P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Gurnam’s family upset over Sidhu verdict
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 6
The irony was inescapable. While on the one hand there was a lot of jostling and pushing outside Gurnam Singh’s residence at Ghalori village, on the Devigarh road, an eerie silence prevailed at the residence of the man who was killed by Navjot Singh Sidhu and his accomplice Rupinder Singh Sandhu nearly 18 years ago.

However, when the Punjab and Haryana High court finally delivered its verdict this afternoon, there was an air of despondency at the house. An angry Ripuinderjit Singh, son of the deceased Gurnam Singh, said that the high court’s decision was a “ complete travesty of truth” and also termed it a “totally unfair and unjustifiable verdict.”

“The court has let off Navjot Sidhu lightly. We will approach the Supreme Court against the decision of the high court. Navjot had killed a man and the court has pronounced him guilty. However, Sidhu will not be sent to jail, what type of justice is this?” Ripuinderjit Singh asked.

The entire family of Gurnam Singh visited the village gurdwara “to pray for maximum punishment to Sidhu.” Bimaljit Kaur, wife of Gurnam Singh, too showed a lot of emotion on hearing that Sidhu had been let off lightly.

Jaswinder Singh, a nephew of Gurnam Singh and a key eye witness in the case, remained calm in his reaction but hastened to add “Navjot Sidhu killed my uncle in broad daylight and now the court has given him time to apply for bail. Everything seems to be politically motivated.” He added that the “ family is consulting lawyers and will move the Supreme court.


‘I am not weak man’
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
Even as the SAD-BJP combine has stood behind Navjot Singh Sidhu like a rock in his hour of crisis, he himself made it clear: "I am not looking for any sympathy as that is for the weak. I am not a weak man". Sidhu made this remark minutes after a judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered him to undergo three years of rigorous imprisonment in an 18- year-old case.

Sidhu, who is known for his ready wit, accepted his fate, saying: "On a dark night the stars shine the brightest". He said his work will be for the party. "I had to uphold my own morality and personal dignity. Hence I has resigned from Parliament", said Sidhu, as he managed a wry smile on his face under tense moments. After the pronouncement of the order, he went straight to the residence of SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal in Sector 9 here. He planned future party engagements and his schedule is packed. Even though his opponents may be thinking that he is decimated, Sidhu will be at the SAD rally at Moga and has agreed to former Chandigarh MP Satyapal Jain's request for campaigning in Chandigarh for the municipal elections due for December 20 in the city.

At Mr Badal's house, he shared a cup of tea with Mr Badal and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. He went on to warmly hug a senior reporter, who has worked in Patiala for years. Apart from Mr Badal and Mr Arun Jaitley, accompanying Sidhu in his hour of crisis were some of his childhood friends from Patiala. Most of them are associated with cricket and they have grown up alongside Sidhu in the past four decades. They stood outside the courtroom in silence since morning waiting for the judgement. One of them flashed a victory sign on hearing that Sidhu's sentence had been suspended before he just melted away in the crowd wearing a tense smile on his face.

This afternoon as Sidhu walked out of the court room located on the first floor of the High Court building, he was virtually mobbed by party workers shouting slogans and the electronic media looking for his reactions. Lawyers came out of their chambers. Young women who had come to court on their own work wanted to catch a glimpse of the BJP's poster boy. Petitioners came out in the balconies while helpers in the canteens stopped work as Chandigarh Police used all its legitimate might to get Sidhu seated safely in his car. Party workers used the word 'guru' that is often used by Sidhu is his day-to-day phraseology.

Meanwhile, after the judgement Mr Badal said "I had expected the judgement to be like this only", and added that the campaigning of Sidhu will be even more effective now. This morning Mr Badal had refrained from going to the court room, saying "it will seem as if we are pressurising the court or trying to exert political pressure".

Senior leader of the BJP Arun Jaitely, also an accomplished lawyer, said: "We will definitely move the Supreme Court and will question the procedure of judgement adopted by the court in this case". He refused to comment on what will be the question on the procedure, saying " it will part of the petition". On the impact of the judgement he said: ''The matter hinges upon what the Supreme Court decides on our petition. Sidhu will remain the star campaigner for the party and will emerge stronger.


Badal regrets tearing up copy of Constitution
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
Almost 25 years after he had torn up a copy of the Indian Constitution to protest against the policies of the Central Government, the chief of the Shriomani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today expressed “regrets” for his act saying, “It should not have happened and I never wanted to do it then also. However, it was the desire of the party and I carried it out”.

Talking to newsmen at his residence here, Mr Badal said: “Even when the party had taken a decision to tear up a copy of the Constitution, I had then opposed it. However, I carried it out on the orders of the then party chief, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal”.

Narrating the incident he said the then Union Home Minister, Giani Zail Singh, had asked him to desist from tearing up a copy of the constitution. “ I told him that my party had wished it”.

Old-time political observers said Mr Badal had carried out the act in the early 1980s when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and militancy had taken root in the state. It was to protest against the clubbing of Sikhs with Hindus under the Constitution. Also, during that time the issue of the Sutlej-Yamuna link canal was fresh and Mr Badal and his party had lodged a protest against “taking away” of the waters of Punjab to neighbouring Haryana.


Congress to move privilege motion
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
The Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, today said the Congress would move a Privilege motion in Parliament against the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP MPs for spreading “falsehood and canards” against the Punjab Government in Parliament.

The motion would be moved in a day or two, he said, adding that legal experts were examining as to who misused the name of the Chief Minister in the case. “A defamation suit may be considered”.

Mr Singla said Janta Land Promoters Limited (JLPL), a Mohali-based builder against whom the SAD had levelled allegations, had promoted two projects. The first one was abandoned and never got started. The company got permission for a separate project under the mega project scheme. Both were unconnected.

When asked if the land in question was the same for both projects in Sector 91, Mr Singla said: “I do not know about this”. The first project that was rejected was a residential one while the second one was approved under the mixed-land use policy.

He said it was wrong to say that the company had evaded stamp duty. Actually, it had paid Rs 10.91 crore as stamp duty. Not an inch of land was allotted to JLPL. It purchased the same from the open market.

Mr Singla said the Opposition was lying when it said that forest land had been diverted. Only 12 acres out of the entire project were locked under the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, and it was not under forest. When pointed out that the Punjab Government had itself given an affidavit in the Supreme Court that lands under the PLPA were covered under forest, Mr Singla said: “These are different issues”.

He also showed a letter of the Union Environment Ministry in which he claimed the JLPL had got the necessary permission in 2004. It was then pointed out how the JLPL got permission even before its project was approved in 2005. 


More govt-aided school teachers court arrest
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
On the third day of the Jail Bharo Andolan, 163 teachers and other employees of government-aided schools in Punjab courted arrest in Sector 17 this afternoon.

The protesting teachers and other employees hailing from three districts of Punjab, including Sangrur, Barnala and Tarn Taran, began assembling outside the office of the Director Public Instructions (DPI), Punjab, at around 1 pm. The disgruntled protesters shouted slogans against the state government, which, they alleged, has backtracked from the promises it had made with them. Later they marched toward the road dividing Sector 16 and 17, but they were stopped by the police near the Municipal Corporation office.

The protesting teachers and employees, who courted arrest, were 73 women. They were all prepared and were carrying bags. The police took them to the Sector 17 police station after arresting them under Sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Addressing the gathering outside the DPI office, the acting president of the Punjab state Aided school Teachers and Other Employees Union, Mr K.K. Joshi, claimed that schools in the state had been closed following a call of indefinite strike by the union. He further alleged that the silence of the state government over the issue was intriguing and a confession of guilt of the political leaders, who were backtracking from the promises they had made with the teachers and employees.

Mr Manohar Lal Chopra, adviser to the union, added while the state government had lifted ban on the recruitment, the same had not been done for the aided schools.

Dr Gurmit Singh, General Secretary of the union, said they would continue with their agitation till their major demands, including revival of pension scheme of 1992, removal of ban on recruitment and disparities like payment of interim relief, medical allowances, step ups after 4, 9, 14 years service, and regular release of grants were fulfilled.

The representatives made an appeal to the government to invite a deputation to arrive at a satisfactory solution.

Mr Manohar Lal Sharma, media adviser to the Chief Minister Punjab and a senator of Guru Nanak Dev University, in a press release stated that the state government should fulfil the promises it had made to the teachers. He added that the government had reached an agreement with the teachers and managements of the government-aided schools that they could opt for pension benefits or get employee provident fund (EPF) scheme. Some of the employees opted for the EPF while others demanded pension benefits. At that time the government asked them to surrender their EPF, which is Rs 80 crore now and it is deposited with the state government.

Urging the CM, Punjab, to restore the pension scheme, Mr Sharma said with this huge amount the government could easily meet the just demands of the protesting teachers and other employees. But it has not been done, and instead the state government has stopped the pension scheme from May 31, 2005, which was being run on the money deposited by the teachers. 


Kar sevaks launch operation Budda Nullah clean-up
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Koom Kalan (Ludhiana), December 6
In the first ever major effort to solve the Budda Nullah problem, a cleaning operation of the highly polluted drain began from this village today afternoon when kar sevaks started its desilting under over Rs 200 crore joint venture of the Punjab government and Sant Baba Jaspal Singh, head of a Baddowal-based religious set-up.

The project comes in the wake of a campaign by non-government organisations, environmentalists and the media about growing pollution by the nullah. With other organisations taking up the matter in the courts and at other forums, Baba Jaspal Singh announced last month to take on the problem at the ground level.

Mr P. Ram, Principal Secretary government Punjab represented the state in the project when the operation clean-up was launched today after bhog of Akhand Path organised near Koom Kalan village bridge across the nullah.

Kar sevaks started desilting and strengthening of the banks of the nullah from the village with the tractors and other agricultural equipment so that water to be released later, from the Abohar-Sirhind Feeder Canal could pass easily in the highly polluted water body. The nullah has been encroached upon in the village and banks also disappeared over the years.

Mr P. Ram said the kar sevaks would clean the nullah starting from Koom Kalan to Ludhiana and towards Chamkaur Sahib. He said it would take around three years to clean the drain up to its confluence point at Sutlej river.

He added nullah would be surveyed and then strategy planned to go about the project soon. It would take around six months’ to desilt the nullah till Machhiwara. Later they would proceed towards Ludhiana, where the nullah is the most polluted.

Once the desilting was done, they would strengthen both banks and lay a road on one side and forest belt on the other. The Baba will provide four lakh saplings of neem and pipal to kar sevaks to plant these on the banks of the nullah.

Later water will be released into the desilted drain and pressure used to pump out concentrated pollutants. Various government departments will ensure that the water body was no more polluted by emptying sewers or discharging toxic chemicals into it.

‘‘This is just a start. Seeing the Punjabi zeal and enthusiasm, I am hopeful that Ludhiana too can convert a polluted nullah into clean Budda darya like the historical Kali Bein. ’’ said Mr P. Ram, who was associated with Kali Bein project venture with Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal.


Mann’s ‘Pendu rally’ wants him as future CM
Tribune News Service

Barnala, December 6
The Kisan Rally, organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), at the local New Grain Market, today virtually turned into an election rally, as almost all speakers emphasised on the formation of the SAD (A) government and appealed to the gathering to make Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the SAD (A), Chief Minister of Punjab, in the coming Punjab, Assembly elections “to end all problems of the state”. Thousands of farmers and activists of the SAD (A) from all parts of the state participated in the rally.

Addressing the rally, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, said that the SAD (A) was a party of the farmers and the poor. He termed the rally as “Pendu rally”. He said leaders of the ruling parties did not want to see people of the rural areas educated, as they thought that if the rural people succeeded in getting knowledge through education, they would not follow their dictates and would not vote for them.

Mr Mann said if his government was formed, his priority would be free education to all up to class XII-level. He also said that his party would provide water for irrigation to the villages, even situated at the tail end in the state. He promised 24-hour power supply to the farmers. Wheat would be made available at the rate of Rs 300 per quintal to all persons having yellow cards. He also promised that in case his party was voted to power, it would write off loans worth Rs 23,000 crore, within seven days due towards the farmers and the poor.

Mr Mann also promised a corruption-free state. His party would end unemployment in Punjab. After coming to power, his party would demolish the boundary walls erected by the Trident Group around the acquired 376 acres in Dhaula, Chhanna and Sangherra villages (near Barnala) in a forcible manner. A cancer hospital would also be set up in the state. He emphasised on the control of female foeticide with iron hand.


Ultimatum to govt on Mandal panel report
Our correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 6
Mr Kehar Singh, President of the Backward Classes Sangharsh Committee, Punjab (BCSCP), warned the Chief Minister, Punjab if the Mandal Commission report was not implemented in Punjab before December 10, Backward Classes of the state would disassociate from the Congress party during the Vikas Yatra commencing from December 11, from Balachaur.

In a press note here today he said members of Backward Classes had always voted and supported the Congress in all elections. But its leaders had completely ignored it. He claimed though the Mandal Commission report had been implemented in some states in the country, but Punjab had not implemented it so far. The model code of conduct will soon be enforced in the state after a notification for the assembly elections and thereafter no decision could be implemented. He said Backward Classes would extend support only to the parties in the elections to the assembly which ensured maximum benefits to its members. In case it did not tied up with any party it would field candidates from various segments of the Assembly in the election.

The governing body of the BCSCP had already decided to field a candidate from Hoshiarpur segment.

He explained according to the Mandal Commission report, 27.5 per cent reservation would be given to the backward classes from Panchayats to Parliament. Ruling governments of various states were not implementing it.


Councillors seek MC president’s removal
Tribune News Service

Malout, December 6
Resentment is brewing among eight Congress municipal councillors here over the alleged non-implementation of the "party's decision to remove MC president Satguru Dev Pappi from the top post".

The MC vice-president, Mr Om Prakash Khera, who is leading the group of councillors, told mediapersons here today that they along with seven SAD-BJP councillors had brought a no-confidence motion against Mr Pappi on November 10, but the MC president didn't turn up for the meeting, which had to be cancelled. He claimed that prior to the no-trust vote, all party councillors, including the MC president, had met Local Bodies Minister Jagjeet Singh, where it was decided that "Mr Pappi would quit his post and he himself would be elevated to the post of MC chief". He said since then they had been waiting for the implementation of the decision reached at the meeting held in Chandigarh.


Protest over ‘favour’ to Badal Co.
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 6
Five employee bodies of the PRTC today accused a transport official of showing undue favour to SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal's Orbit Bus Company by making frequent extensions in the route of the company's buses. The protesting unions also gheraoed an Orbit bus at the local bus stand following a meeting of their joint panel.

The PRTC Workers Union AITUC president, Mr Jora Singh, said the PRTC was suffering huge losses due to the alleged connivance of some of its officials with private bus companies.

The PRTC Workers Action Committee alleged that a large number of private buses were plying illegally on the state's roads. The panel alleged that buses having permits of the Patiala-Sangrur were plying up to Abohar. Similarly, another company was running its bus from Patiala to Muktsar on a permit of the Sangrur-Bathinda route.

The action committee said it would be free to decide its future course of action if the concerned ministry did not take the matter seriously.



PSEB allows 200 units of free power to BPL consumers

Patiala, December 6
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), acting on the directions of the Punjab Government, has decided to allow 200 units of free power per month to domestic consumers belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category.

Mr Y.S Ratra, Chairman of the PSEB, said there were 4.44 lakh families living under the BPL, out of which nearly 64 per cent belonged to the Scheduled Caste category and as such were availing of the benefit of free electricity of 200 units per month. However, now the government had decided to extend this facility of free power to the remaining 1.60 lakh non- Scheduled Caste families. — TNS


Punjab lags in police modernisation, Central funds unutilised
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 6
Punjab had lagged miserably behind in the modernisation of the police compared to other states. It had not been able to utilise the central funds for the purpose. These revelations were made at a meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary, V.K. Duggal and attended, among others, by Chief Secretary, K.R. Lakhanpal and Director-General of Police S.S. Virk here today.

Under the police modernisation programme, the Union Cabinet had sanctioned Rs 1600 crore for the purpose. Punjab got Rs 171 crore. The expenditure was to be shared by the Centre and the state in the ratio of 75:25. However, Mr Lakhanpal said, due to the severe shortage of funds faced by the state till last year, the central funds could not be utilised. He said, now the state had allocated Rs 21 crore for the purpose and it is hoped to complete the process in next four years.

On police reforms in the country, Mr Duggal said, a Bill was likely to be introduced in Parliament on the subject in the Budget session. He said, it would be the discretion of the states to adopt the Bill as it was in a modified form. The Bill was being introduced following recommendations of a high-level committee headed by jurist Soli Sorabjee on the matter.

He said, the Union Home Ministry had also agreed in principle to Punjab’s request of sanctioning grants for the Border Area Development Programme (BADP). He had told the state officials to send the proposal for the BADP which would be considered by the Centre on priority. Under this programme various development programmes were being launched in border areas.

The Union Home Secretary allayed the apprehensions of violence or law and order problem in the state on the eve of elections. To a question on violent clashes between supporters of various political parties in different parts of the state in recent past, Mr Duggal said, these were isolated incidents. He said, his feedback, which was based on credible assessment and information, was the elections would be “absolutely peaceful, free and fair”.

He pointed out, while it was the duty of the Election Commission of India to hold elections in a peaceful manner, the Home Ministry only “supported and supplemented” the commission’s job. On the deployment of central forces in elections, he said, it would again depend on the requirement of the Election Commission only. 


Land vacated by hospital to have park
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 6
The land vacated by the shifting of the Military Hospital here will be used to build a park. The Arhtiya Association is spending Rs 28 lakh for the purpose. Besides, Rs 22 lakh would pour in from the local municipal council and MLA’s development fund. The park is expected to be ready by next month.

Mr Anil Nagori and Mr Sushil Garg, president, and secretary, respectively, of the association, said today that two artificial mountains had been developed at the site. Mr Sunil Jakhar, MLA, has advised that the rest house building developed during the British regime should not be demolished.

Spread over 3.25 lakh sq. ft, the park will have a skating ring and tracks for walkers. A kutcha footpath has been prepared using yellow sand transported from Bikaner to benefit people suffering from joint pain. The park has been provided a separate building for indoor yoga exercises.


Nine truck unions form association
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 6
Nine truck unions of the district today joined hands to form the District Truck Association here. Congress leaders, including PPCC general secretary Raninder Singh played a role in the formation of the association.

A majority of these nine unions were pro-Congress. Mr Kuldeep Singh has been chosen president of the association, while Mr Jageer Singh Khalsa as chairman.


Adopt organic farming, farmers exhorted
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 6
Mr Suresh Sharma, Managing Director, Nandni Biotechnology Centre, Maur Mandi, said almost every village of the state, especially villages of Bathinda, Mansa, Sangrur and Muktsar districts had 15 to 20 cases of cancer. He attributed the spread of cancer and other diseases to unnecessary use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Mr Sharma speaking at a seminar on “Organic Farming: Poison-free farming with local manure and spray”, organised by the Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum here last evening. Dr A.S. Mann, president of the forum, presided over the seminar.

Mr Sharma said that organic farming was gaining momentum in Punjab as demand for organic fertiliser was increasing. He said there was also a need to promote the organic farming training centres to impart training to the farmers, in the state and save them from cancer and fatal diseases.


Posts of DTO may be abolished
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
The Punjab Government is contemplating the abolishing of the posts of District Transport Officer (DTO), it is learnt.

The issue has been discussed at the political level and there is a strong opinion on abolishing the posts. There are about 20 approved posts of the DTO in the state. A few weeks ago, the Haryana Government had abolished such posts and the powers enjoyed by DTOs were transferred to the SDM. A similar pattern may be followed in Punjab, it is learnt.

Sources said the case was being prepared at the administrative level. It would be presented at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers for discussion and approval. However, the posts of Regional Transport Authority would be retained.

The registration of all commercial vehicles is with the DTOs. They had powers to check and impound vehicles.


2 charred to death

Barnala, December 6
Two persons were burnt to death when a fire broke out after a truck-canter collision in this district town today.

The truck, carrying cattle feed, collided with the Canter laden with liquor near Sangam hotel in the town and a fire broke out in which truck cleaner Hardeep and canter driver Harvinder Singh were charred to death.

A case has been registered against truck driver Sukhpal who fled. — UNI


Sikh students’ body splits
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 6
The Sikh Students Federation (SSF) virtually split today when Rajinder Singh Mehta, former patron of the federation formed the Sikh students Federation Mehta (SSFM) here.

Talking to the media Mr Mehta said they had been forced to form the new outfit due to dictatorial attitude of Mr Gurcharan Singh Grewal, president SSF. He said his supporters had urged Mr Grewal to restore the word ‘Mehta’ with the federation as he had promoted interests of the federation. He said Mr Grewal had also drifted away from the policy and the principle of the SSF for which it was formed. He alleged he (Grewal) was using the federation to promote political interests.

Mr Shishpal Singh Mirakot, general secretary, SSF along with office bearers resigned from the organisation yesterday due to autocratic style of functioning of Mr Grewal. He said the SSF president was not serious to resolve problems within the federation and ignoring supporters of Mr Mehta.

Mr Mehta said Mr Paramjit Singh Khalsa had been appointed as acting president of the SSFM and decided to hold the general body meeting of the federation on January 10 in Ludhiana. He said the office-bearers of the SSF who had joined the SSFM would continue to hold the same offices in the organisation.

The patron of the SSFM said that the case against Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, former BJP MP was politically motivated. He said the Congress government in the state was baffled and trying to involve top leaders of the opposition in cases for political mileage in the Assembly elections. He said such attempts of the Congress would not change mind of people who had already decided to throw the Congress out.


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