P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Kisan union on warpath against government
Threatens to boycott purchase agencies
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 18
The Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), led by Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal today held out a threat to stop the sale of wheat to government agencies if the authorities concerned failed to increase its minimum support price (MSP) to Rs 1,050 per quintal from Rs 750 per quintal as announced by the Centre. Not only this, the farmers also threatened to create drought like conditions in Punjab if their demands were not met. They said in the next five years, the world was going to face a severe shortage of foodgrains and it was due to this that the Centre had fixed Rs 750 as MSP of wheat but this MSP of wheat was not sufficient and it should be increased to Rs 1,050 per quintal.

The BKU held out this threat after staging a dharna in front of Sewa Singh Thikhriwala statue to lodge a protest against the indifferent attitude of the state government.

Mr Rajewal alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh had promised that when the Congress would come to power it would give Rs 30 per quintal as bonus on the paddy crop produced and procured in 2001. But after the Congress came to power, the Chief Minister failed to fulfil his promise and made lakhs of farmers to suffer losses on this account. He added that Capt Amarinder Singh had also failed to waive off the loan which was advanced to the farmers in the form of fertilisers by cooperative societies.

He said if Capt Amarinder Singh did not fulfil these promises, then the farmers would oppose his "Vikas Yatra".

Mr Rajewal said Capt Amarinder Singh should explain when the state government could shell out crores of rupees to provide subsidies and tax concessions to big industrial houses then why it had failed to arrange money to give concessions to the farmers.

Mr Gulzar Singh Ghanaur, Treasurer, BKU, alleged that the state government had been harassing the sugarcane growers by not fixing its MSP so far in spite of the fact that the crushing of sugarcane had started in the sugar mills and private mill owners had started purchasing sugarcane at the rate of Rs 185 per quintal. He said BKU wanted that the MSP of sugarcane should be fixed at Rs 170 by the state government.

The farmers also demanded that the state government should take effective steps to check the menace of stray cattle, increase the supply of canal water, provide uninterrupted power supply for wheat and potato cultivation and generate employment opportunities for youths.


Bhawanigarh-Gobindgarh road to be widened in 18 months
Our Correspondent

Nabha, November 18
The Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, was on a foundation stone laying spree today. He visited the town to lay the foundation stone of a project to widen the Bhawanigarh-Nabha-Gobindgarh road, the newly constructed Rohti Bridge and a railway overbridge at crossing linking Nabha and Dhuri.

Addressing mediapersons, he said the work of widening the state highway 12 A had been assigned to Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) on BOT basis. He said TCIL had promised to complete the work within 18 months and it would itself maintain the road for 17 months. He said 36,000 km of link roads and 75,000 km of state highways had already been laid and work on 29 railway overbridges was in progress.

In reply to a query about the acquisition of land he said the land would only be acquired through negotiation and this method would also raise the price of land. He told that nothing could be done about the land already acquired by the industrial houses.

Answering another question about the Co-operative Sugar Mills, he said except for three, all other sugar mills were running into losses and in order to save these mills the capacity should be enhanced and these should be allowed to work as distilleries, otherwise these would not be able to run for more than one or two years.

He said crop rotation was the only way to save Punjab from becoming a desert in the next 25 years. He admitted that the prices of food items were rising and said the government was importing pulses and other grains to control this rise. When asked about the distribution of party tickets in the coming elections, he said a decision in this regard would be taken by PPCC President.

Later, he addressed a rally organised by the local MLA, Kaka Randip Singh, at a Hira Palace.


Amarinder lays stone for Nawanshahr bypass
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, November 18
Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, inaugurated the Rahon-Machhiwara bridge across the Sutlej, near Rahon, today. He also laid the foundation stone of the Nawanshahr bypass to be constructed at a cost of Rs.100.80 crore.

The CM said the Rahon-Machhiwara bridge was constructed at a cost of Rs33 crore. It would shorten the distance to New Delhi via Khanna-Samrala by about 65 km and would boost development in the area. Construction work at the 19 km-long and 50-feet wide Nawanshahr bypass would be started within a month. About 228 acres of land would be acquired and farmers paid as per the market rate.

Visibly elated at the overwhelming public response to the first phase of his Vikas Yatra, Capt Amarinder Singh, talking to mediapersons, said the next phase of the yatra’ would be from November 22 in the Majha region. It would reach all Assembly segments covering 5,800 km of road journey before the next Assembly poll.

He said Chandigarh belonged to Punjab as it was set up by the late Chief Minister Partap Singh Kairon. Haryana would have to set up its own capital on the pattern of Himachal Pardesh. He also reiterated that Punjab had no surplus water for neighbouring states. The water in Punjab rivers as well as underground water table had consistently been depleting. Hence, the state could not spare a drop of water for other states.


Improvement Trust chief indicted in plot scam
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 18
The Deputy Director, Local Bodies, has indicted Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, chairman of the Improvement Trust, Amritsar, and several other employees for selling three plots worth crores at throw-away prices to its “blue-eyed employees”, violating all norms.

Interestingly, a local court has ordered permanent stay on selling or transferring of land.

Ignoring the court directive, the chairman and the then executive officer allegedly sold a 500 sq yard plot under Scheme 61 situated in Anand Avenue near Manav Public School to its former employee, Mr Satish Khanna. The inquiry report said even the allotment of land in question was regularised against the orders of the court.

Mr Vipal Sehgal, a resident of Khuh Bombay Wala, had urged the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to hold a high-level inquiry into this matter. The Chief Minister reportedly ordered an inquiry to Director, Local Bodies, who forwarded it to his deputy.

The other persons indicted in the report are Mr Jaswant Singh, a retired senior Assistant, the late Jagdish Bhasin, Mr Rup Lal Bhagat, the then Superintendent (now posted at Improvement Trust, Hoshiarpur as executive officer), Ms Sushil Rana, a retired executive officer and Mr Ram Lal Beri, the then Senior Assistant.

The report, a copy of which is in the possession of The Tribune, concludes that the investigations found the above accused responsible for the irregularities and hence disciplinary action be taken against them.


Wasting water resources may put state in
neck-deep crisis

Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 18
Widely acclaimed for saving water resources, Rajinder Singh, a Magsaysay award winner and Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, today warned of an impending water crisis if Punjab did not stop its high-use pattern of consuming the precious natural commodity.

The two, along with several other water management experts, NGOs and engineers, were attending a day-long workshop on Water Resources Management organised by the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, here.

Rajinder Singh, who is well known for his pioneering work in Rajasthan where he has transformed the arid landscape, said: “By growing paddy Punjab was virtually guzzling the underground water resources. The state has to switch to other crops”.

Quoting latest figures from the Union Water Resources Ministry, he said about 70 per cent of deep water aquifers across the country were running in an “over draft.

This means more water is being drawn than is being re-charged. Part of this is due to the system of providing a minimum support price for crops like paddy while ignoring less water consuming crops like chana, jowar and bajra. The bottled water market is also contributing to the draining of the underground water resources.

Raising a pertinent point he said “Why are governments and local bodies not telling anybody that how much water is available in the deep aquifers in the country”.

Baba Seechewal, who is like a cult figure in the Doaba area of Punjab for having cleaned the Kali Bein (now known as Holy Bein), said “the writing is on the wall.

If underground water is not adequately re-charged then the picture in the times to come would be grim as the water table is falling sharply with each passing day”. All discharge of sewage from urban areas, industries and other sources should stop immediately or else the rivers of Punjab, the fish in them, will die”.

He reminded the audience that people were not connected to nature and hence were more prone to the misuse of water.

Known for his work on pesticides causing pollution in underground water Mr Umendra Dutt, of the Kehti Virasaat Mission, said, “We need people who think from the heart and not brain when dealing with water. Sadly engineering colleges are not producing environmentalist engineers who think from heart”, said Mr Dutt.

Water management has to be treated as a religion and not as a mere science, he added while asking engineering colleges, soil conservationists and pollution control boards to think differently to save water. A former Chairamn of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, Mr F.L. Kansal, opined that pollution in river water in Punjab was mainly being caused due to the discharge of sullage by civic bodies.

Revealing a startling facts about the depleting water resources, Mr Anil Sondhi, Conservator of Soils, Punjab, said the per capita availability of water had come down sharply while the number of dark blocks in the state was rising.

Dr A.S Reddy, Assistant Professor in the TIET, will prepare a “water vision document” from the outcome of this workshop. Among those who spoke were Dr Sudhirendar Sharma and Dr G.S Dhillon, a former Chief Engineer in Punjab, who is considered an authority on water management.


Water likely to become source of tension
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 18
Dr Sudhirendra Sharma, former Adviser, World Bank, emphasized the need for cautioning the people that water could likely become a source of tension and fierce competitions between nations.

Dr Sharma who inaugurated the workshop on water resources management organised by Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (TIET) enlightened the audience on the effects of global and local crisis of water shortage.

Mr Rajinder Singh, Magasaysay award winner, gave the keynote address on the issues of global and national water policy. He enlightened the audience on the ways in which dried rivers could be revived and asked the people at large to come forth in this direction.

A one-day workshop on management of water resource in the Punjab region was organized at TIET as part of the its golden jubilee celebrations in an effort to attend and hear the opinions of the leaders in the field and forge a direction for managing the depleting water resources in Punjab region before its too late.

Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal and Mr Umendra Dut from Tarun Bharat Sangh emphasized on traditional values and on reviving relation with the natural resources. They stressed that active role of society was very much needed in this regard.

The Chief Conservator of Soil and Water, Punjab, Mr S.S. Saini and Mr F.L. Kansal, Former Chairman, Punjab Pollution Control Board, defined the problems and highlighted the role of the government in solving the problems of water pollution and wastage.

Dr A. Mukherjee, Director, TIET and Dr N. Das, Head, Department of Biotechnology and environmental Sciences, also spoke on the occasion.


Punjab’s rich heritage comes alive in exhibition
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 18
It is not common knowledge that in 1960, UNESCO commissioned the Sahitya Akademi to translate a selection of sacred writings of the Sikhs.

In pursuance of the mission, the then Vice-President of India, Dr S. Radhakrishnan, called a meeting of eminent Sikh scholars who brought out the book, which was to be the first in the series of attempts by UNESCO to further mutual acceptance of cultures between the East and the West.

What began at UNESCO as a “major project” was soon forgotten. It was only in September this year that the project was remembered when a team from Punjab raised the issue in Italy where UNESCO held its 11th International Seminar on the “Conservation of Intangible Global Heritage”.

Members from Punjab made the long-forgotten book, “The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs”, part of their presentation on the Intangible Heritage of Punjab - a field of active research across Europe and the USA. Part of the presentation, which ensured Punjab heritage a place in UNESCO’s priority list, is now on display at IndusInd Gallery, Sector 8. Strangely, it has not attracted much attention despite the precious information on offer.

On display are inspiring facts about Punjab’s material and military history, including the fact that Ieper (Belgium) is the only place in Europe where Indian/ Sikh troops are remembered daily. Here at Ieper, a daily last post ceremony is held in honour of 10,000 Indian soldiers who saved Ieper from Germany’s wrath during the First World War. Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi paid tributes here on her recent visit to Belgium.

Also on display is the letter which Director of Flanders Fields Museum (Ieper) wrote to former UT Administrator Lt-Gen JFR Jacob (retd). In this letter he has offered the UT Administration support with setting up of a section dedicated to Indian soldiers who were killed at Ieper. The offer, strangely, was not taken.

Lt-Col Perminder Singh Randhawa (retd), who was part of the team that visited Italy, says, “The offer was made for setting up a commemorative section at the Government Museum, Chandigarh. Our presentation at UNESCO includes a copy of this letter. Further, it focuses on intangible and tangible heritage of Punjab. Sikh Gurus and their teachings are intangible heritage because we cannot depict them. We can only reconstruct this heritage through Janmasakhis and other records. Similarly, the Adi Granth is intangible to the extent that it can be best understood through “Gurbani”.”

`But the Golden Temple, forts of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the rare military records at the United Services Institution, New Delhi, are tangible heritage of Punjab.”

The Expo, which seeks public support to make the UNESCO project a success, will be on till November 20 and it focuses attention on interesting facts about Punjab’s history. It explains how Ranjit Singh’s force — Darbar-e-Khalsa — was truly an international force. “It had on board French, American and European officers and soldiers drawn from all existing faiths. At San Francisco, research on Ranjit Singh and his wars is still in progress,” says Randhawa.

Records show that Ranjit Singh’s Darbar-e-Khalsa was in fact the forerunner of the unique Lahore Division which fought the First World War in Europe. Many of these soldiers died saving Ieper in Belgium. No wonder every fifth name written on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ieper is of an Indian and every third such name is of a Sikh.


3 killed in road mishap
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, November 18
Three persons were killed on the spot while four others were injured when the Qualis (PB 01 4467) they were travelling in rammed into a tractor-trailer (PB 07 8915) near Garhshankar last evening. The injured were admitted to the Civil Hospital, Garhshankar, from where Sukhwinder Singh of Barnala Kalan (Nawanshahr) was referred to the PGI, Chandigarh.

The deceased have been identified as Harjinder Singh and Baljinder Singh, both of Barnala Kalan, and cameraman Paramjit Singh, alias Pamma, of Rurki Khas.

According to the police, the occupants of the Qualis were returning after attending a marriage party at Satnaur village.

The police has registered a case under Sections 229, 304 A, 283 and 337 of the IPC.


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