P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Virk’s removal: More than meets the eye
Sarbjit Dhaliwal & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Gill takes charge

The Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr R.S. Gill, took charge from Mr S.S. Virk this morning. The first work he did was to hold a meeting of senior officials regarding preparations for the Assembly elections.

Chandigarh, January 22
The removal of the Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr S.S. Virk, has left a strong message for all civil servants, who directly deal with political executives.

The message is loud and clear that they should never give an impression of having crossed the professional “Laxman Rekha” while performing their official duty at the behest of their political bosses.

On hindsight, the issue of the mega project for Mr Virk’s family was just a lever in political hands to oust the DGP while the real issues lay elsewhere.

Opposition parties usually become suspicious of civil servants holding critical posts like that of DGP, Home Secretary, Chief Secretary, Chief of the Vigilance Bureau, Deputy Commissioners and SSPs among others. Mr Virk was no exception. Despite having enjoyed the faith of a former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, at one time, he came under fire from Mr Badal’s son, Mr Sukhbir Singh.

Throughout his 36-year-old career in the Indian Police Service, Mr Virk has been a thoroughly professional officer, who even got shot in his face from a point-blank range during Operation Black Thunder in 1988. He remained in coma, but survived miraculously. Later, he enjoyed a good reputation as an intelligence operative.

Even Mr Badal respected his professional qualities and wanted him in the Punjab cadre despite opposition from other officers. Mr Virk belongs to the Maharashtra cadre.

In fact, Mr Badal’s efforts in retaining him in the state paved the way for Mr Virk to become the DGP of the Punjab Police.

On the face of it, the Badal family has been crying hoarse about the proposed mega project. However, without going into the merits or de-merits of the mega project or its owners, there is more in it than meets the eye. The mega project does not seem to be the real reason.

Certain splinter groups of the Akalis vehemently opposed to Mr Badal have moved closer to the Chief Minister and also a few senior police officers.

These leaders could be frequently seen at the Police Headquarters in Sector 9 here. Such activities made the Badals and others suspicious. The biggest victim of this suspicion was Mr Virk. This was followed by the episode in which the police nabbed a person allegedly carrying 12 kg RDX from Jalandhar. Handling of this case also raised more suspicions in the Badal camp.

Mr Badal alleged that the RDX was meant to kill him or his son Sukhbir Badal. A few months ago, the episode of the DGP admitting that he sheltered renegade militants to use them in the fight against militants had created ripples in the Opposition circles. The same politicians, who had patted Mr Virk on the back for the move 20 years ago, when such steps were an operational necessity during the peak of terrorism, started baying for Mr Virk’s blood now.

The mega project was the final blow. The permission given by the Punjab Government to Col R.D.S. Virk (retd), a brother of the DGP, to start the project was too close to the elections in the state. Though there can be no evidence to prove it, the Akalis claimed the permission was under a deal between the DGP and the Chief Minister with the former extending all help in the elections. The government had said the clearance was a “routine matter”, but the EC thought otherwise.

Probably, Mr Virk got caught in a political storm, which may not be entirely his creation.


Amritsar: BJP leaves it to Rajnath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 22
The Bharatiya Janata Party has authorised its chief Rajnath Singh to name its candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection as different leaders from Punjab have started mounting pressure on the party for the party ticket in case former cricketer-turned MP Navjot Singh Sidhu’s application seeking a stay on his conviction is allowed by the Supreme Court.

The highest court is to pronounce judgement tomorrow. The BJP is awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling on the plea of Mr Sidhu for a stay on his conviction in a road-rage death case.

The BJP president, according to party sources, has been supportive of the idea to field Mr Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur from the constituency in case the court rejects the former cricketer's petition.

In a sign of a keen tug-of-war for political supremacy within the BJP, several prominent names, including that of party general secretary Arun Jaitley, are doing the rounds for candidacy.


BSP fields Arjun for LS seat
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 22
The Bahujan Samaj Party today fielded former president of the Durgiana Managing Committee Surinder Arjun from the Amritsar parliamentary seat.

Mr Arjun, former Congress leader, said he had joined the BSP to contest the byelection for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, but he would also contest from the Amritsar Central Assembly constituency.

Accompanying district president of the BSP Ravinder Hans at a press conference here, Mr Arjun said the BSP had decided to contest all 117 seats in the state and might opt for an alliance with the “third front”.

Lashing out at the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine, he said they had been promoting self-interests and encouraging multinational companies for their own benefits. 


CEO clarifies
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Punjab, Mr Sundram Krishna, had not used the word dirty and bitter while referring to the ongoing campaign for the Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections.

To a question about the ongoing campaign, he had just said “There are reports that the elections will be closely contested. We are committed to ensuring that elections are free and fair,” Mr Krishna had said.


Chahal contempt: Role of lawyers under scanner
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 22
Trouble could be in store for two former law officers of the Punjab Government as the amicus curiae in the ongoing contempt plea against Mr B.I.S. Chahal, the Media Adviser to the Chief Minister, Punjab, today sought to highlight their role in a crucial Sports Department file going missing from court complex. The file had been summoned by the Bench hearing the matter pertaining to selection of DSPs.

The two - former Senior Additional Advocate-General B.B.S. Sobti and former Additional Advocate-General Atul Nanda - were allegedly responsible for the file going missing. Incidentally, Mr Nanda is personally also very close to Mr Chahal.

The file pertained to the illegal and arbitrary selection of DSPs by the Capt Amarinder Singh government, which was set aside by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The contempt of court proceedings are underway against Mr Chahal before a Full Bench for interfering in the administration of justice.

Today, Mr Anupam Gupta, amicus curiae, told the Bench comprising Mr Justice S.S. Nijjar, Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla and Mr Justice Surya Kant that the present case was a fit case for initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the two lawyers also. He pointed out that the controversial role of both the officers had also been referred to in earlier hearings by the then Deputy Secretary (Sports) D.S. Laungia.

In that letter written to the Chief Minister on May 28, 2004, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Sports, had stated that Mr Chahal had stopped Sports Department officials from submitting the file.

Mr Chahal, the letter said, also threatened Mr Laungia of dire consequences if he submitted the file in the court. The file was reportedly taken from Mr Laungia by Mr Sobti and was never submitted.

Mr Laungia had also told the court that even though he had, as per court orders, brought the file for handing over the same to the court, it was taken away by Mr Sobti. The matter came out in the open after Mr Laungia informed the court, the then Advocate-General, Punjab, and Mr Kang about the incident. Mr Gupta told the Bench that the file went missing on May 28 and was finally submitted to the court only on July 7, 2004.

“There is heavy onus on Mr Sobti and Mr Nanda to account for the keeping custody of the file for such a long period and producing it after such a long delay. Mr Chahal would not have been successful in achieving his purpose of suppressing and withholding the record from the court except through the instrumentality of these two officers,” Mr Gupta asserted.

After hearing him, the Bench adjourned the matter to January 31 for further hearing.


Landmine-hit want some space
Saurabh Malik and Gurbaxpuri

Naushera Dhalla (Tarn Taran), January 22
Five years have lapsed since a landmine blast in the passive hamlet of Naushera Dhalla in Tarn Taran district blew apart their lives to shreds, yet governments at the Centre and the state have done little to launch an operation to rehabilitate the victims and their families.

As the Assembly elections draw near, the up-in-arms villagers are now asking vote-seekers to first rehabilitate the sufferers and then call for support. Rather, rehabilitation of the victims is fast becoming an election issue in villages located along the international border, not only in Tarn Taran and Amritsar districts, but even in Ferozepore and other border areas of the state.

In the first two years of operations to clear mines that were undertaken following an attack on Parliament, three persons, including a Major and a jawan, lost their lives while 47 were disabled in mine blasts in the border belt of Ferozepore district.

In Tarn Taran district alone, the number of dead is four and that of injured seven. The mines have now been cleared.

In his early 20s, Balwinder Singh, alias Billa, was killed in an explosion that took place in the green fields of Naushera Dhalla. Fellow farmer Jatinder Singh was left with a “shortened arm” and bruises on his back and mind.

In a village that distinguishes one month from another through crops that are sown in various seasons, no one really knows when the explosion took place. Army records say the incident occurred in August 2002.

Though the Army authorities handed over a compensation of approximately Rs 2.5 lakh to Balwinder Singh’s family and another Rs 75,000 to Jatinder Singh, senior government functionaries and politicians only promised rehabilitation.

Sitting on cots placed along a narrow strip of cobbled stones running right up to the border, villagers say even the promises of help have been relegated to the “trash can of memories”.

This time the candidates in the fray from the constituency are not even assuring the hapless families, though the villagers are constantly bursting out at their supporters coming to houses for votes with folded hands and plastic smiles.

Balwinder Singh’s elder brother Raghbir Singh says, “For them, it’s already a dead issue. Though we have been handing over representations, no one has offered us jobs”.

The amount of compensation, he asserts, is too less. “As a result, our parents had to move out of the village in search of work. Even Balwinder Singh’s widow is not staying with us now”.

He still recall the dreadful night. “Balwinder and Jatinder were caught unawares. Out at night to water the fields of an acquaintance who arranged Balwinder’s marriage, they accidentally stepped on the mines and that was the end of it”.

The situation in Jatinder Singh’s house is hardly any better. Incapacitated and jobless, he moves from one village to another in search of job. Tending cattle in the house made of mud and bricks with cow dung all around, his wife Simarjeet Kaur says they have no option but to go on and on.

“The explosion shook the earth, but failed to shake the authorities out of slumber. Though we have been meeting senior government functionaries in Amritsar and other places, no one is really listening to us. With elections round the corner, we hope the leaders will do something for us. For political mileage, if nothing else,” she sighs before going back to her work of earning existence.


Balbir disputes Bir’s claim
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, January 22
Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate for the Kharar constituency, said today that the leaders, who had been denied the ticket, could be adjusted in various organisations on the basis of their political experiences. He rubbished the allegation that he gave Rs 5 crore to a Congress leader to get the ticket.

Mr Sidhu, who is the president of the Mohali district unit of the Congress, said leaders like Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha and Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan had had got a lot from the Congress. Mr Bir Devinder remained the MLA, Mrs Garcha was made an OSD to the Punjab Chief Minister and Mr Gharuan had been a Punjab minister.

As such they should respect the decision of the party high command on the allotment of the ticket. They might be having differences with him personally, but they should be united for the cause of the party.

He would be meeting the three leaders to request them to sink personal differences for the sake of the party. He said Punjab had progressed a lot during the tenure of the Congress. About Rs 1 lakh crore had been invested in the state by Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister.

Mr Sidhu said he had worked very hard in the constituency for the past 15 years which had enabled his team to win the local Municipal Council elections. His supporter, Mr Rajinder Singh Rana, was made the President of the civic body.

He said allegations that he was a part of the land and liquor mafia were totally baseless. He had not purchased any land forcibly and neither had he encroached upon any piece of land. He was ready to resign from politics if anybody could prove that.

He was running a liquor business for which he had a licence.

When asked why he had not respected the decision of the party high command of giving the ticket to Mr Bir Devinder Singh in the last Assembly elections, he said an outsider had been brought to the constituency then.

Mr Sidhu had contested the earlier elections as an Independent.


Her turn: Sohi also calls for ticket review
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, January 22
Ms Seelam Sohi, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) general secretary, who has been denied the ticket from the Banur Assembly constituency, may repeat a Bir Devinder in Banur.

Close on the heels of Mr Bir Devinder Singh raising a banner of revolt, Ms Sohi today announced a maha panchayat at Lalru on January 25 to take a final decision on fighting the elections.

Though Ms Sohi was guarded in her criticism of the party high command’s decision, her supporters were more vocal and demanded a review of the decision to field Mr Rakesh Sharma, son of former Punjab Finance Minister Hans Raj Sharma, from the constituency.

In fact, several senior leaders, including Mr Akatar Singh, president of the Zirakpur unit of the Congress, Mr Gurmail Singh, president of the Banur unit, and Mr Bahadur Singh Jharmari, claimed that only Mr Sohi could win the seat for the Congress. In the 2002 elections, Mr Sohi had narrowly lost to Capt Kanwaljit Singh, former Punjab Finance Minister and SAD-BJP candidate, by a margin of over 700 votes.

Mr Deepinder Singh Dhillon, vice-chairman of the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC), and Ms Sohi were considered front-runners for the Congress ticket. However, Mr Rakesh Sharma was preferred over these two claimants by the high command, apparently in the wake of pressure mounted by former Haryana Power Minister Venod Sharma.


Deepa to contest as Independent
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 22
Mr Rajinder Deepa, who was denied the Congress ticket from Sunam, today announced his decision to contest as an Independent.

Mr Deepa is the husband of Ms Sonia Deepa Arora, who had unsuccessfully contested the February 2002 Assembly elections on the Congress ticket from Sunam.

Both husband and wife were hoping that either of them would get the party ticket from Sunam. Mr Deepa said he would file his nomination papers as an Independent on January 23.

Mr Aman Arora, a brother-in-law of Mr Deepa, has been allotted the Congress candidate from Sunam.

Mr Deepa held Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president of the PPCC, responsible for the denial of the party ticket to him or his wife.


Lally is PPCC Secy
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 22
Mr Narinder Pal Lally has been appointed as joint secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC). His appointment has been cleared by PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo. At present, Narinder Lally is Congress Municipal Councillor from Ward no 30.


SAD-BJP set for comeback, claims Kanwaljit
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 22
SAD General Secretary Capt Kanwaljit Singh today claimed that the SAD-BJP combine was all set to stage a comeback with two-thirds majority, “as the Congress is reeling under revolt of its leaders and cadre in almost whole of Punjab”.

Addressing a gathering at Chunni Kalan after inaugurating the election office of Jasjit Singh, SAD-BJP combine candidate from Kharar, the SAD leader said the Congress is facing dissidence in almost whole of Punjab and by the time it will be able to persuade its leaders, elections would be over and the SAD-BJP combine would form the new government.

He said in a majority of seats, the contest is a one-sided affair, as candidates of the combine are too strong. He said Congress candidates would lose their security deposits at many places. The state of affairs in the Congress is its internal matter, but because of the arrogant behaviour of its leadership there is a revolt, he added.


This Badal loves Faiz
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Besides rural indebtedness, deaths caused by cancer in Malwa area, especially Mansa, Rama Mandi, Lambi, Gidderbaha and adjoining areas, have emerged as a big election issue.

"My big worry is the cancer that has caused several deaths in the area", says Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, who is the Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) candidate from Gidderbaha. " Polluted drinking water is said to be one of the main reasons for cancer in the cotton belt." No one has tried to make serious efforts to address this issue for the past five years, hw said.

"If my party forms the government, my first priority will be to provide quality drinking water to people of this region. Water works based on new technology will have to be installed to provide quality water to people."

The Capt Amarinder Singh Government did nothing to provide safe drinking water." It is unfortunate that on political grounds people of Gidderbaha and adjoining areas have been discriminated by the state government", he alleged. There is a need to set up a cancer hospital in the region.

He said Gidderbaha had been electing one member of the Badal family since 1960s." I am contesting for the fourth time in a row from this constituency. Earlier, my uncle Parkash Singh Badal held this seat seven times," said Mr Manpreet, the only Bar-at-Law MLA in the Punjab Assembly. After his postgraduation with History(Honours) from St Stephen's College, Delhi, he did a degree in law from London University.

Mr Manpreet loves Urdu poetry, especially by Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Dr Iqbal." Works of both have revolutionary content and express concern for the people ,” he said. Asked what motivated him to learn Urdu, Mr Manpreet, said:" My father can read and write only Urdu and to communicate with him in the written word, I had to learn it."

Mr Manpreet is known for his attractive speeches in Urdu, with quotes from Faiz and Dr Iqbal in the Punjab Assembly. Mr Manpreet, who contested the first time in 1995 from Gidderbaha, says." I have remained honest to the people. That is why they have elected me three times.


Vets: Explain, says CEO
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Taking note of the posting of veterinarians on poll duty in violation of the ECI order, the Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, has sought explanation from the Deputy Commissioners concerned and written to other DCs in this respect.

The DCs of Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ludhiana and Gurdaspur have put veterinary doctors and pharmacists on election duty. Some vets in Tarn Taran have been on poll duty since September last . The Director, Animal Husbandry, Punjab, Dr B.S. Sidhu, said 80 lakh head of cattle in Punjab were at risk due to absence of vets.

Though the exact casualty figures are not known, as registration of deaths of livestock is not compulsory in Punjab, in Tarn Taran alone, about 100 requests for post-mortem of head of cattle were received over the past one month, sources say

Meanwhile, the Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Punjab, Mr D.S. Bains, forwarded the relevant orders of the ECI to all DCs. He said orders were on file because they were passed before the 2002 Assembly elections and were applicable to all future elections.


Poll campaign picks up steam
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Ghanaur, January 22
With the last date for filing nominations, January 25, drawing close, the election campaign is picking up the momentum in the Ghanaur Assembly constituency.

Kicking off his election campaign by opening an election office here, Mr Gursev Singh Harpalpur, candidate of Akali parties, accused both the Congress and SAD of letting down the Sikhs by their various acts of omission and commission. The performance of both parties had been lacklustre even on the development front, he alleged.

A former president of SAD(Longowal), Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, claimed that the recent setback to SAD in the Delhi Gurdwara Shiromani Management Committee would have a far-reaching effects on the Punjab elections. The electorate was fed up with the mainline political parties and desperately looking for an alternative, he claimed.

Alleging that "rejected" Sikh leaders were calling the shots in SAD, Mr Zira exhorted the electorate, particularly the Sikh voters, to wipe out SAD and the Congress to provide an effective alternative.

Meanwhile, Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Congress candidate, continued to woo voters asserting that the Congress was the only secular party committed to taking the country forward. The Akalis, he alleged, had always tried to derail the development process.

Mr Randhawa claimed that it was the Congress which supported a Muslim candidate for the post of the President and made a Sikh the Prime Minister. Similarly, it was during the tenure of the Congress that a Sikh was made the Chief of the Army Staff, he asserted.

It may be recalled that Mr Randhawa is locked in a tough fight with Mr Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur, Mr Madan Lal, a rebel Congress candidate, besides Mr Harpalpur.


Mann gets women’s support
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 22
Mr Tarlochan Singh Mann, an Independent, today gathered support of women in the area. A number of women, including Mrs Swaranjeet Kaur, president of the Balongi unit of the Mahila Suraksha Samiti, and social worker Kulwant Kaur participated in the poll campaign. They visited various villages like Saneta, Mundi Kharar, Ballomajra, Badmajra, Chhajumajra and Fatehulapur.

Women supporters appealed to voters not to be misled by false promises of political leaders and vote only for a candidate who was a resident of the area and would ensure all round development of the constituency.

Meanwhile, only one contestant filed his nomination papers from the Kharar constituency taking the total number to three so far.

Mr Parmod Kumar, a resident of Balongi village, filed his nomination papers in the office of the SDM-cum-Returning Officer today. He is representing the Shiv Sena (Hindustan).

Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate from the Kharar constituency, said he would file his nomination papers on January 24 after addressing a convention in Kharar which would be attended among others by Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, MP from Chandigarh, and Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, PPCC president. Earlier, Mr Parminder Singh and Mrs Ishwar Kaur had filed their nomination as Independents.


district report
Going by voting pattern, Cong needs to watch out
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 22
If the last 30-year history of elections in this district is an indication, there is a cause for the Congress to worry. The district has voted in favour of the Congress and the SAD/BJP, alternatively.

In the last Assembly elections in 2002, the Congress won 10 out of the total of 11 Assembly seats. The SAD/BJP could bag just the the Sri Hargobindpur seat, that too because of the fact that the Congress left the seat to its alliance partner, the CPI. The CPI candidate got just 4,205 votes. In the 1997 elections, the situation was quiet the opposite. The SAD/BJP alliance secured all 11 Assembly seats. The Congress failed to secure even one seat.

The SAD boycotted the 1992 Assembly elections. The Congress secured nine seats while the BJP and the CPI secured one seat each.

In the 1985 elections, once again in reversal of the last election results, the SAD and the BJP secured seven Assembly seats while the Congress could win only four seats. Other parties, including the Left and the BSP, failed to secure any seat.

The Congress secured seven seats in the 1980 Assembly elections. The SAD-BJP combine got three while the CPI could win just one seat. In 1977, the SAD and the Janata Party secured eight seats while the Congress got three. Before 1977, there were just nine Assembly seats in the district.

While the SAD-BJP candidates are of the view that the history would repeat itself in their favour this time, the Congress leaders are saying that the history of elections in the district would be reshaped.

The will of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has prevailed on maximum seats in party nominations. Only the Pathankot seat has gone to the supporter of Union Minister Ashwani Kumar. The Congress has tried to put the best candidates to reshape the history of elections.

From the Sri Hargobindpur seat Mr Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa has been given the ticket as he had secured 16,000 votes as an Independent in the last elections.

The SAD has fielded two leaders who had switched to the party leaving the Congress.


DCs asked to ensure fair poll
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 22
Mrs Manisha Nanda, Finance Secretary, Himachal Government, who has been appointed the Election Observer for the Patiala division by the Election Commission of India, held a meeting of all Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of the Patiala division here today to review the arrangements for the coming Assembly elections.

Mrs Nanda briefed the DCs about the election code of conduct and directed them to implement it strictly to conduct the poll in a free and fair manner.

She said she would visit all sensitive Assembly constituencies and would be available at the Circuit House, Patiala, for redressal of the grievances related to elections and election code.

The meeting was attended by Mrs Anjali Bhawra, Commissioner, Patiala division, Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, DC, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mr Tejveer Singh, DC, Mohali, Mr S.R. Ladhar, DC, Sangrur, Mr Rakesh Verma, DC, Patiala, Mr Alok Sekhar, DC, Ropar and Mr S.S. Dhillon, DC, Barnala.


Defiance unabated
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 22
Despite the Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Returning Officer (DRO), Mr A. Venu Prasad, visiting several parts of the city to check violation of the model code of conduct on Sunday, defiance continues unabated.

A visit of the city on Monday revealed violation of the poll code and that of the Defacement of Properties Act right under the DRO's nose.

A hoarding and bunting of the ruling Congress were seen tied to electric and telecom poles in front of its district office at Rajinder Nagar, a few metres away from the DRO's office.

The hoarding contained several photographs, including those of the Chief Minister and Congress candidate from Patiala, Capt Amarinder Singh.

The DRO, however, claimed that the municipal staff was continuously removing hoardings and bunting from public places.

To a query, the DRO said the money spent on removing banners, hoardings and bunting from public places would be charged as fine from candidates of the political parties concerned.

He said among others publicity material of the Congress, the SAD, the BJP and the BSP had been removed from public places.

He said the BJP would be charged for using public land for an election meeting of its candidate from Jalandhar Central, Mr Manoranjan Kalia, on Sunday and not the candidate as technically he had not filed his nomination papers as yet. The cost of using public land was yet to be calculated, he added.


Realtors vanish too
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 22
Political uncertainty has dampened the spirits of realtors and investors in the state. The latter are keeping their fingers crossed in the anticipation that the new regime, whether Congress or the Akalis, will give a boost to real estate.

In the last few months the prices of properties- agricultural, commercial and residential-have come down to almost 20 per cent. But realtors of Ludhiana, Patiala, Amritsar and Mohali are hopeful that the situation will improve once the new government is in place.

Mr Neel Kamal Juneja of Raj Real Estates, Patiala, said till a few months back, there was a boom in property all over. In Patiala particularly, the prices reached to an all-time high as the Chief Minister left no stone unturned for developing the city. But at present, the property business was witnessing a major slump in the market w9th investors adopting a wait and watch policy.

Bathinda-based property dealer Devinder Aggarwal of Property Consultants said the two main reasons responsible for this slump was the Assembly elections in the state and the fact that a majority of people had already invested in property in the last few years.

Mr Sanjay Sabharwal of Sabharwal Property Dealers, Dugri, Ludhiana, said that customers were thinking twice before investing in property.


Chamkaur Sahib most sensitive
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 22
Out of the three Assembly constituencies, Chamkaur Sahib was today declared the most sensitive in the district. Out of 116 polling stations in Chamkaur Sahib, 44 were declared sensitive and hyper sensitive.

Besides, 17 polling stations out of 112 in Nangal Assembly constituency, 16 out of 135 in Anandpur Sahib and nine in Fatehgarh Sahib district fall in Chamkaur Sahib Assembly constituency were declared sensitive, the SSP said here today.


First nomination from Banur filed
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, January 22
Mr Jasbir Singh Punsar, BSP candidate from Banur Assembly segment, today became the first candidate to file the nomination papers here.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD-BJP candidate, will file his nomination tomorrow while Mr Rakesh Sharma, Congress candidate, is likely to file his papers on January 24.



Cheena faces embarrassment

AMRITSAR: The BJP nominee from the Amritsar West constituency, Mr Rajender Mohan Singh Cheena, found himself in an embarrassing situation at a function here on Sunday when he made an appeal to the parents to exercise their franchise in his favour. The organisers of the function, which was held in memory of Prof Gurdial Singh Phul, made him apologise, pointing out that that was not the forum for him to seek votes. — TNS

Anticipatory bail

BARNALA: The SAD nominee for this constituency and two others on Monday got anticipatory bail in a case of sedition and murder. The SAD MLA and nominee, Mr Balbeer Singh Gunus, had been booked following a clash between public and the police over the demarcation of the land of a gurdwara. Rubin Masih was killed in the clash. — OC


BARNALA: Mr Simranjeet Singh Mann, SAD (Amritsar) chief, on Monday announced the nomination of Mr Surinder Singh Sadhowal for the Barnala seat, replacing Mr Paramjeet Singh Khalsa. Mr Khalsa has refused to contest the elections. — OC

Brar gheraoed

FARIDKOT: The SAD candidate for the Kotkapura seat, Mr Mantar Singh Brar, on Sunday faced a protest by villagers and relatives of slain Prabhjinder Singh, alias Dimpy, at Chandbhan village in the district. — TNS


De-addiction centre inmate beaten to death
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 22
An inmate at a drug de-addiction centre in Amloh town of the district died yesterday due to the alleged merciless beating at the centre. The police recovered the body and also freed 10 other drug addicts from the centre. The owners and employees working in the centre fled as the angry mob gheraoed the centre and demanded strict action against them. The police registered an FIR under Sections 302, 323, 342, 148, 140 and 120B of the IPC against Harjinder Singh, resident of Kharar, and six others - Jolly, Gagan, Soni, Jaggi, Bunty and Avtar. The body was cremated after the postmortem.

While talking to The Tribune, Mr Paramraj Singh Umranangal, SSP, said Harjinder was running the centre in the name of Happy Foundation Drug De-addiction Centre from a house taken on rent from Mukhtiar Singh.

He said the parents of Sudagar Singh, 32-year-old resident of Amloh, complained that they had admitted their drug addict son to the centre on January 15. Today, they got a message from quacks working in the centre that the condition of their son was serious and they should come to the centre. The parents alleged that when they reached the centre their son had already died. The SSP said the police immediately reached the spot and recovered the body after breaking the lock. Ten other drug addicts were also rescued. He disclosed that the centre was being run illegally. The owners had employed some quacks and musclemen to treat and beat the inmates and they charged Rs 5000 per month from the parents of each addict. He added that the police was conducting raids to nab the culprits.

Mr Jagbir Singh Tarkheri, General Secretary, District Youth Congress, told The Tribune that Mr Dara Singh, younger brother of the deceased, called him for help as his brother had been killed at the centre. He added that the other addicts admitted there told him that they were given inhuman treatment.

They were beaten mercilessly and were forced to sleep on floor. He alleged that Sudagar died due to beating. A few months ago, another inmate had died at this centre, but the owners hushed-up the matter.

It was not a treatment centre, rather a torture centre, he added.

Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner, said the centre was not registered. Administration could take action only if anybody had complained. She further said it was due to lack of clear cut guidelines and instructions regarding opening of such centres, NGOs started such centres for the social cause, but once the registration was done these were transferred into business organisations.

She added that she had ordered an inquiry and would also ascertain the number of such centres running in the district.


Workshop on life sciences
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 22
The Dolphin College of Life Sciences, Chunni Kalan, in collaboration with the Indian Association of Biology Teachers (Colleges), organised the 3rd National Workshop on Reorientation in Life Sciences on the college campus.

The two-day workshop was inaugurated by the renowned scientist, Dr S.S. Bir, Professor, Emeritus. More than 200 delegates from the North India attended the workshop. Dr P.S. Bhatti, Principal-cum-convenor of the workshop, welcomed the dignitaries.


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