P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Amarinder, Dullo seek package for farmers
Vimal sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president, Shamsher Singh Dullo today urged Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to announce financial package to bail out small and marginal farmers from indebtedness.

Addressing a rally at Guru Nanak stadium here today, he said, while the UPA government under the leadership of Ms Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh had helped Punjab a great deal, a special package and incentives for indebted farmers in the state were needed.

The Chief Minister said, he had already met Dr Manmohan Singh several times to sort out this issue on priority. He said the state government was devising a solution to free farmers from the burden of debt owing to the outstanding loans of cooperative banks and commission agents (arhtias). He urged the Prime Minister to take up this matter with nationalised banks that were under the control of central government.

The Chief Minister tried to use the occasion to clarify the stand of his government on the Ludhiana City Centre in front of the Prime Minister, alleging that the Akalis were blowing the issue out of proportion by levelling frivolous charges to scuttle Asia’s largest and most prestigious project and to divert attention of the people from their misdeeds.

He said he had already dissolved the Ludhiana Improvement Trust and ordered an inquiry by the state vigilance to be probed by an IG-level officer. Any sort of discrepancy in awarding the deal would be sorted out as an officer of Local Government had taken over as administrator of the Trust. “As far as the question of evasion of Income Tax by the Today Homes the company that had been awarded this project was concerned would be looked into by the Income Tax Department separately which was not within our domain”, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister regretted the absence of Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker, Charanjit Singh Attwal and local SAD MP Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, from the function. He said, democratic tradition demanded their presence. He pointed out, when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to visit the state, he along with all his ministers and legislators would receive him. But regrettably the Akalis had broken that tradition.

The Chief Minister also impressed upon the Prime Minister to announce a package of incentives for the border districts of the state to ensure industrial development thereby providing employment potential to our unemployed youth.

Mr Dullo urged the Prime Minister to take up the matter with the Ministry of Defence to increase quota of recruitment of youth from Punjab in the Army. He demanded special package for the families of the terrorist victims at the pattern of 1984 riot victims. He also emphasized the need to revise the definition of BPL to ensure the majority of poorer of the poorest families to avail benefits under this scheme because the stringent norms fixed for BPL did not meet with demographic status of the BPL people in Punjab.


CM failed to get package for farmers: Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today blamed the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for not being able to secure a package for farmers or for the development of industry in the border areas from the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his visit to the state.

A statement issued by Mr Badal said: “After the Prime Minister’s relief package for farmers in Kerala and Vidarbha during his visits to those states, everyone expected him to make a similar announcement here”.

He urged the Prime Minister to make an announcement relating to an economic package for farmers, trade and industry in the state.


Lalu announces AC train with less fare
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
Union Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad Yadav today announced an air-condition train from Amritsar to Sarsa in Bihar for commoners, especially migrant labourers, so that they could travel in AC comfort at a fare as less as Rs 600.

Mr Yadav said Ludhiana would be connected to various sea ports through the eastern corridor of the dedicated freight corridor project, which besides boosting industry would reduce the cost of power generation and help in faster delivery of coal to Punjab.

The train 2054/2053 Amritsar-Hardwar inaugurated today by the Prime Minister will run six days a week, except on Thursday. It will depart from Amritsar at 7 a.m. and reach Hardwar at 1.55 p.m. The same train will return at 2.35 p.m. and reach Amritsar at 10 p.m. It will halt at Jalandhar city, Ludhiana, Ambala Cantt, Saharanpur and Roorkee.

At his jovial best in the brief speech made during the function, he said the “thanda-thanda train” would be a statement of his promise that travelling by rail with best facilities would be possible at a minimum fare.

Mr Yadav said the freight corridors would connect ports to hinterland and mineral-producing areas to the industrial hubs. Optimal route alignments have been mapped out to enable the Railways to reduce transit time.

The eastern corridor spans from Ludhiana to Sonnagar via Ambala, Saharanpur, Khurja and Allahabad. The corridor will be extended to the proposed port in Kolkata. The feeder routes on the existing rail network will be upgraded for trains carrying coal and steel traffic, he said.

The western corridor will be from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai, and will be routed via Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Rewari to Tughlakabad and Dadri. Both these corridors would connect at Khurja. A primary feeder route will be linking Ludhiana to the western corridor via Rewari and Hisar.

Both routes will be equipped with computerised control systems.


A moment of celebration as new train rolls out
Amrita Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
Lush green fields welcomed the train, which chugged on the first rail link connecting Punjab with its capital Chandigarh today since its inception on November 1 1966. Enthusiastic faces dotted the landscape, waving at the new train all through the 44.35-km rail track to Morinda, which was covered in about an hour.

The train, a diesel multiple unit, consisting of eight coaches saw Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Animal Husbandary, Dairy Development, Tourism and Fisheries, Punjab, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA, Kharar, Mr Tejbir Singh, Deputy Commissioner, SAS Nagar (Mohali), and other Railway officials as its first passengers.

Though the new line from Chandigarh to Morinda was inaugurated today by a the Prime minister by a remote control at Ludhiana celebrations were held at railway stations Chandigarh, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Kharar and Morinda railway station. At Chandigarh railway station a small ceremony was held and the proceedings at Ludhiana were directly transmitted through TV screens especially put up for the event. The train, decorated with flowers and buntings left immediately as the Prime Minister inaugurated the rail line.

Talking to TNS, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang said it was a long pending need, which had finally been addressed, “It is a very big achievement and many more trains will eventually come because of this rail track,” Mr Bir Devinder Singh who travelled till Kharar said it was a historical moment, “This train would help the tourists and travellers wanting to go to Anandpur Sahib.”

For the common traveller, however it was a moment for celebration. Beats of ‘dhol’ welcomed the train at Morinda railway station, where a small function was organised. At Mohali and Kharar railway stations sweets were distributed and flowers were showered at the train.

While a few took the opportunity to take a joy ride in the train, others travelled to their destination by train. Talking to TNS, Bhavna Gautam, a housewife, couldn’t stop gushing as to how thrilled she was to be on the train with her son Himanshu. Residents of phase XI, Mohali, they were on their way to her parents home in Morinda. “We are very happy, the fare is one fourth of what I would otherwise spend and its very convenient.”

Talking to TNS Bachan Singh, a farmer, who was travelling with his two grandsons for the joy ride said, “The rail track lies near our village, we had been waiting to see the train and today we cant hold back our tears of joy.”

Though the new line constitutes just the first of a three-phase project directly connecting Chandigarh and Ludhiana, this is eventually expected to serve as a major 300-km passenger and freight corridor all the way to the India-Pakistan border near Amritsar. It will eventually connect other villages of Punjab which, till now, were not directly serviced by the railway network.

A second ordinary class ticket from Chandigarh to SAS Nagar (Mohali) will cost Rs 5, Chd-Kharar- Rs 7, Chd- Morinda- Rs 11, Chd-Rup Nagar-Rs 15, Chd-Anandpur Sahib-Rs 20, Chd-Nangal Dam- Rs 23 and to Churaru Takrala-Rs 27.

The Chandigarh-Ludhiana project has been divided into three parts. The first, the Chandigarh-Morinda section, has been built at a cost of Rs 195 crore. It has 125 bridges of which there are seven major bridges, 98 minor bridges, three road-over-bridges, 17 road-underbridges. It has 11-level crossings that are all manner. This section covers five stations of Chandigarh, Mohali, Kharar, New Morinda and Morinda.

The work on the remaining section of the Morinda-Ludhiana railway line will progress in two phases of Sahnewal-Ludhiana (13.40 km) and New Morinda Sahnewal (54.35 km) sections. 

The train 1 UCN/2UCN at present running between Ambala cantonment and Chandigarh will be extended to run to Nangal Dam. The halts between Chandigarh and Nangal Dam will be at Mohali, Kharar, Morinda, Kurali, Mianpur, Rup Nagar, Ghanauli, Bharat Garh, Kiratpur Sahib and Anandpur Sahib. 1UCN will depart from Ambala cantonment at 7.30 am to reach Nangal Dam at 12 noon, while the return service 2 UCN will leave Nangal Dam at 3 pm to reach Ambala cantonment at 7.35 pm.
The 1CNA/2CNA DMU train at present running between Ambala cantonment and Churaru Takrala via Rajpura-Sirhind will be diverted to run viaAmbala-cantonment-Chandigarh-Morinda-Churaru Takrala. The train will depart from Ambala cantonment at 1.30 pm to reach Churaru Takrala at 6.40 pm, while the return service 2CNA will depart from Churaru Takrala at 6.10 am to reach Ambala cantonment at 11.55 am. Enroute the train will halt at Dhulkot, Lalru, Dhappar, Ghaggar, Chandigarh, Mohali, Kharar, Morinda, Kurali, Mianpur, Rup Nagar, Ghanauli, Bharat Garh, Kiratpur Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, Nangal Dam, Naya Nangal, Raj Mehatpur, Una and Panoh.


Akalis continue stir against City Centre scam
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
Continuing with their tirade against the government over the alleged multicrore scam in connection with the Ludhiana City Centre, the SAD today staged a demonstration in front of the project. The function was presided over by the party general secretary, Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

Despite traffic restrictions imposed by the police in view of the Prime Minister’s visit to the city, Akali workers managed to reach the City Centre. Vehicles had lined up on the Pakhowal road leading to a traffic jam.

Capt Kanwaljit said the countdown for the Congress government had started. He said the fact that so many people had turned up at the rally to voice their protest against the scam only reflected the anger among the masses.

He said the CM had convened a special session of the Assembly to discuss development, but apprehending exposure, he got the Opposition suspended from the Assembly.

He condemned police excesses on girls in Ludhiana. “Any mistake can be forgiven, but not misbehaviour with our sisters and daughters”, he said.

Among those present at the rally included former SGPC president, Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Ludhiana MP, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and former MLA, Amrik Singh Aliwal.


Varsity system to be strengthened: PM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today urged the strengthening of the university system in the country, adding that greater investment from all sources would be made for its expansion. Dr Manmohan Singh was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of the country’s third Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Mohali today.

The Prime Minister said, “We will attract more private capital into our universities while we step up public investment. In a few years, our government wants India to become not only a generator of knowledge but also a source of knowledgeable workers.”

Stating that at present the universities had to deal with very large numbers with little time, space and energy left for doing research. “Consequently, we have slipped into a system wherein research is confined to institutes. There is virtually no organic link between colleges, universities and research institutes. This is unhealthy. Universities are the place where knowledge is living and young students must be given access to the ambience of research,” he said.

Ruing that creative young minds were not opting for careers in basic sciences, Dr Manmohan Singh said science was losing out to more lucrative disciplines even at the school level.

The IISER will be set up on 200 acres in Sector 81 at a cost of Rs 500 crore. Two other such institutes have been announced at Kolkata and Pune.

“Punjab needs to be in the vanguard of knowledge revolution that is sweeping across the country and the world. Let the IISER usher in a new era for the creation of knowledge,” said the Prime Minister.

Stating that there was an urgent need for revitalising and expanding opportunities at every level of the education pyramid, the Prime Minister said, “Our aim is to widen access of education for all and at the same time promote excellence. Even though we are not a rich nation, our higher education system has had rich and proud traditions,” he said.

Appreciating the excellent work being done by Punjab Agricultural University, the Prime Minister recalled the role played by Pratap Singh Kairon and M.S. Randhawa in the state’s development. Calling for a second Green Revolution, the Prime Minister said, “I believe that the application of modern science and technology to agriculture will have a significant impact on the income of farmers and on rural development. Our agriculture economy must become more knowledge based so that we can increase the productivity of our farms and the income of our farmers.”

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, requested the Prime Minister to focus on the state for the setting up of institutes in biotechnology, nanotechnology, besides an IIM and an IIT. “We went through many years of militancy in the state and as a result our school education system suffered a lot. There are schools where not a single student passed last year. We are taking steps to improve school education,” he said, adding that a rural engineering university was being established in the state.

The Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Mr Arjun Singh, the Union Minister of State for Finance, Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, the Union Minister of State for Industrial Policy, Mr Ashwani Kumar, the Secretary, Higher Education, Government of India, Mr Sudeep Banerjee and the Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, also spoke on the occasion. 


Only pep talk, no package
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
Contrary to the expectations of the Punjab Government and Opposition parties, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who showered liberal praise on Punjabis, did not announce any package for the state today. In a way, the Prime Minister has left the state high and dry.

He also did not lay the foundation stone of Halwara international airport. Sources said the project had not been cleared yet by the Union Council of Ministers and the foundation-stone laying ceremony was not included in the Prime Minister’s programme. However, he announced that the airport would be set up. Punjab does not have an airport of international standards. The facilities at Rajasansi, near Amritsar, are inadequate.

Congress MLAs, Ministers and other senior leaders were expecting an industrial package for the border districts of Ferozepure, Amritsar and Gurdaspur on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and other hill states. The Punjab Pradesh Congress president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, raised the issue of package forcefully at the rally addressed in Ludhiana by the Prime Minister this morning.

However, there was no announcement in this regard from the Prime Minister. Referring to the border districts, the Prime Minister said the development of the border areas was required. “The state government is talking to the Union Government in this regard. We will find some solid solution regarding the development of the border areas”, he added.

Sources said that other states on the international border would also line up asking for a package if it was announced for Punjab. That is why the Union Government is hesitant to make any such announcement for the state.

Both Mr Dullo and the Chief Minster, Capt Amarinder Singh, in their speeches before the Prime Minister laid emphasis on the problem of indebtedness of farmers and farm labour in the state. Capt Amarinder Singh said 65 per cent of the farmers in Punjab owned land only up to 4 acres.They were small farmers and unable to sustain their families on such small pieces of land.

Capt Amarinder Singh also referred to the 8 per cent unemployment growth rate, which was very high. Mr Dullo said terrorism ruined Punjab in the 80s and the 90s. “It should be given due attention”. The Congress should follow its policy of standing by poor farmers and the down-trodden sections. He urged the Prime Minister to announce a policy on the advancing of bank loans to landless labour from whom banks asked for guarantee at the time of seeking a loan.

However, there was no announcement of any relief for farmers and landless labour from the Prime Minister at today’s rally. He said the Union Government had set up a committee of experts and it would find a solution. The Punjab Government had sought Rs 2,060 crore from the Union Government as a package for farmers to deal with their problem of indebtedness, if not fully, at least partially. Punjab farmers are under a debt of Rs 24,000 crore.

The Prime Minister gave one hope to the state. He said Punjab would become a major destination of trade for most of the Asian countries once relations with Pakistan improved.


Panel may be set up to fix land price
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
There is a proposal to set up an empowered committee of senior Ministers to determine the value of the land to be acquired for public purposes in Punjab. Sources said the proposal in this connection had been discussed in the light of the recent conclave of the Congress Chief Ministers.

At the conclave, the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, had instructed the Chief Ministers to be extra cautious while acquiring agricultural land. She had directed that fertile land should be avoided and preference given to barren land for setting up various projects. She had also directed the giving of the market price of the land to be acquired for public purposes.

The sources said Punjab was a state where almost 95 per cent of the land was irrigated either through a canal network or tubewells. Except the Kandi area, there was no barren land in other parts of the state.

Because of such a situation Punjab’s case was different from the other states. For the balanced development of all regions in the state, often land had to be acquired for public purposes, including the development of new townships.

“We want that the empowered committee should recommend the price by taking into account the prevailing market price of the land at the place where it is to be acquired.

It is unjustified to offer Rs 10 lakh or Rs 20 lakh to farmers if the market price of their land is Rs 1 crore or more per acre,” said a senior officer. He said once the empowered committee was set up it would become mandatory to pay the price fixed by it.


Sidhu accused of violating protocol
6 BJP leaders injured in lathicharge
Varinder Walia and
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 27
High drama was enacted at the railway station here when Congress and BJP leaders tried to take political mileage at the time of the flagging off of the Amritsar-Hardwar Janshatabdi Express, resulting in a lathicharge that left six BJP leaders injured.

The BJP MP, Mr Navjot Sidhu, who arrived at the station as a special guest, performed the ceremony before the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha could reach the site. The pandit who was to perform the rituals sided with the BJP, much to the chagrin of Congress leaders.

Mr Sidhu broke a coconut and left the venue along with his supporters amid a mild police lathicharge.

The train left at12.08 pm instead of the scheduled time of 10.45 am when the Prime Minister formally flagged off the train through satellite video conferencing from Ludhiana.

As per the record, Mr Vinod N. Mathur, General Manager, Northern Railway, had appreciated the efforts made by Mr Sidhu to introduce the janshatabdi express between Amritsar and Hardwar in March.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Sidhu denied that he had violated protocol by breaking the coconut before the formal flagging off by the Prime Minister. He said public mood had compelled him to break the coconut.

However, Dr Raj Kumar Verka, Parliamentary Secretary, and Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, Chairman of the Improvement Trust, lambasted Mr Sidhu for creating a ruckus along with his supporters.

Mr Sidhu said nobody in the past 59 years had raised a single question regarding Amritsar in Parliament and now the Congress was trying to wrest the initiative taken by him to start the train which had been hanging fire for several years.

On August 20, 2003, more than two dozen workers of the SAD-BJP were injured in a clash between the police and supporters of the then Union Minister of State for External Affairs Vinod Khanna in Gurdaspur as the latter tried to “dedicate” the Rs 46-crore bridge over the Beas before the formal inauguration by the Chief Minister. Like Mr Sidhu, Mr Khanna, too, had claimed that the bridge was constructed through his efforts.


SAD’s alliance with BJP under strain
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Nanakiana Sahib (Sangrur), September 27
SAD-BJP alliance for Punjab Assembly elections seems to be on the verge of a breaking point as secretary-general of the SAD Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa today viewed that allies between the SAD and the BJP over seat sharing had reached stalemate following the statements, given in the past few days by the BJP leaders, including Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, national BJP secretary, and Mr Vijay Sampla, Punjab BJP secretary, that the BJP would contest at least 23 seats as the SAD-BJP alliance partner in the Assembly elections.

To a question, Mr Dhindsa said there was no doubt there was deadlock over seat sharing between the SAD and the BJP for the Assembly elections because after the statements of the BJP leaders, like Mr Grewal and Mr Sampla, holding of further talks with the Punjab BJP leadership was meaningless, so SAD leadership now would talk only to the BJP high command in this regard. He said the SAD had offered the BJP initially15 seats to contest as alliance partner, while it (SAD) had stated then that talks about the remaining seats would be held later.

Mr Dhindsa was here in connection with the bhog of Akhand Path of Guru Granth Sahib, organised by Principal Gurdev Singh here to thank to thank the Almighty after his retirement. Mr Gurdev Singh recently retired as Principal from Guru Teg Bahadur College, Bhawanigarh, but he today joined the SAD. It is stated that he is also in the race for the SAD ticket from Sangrur Assembly constituency as he is a confidant of Mr Dhindsa.

Mr Dhindsa said Mr Arun Jaitley, In charge, Punjab BJP affairs, announced that no leader of the SAD or the BJP would go to the press regarding number of seats to be contested by both parties as alliance partners, as leaders of both parties would decide about the number of seats by holding meetings, but the BJP leaders had not honoured the statement of their own leader. He said the SAD did not want to break the alliance with the BJP. Whether the BJP wants to break the alliance with the SAD, Mr Dhindsa said any reply in this regard could be given only by the BJP. However Mr Dhindsa admitted that in case an alliance between the SAD and the BJP broke then both parties would suffer in Assembly elections.

With regard to the SAD’s Assembly ticket for Sangrur seat, Mr Dhindsa said it was unfortunate that two leaders of the party were touring the constituency in a big way claiming that they would be SAD candidates in the Assembly elections. He said they should submit their claims to the party, after that the party would decide about the candidate. He also said the SAD high command would make efforts to stop both leaders from doing so.


Nabha MC President resigns
Our Correspondent

Nabha, September 27
The tussle between the President of the Municipal Council, Nabha, Mr Pawan Garg, and councillors ended with the resignation of the former here today.

Today was the day of no-confidence motion against him and the meeting for this purpose was held under the chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Mr Garg not only resigned from the post but also withdrew his case from the court.

The Executive Officer of the MC said the proceedings of the meeting would be sent to the High Court and the Punjab Government. He would continue to perform the duties till the new President was elected.

The controversy started on August 21, the day of no-confidence motion against the President when he was refused entry into the MC office. The council has a strength of 21 councillors — 15 of the Congress and six of the Opposition.


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