P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Badal contradicts government claim on loan waiver
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The Shiromani Akali Dal president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today described as “a sickening lie and a cheap election stunt” the Punjab Government’s claim that the special term loan incurred by the state during the days of militancy was waived off only yesterday and not by a former Prime Minister, Mr I.K. Gujral.

Mr Badal quoted official communication from the Union Government to prove “that the present rulers of the state were not only resorting to misleading statements on a sensitive issue, but were also insulting the present Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, who held the same position when the loan had been waived in July, 2000.

Punjab had never been asked to repay either the loan or any instalment thereof as according to that decision instalments were to stand waived as and when these fell due. “Unless the present government at the Centre reversed that decision, Punjab was never under any liability to repay any part of that loan after the decision on the waiver,” said Mr Badal.

He advised the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, “to at least check records available in his own office to find out when the loan had actually been waived off”. Mr Badal referred to a letter from the Union Government through Dr R. Bannerji, Joint Secretary, Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, on July 24, 2000, clearly relieving Punjab of its commitments under the said loan.

The letter specifically states, “It has now been decided by the Government of India not to effect recovery of further instalments of loan repayment and interest payment on the (above) Special Term Loan” and gives details of the background to the decision. The letter says, “A special term loan was granted to Punjab during the period 1984-85 to 1993-94.

As per the 10th Finance Commission recommendation, one-third of the repayment of the principal falling during 1995-96 on a special term loan, amounting to Rs 495.21 crore, has been written off. Apart from this, the Government of India has written off unpaid instalments of principal and interest from years 1995-96,1997-98,1998-99 and 1999-2000 amounting to Rs 2917.89 crore.”

The letter, said Mr Badal tracing the sequence of events, was a sequel to a high-level meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister, Mr I.K. Gujral, and attended, among others, by the Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, the then Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Badal and high-ranking officials of the Government of India and Punjab.


February poll a jolt for Congress
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The announcement for holding the general elections of the Punjab Assembly on February 13 has come as a bolt from the blue for the ruling Congress in the state. The Election Commission announced the poll schedule for Punjab, Manipur and Uttaranchal this afternoon.

Though political parties had been awaiting for the announcement of poll dates, the ruling party was hoping that the Assembly elections would be held either in the last week of February or on March 1. It had made an assessment that the code of conduct would be enforced after January 4. Mr S.Y. Quraishi was to visit Punjab on January 3 and 4 and after his visit the issue of holding the elections in the state was to be discussed at the commission level. However, the commission today gave it a big surprise by announcing the election dates.

Last time, the Assembly elections were held on February 13, 2002, and the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had taken the oath of office on February 27, 2002. However, this time the counting of votes will be held on February 27.

The decision taken by the Union Cabinet to waive off Punjab’s loan worth Rs 3,772 crore last evening appears to have made the Election Commission announce the poll schedule for the state immediately. With the announcement, the code of conduct has come into force in the state. Now neither the Union nor the state government can make any statement or take any decision to influence voters in any manner. However, political parties can announce their future agenda for the state in the form of their poll manifesto or by making announcements.

“ For us, both February13 and 27 are lucky dates. Last time we had won the elections on February 13 and Capt Amarinder Singh had taken oath on February 27”, said Mr Surinder Singla, Finance Minister.

The SAD president and leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, commenting on the announcement regarding the Assembly elections, said that“ the era of repression, exploitation and cheap stunts has come to an end in Punjab”.

“Punjabis had been waiting with a bated breath for this day, and Capt Amarinder Singh will now see where he really stands. He will face the same burst of popular anger against him and his corrupt and repressive regime that all corrupt dictators do”, added Mr Badal.


Looking Ahead
First 2 months will decide political future of Punjab
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
A series of show-of-strength rallies and yatras by both the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance during the past few months are set to catapult political activities to a decisive stage in the first quarter of the New Year.

All political activities, especially those connected with holding of Assembly elections in the state, will not only set the agenda for the next five years, but also determine the future of initiatives like Special Economic Zones (SEZs), mega projects -multiplexes, new townships and infrastructure development - and the future of agriculture taken by the present Congress government which is about to complete a full term in office.

Though the fiscal health may have shown signs of considerable improvement, yet the same may not be said of the governance. Police brutalities on unemployed and qualified youth, farmers, students and even employees are unlikely to continue next year. Depending upon which political power assumes office in the state next March, new bureaucratic setup will shape up.

Politically the first six weeks of the New Year are set to witness a “war of survival” between the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Leader of Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. To whom February 13 proves lucky remains to be seen.

Whosoever triumphs not only gets in the driver’s seat, but also holds back the right to decide the future of the rival giant he conquers in the battle of ballot. The ensuing political battle, apart from its conventional facades, is expected to be fierce where money and muscle power will be decisive parameters.

Stakes will be high as all those who got the backing of the government for their investment plans or threw their weight behind the ruling party in last five years on various policy decisions would be pressed hard to resist any change in the power. At the same time, those who lost or fell out with the government feel peeved at special concessions extended to a select few. Division is vertical not only in the bureaucracy, but also in the trade and industry, employees and the youth.

Though issues like corruption, inflation, unemployment, suicides among farmers and their growing debtness, acquisition of farm land for development of SEZs and mega projects and passing of special concessions, discounts to select groups may be major poll issues, yet ballot battles will be won more on the strength of monies, muscles and strategies, planned and executed elsewhere.

Punjab has always been on the brink of turmoils, both political and economical. The major political parties continue to play to the gallery rather than addressing important social issues like growing menace of drug addiction or the exploitation of youth by travel and manpower agents.

As such things may not be as bright in the year 2007 for those waging a battle on these social issues or fighting for the unemployed youth of the state. Though the present government had claimed investment running over a lakh of crores in various mega projects, not many are expected to be on steam in 2007.Gestation period for most of these projects is up to three years. In many of the cases, work is yet to start. It will take a while before these projects become a reality and give remunerative employment to the youth of the state.

Use of police force and registration of criminal cases, especially against political opponents of the government, may continue unabated even when a new government gets into the office.

Broadly speaking, the “strategic war” between the Congress and the SAD is likely to continue into the next year. While smaller player, like the BJP, has its loyalties firmed up, other political players like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Akali Dal (Amritsar) or the Third Front may also get a chance to play a role in shaping up the political scene for the next five years in the state.

The problem of dissension within major political parties may aggravate as the number of aspirants for tickets for the Assembly elections may be abnormally high this time. Though defection of Mr Raj Khurana from the Congress to the BJP was consequential of happenings within the ruling group, things may not be congenial in other parties, including Akali Dal, also.

Another significant development expected to gain ground in the coming year will be the visible endeavour of all players to don the mantle of secularism.


Strength of parties
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The following is the strength of the various parties in the outgoing Vidhan Sabha. The Assembly has a strength of 117 MLAs-Congress 65,SAD 40, BJP 2 and Independents 9.

* The strength of the Congress includes two MLAs of the CPI, its alliance partner, who later joined it.

* Mr Raj Khurana, MLA from Rajpura, who recently resigned from the House, has not been counted as part of the outgoing MLAs. He was elected on a Congress ticket and joined the BJP early this week.


A rundown of earlier elections
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Since the re-organisation of states on November 1, 1966, the political fate of the state has seen as many as six rounds of President’s rule. Some were forced on political grounds while others on administrative grounds during the period of militancy. Since 1966, the elections in February will be the tenth Assembly election in the state. Since 1966, elections have been held in 1967, 1969, 1972, 1977, 1980, 1985, 1992, 1997 and 2002 and now it is scheduled in 2007.

The following have been the Chief Ministers:

  • Giani Gurmukh Singh Mussafir (Cong) Nov 1, 1966 to March 8, 1967
  • Gurnam Singh (Akali) March 8, 1967 to Nov 24, 1967
  • L.S. Gill (Cong) Nov 25, 1967 to Aug 23, 1968
  • President’s rule Aug 23, 1968 to Feb 17, 1969
  • Gurnam Singh (Akali) Feb 17, 1969 to March 26, 1970
  • Parkash Singh Badal (Akali) March 27, 1970 to June 14, 1971
  • President’s rule June 14, 1971 to March 16, 1972
  • Giani Zail Singh (Cong) March 17, 1972 to April 30, 1977
  • President’s rule April 30, 1977 to June 20, 1977
  • Parkash Singh Badal (Akali) June 20, 1977 to Feb 17, 1980
  • President’s rule Feb 17, 1980 to June 6, 1980
  • Darbara Singh (Cong) June 6, 1980 to Oct 6, 1983
  • President’s rule Oct 6, 1983 to Sept 29, 1985
  • S.S. Barnala (Akali) Sept 29, 1985 to May 11, 1987
  • President’s rule May 11, 1987 to Feb 25, 1992
  • Beant Singh (Cong) Feb 25, 1992 to Aug 31, 1995
  • H.S. Brar (Cong) Aug 31, 1995 to Nov 21, 1996
  • Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Cong) Nov 21, 1996 to Feb 11, 1997
  • Parkash Singh Badal (Akali) Feb 12, 1997 to Feb 24, 2002
  • Amarinder Singh (Cong) Feb 26, 2002 till end of elections.


Rajpura seat becomes bone of contention between SAD, BJP
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, December 29
Even as Punjab got into the election mode today with the announcement of the elections for February 13, the Rajpura Assembly seat seemed to be becoming a bone of contention between the alliance partners-the SAD and the BJP.

In fact, in a show of strength, the youth wing of the SAD fired a salvo at the party high command for conceding the Rajpura seat to the BJP in the seat-sharing arrangement and staked its claim to the seat in the "interest of justice".

Recently the sitting Congress MLA, Mr Raj Kumar Khurana, had resigned from the party and joined the BJP in an apparent attempt to contest on the BJP ticket. However, if the combative mood of the workers of the senior partner in the alliance, SAD, was any indication, the going may get tough for the BJP candidate.

Several Akali leaders, including close relatives of senior leaders, were projected as SAD candidates from Rajpura. In fact, in one of the rallies, even the SAD supremo, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had staked party's claim on seat. However, the allotment of the seat to the BJP seemed to have upset the applecart of the SAD leaders.

At today’s rally, the tone for workers' mood was set in motion by the general secretary of the youth wing, Mr Jasjeet Singh, who urged the party high command to keep party workers' feelings in mind and allot the ticket to the SAD. Capt Kanwaljit Singh, senior SAD leader, was urged to take up the issue at tomorrow's Political Affairs Committee meeting of SAD.

Addressing the rally, Capt Kanwaljit Singh termed the reported waiver of the Punjab loan by the Central Government as a "bundle of lies" since the loan was already waived off by the then I.K. Gujral government.

Accusing the Congress of "misleading" people on the river water issues, the Akali leader alleged that people, particularly farmers of the Banur-Rajpura area, had been facing an acute shortage of water.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who seemed to be unruffled by the demand of the party cadre, said the main priority was to defeat the Congress.

Prominent among those who spoke were Mr Jagtar Singh Rajla, president of the Patiala district unit, Mr Avtar Singh Harpalpur, Mr Surjit Singh Garhi, SGPC member, Mr Jaswinder Jassi, president of the youth wing of the Patiala unit.


Poll code comes into force
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The model code of conduct that came into force in Punjab today means several appointments, promises of transfer and promotions for employees, besides new schemes in villages. The construction of roads or other infrastructure, that are in the pipeline, will have to be put on hold.

The code lays down a series of do’s and dont’s for the party in power. Ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work.

Government aircraft, cars and manpower cannot be used for election work. There shall be no monopoly over open spaces for holding election meetings and no use of helipads. The same will be for rest houses. Crucially, no advertisements will be released at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers and other media. No sanction of grants or payments out of discretionary funds will be now allowed.

From today ministers and authorities shall not announce any financial grants in any form or lay foundation stones of projects or schemes of any kind. Also no promises can be made for the construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities or any ad-hoc appointments in government and public undertakings.

Also, no minister, either of the Central or the state government, shall enter any polling station or place of counting, except in their capacity as a candidate or voter or an authorised agent.

The code of conduct also says criticism of other political parties has to be confined to their policies and programmes, past record and work. Parties and candidates should refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties.

It debars the parties from creating hatred or causing tension between different castes and communities on religious or linguistic lines. No appeals can be made on caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras shall not be used as a forum for election propaganda.

Organising demonstrations or picketing before the houses of individuals by way of protesting against their opinions or activities shall not be resorted to under any circumstances. No political party or candidate shall use an individual’s land, building or compound wall without his permission for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices or writing slogans.


Endangered fish being poached
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur December 29
Endangered golden mahasher fish was being poached illegally in the Ravi and Beas rivers in the district. The government has banned catching of mahasher variety of fish below the size of one feet. However, poachers are freely killing small- sized mahasher fish that further endangers their existence.

The Tribune team caught on camera a few golden mahasher fish caught by poachers from the Ravi. The fish caught was just a few centimetres long and was being caught illegally.

The Department of Fisheries has awarded fish-catching contract this year for the Ravi and Beas rivers . Only the authorized contractor can catch fish and that also within the parameters fixed by the department.

However, the parameters are often violated and the contractors catch small fish that directly affects the population of endangered varieties.

The population of fish in the Beas and Ravi rivers passing through Gurdaspur has dropped to such an extent that for about four years the department failed to find any contractor for catching fish. Only this time a contract for catching fish has been given.

The Mahasher fish variety is further endangered as it population has already reduced to alarming levels due to the construction of dams. The Mahasher fish variety moves upstream in the rivers for breeding. They generally breed in white waters in upper reaches.

The eggs of the fish have to swim in water for hours for ideal breeding. However, due to the construction of dams the mahasher variety fish cannot move upstream. In western countries, stairs are provided in dams from where the water flows continuously. Fish varieties like salmon that move upstream for breeding can use stairs to cross over from the dams.

However, dams constructed in India do not take the precautions for sustaining the upstream moving fish varieties like mahasher.


Salaries of border area project workers released
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 29
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Central Social Welfare Board have decided to release the salary arrears of 93 employees under the border area project schemes with immediate effect. Besides, they were being taken on the pay roll of the state social welfare board.

Mrs Ratna, Chairperson, Punjab State Social Welfare Board confirmed this to The Tribune and said it was through the efforts of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh that the salary of the staff, which had been pending for the last 17 months, was released.

She said the border area project scheme was started in 1976 in the three border districts of Amritsar, Ferozepore and Gurdaspur. In view of the backwardness of the border region, the government had started the projects to provide facilities like maternity services, craft centres and balwadi services.

She said that in an unfortunate decision, the government decided to phase out these projects from April 1, 2005, and the salaries of all those employees deployed under these schemes remained unpaid for the last 17 months.

Ratna said it was due to persistent efforts of Punjab and the central board that during the meeting of the central board held on December 14 at New Delhi, the government had decided to absorb all the 93 employees of the border area project in the integrated child development scheme.


Thamburaj is Bombay Sappers’ Col Cmdt
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
General Officer Commanding, 11 Corps, Jalandhar, Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj has been appointed as the Colonel Commandant of the Bombay Sappers. The Colonel Commandant’s Baton was handed over to him by the outgoing Vice Chief of the Army Staff Lt Gen S. Pattabhiraman, at New Delhi today.

General Pattabhiraman superannuates on December 31 after a distinguished career spanning 40 years. He is the first sapper officer to have served as the Vice Chief. His appointments included Defence Attaché to Turkey, the first Director General of Information Systems at Army Headquarters and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command.

As Vice Chief, he was instrumental in ensuring a high state of operational preparedness at all times, besides conceptualising the Army’s vision for the decade ahead. He had recently, in association with Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, provided impetus to senior officers joining the corporate world as Independent Directors by steering a week long course on the subject. The General also steered the affairs of the Bombay Engineering Group and Centre, Pune, for a period of three years as the Colonel Commandant.

General Thamburaj, who assumes the appointment of Colonel Commandant from January 1, 2007, had taken part in the 1971 Indo-Pak War and counter-insurgency operations in the north-east and Jammu and Kashmir. A paratrooper, he commanded a Rashtriya Rifles Sector during Operation Vijay and an infantry division during Operation Parakram. He has a Masters in Building Science from IIT, Delhi.


Munir Niazi: complete poet of our times
Nirupama Dutt

A baby boy born in the obscure village of Khanpur near Hoshiarpur on April 9, 1928, had to migrate to the promised land of Pakistan when he was still 19 and his family settled down in Sahiwal. The trauma of displacement, in the mass migration from and the struggle to start afresh imprinted itself on his sensitive soul. The pain, however, was channelled into poetry and he was to be acknowledged as one of the greatest poets of the classical tradition, equally proficient in Urdu and his mother tongue, Punjabi. Many renowned sang his ghazals singers Mehdi Hasan made his famous verses very popular by lending his voice to them:

Kaise kaise log hamare jee ko jalane aa jaate hain

Apne apne gham ke fasane hamein sunane aa jaate hain

(All kinds of people come to scorch my heart by telling me their tales of sorrow)

He was Munir Niazi, equally loved for his poignant verses on both sides of the Indo-Pak border, who passed away of a cardiac arrest at Lahore the day after Christmas at the age of 78. With his passing away, we have lost one of the finest poets to the classical tradition who at the same time contributed immensely to modern poetry in both Urdu and Punjabi. Calling up from Lahore, poet and columnist Zahid Masood said: "The people of Lahore were deeply grieved to lose their favourite poet. He was what can be called a complete poet. His verse, of course, will always live with us." Haryana Urdu Akademi Chairman Kashmiri Lal Zakir voiced similar sentiment on this side of the border: " After Faiz, he was the topmost poet of Pakistan who wrote of sorrow but also of hope. He was equally loved for his poetry in India."

It was not easy to emerge as a major poet in times when Faiz Ahmad Faiz was towering over the sub-continent in Pakistan and in India there were poets like Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kaifi Azmi and Sahir Ludhianvi to reckon with but Munir worked the magic with his poetry. Today he is regarded as a trendsetter with his unique diction, style and thought. Niazi penned 14 collections of poetry in Urdu and Punjabi. For his literary achievements Munir Niazi was awarded Kamal-e-Funn Award for the year 2002 by Pakistan Academy of Letters and the President’s Award for Pride of Performance in 1992 and Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1998. His works include Dushmanoon Key Darmiyan, Mah-e-Munir, Aghaz-e-Zamastan Main Dobara and Aik Musalsal.

Pakistani poet Neelama Naheed Durrani, who met him a day before his death, laments: In spite of his greatness, his poetry fetched him little money. Sadly, he was promised Rs 2000 for his famous ghazal, Us bewafa ka shahr hai aur ham hain dosto, sung by Nasim Begum for the Pakistani film Shaheed, but was paid only Rs 200." Poets, in all times, have never written for money and so it was with Niazi. His verses were dictated by passion and the reality of the society. One got to hear him in person when he came to participate in a mushaira at Ambala in the Eighties and won many a heart by reciting his famous Partition poem in Punjabi:

Kujh unjh vi raahan aukhian san

Kujh gal vich gham da tauk vi si

Kujh shahr de log vi zalim san

Kujh sanu maran da shauq vi si

(The path was somewhat difficult and sorrow was resting on the chest/ The people of the city were somewhat cruel and we too had a death wish)

Some three years ago one met him again at the World Punjabi Conference at Lahore. He had aged and was ailing. Married twice, he had no child but many admirers. He spoke passionately about poetry saying: "Poetry comes from the heart and its test is that it must touch other hearts." Well, this was a test that the poetry of Niazi never failed for it appealed alike to the masses and the classes.


Befitting honour for Gursharan Singh
S.D. Sharma

Chandigarh, December 29
Gursharan Singh personifies simplicity. Venerated as the king of Punjabi theatre, he has been selected for Sangeet Natak Akademi Rattan award.

An institution in himself, he won the Sangeet Natak Award in 1993 and the prestigious national Kalidas Samman in 2003. An author of 13 books, 132 short and six-full-length plays with over 8,500 stage performances to his credit, this chemical engineer stood tall in the toughest of times as a messiah of the under privileged.

He was there to counter terrorism with his play “Baba Bolda Hai”. He was also in Bhopal to heal the wounds of the suffering humanity with “Bhai Manna Singh” during the Bhopal gas leak tragedy.

Sharing his feelings with The Tribune on his latest achievement, a beaming Gursharan Singh said: “This is in reciprocation of my concern for the people and their love, but I am never-the-less happy to see the award as a recognition of the Punjabi theatre”.

He said the award had inspired him to visit 300 villages in Punjab during the 100th birth anniversary year of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Through the door-to-door campaign, I wish to create an awakening among the masses on mutual brotherhood and harmony.

Chairperson of the Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Adademi Kamal Tewari, said the decision on awarding Gursharan Singh was unanimous unlike other nominations.


Strike forces farmers to sell cotton
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 29
With the cotton ginners’ strike entering second day, the markets here didn’t witness any fresh arrival today. The farmers of the state were now heading toward Haryana and Rajasthan for selling their produce. Thus, the resulting outflow of cotton is causing a huge revenue loss to the state government.

Mr Yogesh Kumar Singla, a broker from bordering Kallanwali market in Haryana, said cotton arrival post-strike in Punjab had shot up by over 25 per cent. Though, earlier also farmers of the Talwandi Sabo and Rama Mandi areas used to bring their produce to Haryana, but the arrival from the other side of the border had significantly increased in the past couple of days. He said as compared to yesterday’s arrival of 800 bales, the market at Kallanwali today touched a figure of 1,100 bales. The cotton prices in their state were hovering around Rs 2,100, he added. Mr Gauri Shankar, a factory owner in the bordering Hanumangarh area of Rajasthan, also confirmed that the arrival in their market was above normal. He said the market saw an arrival of 450 cotton bales as compared to the previous days figure of 350 bales thus registering an increase of over 25 per cent. Mr Shankar, who also owns a dharam kanta (weighing machine), said 50 tractor-trolleys loaded with cotton had arrived from Punjab today only. On a normal day about 15 tractor-trolleys come to his dharam kanta, but today the number shot up by three-four times. He revealed that contrary to old trend about 15,000 bales of cotton had already arrived in Hanumangarh from Abohar and other border areas of the state. He attributed the reversal in trend to delay in cotton procurement in Punjab.

Surprisingly, the farmers of the state were heading towards Rajasthan despite the fact that the prices there range around Rs 2,000. Sources said, the market fee in Rajasthan was 1.6 per cent as compared to 4 per cent in Punjab and the farmers selling their produce there must be getting compensated through it.

Meanwhile, the farmer bodies condemned the ginners for ill-timing their strike. The BKU (E) general secretary, Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri, said it seemed that they wanted to loot the farmers. At the same time he said the ginners had every right to fight for their cause but not at the cost of loss suffered by the farming community. He said there were other ways to force the government to accept their demands.


Farmers rue urea shortage
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur December 29
Farmers of the district are facing acute shortage of urea fertilizer. Talking to The Tribune, several farmers said that they had deposited the advance payments with the agencies and wholesale dealers for buying urea last month. However, till date they had not got any supplies.

It is time when urea fertilizer was required for wheat crop. The non-availability of urea can hit the yield of their crop, the farmers said.

Urea is nitrogenous fertilizer that is produced by National Fertilizers (NFL) and IFFCO. The NFL has two units in the state at Nangal and Bathinda. The fertilizer is distributed among farmers through cooperative bodies and authorized agents of the public sector companies.

The sources in the Department of Agriculture said that the failure of the companies to supply urea in border area was the basic reason for shortage.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, when contacted admitted that there was shortage of urea in the district. He, however, added that a rake of fertilizer had arrived in the district today and supply was likely to be normalised in the coming days.


Wadhera PUNSUP Vice-Chairman

Patiala, December 29
The Punjab Government has appointed Mr Ashok Kumar Wadhera as the Vice-Chairman of PUNSUP. Mr Wadhera had stood for the MCC bye-election held for Ward No 32 in October last, but lost to Congress candidate, Anil Mangla. During fresh elections held on November 19, he had once again thrown his hat in the ring but was later persuaded to withdraw his candidature by Patiala MP, Mrs Preneet Kaur and Mayor Mr Vishnu Sharma. OC


Bhatia is Academic Staff College Director
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
Noted Punjabi critic Dr Harbhajan Singh Bhatia, a professor of School of Punjabi Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, has been appointed as Director of Academic Staff College of the university with immediate effect.

On the other hand Professor B. R. Batra of Guru Ram Das School of Planning, Guru Nanak Dev University, has been appointed as Professor-Incharge of Examinations.

Prof Bhatia has written 20 original, edited and translated books in Punjabi. Meta Study, Literary theory and literary criticism has been his area of specialisation. His books have been published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi; Punjabi Akademi, Delhi; Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University. He was honoured with prestigious awards, including Ravi Purskar, 1993; Hari Singh Yadgari Purskar, 2000; Progressive Writers Association UK; Punjabi Sahit Sabha Wulverhampton, UK; Punjabi Sahit Sabha, South Hampton, Glasgow (Scotland), Lester, UK, and Dr Kesar Singh Kesar Yadgari Kalam Purskar, 2005.


Banks urged to disburse loans
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 29
Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Thind, ADC (D), while presiding over the meeting of the standing committee, organised by the State Bank of Patiala here today, urged the banks to disburse the loans sanctioned under various government-sponsored schemes within two weeks.

He advised bank Managers to strengthen the coordination between them and government departments and officials concerned, so that the loan seekers might not have to face any difficulty.

He reviewed the progress of various government-sponsored schemes. He expressed satisfaction over the progress of banks.

He said the banks had fixed the target of providing Rs 240.59 crore as loan and disbursed Rs 240.65 crore. He appreciated the efforts of the banks.

He expressed concern over the low formation of self-help groups and called upon Child Development Project Officers, Development Officers of women programmes and banks to form as many self-help groups as they could and to achieve the targets allotted to them.

He said the new Swarozgar Credit Card Scheme had been introduced, under which Rs 25,000 were given without any documents. He directed the district coordinators to go to rural areas to tell the people about the scheme.


Punjab to have mega food parks: Sahay
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 29
The Union Minister of State for Food and Processing Industries, Mr Subodh Kant Sahay, has said that the Central Government plans to open mega food parks in Punjab.

Mr Sahay said Punjab was an agriculture-oriented state and there was a need to develop food processing units here so as to extend maximum benefits to the farmers. "As of now there are small food parks in the state for which the Central Government pays 25 per cent subsidy. But there was a need to open mega food parks to the tune of Rs 200 crore. These parks would include farming as well as food processing units”, Mr Sahay added.


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