P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


100-year-old bir goes missing
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 10
Over a hundred-year-old handwritten bir of Guru Granth Sahib, which was installed on the first floor of Golden Temple many years ago, has been replaced with a printed bir. This has caused resentment among descendants of a Sikh scholar and calligrapher, Giani Partap Singh (1855-1920), who had written the bir. A bullet had pierced into this bir at the time of Operation Bluestar.

Ms Jasbir Kaur Narula, a relative of Giani Partap Singh, was taken by surprise when she found that the old hand-written bir had been replaced with a new printed one. She immediately approached higher officials of the SGPC who failed to give her a satisfactory reply.

Mr Harpreet Singh Giani, great grandson of Giani Partap Singh, too, urged the SGPC to either re-install the old bir at the same place or return it to his family so that it could be installed at an ‘appropriate place’.

Mr Harbhajan Singh, manager, Golden Temple, told The Tribune that the bir had been replaced since it was difficult to recite Gurbani from the brittle pages of the old bir.

However, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, said that efforts were being made for restoration of the old bir. He said all efforts would be made to preserve it at all costs.

The Sikh historians had described Giani Partap Singh as ‘a fine calligraphist, who transcribed volumes of the Guru Granth Sahib, the most famous of them was installed in the Golden Temple. This copy, completed in 1908, was written in bold Gurmukhi characters on large-sized 25” by 28” sheets of Kashmiri paper. The name of the scribe was mentioned at the end of the text, on a separate sheet. Volumes of other holy books transcribed by Giani Partap Singh were also preserved at Baba Atal and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded.

In 1902, Partap Singh joined Aitchison College, also known as Chiefs College, Lahore, as granthi and instructor.

Giani Partap Singh was born in 1855. In 1884 he accompanied Thakur Singh Sandhanvalia to England to read the Guru Granth Sahib to the deposed Sikh ruler of the Punjab, Maharaja Duleep Singh, and to re-convert him to Sikhism.

On return to India, he worked as a granthi (scripture-reader) at Gurdwara Kaulsar in Amritsar. When Maharaja Duleep Singh was due to come back to India, Partap Singh accompanied Thakur Singh and his sons to Delhi with the intention of going to Bombay to receive the Maharajah. On hearing the news of Duleep Singh’s detention at Aden, Partap Singh returned to Amritsar while Thakur Singh proceeded to Pondicherry.

At Amritsar, Partap Singh worked secretly for Thakur Singh distributing his pro-Duleep Singh letters among his confidants and friends. Towards the end of 1887, he was arrested at Amritsar and sent to Lahore jail. He escaped from prison and became a sadhu. He then travelled to different parts of the country in the company of holy men.

During one such journey he happened to meet Max Arthur Macauliffe, then engaged in translating the Sikh scripture into English.


Bodies in Brar’s sheller: SAD for CBI probe
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 10
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today described the Muktsar incident, in which four bodies of children were found in a rice sheller as a “human tragedy and a chilling reminder of the law and order in the state,” demanding that a CBI probe be ordered to bring out the truth about the “nature of and motives behind the brutal crime.”

SAD general secretary Sukhbir Badal said the statements emanating from the Congress quarters made the incident doubly intriguing as these pointed towards ‘some kind of a conspiracy with political overtones.’

The Akali leader further said that an inquiry by a central agency like the CBI was the only sane course open in light of grave apprehensions in people’s minds about the professional integrity and fairness of the state Director general of Police, Mr. S.S. Virk. He said that the DGP could stoop to any level to help and please his ‘political masters’ especially in an election, which he had committed himself to win for Captain Amarinder Singh.

Mr Badal expressed surprise over the police version of “stumbling upon these bodies by accident” and said that it had deepened the mystery behind what could be a well-laid plot behind this tragedy. “What is most painful is that four innocent lives had been taken in a most brutal manner and the state police merely ‘stumbled’ across the bodies. This showed that despite the complaints lodged with the police about the disappearance of four children, those in charge of law and order had done nothing to solve the mystery,” he said.

Mr Badal also expressed ‘dismay and disbelief’ at the failure or refusal of the Chief Minister to treat the matter with the gravity which it deserved. “This further underscores the need for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation,” he concluded.

Punjab Votes '07

High stakes, big nerves
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Mohali is Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s flagship of success in Punjab. Lured by exemptions and benefits offered by the Congress government’s mega project policy, a group of companies have poured crores into the area.

At least Rs 5,000 crore have been doled out to landowners for procurement of land by these investors in Mohali alone. The stakes are high, so is the uncertainty. But what do these investors feel about a change in government in the coming months ? They talk brave. Here is what some of the state’s biggest investors have to say about a new government.

Mr JS Kochar, CEO Fashion Technology Park, said: “When the Congress government took over, the state’s financial infrastructure was on the brink of a collapse. Introduction of VAT brought some buoyancy in the economy. This was followed by framing of policies conducive to attracting investment in the state. The resultant creation of infrastructure will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the economy,” he said.

Fashion Technology Park spread over 14 acres in Sector 90 in Mohali is going to be a centre of fashion designing, fashion education, retail outlets, research, exports, warehouse, rural tie-ups. “Punjab is on the verge of a major economic boom and it is imperative that the new government focuses on those reforms in the agro and education sector.”

Mr PK Jain, Adviser to Parsvnath Developers Limited, said the new government was expected to continue with the policies of the present government. “As a private developer, a change in government does not directly affect us. We have bought the land for our projects and everything is expected to go on smoothly,” he said.

Delhi-based Parsavnath Developers is one of the major investors in the state. They are coming with townships in Dera Bassi and Rajpura. Other than this, a shopping mall and multiplex in Mohali, two shopping malls and multiplexes in Amristar are being set up. “The new government should make the process of approval faster. Though the mega projects are cleared in one go, promoters have to still go from one department to another for individual clearance,” he said.

Mr Inderjit Singh Chadha, who looks after the investments of his brother, liquor baron Ponty Chadha , in Mohali said: “We are businessmen, not politicians. Every government makes policies for development. The policies, which have benefited the state should be continued by the new government and if possible improved upon,” he said.

Other than a multiplex in Mohali, the Chadha group is coming up with a housing project. “Those who have invested in legal projects do not have to worry about any uncertainty with regards to a change in government. The law of the land remains the same and a genuine investor should not feel concerned,” added Mr Chadha.

Mr Kulwant Singh, MD Janta Land Promoters Limited, said the Industrial Policy-2003 had benefited the state. “The policy encouraged investment and the economy is upbeat. We expect that the new government will continue to work on similar lines.”


1,034 polling stations ‘very sensitive’
DCs, SSPs told to register FIRs against violators 
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
All Deputy Commissioners and SSPs of districts in Punjab have been told to immediately file an FIR on noticing any election-related offence in their respective areas.

This is among the several directions of the Election Commission of India on the conduct of the Assembly elections in the state.

The officers have been told by the EC to register cases under the relevant sections of the Representation of the People Act, the Indian Penal Code or the Criminal Procedure Code. This was conveyed to the officials at a meeting with the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Mr N. Gopalaswami, in Chandigarh two days ago.

Special teams have been formed to check violations of the model code of conduct. Videography will be done of all critical events and major public meetings of all parties. The EC has asked for a close watch on bulk consignments of liquor or any violations of the Excise Act.

A compact disc (CD) of the electoral rolls which were finalised on January 3 is to be provided to all recognised political parties through the DCs. Photo identity cards will be provided till a week before the poll. Eleven constituencies are lagging behind at about 80 per cent coverage and the officials concerned have been asked to do the work of making such cards on a war footing. To take precautions, the EC has said that only persons having the voter’s ID card will be allowed to stand in a queue for voting.

The training of Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers will take place in the second week of January in Patiala and Jalandhar. The presiding officers during polling will be preferably from the Central Government staff, the EC has said.

About 19,500 EVMs are already in Punjab in various districts. About 16,700 machines will be required for actual polling, 12 per cent will be in reserve and 10 per cent will be for training, etc. Engineers of the Electronics Corporation of India , which is the manufacturer of the EVMs, will check all machines. Out of a total of 15,875 polling stations, 4,797 have been declared “sensitive” while another 1,034 have been declared “very sensitive”.

The EC has also put a question mark on the credibility of the Punjab Police, saying all polling stations where paramilitary personnel are not stationed will have to be videographed on the day of polling.

All arms will be deposited at police stations.The carrying of arms or explosives in public will be prohibited for the time being. Control rooms will be set up at the offices of all DCs and grievance cells will also be functional.

Sources said the strength of the paramilitary forces would exceed 100 companies. Also, the EC has made it clear to the Chief Secretary and the DGP that officials have to be transferred in accordance with the commission’s guidelines.

Meanwhile, the Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab, Mr Sundaram Krishna, today ordered an enquiry to find out how nearly 500 persons of Jalandhar were left out of the voters’ list.


BSP’s Second List
A mix of caste and religion
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
The Bahujan Samaj Party today announced names of 30 more candidates for the coming Assembly elections in Punjab. With this the number of candidates announced by the BSP has gone up to 73.

The general secretary of the BSP, Mr Narinder Kashyap, said here that the party would be contesting on all 117 seats in Punjab. Candidates for the remaining seats would be finalised tomorrow, he said.

Mr Kashyap said: “Due representation has been given to all castes and sub-castes in the allocation of tickets,"

Barring former party legislators Avtar Singh Karimpuri, who is also president of the Punjab unit of the party, and Mr Hargopal Singh and former MP Mohan Singh Phalianwala, the party has preferred to field mostly new faces, he said.

Out of the total candidates announced, 30 seats had been allocated to SC candidates, 20 to OBCs and 23 to persons from general category. The list included names of two Christians, one Brahmin and four Rajputs, 12 Jatt Sikhs and one person from the Khatri community.

The following are the names of candidates on the fresh BSP list: Mahilpur - Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri; Guru Har Sahai - Mr Mohan Singh Phalian Wala; Balachour - Mr Hargopal Singh; Sham Chaurasi Mr Bhagwan Singh Chohan; Ludhiana Rural - Mr Gurmail Singh Pehlwan; Morinda - Mr Rajinder Singh Nanharia; Nakodar - Mr M.P. Singh; Qadian - Mr Rajinder Singh; Gurdaspur - Mr Lakhvinder Singh; Dina Nagar - Mr Ved Pal; Narot Mehra - Mr Amarjit Singh; Pathankot - Mr Krishan Lal Mehta; Sujanpur - Mr Jagdish Raj; Jandiala - Mr Ajaib Singh; Amritsar North - Mr Jagdish Duggal; Amritsar West - Mr Ajit Malik; Amritsar South - Mr Ashvani Kumar; Ajnala - Mr Dalbir Masih; Khadoor Sahib - Mr Jagtar Singh; Adampur - Mr Surjit Singh Parhar; Jalandhar Central - Mr Ashok Kumar Thakur; Jalandhar South - Raj Kumar Hans; Kartarpur - Ram Parkash.

Lohian - Mr Balvinder Singh; Batala - Mr Surjit Singh; Banga - Parveen Banga; Phillaur - Mr Sohan Lal Dhanda; Phagwara - Mr Harbhajan Singh Balalon; Hoshiarpur - Mr Gurdev Singh Dhanota; Tanda - Mr Kulwinder Singh; Garhdiwala -- Master Samsher Singh; Dakha - Mr Parkash Singh Jandali; Qila Raipur - Mr Jaswant Singh Deol; Khanna - Mr Swaran Singh Libra; Anadpur Sahib - Mr Tarlochan Singh Parmar; Chamkaur Sahib - Mr Charanjit Singh Ghai; Fatehgarh Churian - Mr Jagir Singh Jhangi; Banur - Dr Jasvir Singh; Dakala - Mr Suresh Mehra; Shatrana - Mr Paramjit Singh Kainth; Samana - Mr Ram Kumar Singla; Patiala Town - Dr Paramjit Singh; Nabha - Mr Bhagwant Singh; Amloh - Mr Ajit Singh Dittupur.

Sirhind - Col. Jaswant Singh; Malerkotla - Mr Parminder Singh Goga; Sherpur - Mrs Sukhtej Kaur; Bhadaur - Mr Baldev Singh; Balluana - Mr Balram; Abohar - Mr Kashmiri Lal; Fazilka - Mr Gurbajh Singh; Jalalabad - Mr Boota Singh; Ferozepore City - Mr Mukhtiar Singh; Ferozepur Cantonment - Dr Pardeep Sharma; Zira - Mr Balwant Singh; Dharamkot - Mr Savinder Singh; Moga - Mr Kulwant Singh; Bagha Purana - Balwant Singh; Nihal Singh Wala - Mr Kewal Singh; Panjgrain - Mr Darshan Singh Bhatti; Faridkot - Mr Sohan Singh; Muktsar - Mr Angrej Singh; Giddarbaha - Ms Manjit Kaur; Malout - Dr Gurcharan Singh; Lambi - Mr Harnek Singh; Talwandi Sabo - Mr Surjit Singh; Pakka Kalan - Ms Meena Rani, Bathinda - Mr Parveen Kumar; Nathana - Mr Mohinder Singh Bhatti; Joga - Mr Balwinder Singh; Mansa - Mr Gurdev Singh Mansahia; Budhlada - Mr Karam Singh Kaship and Sardulgarh - Mr Gurdev Singh Lehri.


Ticket claimants stumped by Cong observer’s visit
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
A surprise visit by one of the three members of the Congress election committee yesterday left aspirants for the Congress ticket and their supporters in Gurdaspur and Amritsar aghast.

They fumed at the manner in which the party observer visited constituencies of a few of the many aspirants in Gurdaspur while keeping them in the dark. The purpose of his visit was to assess the strength of each applicant from the two border districts.

The aspirants have accused the member of bias and threatened to meet the party president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, demanding his removal from the committee.

“None of us was informed of his visit, nor were we given anopportunity to present our case for the party ticket before him,” they lament.

The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) has named a three-member election Committee for Punjab. Headed by Ms Mohsina Kidwai, it has Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde and Mr Santosh Bargadia.

While sources maintain that though the committee had decided not to visit Punjab for assessing “winning chances” of any of 912 aspirants for the party ticket, Mr Bargadia decided to visit Gurdaspur and Amritsar.

On the other hand, Congress workers held that Mr Bargadia had informed the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, late on Monday night before boarding the early morning Shatabdi from Delhi to Amritsar.

“One wonders at the purpose of his unannounced visit. Since most of the aspirants for Congress ticket are camping in Delhi, hardly anyone was there either in Gurdaspur or Amritsar. Only exceptions were Mr Ashwani Sekhri, sitting MLA from Batala, and Mr Raman Behl, son of former Punjab Education Minister Khushal Behl,” sources in the PPCC told The Tribune.

They also confirmed that the observer did visit the Bhinder camp for a while.


In quest of win, politicians throng temples
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 10
Historical temples at Baglamukhi and Kamakhiya Devi in Himachal Pradesh have turned out to be the latest spiritual resorts for politicians of all hues, who, are not only thronging the two shrines in a big way, but have started organising yajnas 
either to secure party tickets or for their victory in forthcoming polls
in the state.

The new-found sojourn of politicians is restricted not only to the two temples falling almost in the neighbourhood of Hoshiarpur alone. They can also be seen frequenting well-known astrologers or soothsayers in the hope that divine blessings can make polls a smooth sailing exercise for them.

Top of the list of the blessing seekers is a powerful politician of the ruling party, who paid a secretly managed visit to Haridwar, where his supporters organised a 'mahayagya' for his victory and for divine 'suppression' of his opponents.

For most of those already in power or those running after it, the Bagla Mukhi temple at Bankhandi village in Kangra district is seemingly the last resort. The temple is nearly 80 km from Hoshiarpur - known as the city of saints.

"A large number of politicians are heading for Baglamukhi temple daily for holding 'gupt' or other yajnas at the place in the hope of brightening up of their political future. The number of politicians visiting the temple and Bankhandi area goes up manifold whenever there are polls in Punjab. Some of these politicians take their own pandits for having additional spiritual guidance at the place," said Mr Bhaskar Sharan Bhala, a Hoshiarpur-based astrologer.

According to Mr Satish Billa, an astrologer at Tanda, Hoshiarpur, and Jalandhar, the sudden spurt in the religious activities of politicians was not restricted to one or two temples. A number of well-known politicians were holding vipati vinashak paths or yajnas at their homes or farm houses, mostly in a secret manner. "I cannot name them, but all I can say is that they belong to almost all political parties," said Mr Billa.

The Kamakhiya Devi temple at Paulian Brahmanan village adjoining Mubarkpur township near the famous Chintpurni Devi shrine is another spiritual stop for upcoming and established politicians. "Most of the politicians and officers prefer 'gupt' path or hawan at the Kamakhiya Devi shrine and the objective of such religious exercises is to make it sure that the person organising it should get spiritual protection (abodh jeet) for his victory and at the same time to ward off evil spirits," said Mr Bhaskar Sharan Bhala.


The melody war is on
Crores being spent on campaign through music albums
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Traditional rivals are ready for war. And as always, both are relying heavily on the power of music to boost their reputation and bring down that of the foes.

Whereas the Congress has sourced its promotional audios and videos from a range of singers, including old and new, the Shiromani Akali Dal has also made a departure from norm this time around. Traditionally known to use only dhadhis, ragis and “kavishars” for electioneering, the SAD has now roped in established singers to make an impression on voters’ hearts.

Sources in the music industry say Gursewak Mann, Jeet Jagjit and Arvinder Singh (of “Do ghunt pila de saakiya”) have lent playback voices for the music albums prepared by Akalis. None of these singers is, however, on the forefront for obvious reasons. As for the CD, it features voice-overs and five songs detailing the life and struggle of SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal, his achievements as Chief Minister and major Akali morchas. Thoroughly adulatory in nature, it opens with a song one just cannot miss. The song goes - “Kade kade rab paida karda Badal jehe insaan…”

Countering this one is the musical number that proved a huge hit during the Punjab Vikas Yatra. Sung by Roshan Prince, winner of last year’s “Awaz Punjab Di” contest, the song “Nai risan, nai risan ne Congress sarkar diyaan…” brings out the “best” in Capt Amarinder Singh’s “development” regime. It is learnt that the Congress struck a deal with the management of Mh-1 which has on contract the winners of Awaz Punjabi Di. Another singer lending her voice for music albums profiling Congress achievements is Nidhi, also a winner of the same contest.

For most of its other songs and live performances, the Congress has been using the services of the revered Ludhiana-based folk singer Mohammad Siddique. A diehard Congress supporter and worker, Siddique sung at the recently-held Congress rally at Lambi. He was accompanied by Pammi Bai - another feather in the Congress cap. “Together we will draw huge crowds for the Congress in the coming days,” Siddique told The Tribune.

Live concerts at rallies apart, most promotional targets are being achieved through specially-prepared music audios and videos which are loaded with interesting lyrics. Consider this: The main song celebrating the Congress regime is “ Nachdi des Punjab di dharti, gidda paun baharan, Capt di sarkar ne logo ditiyaan badal nuharan…” And if you thought the creative minds working on Akali side had no answer to this one, you are mistaken. The Akali song is even stronger, with its lyricist hitting hard at Capt Amarinder Singh in his song “Na gallan puchh Punjab diyaan, ais pairi rule gulaab diyaan…”

Crores are being pumped into this music business as heavy costs are involved at every stage - from hiring the lyricist, the composer and the singer for production purposes to finally airing the promos and songs on regional channels like Punjab Today, Mh-1, Alpha Punjabi, ETC Punjabi, Ira, NRI, Today News, Balle Balle and DD Punjabi.


Badal case: Court reserves order for January 15
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 10
The arguments exchanged between the defence and state counsel during the proceedings of the corruption case involving SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and his son and SAD general secretary Sukhbir Badal came for hearing before the Special Court Judge, Mr G.S. Saran, here today.

The Advocate-General, Punjab, Mr R.S. Cheema, argued for the framing of the charges against the accused and day-to-day proceedings of the case, while the defence counsel, former Advocate-General H.S. Mattewal, opposed the move and demanded supply of the documents, including the video tapes prepared of the Badals’ property by the Vigilance Bureau.

After hearing the arguments for more than two hours, the judge adjourned the case for January 15 for orders on the six different applications moved by the Badals’ counsel.

Effect of the coming Assembly elections too was witnessed while the advocates argued in the case. Apprehending that the video tapes of the Badals’ alleged property prepared by the Vigilance Bureau as case property could be used by the Congress in its campaign in the elections, Mr Mattewal pleaded that the court to direct the prosecution for the supply of these video tapes to him to verify their genuineness.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal sought exemption from appearing following his busy schedule because of the elections. As Mr Sukhbir Badal had come here to attend the proceedings, a large number of leaders of the SAD too had come here.

Heated arguments were witnessed in the court when Mr Cheema pleaded that the defence counsel wanted to delay the court proceedings by making this application at this stage. He also cited Supreme Court judgments to counter the defence claim for supply of video tapes and other documents in the case while the case had been fixed for consideration of framing of charges against the accused.

Mr Mattewal also pleaded for initiating contempt of court proceedings against the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for making statements related to the case in 2004.


Bhullar likely to join SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Former Punjab Police Chief M.S. Bhullar is likely to join the SAD in a few days.

Mr Bhullar’s son, Mr Kuldeep Singh Bhullar, had unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections last time from the Zira segment. He is also expected to join the SAD.


Like they say, hope never dies

With Assembly elections round the corner, voters have fresh hopes. Demanding a check on inflation, better job opportunities and infrastructure development, they say they will cast their vote for the party most likely to fulfil their aspirations. This is what they had to say, reports Deepkamal Kaur from Jalandhar

Ambika Baru All I want from the new government is more industrialisation so that I have more opportunities where I can work, learn more and also be paid well. The industry has started developing in Punjab, but mostly related to IT. Punjab now must gear up for more diversification.

Ambika Baru, BSc (Biotechnology), Lyallpur Khalsa College
P.K. Garg Punjab has been the most resourceful state with a lot of NRI population ready to pool in money for development, but no effort has been made to properly utilise their services. I expect is a clean government with a clear agenda on bringing prosperity back to the state.

P.K. Garg, Senior Branch Manager, Punjab National Bank, Preet Nagar
Kusum The prices of wheat flour, pulses and milk have soared. It has become almost impossible to raise a family single-handedly.The fee expenses of children, too, have risen and the condition of government schools is deplorable. The govt has done little so far.

Kusum, housewife
Shivam Vij One of the biggest problems facing the state is that of unemployment as it has not been dealt with properly and the government that takes over after the elections must strive to generate more job opportunities, especially for the youth.

Shivam Vij, a shopkeeper


It’s just 80 cents a voter in Canada

It is 80 cents a candidate can spend on a voter in provincial elections in Canada. And on an average, the budget of a Canadian candidate for election to the provincial assembly varies between $ 80,000 and $1,00,000.

Compare it with Punjab. What a candidate needs is not only a few crores, but a team of musclemen to remain with him throughout the electoral battle. The official limit on election spending in India is just a few lakhs.

This is how some visiting Canadian politicians of Punjabi origin compare the electoral system of two nations. The common link in the two systems is Punjabis, both as candidates and voters.

An informal chat with Mr Harinder Takhar, Minister for Small Industries for the province of Ontario, and Mr Harry Bains, a member of the British Columbia Assembly, revealed some interesting aspects of electoral politics.

“In Canada, elections are fought more on party lines than at the individual level. Every cent spent during the elections is accounted for,” says Mr Takhar, adding that “winning of nomination as a candidate from a particular riding is democratic where registered workers of a party elect their nominee. And a sitting MLA needs no re-nomination.”

The Canadians, however, are appreciative of the Indian electoral system. The anti-defection law, they say, is one which they miss.

Canada, of late, witnessed some amazing defections, including that of a former Premier of British Columbia, Mr Ujjal Dosanjh, from the Leftist-orientation of the NDP to extreme Rightist Liberals. In another case, Ms Belinda Stronach, who was in the race for leadership of the joint Opposition, joined the ruling Liberals a couple of years ago.

Another feature of Indian electoral politics that fascinates Canadians is byelection. “In Canada, the ruling party invariably loses all byelections. But in India, the ruling party puts everything at stake to win all byelections.”

The major difference, however, is inheritance of political power in India. “It is an unheard phenomenon in Canada that a son is inducted into politics by his father or mother. In one instance, when a sitting member died, his brother got the nomination, but he was defeated by a two-thirds majority,” recalls Mr Takhar.

Mr Bains says though he does not understand the intricacies of Indian electoral politics in general and Punjab in particular, yet he still finds it interesting as “everyone gets involved”.

Election time in Punjab is like a festival time which witnesses parties, travelling and criss-crossing one’s constituency several times.

“Though I have nothing at stake in Punjab electoral politics, still I have an emotional attachment which urges me to keep myself abreast with the developments back home,” says Mr Bains.

— Prabhjot Singh


Public told to deposit weapons

Amritsar, January 10
In view of the ensuing elections, the police today appealed to the general public to deposit their licensed arms with the police to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.

Mr S.S. Srivastava, Senior Superintendent of Police, held a meeting with senior police officials, SHOs and in charges of various police chowkis on the security arrangements during the elections.

After the meeting, the police urged the people to deposit their licensed arms at police stations in view of the code of conduct. Mr Srivastava also directed the police to arrest proclaimed offenders wanted in various criminal cases. — OC


White-backed vultures sighted near Pathankot
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur January 10
Much concern has been expressed by wildlife experts, even on the international level, on the declining population of the white-backed vulture.To save the bird from extinction, the government has opened a captive breeding centre near Chandigarh in which the first vulture took birth recently.The birth of the first vulture in captivity was hailed as an achievement by experts.

However,near Pathankot here two populations of the white-backed vulture have been sighted. About 200 white-backed vultures have been seen by the honorary wildlife warden, Hoshiarpur, Mr Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa.


Foundation stones laid by minister vandalised
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 10
Some miscreants allegedly vandalised the foundation stones laid by Minister for Transport Raghunath Sahay Puri in villages of Goraipur, Panjore and Bathalari.

The stones were laid for development works carried by the Mandi Board. Breaking of stones infuriated supporters of the Minister. Addressing a press conference at Sujanpur today Mr Puri’s son and president of the local Municipal Council demanded action against those who had broken the stones.

Supporters of Mr Puri instead of the opposition blamed certain members of their party the act. They alleged some leaders were trying to act against the minister and had broken the stones.


Colonel on poll mission
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 10
Members of the Land Grabbing Victims’ Association have decided to launch an awareness campaign to educate the electorate on various contestants during ensuing Vidhan Sabha elections, Lieut Col Onkar Nath Chopra (retd.) said here today.

The association will compile information on key contestants with inputs from the Election Commission and will also seek help from the Chief Information Officer and a former Solicitor General to make the campaign worthwhile. Meanwhile, the AICC general secretary, in charge party affairs Punjab, Mr Janardan Diwedi, has sought report from the PPCC president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, on alleged involvement of a party legislator (representing a neighbouring constituency) in land-grab bid, sources said. Complainant Harpal Singh, son of Veer Singh, resident of Azeemgarh, had complained through the association.

Harpal Singh, having failed in getting justice from the district authorities, had mailed memorandum to 24 VVIPs, including President APJ Abdul Kalam and Congress president Sonia Gandhi alleging that kin of an MLA (not local) had been harassing his family.


Pakistan repatriates 115 Indian fishermen

Wagah, January 10
Pakistan today set free 115 Indian fishermen who had completed their prison term ranging from two to five years. The fishermen were handed over to the Indian officials by the Pakistan authorities at this joint border checkpost tonight.

The repatriation of the fishermen was delayed as they reached the checkpost from Karachi late in the evening. Normally after the daily Retreat Ceremony, the gates on the Radcliffe Line dividing the two countries are shut, but both the Border Security Force (BSF) and their counterparts, the Pakistan Rangers met after the ceremony and decided to go ahead with the repatriation even as darkness decended along the border. — UNI


Army exhibition inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 10
Major-General Chetinder Singh inaugurated an exhibition at Army grounds here today on the occasion of Army Day.

The exhibition is named “Saga of Valour and Sacrifice”.

Speaking on the occasion, Major-General Chetinder Singh said the Indian Army, the second largest in the world, is a fine example of a land force. He said the Army is marching in tune with future and has a glorious past. It is a cherished profession for the cream of society that values discipline, leadership, valour and tradition.

The exibition showcased diverse activties like hot-air ballooning, band displays, military dog show and aero-modelling. It also included an avionics display by military helicopters and latest equipment in the Army.


Kathunangal gets bail
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 10
Mr Sawinder Singh Kathunangal got reprieve from the Punjab and Haryana High Court as he was granted bail today.

Mr Kathunangal is likely to file a fresh application for the suspension of conviction in the High Court.


Police remand for Baba Amrik Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 10
Controversial Kar Sewa Wale Baba Amrik Singh was remanded in police custody till January 13 by a local court here today.

The Baba, who was declared a proclaimed offender (PO) and had surrendered in court on January 8, was produced in the court of Judicial Magistrate Rajnish.

The public prosecutor had urged the court to give a seven-day police remand, which was contested by the defence.

It pleaded that the police had already laid its hands on vital documents relating to the Baba’s property.

However, the court remanded him in police custody.


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