P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cong panel clears 101 names
Sonia to give final nod; efforts on for tie-up with Left
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
While names of 101 aspirants have been cleared by the scrutiny committee of the All-India Congress Committee for the Assembly elections in Punjab, the party high command has opened the channels of communication with the top leadership of the Left parties to look into the possibility of a tie-up with them on certain seats in the state.

Sources said today that the list of the names by the committee would be put up before AICC president Sonia Gandhi for the final clearance. The list was expected to be released on January 16. "It is a blend of old and new faces", said a senior leader of the Congress. For most of the seats, only single name had been approved.

However, there were about 15 seats for which names of two aspirants had been approved. It had been left to Mrs Gandhi to okay any of the two names for each such segments, the sources added.

Information has started trickling down from Delhi regarding the names recommended by the scrutiny committee. There were reports of distribution of sweets by Congress leaders in certain segments after the news was out.

Names for the 16 seats had not been cleared yet by the committee because the Congress high command wanted to talk to the Left parties for some sort of adjustment on certain seats where Left parties have pockets of its influence.

"Whether the Left parties will agree to tie-up or not, it is not clear yet", the sources added.

"The high command does not want the division of the secular votes in Punjab", it is learnt. The CPI, the CPM and the Lok Bhalai Party has formed a joint front in Punjab. These parties have already announced their candidates. The CPM today released the list of 15 candidates.

Meanwhile, the sources said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh returned to Patiala from New Delhi this afternoon. The Chief Minister was in touch with certain Akali leaders and wanted that they should join the Congress.

Among such leaders is said to be Mr Makhan Singh, the former SAD MLA from Pakka Kalan. The sources said senior leaders of the Congress had approached Mr Makhan Singh for contesting from Pakka Kalan. Mr Makhan Singh, who has been denied ticket by the SAD this time, has started his campaign to contest as Independent from the Pakka Kalan segment."

However, if the Congress offered to nominate him its official candidate, he is expected to accept it", said a close associate of Mr Makhan Singh.

Last time, the Congress had left the Pakka Kalan seat for the CPI with which it had an tie-up. On the CPI ticket and with the support of the Congress, Mr Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal was elected from Pakka Kalan last time. However, later, Mr Gurjant Singh joined the Congress.

The sources said the Congress wanted to put up Mr Ajaib Singh Bhatti, a senior officer, as its candidate from Nathana constituency. The Congress considered, Mr Bhatti, who had served for several years in Bathinda district as a senior officer, as a strong candidate for the Nathana seat.

Mr Bhatti said no party had contacted him to nominate him as candidate. When asked that whether he had resigned from the government service, he said he had not resigned.


CPM declares 15 names

Chandigarh, January 14
The Punjab CPM here today released the names of its candidates for 15 segments. Mr Surinder Singh’s has been nominated from the Verka constituency, Mr Bant Singh Dangarh from Barnala, Mr Achhar Singh Gill from Baluana, Mr Surinder Kumar Kamboj from Gurhar Sahai and Mr Ranbir Singh from Batala.

The other nominees are: Mr Darshan Singh Mattu (Garhshankar), Mr Gurmail Singh Johl (Nurmahal), Mr Kewal Hazara (Jalandhar), Mr Amarjit Singh (Mullanpur), Mr Balwinder (Banga), Mr Mahan Singh Rori (Balachaur), Mr Inderjit (Rajpura), Mr Gurdial Singh Dher (Nangal), Mr Bant Singh Namol (Sunam) and Mr Chamkaur Singh (Sangrur). — TNS


CEO seeks remarks on Virk
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
The Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab has sought comments from the Punjab Government and the factual position with regards to news items being published in various newspapers about the Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr S.S. Virk.

The CEO has asked the Punjab Government to supply the facts of the case with regards to allegations levelled by the Shiromani Akali Dal against Mr Virk. The SAD, had alleged that Mr Virk and a brother of the DGP was given undue favours by the Congress-led government in November 2006 to open a huge convention centre near Chandigarh.

Well-placed sources in the government said this does not mean that an enquiry has been ordered against the DGP. It is just that the CEO had sought details of the case and whatever is on record will be supplied to the EC.

Meanwhile, the CEO has put the entire the voting list of the state on the website www.ceopunjab.nic.in and the same is in Punjabi too. Each constituency has been divided as per the polling booth. A person can go the website and opt for his constituency followed by the option of the polling booth.

The CEO will also be posting affidavits filed by candidates after the last date of withdrawal on the same website. However, in case of leading parties like the Congress, the BJP or the SAD, the affidavits will be posted on the website, much before the withdrawals.

Also, the EC has clarified that the basic thrust of transfers of officials who have completed more than three year in one place, is in the Police Department. This also only for personnel in the rank of Sub Inspector and above. In other departments, only gazetted officers who have completed three years will be shifted.


Amar, Jayaprada visit kin of Muktsar victims
Give Rs 1 lakh to each family
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 14
Days after the district was rocked by the recovery of dead bodies of children, done to death by a drug-addict and left in an abandoned rice sheller, the Samajwadi Party has announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each for the families of the five victims.

General secretary of the party Amar Singh, accompanied by MP Jayaprada today visited the families of the five children and expressed sympathy with them.

Amar Singh said it was a shocking incident and demanded that the CBI should investigate the case.

He also targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi as he alleged that she was following a dual policy for the states in which there was Congress governments and for those in which other parties ruled. He said though Mrs Gandhi was quick to comment on the Noida killings, she had said nothing about similar incident taking place in states in which there was the Congress government.

Amar Singh also demanded that the Punjab Government should give a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the aggrieved families and should also ensure government job for one family member of all five families, who had lost their children. He said the party would come forward to ensure that these families were adequately compensated.

Later, the two leaders handed over a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to the district administration to be distributed among the victims' families. 


2 Wakf Board employees sacked
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
Less than four months after the Punjab Vigilance Commission came into existence with the appointment of retired Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Justice Amar Dutt as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, its initiatives are already creating ripples in the administrative circles. Two Punjab Wakf Board employees, in service for over six years even after conviction, have been terminated following the Commission's intervention.

An inquiry into the facts and circumstances leading to the continuation in service of the board’s rent controller Gajjadin and another employee Babu Lal despite conviction by the lower courts has also been marked by the Commission with the view to taking the matter to a logical conclusion.

The sources in the Punjab Government assert the termination orders issued by the Punjab Walk Board follow the Commission’s move to seek a comprehensive list of employees continuing in government service or its undertakings even after conviction in one case or the other.

Describing it as just the “beginning of the crusade against corruption”, the sources put the number of employees expected to face action at around 1,800. Included in the category of convicted employees continuing in service are Punjab Police personnel.

The sources add that Justice Amar Dutt’s neutral stand in the matter may just not be proving convenient to the present government as at least some of these employees have the protection of authorities, who still are at the helm of affairs. The fact that the process of furnishing the list of convicted employees to the Commission has come to a sudden halt provides a testimony to this effect, the sources assert.

Going into the background of the Wakf Board matter, the sources assert that Hoshiarpur-based rent controller Gajjadin and the other employee Babu Lal were allegedly caught red-handed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police while they were reportedly demanding and accepting bribe for the transfer of land way back in February, 1985.

The two were sentenced to one year imprisonment after being held guilty by the trial court in May, 2000.

Though the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the suspension of sentence in their case, no stay on the judgement’s operation was granted. The two continued on the posts till the matter of such employees was taken up by the Commission.

Wakf Board member Mansur Ali says the services of the two employees have been terminated in accordance with the Commission’s mandate as they were continuing even though the trial court’s judgement was still in operation.

He adds that the move initiated by the Commission is likely to end the abrasions in the functioning of the state machinery, bring about increased transparency and encourage the sincere to remain honest, which in fact is the legislature's mandate.


Fear of stigma keeps couple from revealing HIV status
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
Had it been a usual crisis, they would have tided over it with help from family and friends. But the nature of their problem is complex - one which, they feel, inhibited to discuss even with their parents, let alone the community. Ask them why they want to go through the trauma all by themselves and they say: “We don’t want to die before our death.”

Detected with HIV a month ago, this Ludhiana-based couple left home and has been camping in Chandigarh ever since. No one in their family knows where they are. The only thing everyone knows is that they are sick and are seeking treatment somewhere in Punjab. Back in Ludhiana, their children are all alone, oblivious of the goings-on in their parents’ lives.

A mother of three, Amrita (name changed) is still under treatment. Much more affected than her husband who has no idea where the infection came from, she has a CD-4 count as low as 22. But under the care of PGI doctors, she is recovering, though slowly. As for her husband, all he knows is that his wife reported sick with itching, fever and pain one day in November last. He took her to the Ludhiana Civil Hospital where doctors found her to be HIV positive. She was also detected with a sexually transmitted infection and tuberculosis -- an opportunistic infection that comes with HIV.

“In a moment, our world had changed. Even the attitude of nurses had changed. I could not tolerate the indifference of medical professionals. So, I got her discharged and came to Chandigarh where care is better,” says the man, who has been off work for over a month. Neck deep in debt (over Rs 1 lakh), he even had to pledge his wife’s jewellery today to borrow another Rs 5000. “I need several pairs of gloves for nurses attending to my wife. But I don’t mind as long as my wife is being cared for,” he says. Strangely, he still hasn’t revealed the infection to his family or taken his parents' help for treatment.

“If they find out, they will abandon us and we will die of stigma. I would rather take favours from strangers. This infection is such that no one will understand,” says the man - a daily wage worker -- who is unusually fearless in the face of odds. He is, however, confident he will live long enough to educate his three children and ensure they can make enough money to go through life. “Until then I will keep my secret,” he says, tears in his eyes.

On antiretroviral therapy for the past two weeks, Amrita keeps her silence. Illiterate like her husband, she has little idea what HIV means. All her hopes rest on her man, who is brave and dignified. He is sure he will clear his debts unless people discover his HIV status and bar him from working. As for Amrita, she’ll be at the PGI for some more weeks after which the couple will return to their children. She has taught her children how to cook, even though the eldest is just 12.


Cong delay — Advantage SAD
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
An unwarranted delay in finalising candidates for the coming Assembly elections by the all-powerful Congress high command has been keeping the ticket aspirants unsure of themselves. The party has virtually been staying away from the electoral battle field since the announcement of the elections more than 16 days ago.

At the moment, the front-line leadership of the Punjab Congress is camping in Delhi. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, and the 900-odd aspirants for the 117 seats, along with their supporters, are in the national Capital vying for ticket or lobbying for others.

This has left the electoral ground in Punjab open for the Akalis to run an unchallenged campaign till the Congressmen come back from New Delhi with their ticket. However, they will not be able to launch their campaign straightaway as they have to first deal with the problem of rebellion by unsuccessful aspirants.

The only exception was yesterday when the state leadership of the Congress and the Chief Minister arrived at the Maghi Fair in Muktsar. They returned as soon as the party conference was over.

Actually, “the Captain or his comrade in arms” are yet to unleash anything of substance to counter the Akalis since the last leg of the Vikas Yatra ended on a high note more than three weeks ago in Sangrur.

On the other hand, the Akalis announced their first list of candidates within two days of the elections being announced.

A young Congress aspirant from the Malwa region said: “The Congress candidates, who had won the last elections with impressive margins or are certain of winning now, should have been renominated at least 10 days ago”. The PPPC chief was quoted in the media as saying that the first list would be out by January 8.

Experts feel, the gains, if any, from the Vikas Yatra could be negated for the Congress, if the Akalis get some more time to assault the incumbent government with the focus on the Chief Minister and his close aides.

The silence of the Congress, in either announcing the names of candidates or countering the allegations of the Akalis, has undoubtedly created a vacuum.

The SAD has gone to town with its media campaign issuing advertisements in newspapers, radio and television. It has been leveling allegations of corruption and also promising everything to voters from international quality roads to a separate ministry for the NRIs.

Except for Rana Gurjit Singh and Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who have threatened to file a defamation case against the SAD, none of the Congressmen have countered serious allegations of corruption levelled by the Akalis. The claims of the SAD candidates are not being countered even at the constituency-level.

On allegations against DGP, S.S. Virk, the Chief Minister made some attempt to clarify the stance of the government at the Maghi Fair yesterday while the SAD has gone all out to get the DGP removed.

Then comes the rebel-candidate factor, the Congress candidates will get less time to mollify an unsuccessful ticket aspirant, who chooses to contest as an Independent, said another Congress leader, who is hopeful of getting ticket.

In case of the SAD, Mr Sukhbir Badal and other senior leaders have mollified dissenters like Chiranji Lal Garg, who has been refused the ticket from Bathinda.

As regards stay of Congress leaders and their supporters in New Delhi, an aspirant has been spending up to Rs 10,000 daily on account of petrol/diesel for vehicles, making calls on mobile phones while in roaming mode and lodge and boarding.


Kanwaljit promises new ‘urban development policy’
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, January 14
Bringing economy to the forefront of electioneering in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) general secretary and the former Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, today promised a new "urban development policy" if the SAD-BJP alliance was voted to power in the February 13 Punjab elections.

Inaugurating the election office of the combine here, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who is also the alliance candidate from the Banur assembly segment, said the new policy would regulate the haphazard growth besides giving the colonisers and the builders freedom to plan their projects. The emphasis would be on urban development with a humane face, he asserted.

The Akali leader also tried to woo the farming community, considered to be the traditional Akali vote bank, by promising remunerative rates for their lands to be acquired for the development of the new townships and other government projects.

The Chandigarh's periphery was high on the agenda of the SAD-BJP alliance, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who was instrumental in the creation of the Zirakpur Nagar Panchayat, pointed out. In fact, Zirakpur, the township of shopping malls and the apartments, would be developed on the pattern of Chandigarh and needed a liberal dose of development grants, he added.

Accusing the Capt Amarinder Singh government of failure on all fronts, the Akali leader claimed that the combine was united in its fight against the mismanagement of the government and the dissensions with the combine would die down in the days to come.

The growth rate in Punjab had slided to 2.4 per cent as against the national growth rate of about 8.5 per cent, he said, adding that the state was joining the league of the least developed states such as Bihar and UP.

The spiralling prices had made the lives of the residents difficult with the result that the common man was finding it difficult to make both ends meet, he said, reiterating the commitment of the SAD-BJP combine to check price rise.

Terming unemployment as the main problem of the state, the former Finance Minister alleged that the Congress's five-year "misrule" had ruined the economy and that the next government would have to make concerted efforts to put it back on rails.


Jobs’ issue: Kanwaljit dares Amarinder for debate
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 14
SAD general secretary and former Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh today challenged the Congress to release the list of 20 lakh youth who it had promised to give employment before December 31.

Addressing a youth rally here, he dared the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for an open debate on the issue.

He said youth had realised that the Congress had befooled them on giving employment.

Countering the Congress on the development of Mohali district, he said the Congress had claimed that Mohali would be developed as IT hub whereas the reality was that there were two major industries in Mohali during the SAD-BJP rule which had shifted to Chandigarh IT Park.

His son and SAD candidate from Kharar, Jasjit Singh, said if he was voted to power, he would ensure an all-round development in the area. Several youth leaders led by Lovepreet, vice-president, Youth Congress, Inderjit Singh, vice-president, Kharar, Mandeep Sandy and BSP leader Ranjit Singh announced that they were joining the SAD.


Chahal’s entry a shot in the arm for SAD
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 14
The success of the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in persuading a prominent SAD leader, Mr Gurmeet Singh Daduwal, not to oppose the official SAD candidate from Nakodar, Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala, and the entry of a Kapurthala Congress leader, Mr Malwinder Singh Chahal, into the party fold has brightened the SAD's poll prospects in the Doaba region.

Mr Daduwal, who had unsuccessfully contested from Nakodar twice on the SAD ticket in 1997 and 2002 (he had lost to senior Congress leader Amarjit Samra), is still a force to reckon with in Nakodar. He is also a sitting member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

Since Mr Wadala, a dissident, has once again come to the SAD fold, the party leadership thought it fit to allot the ticket to him instead of Mr Daduwal. As expected, this irked Mr Daduwal, who had reportedly started "working against" Mr Wadala.

The dissent had created a lot of uncomfort in the SAD circles as Mr Daduwal was said to be having considerable influence among Dalits, Ramgarhias and Jats, major communities of the Nakodar constituency.

The SAD high command then swung into action with senior leaders like Dr Daljit Singh Cheema making all-out efforts to bring Mr Daduwal back into the mainstream. Their efforts bore fruit when Mr Badal finally managed to get Mr Daduwal and Mr Wadala garland each other in his presence.

On the other hand, Mr Malwinder Singh Chahal, popularly known as Mamu Chahal, joined the SAD.

Mr Chahal's forte is that he has been the chief of the Kapurthala Youth Congress for over 13 years and had secured over 14,000 votes as an Independent during the last elections. He has also been the vice-president of the Punjab Youth Congress for long and in that capacity has a considerable influence among youngsters.


Dhillon remains Faridkot nominee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Parkash Singh Badal today announced that Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, sitting MLA from Faridkot, would be the SAD candidate in the coming Assembly elections.

With the announcement of Mr Dhillon’s name, the SAD has completed its list of candidates contesting 94 seats.

The other 23 seats are being contested by its alliance partner, the BJP, which released its first list of 15 candidates a couple of days ago.

Mr Dhillon had been inserting advertisements, first in vernacular papers and then in English dailies, for the past four days, clarifying his stance.

He clarified in the advertisements that he did not hold any meeting of his workers where any discussion took place against Mr Sukhbir Badal.


Badal opens poll office
Tribune News Service

Lambi (Muktsar), January 14
Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal today formally launched his election campaign on his home turf. He expressed his resolve to dislodge the Congress government in the state.

Mr Badal started his campaign after paying obeisance at the local gurdwara and then at the temple. He inaugurated his election office here in the presence of a large number of Akali leaders and workers.

Mr Badal said the SAD had been fighting elections on the issues like unemployment and price rise.

The Congress regime was misleading the masses by claiming that several mega projects had come to the state. Till date, these existed only on the paper and not even a single brick had been laid for the projects.

The SAD chief said the mega projects were just means of corruption.


Khanna convenes meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
The president of the Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, has convened a meeting of all 15 candidates along with their district secretaries, mandal presidents and office-bearers of the state unit of the party in Chandigarh tomorrow.

The candidates and party workers will be briefed about the election strategy to be adopted, said a BJP spokesperson today.

Meanwhile, Mr Ram Lal, twice elected MLA from Narot Mehra in Gurdaspur, quit the BJP on being denied ticket.

He joined the Uma Bharati-led Bharatiya Janshakti Party. The Punjab president of the Bharatiya Janshakti Party, Mr Pawan Valecha, has claimed that the entire unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at Rajpura has joined his party.


BJP faces revolt in Gurdaspur
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Mr Satpal Saini's supporters at a meeting in Sujanpur, Gurdaspur, on Sunday.
Mr Satpal Saini's supporters at a meeting in Sujanpur, Gurdaspur, on Sunday. — A Tribune photograph

Sujanpur (Gurdaspur), January 14
The BJP faced a revolt in the Sujanpur constituency today with the former minister, Mr Satpal Saini , holding a meeting of supporters and demanding a change in the party nominee. The BJP in its list announced recently had named Mr Davinder Thakur as party candidate from Sujanpur in place of Mr Satpal Saini. Mr Saini is the lone candidate who has been replaced by the BJP in Gurdaspur district.

Mr Satpal Saini, addressing his supporters today, said for all five years of the Congress rule, he had fought for party workers in the Sujanpur constituency. The sitting minister of the Congress, Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri, had sent Vigilance to his house to pressurise him not to highlight the alleged atrocities committed against the party workers and the common man. “My business was also hit as I stood against the ruling party,” he said.

He said he has been working for the BJP since the past 35 years in the area. “ I have been denied the party ticket without any justification. Vested interests within the party have worked against me and I will fight against them.”

The supports of Mr Satpal Saini raised slogans in his favour and demanded that the party ticket be allotted to him. The workers said they would move in large numbers to Chandigarh and then to Delhi to lobby for a party ticket for Mr Saini from Sujanpur.

They maintained that Mr Saini alone could give a tough fight to the Congress heavyweight from the area, Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri.

The supporters said in case their plea fell on deaf ears, they would announce their action plan after January 19. ” We are hopeful that the party will review its decision.”

In another jolt to the BJP, the former party MLA from the Narot Assembly constituency, Mr Ram Lal, joined the Bharatiya Jan Shakti party of Uma Bharti along with a large numbers of supporters. Mr Ram Lal won as BJP MLA from Narot in 1997.

He was, however, denied the party ticket in the 2002 Assembly elections. In his place, Mr Bishamber Dass was fielded as party candidate. Mr Ram Lal contested as Independent against him and secured about 6,000 votes. He became the primary reason for the defeat of the BJP candidate from the area.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mr Davinder Thakur, the candidate announced by the BJP, in a show of strength, took a round of the town in a large cavalcade of vehicles this morning.


OSD to CM throws hat into the ring
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 14
The Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Amardeep Singh Manaepur, has staked claim to the Congress ticket from the Dhariwal Assembly constituency.

Addressing a press conference at Dhariwal, the CM's OSD claimed that he had a right to contest from the constituency. His only rival for the Congress ticket from the area is Ibrahim Irshad.

Mr Ibrahim Irshad contested the elections from Dhariwal on the Congress ticket in 1985. Since then he has been staying in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I am keen to contest from the Dhariwal constituency as I have been working in the area since the past five years,” he says.

The Dhariwal constituency is represented by Independent candidate Sucha Singh Chottepur who defeated SAD leader Sucha Singh Langah in the last Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, Mr Amardeep Singh Bajwa, a prominent SAD leader from Qadian, joined the Congress .


Kisan’s no-confidence

The Kisan Sangharsh Committee (KSC) leadership has unanimously decided not to support any party in the coming elections.

In debt trap, thousands of peasants are disappointed by mere promises and hollow claims of various political parties, says Mr Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, convener of the committee. “ We are not going to support any party. But this does not mean that we will boycott the elections.”

Mr Pannu says all parties, including the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal, have only used the farmers to further their own ends and have done precious little to solve the problems of farmers, once the backbone of country's foodstock.

He says the lot of peasants had worsened. Even the Left parties who claim to be the well-wishers of farmers have done nothing except for verbal assurances. The majority of leaders of the KSC belong to Left or Akali parties.

“The condition of farmers in CPM-ruled West Bengal is a glaring example of how political parties behave after coming to power. In the past, all parties have used force to suppress the farming community fighting for their genuine demands.” — Gurbax Puri


Banking on family name

A greenhorn in politics, Mr Bikram Singh Majithia (31) promises the voters of Majitha that he would make his constituency as important as Badal- the home constituency of Shiromani Akali Dal supremo Parkash Singh Badal- if the SAD-BJP comes to power! Reason-he is the brother-in-law of Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, general secretary of the SAD.

Majitha is situated 16 km to the north-east of Amritsar which witnessed wanton destruction of heritage buildings in the past. None bothered to preserve the big qilas belonging to illustrious Sikh chieftians. However, it is election time and residents of Majitha hope that the voice of this sleepy township may be heard now. The town was founded by Madho, a Jat of the Gill clan. He was "jetha" (the eldest son) of his father and hence the place was "Madho-Jetha".

The "Madho-Jetha" subsequently got converted into Majitha. Madho was the ancestor of Majithia Sardars, some of whom held high positions during the Sikh rule. It is believed that the forefathers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh were closely associated with the town.

Bikram Singh Majithia feels that his family name may help him in the electoral arena. He takes pride in telling the voters that he is a great grandson of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia and grandson of Sardar Surjit Singh Majithia.

Bikram Singh Majithia has emerged as the 'strongest' Akali leader of the Majha heartland. Born and brought up in New Delhi, he graduated from the prestigious St Stephen College. He did his higher education from the U.K. and Canada before plunging into politics.

After the family decision to see Bikram Singh in active politics, he has been camping in the constituency for more than two years. He operates from his camp office from a rented accommodation in Green Avenue, Amritsar. He has accommodation on rent in Majitha town too.

"I shall convert Majitha into a model township with ultra-modern facilities". Though the area was represented by the Akalis in the Assembly many times, the overall condition of the town has remained pathetic.

Bikram Singh has borrowed the poll strategy from the Badal family. He has all the data computerised. He has been trying to make deep inroads into Dalit localities, Christians and migrant-dominated villages .

He has visited the villages where migrants have become panches and sarpanches. Even when gun-wielding militants ruled the area, not a single case of migration was reported from the Tapprian cluster comprising six villages.

Now more than 15,000 migrant labourers, who have converted this interior of Majha into a mini Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are likely to play a key role in the outcome of the Majitha election. Bikram Singh Majitha hears the problems of these voters. Sarpanches and panches of these six villages have their roots either in UP or Bihar. All speak in chaste Punjabi. The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress both have been giving special attention to Tapprian as its population can tilt the scales either way. — Varinder Walia


Curb female foeticide
First-time voters are not too enthusiastic about the elections, finds Shivani Bhakoo

There is no enthusiasm among fresh voters. All political parties set targets for their own benefits. The youth, the country's future, does not seem to be on the priority list of parties. We need a government which promotes education, creates job opportunities and curbs drug addiction.

Amanpreet Kaur
Amanpreet Kaur, a student at GCG, Patiala

Varun Dhanda
Varun Dhanda, BBA student, PCTE

If Punjab has to progress, it has to be liberal with foreign collaborations. The government needs to channel the energies of the youth in the right direction. Honesty and development should be the moto of the government that takes over and it should ensure more jobs.
Corruption and poverty still exist despite tall claims by all. Parties indulge in levelling allegations against each other and do nothing regarding development. The sex ratio is declining in the state. I want the new government to take stringent steps to curb female foeticide and ensure the safety of the girl child.

Monika Maini
Monika Maini, schoolteacher

Rishabh Jain
Rishabh Jain, student, Thapar Institute

I expect the new government to be honest, fair and transparent. The underprivileged should be taken care of. Health facilities should be provided at nominal rates to the poor and education must get a boost. Besides, infrastructure development needs to be given priority to take the state on the path to progress. Let’s hope our aspirations are fulfilled.


Moral values among kids declining: Mahatma's niece
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 14
Society should change its mindset towards their children, especially boys, to stop incidents like Nithari or Muktsar killings, said Ms Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya, niece of Mahatama Gandhi.

Ms Bhattacharya while going on her way to the Wagah joint checkpost to see the beating retreat ceremony said parents, especially the mother, should change their mindset towards their sons and try to provide them proper education. She said the parents were not teaching moral values to their children as they were only after money. She said the decline in the moral values was leading society to disaster and we should not blame the government for this.

Commenting on the concept of Sarvodaya, which was for re-awakening of the spirit to respect all types of life on this planet, Ms Tara Gandhi said there was a need to change ourselves first before changing others.

Expressing shock over the presentation of Mahatama Gandhi as a violent person on a website, she said such things would not kill the Mahatama.


Standing on a foot for promoting peace, love
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 14
Known as “standing baba” in his area, Baba Mahant Budh Giri of Dholbaha village of this district has quietly been undertaking a unique mission for "betterment of the world" and "universal peace and brotherhood".

Baba Budh Giri (42) has been standing on one foot for the past four years in the Dholeshwar temple at Dholbaha. He has a firm belief that his act will please Lord Shiva and other gods and this will bring celestial gifts to the world like enhanced brotherhood and peace.

Though, the baba is currently under treatment in the local Civil Hospital, where he was brought by a group of residents of Dholbaha village after he had vomited blood last week, but this ailment has failed to break his resolve.

"I will not stand or walk on my feet till I feel that there is enough amity or love spread across the world. I feel that the day is not very far when my prayers will aptly be answered by Lord Shiva and when this world will be a more affable place to love," said Baba Budh Giri.

A medical expert who chanced upon the baba in the hospital suspected that the baba might have acquired TB since he has symptoms of blood vomiting, but the exact malady could be pinpointed or diagnosed only if he is subjected to exhaustive medical tests.

When asked what had made him to take such a harsh decision in life to stand only on one foot until his wish was fulfilled, Baba Budh Giri said," I got inspired all of a sudden about four years ago that I should pursue this form of 'Hath Yoga' to please Lord Shiva. I have full faith in God and I am sure he will listen to my prayers. Otherwise, I will keep standing in my current posture for a full 12 years,” he said.


New scheme for girl child
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 14
The panchayat of Nabipur village in the district has set a new example for the other panchayats by introducing a new scheme to promote girl child birth as well as to curb the menace of female foeticide.

The village panchayat led by Mr. Surjit Singh Sahi, sarpanch, celebrated Lohri of girl child in government Primary School of the village. Mr Gurkirpal Singh Ashk, senior journalist was the chief guest, and Dr Dharminder Singh Ubha, Head, Management Department, MG College presided over the function.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Sahi said the village panchayat had decided to fight against the menace of female foeticide, which had brought bad name to Fatehgarh Sahib district for having lowest sex ratio in the country. He announced that the panchayat had decided to introduce a scheme that if a girl child was born in the village, the panchayat would give a FDR of worth Rs 5000 to the mother of the child and this FDR would mature after 18 years, when the girl would become major.

He said that besides this Rs 10,000 would also be given on the marriage of any girl in the village. He said if a second girl is born to any parents in the village, they would be honoured publicly.


DCC President’s nephew shot at
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 14
Two Congress supporters, considered to be close to a senior Congress leader, allegedly shot at the nephew of the District Congress Committee President (Urban) sending ripples among the Congress fraternity in the town.

The incident took place yesterday night when Gaurav Puri, a nephew of President DCC (Urban) Prem Krishen Puri, was celebrating Lohri at his uncle's residence at the Bahera road along with his other family members. Gaurav was immediately brought to Government Rajindra Hospital where the doctors declared him to be out of danger.

Gaurav, while celebrating Lohri, was suddenly pounced upon by Ashok Goyal and his son, Sumit, who had earlier arrived at Mr Puri's residence in a car. In an ensuing scuffle, they shot at Gaurav in the arm.

The police has registered a case against the father-son duo under Sections 307 and 34 of the IPC and the Arms act.


Schools to open at 10 am
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 14
Keeping in view the problems being faced by the students due to inclement weather while going to schools in the morning, Mr S.R. Ladhar, District Magistrate, today ordered that all government and private schools in Sangrur district would open at 10 am daily till January 31. However, the closing time of the schools would remain the same.


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