P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


A big Cong hand for four Big Bs
Prabhjot Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
In Congress, it is all within the families of top few leaders. The two lists released by the party since yesterday are full of brothers, sisters, spouses and sons of the Bhattals, Bajwas, Beants and the Brars.

While the Bhattals, the Bajwas and members of the Beant Singh’s family have been allotted two tickets each, both Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar and former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar got a ticket each for their relatives.

Other than these big “Bs”, other leaders who got their kin tickets, include the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan (his son gets ticket from Mukerian), late Bhagwan Dass Arora (son got ticket from Sunam) and late Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder (her husband, a retired police officer got ticket).

Mr Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa, a brother of PWD Minister Partap Singh Bajwa, got the ticket from Sri Hargobindpur. The Bajwas, thus, become the first pair of brothers to contest from the same district, Gurdaspur.

In Kot Kapura, it is Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar’s brother, Mr Ripjeet Brar, who has got the ticket. In the first list, the party had given tickets to the brother-sister combine of both Mr Tej Parkash Singh and Ms Gurkanwal Kaur and Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Kuldeep Singh Bhattal. And today, it was the turn of the Bajwas.

While Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Ms Gurkanwal Kaur and Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal are the members of the outgoing House, Mr Kuldeep Singh Bhattal got ticket because of his late brother, Mr Manjeet Singh Bhattal.

Mr Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa, however, got it for his work as a Congressman.

So Congress tickets going to kin of senior leaders, including ministers, have been the reason for open “dissent” at many places.“If the tickets are to go to the brothers, spouses and sons of senior leaders, where would a worker go,” remarked a senior leader of the party.


Jittery Cong men to meet at palace
Efforts to blunt Kohli edge

Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 18
The local Congress leadership seems to be suffering from election eve blues. Having found itself in a jittery position following the early campaign launched by the SAD candidate, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, the Congress, under instructions of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Patiala Member of Parliament, Mrs Preneet Kaur, has called a meeting of its cadres at the New Moti Bagh palace residence of the Chief Minister here on January 21.

A notable feature of the entire exercise is that cadres have been asked to mobilise the maximum number of people, including its supporters belonging to the Arora and Khatri Sikh caste in an effort to blunt the edge of the SAD candidate, Mr S.S Kohli, who incidentally belongs to the same community.

Sources disclosed that the meeting on January 21 would hold importance since this would be for the first time that such an assembly would be held on the lawns of the New Moti Bagh palace.

The bottom line is that Arora and Khatri Sikhs will get the much-awaited chance to meet the Patiala royals, who have so far confined themselves to meeting a few staunch loyalists in the past five years.

Mr Prem Krishan Puri, president, District Congress Committee, Patiala, confirmed that a meeting of workers would be addressed by Capt Amarinder Singh in New Moti Bagh on January 21.

He added that Capt Amarinder Singh and Mrs Preneet Kaur would address a workers’ meeting at Congress Bhavan here tomorrow. Capt Amarinder Singh would file his nomination papers on January 20.

The Chief Minister, who won the Patiala Assembly seat in 2002 by beating Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal, considered to be one of the weakest candidates fielded by the Akalis five years ago, will be crossing swords against a much stronger candidate this time.

This development has virtually forced the think tank of the Congress to devise policies and evolve strategies to make inroads into pockets where Mr Kohli wields considerable influence.

Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, a Tohra loyalist, won the Patiala Assembly seat during the 1997 elections. This time, besides enjoying the advantage of starting his campaign early and thus taking a head start, he is contemplating roping in some Mumbai-based film stars through his UK-based son Gurjit Sigh Kohli.


Ballot misuse: EC satisfied with govt reply
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 18
The Election Commission has expressed its satisfaction with the explanation by the officials concerned of the Punjab Government regarding a complaint apprehending the “misuse/manipulation” of postal ballots meant for the Punjab Police.

The commission has expressed its satisfaction with the clarification given in the matter and the steps taken by the state Chief Secretary and the CEO, an EC release said today.

The matter was referred by the Commission to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Punjab. There was a report that the Deputy commissioner of Jalandhar district, as part of the campaign to enhance elector's photo identity card (EPIC) coverage, had directed the heads of various departments in his district, including the Commandant of the 7th BN, Punjab Armed Police (PAP), to ensure that their personnel got their EPIC cards made.

In compliance with the DC's directive, the PAP Commandant had sought details of personnel in the battalion under his control, and the CEO has confirmed that no other functionary of the Police Department, either at the Headquarters or in the districts or in the DGP's office, had sought any such information.


Virk issue: EC not satisfied with reply
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
The Election Commission is not happy with the “sketchy report” sent by the Punjab Government regarding Director-General of Police, Punjab, S.S. Virk and his family getting concessions for setting up a convention centre near Chandigarh.

The EC faxed a communiqué to the Chief Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, last evening and asked for more details on an existing project being run by the Virk family and also a project cleared for the Virks by the Amarinder regime.

Sources in the government said the EC wanted more details on the DGP’s connection with the Chimney Heights situated on the Chandigarh-Patiala highway and also the convention centre.

The EC has asked for specific details on the partners and their share in Chimney Heights and the convention centre project.


Suicide by jobless youth
Leaves note on wall
Varinder Walia

Tribune News Service

Chogawan (Amritsar), January 18
Arjun Singh (25) a plus two pass hanged himself from a tree outside the office of the Block Development and Panchayat Officer here after scribbling suicide note on the walls of the office.

He mentioned the name of Mr Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, a Congress candidate from Rajasansi Assembly seat and Chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board on the walls repeatedly urging him to provide a job to his brother after his death. As per the note the deceased was upset over the dismissal of his brother from a job in the BDPO office after a regular appointee joined. His brother was given the job on compassionate grounds after the death of his father, Manohar Lal.

Residents of Chogawan said the deceased was upset over economic situation of his family, hence took the extreme step.

In his suicide note on the walls, he urged Mr Sukh Sarkaria to arrange a job for him and his family would vote for him. He also wished Mr Sarkaria ‘best of luck in the elections’. He also expressed his love to his nieces that reads, “In love you Simran, Sikh”.

Chowkidar of the BDPO’s Office, Jassa said he was shocked to see the body of Arjun hanging from a tree when he entered the premises in the morning. He informed about the incident to the family of the deceased.

However, relatives and family members of the deceased cremated the body without post-mortem examination in which senior Congress leaders also participated.

DSP, Jagdip Singh Hundal, however, said no leader of the ruling party could be blamed for the incident since the deceased himself had scribbled on the wall that nobody should be held responsible for that. He, however, wrote on the walls that,’ what was the fault of his brother whose service was terminated?’. Mr Hundal said neither he nor the SHO concerned had any information since the cremation was carried out by the family as per rituals.

However, the Shiromani Akali Dal sought an inquiry into the incident and asked the ruling Congress to ‘read on the walls’.


Gymnast who committed suicide was ‘pregnant’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 18
The suicide, committed by a state-level gymnast and class XII student of Government Girls Senior Secondary School took a new turn when the post-mortem report found her to be pregnant.

The district police chief, Mr S.S. Srivastava, said the police was on the look out for two suspects having illicit relations with the girl. The embryo of the deceased has been handed over to the police by the medical college. Dr J.S. Dalal, Principal Medical College and Head of the Department of Forensic Science, said the embryo would be sent to the forensic laboratory to establish paternity of the child.

The police is still questioning the coach, Ish Devgan, who was taken in custody yesterday. He was accused of favouring other gymnasts.

The girl, Manpreet Kaur, who hails from Heir village in Amritsar, had committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan in her sports hostel with a “dupatta”.

The police says a case of rape could be registered against the accused after confirming paternity of the child since the deceased was a minor.

Officials of the school, including her coach, could be in the dock since they could not keep proper record of her outside visits.


Kidnapped boy rescued
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 18
The Gurdaspur police today rescued a boy who was kidnapped while going to school earlier in the morning.

The SSP, Gurdaspur, said Sahil was on his way to school on the College road when two motor cycle-borne youths kidnapped him around 9 a.m.

Some schoolteachers who were passing by raised the alarm. However, the kidnappers fled along with the boy. After about an hour, they rang up his parents and told them to bring Rs 1 lakh to an ice factory near Pandori. The police was informed.

On noticing policemen at a naka, the kidnappers escaped after leaving the boy and abandoning their motor cycle at a shop near Pandori Mahantan.

On information provided by Sahil, the kidnappers were identified as Sonu and Monu alias Lakhwinder Singh. Both were distantly related to the boy. They had kidnapped him for a ransom. The police later arrested Sonu. The involvement of some other persons in the crime was also suspected, said the SSP.


When Nankana Sahib bus carried no passengers
Harbans Singh Virdi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
Alarmed at the huge losses that both India and Pakistan are incurring in plying the Punj-Aab bus service- from Amritsar to Lahore and from Amritsar to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan- Pakistan has officially proposed to India to club the two services.

In a government-to-government communication, Pakistan has proposed that the same Panj-Aab bus which goes up to Lahore, can resume its journey further upward to Nankana Sahib after disembarking passengers at Gulberg in Lahore. At present, the Panj-Aab bus goes to Nankana Sahib, taking a turn from the Lahore bypass. The proposal will cut not only losses but also improve occupancy.

The proposal makes sense as, State Transport Department officials admit, the Nankana Sahib bus is really a drain on the Punjab exchequer. The luxury Volvo bus owned by the Libra company but leased out to the Punjab Government for a hefty sum of Rs 70 lakh, carries just seven or eight passengers though it is a 45-seater vehicle. So much so that twice recently, there was not a single passenger on the Nankana Sahib trip. Nor was there anyone on board on its return journey. But the officials also point out that during Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary (Nov 13, 2006), the Volvo bus ran to full capacity.

Otherwise, the bus service as a whole is a huge loss financially. For instance, in the first 10 months (Jan-Oct, 2006), the Amritsar-Lahore bus service cost the government Rs 22 approximately. This includes expenditure on Pakistani crew’s food, rent of the bus and fuel charges, salary of employees at the International Bus Terminus and rent of premises payable to the assistant director, youth services, etc. But the government earned a pittance- Rs 7.19 lakh. Similarly, the Nankana Sahib bus service cost the government about Rs 13 lakh whereas the service earned just Rs 2.13 lakh in eight months (March-Oct, 2006).

But State Department officials point out that the Lahore bus service is quite popular among NRIs and foreign tourists, who are taking full advantage of their Punjab visit. The bus carries 15 or 16 passengers every week.

It is in this context that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently convened a meeting, inviting the Punjab Chief Secretary and the Secretary, Transport, Punjab, in Delhi, to discuss the issue threadbare. It is a country-to-country bus service, and as such Punjab alone cannot take a decision in the matter.

But officials hasten to add that security checks and the absence of a visa office within Punjab are proving major deterrents to people wanting to visit Lahore and Nankana Sahib.


Women MLAs: Best figure very slim 9
Amrita Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
Talk of 33 per cent reservation for women in the legislature notwithstanding, the number of woman MLAs in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha since 1960 has never entered the double figure.

In 1960 when the strength of the House was 154, it had nine women legislators. Interestingly, the outgoing House of 117 also had nine women legislators. Going by the number of tickets given to women candidates by major political parties, this number of nine is unlikely to be crossed in the coming elections.

In 1969, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha had no woman legislator.

If the Congress claims credit for giving Punjab its first woman Chief Minister- Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal - the Shiromani Akali Dal takes prides in giving the first-ever President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Bibi Jagir Kaur, an Akali legislator. Both were members of the last two Vidhan Sabhas.

The Communists, for example, have sent only one woman legislator in 46 years, Mrs Vimla Dang. The same is true of the Bharatiya Janata Party whose sole representative in the Vidhan Sabha had been Mrs Luxmi Kanta Chawla.

Though always a minority in the House, the women MLAs have played their legislative role effectively . Besides Mrs Bhattal becoming the Chief Minister and holding the office of the Deputy Chief Minister in the present government, she has held important positions, both in the party and the Congress governments in the state.

In 1960 and 1962, Dr Parkash Kaur was credited with pushing through a legislature making Punjabi as state language.

Ms Sarla Prashar, who was elected from Nangal in 1967, 1972 and again in 1980, remained president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

Mrs Gurbrinder Kaur Brar was another prominent woman legislator elected twice in 1972 and again in 1985.

In 1960, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha had two women from Punjab’s royal families, Kunwarani Jagdish Kaur and Rajkumari Sumitra Devi, as its members. Two years later, Begum Yusuf Jaman and Rajkumari Sumitra Devi were among eight women legislators in the House.

Mrs Satwant Kaur Sandhu of the SAD has, perhaps , the oldest woman legislator.


Sultanpur, Bholath SAD citadels
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, January 18
The Bholath and Sultanpur Lodhi constituencies of Kapurthala district are considered citadels of the SAD as it has won five of the last six Assembly elections since 1977 on both seats. The Congress could win on these seats only in 1992 when the SAD had boycotted the elections.

On the contrary, the Congress has a bit upper hand in the remaining two constituencies of Kapurthala and Phagwara (SC). The Congress won in 1980, 1985, 1992 and 2002 in the Phagwara (SC) constituency. It emerged winner the Kapurthala seat in 1985, 1992, 2002 and in 2004 (byelection).

Old rival candidates are set to face one other in Bholath and Sultanpur Lodhi, two of the total four constituencies of the district.

While a former SGPC chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, a SAD candidate, is facing District Congress Committee president Sukhpal Singh Khaira for the third time on the Bholath seat, a former minister, Mr Raghubir Singh, is pitted against sitting MLA Sukhjinder Kaur Rana, who had defeated him in the 2004 byelection.

Actually, three main political parties, the Congress, the SAD and the BJP, have mostly reposed faith in senior leaders.

While the SAD-BJP combine has re-fielded old candidates on all four seats, the SAD sitting MLA, Bibi Upinderjeet Kaur, is retrying her luck from Sultanpur Lodhi. The BJP has refielded Swarna Ram from the Phagwara (SC) constituency.

However, the Congress has changed its last time candidate Rajanbir Singh from the Sultanpur Lodhi seat and nominated a new face, Mr Navtej Singh Cheema, former DCC chief. No candidate from Phagwara (sitting MLA Joginder Singh Mann) has figured on the first list of 98 candidates of the Congress released yesterday.

Bibi Jagir Kaur and Khaira are contesting against each other for the third time in a row from Bholath. Bibi defeated Khaira in 1997 and 2002. While she secured 53,168 votes Khaira could get only 25,141 votes in 1997. However the margin of her victory was reduced to 11,378 votes in 2002 when she got 41,937 votes in 2002.

Raghubir Singh and Sukhjinder Kaur Rana are facing each other for the second time for the Kapurthala seat. Sukhjinder (47,890) defeated Raghubir (34,600) in the 2004 byelection. Former minister Raghubir Singh had won from this seat in 1980 and 1997 by getting 50.8 per cent and 46.52 per cent votes, respectively.


Angry ones
Cong faces rebel fury

Rebels rally behind Pinki
From Tribune Reporters

Ferozepore, January 18
Voices of dissent have started emanating in this border district after denial of ticket to Mr Parminder Singh “Pinky”, general secretary of the PPCC. He was an aspirant for Congress ticket from the Ferozepore City Assembly constituency.

At a meeting held here today at the residence of Mr Pinki, his supporters declared to oppose the official candidate of the party, Pandit Balmukand Sharma. Mr Sharma is contesting from the seat for the seventh time.

Over a dozen senior party functionaries announced to resign from party posts. The Congress office-bearers, who declared to submit their resignations, include Mr Dharmpal Arthiya, president, Block Congress (City), Mr Jagdish Lal Gakhar, vice-president, DCC, Mr Ashok Wahi, general secretary, DCC, Mr Chander Mohan Handa, Mr Harinder Singh Sangha, both secretaries of the PCC, Mr Gian Singh Kalra, general secretary, DCC, Mr Surinder Dhawan, Dr K. C. Arora, secretary, DCC, Mr Kashmir Singh, vice-president, DCC, Mr Gurdip Singh Bhagat, vice-president, PYC (BC Cell), and Mr Manmeet Singh, general secretary of the DYC.

Arvind Khanna men sulking

Sangrur, January 18
Cracks in the Congress came to the fore here today as almost all loyalists of Mr Arvind Khanna, MLA from Sangrur, who has been denied the party ticket from Sangrur this time, kept themselves away from the venue where the Congress candidate from Sangrur, Mr Surinder Pal Singh Sibia, alias Pammi Sibia, was received on his return from Delhi.

Mr Khanna’s group is reportedly waiting for his visit to Sangrur to take a decision regarding participating in the election campaign of Mr Sibia.

Mr Khanna had won the 2002 Assembly elections by a margin of 19,132 votes.

After the allotment of the party ticket to him, Mr Sibia today entered the town with a large number of supporters in a cavalcade of vehicles and visited the local Maha Kali Devi temple. He was weighed against ladoos by his supporters in front of the local Moti theatre.

Outside the Patiala Gate where Mr Sibia, who is also the district president of the Congress, was received with much fanfare, senior leaders of the party were conspicuous by their absence.

Slogans raised against Dullo

Abohar, January 18
Hundreds of Congress workers, including sarpanches and members of gram panchayats, today gave an ultimatum to the party high command to change the candidate from the Balluana (reserved) constituency by January 22 failing which they would field an Independent.

At a meeting here, they raised slogans against PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo and decried the reallocation of the party ticket to Mr Parkash Singh Bhatti, sitting MLA.

They dared the PPCC chief to campaign for Mr Bhatti and face the ire of the electorate. They regretted that senior party leaders had not gone through a couple of memorandums against Mr Bhatti, who had also served as the chairman of the Improvement Trust at Faridkot, besides getting his younger brother elected as vice-chairman of the Market Committee here.

Interestingly, there were 18 aspirants for the Congress ticket.

Mr Dullo also came under fire from Mr Gurcharan Singh Musafir, a former District Education Officer, who was also a contender for the party ticket.


Don’t like them? Simply reject
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana January 18
For the first time in the electoral history of India, voters in Punjab will have the option to reject candidates if they so desire. According to election officials, the Election Commission of India has introduced a provision wherein the voters can reject all candidates.
This will help gauge the mood of the voter.
— Alok Kumar, scholar

It will be of no help. 
— Mahesh Inder Singh

In case any voter wants to reject the candidates contesting from a particular constituency, he or she can ask for a form from the presiding or the candidates.

The provision has been introduced on demand of various non-government organisations. This option has been welcomed by the intelligentsia. A senior scientist in Punjab Agricultural University said the provision would help gauge the mood of the voter.

"Earlier it was like opting for the lesser evil , but now we will have the option of rejecting every candidate ", he pointed out.

Political leaders appear to be divided on the issue. Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, a senior Akali leader and the party candidate from Payal observed:

" Such a provision is not required because it will not be of any help. If one does not want to vote for anyone, why will he or she come to the polling booth at all," he asked.

However, Mr Alok Kumar, a research scholar, said:" This provision will certainly help in judging the sense of disillusionment and alienation among the people, particularly the younger and educated lot from the political establishment."


Rumblings in Majha too
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 18
The Chairman of the Improvement Trust, Tarn Taran, Prof Gurvinder Singh Mammanke, has raised a banner of revolt against the official nominee , Mr Manjit Singh Ghasitpura.

In Ajnala, Maj Rajbir Singh, Chairman, Punjab State Cooperative Bank, and elder brother of Mr Harpartap Singh, sitting MLA and the party nominee, has said his supporters had asked him to contest the election as rebel candidate .

In Amritsar, supporters of Mr Joginder Pal Dhingra, District President Congress Committee (Urban), resorted to sloganeering against the official nominee, Mr Jugal Kishor Sharma who would be seeking re-election from Amritsar North constituency. The allocation of party ticket to Mr Harminder Singh Gill, a member of Punjab Subordinate Selection Board from Patti, has shocked PPCC chief who had been opposing his candidature.

Similarly, Mr Arun Kumar Pappal, who was aspirant for the Amritsar Central ticket , has reportedly conveyed his displeasure to the party high command for re-nominating Prof Darbari Lal from the constituency.

Supporters of Mr Sawinder Singh Kathunangal , a former MLA, have also conveyed their displeasure to the party high command for allocating ticket to Mr Lali Majithia , district president Congress Committee (Rural).

In yet another surprise move, the Congress has given the ticket to Mr Tarsem Singh, an IRS officer, causing resentment in the camp of Mr Sukhdev Singh Shehbazpuri , a former minister.


Patch-up Badal talks panel again
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 18
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief, today said that if voted to power, his government would constitute a separate commission on unemployment.

Mr Badal was talking to mediapersons at the residence of Mr Arvinder Singh in Rasoolpur village, about 30 km from here, while campaigning for Mr Balbir Singh Miani, a joint candidate of the SAD-BJP alliance from the Tanda segment.

He said his government would leave no stone unturned to ensure 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament.

He said people were facing an acute shortage of power and water in the state and the Amrinder Singh government had done little to deal with it.

Mr Badal helped patch up differences between Mr Arvinder Singh and Mr Balbir Singh Miani.

At a public meeting at Nangal Khunga, Mr Rajinder Singh, district vice-president of the SAD (A), joined the SAD. Mr Badal named him the adviser of the party.

At Hariana town, Mr Rakesh Kumar Behal, president of the municipal council, and Ms Bimla Devi, councillor, both Congress leaders, joined the SAD.

Later, Mr Badal addressed a public meeting at Focal Point in Johlan village under the Garhdiwala segment and urged the gathering to vote in favour of Mr Des Raj Dhugga, joint candidate of the SAD-BJP alliance.


Ex-serviceman fired up
Chitleen K. Sethi

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
Mr Tirlochan Singh Mann, a 55-year-old resident of Balongi village, is standing as an Independent from the Kharar constituency. An ex-serviceman, Mr Mann joined the Punjab Police later and retired as Assistant Sub-Inspector.

“After my retirement from the Punjab Police, I got into the business of property dealing and started helping people with whatever sources I have. Be it the construction of a gurdwara or a temple, I give whatever I can ,” he said. It is this goodwill that Mr Mann is banking upon to help him win his first election.

He has been the president of the District Lambardar Union and claims that the Sarpanch Union in the district is supporting him. His guru, Sant Baba Sarup Singh, inaugurated his election office in Mohali this morning.

“The biggest problem faced by residents of Kharar is the Periphery Control Act of 1952. I will ensure that the area is taken out of the ambit of the Act, which has led to a haphazard growth.

“Also I intend to do my best to revive the industrial belt of the area to create employment opportunities for the youth. As far as mega projects are concerned, it should be made mandatory for companies to employ Punjabis.”

Mr Mann believes if every village has a sports ground and a small stadium, the youth would not take to drugs and other bad habits.


For rural women, the husband decides
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib, January 18
Women in many villages of this reserved constituency have to cast vote in favour of a particular candidate chosen by their husbands in consultation with Panchayat. There are 56,069 women voters in this constituency out of a total of 1.18 lakh voters.

Many women belong to landless Dalits families and work as labour in the fields. Deprived of education, they have no time to even to think about the major issues raised by various political parties. They are least bothered about candidates in the fray.

Women of Daudpur village work in the fields of the local landlord to earn Rs 50 a day. “We have no right to decide who we cast the vote for. The decision on it is taken by my husband after discussing it with the Panchayat”, said Harjinder Kaur.

More than 40 Dalit families have no land and we have to struggle every day to earn our livelihood, she added. The same is the condition of Gurdeep Kaur of Sheerpur, Salimpur.

Narrating her problems, Avtar Kaur (42) of Indira colony said: “I wish that there would be a college for girls in our constituency where they would get education free of cost. If they were educated, they did not have to work like us. Link roads are in a bad shape”.

“We have no time to attend political rallies and have no knowledge of their agenda. Our routine is to spend three or four hours collecting firewood everyday from the forest area”, said Reena of Chamkaur Sahib village.


Bhinder faces protege
Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 18
The Gurdaspur Assembly constituency has a new Congress candidate. Mr P.S. Bhinder, a former DGP and husband of the late Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, a former Member of Parliament, has been nominated as the Congress candidate from the seat.

Mr Bhinder will face his protege Gurbachan Singh Babaehali, Milkfed Chairman who recently joined the SAD and has been nominated as the party candidate from Gurdaspur.

People in the area are terming the political fight in Gurdaspur as “guru versus chela”.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Bhinder described Mr Babaehali as an opportunist.

Mr Babaehali said it did not matter much who his opponent was.

Mr Bhinder was welcomed by his supporters in Gurdaspur today. He went to his native village and then in a cavalcade moved through villages of the constituency.

Mr Bhinder has replaced a veteran Congress leader, Mr Khushal Behl.

Mr Behl, who is in his eighties, was trying for the party ticket for his son. Mr Raman Behl, president of the Gurdaspur Municipal Council.

Mr Raman Behl has called a meeting of his supporters tomorrow. In the 2002 Assembly elections, Mr Khushal Behl had defeated his nearest rival from the SAD, Mr Manawar Masih, by a margin of 11,691 votes.

Except for Mr Khushal Behl, all sitting MLAs and ministers from the district have been re-nominated.


Hangers-on back home to celebrate
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur January 18
It was celebration time for those who have got the party ticket. Most Congress nominees who had been camping in Delhi for the past two weeks to ensure nominations today returned to their constituencies.

Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri, Minister for Transport, was received by a cavalcade of vehicles in Sujanpur. He was taken around the constituency as a victor.

Talking to mediapersons, he said the election would be a cakewalk for him against the BJP greenhorn from Sujanpur Dinesh Baboo. The BJP was a divided house and this would augment his chances in the forth coming elections.

Mr Ashok Sharma, Congress MLA from Pathankot, was also welcomed by his supporters in the city on his arrival from Delhi. Mr Ashok Sharma said development works carried out in the constituency would be his main poll plank.

Mr Rumal Chand and Mr PS Bhinder were welcomed by a large cavalcade of vehicles in their respective constituencies, in violation of the directions of the Election Commission. The EC has made clear that not more than three vehicles can be allowed at a time.

The Congress ministers, including Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who were sure of ticket, had already been campaigning in their constituencies.

The SAD and BJP candidates have also been campaigning in their constituency for the past one week.


Parminder files papers from Kharar
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 18
As the work of issuing notification commenced, only one candidate from Kharar constituency filed his nomination papers for the Punjab Assembly elections at the Municipal Bhawan, here today.

Mr Parminder Singh, resident of Tolemajra village, who is a member of the Block Samiti, Kharar, filed his papers as an independent candidate. He was accompanied by supporters, including Mr Randhir Singh, chairman, Land Mortgage Bank Loan Committee; Mr Kamlesh Sharma, member, Zila Parishad; Mr Bhupinder Singh, secretary, PPCC and Mr Gurcharan Singh, vice-chairman, Block Samiti, Kharar.

Mr Singh’s supporters danced to the beats of the drums after his nomination papers were filed.

Interestingly, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh, at a meeting held yesterday, had told returning officers, assistant returning officers and police officials concerned that candidates will not be allowed to file their nomination papers accompanied by large groups of people and beating of drums, keeping in line with the code of conduct. He added candidates will not be allowed to use loud speakers after 10 pm during poll campaigns.


Day 1: Six file nomination papers

Chandigarh: The process of filing of nominations started in Punjab today with six candidates submitting their papers. Two nominations were filed from the Patiala constituency and one each from Assembly segments in Nawashahr, SAS Nagar, Ferozepore and Muktsar districts. No prominent candidate submitted papers. In Patiala, Mr Paramjit Singh of the Bahujan Samaj Party filed nomination. — TNS

Wooing with milk

Chandigarh: In a novel way to woo voters, a Bahujan Samaj Party nominee is serving milk to them. Mr Paramjit Singh, BSP nominee for the Patiala Assembly constituency, says he is distributing milk among the voters to counter the liquor-laced campaign of other candidates. — PTI


2 file papers
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 18
The BSP nominee for the Patiala Assembly segment, Mr Paramjit Singh, today filed his nomination papers along with an Independent candidate, Mr Vijay Kumar.

Both filed their nominations in the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate on the first day of filing the nominations. Mr Paramjit Singh’s name was proposed by Mr Surinder Mohan while Mr Vijay Kumar had as many as 10 persons proposing his name.


Man booked under NDPS Act launches party
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 18
Mr Jagtar Boxer, who was recently acquitted by the court, has decided to launch a drive against the drug abuse by launching a party-Naujwan Shakti Dal. He is the president of the party. Various cases were registered against him in the past. One case under the NDPS Act was still pending against him.

He said the party’s state unit would organise ‘Samaj Jagao Punjab Bachao’ rally on January 19. The motive behind this was to make people aware of the social evils like drug abuse, female foeticide and free distribution of drugs and liquor by politicians of various parties. He said they would support the party which would work against such social evils.


Death of Giani Gurdit Singh mourned
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 18
Dr Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, faculty members, researchers, students, employees and various university associations mourned the death of renowned Punjabi litterateur and Sikh historian Giani Gurdit Singh.

In his condolence message, Dr Jai Rup Singh said Giani Gurdit Singh was a great litterateur, Sikh historian and a journalist. His book “Mera Pind,” published in 1961, not only catapulted him to international fame but also won him a loyal fan following that never deserted him.

Meanwhile, Mr Avtaar Singh, president, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), and former Vice-Chancellor of GND University S.P. Singh also mourned the death of Giani Gurdit Singh.

They said the contribution of Giani Gurdit Singh to Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiat was unparallel and in his death, Punjab had lost a great son of the soil.

The university fraternity also expressed deep sympathy with the bereaved family and prayed for peace to the departed soul.


Post-polio deformities corrected
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, January 18
A team of specialist doctors from the USA, led by Dr Gail Kelley, organised a medical camp here today in which they conducted corrective surgeries on children suffering from post-polio deformities.

The team, which included three renowned surgeons, Dr Adam Landsman, Dr Jeremy Cook and Dr Ernst Orthner, in association with ISHWAR (International Society for Human Welfare and Rehabilitation) conducted these surgeries at Anil Baghi Memorial Hospital here today.

Dr Kamal Baghi, Medical Director of the hospital, said the endeavour was to help the poor handicapped children to stand on their feet and lead a normal life. He said as many as 13 surgeries were performed today absolutely free of cost and 12 handicapped children were provided with hi-tech artificial limbs and callipers.

Dr Baghi said such camps would be held every year in this remote and border area.

Mr Dave Kelley, Miss Katic Connaway, Major R.L. Grover and Brig Parmot Bhanot were also present.


Public holiday today
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 18
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Surjit Singh Dhillon, has declared January 19 as a public holiday in the district.

He said today that the public holiday had been declared to commemorate the martyrdom day of S.Sewa Singh Thikriwala. Thikriwala, who was a torch-bearer of the Praja Mandal Movement, sacrificed his life during the freedom struggle.

The offices of the Punjab Government, corporations, boards and semi-government besides educational institutions would remain closed in memory of Thikriwala.


Blood donation motivation drive
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 18
The blood bank department of the Government Medical College and Rajindra Hospital here, in association with the Punjabi University's NSS department and the District Red Cross Society, has launched a comprehensive motivational campaign to rope in potential blood donors.

A book on blood donation, ‘Anmol Katre’ by Sukhvir Singh, has been published.

Dr Kulbir Kaur, professor and head of the department, said positive results had started to emerge from the special motivational campaign in the last few years.


Gazi Sikh Students Federation chief

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 18
Mr Paramjit Singh Gazi was unanimously elected president of the Sikh Students Federation here yesterday.

Mr Hardev Singh, general secretary of the federation, said Mr Mandhir Singh had resigned as president as he was contesting elections from Balachaur on Panthic Morcha ticket. — OC


High Court
Law finally catches up with ex-Mohali LAC
Maneesh Chhibber
Legal Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 18
Taking strong note of the errant ways of the former Land Acquisition Collector (LAC), PUDA, Mohali, Mr P.S. Sodhi, the Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday held him guilty of having committed contempt of court.

Mr Justice M.M. Kumar, who was hearing the contempt plea against him filed by Mr Bhupinder Singh and others, adjudged Mr Sodhi guilty and fixed January 24 for hearing on the issue of quantum of sentence.

It may be recalled that The Tribune had in April last done special reports about the alleged arbitrary and highly questionable acts of Mr Sodhi and the role of the Capt Amarinder Singh government in shielding him.

Such was the clout of the officer that despite being allegedly caught red-handed taking graft, he escaped prosecution as sanction was not given by the government. Not only this, less than six months after he was removed as LAC, PUDA, Mohali, after Mr Justice M.M. Kumar made critical observations about his actions and the government’s apparent inaction, he was posted on the highly lucrative post of District Revenue Officer, Mohali.

The petitioners have accused Mr Sodhi of wilfully and intentionally disobeying an order of the High Court.

In November 1, 2004, Mr Justice Ashutosh Mohunta had directed the government to deposit the entire compensation due to the petitioners within a period of two months.

But, Mr Sodhi did not do so. This was despite of the fact that Mr B.S. Sekhon, then Sub-Divisional Magistrate-cum-LAC, Anandpur Sahib, had also written to Mr Sodhi on February 23, 2005, telling him that since the land had been acquired by his department, his department should deposit the amount.

While not implementing High Court orders, Mr Sodhi even forgot the fact that he had been let off with a warning by Mr Justice M.M. Kumar in another contempt case.

Later, the Judge asked the Advocate-General (AG), Punjab, to appear in the court in another contempt plea in which the accused was again Mr Sodhi.

Not only was the AG forced to give an assurance to the court that follow-up action would be taken, he was also directed to apprise about the status of the FIR registered by the Vigilance Bureau (VB) under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Mr Sodhi on August 20, 1999, as well as other FIRs against him.

An affidavit filed by the Vigilance Bureau said that the Vigilance Department of the Punjab Government had refused to give sanction for Mr Sodhi’s prosecution.

The Government also did not take any action against him despite the fact that a report submitted by the Joint Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, Punjab, in May 2005 had clearly recommended initiation of legal proceedings against him.

On April 5, the Advocate-General, Punjab, Mr Rajinder Singh Cheema, had informed the Bench of Mr Justice Kumar that the controversial officer had “been removed from his post".

But, he came back, this time to occupy a better post, that of DRO, Mohali. He was later shifted to another district.


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