P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cane price in Punjab up by Rs 17
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 21
The Punjab Government today increased the price of sugarcane by Rs 17 per quintal, raising it to Rs 132 from Rs 115 per quintal. For the growers, there will be a net gain of about Rs 68 crore during the current cane-crushing season.

The decision to raise the price was taken at a meeting of the Sugarcane Control Board. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, presided over the meeting. The Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, told The Tribune that for the early-sown cane varieties, the price would be Rs 132 per quintal, for the mid-season varieties Rs 128 and for the late varieties Rs 126. Last year, the prices were Rs 115, Rs 113 and Rs 111 per quintal, respectively. The board authorities had recommended the raising of the price to Rs 135 per quintal.

To feed the existing 21 sugar mills- 14 in the cooperative sector and seven in the private- 970 lakh tonnes of sugarcane is required. However, about 450 lakh tonnes of sugarcane will be available during the cane-crushing season that began on November 14 and will continue till March-end.

This year only nine cooperative sugar mills will be operational.

A few days ago, the Haryana Government had announced Rs 138 per quintal for its early-sown varieties.

However, in Haryana the area under this variety is only 10 per cent whereas in Punjab it is about 60 per cent. Though farmers in Haryana will get a higher price for sugarcane, the financial gain will be more to farmers in Punjab, says Mr Sandeep Singh Randhawa, a member of the Punjab sugarcane board and leading grower.

In Punjab the area under the crop is required to be increased to 2.75 lakh hectares to meet the requirements of the sugarcane industry. At present, the area is in the range of 1.20 lakh hectares. " The growing of sugarcane will be very profitable in the years to come and a farmer can earn up to Rs 1 lakh per acre", says Mr Randhawa. “Farmers should turn to the cane crop in a big way”, he adds. “The sowing of sugarcane by using new techniques can give farmers big returns”, says Dr G.I.S. Kahlon, General Manager (Cane) of a private sugar mill located near Hoshiarpur.

Meanwhile, the Cane Commissioner, Punjab, has proposed to raise the purchase tax on sugarcane from 50 paise to Re 1 per quintal. This will be utilised for the development of the sugarcane crop in the state. He has sought the recruitment of 168 employees, including three cane development officers, 40 agriculture development officers, 69 agriculture sub-inspectors, two computer supervisors, 47 beldars and seven drivers.

He has also sought eight staff cars or jeeps, 12 computers and two photostat machines.

He has also stated that sugar mills should be modernised to generate power and manufacture alcohol, vermi-compost, bio-compost, etc.

Pathankot comes on aviation map
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, November 21
Pathankot city was today connected with the rest of country with air. The Pathankot civil airport was formally inaugurated by Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel with which the city would now figure on the aviation map of the country.

Air Deccan has become the first aviation company to start its operations from Pathankot. It started one flight a day from Delhi to Pathankot and back. The departure time of the flight from Delhi would be 2 pm and it would reach Pathankot at 3.25 pm. From Pathankot, the flight would take off at 3.45 pm and reach Delhi at 5.10 pm. Initially, small planes with a seating capacity of 44 passengers would be pressed into service for Pathankot by Air Deccan.

The inauguration of the airport once again witnessed rivalry among the Congress and BJP leaders to claim the credit for construction and starting operations of the Pathankot civil airport.

The Congressmen, including Mr Patel and Union Minister of State for Industries Ashwani Kumar, addressed a political rally before the inauguration of the airport. At the rally, the Mr Praful Patel gave Mr Ashwani Kumar credit for pressing him into getting the Pathankot airport operated.

Mr Ashwani Kumar read the message of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the rally in which the latter had complimented the Punjab Government for the completion of the airport project.

Mr Kumar claimed that the airport would boost tourism in the adjoining areas of Himachal. He also requested the Civil Aviation Minister to start commercial flights from the Pathankot civil airport.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Tourism, who was also present at the rally requested the union minister to improve the facilities at the Amritsar international airport that has witnessed a 100 per cent increase in traffic.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Union Tourism Minister, Ms Ambika Soni, who were earlier scheduled to address the rally, however, failed to turn up.

Interestingly, the BJP MP from Gurdaspur, Mr Vinod Khanna, along with his wife Kavita arrived in the first flight along with the Air Deccan MD, Mr GR Gopinath, at about 3 pm.

The BJP workers who had gathered at the airport raised slogans in favour of Mr Vinod Khanna claiming that he should be given full credit for bringing up the airport at Pathankot. An unsavoury situation was created when the supporters of Mr Vinod Khanna and Mr Ashwani Kumar raised slogans in favour of their respective leaders in the airport lounge.

Later, while addressing the official function to inaugurate the airport, Mr Vinod Khanna said the airport was not a demand of the area. However, it was constructed because of his efforts and benevolence of the NDA government.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, who was also present at the inauguration ceremony said the airport would help boost tourism and trade in the adjoining hill stations of Dalhouise, Chamba, Dharamshala and Palampur.

Mr Ashok Sharma, local MLA, and Mr Bodh Raj, MLA from Himachal, were among other Congress leaders present on the occasion.


Akali-turned-Cong men not to get ticket, says Dullo
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, November 21
The sitting Akali MLAs and leaders, who had joined the Congress in the recent past, should not hope for a party ticket in the coming elections, said PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo. He was addressing mediapersons here today.

He was here on the invitation of Jagmeet Brar’s “rehabilitated” supporters. He said ticket would only be allotted to those who were dedicated to the party and were liked by people and party workers. He said the party workers were “kingmakers” and if they didn’t like somebody how could he expect to win. He said the Akali leaders, who had joined the Congress in the past few months, should queue up and wait for their turn to contest elections on the party ticket.

On differences with the Chief Minister, he said it was not a confrontation, as was being projected, but mere difference of opinion on some issues, which was normal in a democratic party.

On relief package for farmers, he said nobody could waive off the principal amount of their debt. However, the government was trying its best to write off their interest, he added. He said he would also make a plea for waiving off interest on loans procured by farm labourers and the poor.

Flaying Badal for “garnering votes” in the name of 1984 riot victims, he said while the Akalis did nothing for the victims, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a package of Rs 718 crore to them.

Taking on the SAD for targeting the Congress government over Vikas Yatra, he said approaching people was no crime and those who were raising a hue and cry over the "misuse of public money" owed an explanation over their Sangat Darshan. He said the Chief Minister not only got the first-hand account of the people's woes during the yatra, but also received a large number of applications regarding their grievances.

Meanwhile, Mr Jagmeet Brar said he was a disciplined soldier of the party and would follow the party high command's order in the coming elections. His loyalists, Mr Gurdas Girdhar and Mr Baljit Singh Bhutiwala, Mr Raghbir Singh, Mr Vijay Sathi, Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu, Mr Ripjeet Brar and Mr Gurmeet Singh Khudia were also present on the occasion.


Dullo may skip second phase of yatra
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 21
PPCC President Shamsher Singh Dullo is a doubtful starter for the second phase of the Vikas Yatra. Mr Dullo is reportedly indisposed and is unlikely to join Chief Minister Amarinder Singh when the second phase of the yatra gets off at Attari on Wednesday.

Earlier, the Chief Minister and the PPCC chief have developed differences over inductions of leaders of other political parties in the party. While Mr Dullo insists that antecedents of those keen to join the Congress must be verified before promising them party tickets for the coming Assembly elections or a position in the organisation, those close to the Chief Minister insist that if any political bigwig wants to join the party he should be welcomed with no questions asked.

Perturbed over the rift, the party high command is understood to have summoned senior leaders of the PPCC to New Delhi a few days ago. Incidentally, many leaders, including members of the Congress Legislature Party, were in Delhi tonight to attend a social function in the family of a senior functionary of the Union Government.

The fresh summoning is also attributed to the show-cause notices being served upon 37 members of the Punjab CLP, including the Chief Minister, by the Election Commission of India.

Absence of Mr Dullo from the second phase of the yatra is being viewed in political circles as a significant development over his growing differences with the Chief Minister.


District status sought for Malerkotla
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 21
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and former MP from Sangrur, today demanded district status for Malerkotla, a Muslim-dominated town in this district.

Talking to The Tribune today, Mr Mann asked the Amarinder Government to create Malerkotla as district headquarters by including Raikot and Khanna subdivisions in this proposed 21st district of Punjab.

He said Malerkotla town had a great obligation over the Sikhs as its Nawab Sher Mohhamad Khan had raised a “Haa da Naara” against the bricking alive of two sons of Guru Gobind Singh. He said Malerkotla had also great importance in the history as 66 Kukas had laid down their lives there for the country.

Mr Mann also said though the Amarinder government had made Barnala a district headquarters, it had not given even a government degree college or any engineering college to Barnala so far. He also lashed out at Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister, for not inviting leaders of other political parties to the main function, organised to mark the creation of Barnala district, at Barnala on November 19.

Welcoming the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India, Mr Mann said China should return the Ladakh area to India, occupied by it in 1962 China-India war. With regard to China’s claim over Arunanchal, he said this issue should be negotiated to reach an amicable accord. He also criticised former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for saying in the past that Tibet was a part of China.

He asked the former Prime Ministers and the present Prime Minister to explain to the nation that as Parliament had passed a resolution in 1962 not to have relations with China till it returned India’s occupied area to India, what had been done by them during their respective tenures to get back India’s vast area from China.


NRI to script his family saga
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 21
His grandfather made history in his own way, and now London-based realtor, Narinder Singh Johal, is out to script his family saga in the form of a Punjabi film. Mr Johal is travelling through Punjab, to collect bits and pieces of information, old pictures and meet acquaintances of his grandfather, Mr Bachint Singh Johal. Mr Bachint Singh was one of the first Indians to migrate to the USA and later to the UK. But his mission is not just to tell the success story of the Johal family, but to reconnect a host of third and fourth generation on Non-Resident Indians to their roots, and bring alive the pathos of the Indians caught up between their tradition and culture and the western influences of their surroundings.

“I have lived all my life in London, but because my parents remained attached to their roots, they were able to inculcate the Indian traditions and values in me and my siblings. But this is not the case amongst other third and fourth generation families. By recreating my own family history in the film, I hope to tell the story to the third generation and fourth generation Indians settled abroad and inspire them to remain attached to their roots,” he said.

It was in 1929 that Narinder Singh’s grandfather, Mr Bachint Singh, decided to migrate to the USA from Jandiala near Jalandhar. After buying some land in San Francisco, and later in Vancouver, Canada, Bachint Singh moved to London and became the first Indian to buy a bungalow in London.

“In those days, when the blacks and browns were looked down upon, it was a rare thing for an Indian to buy a bungalow and announce that he had arrived. However, the grandfather, after making his mark, decided to move back to India. In those days, over a 100 people from Jandiala and nearby villages had come to receive him. On coming back, he turned a philanthropist, built a community hall and dabbled in other social activities,” he said.

However, Narinder’s father, Mr Nirmal Singh, decided to move back to London, though he kept his ties in tact with his native land. “He also ensured that I got married to a girl from here so as to retain the family ties with Punjab,” he said.

The script of the movie is being penned by a script writer in London, and Narinder is planning to also cast his son in the movie to play himself. “The house that my grandfather built upon his return to Jandiala needs to be redone, but I will first take a few shots of the house and then redo it. The shooting will be done in London and Jandiala, though parts of the movie will also be shot in the USA and Canada,” he said. 


Ex-Jathedar fires salvo against Sarna brothers
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 21
A former Jathedar of Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh, today fired a salvo against the Sarna brothers - Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), and Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (New Delhi),- and described them a 'turncoat'.

Addressing a press conference, here today, Bhai Ranjit Singh said that he along with the 'Panthic Morcha', headed by Mr Manjit Singh Greater Kailash, would defeat the Sarna brothers in the elections of DSGMC, likely to be held in December-end.

The former Jathedar alleged that the Sarna brothers had close links with Mr Sajjan Kumar, a former minister who was allegedly involved in the anti-Sikh riots. He further alleged that the DSGMC was misusing gurdwara funds for gaining political mileage.

Bhai Ranjit Singh alleged that the DSGMC had been spending lakhs of rupees on the electronic media for 'vested interests'.

Levelling another charge, Bhai Ranjit Singh said the Sarna brothers had spent only Rs 27 lakh on the golden palanquin taken to Nankana Sahib while they publicly announced that a huge amount was spent on it. He said though his close confidants had contested the previous DSGMC elections on the ticket of SAD (Sarna), they had parted company after learning that they (Sarna brothers) had been using the DSGMC for vested interests.


Political parties gear up for Punjab elections
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, November 21
The first round of probing the minds of voters regarding the ensuing Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections due to be held in February 2007 is over. Akali Dal as well as the Congress leaders of the state have undertaken whirlwind tours.

Local gatherings as well as bigger political rallies were organized and opposition parties instigated various disgruntled segments, kisans and Dalits to ward off the effects of the rallies being held by the party in power. At places even attempts were made to organize demonstrations.

However, all this culminated in two major rallies — one organized by the Akali Dal at Chandigarh on October 16 followed by a well-organized Vikas Yatra by the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh. This culminated in a well-attended rally at Ludhiana on November 14. Both the parties are making claims about their prospects and hurling accusations.The fact of the matter is that the rallies and the Vikas Yatra indicate that it is not going to be an easy going for any of the two major parties.

In the Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal does not face any challenge to his leadership. But his growing age has started churning within the party. There is an uneasy calm in the rank and file of the party. The second-rung leaders have started talking about the future of the Akali Dal, seriously discussing the prospects of the party at the polls. They express their grouses and dissatisfaction at the state of affairs of the party as well. But they do not have anywhere to go and this fact binds them within the Akali Dal.

On the other hand, the state of the Congress Party is also not very healthy. The only thing that has surfaced during this period is that Captain Amarinder Singh has emerged as a star campaigner who can effectively counter the effect of Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Moreover, it seems at the moment that he does not face any challenge, his differences with Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar notwithstanding. 


Ex-councillor joins SAD
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 21
Former truck union president and former councillor Hardeep Singh Deepa joined the SAD in the presence of SAD chief and former Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal at a function held here late yesterday evening.

Apart from Mr Badal, prominent among those who were present on the occasion were the Samana MLA Surjit Singh Rakhra, former president of the Naujawan Khalsa Dal and former councillor of this town Jaspal Singh , president of the Patiala district unit of the SAD Indermohan Singh Bajaj and a galaxy of other Akali leaders.

According to sources former councillor Jaspal Singh played an instrumental role in helping Mr Deepa join the SAD.


Batish elected MC chief
Our Correspondent

Nabha, November 21
Election to the Municipal Council presidents was held under the supervision of Nabha SDM Ashok Kumar Sikka. Mr Gautum Batish was elected unanimously president and Mr Rajnish Mittal and Mrs Davinder Gauraya as senior vice-presidents. The Congress party has again got control of the MC. A controversy was created in MC when its former president Pawan refused to resign.

The 14 Congress councillors had moved a no-confidence motion against Mr Pawan and he had to quit under pressure. 


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