P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Couple arrested for deserting daughters
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 8
Conveying a stern warning to those trying to get rid of their “unwanted girl child”, the police has arrested a woman who had abandoned her two daughters at the local bus stand a few days back, and her husband. However, the girls are yet to be restored to any of their relatives and they continue to remain in the custody of Sahara, a local NGO.

Sahara chief Vijay Goel said that after intimating the Deputy Commissioner and the Senior Superintendent of Police in this connection, they started looking for the girls’ parents. Their search came to an end at Lehra Mohabbat.

The girls’ mother, Rajni Devi, said she got married to Mahinder Singh, a resident of Mukerian, seven years back. Mahinder was “a drunkard and often used to beat her up.” They had two daughters — Komal and Simpi — from their marriage.

She divorced Mahinder a couple of years back and married Jagmohan Singh, alias Jaggi, of Lehra Mohabbat. She also had an eight-month-old son from her second marriage.

She said: “Jaggi would often tell me to leave the girls somewhere and the other day I decided to desert them at Bathinda bus stand.” While Jaggi was engaged in repair work of cycles, his brothers were vegetable vendors.

Mr Goel said the couple wanted to get rid of the girls. He said the fate of Komal and Simpi would be decided as per the directives of the District Magistrate. Meanwhile, the police has registered a case against the couple under Section 317 of the IPC.


Dengue case reported in Bathinda
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 8
A one-and-a-half-year-old child has tested positive for dengue here. This is the first case of confirmed dengue in Bathinda district.

According to sources, the child, Monu, was brought to the Civil Hospital by his father Ratan Kumar, a migrant labourer, staying at Ganesha Basti, last night. He tested positive via the diagnostic kit and his blood platelet count came out to be 65,000, which was much below the normal. However, his parents didn't get him treated here and instead decided to take him to their native place Darbhanga in Bihar.

Civil Surgeon Dr Maninderjeet Singh said a team of the Health Department was sent to Ganesha Basti this morning. The team located Ratan Kumar's house and found stagnant water inside its neighbouring four-five houses. An anti-mosquito spray was carried out in the locality.

He said another suspected case from Kothe Kameana village, which had been referred to Ludhiana, had tested negative for dengue. He said the MC authorities would carry out fumigation in various localities.


Free insurance for 30 cr BPL persons
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
The Centre is preparing a comprehensive health insurance policy for people living below the poverty line.

Under the scheme, 30 crore persons across the country will get free health insurance and the annual premium of about Rs 3,000 crore will be paid by the government.

Disclosing this here today, Union Minister for Chemicals, Fertilisers and Steel Ram Vilas Paswan said the policy was still under discussion and was likely to be implemented early next year, adding that a broad consensus had already been arrived at on the issue.

Mr Paswan, who was here to inaugurate the Taxila Maha Bodh Vihar to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of thousands of Dalits under the leadership of Dr B.R. Ambedkar embracing Buddhism at Nagpur, said the downtrodden and neglected sections of society would have complete health insurance cover.

The minister announced the setting up of drug banks in each of the over 600 districts across the country.


Brinda Karat flays govt for acquiring land for industry
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 8
Ms Brinda Karat, MP and member of the CPM Politburo alleged corruption was being indulged in by sarpanches and officials concerned in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), 2005, in Hoshiarpur district.

She was addressing a convention of CPM workers at Saila Khurd, 30 Km. from here today.

She gave a clean chit to Mr Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister.

She said he was not responsible for the above said corruption.

Ms Karat said economic condition of farmers and farm labourers was going from bad to worse in Punjab, but the state as well as the Centre had failed in taking effective step to boost their economy.

She condemned the Punjab government for getting farmer’s land at throw away prices for the big business houses.

The CPM will also oppose this move of the government which favoured the rich at the cost of poor farmers.

She also criticised the Central government for not taking any action into the charges levelled by her against a Yoga Guru Swami Ram Dev and the Pepsi and Coca Cola. She said her stand was unchanged on these charges.


NC president Sahota dies in road accident
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, October 8
A pall of gloom descended at Nurmahal when Phumman Ram Sahota, president, Nurmahal Nagar Council, died in a road accident here today.

When the Tribune team visited Nurmahal this morning, Sunil Kumar, an employee of the council and eye witness to the incident, who was following Sahota and one of his friends on his motorcycle, said Sahota was riding on the pillion of a scooter. When the duo reached the Nahla-Uppalan link road, his friend lost control over the scooter and fell on the roadside. Sahota sustained serious injuries in the accident. He was taken to the local Civil Hospital where doctors declared him as brought dead.

Nurmahal MLA Gurbinder Singh Atwal and Communist leader and former Senior Vice-President of the Nagar Council Mrs Sukhwinder Kaur, mourned the death of Sahota. 


Shiv Sena against mercy to Afzal

Amritsar, October 8
Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president of the All-India Hindu Shiv Sena (AIHSS) in a letter to the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, today pleaded that Mohd Afzal Guru should not be shown any mercy as he had attacked the Indian Parliament. — OC


“Sappan Wala Baba” dies of snakebite

Abohar, October 8
Chhinder Singh popularly known “Sappan Wala Baba” died due to snakebite yesterday night at Mahalam village located on the Abohar-Ferozepore road.

According to information, a snake had bitten a young girl yesterday in the neighbouring village. Chhinder Singh caught the snake and brought it to his house. A few reporters of TV channels rushed to his house. During demonstration the snake bit on Chhinder’s ear. Feeling uneasy, he called his brother and prayed for medical help. However, he died after a few minutes. — OC


A fruitful alternative to wheat-paddy cycle
Citrus & agri juicing council shows way
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Tahliwala Jatta (Fazilka), October 8
A silent revolution is sweeping fields of southern Punjab where the Council for Citrus and Agri Juicing in Punjab is enticing farmers to switch over from traditional wheat-paddy cycle to more paying citrus farming.

The Tribune visited a 95-acre farm of Dr Hargobind Singh, which has been taken on lease by the council for citrus fruit cultivation for 12 years under its Comprehensive Citrus Orchard Management Programme. Manager BK Tripathi said: "The orchard is being developed by the council using proven scientific techniques." The farm owner has already constructed two reservoirs over one-acre each for the irrigation of 95-acre farm. The council has 32 disease-free varieties of citrus fruit of which seven would be grown on the farm in equally divided seven sectors. The council's nursery at Jallowal, world's largest citrus nursery, will supply authentic, quality, disease-free, high-yielding varieties of plants to the farm. As ground water is not fit for citrus plantation and canal water supply inadequate, they have opted for drip irrigation. A network of pipeline has been laid on the field for the purpose. A drip irrigation unit has been set up near the reservoirs, which would also filter water before the irrigation of farm. A single person can control irrigation of the field from the unit. The unit also has the facility of fertigation supply of fertilisers to plants. Plantation is being carried on planting beds to avoid stagnation of water around plants during the rainy season. Pits dug up for plantation are being filled up with soil nourishing elements like vermi compost, gypsum, DAP etc. An observatory has also been set up on a hillock to maintain watch and ward across the length and breadth of the huge farm. About 600 saplings of citrus have already been planted and the rest would follow as soon as weather changes. The project has also generated employment opportunities for villagers.

Ecstatic at the deal, Dr Hargobind Singh said: "It's a win-win situation for the farmers. First we will be paid rent for our land and secondly we'll get a fully grown orchard after 12 years. Quality fertilizers, healthy plants and modern techniques are being used to develop the orchard."

Meanwhile, talking about the council's programme, AGM Anshul Pal said the programme saves farmers from risks and offers assured returns, including cash support and sharing of profits. The minimum land required under this programme is 10 acres. He said they were offering two models to the farmers willing to opt for citrus cultivation. In the first option, for the first six years the council will pay sustenance-based on soil quality with guaranteed enhancement at the rate of 2 per cent, while in the remaining six years net profit from the sale of fruits would be shared equally. In the second option, the council will pay sustenance-based on the soil quality with guaranteed enhancement of the rent at the rate of 20 per cent after every three years. He said the developed orchard will be handed back to the farmer after 12 years, giving him a high-value revenue resource for a lifetime. He said till now 28 farmers had given 1,000 acres of their land on lease to the council in southern Punjab, while 22 farmers joined the programme with their 500 acres of land in northern Punjab. He said the farmers only needed to provide reservoir and canal water for the farm apart from a watchman if they go for the first model. He hoped the programme would help establish healthy and economically viable orchards in the state.

The AGM revealed that the Punjab Agri-Juices was setting up two plants for processing citrus fruits to encourage farmers to grow processing varieties of citrus and to protect them from market fluctuations.

The processing plants will have grading, waxing and packing facilities and offer to buy small size/non-table quality fruits from farmers at reasonable prices. They are being set up near Hoshiarpur and at Alamgarh village in Abohar.


Dry weather facilitates paddy procurement in Punjab
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Khanna, October 8
The dynamics of grain procurement have changed in Punjab. The ongoing kharif season is a market that suits farmers. Thanks to the dry weather in the past three weeks and adherence to a schedule on sowing and reaping paddy, the produce of the Punjab farmer is being procured by the government agencies smoothly. The usual fuss of the procurement agencies over the paddy having more moisture content than the permissible limit or the problem of a higher percentage of discoloured grain is not there.

The early sown variety of paddy had started arriving in the mandis in the middle of September, forcing the Union Agriculture Ministry to advance the date of procurement from the scheduled October 1 to September 25. Probably, the government also did not want a repeat of its performance, when during the last wheat crop, private companies had purchased a major share, forcing the government to indulge in the much-criticised import of wheat, said a senior functionary.

For paddy there is no major national-level company that is buying the grain for extracting rice. Just six months ago, major companies like Cargill and ITC had picked up stocks of wheat at a rate higher than the prevailing MSP.

For paddy all this has changed this year. At the mandi here and other places in Ludhiana, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts, scenes of rows upon rows of fans drying the grain are missing. Scenes of agencies rejecting the grain are also missing.

Fauja Singh, a farmer from Sirhind, told The Tribune that this year , it is the reverse of last year. Since most of the grain arriving at the mandis is within the acceptable limits fixed by the Union Government, the produce is being offloaded much faster. It may be mentioned that no crop is being harvested between 7 pm and 10 am this year. The Deputy Commissioners have been asked to ensure this strictly, as harvesting at night time means the grains gets laced with dew that discolours them.

Last year, the Punjab Government had to fight tooth and nail to get the level of specifications lowered and the procuring agencies were asked to accept up to 8 per cent damaged or discoloured paddy and a moisture content of more than 17 per cent. Normally, 3 per cent damage is allowed and less than 17 per cent moisture level is permitted.

Last year, it had rained in the middle of September, and Punjab had pleaded its case. Some of the farmers had to wait for more than a week at the mandis before the specifications could be lowered. This year, the FCI placed advertisements in various newspapers asking millers to refrain from lifting any paddy that did not meet the specifications.

Also no rain in September has meant there was no damage. Mr Harbans Singh Rosha, Chairman of the Market Committee, Khanna, says the weather has been kind and payments are being made quickly to the farmers.

Till yesterday, about 30 per cent of the targeted 109 lakh tonnes of paddy had been procured. About 34. 14 lakh tonnes of paddy has lifted so far. Leading the procurement drive are state agencies.

Pungrain has procured 5.95 lakh tonnes, Markfed 5.64 lakh tonnes, Punsup 7.15 lakh tonnes, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation 3.47 lakh tonnes and Punjab Agro Industries Corporation 3.75 lakh Tonnes. The Food Corporation of India that was late starter has procured the least — 1.45 lakh tonnes. Private millers in the state have procured 6.70 lakh tonnes, most of which was before the government procurement started.


Mother of 2 commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Ropar, October 8
Mamta Rani (25), a mother of two children, today committed suicide by consuming some poisonous substance allegedly following a dowry demand from her in-laws. She was a resident of Phulkhurd and had married five years ago.

The police has registered a case under Section 304-B against the husband and mother-in-law of the deceased in the Sadar police station.


Daughter files complaint against mother

Amritsar, October 8
In a virtual revolt against the family ties, a minor girl filed a complaint against her mother for her forcible marriage as she used to object to her alleged illicit relations.

The C-division police has lodged an FIR under Sections 366-A, 376 and 120-B, IPC, against Pushpa Rani (mother) of Thande village, Ashwani Mahajan of Guru Teg Bahadur Avenue, the alleged paramour of her mother, Gulzar Singh of Bhalapind whom she was forcibly married to and his mother Jasbir Kaur.

In the complaint the girl, who was 15 years of age when she was married in April, 2003, alleged that she was married to Gulzar Singh against her wishes as she used to object to her mother’s alleged illicit relations with Ashwani. She reportedly filed a complaint with the district police chief, Mr S.S. Srivastav, who had ordered an inquiry in this regard. In the inquiry the allegations were reportedly found correct. — OC


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