P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Centre callous towards state farmers’ plight: Badal
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 30
The Union Government has rubbed salt on Punjab farmers’ wounds by not announcing any relief package for them and reiterating its “discriminatory approach” towards the state’s farming community, said former CM and SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal today.

He was addressing a press conference minutes after attending a state-level function of Dhanak Samaj at the local grain market here.

Terming the recent visit of the Prime Minister as a mockery of the state’s people, Mr Badal said the way the PM had announced rehabilitation package for farmers of 31 districts of four states while ignoring Punjab clearly reflected the government’s “negative attitude” towards Punjab’s farmers.

He said the fact that the Prime Minister himself was a Punjabi had rekindled hopes of reprieve among the farmers but his tour had exposed the Congress to the hilt.

He alleged that the PM didn’t want to give anything to Punjab due to “fear of the Congress president”.

He alleged that with Punjab being kept out of the rehabilitation package announced for suicide-prone districts, the Centre’s “anti-Punjab policy” once again came to the fore.

“People of Punjab can never expect any good from the Congress regimes,” he added.

The former chief minister said the state’s farmers had a debt of a whopping Rs 24,000 crore and without Central aid their debt burden could not be reduced.

He also accused the state government of failing to build up pressure on the Centre in this regard.

Mr Badal alleged that the Centre was turning a blind eye towards Punjab despite it being a border state.

He said the Centre had not made any announcement for the state’s industry and had instead extended fiscal concessions to Himachal Pradesh.

Coming clean on his party’s alliance with the BJP, he said there were no differences among the two allies on distribution of tickets for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

On speculations regarding replacement of the SGPC chief, Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, he said he wasn’t irked with the committee president and the SGPC was working fine under him. However, he evaded a direct reply when asked whether Mr Makkar would be the next SGPC president.

Earlier, Mr Badal attended a state-level function of Dhanak Samaj where he flayed the Congress government for “failing on all fronts”.

Making his party’s candidate for Bathinda Assembly seat clear, Mr Badal appealed to the community members to vote for ex-minister Chiranji Lal Garg in the coming elections. Mr D.R. Bagri of Dhanak Samaj was also present on the occasion.


Farmers feel let down again
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 30
During the past week, farmers of Punjab have faced a second big letdown on the issue of a relief package which they have been waiting to receive for a long time from the Union Government.

Yesterday, the Union Cabinet announced a package of about Rs 17,000 crore for distressed farmers of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala. Punjab, where farmers are facing equally bad times and have been committing suicide, failed to make it to the list. And the ignoring of Punjab by the Union Government repeatedly on this issue has caused much heart burning among farmers and political parties.

Earlier, during his visit to Punjab on September 27 and 28, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, had disappointed farmers by not announcing any relief package for them. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had asked a package of Rs 2,060 crore from the Union Government to reduce the loan burden of farmers. The state government has devised its own formula to give relief to the farmers but it has sought money for this purpose from the Centre.

The Punjab Government has never promised to waive the entire loan amount which the government has pegged at Rs 24,000 crore. It includes Rs 12,000 crore of cooperative banks and an equal amount of moneylenders. The state government has been assuring farmers of a relief package of Rs 2,060 crore that includes a one-time settlement of all loans of banks and a moratorium on the interest on bank loans for one year.

Haryana, where small farmers are also in difficulty, has also not been considered for the package. Mr Shamsher Singh Surjewala, a senior Congress and farmers’ leader, has repeatedly asked the Union Government to include Haryana in the list for the relief package.

Punjab and Haryana should be the first to get the attention of the Union Government as far as extending a helping hand to farmers is concerned. All four states which were given the relief package sow, by and large, cash crops. Farmers in those states do not grow staple crops to meet their own requirements. Rice and wheat are supplied in huge quantities to those states from Punjab.

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana grow wheat and rice that is a need of the country. Both states contribute foodgrains to meet 70 per cent of the requirement of the country. Not helping the farmers who have been bailing out the country from the food crisis for the past several years amounts to rubbing salt into their wounds, says Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal, BKU leader.

In fact, various farmers’ organisations have reacted strongly to what they describe as the ditching of Punjab and Haryana farmers when they need help the most.

Mr Rajewal said the anti-farmer attitude of the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, was apparent from his statement that it would not be advisable to waive the entire loan of Rs 24,000 crore of Punjab farmers. Mr Rajewal wondered whether it was right on the part of the Union Government to waive loans totalling Rs 40,000 crore of industrialists and also not to recover of Rs 1,00,000 crore of various commercial banks due from them.

Besides, he asked whether it was right not to recover over Rs 50,000 crore of income tax dues from the rich and famous in the country.

Meanwhile, the SAD has sought an appointment with the Prime Minister to discuss the relief package issue. The exclusion of Punjab farmers from the package was one more proof of the “stepmotherly” treatment given to Punjab by the ruling party, the SAD said in a statement here today.


Few takers for job scheme
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 30
Punjab is the only state in the country where almost half the number of people seeking employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) have opted out.

The NREGA is being implemented only in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab and the latest figures released for the state by the Ministry of Rural Development present an interesting picture. Of the 39,319 persons who sought employment under the NREGA, only 19,059 have actually taken up work.

The blame does not entirely lie with the state government which has not reported shortage of work. It is people who, after having sought employment under the NREGA, have preferred not to take up manual work. The NREGA guidelines stipulate providing at least 100 days of employment in the form of manual work to a rural household. An allowance is to be paid only in case the authorities fail to provide employment after such a demand has been made by those who possess job cards under the NREGA norms.

Rural Development Ministry officials said Punjab had not so far faltered in providing employment but the state had been slow in furnishing data regarding the NREGA. They said a reason for the wide gap between those seeking employment and those actually taking up work in Punjab could be the disinclination to manual work for which minimum wages prevalent in the state were paid. “Many people enrol under the NREGA just in the hope of getting an allowance from the government but they opt out after realising that the programme entails doing manual work,” an official said.

People in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, whose two districts each are covered under the NREGA, seem more keen to avail the opportunity. In Himachal Pradesh, employment has been provided to 37,678 persons against 40,056 who have sought it so far. Statistics from Haryana say that all 27,059 persons who sought employment under the NREGA have taken up work. In Uttaranchal, whose three districts are covered under the NREGA, 20,787 persons have been provided employment of the 21,187 who have sought it so far. The NREGA has evoked a good response in Rajasthan where 8.46 lakh persons have been provided employment of the 8.53 lakh who had sought it in the six districts where the programme is being implemented.


Beating up of farmers: action sought against cops
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 30
The People’s Democratic Front of India( PDFI), the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) and the Milkmen and Dairy Union, Punjab, have urged the Punjab Government to stop acquiring agricultural land and take action against the policemen involved in beating up farmers in Raipur village in Mansa district on September 11.

Addressing a press conference, representatives of the organisations said here today that a team comprising members of these organisations had visited Raipur village to collect facts about what happened on that day.

Mr Sidhupur , Dr Darshan Pal and Dr Sharma warned the government that if action was not taken against the policemen concerned, a protest rally would be held.

Mr Sidhupur said Mr Tara Singh’s land in Raipur village was taken by certain persons through deceit.

The BKU held a peaceful demonstration in the village to get Mr Tara Singh’s land vacated. On September 11, when farmers went to the village to take possession of the land, they were beaten up.


Debt-ridden farmer ends life
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, September 30
Sukhminder Singh (35), a farmer of Khurd village, near here, today committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan.

According to information, the body was found in his house in the morning. The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the CrPC.

The cause of the suicide is said to be a financial crisis. He had taken loans from arhtiyas and to pay off the loans he had sold a major portion of his land. However, the debt still remained.

His wife had divorced him, reportedly due to the financial crunch.


Amarinder wins PM’s confidence
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, September 30
Although the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, did not give any sops to Punjab on his visit to Ludhiana on Wednesday and there was disappointment among businessmen and the industrialists of the state, yet he gave a clear signal to the Congress men of Punjab that Captain Amarinder Singh would lead the Congress campaign in the ensuing elections to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

The Prime Minister while addressing the gathering at Guru Nanak Stadium praised the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh and said Punjab had marched ahead under the leadership of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues during the past four-and-half years. He further said he was confident that Punjab would continue its march in future, too, under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh. He said he saw bright future for Punjab under the stewardship of Captain Amarinder Singh. This assertion by the Prime Minister was sufficient indication to the Congress men that they should be ready to face the electorate in Punjab under his leadership.

Both Captain Amarinder Singh and Punjab Pradesh Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo were vociferous in raising the demands of Punjab while welcoming the Prime Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh talked of the loan waiver for Punjab farmers who are facing financial crisis and Mr Dullo sought package for the industries on the pattern of the package given to hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. Mr Dullo also talked of compensation to terrorist affected families. Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, also raised the issue of extending financial help to Punjab farmers.

The Prime Minister put off the matter by saying that the government had set up group of experts to study the problems of the farmers and the government would take necessary steps after the receipt of report of the expert group.

While dealing with the alleged Ludhiana City Centre scam of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, Captain Amarinder Singh did not show any weakness in defending the deal and maintained that everything was transparent in the deal. He refused to succumb to any pressure nor accepted any responsibility of alleged tax evasion by the today homes company.

The Chief Minister also accepted the challenge of the Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and said: “Jang Shuroo Ho Gayee Hai Aur Aseen Jang Waste Tyar Haan” (The war has started and we are prepared for the same). This indicates that the Chief Minister was not bothered about the propaganda of the Akali Dal on the issue of corruption in the state.

During his to visit to Punjab in 1993 as Finance Minister in the PV Narasimha Rao Cabinet, Dr Manmohan Singh was urged to waive of the loan of Rs 3700 crore, the money which was spent on the paramilitary forces while fighting militancy in Punjab. The plea for waiving the loan was made by assassinated Chief Minister Beant Singh. The Punjab state was just coming out of the trauma of the militancy in the state as the Beant Singh Government was installed in February 1992 after seven years of President’s rule in Punjab.

Dr Manmohan Singh was also questioned persistently at this press conference but he did not relent. His refusal to extend any financial help to Punjab at this hour is not a new thing for the people of Punjab. Moreover, he also does not like to be dubbed as pro-Punjab.

Mr PV Narasimha Rao during his visit to Ludhiana on April 14,1994 while addressing a mammoth gathering at Guru Nanak Stadium announced that the loan of Punjab would be waived.

Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, then Member of Parliament, confronted him with his statement at Ludhiana in Parliament and sought implementation of the same, but he did not make any commitment.

Mr Inder Kumar Gujral was approached by Mr Parkash Singh Badal as Chief Minister for waiving the loan of Rs 3700 crore. Mr Gujral said the loan had been waived and the Akali Dal organised a big ‘thanksgiving’ rally at Jalandhar in the PAP grounds and also named science city as ‘Pushpa Gujral Science City’ in gratitude. But the loan still stands and the present Chief Minister has also taken up the issue with the Prime Minister and other authorities concerned.


Lalu to flag off Garib Rath on Oct 4
Tripti Nath

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 30
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s pro-poor train “Garib Rath” connecting Sahrasa in Bihar with Amritsar is ready for its scheduled inauguration on October 4. The 18-coach fully air-conditioned train, comprising 12 sleeper coaches, four chair cars and two power vans, is all set to leave platform number one of Amritsar station.

Senior engineers have travelled about 1,230 km from Sahrasa to be here to take the rake. The train is likely to be flagged off on its maiden journey from Sahrasa by Lalu Prasad.

The first Garib Rath has a passenger carrying capacity of 1316. This includes 900 passengers in 12 sleeper coaches and 408 passengers in four chair car coaches.

The launch of the train will be another significant milestone in Lalu Prasad's eventful career as Railway Minister as it will fetch him credit from the poorest of the poor in his home state. Lalu’s logic of starting the train was to ensure that a poor man is able to fulfil his dream of travelling in an AC coach.

At a function held in Munabao in Rajasthan early this year to mark the resumption of the Munabao-Khokrapar rail link, Lalu Prasad had said once a Garib Rath was started, a poor man would no longer stand in front of an air-conditioned coach and long to travel in it.

Mr D.A. Anand, Chief Mechanical Engineer, South East Central Railway, told the visiting mediapersons that the RCF undertook manufacture of the rake in July.

Anand said while the Rail Coach Factory had manufactured 14 sleeper coaches, including two spare coaches, the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai had made four chair car coaches. He said each power van made by the RCF, Kapurthala, had also got room to accommodate two physically challenged persons and two attendants.

In sleeper coaches, the width of the sleeper had been reduced by three centimetres to make more room for passengers.

Sources in the Amritsar railway station said they did not know the exact route of the Garib Rath. “It will not pass through Delhi. It will head to its destination via Saharanpur and Moradabad.''

The Amritsar-Sahrasa Garib Rath is one of the four Garib Raths announced in the Railway Budget 2006-07.


Punjab cop Pinky convicted of murder
Tribune News Service

Jagadhri, September 30
The District and Sessions Judge here has held Punjab Police Inspector Gurmeet Singh Pinky guilty of killing a Ludhiana resident Avtar Singh Gola. Five other accused in the case have been acquitted.

The case, which had started in Ludhiana, was shifted to Chandigarh and from there it went to Kurukshetra and finally the judgment was announced at the Jagadhri court today after five years and seven months of the incident.

The District and Sessions Judge, Mr Virender Singh, also issued non- bailable arrest warrant against Pinky for October 9, who was not present in the court at the time of the announcement of the judgment today. The five other accused were present in the court.

The Judge would announce punishment on October 9. Pinky has been held guilty under the Section 302 of the IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act.

Meanwhile, the father of the deceased and complainant in the case, Mr Amrik Singh, today moved an application in the court apprehending that Pinky may flee out of the country and requested the court to issue orders to authorities concerned to stop him from doing so.

Pinky had requested for an exemption from appearance today on medical grounds but the Judge announced the judgment in view of the provisions of the CrPC, said the District Attorney, Mr Sashi Kant Sharma, while talking to The Tribune.

On January 7, 2001, Pinky and five others had entered into an altercation with Avtar Singh Gola (then 21-year-old) outside Pinky’s house in Maya Nagar in Ludhiana.

In the application before the court, Mr Amrik Singh had alleged that Pinky and others were consuming liquor and had blocked the road by parking cars and two-wheelers.

When Avtar Singh Gola and his friend asked for passage, Pinky and others refused them a passage and altercation followed. Later, Pinky with his .38 service revolver shot at Avtar Singh Gola.

In the application, it was also alleged that Ravinder Singh had also fired at Amrik Singh (who too had reached the spot). Gola had died the following day.

The Ludhiana police had registered a case against Pinky, Pawan, Parveen, Ravinder Pal Singh, all Punjab cops, Paramjeet Singh and Jaswant Singh Pannu.

The case had started in a Ludhiana court but later it was shifted to Chandigarh. Again it was transferred to Kurukshetra in Haryana. Once again the case was transferred to he Jagadhri court and the first hearing took place on September 11.

The Judge, Mr Virender Singh, had fixed the date of pronouncement of the judgment for yesterday but four accused in the case — Pinky, Amarjeet, Praveen and Paramjeet — moved an application for exemption from an appearance and the Judge granted it.

“Amarjeet, Praveen, Paramjeet and Pawan have been acquitted of all charges and the punishment for Pinky would be announced on October 9,” informed District Attorney Sharma.

He informed that the warrants for October 9 have been issued against Pinky and he has been directed to remain present in the court on the day.

Meanwhile, Mr Amrik Singh, father of the victim, said, “I had faith in the judiciary and I am thankful to all who helped me in my fight,” said Mr Amrik Singh.


Black flags greet Cong MLA
Our Correspondent

Abohar, September 30
Some residents of Ghuriana village, including Mr Jagmail Singh, Sarpanch, and Mr Uday Singh, district convener, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Sidhpur), yesterday held a black-flag demonstration against Mr Parkash Singh Bhatti, Congress MLA from Balluana constituency.

Mr Bhatti was visiting the village to lay the foundation stone of a small road that would link the village gurdwara with bus stand there.

The police bundled up a person who stood up in the public meeting organised on the occasion and was levelling serious allegations against the MLA.

The protesters were waiting for Mr Bhatti near the Community Hall to express resentment mainly on his reported adamancy on continuing the supply of canal water through 3.25-km-long open watercourse.

The villagers asserted that piped water-supply should be resorted to for which the SAD (B) MP, Mr Zora Singh Mann, had sanctioned Rs 4 lakh from the MP local area development fund recently.

Women had been polluting open water-supply by washing clothes and utensils as the watercourse touched many houses. The piped water-supply scheme would cover only 1.25-km, they claimed.

The protesters alleged that a patwari in the Department of Irrigation had bluffed with the residents to secure thumb impressions in favour of the open watercourse.

Another bone of contention was the water works which have been recently completed at a cost of Rs 52 lakh. Mr Mann had inaugurated the same on September 19 in the presence of former party MLA Gurtej Singh Ghuriana.

Mr Ghuriana claimed that the scheme had been processed on his initiative and efforts made by the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who personally spoke to the NABARD officials for allocating funds.

Mr Bhatti, while terming the inauguration by Mr Mann as illegal, asserted that the Department of Water Supplies and Sanitation accorded formal sanction on January 23, 2003, to his initiative. A fresh inauguration ceremony would be fixed soon, he said.

Mr Jagmail Singh and Mr Uday Singh alleged that Mr Bhatti had got at least 11 residents implicated in false cases in July 2003 and December 2004. Most of them were acquitted later.


Alleging fraud, Batala Trust chief quits
Cong expels him
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 30
In a major jolt to the Congress government, Mr Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal today announced that he was stepping down from the post of Chairman of the Batala Improvement Trust.

Taking prompt action, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has expelled Mr Lodhinangal from the primary membership for six years.

Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Lodhinangal levelled serious allegations against the SDM, the Executive Engineer and senior functionaries of the Improvement Trust who allegedly facilitated transfer of prime land to a former superintendent of the Trust at throwaway prices.

However, Mr Puneet Bhardwaj, SDM, alleged that Mr Lodhinangal had resigned to preempt police action since he was found “guilty of tampering with the official records” that had resulted in booking of senior officials of the Improvement Trust and him (Mr Bhardwaj) a couple of years before.

Mr Bhardwaj claimed that the senior IAS officer, Mr S.S. Rajput, who was appointed as the Inquiry Officer by the state government, had found that Mr Lodhinangal had tampered with the official letter of the Local Government that had permitted him to lodge an FIR against Mr Jagmohan Singh, the then Superintendent of the Improvement Trust, only .

However, Mr Bhardwaj and Mr Rajiv Sekhri (now Xen, Amritsar Improvement Trust) and other officials were given “clean chit” by Mr Rajput.

On the other hand, Mr Lodhinangal claimed that Mr Rajput had indicted the SDM and other officials of the Trust allegedly responsible for the transfer of prime land.

Though Mr Lodhinangal has refused to join any political party in near future yet sources close to him said he would join Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Earlier, Mr Lodhinangal remained close to All India Sikh Students Federation and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar).

It is pertinent to mention here that Mr Lodhinangal had severed his ties with the Shiromani Akali Dal and joined the Congress along with 82 sarpanches and hundreds of supporters in 1999.

Announcing his resignation, Mr Lodhinangal said: “My conscience did not allow me to continue as Chairman in view of the 2100 crore City Centre Scam in Ludhiana and molestation of women veterinary students by the police.”

Mr Lodhinangal said he was disturbed to learn that no action had been taken against the erring police officials after the transfer of Trust land worth crores to superintendent of the Trust.

Giving details of the case, Mr Lodhinangal alleged that the green belt, adjoining the house of Mr Jagmohan measuring 467 yards and worth Rs 6 crore, was transferred at a throwaway price of Rs 2.19 lakh.

He said an FIR, dated June 22, 2004, was registered against the then Trust superintendent, SDM Rajiv Sekhri, and Mr M.S. Kaushal, District Town Planner.

However, Mr Sekhri claimed that he had recommended construction of booths on the prime land and never recommended transfer of the green land to the superintendent.


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