P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Amarinder for separate BPL survey in state
Aditi Tandon

Faridkot, November 11
The Government of India is about to finalise the national policy for ban on drugs. The move has apparently been triggered by the Punjab Government’s request to the Centre in this regard.

Besides, the Punjab Chief Minister has requested the Prime Minister to treat the state independently of others like Orissa and Bihar when deciding upon the below poverty line issue. Punjab has demanded a separate BPL survey depending upon that individual economic condition of states. “A dalit in Punjab cannot be compared with a Dalit in Orissa because the economic status of these states varies. But, that does not mean a Dalit in Punjab is not poor. We have demanded a separate survey so that our poor families also come under the BPL bracket”, said the Chief Minister during his Vikas Yatra in Faridkot today.

About the drug issue, he said Punjab was a flourishing market for drug peddlers because it had high income and hence a greater power to purchase drugs. He had personally written two letters to the Government of India, asking them to push the national policy for ban on drugs so that Punjab could get rid of the high addiction levels among its youths.

Right now, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were out of the policy. Even as drug production continued in these states, Punjab remained their favourite sale point, he added.

“Just because people here can pay for drugs, they are getting addicted to them. We must stop the cycle of demand and supply. At a meeting of the National Development Council, I had emphatically raised this point.”

He also urged the farmers to switch over to high-value crops that could survive on the drip-irrigation system. “If the present trend of sowing paddy and other crops which consume so much groundwater does not stop, the day is not far when Punjab will become a desert”, he said, while reiterating his government’s project to bring 33 per cent of state’s land under the diversification programme.

Of these, 15 per cent would be brought under citrus crops, 10 per cent under cooperative farming and 8 per cent under organic farming.

About the outstanding issue of farmers’ loans, the Chief Minister said serious talks were going on with nationalised banks to help the government handle the bad rural debt of Rs 2,500 crore. Punjab’s total rural borrowing was Rs 25,000 crore, of which only Rs 2,500 crore was bad debt, he claimed. He would soon formalise a policy whereby heavy outstanding interests of farmers would be waived off.


President of Sai Mian Mir Foundation removed
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 11
An emergency meeting of the Sai Mian Mir International Foundation (SMMIF), here yesterday removed Mr Harbhajan Singh Brar, founder President of the Indian chapter and elected Dr Manjit Singh Bhoma the new chief of foundation.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sohal and Mr Harkanwal Korpal have been nominated chairman and general secretary respectively, of the Foundation in the presence of Makhdom Syed Chan Pir Qadri, 19th descendant of Sai Mian Mir Sahib.

Mr Brar was to organise Indo-Pakistan mela in the memory of Sai Mian Mir here tomorrow.

The meeting also seriously viewed alleged ‘anti-and unlawful activities. Patron of the SMMIF has assured all cooperation. He alleged Mr Brar had used the name of Sain Mian Mir indulged in making money.

The new body includes Mr Bhupinder Singh, a PCS officer, Dr Daljit Singh, Principal Khalsa College and Master Malkit Singh as advisers. Mr Amarjit Singh Sohal has been nominated chairman of the body.

Syed Qadri, on a visit to Amritsar to pay obeisance at Harmandar Sahib, alleged all Pakistani nationals who had visited India in December last had got visas “fraudulently” by using the name of the Sain Mian Mir Foundation. He alleged the inquiry conducted by his foundation revealed that certain organisers had siphoned money for getting visas. To a question, Makhdom Syed alleged that Mr Brar had been using the name of the foundation for personal interests.

Mr Brar claimed that Syed Qadri, had no business to interfere in the working of Indian Chapter. He said he would move court against his interference. Mr Brar said actual Chairman of the Sai Mian Darbar was Mr Akram Bittu, a retired judge of the High Court, Lahore who was coming to Amritsar, to attend the Mela here. He said Mr Bittu would tell Indians who was the ‘actual’ head of the Sain Mian Mir Darbar.

However, Syed Qadri said he was the direct descendant of Sain Mian Mir while Mr Bittu was appointed by the Aukaf Board of Pakistan.

Expressing dismay at holding of the festival in India, Syed Qadri said these persons did not follow Mian Mir’s philosophy. He stated that the Sai Mian Mir International Foundation, Pakistan, was an independent organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act, Pakistan, 1860, which had its own management team. He added that “No organisation such as the Sai Mian Mir International Foundation Pakistan, Chapter exists”.


Student shot at over college politics
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 11
In a shocking incident, a college student shot at and injured a self-styled student union leader in broad daylight at the local Khalsa College here today.

The alleged assailant and his accomplice escaped from the college premises after the incident. In spite of a ban on elections to student union bodies in colleges across the state, a BA (III) student, Satnam Singh Satta, had been acting as self-styled president of the college students’ union, which led to discontent among a section of students.

Today afternoon, two of Satnam Singh’s college mates — Yadvinder Singh and Gurupkar Singh, alias Golu Virk — had an altercation with him and the former allegedly shot Satnam in the thigh.

Interestingly, the alleged assailant’s accomplice, Gurupkar Singh, is a former president of the students’ union body of the college.

The college authorities immediately called in the police, following which a case was registered against Gurupkar Singh and Yadvinder Singh under Section 307, IPC, at the Kotwali police station.

Satnam Singh was taken to the Government Rajindra Hospital where doctors attending on him stated his condition to be stable.

Satnam, in his statement recorded to the police at the hospital, confirmed that Yadvinder shot him in the presence of Gurupkar after he was summoned to the college canteen by the alleged assailants.

He added that the incident took place in the presence of around 10 outsiders.

SP (City) Mandeep Singh Sidhu said both accused had also been booked under the Arms Act.

College Principal Harbir Singh could not be contacted in spite of repeated attempts.


PSEB suspends purchase of Chinese coal
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 11
The PSEB has finally suspended the purchase of Chinese coal from export houses for the two thermal plants at Ropar and Lehra Mohabbat. The decision was taken after the coal sample was found substandard in a test conducted at Sriram Test House in New Delhi.

As per the results, the gross calorific value of imported coal was 6,120 much below the minimum acceptance limit of 6,500.

Both thermal plants had subsequently sent all imported coal samples lying with the PSEB to the NTPC for testing the reports of which are awaiting, said a senior functionary of the PSEB.

Besides, the PSEB had also decided to stop the balance payments for the supply of coal to the exporter, he said. This is the first time that the PSEB has taken the issue seriously.

The board had placed order in last November to export companies to supply 7.14 lakh tonnes of coal worth Rs 350 crore for thermal plants. As per the audit report of the Punjab Accountant General, the cost of power generation at Ropar Thermal Plant had increased by 10 paise per unit in the first three months of this calendar year due to the use of imported coal.

Earlier, the PSEB had imposed a fine of Rs 2 crore on the coal supplier companies after coal was found substandard.

Meanwhile, General Manager of the thermal plant at Ropar N.K. Arora confirmed that the supply of imported coal had been stopped and they were awaiting test reports from the NTPC.


Payments to be made direct to farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 11
The Punjab Agriculture Department has effected changes in the rules to make it mandatory to make payment direct to farmers through payee’s account cheques for foodgrains brought by them to grain markets for sale. Earlier, the payment was made through the commission agents concerned.

Direct payment to farmers was one of the significant recommendations of the Farmers Commission. However, this decision has serious political and social implications. Obviously, the commission agents will oppose this decision. In future, they will not advance any money to farmers. Of the total amount of loans availed of by farmers from various official and non-official institutions, about 40 per cent is from commission agents.

As earlier payments were made through them, commission agents used to deduct the amounts they had advanced to farmers from the payments made for the foodgrains brought by them for sale. However, henceforth, as a cheque is to be issued in the name of the farmer concerned, commission agents will not be able to deduct money.

The arrival of paddy in various markets has come to end. However, cotton will continue to arrive for some more weeks in the cotton belt. That means payment for cotton will have to be made direct to farmers if one goes by the notification issued in this regard by the Agriculture Department.

A senior leader of commission agents said farmers would face a lot of problems because of the issuance of this order. He said commission agents would now not advance money to farmers. Further, the government would face the problem of recovering sales tax from the agencies to which farmers would be selling paddy. He said earlier commission agents used to recover sales tax from buyers and deposit it in the government treasury.


No impounding of buses for rally
Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Chandigarh, November 11
For the proposed party rally scheduled to be held on November 14 in Ludhiana, the ruling Congress will make payment for the vehicles to be engaged to transport people from various parts of the state to the rally venue.

Sources said that a decision in this regard had been taken at the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh’s level. He had told all concerned that payment should be made for all vehicles to be engaged for the rally. The Shiromani Akali Dal had paid between Rs 6,000 and Rs 9,000 per bus which it had engaged for the rally held recently in City Beautiful.

At this stage, the ruling party cannot afford to impound buses or force their owners to provide these free of cost to transport people for the Ludhiana rally. Forcing the owners of buses to provide their vehicles without paying the charges could lead to criticism.

The sources said that there were certain Congress leaders who had a big fleet of buses. They would be asked to provide their buses for the rally.” It will be the right time for them to make a contribution to the party by providing their vehicles”, said a senior Congress leader.

The sources said that the ruling party had planned to engage 3,000 buses for the rally. “These will be enough to transport about 1,80,000 persons”, said the Congress leader.


SAD lays claim to Rajpura seat
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, November 11
In a significant statement having far-reaching effect on the SAD-BJP alliance ahead of the February, 2007 Punjab elections, the former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today hinted that SAD might stake a claim to the Rajpura Assembly seat.

Addressing an impromptu rally organised on occasion of the "greh parvesh" of the house of Mr Surjit Singh Garhi, a member of the SGPC, at Fatehpur Garhi village, the SAD supremo asserted that it was not necessary that the party would leave the Rajpura seat to its alliance partner, the BJP, this time also. A senior BJP leader, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, had unsuccessfully contested the 2001 Assembly election from Rajpura seat, being represented by Mr Raj Khurana of the Congress.

Alleging widespread misuse of the official machinery for the "Vikas Yatra" of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Badal alleged that the people were being forced by the bureaucracy to attend the yatra. However, the response to the "Vikas Yatra" showed that the Congress was on the way out, Mr Badal claimed.

Stepping up his tirade against the state government, Mr Badal alleged that the government was bartering away the interests of small farmers by offering huge lands to the big industrial houses in the guise of the mega projects and contract farming.

Predicting a landslide win for SAD-BJP alliance in the wake of the failure of the government on all fronts, Mr Badal ridiculed the royal lineage of Capt Amarinder Singh saying that he was far removed from the common man.

Having a dig at the Chief Minister, SAD general secretary, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, said Capt Amarinder Singh needed to be felicitated for the "devastation" caused to the state and state's economy during the past about five years. All sections of society, including the employees, the traders, the farmer and the students, have been at the receiving end of the police highhandedness during the past five years.

These sections of society would give a befitting reply to the "anti-people" policies of the Punjab Government and the Congress-led UPA government in the February, 2007 poll, the Akali stalwart added.

Prominent among those, who spoke on the occasion included Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, President of the SGPC, Mr Balwinder Singh Saifdipur, SAD general secretary and Mr Jasjeet Singh Bunny, general secretary of the youth wing of SAD, besides Mr Surjit Singh Garhi.


Badal signals Kohli’s candidature
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 11
The SAD Chief and former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, virtually okayed the candidature of the former minister, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, for the Patiala seat for the forthcoming Assembly poll.

Speaking at a rally organised at the Shere Punjab Market here today, Mr Badal said the Congress was trying to divide Sikhs and Hindus on caste lines, a ploy which, he added, would prove to be detrimental to the interests of the Congress in the forthcoming Assembly elections. He said the present Congress regime was responsible for the sacrilege incidents that took place at various religious places in the state during the recent past.

Mr Badal, while admitting that Mr Kohli would be the next SAD candidate from the Patiala Assembly seat, said massive turn out at the rally was a sure indicator that the Chief Minister would face a tough fight during the Assembly elections.

Prominent among those who were present on the occasion were former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh, former SGPC chief K.S Badungar and Akali leaders Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra and Mr Harmail Singh Tohra.

Earlier, Mr Badal attended a function at the residence of SGPC executive member Surjit Singh Garhi at Fatehpur Garh village, near Rajpura. 


Ex-servicemen to get more sops: ex-minister
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 11
Former Union Minister and chairman of the All-India Ex-Servicemen Congress Brig K.P. Singh Deo has thanked UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for partially fulfilling the “one-rank, one-pay” demand of the ex-servicemen by giving certain relaxations to personnel below officer rank (PBOR).

Addressing a gathering of veteran soldiers and their families at the Pensioners’ Bhavan here this afternoon, he said PBORs would considerably benefit from the move. A sum of Rs 462 crore had also been reserved for more concessions to the ex-servicemen, he said.

On a tour with Capt Parveen Davar, secretary, AICC, to mobilise ex-servicemen across the country, he complimented Capt Amarinder Singh for enhancing the grant for gallantry awards. Other states were yet to follow the suit with the exception of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, he said.

He said the Punjab Sainik Board had provided re-employment to over 6,000 personnel, which was a good step. This was in contrast to Tamil Nadu where ex-servicemen corporation was recruiting civilians instead of former soldiers. “We have taken up the mater with the Defence Minister and the Tamil Nadu authorities to rectify this transgression,” he added.

He appealed to the Chief Minister to allow free bus travel to ex-servicemen in the state.

Col H.S. Kahlon, chief coordinator, Atma Raksha Sangh, expressed satisfaction over various steps taken by Capt Amarinder Singh to enhance the prestige of soldiers, whether serving or retired.

Those present on the occasion also urged Mr Deo to take steps for the repatriation of 54 prisoners of war (POWs), believed to be languishing in Pakistani jails since 1971.

Besides lateral transfer of retiring soldiers to paramilitary, police and civil government set-ups, a separate pay commission for the armed forces was also demanded on the occasion.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |