P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Sidhu in judicial custody, in Patiala jail
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
Beleaguered former Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu was brought to the local Central Jail in a police gypsy, trailed by a cavalcade of 12-odd cars carrying his slogan-shouting supporters, after a Chandigarh court remanded him in judicial custody today evening.

Both, former cricketer-cum-commentator and co-accused in the case, Rupinder Sandhu, were taken inside the jail at 4.45 pm. After completing the requisite formalities Sidhu was immediately lodged inside a cell reserved for VVIP inmates. Earlier, the same cell was home to tainted former PPSC Chairman Ravi Sidhu and suspended Himachal Pradesh ADGP B.S Thind.

Sources said during the 70-minute drive from Chandigarh, Sidhu remained cool and often indulged in his trademark ‘Sidhuism’ with the cops accompanying him. He will be spending the night in the jail, which is barely a kilometer away from his posh Century enclave residence.

A Patiala Police team led by an officer of the rank of the DSP had stationed itself on the premises of the Punjab and Haryana High Court since morning and whisked Sidhu away to Patiala once the court announced its judgement.

Just before Sidhu's arrival, hundreds of BJP and SAD supporters assembled in front of the jail and started shouting pro-Sidhu and anti-Capt Amarinder Singh’s slogans. Both, Mr Indermohan Singh Bajaj, SAD President (Patiala urban), and Mr Anil Bajaj, President of the local unit of the BJP, were present at the spot. A police team, under the supervision of Mandeep Singh Sidhu, SP (city) and Jagmohan Singh, DSP (city 2), had stationed itself near the jail to prevent any untoward incident.

Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader’s visit to the jail, prior to the arrival of Sidhu and Rupinder Sandhu has raised many eyebrows even as the police remained tight lipped on the issue. Sidhu is the third star Akali Dal campaigner to be sent to the jail after Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, were lodged in the same jail two years ago in connection with a Vigilance case.


Aloof Sidhu surrenders
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu today surrendered before a Chandigarh court which sent him to judicial custody in Central Jail, Patiala.

Convicted in a case of culpable homicide amounting to murder along with another person, the star campaigner for the SAD-BJP was taken in custody along with his friend, Mr Rupinder Singh Sandhu, by the Punjab Police soon after his counsel completed their legal formalities to surrender before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr Y.S. Rathore.

The two were convicted in a case of road rage which led to the death of one Gurnam Singh in Patiala in 1988. The surrender comes a day ahead of the scheduled hearing of the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the former BJP MP and Mr Sandhu to challenge their conviction by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Looking exhausted, Sidhu arrived at the District Courts, Chandigarh, at about 2 p.m. followed by a caravan of vehicles. In a brief interaction with mediapersons, he said: “I am here to submit myself before the majesty of the law. I am surrendering before the court without fearing about the consequences.”

In the court room, Sidhu tried to remain aloof while deflecting repeated queries from the media about his political career and his reaction to the SAD candidate becoming Mayor of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. After repeated persuasion, he said he had campaigned in Chandigarh as a party worker. Earlier in the day, a Punjab and Haryana High Court Division Bench comprising Mr Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Mr Justice Baldev Singh refused to entertain the plea of Mr Sidhu and Mr Sandhu to surrender before it.

After a lengthy hearing, the Bench, which had on December 6 sentenced them to three years imprisonment, asked the duo to approach the CJM, Chandigarh, to enable him to pass appropriate orders.

During hearing, the Bench observed that the application of the duo could not be decided by it as it had already pronounced its final judgement on the issue and the matter was pending in the Supreme Court.

While counsel for Mr Sidhu, senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, argued that the Bench had jurisdiction to decide the matter, Mr R.S. Ghai, counsel for the son of the deceased, said the duo should approach the CJM if they wished to surrender.

This plea was accepted by the Bench, which also sent a special messenger with the bail bonds deposited by Mr Sidhu and Mr Sandhu at the time of seeking bail to the CJM court.

Meanwhile, sources revealed that anticipating that he and his co-accused would have to remain in judicial custody for a minimum period, Mr Sidhu and Mr Sandhu surrendered before the CJM a day in advance of the hearing of the SLP. “We expect a relief from the apex court to come before the last date for accepting the nomination papers for the Punjab elections. For filing nomination, the apex court has to stay the conviction,” a source said.

In the court, Sidhu was accompanied by a large number of supporters, all of who were, however, not allowed to enter the court premises. One of Sidhu’s counsel and senior BJP leader Satya Pal Jain said the former BJP MP had surrender before the court to avoid any technical hitch which may come up during the hearing of appeal in the apex court since his case is now before the Supreme Court since the suspension of sentence.


Govt favoured DGP’s family concern, alleges Sukhbir
Nothing illegal, says Virk
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Shiromani Akali Dal general secretary, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, today said the Punjab Police chief, Mr S.S. Virk, should be immediately removed from the post held by him because his family concern of which he was a sleeping partner had taken a special package of concessions for a mega project from the empowered committee headed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Addressing a press conference, Mr Sukhbir Badal said in such a situation no one could expect a free and fair poll in the state." Mr Virk is personally committed to Capt Amarinder Singh, who had approved concessions for his family concern which got the setting up of the mega project- the Chandigarh International Convention Centre in Nabha village(Zirakpur)- worth Rs 240 crore approved on November 15, 2006, before the Assembly elections in the state . Hence, a strong case was made out for the removal of Mr Virk", said Mr Sukhbir Badal.

Mr Sukhbir Badal said it was a scandal worth Rs 650 crore. He alleged Mr Virk had misused his official position to run his controversial business activities."The Punjab Chief Minister cleared a project belonging to Mr Virk and his brother, Col R.D.S. Virk(retd), which was officially (under)assessed at Rs 240 crore", he added.

However, denying the allegations levelled by Mr Sukhbir Badal with regard to what he described as an imaginary scandal, Mr Virk said there was no substance in what the SAD leader had stated. " The allegations are totally baseless and politically motivated", said Mr Virk in a statement.

Civil servants, who come from industrial families, do not relinquish their share in the family business. However, they do not participate on a day- to-day basis in such business, said Mr Virk.

He said:"I and my brother have disclosed everything to the government authorities concerned with regard to the land owned by us. It is also reflected in my property returns. Since I am an owner of the land, I will retain my share without taking any part on a day-to-day basis in the business.” Mr Virk said the land in Nabha village was bought in 1999 after selling the ancestral property of his grandfather in Jalandhar.

Meanwhile, Mr Sukhbir Badal said his party would be forwarding all details of the alleged scam to the Election Commission of India to draw its attention to the Chief Minister’s action of helping the DGP's family concern to amass phenomenal wealth. He said all this had been done to rig the Assembly elections in February. “We will also bring all this to the notice of the President, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for immediate action”.

Continuing the allegations, Mr Sukhbir Badal said the convention centre comprised a 480-room five star hotel, 182 studio apartments and a multiplex with a large number of food courts. The project had a massive shopping mall with a total covered area of over 13 lakh sq ft. Built on 9.2 acres of prime land on the Chandigarh-Patiala highway, the convention centre would cost Rs 650 crore at the current market rates,he alleged.

It had a pillar-free hall of 60,000 sq ft to accommodate more than 2,500 persons. The complex also had corporate lounges, VIP galleries, an audiovisual control system and giant inbuilt projection screens with a state- of- the-art sound system.

Mr Sukhbir Badal said it was shocking that a DGP of a state had asked for and got concessions of Rs 250 crore from the Chief Minister. There was clearly a “ give-and-take” relationship between the two, alleged Mr Sukhbir Badal.


Virk clarifies on Sukhbir’s charges
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Punjab Police chief, Mr S.S.Virk, has clarified that the land in question for the setting up of the Chandigarh International Convention Centre project was jointly registered in his name and that of his elder brother, Col R.D.S. Virk(retd), in equal shares.

He said the purchase and development of the land had been done after observing all legal and administrative formalities.

He further said that at present the land was being used for agricultural purposes and keeping in view its close proximity to Chandigarh, his elder brother had submitted a proposal to the state government for the setting up of a project comprising a convention centre, a hotel and other commercial activities as all areas in the vicinity were witnessing the development of residential and commercial colonies. Colonel Virk retired from the Army about 15 years ago and had every right to develop agricultural land owned by the family.

He mentioned that there was no question of violation of any civil service rules or all-India service rules on his part as each and every purchase or transaction was undertaken after following the proper procedure and with the knowledge of the competent authority as stipulated in the All-India Services Conduct Rules (1968).


Fake degrees got them jobs
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 11
Candidates having fake degrees from unrecognised universities located in other states have once again managed to get recruitment as teachers in a recruitment drive by the Zila Parishads. As per the data available with The Tribune some candidates, who were recruited as teachers in Patiala, Faridkot, Ropar and Gurdaspur districts, had acquired degrees from universities that have not been recognised by the Punjab Government.

The Personal Department Punjab, through a notification issued in 1996, had directed all government departments against recruiting candidates having degrees or diplomas from following institutes ; Mahila Vishawvidalaya Darbhanga, Mahila Gram Vishavavidalaya Prayag, Varanasi Sanskrit Vishavavidayalaya, Commercial University Daryaganj, Delhi, Testor Research University, Tamil Nadu, Indian Education Council of UP, Gandhi Hindi Vidyapeth Paryag, Allahabad, National University of Electrocomplex, Kanpur UP, University of New Journalism, Kanauri, Kerela, Netaji Subhash Chander Bose University, Aligarh, UP, Smt. Mahadevi Verma Open University, UP, DDB Sanskrit University, Tamil Nadu, Bhartiya Siksha Parishad Vishavavidalaya, Lucknow, Arya University, Srinagar, J&K, Bible University, Ambur, Aster Orthodox University Amber, North, Globe University of Science, Tamil Nadu, National University, Nagpur, United National University, Delhi, Vocational University, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh Vishavavidalaya, Mathura and Maharana Pratap Sikhsha Niketan.

However, despite the notification candidates, who had acquired degrees from the above said institutes, have managed to get recruited through Zila Parishads. Sources in the Department of Education saidd that definite information had been received regarding the recruitment of certain candidates, who acquired ETT degrees from Indraprastha Sikhsha Parishad, Faridkot. Also candidates, who acquired degrees from banned Bhartiya Sikhsha Parishad Vishavavidalaya, Lucknow, have been recruited in Patiala and Ropar district.

Similarly in many other districts also the candidates, who acquired degrees and diplomas from banned universities, have been recruited.

Despite the Punjab and Haryana High Court ousting about 300 candidates having fake degrees in the ETT recruitments carried out by the previous SAD/BJP government, the Education Department of the state has not learnt any lessons.


Inconsistent investment policy drives away Punjabi NRIs
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Lack of venture capital and no consistency in the economic policy of Punjab is keeping the cash-rich Punjabi diaspora from ploughing their money for welfare activities in their ancestral towns or villages here. Though many of the NRIs, having made millions, say that they want to invest in the state, but there is little attraction for investment because of lack of venture capital funds and political will to start public -private partnerships in the state. They also lament that instead of having a defined economic policy, each government has its own economic policy, which keeps investors away.

Talking to TNS here, on the sidelines of Pravasi Punjabi Divas organised here today, Mr Pawan K. Rattan, Founder and Trustee of Indo-US Chamber of Commerce of Tampa Bay Florida, USA, said that though there was political instability in most countries, as also in various Indian states, but there was no shift in the economic policy. “An investor who invests during a particular political party’s rule in the state, is wary of the fate he would meet when the next political party comes to power. Several Punjabi NRIs in Punjab wanted to get together and set up trauma centres on the National Highways, but because of lack of consistency in economic policy here, we chose to invest in Andhra Pradesh,” he said, while adding that they are again writing to the Prime Minister, requesting him to allow them to set up trauma centres along National Highways running through Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

His views were supported by Mr Bobby Rekhi, an NRI from the USA, who has entered into a tie-up with a private university in Punjab to promote higher education. “Punjabis settled abroad have done very well for themselves and are looking towards the state for investing here in educational and social projects. But lack of investment funding here by the state or being unable to get right private partners weans them away from Punjab. For NRI investors risk factor is high and getting into a partnership would definitely attract more investment,” he said.

Mr Ali Bashehri, CEO and President of C-Ma International, USA, too, felt that to attract venture capital from the Punjabi diaspora, the government will have to create a platform where they can find Indian partners for their projects. “NRIs can really help Punjab create good educational institutions, which impart quality education, but they need to partner with the local state government, or private investors,” he added.


NRI lays stress on research work
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Experimenting with the Indian academic system, he found laboratories in most educational institutes across the country simply outdated and ill-equipped. Even the staff was not all that competent in so many institutes. And then, hardly any research work was being carried out by the students. Concerned over the state of affairs in the education sector, USA-based non-resident Indian Bobby Rekhi has now tied up with Lovely University at Jalandhar to make it a research institute of world repute.

To begin with the entrepreneur plans to import academics from across the seas not just to raise the standard of education, but also to help youngsters carry out research work in the institute. In Chandigarh for attending "Global Investors Conference for Infrastructure Development" organised as part of the fourth "Parvasi Punjabi Divas" at Hotel Mountview, Mr Rehki says his organisation is running similar projects in other countries as well. But for the moment, Punjab is top on his agenda as the youngsters here are more promising and the state still lacks manpower with right kind of skills.

"Subsequently, we are planning tie ups on similar lines with other institutes in Himachal Pradesh in the private sector," he says. "The intention is to make institutes like the IIMs out of these".

Talking to The Tribune after the sessions, Mr Rekhi asserts that investment in the private education sector is a must in the state as Punjab simply cannot move forward until the thinking of the youngsters is research-oriented.


Natives chip in

NRIs flock back home to canvass for their candidates, writes Saurabh Malik

As the Assembly elections draw near, overseas wings of parties have started campaigning for their stakes in the state. A delegation comprising around 25 non-resident Punjabis has landed in the state to drum up support for their “candidates”.

Otherwise also, the candidates and their supporters have launched the process of dropping a line to their acquaintances in alien lands, including the UK and the USA, for pumping in resources to carry out poll-related activities.

In all, there are about 1.5 crore NRIs in different parts of the world. Approximately, 80 lakh are Punjabis. A majority of them are in Europe and have “great interest in the local Indian politics or believe in extending support to their acquaintances contesting the elections”.

In any case, the support is extended on a mutual “give-and-take” promise. “In lieu of the services rendered to the candidates in the fray and all the money that flows in, the NRIs are promised incentives in the state,” says an NRI and chairman of the city-based Bhai Balla Shaheed Baba Deep Singh (Sandhu’s) Spiritual Charitable Universal Trust, Mr Iqbal Singh Sandhu.

“It’s a different story that more often than not the local leaders refuse to spare time for the NRIs after winning the elections”.

Among the delegates to arrive in Punjab especially for campaigning, is the president of the Indian Overseas Congress of Europe and Holland, Mr S.S. Rana. His team is expected to stay in India till the elections.

In Chandigarh for attending global investors’ conference on infrastructure development in North India, organised as part of the “Parvasi Punjabi Divas” at Hotel Mountview, Mr Rana says in less than five days since their arrival, they have toured almost the whole of Punjab.

They have campaigned for the party candidates in Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Jalandhar. “Besides, we have also met state Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo for working out the campaign strategy.”

Another member of the delegation, Mr Surjit S. Bindra, says they were invited by the Congress to campaign in favour of party candidates.

“Basically, we go from village to village asking the dwellers to exercise their franchise in favour of a particular candidate,” he says. “The villagers listen to us as we run a number of welfare and charitable projects in the state.”

The local politicians, in turn, take no time to fly across the seas to campaign for them in their elections to different posts in the overseas wings of the political parties.

US-based entrepreneur Bobby Rekhi says common NRIs without political links, however, avoid getting into local politics. “In any case, the NRIs should not feel apprehensive and link the issue of development with the government. For any party not giving priority to development will not last for long,” he concludes.


poll opera
As usual, sons and sons-in-law
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Punjab’s power politics is a dynastic soap opera - the main characters of which are a few leading families. A handful families have established their monopoly over the state’s political craft. While these families dictate terms, lesser political mortals abide by their diktats.

For the past five decades, Punjab politics has revolved around Kairons, Brars, Badals, Manns, Barnalas and a few other big families. The royals of Patiala have been in state politics for long, but they assumed importance after the emergence of Capt Amarinder Singh on the political scene.

Then there are the Dhindsas, Bhattals, Bajwas, Dullos and others. The late Giani Zail Singh proved to be a successful Chief Minister but his family influence ended with him. In short, Punjab’s arithmetic of electoral politics is a story of “I, me and mine”.

The late Partap Singh Kairon’s third generation is in the fray. Mr Adesh Partap Singh, Kairon’s grandson, is the SAD candidate from Patti. His father, Mr Surinder Kairon, and his uncle, Mr Gurinder Singh, have been active players in state politics till recently.

The third generation of Badals is in the election fray. Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s uncle was in politics. And now, his son, Mr Sukhbir Singh, and nephew, Mr Manpreet Singh, are active players.

Mr Manpreet is the SAD candidate from Gidderbaha. Mr Adesh Partap Singh is the son-in-law of Mr Badal. Mr Bikram Singh Majithia, the SAD candidate from Majitha, is the brother-in-law of Mr Sukhbir Singh.

Mr Jasjit Singh Bunny represents the third generation of Capt Kanwaljit Singh’s family.

Mr Jasjit Singh’s grandfather was a leading politician of Punjab. Similarly, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann’s father, the late Joginder Singh, was Speaker of the Punjab Assembly. Mr Mann’s son, Mr Iman Singh Mann, is trying his luck in the Assembly elections once again.

Mr Mann is himself keen on contesting the elections. Mr Harcharan Singh Brar’s entire family is in politics. His son and grandson are in the race for the Congress ticket from Muktsar.

Interestingly, most leading families are related to one another. Mr Harcharan Singh Brar’s son, Mr Kanwaljit Singh, is a close relation of Mr Malwinder Singh, younger brother of Capt Amarinder Singh.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and Capt Amarinder Singh’s wives are sisters. Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon is related to Mr Harcharan Singh Brar whose wife, Mrs Gurbinder Kaur Brar, a former president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), is from the Kairon family. Mr Adesh Partap Singh is a relative of Mr Badal.


home aids
Bibi squads for that one ‘yes’
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 11
Families of candidates are deeply involved in the campaign business. Kin of SAD candidates have been following hectic schedules ever since the names were announced last week.

All seven Akali candidates contesting the poll from the district are being supported by their kith and kin, including their wives, children, siblings, uncles, nephews, cousins, distant relatives and acquaintances.

Some leaders have even formed separate jathas, one led by bibis, the other by the elderly and yet another by the younger brigade. Different areas have been earmarked for each day and these jathas move out as cavalcades in different directions holding nukad meetings, jan samparak programmes and door-to-door campaign.

A former MLA and SAD candidate from Nakodar, Mr Kuldeep Singh Wadala, is primarily being supported by his two sons.

The elder one, Mr Gurpartap Singh, has in fact been chosen as the campaign in charge and is basically touring the Goraya area falling in the same constituency.

His younger son, Mr Jagdeep Singh, is holding mass-contact programmes in various villages of Nakodar. Mr Wadala also has a bibi jatha headed by his wife, but he says, "In rural segment like ours, women have less role. My wife, along with other women folk, primarily cater to the langar arrangements and attend guests at home."

Giving a tough competition to Ch Jagjit Singh from Kartarpur (SC seat), the SAD has fielded Mr Avinash Chander, a leather exporter and former BSP leader. The Dalit leader has a caravan of 20 cars moving out in different directions daily for the past few days.

With his brigade of elderly people, including his uncles, a women team, headed by his wife, and another team, he says, he has managed to cover every corner of his constituency in the past five days. "We move out in different directions and every family member is trying to develop new contacts through his own links. This actually boosts my morale and increases my efficiency,” he says.

A first-time candidate from Jalandhar Cantonment and Manpreet Badal's kin, Mr Jagbir Brar, says the entire Badal family is supporting him, besides his wife, Ms Ravneet Brar, and his brother, Mr Sukhbir Brar.

A sitting MLA from Lohian and former minister, Mr Ajit Singh Kohar, says though he has a big family, including four brothers, he is not involving them. "I have a huge brigade of partymen spread around my area. They arrange for everything and I simply have to go and address the gathering. So, there is no point in involving my family. Besides, my son, Mr Naib Singh, is the chairman of a cooperative bank, and cannot help me,” he explains.

The Adampur candidate, Mr Sarabjit Singh Makkar's wife, Ms Laddi, too, has been holding door-to-door campaign.


Faithful Bairagis feel ignored by Congress
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 11
The Bairagi community, having around eight lakh votes in Punjab, is apparently unhappy with the Congress over the non-allotment of party ticket to any leader from the community for the past several decades. Though a large number of community members reportedly have a very old association with the Congress, yet there is a feeling that the community is left out by the party at the time of ticket allotment.

Bairagis have a sizable population in many of the Assembly constituencies in the state, but they reportedly have a good vote bank in the Dirba, Dhanaula, Barnala, Raikot, Sardoolgarh, Ludhiana, Budhlada, Mansa and Moga Assembly constituencies. In view of this their leaders are demanding at least three Congress tickets, especially from the Ludhiana (West), Raikot, Sardoolgarh and Moga Assembly constituencies.

Talking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Krishan Kumar Bawa, president of the All-India Bairagi (Vaishnav) Mahan Mandal and Chairman of Housefed, Punjab, said though the Bairagis had a vote bank of about nine lakh in the state and had always voted for the Congress, the party had always ignored them by not giving reasonable representation to them at the time of allotment of party tickets.

Mr Bawa said Bairagis believed in secularism and due to this a large number of them were Congressmen.

He said in the 1992 Assembly elections, he was the only person who had cast his vote in his native Raqba village in the Raikot Assembly constituency as militants had threatened people of dire consequences in case they dared to cast a vote.

In reply to a question, Mr Bawa said the Bairagis had sought three tickets from the Congress. He said they had demanded tickets from Ludhiana (West) or Raikot for him, from Sardoolgarh for Prof Jiwan Dass Bawa and from Moga for Nasib Bawa.


Migration cuts numbers
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Is Punjab’s population declining ? Probably no. However, the voters list for the state shows that the number of voters in Punjab has declined when compared to last year.

The drop in the number of voters is being blamed on the continuous migration of people from rural to urban areas and also from Punjab to other states and countries. There is also migration from villages in other states to Punjab cities like Ludhiana . “Most of these migrating people do not get registered as voters at their new places of residence”, says the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Sundaram Krishna.

The voters list finalised on January 3 and released yesterday to various political parties shows that the number of voters in Punjab has registered a slight decline. In the voters list for the coming Assembly elections, 22,000 fewer voters have been registered when compared to last year. Following an enumeration , the electoral draft rolls of 2006 said the total number of voters stood at 1,69,28,225. In the final list published now, the figure stands at 1,69,06,669 - that is about 22,000 fewer voters.

In the last Assembly elections, a total of 1.57 crore voters were listed on the rolls.

Meanwhile, the voters list reveals interesting data. Ludhiana has the most number of eligible voters in any district of Punjab. The constituency of Ludhiana-Rural has more voters than any other constituency in the state .

A total of seven constituencies across the state have more than two lakh voters each. The district of Ludhiana with 12 constituencies, has 20.54 lakh voters, as per the electoral rolls. This means Ludhiana district alone has more than 13 per cent of the total of 1.69 crore voters. Ludhiana-Rural will have 4.65 lakh votes. Conversely, Amritsar Central is the smallest constituency with only 68,348 eligible voters. The only other constituency to have less than one lakh voters is Ludhiana-East with 92,685 voters.

Among the other big constituencies in Punjab is Dakha, also in Ludhiana district. It has 2.86 lakh voters and is the second largest constituency in terms of number of voters. Kharar, that includes the urban enclave of Mohali, has 2.44 lakh voters and is the third largest constituency.


Students fight drugs-for-vote policy
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
With drug abuse already spreading its tentacles in the holy city, residents of Maqboolpura, which has been losing its men to intoxicants leaving behind widows and orphans, have decided to launch a campaign against the distribution of any type of intoxicants to lure voters.

The campaign would be spearheaded by students of the Citizen Forum Vidya Mandir (CFVM) in Maqboolpura, which had already lost almost 150 men to drug-addiction in the past.

Mr Brij Bedi and Master Ajit Singh of the CFVM, who have been providing free education to the orphans, said the residents of the locality had unanimously decided not to vote for a political party which would distribute any type of intoxicant to the voters .

They would try to build public opinion against drugs by involving children, women, teachers, students and other opinion-makers of society. To make its campaign more effective, they would also appeal to their fellow students to motivate their parents not to vote for candidates who have been luring voters through drugs in the elections. The affected families have announced, “Widows of Maqboolpura will not let political parties distribute poison during the elections. We do not want that more women should be widowed and children orphaned.”

Some surveys on the use of drugs showed alarming trends of youths getting hooked to all kinds of intoxicants.

Students of Maqboolpura School have also expressed agony by writing letters, mentioning the nightmarish experiences they underwent when their fathers died due to drug addiction .One student Kirandeep Kaur shared her agony with the teachers of the school through her letter.

The letter reads, “Drug addiction is growing like wild fire. Young children do not concentrate on studies rather they are going after drugs. Drug addiction is alike a disease. We must speak against drug addiction because due to this many houses have been destroyed, many women became widows and children became orphans. Drug addicts do not take proper care of their children and are unable to provide them things like food, clothes and shelter to them as they are occupied by drugs.”


Wait-and-watch over Pakhoke
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The two-day ultimatum, served by supporters of Mr Alwinderpal Singh Pakhoke, a former acting chief of the SGPC to change official nominee from Tarn Taran Assembly constituency has expired and the supporters have adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy.

Sources in the SAD said Mr Pakhoke was not in a mood to take any extreme step in a haste though he was under pressure to announce his candidature as ‘rebel candidate’ from Tarn Taran.

Except Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, a former Union Minister and general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, no senior party functionary has approached Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura , an Akali MLA from Naushehra Pannuan so far. Mr Brahmpura is relative to Mr Pakhoke and he reportedly had conveyed his strong protest to the party high command for not allotting party ticket to Mr Pakhoke.

It is learnt SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal is likely to approach Mr Brahmpura in the coming days. Mr Brahmpura had also sought the changing of Mr M.S. Manna as official candidate of the SAD from Khadoor Sahib . However, sources said Mr Badal was unlikely to oblige the Akali leaders, who had raised a revolt after releasing of the list of candidates.

Though Mr Brahmpura denied having received any call from Mr Badal, yet he said he was loyal soldier of the party and would accept any “verdict” of the president. He, however, said he could never think of joining any other party as alleged in political quarters.

Earlier, local Akali held a closed-door meeting in the office of Mr Bawa Singh, district president, here . They reportedly are annoyed with the party high command over the fielding of Mr Raminder Singh Bolaria from Amritsar South constituency. The meeting was attended by Mr Harjap Singh Sultanwind, Mr Jasbir Singh Sham , Mr Gurpartap Singh Tikka, a youth Akali leader, Mr Rajinder Singh Mehta, an executive member of the SGPC and Mr Ajayvir Singh Randhawa. They reportedly have decided to convey their displeasure to the party high command over the denial of party ticket to the ‘old Akalis’ who had made sacrifices for the sake of the party. They are annoyed that Mr Bolaria had joined the party recently hence did not deserve the ticket by ignoring the traditional Akalis.


SAD (Longowal) to put up 25 candidates
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal), Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, said here yesterday that his party would put up candidates on 25 seats in the state and enter into an electoral alliance with like- minded parties on the remaining seats.

He said Mr Avtar Singh Ghuman had been nominated as the candidate for the Banur constituency. Mr Zira said he was approached by the Shiromani Akali Dal through a mediator to join that party. " I refused to join the SAD", he said.

He said he was talking to the Akali Dal-1920 and other Akali factions to form a front against the SAD.


Dharminder is PPCC secy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Mr Dharminder Singh, a prominent youth leader, has been appointed secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee by its president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo.

Mr Dharminder Singh has been a member of the economic and planning cell of the Congress since 1999.


Fee hike worrisome
The student fraternity in the state is well aware of the big issues confronting our society, finds Smriti Sharma.

The government should ensure free and fair elections in the state. There have been instances of rigging and booth-capturing during the elections. Utmost care should be taken to make them violence-free as well.

Sharat Bahal, an engineering graduate from IET, Bhaddal
Sharat Bahal, an engineering graduate from IET, Bhaddal

Nitika Joshi of MCA , Punjabi University, Patiala
Nitika Joshi of MCA , Punjabi University, Patiala

Owing to the massive fees of professional courses such as MBA, MCA and others, many a time the deserving students are not able to prove their mettle in the fields of their choice. Extensive development has been made in the IT field, nevertheless it inspires the need to carve better job facilities for the professionals.
The government in a bid to raise infrastructure for MNCs recently acquired agricultural land holdings in Punjab. Why is the government not thinking about the consequences of the move? Punjab, which was once known as a self-sufficient state in foodgrain production, will have to import it, adding to the woes of already shambling economy.

Shrinkhla Narula of B Com (III year), SD College, Chandigarh
Shrinkhla Narula of B Com (III year), SD College, Chandigarh

Saurabh Sharma of Chitkara Engineering College, Rajpura
Saurabh Sharma of Chitkara Engineering College, Rajpura

We first need to tackle issues at the grass-roots level. Poverty and corruption are not only chronic problems but also ever-increasing. So, to start with, society should be made free of the perils for which we need honest politicians.


1 killed, 8 hurt as jeep overturns
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 11
Jagtar Singh, a resident of Vijaynagar in Sriganganagar district, was killed and eight of his relatives, including two women, were injured as the jeep by which they were travelling overturned while negotiating a turn near Qabarwala village on the Malout-Abohar road last evening.

Sources said they were returning after paying obeisance at Gurdwara Nanaksar Kaleran, near Moga.

The driver lost control over the vehicle and it overturned after slipping into the fields.

Four occupants remained unhurt. All injured persons were rushed to the Civil Hospital here.

Jagtar Singh, a son of Piara Singh, was referred to Ludhiana but he succumbed to his injuries in the ambulance.


Kathlore forest to be declared wildlife sanctuary
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 11
The Wildlife Department has moved the case for declaring the Kathlore reserve forest as a wildlife sanctuary. The DFO (Wildlife), Pathankot, Mr D. Rajashekar, while talking to The Tribune, said the case was at an advanced stage. Kathlore forest has substantial population of hog deer, barking deer, peacock, common Indian hare, jackal, wild boar and several species of birds.

He said the Wildlife Department had rescued a sambar that had strayed into Luminkral village, near the Shalla Pattan area, of Gurdaspur on Tuesday evening. The DFO said that the sambar was allegedly being followed by poachers when it entered the village where the residents caught the exhausted animal and gave it shelter.

On receiving information in this regard a wildlife team, along with the Honorary Wildlife Warden from Hoshiarpur, Mr Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa, reached the site. It was released into Kathlore reserve forest later.

However, some wildlife experts said as there was no other sambar in the forest, the animal might not survive there alone and it should have been released in Dhar or Hoshiarpur forest.


Sainik Board rebuts charges
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Director, Sainik Welfare Board (DSW), Punjab, has claimed that additional excise duty of Rs 13.93 crore, collected by the state government, has been released to the Jalandhar Cantonment Board. Another Rs 7.7 crore has been handed over to the Ferozepore Cantonment Board. He was reacting to a news-item “Ex-servicemen seek more benefits” in these columns on December 19.

In a communication to The Tribune, the DSW said Rs 97.61 lakh would be disbursed shortly. The matter regarding payment of arrears to officers, arising out of the Fourth Pay Commission, has already been taken up by the Punjab Chief Secretary with the Union Ministry of Defence.

Claiming that the state government’s policy was being implemented in letter and spirit, he added that pending cases dating back to 1962 had been settled recently.

He said the decision to upgrade the District Sainik Welfare Officer’s post had been taken at the “highest level”. As of now, the government was considering the feasibility of reviving Assistant District Welfare Officers’ posts.

The DSW added that old-age pension to ex-servicemen, and widows above 65, has been increased from Rs 300 to Rs 500 “and is being paid to the beneficiaries. The decision to issue enhanced grant to ex-servicemen for their daughters’ marriages was being “implemented at the field level”.

In a rebuttal to the DSW’s assertions, the President of Indian Ex-services League, Punjab and Chandigarh, Lt Col Chanan Singh Dhillon, has stated that the League wanted to know why enhancement of grant to the aged ex-servicemen took more than two years. Lt Col Dhillon added that they also wanted to enquire about the time taken to implement the decision of enhancing the marriage grant.


BHEL to renovate 2 units of Bathinda plant
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
For the renovation and modernisation of units III and IV of the Bathinda thermal plant, the PSEB has signed an agreement worth Rs 465.36 crore with the BHEL.

Mr N.S. Thethi, Chief Engineer of the plant, said the renovation and modernisation of unit IV would be completed by August, 2008, and of unit III in June, 2009.

Quoting Mr Thethi, a spokesman of the PSEB said here yesterday that these units had outlived their optimum life and had been operated for about 1,80,000 hours each.

After the completion of modernisation, the power generation capacity would go up to 120 MW from the existing 110 MW.

Besides, the life of both units would be enhanced by 15 to 20 years.


Blood donated
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 11
The District Red Cross Society in collaboration with the Nehru Yuva Kendar, the Punjab Police, and the district revenue official organised a blood donation camp at Bachat Bhawan today.

Ms Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner inaugurated the camp. In this camp more than 135 units of blood were collected by the teams of doctors from the Blood Bank Society Resort Centre, Chandigarh.

Addressing the gathering, Ms Jaspreet Talwar highlighted the importance of donating blood. She said that every drop of blood saves one precious life. She urged the social organisations to come forward for this noble cause.


BBMB to have new chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
The Bhakra Beas Management Board is set have a new Chairman next week.

The Government of India had shortlisted a few names and Mr U.C. Mishra, who is at present working at a senior position in the Power Grid Corporation, is likely to be cleared for the prestigious post, sources in the power sector said.

The outgoing Chairman of the BBMB, Mr Rakesh Nath, had been holding dual charge as Chairman of the Central Electricity Authority also for more than a year. He will continue to hold the post in the CEA but will relinquish his post at the BBMB for the new incumbent. The orders are expected to be issued shortly.


EC transfers police officers
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 11
Mr N.S. Sekhon has joined as SP(H), Mr Sukhwant Singh Gill as SP(D), Mr Simratpal Singh Dhindsa as DSP Khamano. Mr Mohan Lal as DSP Bassi Pathana and Mr Birinder Singha as DSP Amloh. all these officers have been posted in the district on the directions of the Election Commission. These newly appointed police officers today joined their duties.


Returning Officers

Ropar, January 11
As per the new notification issued by the Elections Commission, Mr J.C. Sabharwal, SDM, has been designated as the Returning Officer of the Chamkaur Sahib Assembly constituency, SDM P.S. Gill as the Returning Officer of the Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency, SDM Balraj Singh Sekhon of the Nangal constituency. — TNS


Four sentenced to life in prison
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 11
A local court today sentenced four persons to life imprisonment for killing a 50-year old watchman, Lalji Singh, in 2005. The accused Tek Chand, his wife Geeta and relatives, Mohan and Yog Raj were also fined an additional Rs 5000 each, by Mrs Rekha Mittal, District and Sessions Judge, Ropar.

As per the prosecution, Lalji Singh, who hailed from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, was found dead near his residence in the Industrial Unit, Phase 3, Mohali, on the morning of August 8, 2005.


2 crushed to death, driver held after protest
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 11
The traffic on the Ropar-Nurpurbedi road remained blocked for over four hours today following protest by villagers demanding arrest of the trucker who had killed the father and son in an accident, about 30 km from here in Nurpurbedi town. Kuldeep Singh (35) and Hardeep Singh (10) were crushed to death by a truck last evening. The driver fled from the spot of incident.

Showing anguish over the police inability to arrest the accused driver, the villagers kept the bodies of the two on the road near Kahanpur Khuhiyna village and jammed the traffic for about 4 hours in the evening. Later, the protest was called off after the driver was arrested by the police in the case.

The mishap took place last evening when Kuldeep Singh along with his wife Kulwant Kaur and son Hardeep Singh of Nawanshahr, who were on scooter were hit by the truck from opposite direction in Nurpurbedi. Kuldeep Singh and Hardeep Singh died on the spot while seriously injured Kulwant Kaur was admitted in the Civil Hospital, Anandpur Sahib.

The SSP, Ropar, Mr Kapil Dev, said the villager had lifted the bodies of the deceased after the arrest of the truck driver. The driver has been arrested causing death due to rash and negligent driving.


Youth missing

Amritsar, January 11
Babblu (22), a resident of the Shivala Bhaian area, had been missing for the past one and a half months. The police has lodged a case at Majitha Road police chowki on the complaint of Mr Bhag Singh, grandfather of the boy. — OC


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