P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Punjab VOTES ’07

poll chase
Cousins battle it out with poise, dignity
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Badal, January 28
It is 7.30 a.m. at Badal , the native village of SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal. As we are ushered into his house, we are told he is at a closed-door meeting with the secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Dr Daljit Singh Cheema.

Mr Badal asks us to reach Burj Sindhwa village where he is scheduled to address a rally at 10.30 a.m. A crowd is waiting for him outside. As soon as he steps out of his home, people jostle with one another to touch his feet. “Sat-Sri-Akal,” he wishes all, his tone formal, as he sits in his car.

He is apparently in a hurry. He has got word that the ruling party may try to get his nomination papers rejected. Owing to the apprehension, he has called senior advocates from Chandigarh. Objections are raised on his age but these are rejected.

We move next door to the residence of Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, Congress candidate contesting against Mr Parkash Singh for the Lambi seat . He is also his cousin.

Mr Mahesh Inder Singh is reticent to talk. He asks his servant to serve us tea. We try to provoke him into making a statement against his opponent, but in vain.

There are striking similarities between the cousins. Both are dressed simply, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh even more so . Both are polite and talk in low tones. They are known for poise and calm even in most trying situations.

Mr Parkash Singh and Mr Mahesh Inder Singh are careful not to use harsh words and expressions while speaking against each other. Mr Mahesh Inder Singh calls Mr Badal “ my vadda bhra” ( my elder brother) and the latter mentions him as “ my chhotta bhra” ( my younger brother).

We trail Mr Mahesh Inder Singh to Kheowalli village where he is weighed against coins. He greets people with “Wahguruji ka Khalsa, Wahguruji ke Fateh” and makes a brief speech . “Apne virodhi bahut takatwar ne, tusi takre hoke mera saath deo” (Our opponents are very powerful, you throw all your might behind me) he tells a small gathering at a street corner.

He talks about ‘achievements’ of Capt Amarinder Singh who, he says, had brought prosperity to the area by reviving the cotton crop. He promises a new era of development in the region if elected.

On the other hand, Mr Parkash Singh, attacks Capt Amarinder Singh at the rally in Burj Sindhawa. He blames him for the problem of waterlogging that has resurfaced in the area, a problem he says he will solve within hours of assuming power.

“I will not come again for campaigning. You handle my campaign and work for the victory of the SAD-BJP”, Mr Badal tells the crowd before presenting siropas to partymen.

Talking to The Tribune, he says “ I will not say that this is my last election. I cannot say that I will hand over the baton of chief ministership to some one else.” He then heads for another rally.


Fall in line, or face the axe, Cong to rebels
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Realising that rebels can damage the prospects of the party in the Assembly elections, the Congress today said “rebels have to withdraw or will be expelled”.

The president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, lured the rebels, saying: “I am aware of their sentiments and they will be adjusted in case they withdraw in favour of the official party candidates.”

The party issued a formal appeal to the rebels to withdraw in the larger interests of the party or else face expulsion from the primary membership.

The Congress has also deputed senior leaders to talk to the rebel candidates.

Sources said the party was short on time and it was not possible for the party president or the Chief Minister to go personally to mollify the rebels.

The Congress has drawn up a list of prominent rebels. Mr Dullo is hopeful that some of them will withdraw. At present, the party has a list of 37 such candidates who are opposing the official nominees.

Notable among them are Mr Joginder Pal Dhingra, a senior Congress leader, and Mr Sunil Datti, Mayor of Amritsar, from the Amritsar-North constituency, Mr Tejpreet Singh Peter from Patti, Mr Anil Datta from Jalandhar Cantt, Mr Randhir Singh Dhir from Attari, Mr Ranjit Singh from Hoshiapur, Mr Rajinder Deepa from Sunam, who is contesting against his brother-in-law, Mr Aman Arora, Ms Rozy Bhattal from Dhanuala, who is contesting against her own uncle Mr Kuldeep Bhattal.

Loyalists of Mr Jagmeet Brar - Mr Vijay Sathi and Mr Manjit Singh Jhalbutti - are contesting as Independents from Moga and Mansa, respectively, after being denied the ticket. Mr Sathi has also filed his papers from the Baghapurana seat.

Among the other rebels are Mr Jaspinder Singh Jakhar from Fazilka, Mr Sajwar Singh, a former MLA, from Guru Har Sahai, Mr Amrik Singh Rauni from Payal, Mr M.L. Bagga from Luhdiana North, Mr Sant Singh Brar from Gidderbaha and Mr Charnajit Singh Channi from Chamkaur Sahib.


For once, village elders feel wanted
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Nangal/Anandpur Sahib, January 28
Election time has come as a blessing for village elders as they are getting attention from leaders of various parties who are trying to ensure their presence at electoral meetings to give credence to their poll campaign.

For the village elders, who otherwise feel ignored, attending election meetings and rallies in these two constituencies of Ropar district is more of an outing.

From the candidates’ point of view, besides adding to the numbers at public meetings, getting their precious votes is equally important. Moreover, their availability is far easier than others as they are generally free and readily agree to come for such meetings, which have become a daily affair.

These elders are ferried from their village and provided refreshments, which acts as an incentive for a majority of them.

“When the Sarpanch asked me to come here for an election meeting, I was more than happy as it is a kind of an outing for me, besides giving me a chance to listen to the promises these leaders make,” says Rattan Singh (70) of Pahllan Majra in Nangal.

All major parties like the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance are working overtime to win over these elders, as having their support sends across a positive signal. The impression created by ensuring the presence of these senior citizens at election meetings is that the entire family is with the candidate concerned since the head of the family is there.

“Though I do not have much interest in politics, attending elections meetings is a nice way of passing my time. All people my age are happy discussing old days of politics and how it has changed now,” says Charan Singh (60) of Maujewal in Nangal with elders Dharminder Singh of Mangewal village and Gurmail Singh of Mahroli by his side.

“The decision regarding attending rallies is taken by the Sarpanch of the village; we just follow it,”says Satwant Singh (80) of Anandpur Sahib.


Left to go it alone
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The alliance of the Left parties and the Balwant Singh Ramoowalia-led Lok Bhalai Party today announced that it would contest the Assembly elections on 48 seats and would have no tie-up with any of the splinter groups of the Akalis or the Congress.

Mr Joginder Dyal, national executive member of the CPI, and Prof Balwant Singh, state secretary of the CPI (M), said here today that the alliance partners, the CPI, CPI (M) and the Lok Bhalai Party, had finalised the names of candidates.

Other than the 48 seats which the alliance was contesting, it would support secular candidates having chances of victory, the leaders said. However, no support would be extended to the SAD-BJP alliance. The logical support would be for the candidates of the Bahujan Kranti Dal, a breakaway faction of the BSP.

The alliance has three issues: To defeat the SAD-BJP combine, unravel the anti-people stance of the Congress and to restore the secular image of the state.

When asked if the Left parties would support the candidates of the SAD (Amritsar), led by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, or the SAD (1920), led by Mr Ravi Inder Singh, the two leaders said: “Everything will depend upon the candidate”.

They criticised the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for inducting people with militant backgrounds into the Congress. The Chief Minister and Finance Minister Surinder Singla had spread the misinformation that some alliance was on the cards among the Left parties, they added.

The following is the list of candidates of the alliance: CPI: Mr Amarjit Singh Asal (Amritsar West); Mr Kulwinder Singh (Valtoha); Mr Balwinder Singh (Majitha); Mr Durdial Singh (Khadoor Sahib); Mr Gulzar Singh (Fatehgarh Churian); Mrs Loveleen Chahal (Sri Hargobinder Pur); Mr Subhash Chand Kelley (Dina Nagar); Mr Gurdial Singh Samrawan (Nakodar); Mr Lachhman Singh (Amloh); Mr Nirmal Singh (Samana); Mr Satwant Singh (Lehragagga); Dr Maninder Singh Dhaliwal (Dhuri); Mr Khushia Singh (Bhadaur); Mr Hardev Singh Arshi (Budhlada); Mr Daljit Singh (Mansa); Mr Amrik Singh (Rampura Phul); Mr Jagjit Singh Joga (Bathinda); Mr Surjit Singh Sohi (Pakka Kalan); Mr Pawanpreet Singh (Faridkot); Mr Randhir Singh Gill (Moga); Mr Ujagar Singh (Dharamkot); Mr Hansraj (Jalalabad); Mr Gurdeep Singh Moti (Jagraon); Mr Kartar Singh Buani (Payal); Mr Mehnga Ram (Gidderbaha).

CPI(M): Mr Surinder (Verka); Mr Kewal Hazara (Jalandhar Cantt); Mr Ranbir Virk (Batala); Mr Darshan Mattoo (Garhshankar); Mr Gurdial Singh Dher (Nangal); Mr Maha Singh Ruri (Balachaur); Mr Balwinder Pal (Banga); Mr Gurmail Singh Johal (Noor Mahal); Mr Amarjit Mattoo (Dakha); Mr Surinder Kamboj (Guru Har Sahai); Mr Achhar Singh (Baluana); Mr Chamkaur Singh (Sangrur); Mr Bant Namol (Sunam); Mr Inderjit Singh Bhagrana (Rajpura).

The constituencies of Tarn Taran, Panjgrian, Bhaga Purana, Kot Kapura, Talwandi Sabo, Kum Kalan, Lohian, Jalandhar Central, and Nihal Singhwala have been given to the Lok Bhalai Party. 


Archrivals meet again
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
Known for the electorate’s “mood swings”, the Ludhiana Rural constituency will witness a major fight between the sitting Congress MLA, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, and his archrival and SAD candidate, Mr Hira Singh Gabria.

Four candidates are slugging it out in the constituency with an electorate of around 6 lakh. Among them are Mr Shambhu Singh of the Poorvanchal Vikas Parishad and Mr Gurmel Singh Pehalwan, who is contesting on the BSP ticket.

Observers say it is tough to make any prediction. The seat has been largely fought on the Ramgarhia card. However, this time both archrivals belong to the same community.

Mr Birmi has many factors against him, including nomination of a candidate by the Poorvanchal Vikas Parishad, which is eyeing the votes of migrants, who number around one lakh in the segment. This could spoil Mr Birmi’s applecart since this section of voters has been rallying behind the Congress in the past.

The opposition to Mr Birmi’s candidature by the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, who was a contender for the party ticket, can also affect the party.

The going can be tough for Mr Gabria as another leader from the constituency, Mr Jagdev Singh Tajpuri, a former SAD leader, is yet to announce his support for him. He had contested as an Independent in 1997.

The BSP candidate, Mr Gurmel Singh Pehalwan, had polled 18,000 votes during the last elections. His past work at the grassroots level can also affect the mandate.

For Mr Birmi, his “honesty, affection and love for the electorate’’ is his trump card while Mr Gabria’s ‘‘accessibility and down-to-earth attitude’’ has helped him win several hearts.


me & myself
Pending works may work against him
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
When Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, sitting MLA from Ludhiana Rural, passed out from Modi College, Patiala, in the early 1970s, he had never thought he would be a legislator, that too from an Assembly segment in Punjab's industrial hub.

Following his less than two-decade struggle in Dubai and South Africa, Mr Birmi jumped into active politics on the insistence of a former Chief Minister, the late Beant Singh.

His work paid dividends and he was allotted the Congress ticket in 1992.

Mr Birmi is contesting a third time from the same constituency. He is facing a challenge from his nearest rival, Mr Hira Singh Gabria, SAD nominee. A travel freak and known for his love for flying, Mr Birmi has never lost from this segment. Although he claims he has done a lot for the people of his constituency, his opponents are bringing to the fore pending works he could not complete during his tenure.

He is also facing allegations of being absent from the area although he rubbishes these stating, ‘‘Do I need to make a round of the constituency everyday? My block presidents have been working day in, day out for the people and I have been taking a feedback from them from time to time,’’ he says.

He is accused of visiting the constituency only when there was a gastro outbreak in the area last year. However, he claims he was busy with Cabinet affairs and had toured the constituency extensively when his portfolio was taken from him.


Vij’s entry makes fight interesting
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 28
The Hindu-dominated Assembly segment of Jalandhar (Central), that has a history of sending Congress and BJP candidates to the assembly almost alternately, will see a triangular fight this time.

What has come as the spanner in the wheels of the Congress and the SAD-BJP is the presence of Mr Shital Vij, a well-known industrialist and a powerful religious leader. Being the president of the historic Sri Devi Talaab Temple Management Committee, Mr Vij, who, has filed his papers as an Independent , has considerable following in the area and the committed support of Hindu organisations.

The SAD-BJP combine has reposed faith once again in former Punjab Minister Manoranjan Kalia, while the Congress has allotted the ticket to Mr Tejinder Singh Bittu, Chairman of the Jalandhar Improvement Trust, a first-timer.

While Mr Bittu is a greenhorn as far as Assembly elections are concerned, Mr Manoranjan Kalia is a veteran He contested the seat thrice- 1992, 1997 and 2002. In 1997, he was made minister by the SAD-BJP leadership.Mr Bittu is facing a lot of opposition within the party. The biggest deciding factor in this constituency would be the Hindu vote. Of a total of 1.36 lakhs voters, there are about 80,000 Hindu voters. The Sikh vote in the constituency is around 20,000. The remaining votes belong to the Dalit and other communities.

If Mr Kalia is banking on the traditional BJP vote bank and on the goodwill of his family, Mr Vij has been striving for establishing himself as a flagbearer of Hindus, while Mr Bittu has been sparing no effort to pose himself as a candidate acceptable to both Hindu and Sikh voters.

The Jalandhar (Central) constituency has a freak history of being the one with a moderate average turnout of 50-60 per cent. Any candidate seeking victory will need to poll about 40,000 votes in his favour.


Ousted farmers not to vote
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Be it the acquisition of their agricultural land to make space for Chandigarh in the fifties or setting up SEZs in Punjab, displacement has haunted them. Hundreds of families, whose land was acquired for the Punjab Capital Project to create Chandigarh, have been living like refugees on their own land. Successive governments have failed to protect their vocation, residence and livelihood.

Settled in the Assembly constituencies of Morinda, Kharar, Banur, Rajpura and Ghanaur, they still face the threat of losing their land, which they have been tilling for years. “With a support of 5,000 families settled in five constituencies, we have decided to abstain from polling”, Mr H.S. Billing, general secretary of the Oustess Rehabilitation Committee, told The Tribune.

Members of the committee will wear black badges on the day of polling. “Since none of the candidate paid any heed to our demand for rehabilitation, we have decided to boycott the poll”, said Mewa Singh Faidan, an original inhabitant of the erstwhile Faidan village in Chandigarh.


Money talks: It’s all about resources
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Ever thought how expensive is it to contest an Assembly election in Punjab? Well, legally one can spend a maximum of Rs 10 lakh, but in reality, the story is different.

“Any election in Punjab is a fight of resources. I do not think it is less than a crore,” says the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, quipping, “See how much you spend on your own Press Club elections or Chandigarh Golf Club elections?”

Says the Captain,” When my mother contested her first election in 1967, she spent Rs 6,000 only. Ten years later, when I contested for the first time, I spent Rs 9.5 lakh. However, now it is different. Only those with vast resources can afford to contest.”

During the last Assembly elections in 2002, the late Rup Lal Saathi, father of Mr Vijay Saathi, a rebel Congress candidate from Moga, had gone on record stating that: “I remained an active participant in all elections since 1952, either as a contestant or as poll manager of my son, Vijay. We have never spent a penny from our pocket. But each time we make some money from the elections.”

“It is not that we did not spend enough on our elections but we got so much of funding and financial support that we saved a lot. All important or major contestants make some money from the elections. That is why politically ambitious people are keen on getting the ticket from any mainstream party. This is perhaps one of the major factors for the growing number of rebels,” he had said then.

Not many withdraw or retire from a contest without getting their price.

It is an admitted fact that no serious candidate ends up spending less than a crore, yet the official statement of accounts never reflect any expenditure beyond the prescribed ceiling.

“Each statement of expenditure is verified by the Expenditure Observer for each constituency. Every candidate is required to maintain a daily account of his expenses but none has been ever disqualified or barred for spending more than Rs 10 lakh on his or her election,” says a senior functionary of the Election Department.


mansa district
It is Cong versus Cong
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 28
The Congress is fighting forces from within as well as outside in the four Assembly constituencies of Mansa.

The Akalis are hoping to repeat their performance, promising to bring in more development to the area. Their outcome largely rests on the performance of candidates of the CPI, the CPM and splinter Akali groups.

Determined rebel Congress candidates, who were till a few days ago ardent partymen, include a nephew of Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, Congress candidate from Sardulgarh.

What complicates things for Mr Mofar is his main rival, the SAD-B candidate, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, who is fighting elections from the same constituency for the eighth consecutive time.

He has returned victorious on all seven previous occasions. The district is known as a stronghold of the Akalis where three constituencies - Joga, Sardulgarh and Budhlada - returned SAD candidates in the last Assembly elections.

In Mansa, the fourth constituency, a rebel Congress leader, Mr Sher Singh Gagowal, won as an Independent with the thinnest margin of 46 votes in 2002. Now, Mr Gagowal is the Congress candidate from here and the SAD candidate, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh, wants to avenge his 2002 defeat.

Mr Gagowal won the confidence of the Congress high command as he was preferred over Mr Manjit Singh Jhalbutti, the only member of the All-India Congress Committee from the area. Now, Mr Gagowal is having a taste of his own medicine by facing the rebellion of Mr Jhalbutti. He has filed papers as an Independent.

The Joga Assembly constituency has always remained an Akali citadel. Sitting MLA Jaideep Singh Nakai is pitched against a new Congress candidate, Mr Narinder Singh Bhuleria. The Akalis are hopeful that the rebel Congress leader, Mr Sukhraj Singh Nut, who is the Chairman of WIBCO Group and contesting as an Independent, would dent the Congress vote bank, thus benefiting them.

Dissidence, if not open rebellion in the Congress, is the key factor in the Budhlada constituency. The SAD-B candidate and sitting MLA, Mr Harwant Singh Dattewaas, is facing a strong contest from the Congress candidate, Mr Mangat Ram Bansal.


code uncode
Forest Dept sits over transfers
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The state Forest Department continues to ignore the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) guidelines regarding transfer of gazzetted officers in districts.

As for ECI guidelines , these clearly state: “No gazetted officer connected directly or indirectly with elections should be allowed to continue in the district of posting if he/she has been there for over three years or if the said district is his/her home district”.

In Punjab, however, more than seven DFOs have been holding positions for over three, even four years. Two forest officers have been in home districts for years.

The Secretary, Forests, said the department had exemption from election duty and forest officers were not directly involved in elections.

Incidentally, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Gurmit Singh had transferred officers during the 2002 poll. The present PCCF, Mr B.C. Bala, had also sent to the government a list of officers to be transferred. No action has followed.

The officers who continue to hold positions in violation of EC directions are the DFO, Ropar, Mr S.S. Bhatti; the DFO, Amritsar, Mr Mahavir Singh;the DFO, Hoshiarpur, Mr R.R. Kakkar; the DFO, Mansa, Mr Iqbal Singh;the Deputy DFO, Hoshiarpur, Mr Gurcharan Singh; the Conservator, Forest, Jalandhar, Mr Jarnail Singh, and the Conservator, Ferozepore Circle, M.S. Dhillon.

Violating the home district guidelines are Mr Gamdur Singh, Deputy DFO, Bathinda, and Mr V.C. Choudhary, DFO, Soil Conservation, Pathankot.


Notices to three candidates
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 28
Even as the candidates of certain political parties continued to violate the restrictions regarding printing of pamphlets, posters and other printing material, Mr Vimal Setia, Returning Officer for the Majitha Assembly segment, served notices on three candidates here yesterday.

On the basis of the notices, the Expenditure Observer, Mr B. Chaudhary, is likely to take action against Mr Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lali of Congress, Mr Jagteshwar Singh Majithia, a rebel Akali candidate, and Mr Balwinder Singh, a candidate of the CPI, for allegedly distributing printed material in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

The EC guidelines reads: “No person shall print or publish, or cause to be printed or published any election pamphlet which does not bear on its face the names and addresses of the printer or publisher. 


Notices to Bhattal, Chandumajra
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 28
District Election Officer S.R. Ladhar today issued notices to Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Congress candidate from Lehra; Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, SAD candidate from Lehra; Mr Surjit Singh Dhiman, Congress candidate from Dirba, and Mr Aman Arora, Congress candidate from Sunam, for violating the Model Code of Conduct.

Mr Ladhar said here this evening that the candidates had blatantly violated the Model Code of Conduct. They had even concealed the real figures of the expenditure incurred by them on their election campaigns.

He said Ms Bhattal had put up posters, flags and banners on public property and those were without names of a printing press or printer. Mr Chandumajra, Mr Dhiman and Mr Arora had also defaced the public property in the same manner.


RO: No votes on Baba’s name
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 28
The Returning Officer here has served a notice on SAD candidate Sarup Chand Singla for whipping up religious sentiments during his election campaign.

Two jeeps and 14 rickshaws have been engaged in his election campaign. The audio feed being used by them is: "SAD-BJP de sanjhe umeedwar Sarup Chand Singla da chon nishan hai takri. Eh takri hai insaaf di, eh takri hai Baabe Nanak di...."

The RO, Mr Anil Garg, said he had got an audio cassette containing the objectionable material. No candidate could seek votes in the name of religion. The RO has asked Mr Singla as to why he resorted to such a practice and why strict action should not be taken against him.


poll bYTES

How ‘poor’?

JALANDHAR: The promise of the SAD-BJP alliance to provide cheap flour and pulses to the poor has led to a confusion among the electorate as the alliance has not defined the term “the poor”. — TNS

MLA joins SAD

Nandgarh (Bathinda): Congress MLA from Pakka Kalan Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal joined the SAD on Sunday. — TNS

Farm labour

BARNALA: Mr Khushia Singh, CPI nominee from Bhadaur (Reserved), has said he would safeguard the interests of small farmers.— OC


BCs of Deon to boycott poll
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 28
Protesting against the alleged step-motherly treatment meted out to Backward Classes, a section of Deon village residents have decided to boycott the elections in the state.

The village, which has a total of over 1,100 votes, has about 600 people belonging to Backward Classes. The decision to boycott the poll was reached at a meeting of the executive committee of the OBC cell formed in the village.

The panel's president, Mr Karam Singh, accused the state government of "discriminating" against the Backward Classes. In the last 60 years of Independence, none of the Punjab Chief Ministers had addressed the grievances of BCs. As Punjab had over 50 per cent BC population, these classes played a crucial role in the formation of any government in the state.

He said members of Parliament from the state had also "failed to raise the demands of BCs at the national level". He claimed that BCs in states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were provided special quota, but were denied the same here.

He said they would put up black flags on their homes. He gave a call to BCs across the state to join the stir.


Crackdown on bootleggers
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 28
The police has launched a campaign against liquor smugglers in view of the Assembly elections in the district.

Mr R. N. Dhoke, SSP, Hoshiarpur, said here last evening that a liquor smuggler, Bhupesh Kumar, alias Thapa, of Mohalla Gobindgarh, Bahadarpur, was arrested along with 125 boxes (1,500 bottles) of different brands of liquor. Bhupesh told the police that he used to get cheaper liquor from Chandigarh and sell it in the district at lower rates than liquor vends.

The vehicle, in which the liquor boxes were being transported, had been impounded. His accomplices driver Rakesh Kumar and Om Parkash were arrested.

The police arrested Ashok Kumar of Roop Nagar, with 85 boxes of liquor in December. Dial Chand, alias Dyali, of Bahadurpur, against whom more than 20 cases of liquor smuggling had been registered, was arrested in January.


Saini backs Cong nominee
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 28
In a jolt to the SAD, Mr Daljit Singh Saini, ex-president of the SAD Kharar circle extended his full support to Congress candidate from Kharar Balbir Singh Sidhu here, and assured to campaign for him. Besides it, an Independent candidate Parminder Singh Sona also announced to withdraw his candidature in favour of Mr Sidhu. He added that he will withdraw his nomination to ensure the victory of Sidhu and to defeat the SAD (B) candidate.

While Balbir Sidhu said Gurkiart Singh, grandson of former Chief Minister late Beant Singh, PPCC President Shamsher Singh Dullo and PPCC Secretary Balraj Singh Gill had played an important roll in the decision of withdrawal of Mr Sona’s candidature. Others who were present on the occasion in a function held here in 3B-2, Mohali included the Municipal Council President Mr Rajinder Singh Rana, and Sarpanches of several villages.


Rakesh Sharma kicks off campaign
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, January 28
The Congress candidate from the Banur Assembly segment, Mr Rakesh Sharma, has finally got his act together and formally kicked off his election campaign.

In fact, Mr Sharma got a shot in the arm today with the president of the Bassi Mubarikpur Truck Union and member of the Zila Parishad, Mr Kuljit Singh Randhawa, joining his election campaign here.

Mr Randhawa,who was also considered to be a claimant for the Congress ticket from Banur, announced in the presence of the his supporters that he had no reservations over the nomination of Mr Sharma. The Congress men were united in their fight against the SAD-BJP alliance, which Mr Randhawa alleged was going to the poll without any issue.

Mr Sharma alleged that the alliance candidate, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, had virtually abandoned the Banur Assembly segment was busy with his son Jasjit Singh Bunny's election campaign at the Kharar Assembly segment.

Mr Sharma alleged that even during his tenure as the Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, had done no development works in the Banur Assembly segment.

Those present on the occasion were Ms Geetanjali Gujjar, chairman of the Dera Bassi Market Committee, Ms Balwinder Kaur, president of the Mohali district unit of the Mahila Congress.


Irregularities in pension payment detected
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Department of Finance (Treasuries and Accounts branch), Punjab, has detected pension overpayments to the tune of Rs 13.68 crore, made to Punjab Government pensioners and family pensioners.

The pension-disbursing bank branches have now been asked to take immediate action for recovery of the excess and overpayments.

These irregularities in payment of pensions were found during the course of audit of pension payment, till June 30, 2006. While claiming that the overpayment of pension by the pension-disbursing bank branches was a matter of serious concern, the Department Of Finance has said that it “calls for administrative action against responsible officers/officials of the banks concerned where overpayments have been made”.

The department has also pointed out that in a number of cases family pensioners are being paid pension at enhanced rates although reduced pension as per the second rate (family pension in cases of pensioners who retired/died on or after January 1, 1996) is applicable.

They have also found that pension-disbursing bank branches continue to pay dearness relief on family pension if the dependent has got employment on compassionate grounds.

The bank branches have been advised to get certificates from family pensioners that none of the family members of the deceased government employee have got job on compassionate grounds, along with a life certificate every year, before crediting the pension in his account.

Banks have also been asked to ensure that family pension being paid to dependent (son/daughter) of the pensioners/family pensioners ceases on their attaining the age of 25 years, or commencement of earning of their livelihoods, whichever is earlier.

In these cases, the Pension Payment Order (PPO) of the pensioner should be returned to the District Treasury Officer concerned of the bank.

Some of the banks are also paying travel concessions on Dearness Pension- which is not allowed.

The Department of Finance, Punjab, has also pointed out that during the auditing of payments made by banks, it was observed that bank officials were not entering all pension payments in the PPO - as stipulated in the Public Sector Bank Scheme.

Due to non-observation of instructions of public sector bank scheme and lack of proper entries in PPOs, it has become difficult for audit parties to point out the exact loss to the state exchequer by making overpayment to the pensioners.

The latter too feel dissatisfied in the absence of details of pension and other allowance that they are getting.


Bigwigs fail to pay homage
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 28
Punjab Government bigwigs failed to turn up to pay homage to Lala Lajpat Rai on his birth anniversary that was celebrated at Dhudike village, today. Though Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, along with Vidhan Sabha Speaker Kewal Krishan was expected to attend a memorial function organised to pay tributes, the leaders remained absent from the ceremony during which a 9-foot-high bronze statue of Lala Lajpat Rai was to be unveiled.


Kang in trouble

Chandigarh, January 28
The Election Commission has taken note of a speech delivered by minister Jagmohan Singh Kang at the Republic Day celebrations in Muktsar district.

The Deputy Commissioner of Muktsar has issued a notice to Mr Kang. In his report, he has pointed out that Mr Kang digressed from the original speech and spoke extempore. His speech was “for soliciting votes”.

The EC has sought an audio copy of the speech. — TNS


President’s Medal for BSF Commandant

Amritsar, January 28
Mr Sikander Singh Dhillon, Officiating Commandant of 12 Battalion of the Border Security Force (BSF), has been awarded the President’s Medal of meritorious services. Born on February 17, 1950, at Baratgarh village, Mr Dhillon joined the BSF in 1971 as sub-inspector.

After completing the basic training, he underwent commando training and platoon weapon training. In 1989, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Commandant. From 1998 to 2003, he was posted in Srinagar and states in north-east region..

In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of second-in-command and performed duties of Commandant of Ad hoc P-1 battalion at Amritsar. — TNS


Farmers to launch rail, rasta roko stir
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 28
Farmers’ organisations in Punjab have decided to launch an indefinite ‘rail roko, rasta roko’ stir from January 31 in protest against the government's policy of acquiring farmers’ land forcibly and its ‘anti-farmer’ policies in the state.

Giving this information to The Tribune here today, Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahaan, president, Bharati Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahaan), said the BKU (Ekta Ugrahaan), Kisan Sanghursh Committee, BKU (Ekta Dakondan), Punjab Kisan Union and Zamin Bachao Committee(Barnala) took the decision to intensify the farmers' stir from January 31.

Mr Ugrahaan said the farmers unions would resort to an indefinite rail roko action programme at the Maanawali rail line from January 31. He informed that after getting the notification cancelled pertaining to the forcible acquisition of farmers’ land of seven villages near Amritsar for DLF's Special Economic Zone, the farmers unions would now intrude the land of farmers of Fatehgarh Chhanna, Dhaula and Sanghera on January 31, forcibly acquired by the Trident Group of Industries. He made it clear that the Trident Group was their next target for the purpose of freeing the farmers’ land forcibly acquired by the government for the Trident Group of Industries.

Mr Ugrahaan further informed that apart from forcible land acquisition issues, the farmers unions would also press the government to waive off motor bills,withdraw all police cases against farmer union activists, write off loans of farmers and farm labourers, census of farmers committing suicides and compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to victim farmers' families.


4 killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 28
Four persons, including the driver of a Rajasthan Parivahan Nigam bus carrying a marriage party, were killed when the bus collided head-on with another bus on the Abohar-Dabwali road this morning. Twenty-five passengers, most of them members of the marriage party, were injured.

The ill-fated bus (RJ 13 P 9907) collided with the bus belonging to Nagpal Transport Company coming from Dabwali, near Bheetiwala village, due to poor visibility caused by thick fog.

The marriage party of Rakesh Kumar, son of Mehanga Ram, was on its way from Khuyiansarwar village of this subdivision to Haryana. Passengers of another bus following it rescued the injured by breaking the windowpanes of the overturned bus.

Three of the killed were identified as: driver Baldev Singh (40), resident of Alamgarh village; Shabnam (5), daughter of Jagdish Kumar; and Kiran (15), daughter of Kashmiri Lal Telupura.

The fourth victim, who was travelling in the private bus, could not be identified.

Three of the seriously injured - Gurpreet, Harbhagwan and Krishna Rani - were referred to outside hospitals this evening.


Official ‘caught’ with girls
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 28
A senior official of Amritsar and his accomplice were caught with two girls from Rahon (Nawanshahr) from a farmhouse following a complaint of some persons.

Even though this news spread in the district courts complex, no official was ready to confirm the event. However, senior police officials, on condition of anonymity, claimed that the Nawanshahr police had sent its report to a senior judicial official here to take necessary action against the official concerned.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court is reportedly seized of the matter and is likely to intervene in this regard. The sources pointed out that the official did not record his statement, while the police had recorded the statements of the other accused.

One of the girls from Phagwara told the police that she was taken to the farmhouse on the pretext of getting her a job.


VC’s call to academics to reform education system
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 28
Prof R.C. Sobti, Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University defending the setting up of the Education Commission has regretted outlay on higher education in India was much less compared to developing nations.

In a speech as chief guest at the 38th convocation of DAV College here today Prof Sobti said lack of coordination in different directorates for primary, high and higher education was one of the reasons of our lagging behind in achieving goals.

Higher education has to play a vital role but regretfully India’s education system stood at the crossroads and no sincere effort had been made to bring in reforms. Instead of blaming the bureaucracy only let the academics go in for introspection also and jointly find out ways and means to reform the system. Our duty in the present scenario where violence, corruption, hatred and dishonesty dominated was bit difficult but not impossible, the VC told the graduates and post-graduates at the convocation held in the college after five years. The need is only to realise your potential and activate yourself he told them. Some of the students had come from distant places to receive degrees. Earlier the Vice-Chancellor was taken the stage by Dr B.C. Josan, principal of the college. Dr Vinita Singh, officiating Principal DAV College of Education and Dr Achla Kant, principal Gopi Chand Arya Mahila College also escorted the VC. Prof O.P. Sharma, in charge convocation, conducted the programme. Ms Nisha Sharma, Ms Akshika Sharma and Ms Pooja Kalra were in the first batch of the postgraduates to receive degrees.

Prof Sobti said teachers must attend to problems and needs of the students. Burdening the students at primary level with heavy syllabi had been harmful. Politics needs to be kept aside while thinking on reforms.

Politicians should not be involved in solving academic issues. We in the education field have to play a special role in bringing awareness on drug addiction, AIDS, dowry and other social evils plaguing our society. Earning more and more by “all possible means” had become sole-objective for most of the people, let the educationists discard it at least so that the country could feel proud of us, he exhorted.


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