to initiate action against the SAD.


IG counters Sukhbir’s charges

Bathinda, September 26
Bathinda Zone IG Rajinder Singh today denied allegations levelled against him by SAD MP Sukhbir Singh Badal and termed them as “baseless, motivated and false”.

In a press release issued here today, the IG said there were two cases of attempt to murder in which Mr Badal himself was a principal accused and the cases were at an advanced stage of investigation. He alleged that the SAD MP was attempting to intimidate him and his subordinate officers for stalling the proceedings in these cases. He said due care had been exercised to ensure appropriate respect and dignity of the office of the MP while conducting proceedings in both the cases. 


Akalis distribute CDs of sting operation
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 26
Senior leaders of the Akali Dal today launched a campaign against Congress leaders alleged to be involved in the City Center scam, distributing CDs of the sting operation telecast by the news channel here.

The district president of the Akali Dal, Mr Gursewak Singh, former minister Tara Singh Ladal, during press conference alleged that the scam involved several minister, including the Chief Minister.

“So we have decided to hold dharnas and rallies in the district to highlight the corruption prevailing in the state during the Congress government,” he said. 


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