P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CM launches 2nd phase of yatra
Dullo, Bhattal decide to stay away
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Attari/Chogawan, November 22
Blowing the trumpet for the upcoming battle of the ballot here, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today sought the blessings of the Almighty for achieving victory. He mingled with the people and ate in the houses of Dalits.

Though it was a moderate gathering in Attari at the time of the launching of the second phase of the Vikas Yatra, he received a good response when he reached their remote village.

Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said the tremendous response to the yatra in the Malwa belt would be repeated in the Doaba region.

PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo said the yatra was bound to be successful.

Earlier, Capt Amarinder Singh along with Mr Jagjit Singh and Mr Sardul Singh paid obeisance at the Ram Tirath temple. At many places, he was honoured with swords and siropas.

Answering a question, Capt Amarinder Singh said PPS officers would be posted as district police chiefs in non-cadre districts.

Prominent among those present on the occasion included DCC president (Amritsar Rural) Sukhjinderraj Singh Lali, Mandi Board Chairman Sukhbinder Singh Sukhsarkaria, Ajnala MLA Harpartap Singh Ajnala, Beas MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa and Mr Vijay Singla, state president of the Youth Congress.

The infighting in the Congress comes to the fore during the second leg of the Vikas Yatra as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has equated firebrand Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar with Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar).

Answering a query by mediapersons here today, Capt Amarinder Singh said he had decided not to entertain any question regarding Mr Mann and Mr Brar .

Interestingly, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo had attended the function at Muktsar yesterday on the invitation of Jagmeet Brar and his supporters.

On the other hand, Mr Dullo, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, and Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, attended the “ardas” at the “smadh” of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala here today to mark the launching of the second leg of the yatra. However, both leaders stayed away from the yatra.

Mr B.I.S. Chahal, Media Adviser to the Chief Minister, claimed that Mr Dullo and Ms Bhattal could not accompany the Chief Minister due to some problems .

However, the Chief Minister claimed that the party was united and it would win the coming Assembly elections with a thumping majority. Answering a question, he claimed that there was no tainted MLA in the party. However, he hastened to add that the “weak” MLAs would be replaced.

Interestingly, Mr Om Parkash Soni , an independent MLA , Mr Sunil Dutti and Mr Raman Baxi held three functions on the Wagah road to receive the Vikas Yatra .

Answering yet another question, Capt Amarinder Singh said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi would visit the state before the elections.


CM justifies offices of profit for MLAs
Tribune News Service

Attari, November 22
Unfazed by the Election Commission notices to 37 MLAs, Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh today defended offices of profit by MLAs.

At the launching of second phase of ‘Vikas Yatra’, Mr Amarinder Singh claimed the decision on the offices of profit was taken during the government of Mr Partap Singh Kairon, and it was still relevant. He said the prerogative of Legislature could not be challenged since it was protected by the Constitution.

The notices were issued under Section 146 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, on a petition filed by senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). He said the Akali Dal should not be elated at the notices as it was a “routine exercise”.

Answering a question, the Chief Minister said the Badal government had “misused” the funds distributed at ‘Sangat darshan’. He said audit reports had pointed out the ‘misappropriation of funds’.


Mayor-MLA tussle comes to the fore
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 22
The tussle between Mayor Sunil Datti and Mr O.P. Soni, independent MLA from west constituency of the city, which had been brewing for the past many years, today came to the fore during the last leg of the Mr Amarinder Singh’s ‘Vikas Yatra’ in Chheharta.

Both claimed they had mobilised more people to impress Chief Minister Amarinder Singh during his ‘Yatra’. Mr Soni had organised a show of strength in the Rani Ka Bagh area, where people, including industrialists and businessmen, had gathered on the route of the CMs cavalcade.

The Mayor said a large crowd in his stronghold Khandwala had gathered to receive the Chief Minister. Another group of women, majority of them the supporters of the Mayor had organised an ‘aarti’ near Maya cinema on the GT Road. The councillor of the area, Mrs Mamata Datt, a relative of the Mayor performed rituals in front of the vehicle carrying the CM.

Mr Soni and Mr R.L. Bhatia’s porteges, including the Mayor had been at loggerheads for the past many years. In the Chheharta constituency Mr Datti has emerged strong contender and trying to stake his claim for the MLA’s ticket in the area.


Lecturers in 41 Sangrur schools after 54 years’ wait
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 22
Fortyone senior secondary schools, upgraded in 2001-02 in this district, got 145 posts of lecturer in the first week of this month. Thirty senior secondary schools got 90 posts (three posts in each school) as these schools were upgraded with only three posts of lecturer and a post of principal while the remaining 11 schools were given 55 posts (five posts in each school) as these schools were upgraded at that time without giving any post of a lecturer.

The Punjab government upgraded 540 schools in the state from high to senior secondary in 2001-02 but it failed for five years to provide sufficient number of posts of lecturer in these schools. Of these 540 upgraded schools, 72 schools were upgraded at that time without even giving a single post of lecturer to them.

Names of the villages of 30 senior secondary schools, given three posts each in the Sangrur district, include Dhadogal Kherri, Dhuri Pind, Narike, Thales, Bhurthala Mander, Sandhu Patti Barnala, Badbar, Badrukhan, Namol, Duggan, Sheron, Raidharana Shadihari, Kattu, Channo, Hathan, Farwahi, Bhadaur, Kaleke, Dangarh, Uppli Chatha, Sakrodi, Gandhuan and Bhattiwal Kalan. Likewise the names of villages of 11 senior secondary schools, given five posts each, include Jahangir Kehru, Dhilwan, Manvi, Kanjhla, Dharamgarh, Bakhtgarh, Khudi Kalan, Ballian, and Phaguwala and Lad Banjara.


PU marks ignored, claim applicants
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
After a protest by physical training instructors, it is candidates who applied for jobs as English or Punjabi teachers in government schools of Punjab who have protested against the selection procedure.

Three youths, who had passed their examinations from Panjab University, have alleged that their internal assessment marks were not calculated while arriving at the percentage of marks for a candidate.

They produced documents to show that their marks aggregated more than that scored by the last eligible candidate as announced through an advertisement issued by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Mohali. They alleged that C-DAC did not take into account internal assessment done by PU despite the Chief Minister having made a promise in this regard.

Amandeep Singh of Abohar has 63.83 per cent marks and had applied for the post of English teacher. The last candidate to be selected had 62.82 per cent marks. Amandeep’s registration number is 779.

Sukhwinder Singh of Barnala applied for the post of Punjabi teacher under the general category. He has 67.56 per cent marks while the cut-off was 66.42 per cent. His registration number is 41842. Hailing from Bathinda, Sukhwinder Singh had applied for the post of Punjabi teacher under the Backward Class category. He has 66.62 per cent marks while the cut-off was 65.75 per cent.

Talking to The Tribune they said that the system needed to be more transparent. “ Let any officer scrutinise the records and give justice to us.”

Education Department officials have already clarified that C-DAC will ask all such candidates who feel that they have been left out to fill a form on the website and send their claims. C-DAC will offer this opportunity to students after all merit lists have been declared in newspapers.


From Ludhiana to HP Hall of Fame
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
He has done every Indian proud. After all having a Punjabi name inscribed onto the Hewlett Packard (HP) certified professional hall of fame as its inaugural member is no ordinary task. Previously ranked among the world’s too “much sought after system architect specialising in HP SAN (storage area network) Solutions”, Kit (Umar) Somal has helped information technology companies boost performance at a reduced cost using SAN scripting and SQL.

Kit has his roots in Ludhiana from where he rose to be a Hewlett Packard Master Accredited Systems Engineer and SAN Architect specialising in data storage infrastructure and systems. “Knowing your work inside out is not enough, in IT you have to constantly visualise the future and retrain your mind, besides upgrading your skills to remain on top of the situation. Any laxity makes you dated and others quickly takeover. This happened to hundreds of IT professionals who boomed a couple of years ago but are nowhere today”, says Kit calling it his mantra of success.

In Chandigarh on a private visit, Kit Somal shared his vision of the IT industry with The Tribune. Kit who started his career with a business major (Masters in Commerce, MBA Rutgers, USA), moved to IT in 1986. There he noticed a growing storage market and decided to focus on data storage and databases. He is currently working with companies like Microsoft to help the Indian Government and some states to safely store and replicate important data like revenue records.

“Storage, security, business continuity and disaster recovery are the hottest fields in IT today. The spotlight on security is obvious due to hackers, terrorism, and identity theft to name a few. The focus on storage is the result of the data explosion. Graphic files, hospital records, legal requirements, and the Internet have all contributed to the rise in the global requirements for storage. According to certain estimates, the storage requirements are doubling every 18 months”, he says.

He gives credit of his success to the education he received during his formative years. “My dad (Tara Singh Somal) used to say, you can lose everything in life, but not the education you receive, so he put in all his earning to educate his children and my mom (Narendar Kaur) fully supported him”. His father, he adds, “learnt the value of education as he himself being a scholarship holder had to drop out of school at 16 due to World War II”.

Fairly successful, the real kudos for Kit came last month when he was nominated by other HP master engineers for induction into the newly formed HP Certified Professional (Engineers) Hall of Fame. The basis of the recommendation was his ability to take HP technology and create inventive solutions in the face of challenge, his impeccable track record, proficiency with cutting edge technology, and his professional credentials that include a double Master ASE.


Hailstorm ruins cotton crop
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 22
Strong winds and hailstorm last night ruined cotton and newly sown wheat in some pockets of Bathinda and Muktsar districts. There wasn't much crop loss in Mansa and Faridkot districts.

While the hailstorm brought the picking of cotton to a halt, the recently sown wheat was virtually destroyed.

Lakhbir Singh, a farmer of Gillpatti village, said strong winds and hailstorm led to the shedding and wetting of bolls. "I had plucked cotton once and had got a price of Rs 1,950. Now, when the prices were looking up, the hailstorm has hit the quality of cotton," he said.

Gurcharan Singh of Nehiawala village lamented that the hailstorm ruined the wheat crop that he had sown only a few days ago. "There is no hope for the revival of the crop and I will have to sow it afresh. I don’t know from where I will get quality seeds and DAP which was already in short supply," he said.

Mohan Singh of Amargarh village said: "I had paid a hefty amount for taking a piece of land on contract, but now I don't know how I will manage the funds to sow wheat all over again."

Agriculture officials, however, said there was no major crop loss in the district.

Reports of crop damage were also received from Muktsar district. Sources said late variety of cotton and wheat crop had suffered damage in about a dozen villages.

Gidderbaha MLA Manpreet Badal said the hailstorm damaged the wheat crop and fodder in about 50 villages of his constituency, besides damaging houses of poor. Cattle were also killed in some villages.

He has sought a survey of the damaged crop. As there was shortage of quality seeds of wheat, the state government should also arrange these for the farmers, he added.

Meanwhile, the hailstorm also hampered rail traffic as a tree fell on a track, near here. Some trains like Janta Express were running late by two to three hours.

Traffic on the Muktsar-Malout and Muktsar-Bathinda roads was also disrupted as trees fell on the road.


AIDS & Punjab — III
Harnam knows the scourge
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 22
Life has not been very kind to Harnam Kaur. She became a widow at an young age. Raising two daughters on her own has not been easy, especially after she was thrown out of her husband’s joint family house along with her children. She resolved to live with dignity and bring up Sapna (2) and Anjali (6) as she would have if her husband was alive.

But fate had something else in store for her. Three months ago, she was persuaded by an NGO to get herself tested at a voluntary counselling and testing centre near her village to find whether her husband - a truck driver - had infected her before he succumbed to AIDS.

To her utter horror, Harnam found that not only she herself but even her children were infected. The news shattered her. She is unable to share the information with anyone else and her children are too small to understand the implications of being HIV positive.

“The HIV test was conducted free. But to get further tests done, I will have to pay for travel. I also have to deposit Rs 250 each for all three of us to get registered for treatment. For me the choice is between feeding my children for a month or two or to get the tests done. With no source of income, I give the tests a go-by”, said Harnam (name changed).

“She is not the only one who faces this plight. Many HIV positive people are from the lower strata of society and cannot afford to travel to the three testing centres at Jalandhar, Amritsar and Chandigarh. We have been demanding free travel for these people and asking the government to bear all the expenses, including testing from the date they are tested HIV positive”, says Mr. Manmohan of the Voluntary Health Association, Punjab,

There are countless women in Punjab who are widows of truck drivers whose entire families have been tested HIV positive. “In many cases NGOs with fixed annual budgets are willing to help financially deserving cases, but we cannot pay for every HIV positive person each time he or she requires CD-4 testing”, says Mr. Rajiv Kumar working as a counsellor for a Bathinda- based NGO.

Till a person is put on anti-retroviral treatment, an HIV positive person has to pay Rs 250 each time he undergoes a test. Thereafter, tests and treatment become free. There has been a growing demand for making all testing and treatment free for everyone at the government-run ART centres as they mainly cater to the poor.

Punjab is placed in the category of “vulnerable” states. The state has already reported a case where the entire family has died of AIDS in Tarn Taran district. Patiala district has had a case where three siblings were orphaned due to AIDS killing their parents.

Available data suggest that HIV affects young people (87.7 per cent) in the 15-44 age-group. Males comprise three times the number of female AIDS patients.

The National AIDS Control Organisation - the apex national body - that overseas HIV- related issues across the country has indicated that it proposes to reclassify certain states in terms of HIV/AIDS prevalence. It has hinted that states like West Bengal, which have controlled AIDS, would be put in a lower category while it plans to put Punjab in the “high-risk” category after the results of the just concluded survey across 24 sites in Punjab are tabulated.

While the government has done precious little, nearly a hundred villages in Punjab have made testing for HIV mandatory for the bride and the groom, if the wedding is to be solemnised in the villages concerned. It started in Manuke and Dhaibee villages in Ludhiana district and since then several panchayats like that of Karimpur in Kapurthala and several others in Tarn Taran have adopted it.

To be continued


Mann’s party to contest all 117 seats
Our Correspondent

Barnala, November 22
China is main danger to India not Pakistan. All Prime Ministers since Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru made mistakes by conceding Tibet as part of China. This was stated by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) here at Dera Baba Gandha Singh gurdwara. Mr Mann was here to mobilise people for December 6 rally of his party here.

Mr Mann favoured an accord with China for lasting peace in the subcontinent. Mr Mann said dispute pertaining to Arunachal Pradesh was real one. He said governments and media had been projecting dangers to India from Pakistan whereas China was major danger for India.

Mr Mann said his party would contest all 117 Assembly seats and not ally with any party. Mr Mann said his party would field a candidate for SGPC president’s office and party wanted an honest and learned person to occupy this august office. His party would not allow Rs 5 crore to be taken out of golak by the SGPC for spending it on December 8 SAD (Badal) rally at Moga, he asserted.

On his party’s issues for Assembly elections, Mr Mann said benefits and education remained confined to urban areas and did not reach rural areas. His party would raise issues like unemployment, waiving Rs 23000 crore farmers’ loans, free-compulsory education till senior secondary level for all free-compulsory education for women till graduation, supply of 24-hour power supply in urban and rural areas, opening of borders with Pakistan for trade commerce and tourism, TADA like Act for hoarders, black-markeeters and adulterators.


BSP to contest all 117 seats
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 22
The state unit of the BSP will contest all 117 Assembly seats in the coming Punjab Assembly elections and the first list of 50 candidates has been released and the second list of 10 candidates has been sent to the National President Mayawati. The candidates for the remaining seats will be finalised up to November 30. Party tickets have been allotted on merit irrespective of caste and creed. Out of the total allotted seats, 29 nominees are Dalits, 26 Jats and others from upper castes, said Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, state president of the BSP, while talking to The Tribune here today.

He had come here to preside over workers’ meeting of the district.

He ruled out any alliance with the Congress and SAD (B) in the state. He said that the State unit had got a signal from the National President in this regard. He said now the party leadership had decided to give a new look to the party and every one, who believed in the policies and programmes of the party was welcome to join.


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