P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CM justifies police action at Bhadaur
Tribune New Service

Jalandhar, October 13
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today "justified" the police action at Bhadaur in Sangrur district in which one person was killed following a clash between the police and residents. The clash took place over the issue of demarcation of gurdwara land. He was here to inaugurate Virsa Vihar, a centre for the promotion of Punjabi culture and heritage, near Namdev chowk.

He said the police was implementing the orders of the Supreme Court. The government had already ordered a magisterial probe into the incident and the action, if any, would be taken after the probe.

The inaugural function, organised by a literary body, the Jalandhar Cultural and Literary Society, turned into a political one.

Prof Lakhvir Singh, an organiser of the function, praised the working of the government and called BSP leaders, including Ram Lal Jassi, on the dais to honour them. These leaders joined the Congress today.

The Chief Minister announced a grant of Rs 25 lakh for the centre for the promotion of culture and promised to provide more funds if his government came into power.

The centre has been constructed at a cost of Rs 1.13 crore given by Mr Kartar Singh Duggal, a former MP, from his discretionary funds. However, he was not present at the function.

Talking to mediapersons, the Chief Minister said due representation would be given to new faces during the elections but there was no plan of substituting 25 per cent of its MLAs with new candidates.

"I have never said 25 per cent party tickets will be given to new faces," he clarified.

Regarding the ban on child labour, he said the Social Security Department was working to evolve a rehabilitation package for the children who would be rendered jobless. The rehabilitation of these children would primarily ensure basic education to them in the schools so that they could become ideal citizens.

"If someone employs children below the age of 14, law enforcing agency would take action against the erring employer,” warned the Chief Minister.

Referring to the one-time settlement of agricultural loans, he said the government was working out a proposal to bail out the debt-ridden farmers.


Pvt company has funded Cong media campaign: SAD
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 13
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) general secretary Sukhbir Badal today alleged that a private company had paid Rs 500 crore to finance the Congress media campaign for the forthcoming assembly elections in the state.

This was besides the government money that was being "misused" by the Congress for its own publicity, he alleged.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Badal claimed the money was being routed through an advertising agency with which the company had financial and business interests.

The SAD leader alleged that the Congress was once again trying to create a media hype to mislead people. He apprehended that the party might repeat the practice of 2002 when it influenced a particular TV channel to claim that the Congress would win at least 90 seats.

He criticised the "wastage of public money" by the government for the publicity of the Congress which was against the Election Commission and court directives. The state government was committing the contempt of court, he alleged.

Mr Sukhbir Badal denied the allegations levelled by Dimpy's wife that he was involved in her husband's murder. He said: "Let the Congress, which is orchestrating a campaign against me hand over the case to the CBI".

Indirectly claiming the credit for exposing the Ludhiana City Centre scam, he disclosed that his party would now expose another major scandal in Mohali.

He said that on October 16, his party would organise a " show which will shake the foundations of the Amarinder Singh government".

His party had already sought an appointment with the Prime Minister to bring to his notice the details of the City Centre scandal. He said in case they were not granted time, they would go to court. 


Farmers with loan told to deposit stamp duty,
threaten stir

Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, October 13
The farmers who had taken loans against the Kisan credit cards in the district are facing recoveries allegedly due lack of communication by the concerned revenue officials.

Farmers were encouraged by the government and banks to take loans for agriculture purposes from the banks under the district credit plan. The move was aimed at saving farmers from the private money lenders who charge higher interest rates.

At time of endorsing the loans to farmers, the revenue officials concerned told them that no stamp duty was required for getting loan for agriculture purposes. The farmers got loans from the banks and many of them have even repaid it. Now the Audit Department of the Punjab government has observed that the stamp duty was not collected from the farmers.

Following the directive of the Audit Department the district authorities have issued recovery notices to farmers and directed them to deposit the stamp duty needed for taking loans against kisan credit cards. Farmers are facing recoveries in proportion to the amount of loan taken by them. The recoveries range to thousands and farmers are finding it hard to pay it.

Many are being made to take rounds of the government offices to know the status of recovery notices issued.

Vijay Kumar a farmer of Akamwal village near Hoshiarpur had taken the loan for agriculture purpose on his 24.5 kanal land in November 2004. His land was mortgaged against the loan raised from the Allahabad Bank. He died recently.

His widow has now received a notice from the district authorities. In the notice it has been stated that Vijay Kumar undervalued his land at the time of mortgaging it for raising loan against Kisan Credit card. She has been told to deposit Rs 9000 as stamp duty which was not paid by her husband while he raised the loan for agriculture purpose.

Balbir Singh another farmer of Muradpur village has also received such notice. Talking to The Tribune he alleged that they should have been told at the time of raising loan that they had to deposit stamp duty with the government. However, the recovery notices issued now were a financial as well as physical harassment to them.

Other farmers told that the problem is statewide. All farmers in the state who raised loans against the Kisan credit cards have been directed to deposit stamp duty.

They would launch an agitation against the government if they were harassed in the name of stamp duty, they alleged. The district authorities dealing with the cases said that generally no stamp duty was charged on the loans given for agriculture activities. However, since the Audit Department has raised objections they would have to effect re-coveries from farmers.


Punjab presses for farmers’ relief package
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
The Punjab Government has not given up the hope of getting some development projects and relief for farmers approved from the Centre. A high-level team of Punjab officers led by the Chief Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, yesterday held three rounds of meetings with top officials at the Prime Minister’s Office. It also met the top brass of the Planning Commission and the Union Agriculture Ministry.

The state government is pressing the Centre on the package issue. It is a tough job to convince the officers concerned of the Union Government to get the projects cleared. Senior state government officers have held several meetings with officers at the Centre in the past months on pending issues with regard to the state. It every time more information has been sought from them.

The state government is keen that the Centre should announce a relief package for farmers in the state on the pattern of the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra that was visited by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, a few months ago. In fact, the state government is arguing that the farmers in Punjab deserved a better deal than their counterparts in Maharashtra, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh because they are producing staple foodgrains for the country.

Recently, the Union Government had announced a package worth Rs 17,000 crore for the farmers of 31 districts of Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The state government has sought a relief package of Rs 2,060 crore for farmers. Already, the state government has introduced the one-time settlement scheme to recover loans amounts from defaulter farmers. Because of this reason, Cooperative Banks in the state will suffer a loss of Rs 211.36 crore. The state government wanted that this loss should be compensated by the Union Government. Then there are other components of the relief package for farm sector.

Sources said another meeting with officers at the Prime Minister’s Office would be held on October 18 to finalise the package. The Prime Minister is expected to visit the state next month to announce development projects and the relief package for farmers.

The sources said the authorities had cleared the proposal for setting up an international airport at Halwara and for the expansion of the airport in Chandigarh. However, the Union Council of Ministers has not approved these projects. No allocation of funds was made in the current year’s Budget of the Union Government for both projects.

The project with regard to the widening of the Amritsar-Wagah road has been cleared. 


Lok Pal toothless tiger, says Justice Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 13
The Lok Pal in Punjab is a toothless tiger. It doesn’t enjoy the powers its counterparts do other states like Tamil Nadu said Punjab Lok Pal Justice D.S. Dhaliwal (retd) while interacting with reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on World Mental Health Day here today.

Justice Dhaliwal said the Lok Pal in Tamil Nadu had the entire Vigilance set up under it apart from having powers to conduct raids. He said the Punjab Lok Pal Act came into being in 1995 and since then the key post had remained vacant for six and a half years. He said the post was not filled for over three years after the death of Justice DV Sehgal. Apparently hinting at political intervention in the Lok Pal’s office, he said: “Whenever a Lok Pal has become inconvenient for a government he has been stripped of his charge.” On the status of complaints, he said nearly 400 complaints were pending with the Lok Pal’s office, which also faced an acute staff shortage. “We only have a registrar and a joint registrar. Though the government has sanctioned some posts, these are not sufficient to meet our requirements,” he said. Justice Dhaliwal rued that people were not much aware about the institution established to weed out corruption from public life.

He said people must approach the Lok Pal if they had any grievance relating to misconduct by a “public-man” as defined under the Act. This includes the Chief Minister, ministers, MLAs, Chairmen and members of boards, corporations and government-aided companies.

Earlier, addressing a gathering on World Mental Health Day, he said some institutions working for mentally challenged people were not functioning properly and there were complaints of hefty fee being charged or patients being tortured. He said the authorities concerned should carry out surprise checks to put an end to such malpractices. He said strict action should be initiated against such institutions and their licences should be revoked. “They must understand that they are not moneymaking machines and expected to work for mentally challenged with compassion,” he added. District Sessions Judge K.C. Puri, Dr Varinder Kaushal and Dr Nidhi Gupta also expressed their views.

The seminar was organised by the District Legal Services Authority.


Wedding row: DSGMC’s no to marriage certificate
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 13
The Sikh clergy today decided to summon Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna, President, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, the concerned office bearers of Gurmat Parchar Jatha, bride and bridegroom and others to clarify their position with regard to alleged violation 'Anand Marriage Act' (Sikh wedding), held at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj on September 10.

The marathon meeting , held here, took serious view of the violation of the Maryada of Sikh wedding. As per convention, the bridegroom walks ahead of the bride and circumambulates the Guru Granth Sahib amid recitation of hymns. However, in this case two circumambulations were taken in the traditional way while the bride walked ahead of the bridegroom in the remaining two.

Even as Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had decided not to issue certificate to the Sikh couple who entered into wedlock in alleged 'violation' of Anand Marriage Act at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, New Delhi, the Gurmat Parchar Jatha and family members of the couple are in no mood to succumb to the pressure of Sikh Clergy or Sikh organizations who have declared the marriage 'null and void'.

However, Mr Sarna had already refuted the charges that record was tampered with after granting permission to perform marriage.

Meanwhile, the Sikh high priests have directed the SGPC, the DSGMC, Sikh organizations and other bodies to jointly represent to President and Prime Minister to seek clemency for Prof Devinder Singh Bhullar.


‘Punjabi airline’ connects Amritsar with London
Amrita Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
It's party time for Punjabis in the region with the first-ever Punjabi owned international airline based in Europe all set to connect Punjab with rest of the world. And that too with a complete Punjabi flavour of Punjabi food and Punjabi speaking airhostesses!

This vision of UK-based Harjinder Singh Sidhu who owns the airline-Air Slovakia, which he took over a week ago, will take off with the landing of his first inaugural flight from London to Amritsar tomorrow. His daughter Ratanjeet Sidhu, who is one of the directors of the company, would accompany him.

This story is not just about another airline, it's a rags to riches story about one man and his determination to make it big in foreign land. Harjinder Sidhu left for the UK at the age of 16 from Nabha in Patiala district. A few odd jobs and after a lot of hard work, he bought his first petrol pump. He eventually went on to buy 30 petrol pumps and as they say there was then no looking back.

Talking to TNS his son Raqpal Sidhu, also a director of the airline, stated that his father eventually along with others bought a chartered airline-Monarch Airlines- in 2003. From then onwards his interest in airlines grew. "My father eventually went on to be the general sales agents for Air Slovakia. It was then that he felt that he should have his own airline," he informs.

The aim now, Raqbal informs, is to connect Punjabis all over the world with Punjab. "My father wants to give back to Punjab what he has got from it." Air Slovakia already has two flights operating to Amritsar from Birmingham (UK) and Bergamo (Italy) every Saturday.

Two new flights (Stansted) London-Amritsar and Cologne (Germany)-Amritsar will start tomorrow. The new flights will also operate once a week on Friday.

As of now Air Slovakia has three boeing aircraft. They plan to add another six and thereafter they plan to start flights from Barcelona, Glasgow, Athens, Paris and Amsterdam. "Within the next 18-24 months we will have these operations started," informs Raqbal.

"We are Punjabis and we would like to give back to Punjab what we have got from it," informs Raqbal. The airlines informs Raqbal will cater to the local Punjabi and will not only provide them the cuisine but also the comfort of speaking in their own language," adds Raqbal. Interestingly, the airlines plans to operate only from Amritsar and might have a new name too.

"Everything is in the initial stage and will work out everything with time," states Raqbal.


4 poll observers take charge
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 13
Four election observers, senior officers from other states, have taken over their duties in Punjab. Among other things, the observers will oversee the process of making of photo identity cards in the state.

The allocation of work as per the administrative division is: Ms Anuradha Gupta — Jalandhar; Ms Manisha Nanda — Ferozepore; Ms Sangeeta Gairola — Patiala; and Mr P.C. Kapoor — Faridkot.

The Election Department will publish the penultimate list giving details of voters on October 23. Objections will be invited for the last time before the final electoral rolls are published.


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