P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Undertrial in Prabir kidnap case dies
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 8
Prime accused in the Prabir kidnapping case Kulwant Singh alias Kanta, of Kaleke village in Amritsar district, who was lodged in Jalandhar central jail, died in mysterious circumstances today morning.

Jail authorities claimed his condition deteriorated in the morning and he was being taken to Civil Hospital here for treatment but he died on the way to the hospital.

On the other hand, Kanta’s wife Manjinder Kaur suspected conspiracy behind his death. Blood stains were seen on the mouth of Kanta’s body lying, the mortuary of Civil Hospital here for a post-mortem examination.

Meanwhile, DC A. Venu Prasad told The Tribune that a magisterial inquiry had been ordered to look into preliminary causes of death. The SDM-II would hold the inquiry, he added.

Apart from facing trial for Prabir’s kidnapping, he was also accused of terrorist activities. He was facing trial in a number of criminal cases filed under different Sections of TADA, the NDPS and Arms Act at different places.

Manjinder Kaur told reporters at Civil Hospital he was fit the previous night as he had called her from a mobile phone from inside the jail.

Kanta’s advocate Rajinder Singh Mand, told The Tribune he had called his wife from the mobile phone the previous night and asked her to meet him in a Batala court where he was to be taken on Wednesday for hearing of a case. To a query, said some jail personnel might have provided the mobile to Kanta in the jail.

Mr Mand said a petition would be filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday seeking a CBI inquiry into Kanta’s death and an action against erring jail officials. Kanta along with four others accused of kidnapping Prabir, son of a rice miller, were shifted from Amritsar Central Jail to Jalandhar Central Jail on January 13, this year after an intelligence report of their plan to escape.

Earlier, Kanta along with another accused in Prabir’s kidnapping Sukhjit Singh alias Sukha was arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of police at a ‘naka’ at Bapraur village on the Ambala-Rajpura road on April 1 last year.

The duo were travelling in a Maruti Zen car (PB 02 AN 2295) when they were arrested. Heroin worth Rs 4.50 crore, Rs 5.34 lakh in cash and a revolver with 24 cartridges besides three mobile phones, including one belonging to Prabir, were seized from them.

According to police sources, Sukha and Kanta were involved in smuggling besides forming a gang to carry out extortion and kidnappings. Their links with Uttar Pradesh-based gangs were being established, they added.

Sources said the kidnappers had received a ransom of nearly Rs 1.25 crore from the family of Prabir, who had been kidnapped from the Majitha road in Amritsar on February 7.


Farmers protest land acquisition for Trident
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Barnala, November 8
The heavy deployment of police around Dhaula and Fatehgarh Chhanna villages, besides entry points to the Barnala police district, today foiled the bid of farmers to sow wheat on the land acquired by the government for Trident Group.

The call to sow wheat was given by nine organisations of farmers, including the BKU (Ugrahan).

A clash between the police and farmers was averted at Dhaula village this morning. A police team led by Mr S.K. Asthana, SSP, reached the village after getting information that farmers were holding a big protest. On seeing the police, the farmers raised slogans against the government and the administration for "forcibly” taking away their land. An altercation took place between police personnel and the farmers.

Sensing tension, the police team went back and the protesters staged a dharna.

As many as 25 police parties, comprising personnel drawn from Sangrur, Bathinda and Barnala districts, had been deployed to prevent the protesters from reaching the acquired land. Despite nakas, more than 700 farmers succeeded in reaching Dhaula and Fatehgarh Chhanna to participate in the protest.

Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the BKU (Ugrahan), and Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, state vice-president of the union, led the farmers at Fatehgarh Chhanna and Dhaula, respectively.

Mr Ugrahan said they had won the first phase of the agitation. He demanded the cancellation of the notification regarding the acquisition of 376 acres of land for Trident Group in Sangherra, Fatehgarh Chhanna and Dhaula villages.

200 farmers arrested

The Barnala police this evening arrested about 200 farmers from outside the gurdwara of Fatehgarh Chhanna village for violating the Section 144 of the CrPC. The farmers gathered at the gurdwara after staging a dharna at the Handhiaya bus stand.

The SSP denied that the farmers had been lathicharged before their arrest. He also claimed that the police had not entered the gurdwara and the farmers came out of the gurdwara on their own to court arrest.

On the other hand, sources said the police had resorted to a mild lathicharge but no one was injured.

Mr Jeet Singh Alloarkh, president of the SAD (A), Sangrur, condemned the arrest, saying that the government was falsely implicating the farmers in different cases.


Dharnas banned at disputed site
Our Correspondent

Barnala, November 8
The local court has restrained dharnas at the disputed site meant for expansion of Trident group.

The local court of Justice Ajaib Singh yesterday restrained Bharti Kisan Union leaders from holding dharnas and demonstrations at the proposed site of 376 acres acquired for the expansion of mega projects for the Trident group.

In its order, the court said that “the defendants are restrained from holding any meetings, demonstrations, staging dharnas or shouting slogans within a radius of 200 metres from the boundary wall of the property in dispute, illegally or forcibly and except in due course of law, till November15.”

The court directed this order of restraint to Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president BKU Ekta (Ugrahan), Nath Singh, vice-president, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Sukhdev Singh, general secretary, BKU, Mr Jhanda Singh Jaithuke, senior vice-president.

The order has been passed on the request of Abhishek Industries in the view of the call of the above said persons to allegedly take forcible possession on November 8.

On the other hand a press note issued by the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) says that the proposed programme of sowing wheat will be executed on November 8 despite the large-scale arrest of their leaders.


Kisan unions hold dharna
Seek cancellation of SEZ Act
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 8
On the call given by the nine Kisan organisations, a massive dharna was staged today in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner against the anti-people policies of state government and in support of genuine demands of farmers.

Leaders of different organisations pledged to intensify the on going agitation until their demands were not met. The leaders also condemned anti-farmers policies of the government.

They said the state repression would not deter them to fight peacefully to protect the interests of farmers and labourers.

Mr Prem Singh Bhangu, state president, All-India Kirti Kisan Sabha, criticised the government’s policy of acquiring fertile land of farmers at throwaway prices and handing it over to big industrial houses in order to benefit them. He said the Land Acquisition Act 1894 had lost it relevance. Mr Bhangu said the government was misusing the Act.

The state exchequer had been made to suffer loss to the tune of Rs 1,75,000 crore in the next five years by the establishment of these so called SEZs, he added.

He demanded that the Land Acquisition Act and the SEZ Act 2005 must be scrapped. He said the notification issued at Barnala for acquiring land of three villages and at Amritsar for setting up SEZs on 1120 acre fertile land must be cancelled.

Mr Bhupinder Samber, general secretary, Punjab Kisan Sabha, said farmers in the state were reeling under the heavy debt burden of Rs 25,000 crore and were committing suicides as they were unable to pay back the loans. He blamed the Punjab Government that had badly failed to plead the case of Punjab before the Centre in order to get a relief package on the pattern of Southern state.

Mr Harbhajan Singh Buttar, district president, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, rejected the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat Rs 750 per quintal announced by the Central Government.

He demanded that the recommendations of the National Farmers Commission be implemented who had clearly said the price of wheat be given 50 per cent higher from the price at which it was being sold in the open market.


Going may not be easy for Amarinder Singh
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, November 8
Last time, the journey to the seat of power for Capt Amarinder Singh was short in Punjab. This time he will have to cover a long bumpy road to retain power. He seems to be aware of this fact. And he has resolved to cover 5,800 km to visit all 117 Assembly segments in the next two and a half months in a bus specially prepared for the purpose.

Last time when the SAD-BJP combine was in power and Capt Amarinder Singh defeated it by launching a campaign against SAD leader, Parkash Singh Badal, to gain power in the state. This time the SAD-BJP combine which is employing almost the same methodology used by it last time Capt Amarinder Singh appears to be determined to take it on.

Earlier, the late Giani Zail Singh, who used to take on Akali leaders like Mr Badal and the late Gurcharan Singh Tohra by employing the Akali idiom, in the way Capt Amarinder Singh does now, had undertaken a long journey in the early 70s, across Punjab. Capt Amarinder Singh is the second Chief Minister to do so. Giani Zail Singh got built Guru Gobind Singh Marg which Capt Amarinder Singh will travel on during the five-day, first phase of his journey.

Today was the first day of that journey that has generated a lot of excitement among the Congress rank and file. It started in the form of the Punjab Vikas Yatra from Nangal in Ropar district amid the chanting of holy hymns at a “Sarab Dharam Sabha” at the venue from where the yatra was launched. At the yatra launch function, Capt Amarinder Singh did not “ attack” the Akalis led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Sukhbir Singh.

He made a brief speech reminding people what his government had done to put the state’s economy, especially agriculture, back on the rails and how he had brought investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore to Punjab. Before proceeding to Nangal, Capt Amarinder Singh, paid obeisance at Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib.

“At Anandpur Sahib, I prayed for a victory over the Akalis”, said Capt Amarinder Singh.” We declared a war today on the Akalis led by Mr Badal and we are confident that with the support of the Congress rank and file, we will score a resounding win “, he asserted. Asked about Mr Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh said he was an old fashioned politician living in the 17th century.

Mr Badal had been the Chief Minister thrice but did nothing to put the state on the road to development. “ The Akali chief should spend the rest of his time at an old age home he has built and vacate political space for the new generation of politicians”, said Capt Amarinder Singh. “Sukhbir Singh Badal is also not a forward-looking politician. He has a feudal mindset and no vision or ideas to take the state forward”, he added.

One good development for the Congress today was that all its leaders, including Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, spoke in same tone and tenor. There was no discordant note and no slighting. Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Dullo travelled together in an open jeep from Nangal to Chamkaur Sahib, to remove the impression that there were differences between them.

As the yatra is to highlight “vikas” (development) and seek votes on this plank, the Chief Minister obviously will enumerate what his government had done on the development front in four years and nine months. However, he would have to explain to people the rising prices and unemployment.


100 arrested as Vikas Yatra is launched
Tribune News Service

Nangal, November 8
The much-publicised Punjab Vikas Yatra today proved to be far from a mass-contact programme as those wanting to present their case before the Chief Minister, Mr Amarinder Singh, had to face police wrath. The public, too, was put to inconvenience with a curfew-like situation prevailing in the district.

As many as 100 persons, including farmers, unemployed BEd teachers, employees of various federations, were arrested while they were going to meet the Chief Minister.

The district was almost transformed into a cantonment as there was heavy deployment of police force. Commuters were put to a lot of inconvenience as traffic remained stranded for hours on all link roads leading to Himachal Pradesh.

The situation become tense at 1.30 p.m. when the police resorted to a mild canecharge on agitating farmers and used force against BEd unemployed teachers wanting an audience with the Chief Minister.

Advocates of the district court, Ropar, also abstained from work as a protest against the non-fulfilment of their demand of adding one more subdivision and getting division status to the district as promised by the Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, government and party functionaries made it a point to make an appearance at the show, which is being termed as the launch of the election campaign by the ruling party.

l Nangal gets tehsil status. But no more villages will be added.

l 6,600 posts advertised for unemployed teachers. With regard to the demands of the Zila Bachao Sangharsh Committee, Ropar to get compensation only after the delimitation committee report.

l Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee will prepare the election manifesto after the yatra.


Medical college Principal alleges kidnap bid on son
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 8
The chargesheeted Principal of Medical College, Dr J.S. Dalal, today alleged that two scooter-borne youths made an attempt to kidnap his son, a student of class X, 
when he was on the way to his school today.

However, senior police officers alleged that there were many chinks in the “kidnapping theory” and hence an FIR would be lodged only after investigation.

Shaurav Dalal, younger son of Dr Dalal, while talking to the mediapersons alleged that two youths with knives in hands stopped him on the way to school. However, he managed to escape and reached the Lawrence Road chowki, where he reported the incident.

The SP, Mr Chamal Lal , however, said a preliminary report had been made. However, an FIR would be registered only after investigation by DSP Lakhbir Singh and SHO Jagjit Singh Walia.

Dr Dalal alleged that he and his family were not safe under these circumstances as his rivals in the medical profession wanted to get them eliminated. He alleged that he had been receiving charge-sheets and notices from the state government on flimsy grounds.

He levelled serious charges against Capt Amarinder Singh, his Media Adviser B.I.S. Chahal, Dr Ravinder Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Baba Farid Health University, and his wife Kiranjot Kaur, DRME. However, Mr Chahal said Dr Dalal had cooked up a story to pre-empt action even as he was facing many inquiries, including that of the Vigilance Department. The DRME refused to comment.

Dr Dalal stated that he had suffered a heart attack when he had received a strong-word letter from the Secretary, Medical Education. He alleged that he was being harassed with a view to stopping him from becoming Director, Research and Medical Education. He claimed that the department promotion committee had recommended his name for the post of the DRME and the high court had directed the state government to elevate him to the next post.

Ms Indira Dalal, wife of Dr Dalal, threatened self-immolation in the home town of the Chief Minister if any harm was done to her husband. She also intended to contest election against the Chief Minister during the forthcoming Assembly elections.


College teachers’ protest paralyses work in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 8
In response to the statewide call given by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU), hundreds of private college teachers today held a protest demonstration here today.

The teachers were on mass casual leave, paralysing teaching work in more than 160 non-government colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh. The Principals and non-teaching staff union activists of non-government colleges also expressed their solidarity with the PCCTU by joining the protest.

The PCCTU protest rally and demonstration was staged to press the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Government to honour its poll promises regarding implementation of the pension-gratuity scheme of December 18, 1996, and continuation of the 95 per cent grant-in-aid to private colleges.

Members of the PCCTU impressed upon the Punjab Government to take action on the decisions taken at the high- powered committee meeting of January 25, 2006, chaired by Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Higher Education Minister in her office.

Addressing the rally, Dr Jagwant Singh, general secretary, PCCTU, expressed his deep concern over the dilly-dallying tactics of the authorities concerned in accepting genuine demands of the PCCTU which included lifting of the ban on recruitment, policy pertaining to absorption of staff affected by shifting of plus two classes from colleges to schools, parity for DPEs and librarians, covering unaided posts and unaided colleges under grant-in-aid scheme and doing away with stagnation at the basic pay of Rs 18,300 despite repeated assurances.

Dr Jagwant Singh disclosed that following revised approval of the Punjab Finance Department, two issues -- grant of HRA for rural private college teachers and relaxation in the refresher course condition as decided in the January 25 meeting -- were likely be taken up for approval at the Punjab Cabinet meeting slated for November 17.

He also expressed optimism in the wake of the Punjab Government’s reported decision to accept demands for the pension-gratuity scheme, and lifting of the ban on recruitment in non-government colleges. The decision to accept these demands was conveyed jointly by Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh to PCCTU office-bearers and activists of the principals’ federation.

Addressing private college teachers, Prof HS Walia declared that the PCCTU, as a gesture of goodwill, had decided to defer its earlier scheduled protest action of courting arrest on November 8 which was to be followed by a 72-hour ‘education bandh'.

Sounding a note of caution, Prof Walia made it clear that if the pension-gratuity scheme of 18.12.1996 was not implemented in the forthcoming meeting, the PCCTU members would be constrained to court arrest and resort and launch an indefinite strike.

The rally was also addressed by leaders of the Non-Teaching Employees Union.


The other side: ‘Poultry industry not hit’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 8
Farmers manning broiler contract farms in Punjab, started under mega projects for the poultry industry, have refuted the allegations that the poultry industry in the region had been hit.

Narrating their success stories, the farmers said due to the contract farming, small and marginal poultry farmers had gained substantially in the past few months.

"The profit being pocketed by middlemen has ended. We do not suffer loss in case the poultry industry is in crisis,” said Mr Karamjeet Singh from Sangrur.

Addressing a press conference, the farmers associated with Suguna Poultry Farms Ltd, told mediapersons that the ground reality was that around 100 benefitted marginal farmers had come out of the vicious cycle of the poultry supplier, feed dealer and medicine supplier. Poultry integrators were running their business in Tamil Nadu, Karnatka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orrisa, West Bengal and Gujarat, said the DGM Operations of the Suguna Group, Mr K.Gangatharan, who was also present.

He alleged that the North Zone Broiler Breeders’ Association had, through a letter faxed to their office on October 16, threatened to stop their operations. "With the introduction of integration in the poultry, the big players are feeling threatened as they cannot exploit the poor poultry farmers,” alleged Mr Gangatharan.

Mr Surjeet Singh Sagri, chairman of the North Zone Broiler Breeders Association, dismissed the allegations as baseless. "We have 20,000 farmers with us and we need to worry. They are indulging in mudslinging,” he added.

It would be wrong to attribute the threat perception to us. " It is we who have been given the legal notices,” said Mr Sagri. The Lawyers for Human Rights International (LHRI) has served the legal notice upon the office- bearers of the North Zone Broiler Breeders’ Association, said Mr Arvind Thakur.

It may be mentioned that recently the North Zone Broiler Breeders’ Association had held a rally at Chandigarh and had accused the Punjab and Haryana Governments of bartering away their interests to big companies in the guise of contract farming.

The association had alleged that under the guise of giving employment to poor people these companies were actually changing the system of bonded labour. With money power at their command, they are bent upon controlling the poultry industry to dictate terms to the poultry farmers, who would be forced to abandon their business, it alleged.

Since Punjab was a major area for consumption of chicken, thousands of families were involved directly or indirectly in poultry and allied businesses like hatchery, broiler farming, feed supply, medicine retailing and as commission agents. This business is being targeted by the big companies to make a fast buck.


CM ready to talk to Left parties
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 8
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said he was prepared to talk to Left parties with regard to political adjustment in the coming Assembly elections in Punjab.

Talking to a group of mediapersons, Capt Amarinder Singh, said there should be no division in the votes of secular and democratic forces.

“Our experience of a tie-up with the Left parties in Punjab has not been good”, he added. “ We did not get enough support from activists of the Left parties in the countryside. “Anyhow, I would like to talk to the leaders of these parties to find out how a division in the votes of the secular and democratic forces can be avoided”,Capt Amarinder Singh said.

Talking about the Bahujan Samaj Party, Capt Amarinder Singh, said that party had already named its candidates for 43 Assembly constituencies. In such circumstances, how could there be an understanding with the BSP. There a tie-up with like-minded parties if the demand for seats by these was rational and possible to implement.

Clarifying the position regarding loans to farmers, Capt Amarinder Singh said the entire loan amount will not be waived.” Only bad debt would be waived”, he added. The total amount of loan of banks and commission agents against farmers was around Rs 25,000 crore. He wondered how such a huge amount could be waived. No bank could function by waiving such an amount.

He said his government had calculated Rs 2,500 crore as bad debt against farmers and had sought the help of the Union Government to waive this amount.


‘Bogus’ voting in MC byelection
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 8
The Punjab Bharatiya Janata Party released yet another video CD with visuals of alleged bogus voting in the recently held Patiala Municipal Council byelection. It also carries manhandling of some women by Congress leaders in the presence of civil and police officers, here yesterday.

Terming the evidence on the latest CD, which follows an earlier CD released last week in Chandigarh, as irrefutable, the party demanded the cancellation of byelection and action against those caught on camera indulging in bogus voting and booth-capturing in Patiala.

Both CDs were shown to reporters in Jalandhar today.

Giving details of the VCD released, BJP spokesman Vijay Sharma said the latest CD showed Congress “henchmen” capturing booths. For the first time Congressmen have been seen allegedly stamping, folding and casting bogus votes in the verandah outside a booth in Ward No. 32.

Pointing to the sequence in the CD, Mr Sampla termed the scene on tape as mockery of democracy. “We fail to understand how the state electoral officer, despite our earlier complaints and evidence in the form of CDs submitted to him be a silent spectator to all this. We hope the present CD and open display of muscle power by Congressmen shakes the State Election Commission out of its slumber”, said Mr Sampla.

BJP youth wing leader Vineet Joshi pointed out to the brother of Khadi Board member Lovely and son of Congress Councillor Rama Puri allegedly casting bogus votes in the varandah of the polling booth of Ward No 32 in the CD.


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