P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Cong stalwarts stay away from CM’s rally
Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri

Patti (Tarn Taran), December 15
As the state braces itself for a bitter battle for the Assembly poll, due in February next year, Congress giants in the Majha region seem to be caught in a clash of ideologies.

Though PPCC general secretary Harminder Singh Gill succeeded in drawing a large number of supporters for the Chief Minister’s “Vikas Yatra” here today, some stalwarts of the party were conspicuous by their absence, thus presenting a “divided house”.

However, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh congratulated Mr Gill for organising an “impressive rally” in the border town, thereby hinting at handing over the party ticket to him.

The senior leaders who stayed away from the rally included PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo, party’s candidate from Patti in the previous election Tarlok Singh Chakwalia, INFOTECH vice-chairman T.S. Peter, former MLA Sukhwinder Singh Butter, Market Committee chairman Gurbhej Singh and Darshan Singh of Block Samiti Sur Singh.

Though a senior Congress leader claimed that Mr Dullo was not well, sources close to him said the PPCC chief had skipped the function, as he had announced before that leaders with Akali background would not get the party ticket.

Patti is the stronghold of the Akalis and the Assembly constituency of Parkash Singh Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon.

Speaking at the rally, the Chief Minister vowed to inflict a heavy defeat on the SAD. He said Opposition leaders like Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal had been fully “exposed” for their misdeeds.

He said Mr Badal, his son and their coterie had always been raking up the issue of “Panth” being in danger in the runup to elections to exploit religious sentiments.

The Chief Minister said Mr Badal had been asked by the Supreme Court to face trial in the lower court as per the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Earlier, Punjab Subordinate Service Board member Harmohinder Singh Gill welcomed the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister announced to entrust the task of preserving the historical fort of Patti to INTACH, keeping in view its religious and cultural importance. He also announced a potable water and sewerage scheme for Sursingh, Sabraon and Bhikhiwind.

Sarbjit’s sister rejoins Cong

Patti: In a surprise move, Ms Dalbir Kaur, state executive member of the BJP, and sister of Sarabjit Singh, who is awaiting execution of death sentence in Pakistan, has rejoined her parent party in presence of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here today.

She had switched over to the BJP after deserting Congress last year, leveling charges against Congress leadership for having failed to pursue the case of her brother, who has been languishing in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore.

Interestingly, senior leaders of the Congress, including Mr J.S. Peter and Mr Harminder Singh Gill, had criticised Ms Dalbir Kaur for taking “political mileage” by speaking against the Congress leaders at the behest of the BJP. Talking to The Tribune, Ms Dalbir Kaur said she had left the BJP since she was not convinced its agenda.


Mega projects: Badal reminds PM of poll code
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 15
SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal has said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should keep the election code in mind before announcing any project for Punjab as it might favour the Congress party in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

With an aim to putting the government in an embarrassing position over the rise in the prices of essential commodities, the SAD today promised free wheat flour to the poor.

Mr Badal, who has already announced at the party’s Moga rally that if the SAD-BJP alliance is voted to power it will provide wheat flour to the poor at Rs 4 per kg, today handed over a cheque of Rs 1 crore to Samana MLA Surjeet Singh Rakhra to implement the same in his constituency.

Mr Badal was here to formally launch the party’s new scheme of distributing “atta” free of cost to the needy. He also flagged off trucks loaded with wheat flour to be distributed among economically weaker people.

Addressing the rally, Mr Badal said the Chief Minister had admitted that he had wasted crores of rupees by organising the yatra with the sole aim to mobilising votes. He added that the SAD-BJP combine when came to power would launch an inquiry to probe the same.

He also said candidates for the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee would be selected by a committee, comprising former union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar and Sukhvir Badal, and campaigning for those candidates would be done by former SGPC chiefs Bibi Jagir Kaur and Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar. Those present on the occasion included SAD senior vice-president (Patiala unit) Jaspal Singh.

Meanwhile, getting panicky over the developments, the state government started damage control measure and decided to provide subsidised food items, including pulses and wheat flour, through public distribution system (PDS) without any delay.


Insurance, free power for BPL families
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 15
The Punjab Council of Ministers today okayed a medical insurance scheme for the state’s poor. Families below the poverty line and those covered under the Aantodya Aan Yojna will also be provided insurance.

The total rural and urban population covered under the BPL is 22 lakh, representing 4.44 lakh families. The families would be covered for treatment of all surgical diseases requiring a minimum 24 hours’ hospitalisation up to an expenditure of Rs 1 lakh per year. The families would be required to pay Rs 100 per annum each. The remaining premium of Rs 500 per annum per family would be paid by the government.

The Cabinet also gave the nod to the supply of free electricity to BPL families not covered under the scheme for Scheduled Castes .The government would spend Rs 120 crore on providing up to 200 units of power to each BPL family free of cost from December 1.

The creation of posts for monitoring children living with women prisoners was approved while exemption from levy of VAT was granted on raw material and consumable items procured by or sold to the management of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anadpur Sahib, Ropar and Takht Sri Damdama Sahib (including Gurdwara Sri Mastuana Sahib), Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, and Sri Devi Talab Mandir Jalandhar.

The Cabinet approved the recruitment of 2026 ETT teachers and 1625 ETT/B.Ed. teachers in rural primary schools, creation of 295 posts for sportsmen in different cadres of the police, filling of 629 direct recruitment vacancies of classical and vernacular cadres in the Directorate of Secondary Education and family pension to employees absorbed in Public Sector Undertakings .

The memorandum of agreement with Jurong Consultants Private Limited, Singapore, for preparation of a master plan for the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) was approved. Projects falling in the Special Economic Zones requiring land aquisition had been abandoned and amendments made to bring the SEZ policy in line with the Government of India policy.


Bhagwant, Waris to star in Virasat Mela
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 15
Punjabi standup comedian Bhagwant Mann and singer Manmohan Waris will be part of the annual Virasat Mela, schedule to take place at the sports stadium here from December 22 to 24.

The fair will also witness participation of NRIs from Canada and will be aired on ETC Punjabi channel.

Addressing a press conference here today, writer and chief promoter of the Malwa Heritage Foundation Prof Karam Singh said residents of the region were gradually becoming oblivious to their rich cultural heritage.

He said the fair would showcase rich and diverse heritage of Malwa apart from providing a platform to artistes, sportspersons and artisans to come together and work for the promotion of their cultural heritage, which was facing a threat from the western culture.

Highlighting the schedule, he said on the opening day a “heritage march” would be taken out from Haji Rattan Dargah to Quila Mubarak, which would offer people a glimpse of their unique culture and tradition.

An exhibition of the folk art and handloom would be held at the stadium. Jaipalgarh, a heritage village, would also be inaugurated on the same day.

On December 23, kabaddi and wrestling matches would take place. A “jaago” would be taken out from Quila Mubarak to the stadium and a programme of folk singing would be organised in the evening.

The concluding day would offer with Malwai gidha and Kavishar. The three-day fair would culminate with performances from Manmohan Waris and Bhagwant Mann.

He added that the Indian-Canadian Sports and Cultural Club would also play a vital role in holding the event.

Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandari and working president of the foundation L.R. Nayyar were also present at the press conference.


Decks cleared for rural varsity
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 15
Decks were cleared today for Guru Gobind Singh Rural University in Punjab, the first of its kind. It will come up at Talwandi Saboo ( Bathinda), also called Guru-ki-Kashi.

An elated Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Mr S.S. Boparai, the brain behind the project, today said about 80 acres of land was available at Talwandi Saboo for setting up the campus at an estimated cost of Rs 181 crore.

The university would be for rural students alone. Plus one and two classes would also be held on the campus. The definition of rural students was available with the state government.

He said education at the plus two level in rural Punjab was in a shambles. Medical and non-medical streams were non-existent. He said that Economics and Psychology would be two major disciplines from the social sciences to be taught at the university.

Otherwise, the university’s focus would be on technical and professional courses such as bio-technology, engineering, pharmaceuticals and business administration. There will be quality education in Punjabi, Hindi and English. The university would start functioning from the next academic year. He said it was unfortunate the percentage of rural students at the higher level was alarmingly low.

Mr Boparai said the Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, had cleared the note for adequate allocation for higher education for rural students. Of the Rs 162 crore allocated to four universities in Punjab, only 7 crore would be spent on rural students. The remaining amount was being spent on urban students because their presence in universities was about 96 per cent.

Mr Boparai held a meeting in this regard with the Principal Secretary, Finance, Mr D.S. Kalha. He said youth in rural areas required to be given a better deal and by providing them quality education, society could benefit significantly.


Parties politicising Dalit issues: Kainth
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 15
Bahujan Samaj Morcha national president Satnam Singh Kainth has alleged that almost all political parties, including the Bahujan Samaj Party, were politicising the Dalit issues and only misusing their sentiments for their own political interests.

Talking to newsmen here today, Mr Kainth said political parties made false promises to Dalits and forgot all promises after getting in power. He said the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal were two sides of the same coin and were playing with Dalits’ sentiments. He alleged the BSP was misleading the people and adopting directionless policies. He claimed the Bahujan Samaj Morcha would emerge as a strong party in the coming elections.

Answering a question, Mr Kainth said the BSM was identifying the Assembly seats from where its candidates could contest the elections.


Barnala meddling in state politics, says Mann
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 15
SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann has asked the President of India to either keep Surjit Singh Barnala as Tamil Nadu Governor and prevent him from taking part in Punjab politics or relieve him from the post, as he was “meddling” in the state politics.

In a statement, Mr Mann alleged that the President should free Mr Barnala from the post of Governor, as he had been visiting Barnala and Sangrur frequently and discussing politics with his supporters there, whereas under the protocol, a Governor was bound to remain aloof, non-partisan and apolitical.

Mr Mann further alleged that instead of staying away from politics, Mr Barnala had been meeting Akali leaders.


Tribune Impact
Bust of war hero traced
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 15
The mysterious disappearance of the bust of a 1971 Indo-Pak war hero, Capt Lalit Mohan Bhatia, from the protected area of the historical Ram Bagh, as reported in these columns yesterday, was traced to a storehouse of the Services Club here today.

The sudden disappearance of the bust had raised many an eyebrow in the civil and military circles.

Some social organisations had expressed shock over the incident and raised questions over the security arrangements in the protected area.

They had raised the issue with the administration and highlighted the disrespect shown towards Vir Chakra awardee Captain Bhatia, a local resident who had laid down his life in the 1971 war.

Brij Bedi, who launched a single-handed campaign to locate the bust, said he was sad at the disrespect shown to the soldier who had laid down his life in the Ferozepore sector while fighting Pakistan soldiers.

He said the administration must institute an independent inquiry to look into the disappearance of the bust, donated by the martyr’s family.

Mr Bedi expressed surprise at the finding of the bust from the Service Club’s storehouse and said the inquiry must probe into the entire episode. He demanded punishment for those guilty of the act.


Gloom in Bhinder’s village
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 15
There was gloom and shock across district today as the news of the death of six-time Member of Parliament, Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, spread in the area today morning.

The Congress and her supporters in the district she had been representing for the past more than two decades were in state of shock at her death. Nobody had the knowledge of her ailment that allegedly ended her life as she used to visit the constituency regularly but for the past few months.

Sources close to the family said health of Mrs Bhinder had been deteriorating for quite some time. She was in London for treatment in the past few months. For the past two to three days she was admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital at Delhi for intestinal infection. Later she was shifted to the intensive care unit where she died around 11 am today.

She will be cremated at Lodhi crematorium New Delhi at 3 pm tomorrow. Her supporters here remember as an iron lady of the district. Straightforward in talk and deed she stood by her supporters and fought for their cause at every level. She elevated many small-time leaders in the district to state and national political scams. Besides, she got government jobs for many youth from the district in the police while her husband was DG Punjab Police, they said.

Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, originally belonged to the Bolath area of Kapurthala district. She belonged to a family of landlords and got her education from Panjab University. She married in the district an IPS officer and former DGP P.S. Bhinder.

She first contested Lok Sabha election from Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency on Congress ticket in 1980. Since then she represented the district for five consecutive terms. She won parliamentary elections from the district in 1980, 1985, 1989, 1992 and 1996.

She also remained a Minister of State for Tourism in the Narasimha Rao government from 1993 to 1996. During her stint as a minister for state, Gurdaspur got the National Institute of Hotel Management. This was her prime time in politics as she controlled political activities of the district from her house at Gurdaspur.

However, after 1996 she lost parliamentary elections consecutively three times to BJP candidate from Gurdaspur and actor Mr Vinod Khanna. Despite losing three times the Congress failed to find her replacement in Gurdaspur. This spoke of her hold over electorate in the Gurdaspur constituency. She was nominated a Rajya Sabha member from the district two years ago.

Mr Ashwani Kumar, Minister of State for Industry said “I express solidarity with the family of Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder in this moment of grief.”

Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa said death of Mrs Bhinder was an irreparable loss of the Congress in the district.


Notices to staff for being absent
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 15
Six employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board, including an SDO, have been served notices by the district administration after they were found absent from duty.

SDM N.S. Brar had conducted a surprise check during which SDO Charanjit Singh Mann, AAE Krishan Kumar, junior engineers Gurnaib Singh, Ashok Kumar and Jagtar Singh and office clerk Amrit Kaur were found absent. Mr Brar said the absent employees had been asked to explain as to why no action should be taken against them for the lack of discipline in performing their duties.

The district administration too conducted a surprise check yesterday at the local Public Health Department where four employees were found absent. These employees were also issued notices.

Deputy Commissioner Rakhi Gupta Bhandari said the raid was conducted after it was brought to the notice of the administration about inconveniences being caused to the general public due to the employees being absent in various government departments. She said the administration would recommend departmental action against the erring employees.


Installation of statue opposed
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 15
The MC authorities’ effort to install a statue of Shaheed Sipahi Jarnail Singh at Haji Rattan Chowk today faced resistance from the area residents here.

The protesters said they were not against the statue installation, but at the same time they were not in its favour as it would lead to a change in the name of the chowk.

They said their religious sentiments were attached to Baba Haji Rattan and the chowk was known by his name for long.


Hair chopping: six rounded up

Moga, December 15
The police today rounded up six persons in connection with the incident of chopping off hair of a teenager Sikh of Baghapurana town by three unidentified motor cycle-borne miscreants yesterday.

Gurdev Singh, alias Geja, was named in a complaint lodged by Sukhjit Singh for chopping off his hair.

Various police parties raided a number of hideouts of the accomplices of Gurdev Singh as alleged in the complaint and rounded up around five youths from and around Baghapurana, the police said. However, no arrest was yet made in this connection. — PTI


2 brothers get life for murder
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 15
Mr Jaspal Singh, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Hoshiarpur, convicted Sarwan Singh and his brother Jaspal Singh, sons of Tarsem Singh of Chhota Terkiana today in a murder case of Palo Ram of Baba Peer Gujar Mazara. He sentenced the two brothers to life imprisonment and fined Rs 5000/- each.

According to the FIR, Palo Ram of Baba Peer Gujar Mazara was murdered by the two brothers on July 27, 2005, for which the Mukerian police had registered a case under Sections 302 and 34 of the IPC. 


Sedition case: Simranjit appears in court
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 15
SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann today appeared in the court of Judicial Magistrate Daljit Singh Ralhan in sedition case following his inflammatory speeches delivered during a function to mark “Ghallughara Day” at Akal Takht on June 6.

The next hearing has been fixed for January 6.


Post of DTO not to be abolished
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 15
Following sharp differences of opinion among ministers, the Punjab Council of Ministers today dropped the issue of abolishing the post of the District Transport Officer (DTO).

Sources said the Transport Minister, who had approved the agenda to abolish the post, did not support the same at the meeting. The post of District Transport Officer is considered the most lucrative among the posts meant for PCS officers.

There are a good number of transporters who ply buses illegally on various routes, allegedly in connivance with DTOs. Their interests would have been harmed if these posts were abolished.


Dharna by teachers of aided schools
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 15
Teachers of government-aided schools staged a dharna before the Deputy Commissioner’s office here today. The indefinite postponement of the December tests is causing inconvenience to the students.

While addressing a rally, Mr Raj Mohinder, a union leader, said the state government was not keeping its promises. Many times the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had assured the teachers’ union to accept their demands but the demands had not been met till date.

The newly created Barnala and Sangrur districts were having 24 aided schools and about 350 teachers were working in these districts.

Another union leader, Mr Raj Mohinder, said the teachers were demanding revival of pension since July 2003.


End to teachers’ stir in sight
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 15
The issue of reviving the pension scheme for teachers in aided private schools in Punjab has been nearly clinched. A formal announcement is expected any time tomorrow. Representatives of the union met the Education Minister, Mr Partap Bajwa, and the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla.

The ministers will now brief the Chief Minister about the financial implications of giving pension arrears since 2003 and also restarting the scheme suspended since 2003.


Youth fest promises cultural bonanza

Amritsar, December 15
More than 1100 students from 25 universities of northern states i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, New Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Punjab, will participate in the North Zone Inter-University Youth Festival being hosted by Guru Nanak Dev University here from December 17 to 21.

Mr Baljit Singh Sekhon, Director, Youth Welfare, and Coordinator, said the Punjab Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd) would inaugurate the festival. A cultural procession would be the main attraction of this festival in which dancing troupes of various universities would participate, he said.

Popular folk singer Jasbir Jassi, comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi and ghazal singer Ustad Naushad Khan would enthrall the audience. Winners of the North zone would participate in the All India Inter-University National Youth Festival to be held at Madras University, Chennai, from January 21 to 25, 2007. — TNS


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