P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Capt misusing public money: Badal
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, November 14
“If voted back to power, our government will offer special incentives to industrialists keen on establishing manufacturing and trade units in border districts of Punjab,” said Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the SAD, while addressing mediapersons at the residence of a former minister, Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon, here today.

He said today “industrialise or perish" was the mantra for any state to grow and prosper. He added that during the regime of the Congress not even a single industry had been established in Punjab in the past four years. Rather, he said, most of these had moved away to Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Haryana and other states.

Mr Badal said mega-project deals signed by the present Congress regime in which crores had exchanged hands would be reviewed and if these were found against the interests of the state, these would be cancelled and an inquiry ordered.

Mr Badal said the Congress regime in the state, instead of utilising the public's hard-earned money on various developmental schemes, was misusing it on things like the Vikas Yatra just to project their own government, adding that an amount of Rs 130 crore had already been spent from the state exchequer on various media campaigns by the Congress.

Mr Badal said primary responsibilities of the government like basic healthcare and education had been totally ignored.

Terming Capt Amarinder Singh as a Chief Minister of the rich and affluent only, Mr Badal said there was nothing like democracy in Punjab today and the state was reeling under abject autocracy and repression.

He alleged that due to the flawed policies of the Congress, unemployment, crime and drug addiction were ruling the roost in the state today. On the possibility of an electoral alliance with the BSP or any other party, Mr Badal said his party was open to any kind of alliance with like-minded and anti-Congress parties.


CM meets people in villages, breaks bread with farmers
Tribune News Service

Jaito/Lambi, November 14
Political rivalry between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal took a new turn last week with the former criss-crossing dusty lanes of the Akali bastion for the first time during his vikas yatra.

The Tribune talked to people in these constituencies to know their views about these two political heavyweights apparently have overshadowed the parties they represent, especially in this part of the state. Mr Chan Singh of Chandbhan village, who was awestruck with the CM’s road show in Jaito, said: “Captain has given farmers a new lease of life by reviving the cotton crop in the region. While Mr Badal would merely visit rural areas during his stint as CM and did nothing to redress peasants’ woes, ‘Raja’ has hit the road after protecting state’s waters, ensuring good crop and its hassle-free procurement.” the Ujagar Singh, a resident of Matta village, where the CM visited the residence of Bohar Singh, a Dalit, during his Yatra, said: “I have never seen any Chief Minister enter a poor man’s house like this.” He said though Badal too frequented their area when he was in power, but his trips were “restricted to selected few”.

However, as one heads towards the Badal clan’s home turf of Gidderbaha and Lambi, people’s opinion takes a U-turn. Harbinder Singh of Adhnia village said: “Captain can’t be equated with Badal Sahib merely on the basis of a solitary road show. We always find the latter among us in hour of crisis like crop loss.” Maghar Singh of Panjawa village and Nahar Singh of Tappakhera village said: “Sharing meals with peasants for a couple of days won’t change Amarinder’s royal mindset and he just can’t match the simplicity of Badal Sahib who is so down to earth.” Interestingly, farmers like Jaskaran Singh of Bhagu village lauded the Captain for facilitating a bumper cotton crop, but at the same time charged his government with turning a blind eye to development works in their villages.


Rally boosts Cong morale
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 14
From the crowd at a Congress rally here today appeared that Assembly elections in Punjab seem to be headed for a bitter fight.

Confidence on the faces of Congress men said it all. They looked more united. They appeared ready to take on the challenge by the Akalis head-on. Response to the first phase of the “vikas yatra” seems to have done it.

Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, set the tone. In his speech it was clear that his views on the opposition will hold centre stage. That is: “The Akalis are capable of driving away investment from the state besides creating an atmosphere for militancy to raise its head and not carry out any development.” This of course will be interspersed with the projection of work done by his Government.

In his 20-minute speech Mr Amarinder Singh targeted the Badals: “Tell me what harm was caused to Badal during militancy which sprouted after the Anandpur Sahib resolution was propagated? Now he says he will stop all industrial projects the Congress approved during its regime”.

Mr Jagmeet Brar, speaking at the rally said: “So much work has been done that the Chief Minister can even contest from Prakash Singh Badal’s constituency, Lambi, and win from there”. It was not taken as an attack of the fireband leader on the Chief Minister. Rather it was seen as a reflection on the developments taken place in the past few days.

At the rally, huge cut-outs of Ms Sonia Gandhi, the Chief Minister and Mr Dullo welcomed people at the venue. Folk singer, Pal Singh Pal, who rendered a number which said the Chief Minister would have long tenure like a former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu. Hundreds of buses and trucks ferrying in workers from all over the state thronged the city. Such was the crowd that hundreds of trucks were caught in traffic at the Samrala Chowk on the Ambala-Amritsar national highway.

People walked in to the venue carrying flags. MLA’s, in supporters shouted slogans. Mr Harbans Singh of Raikot had come with an application for a tubewell. “I will not be able to make it and will try some other time. Requests from the media for an informal chat with the Chief Minister were turned down “not yet” said his media managers.

Even as the Congress leaders and their minions were busy guessing size of the crowd at the rally venue Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Chief, Shamsher Singh Dullo, admitted after the rally the response was beyond expectation. Developments of the past one week would be conveyed to the high command, he added.


Punjab opposed to Central control
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 14
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia today called for appropriate pricing for groundwater extraction, saying that the commission was examining the issue of levying cess on users of groundwater for non-drinking purposes and commercial use like the bottled water industry, especially in over-exploited areas. This cess could be utilised for developmental purposes and welfare of weaker sections.

Dr Ahluwalia said as an economist, he was of the opinion that it was not rational to allow anybody and everybody to freely extract groundwater without paying an appropriate price.

It indicates that groundwater pricing and its ownership is an issue that the commission is very serious about. It is also an issue on which it has the concurrence of the Ministry for Water Resources.

However, the issue of Central ownership and the implementation of the Model Bill in its present form by enacting the groundwater legislation in the state is a point that Punjab, having 85 per cent of its geographical area under cultivation, is vehemently contending against.

During a presentation at the "National Symposium on Groundwater Governance: Ownership of Groundwater and Pricing", here, Punjab, represented by Director, Water Resources and Environment K.S. Takshi, said water was a state subject as per the Constitution and that it included both surface and the groundwater.

"Vesting of complete powers in a central authority for the regulation of groundwater management, without the concurrence of the state concerned, needs to be reviewed," he said.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Takshi said for a state like Punjab, contributing 50 or 60 per cent to the country’s wheat and 40 per cent to the rice production, the issue of Central control was not acceptable.

Punjab has now reached the stage when it is feeding almost the entire country. Since surface water is limited, agriculture is heavily dependent on the groundwater, which has resulted in its overexploitation. What we need are corrective and suitable measures for its effective management as regulations would only put more stress on the over-stressed farmers, struggling with high inputs and low returns, he said.

Water was the only natural resource in the state. “Water in Punjab is being indirectly carried to other states through foodgrain productivity being achieved by Punjab farmers.

Their interests needed to be kept in view while deciding upon the steps for controlling the over-exploitation of groundwater resources in the notified areas,” he added.

As far as pricing of groundwater for commercial use is concerned, it is likely to be a reality soon because as per Dr Ahluwalia the Kirit Parikh Committee of the Planning Commission was considering the issue.

The committee has submitted an interim report. The final report will be finalised by December and placed for discussion at the National Development Council meeting when it discusses the 11th Plan.


SC status for Rai Sikhs soon?
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, November 14
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured a delegation of Rai Sikhs that met him yesterday that Rai Sikhs would soon be granted the status of Scheduled Caste.

This was stated by Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, while talking to mediapersons here today.

Mr Sodhi led the delegation and said a memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister who instructed Mr Prithvi Raj Chowhan, Minister of State, PMO, to follow it up with the ministry concerned.

The delegation also urged the PM to take steps towards the opening of the Hussainiwala border for trade and transit.

It also demanded that compensation for border farmers having landholdings between the fance and zero ling along the Indo-Pakistan border should be enhanced from Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000.

A special industrial package was also demanded for the border area of Ferozepore.


Inspection scares medical college
10 promoted senior lecturers
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, November 13
The medical college authorities reportedly have promoted 10 medical officers as senior lecturers to save the college from de-recognition as a team of the Medical Council of India (MCI) will inspect the college on November 15-16.

The college is on the verge of de-recognition as 39 per cent posts of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, senior lecture and medical officer have been vacant for past many years and has hit the college.

Senior professors said 28 senior lectures retired this year and same number of teachers were to retire next year. They said the Medical teachers association had given a representation to the government several times, but it did not seem serious about the health services in the state.

However, Dr J.S. Dalal, Principal of the college, said they had sufficient staff in the college. He confirmed the Health authorities had promoted 10 doctors from the PCMS cadre to the post of senior lecturer. He said more appointments were being made. He expressed confidence that the college would not be de-recognised.

According to sources, the college did not have proper infrastructure, equipment and building requires urgent renovation and fails to fulfill norms of the MCI. They said the college could be saved if the government promoted medical officers of the PCMS cadre to senior lecturer on regular basis and implemented 4-9-14 promotion module besides raising the age of retirement to fill the gap till the new promoted doctors get enough experience. They said the government should also withdraw the recruitment of 67 senior doctors from the perview of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PSSC) and go for direct recruitment to save the college.


BKU flays govt for ‘bowing’ before commission agents
Our Correspondent

Abohar, November 14
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) today criticised the Punjab Government, led by Capt Amarinder Singh, for “bowing” before the all-powerful lobby of commission agents by reversing the decision on payments against produce by cheques to the farmers.

The BKU had given a call to the farmers in this subdivision to boycott today’s Ludhiana rally and assemble at the local grain market to express resentment over their exploitation in the purchase of cotton crop.

Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president, Mr Baldev Singh Barkandi, vice-president, Prof Manjit Singh Qadian, general secretary, respectively, of the state unit of the BKU and six district presidents addressed the rally this afternoon.

The BKU top brass, later talking to mediapersons inside the office of the secretary, Market Committee, alleged that Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla, by reversing the decision on payments by cheques, had given weight to the allegations that nexus prevailed among commission agents, corrupt bureaucrats and ruling Congress leaders for siphoning off money for incoming Vidhan Sabha elections.

The commission agents had allegedly been charging 3.5 per cent commission against 2.5 per cent commission prescribed in the rules framed by the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Board and no receipt was given for the excess money charged. Contrary to this, the BJP government in neighbouring Rajasthan had cut down the commission (dami) to 1 per cent only.

The Congress had in 2002 promised to do away with the “middlemen” by giving substantial relief to the farming community but had rolled down even the existing incentives.

A Congress MLA in the neighbourhood had threatened the BKU activists of dire consequences as they “dared” to sit on a dharna outside his palatial house. “The union will take ‘extra care’ of this MLA if he is given party ticket again. It is not the job of the government to acquire agricultural land for transfer to MNCs or industrial houses on subsidised rates. Let the buyers negotiate with the farmers for such deals directly,” Mr Qadian said.

The MSP should be linked with the price index. The state government had failed in putting the case of farmers on MSP for cotton before the Union government. Despite good quality, the Narma cotton in Punjab was paid Rs 100 less than other states.

The BKU demanded that the commission agents not be allowed to charge interest exceeding 9 per cent. The union was strongly opposed to land ceiling as there was no ceiling on industries, mega projects, housing and malls.


Punjab’s economy riddled with paradoxes
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
“Punjabis are the most globalised but Punjab’s economy is the least globalised. This is reflected in the nominal foreign direct investment(FDI) of 0.7 per cent in the state. It has a highly developed agriculture but without much direct linkages with industrial development”, says the report on “ Suicides in Rural Punjab” prepared by the Institute for Development and Communication( IDC) and sponsored by the Punjab State Farmers Commission.

Analysing the crisis of the agrarian transformation and indebtedness-related suicides of farmers and landless farm labour in Punjab, the report says that employment in industry is less than 5 persons per thousand in the state compared to 7 persons in India as a whole. Paradoxes of Punjab’s socio-political economy are very sharp and shocking. Punjab figures among the states with highest per capita income, but has dismal social development which is clearly reflected in highly skewed sex ratio because of the high rate of female foeticide and farmers suicide.

The state has an overall low poverty level but poverty among the dalits is five times higher. Though the state has the highest percentage of Dalit population, it has low access to schools, land and services. The state has highly developed infrastructure but the quality of public service delivery is poor and prohibitively costly. A survey conducted by the Public Affairs Centre places Punjab 11th in the quality of services among 16 major states.

The report says that the planned capital expenditure of the government was Rs 2,375 where as the revenue expenditure is Rs 21,429 crore ( Budget2006-07). It means capital expenditure is only 11 per cent of the revenue expenditure. The most significant fact is the decline in the per capita income of the agricultural sector from Rs 12,375 in 2001-02 to Rs 11,587 in 2003-04. There has been slowdown in the economy and it has the third lowest growth rate among major states. Agriculture has witnessed slowdown as far as its growth is concerned.

Because of declining trend in farmers income, large number of marginal and small farmers have been pushed into the vicious circle of debt. To fulfill their requirements and bridge gap between income and expenditure, farmers have been borrowing mostly from non institutional institutions. In Punjab 65.4 per cent farmer households are indebted and in Andhra Pradesh the number is 82 per cent. Over the years, the indebtedness among farmers has increased and it is because of unproductive expenditure, the need for more capital in agriculture, and the need to spend more on farm operations. Unemployment rate has gone up from 3.10 per cent to 4.03 per cent.

Interestingly, as the far as general suicide trend is concerned, Kerala tops in the country. There number of suicides is 28.9 per lakh population, 22.7 in Karnataka and 18.7 in Tamilnadu. And compared to these states, suicide rate is much lower in Punjab. It is ranked 28th in all-India ranking. As many as 71.43 per cent small, 68.83 per cent semi medium and 48.67 per cent medium and 72.74 large farmers from their respective categories take short term credit from commission agents. That means informal sector advances huge amount of money to the farm sector.


BJP launches poll drive in Majha
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Batala, November 14
The BJP launched its election campaign in the Majha region by organising a political rally here today. The president of the BJP, Mr Rajnath Singh, and SAD president Parkash Singh Badal kicked off the party campaign by addressing the rally in favour of former BJP minister from Batala Jagdish Sahni.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rajnath Singh said he would move a petition before the Election Commission that the forthcoming Assembly elections should be held in the supervision of paramilitary forces.

The SAD-BJP alliance did not expect fair poll under the present circumstances. The ruling Congress government had already exhibited that it would use the official machinery for electioneering.

He alleged that the security situation was worsening in the country under the present UPA government. The repealing of POTA had increased the terrorist incidents in the country.

The price rise had also made life difficult for poor people of the country.

He urged Mr Badal to introduce subsidy for the heavy machine industry of Batala that is suffering due to lack of government support if the alliance was voted to power.

Mr Badal alleged that the Congress rule was detrimental for communal harmony of the country. The present Congress Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was making friends with separatists Jagjit Singh Chauhan and Simrajit Singh Mann. He was conspiring with the leaders to disturb the communal harmony in the state.

Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu challenged the Punjab Chief Minister to face him in an open debate on development. “If he defeats me in an open debate on Punjab, I would resign from active politics,” he said.

The leaders present on the occasion announced that Mr Jagdish Sahni would be the SAD-BJP candidate from Batala. The rally had a moderate attendance.

Mr Avinash Khanna, state president of the BJP, Mr Vinod Pandey, president of the Kisan Cell of the BJP, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Mr Tikshan Sud, Mr Mohan Lal, Mr Satpal Saini, Mr Sucha Singh Langah, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon and Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan attended the rally.


BJP to hold rally on Nov 18
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 14
The SAD-BJP alliance partner in the district unit of the BJP has made up its mind to organise a rally on November 18 in the new grain market here.

Mr Jatinder Kalra, vice-president of the district unit of the party, said this evening the district unit of the BJP was of the view the proposed rally would compel the SAD leadership to think of leaving the Sangrur Assembly seat to the BJP.

The BJP leadership is also of the view that as the BJP’s base in the Sangrur Assembly constituency had increased in the past five years, so its demand to seek the Sangrur Assembly seat from the SAD was just.

Rally will be addressed by Mr Vinod Pandey, national president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha, Ms Jaskaur Meena, a former Union Minister, Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, national secretary of the BJP, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, and Mr Vijay Sampla, president and general secretary, respectively, of the Punjab unit of the BJP as per the leaders of the BJP here today.

Mr Vasudev Arya, district president of the BJP, has asked office-bearers of the district unit of the party to mobilise people for the rally.


Badal, Barnala discuss inclusion of Chandumajra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 14
Alarmed by the encouraging response the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Punjab Congress president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, got during the Vikas Yatra in the countryside, the SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has initiated a move to sort out problems within his own party.

Sources today said that during a closed-door meeting with Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, a senior SAD leader, Mr Badal discussed various problems faced by the party in the Sangrur-Barnala belt, which is otherwise considered a stronghold of the party.

The sources said the issue of Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra figured in detail during the meeting between the two. Mr Badal wanted that Mr Chandumajra should be brought into the SAD fold. Mr Barnala told Mr Badal that he should bring all estranged Akali leaders in to the party fold.

The sources said that Mr Barnala told Mr Badal that without unity in the party, it would be a big challenge in the Assembly elections to take on the Amarinder Singh-Dullo combine. Mr Barnala made his views known with regard to SAD politics in Sangrur district. He sought due share for his camp as far as the allotment of the party ticket in the Sangrur belt was concerned, it is learnt.

The sources said Mr Chandumajra also met Mr Barnala after the letter’s meeting with Mr Badal.


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