P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Manifesto has unmasked Cong, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Shiromani Akali Dal today described the Congress election manifesto as "clinching documentary evidence of betrayal of people by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh".

"By backing out of its commitments on five-marla residential plots and job to at least one member of every Dalit family, the Chief Minister has finally admitted that he had played a big fraud on the poor in 2002.

Similarly, the Congress’ vague stand on problems of the unemployed youth, unemployed trained teachers and veterinarians, and farmers' suicides, clearly showed lack of political will in the Congress leadership, said the SAD president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in a statement here today.

The Akali leader said a manifesto for the Congress was nothing more than a meaningless ritual as it was forgotten by its leaders soon after the elections were over.

Mr Badal said people in general and Dalits in particular were shocked by the clause in the Congress manifesto restricting the Shagun Scheme and other welfare schemes only for those living below the poverty line.

"But since this party is heading for a total rout, and is not going to form a government in the state, these betrayals mean nothing, except serve as proof of the treacherous conduct of the Congress and that of Capt Amarinder Singh.”

The Akali leader said Capt Amarinder Singh had also let down the farmers by making no mention of his commitment contained in the 2002 manifesto to give arrears of bonus of Rs 30 per quintal on paddy. Also, all talk of offering concrete incentives to the farmers for diversification had vanished in thin air.

The Akali leader said the biggest fraud that Capt Amarinder Singh had played on the farmers was on the river waters issue by agreeing to protect the present quantum of flow of Punjab's river waters to Haryana and Rajasthan.

"During his recent visits to these states, Capt Amarinder Singh, in fact, had gone to the extent of declaring that safeguarding the flow of river waters from Punjab was the moral duty of his government. This is shocking.”

The SAD chief said the SAD manifesto would go far beyond making vague and wishful declarations and would contain concrete, time-bound commitments on solution of major problems facing the people of the state.


CM rubbishes claims on ‘sale’ of ticket
Promises to provide cheaper flour
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Begowal (Kapurthala), January 30
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh rubbished the claims of some Congress leaders that some contestants had bought the party tickets paying crores of rupees. He was talking to mediapersons in Begowal after an election rally organised by Congress candidate Sukhpal Singh Khaira in Bibi Jagir Kaur's village here today. He said those claims were mere allegations.

Sitting MLA from Kharar Bir Devinder Singh and PPCC executive member Anil Dutta had alleged that the Congress candidates from Kharar and Jalandhar Central Balbir Singh Sidhu and Tejinder Singh Bittu, respectively, had bought the tickets.

Capt Amarinder Singh said he did not want to say anything about Bir's allegations, whereas Anil Dutta had no business to level such accusations.

Earlier, speaking at the rally, the Chief Minister said wheat flour would be provided at cheaper rates to 12 lakh families in Punjab, if his party again voted to power. Wheat flour would be provided at Rs 2 per kilo to the beneficiaries of the Antodaya Yojana and at Rs 4 to the families living below poverty line, he added.

To a query about the Ludhiana incident, involving his media adviser B.I.S. Chahal, he said the media should not be hostile due to an isolated incident.

Regarding the Beas incident, he claimed that no guilty would be spared.

Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, SAD nominee for the segment, claimed that he had spent Rs 1 crore on development in the constituency despite his defeat twice.


PM to canvass on Feb 5, 6

Chandigarh, January 30
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, will campaign in Punjab on February 5 and 6 while the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, will visit the state on February 8 to 9. — TNS


EC gives Kang time; Valtoha poll on Feb 24
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Election Commission has given time till 11 am of February 1 to the Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Sports Minister, Punjab, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, to reply to a show-cause with regard to the speech that he delivered at the Republic Day function at Muktsar.

Taking cognisance of reports, including that published in The Tribune columns, the EC had issued the notice to him.

Sources said the EC had also seen video recording of the function where Mr Kang allegedly made the objectionable speech.

Meanwhile, voting for the Valtoha constituency will be held on February 24, with the Election Commission today asking the Communist Party of India (CPI) to nominate a fresh candidate within seven days.

The CPI nominee for the seat, Mr Kulwinder Singh, was killed in a road accident yesterday.


I was kidnapped: Sarpanch
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Beas, January 30
The situation in Beas is still tense but under control even as the district administration has deployed a heavy police posse as a precautionary measure.

Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Congress MLA and his brother Harpinder Singh Rajan, booked on charges of murder, continued to attend political rallies today.

Meanwhile, woman sarpanch Bibi Balbir Kaur (42), whose 'kidnapping' triggered violence in this assembly yesterday, alleged that she was kidnapped by four youths in their late thirties from her residence. She alleged that her captors tried to force her to resign as sarpanch and join the SAD.

"They were in contact with Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, SAD candidate, and Mr Sarbjit Singh Sandhu, who joined the Akali Dal, deserting the Congress.”

She claimed that one of her kidnappers felt sorry for her and secured her release when three others were away for lunch.

Akali worker cremated

The fatherless Dilbag Singh (32), a resident of Mehsampur village who was killed in firing by Congress men in Beas yesterday, had come to India from Dubai last month. He was to go back after the elections.

His shell-shocked blind mother Kans Kaur, who could not attend the cremation of her son, said it would be difficult for her to meet both ends since her sole breadwinner had been killed. The deceased leaves behind his wife and an infant girlchild.


Alert over Beas
Tribune News Service

A video clip allegedly shows supporters and a gunman of Cong MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa with assault rifles
A video clip allegedly shows supporters and a gunman of Cong MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa with assault rifles during a clash with Akali workers in Beas on Monday. —Tribune photo by Rajiv Sharma

Chandigarh, January 30
In the wake of the shooting incident in the Beas Assembly constituency in which a SAD supporter was killed yesterday, the Punjab Police today asked its SSPs to be extra alert as the situation in few other constituencies is tense.

Police sources said among the constituencies that needed extra attention were Kila Raipur, Lehragagga, Kapurthala, Bholath, Khanuwan, Sri Hargobindpur, Sardulgarh, Patiala, Lambi and Nangal.

Meanwhile the Punjab Home Department asked the DGP to verify if Mr Harmanbir Singh Gill, a brother of Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa, was present at the spot where the firing took place. Mr Gill is an SP with the Punjab Police.

Sources in the police said Mr Gill was present at the spot.


Shilpa finds another Big Brother
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh , January 30
Bollywood actress-cum-“racism victim” Shilpa Shetty may soon find herself playing the part of a political leader, and a campaigner, for the BJP in the real-life drama of politics boosting the party’s prospects in the elections. Following her projection as a prey of intolerance on the Celebrity Big Brother realty show, the party has strategically decided to offer her the role of a politician.

Making public the party’s plan of roping her in at a function organised here today for the release of Chandigarh Press Club’s annual calendar, BJP MP from Gurdaspur Vinod Khanna says they are looking at her as a potential candidate.

Refusing to divulge the details, Mr Khanna says, “The next step for Shilpa is to join the party. We wish to bring her into the BJP fold. Hopefully she will say yes…. Just wait and watch!” Terming himself as her “big brother”, he says Shilpa’s name was suggested during a discussion on the actors fit to play lifetime parts of leaders.

Of course, racism is doing her good. Riding high on sympathy wave, Shilpa has already been offered a Hollywood film, a book and endorsements for clothes and other stuff. Political gurus believe taking up the challenging role of a leader will do well to her currently-on-revival-path acting career. It will also help the BJP in consolidating its image of a secular party at the national level.

Apart form Shilpa, Mr Khanna himself plans to campaign for the Akali-BJP combine by touring not just his own constituency but the entire state. Describing himself and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu as the “star campaigners” for the combine, he says, “The BJP wants me to go to other states also for drumming up support for the party candidates. But I am staying in Punjab at least till February 11.” 


Several Cong leaders join SAD
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 30
Several Congress leaders today joined the SAD and said that they would work to ensure the victory for Mr Jasjit Singh, SAD-BJP candidate, contesting the Punjab elections from the Kharar constituency.

Ms Harjinder Jawanda, a trade union leader and social activist, Ms Amrit Kaur, joint secretary of SAS Nagar unit of the Congress and president of the All-India Rangreta Dal, Mrs Narinder Kaur Pappy, secretary SAS Nagar Congress, Navdeep Singh Bitta, secretary, Labour Cell of the Congress, Mohali, and Tilak Raj, former municipal councillor and also a former president of the Mohali Congress, today announced at a press conference here today that they would support Mr Jasjit Singh in the elections.

The announcement was made in the presence of Mrs Sanjit Kaur and Mrs Harpreet Kaur Gill, wife and aunt, respectively of Mr Jasjit Singh, and Mr Harsukhinder Singh Bubby Badal, a leader of the youth wing of the SAD.

They said the party high command of the Congress had made a blunder by giving the ticket to Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu as he was allegedly involved in the sale of liquor and other intoxicants. They wondered from where he was able to get so much money which could be spent on the development of the area.

Mr Jasjit Singh, today claimed that he had been promised support by transporters here.

In a press note released on Tuesday he claimed that the president of the Truck Union, Mohali, Mr Ranbir Singh Dhillon, and the president of the Superfast Transport Union, Mr Jaswinder Singh Kaka, had assured support at two separate functions. The union leaders demanded that toll tax should be abolished and excise barriers be removed in the interests of transporters.

Addressing the gatherings, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, general secretary, SAD, said all grievances of transporters would be looked into and suitable remedies made. He said transport industry was the backbone of the economy but the Congress governments at the Centre and in states had failed to realise this and made policies which harmed the interests of the transporters.


Bir Devinder supporters back SAD nominee
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 30
The SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Jasjit Singh, contesting the Punjab elections from the Kharar constituency, has claimed that many supporters of the sitting MLA, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, yesterday joined him in electioneering.

He said staunch supporters of the sitting MLA, including Mr Swarn Singh Simbalmajra, Chairman, Market Committe, Kharar, Dr Jasmer Singh Kambala, Dr Harnek Chand Nagari, Mr Raj Kumar Sambhalki and Mr Sunil Kumar Attri joined him in campaigning in Simbalmajra, Manoli, Durali, Sukhgarh and Kambali villages and addressed public meetings in his favour.

Addressing a meeting at Manoli, Dr Jasmer Singh Kambala said the whole area was now with the SAD candidate because he was young, energetic, honest and people had many expectations from him. He said he was hopeful that Mr Jasjit Singh would fulfil those aspirations of the people.

Meanwhile, the All-India Ex-Servicemen Organisation (Personnel Below Officer Rank) has decided to support only that party in the elections which would meet the demands of the organisation. A five-member committee has also been constituted under the chairmanship of Mr Jaswant Singh Kumbra to spell out the demands.


Soldiers will miss the date
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
Thousands of soldiers posted in Army cantonments across Punjab have been denied the right to exercise their franchise in the Assembly elections because of confusion over the last date to register as voters.

Army officials and the Ex-serviceman League, the front organisation spearheading the right-to-vote movement for soldiers at their place of posting, say that the Election Commission of India had earlier announced that these soldiers could register themselves as voters till February 4. However, the Punjab Election Office has stopped registering more voters, stating that the last day for registration was January 18.

As a result, more than 50 per cent of the soldiers and their family members (who are eligible to vote) have not been registered and will not be able to exercise their franchise. “There are almost four lakh soldiers posted in the cantonments of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tibbi, Jalandhar, Pathankot, Mamun, Ludhiana, Faridkot, Ferozepore, Nabha, Patiala and Sangrur. Since the last date for registration of voters given to us was February 4, a number of soldiers whose names were sent for registration as voters have not been accommodated,” said Col C.S. Dhillon (retd), president, Ex-serviceman League, Punjab and Chandigarh.

He said in July, representatives of the Ex-serviceman League had met the Chief Election Commissioner and represented their case. “We had told him that no organisation had come forward to register these soldiers as voters. He had then asked us to come forward and on our own get these soldiers registered as voters. We started touring cantonments in the state and advised station commandants on how to send a list of eligible voters in each cantonment to the State Election Office. But because of confusion over the last date, only 50 per cent soldiers serving in the state could be registered,” he added.

Brig H.S. Ghumman (retd), another senior functionary of the league, said postal ballots and proxy-voting options for soldiers were not very successful as these never reached the soldiers and/or the Election Office in time.

Meanwhile, officials in the office of the Chief Electoral Office, Punjab, told TNS that they had not been informed by the Election Commission of India that the last date for registering soldiers as voters was February 4.

“As per rules, the last date for registering voters was January 18. All persons, including soldiers posted in Punjab, have been registered as voters if their applications were received on or before the last date,” said a senior official. 


11 stalwarts in the ring
Inderjit Zira may emerge as the dark horse
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 30
As many as 11 stalwarts, including ministers, former ministers, parliamentary secretaries and former MPs , will battle it out in this border district of western Malwa. Of the eight constituencies, the ruling Congress has MLAs in six while the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal have one MLA each.

The district has a fair mix of Jat Sikhs, Hindus, Rai Sikhs and the BCs amongst its 11.96 lakh voters.

The Zira segment, where the Akalis have not lost for the past six Vidhan Sabha elections, it will be a triangular contest. Mr Naresh Kataria of the Congress is challenging the sitting Akali MLA, Mr Hari Singh Zira. Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, former Akali minister, will contest on the SAD (Longowal) ticket. Mr Inderjit Singh Zira has the potential of giving a tough fight to both the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine.

In the Ferozepore City constituency, former Congress minister Pandit Bal Mukund Sharma and young BJP MLA Sukhpal Singh Nannu have locked horns. Mr Sharma faces the biggest challenge of bringing party dissidents back to his camp.

In the adjoining constituency of Ferozepore Cantt, the fight is between former Akali Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon and sitting Congress MLA Ravinder Singh Sandhu (Babbal). Mr Sandhu has won twice in the past three elections with Mr Sekhon winning in 1997.

Guru Har Sahai is all set for a four-cornered contest. Sitting MLA Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, faces Mr Paramjeet Singh Sahai of the SAD, who won in 1997. Former MPs, Mr Mohan Singh Phallianwala of the BSP and Mr Dhian Singh Mand of the SAD (Amritsar) are other two strong contenders in the fray. Mr Phallianwalla won in 1992 and 1996.

At Jalalabad, Mr Hans Raj Josan, Minister of state for Forests, has to contain rebellion from within. A few old-timers of the Congress, like Mr Gurbir Singh Lally, have joined hands with he SAD-BJP combine, whose candidate Mr Sher Singh Ghubaiya belongs to the Rai Sikh community. Out of the 1.66 lakh voters in the constituency, there are about 65,000 Rai Sikhs.

Uma Bharti-led Bharatiya Janshakti Party has fielded Krishan Bansal for the Fazilka seat. He could dent the vote share of other candidates. Sitting MLA Mohinder Kumar Rinwa of the Congress faces former Forest Minister Surjit Kumar Jyani of the BJP. Mr Jaspinder Jakhar, general secretary of the PPCC, is an Independent candidate.

Mr Sunil Jakhar, the youngest son of former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar and sitting MLA, is the Congress nominee from Abohar. Dr Ram Kumar, BJP candidate, has won the Assembly elections in 1997. In the past six elections, the BJP has won twice while the Congress won four times.

In the Ballauna (Reserved) segment, rebellion within the Congress may prove costly to it. Mr Babu Ram Chawla, who has been denied the party ticket, is an Independent candidate. Sitting MLA Parkash Singh Bhatti is the Congress nominee.


‘Capt Kanwaljit bluffing farmers’
Kulwinder Sanga

Mohali, January 30
Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate contesting from the Kharar constituency, cautioned the voters here and said they should not be misled by the false promises being made by SAD leader Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

While talking about the demand being made by the Kissan Hit Bachao Committee, Mr Sidhu said the land pooling scheme had been prepared by the Congress Government when Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was the Chief Minister of Punjab. But the scheme could not be implemented as Capt Kanwaljit Singh had strongly opposed this policy in the Punjab Assembly. Now in order to win more votes he was promising land owners that he would get the scheme implemented. Mr Sidhu appealed to members of the kissan committee to beware of the SAD leaders as they were making false promises to them.

People of Saneta village weighed Mr Sidhu against coins. Mr S.K Pipat, Chairman of the legal cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, held a meeting at his residence and appealed to all present to vote in favour of Mr Sidhu.

He said the meeting was attended, among others by Mr Anmol Rattan Sidhu, President of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association, Mr N.K Nanda, President of the District Bar Association, Chandigarh, Mr Anil Kaushal, President of the Kharar Bar Association, and more than 100 advocates. All members of the Bar had been told to contact all persons known to them in the constituency and ask them to vote in favour of Mr Sidhu. He said Mr Sidhu assured the gathering that he would look into their problems and would also get chambers constructed for lawyers at the Mohali court complex.

Meanwhile, Mr Rajinder Singh Rana, President of the Mohali Municipal Council, took the responsibility of the election campaign of Mr Sidhu. Today he visited Ward No 3 and appealed to the people to vote in favour of the Congress candidate. He said the Congress Government was able to put Mohali on the world map by carrying out the required development in the area. He said big companies like Quark, Dell, etc had come to Mohali due to the efforts of Congress leaders.


Kamboj harps on development
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 30
“Only the Congress can provide a stable government and continue the development works undertaken by the Amarinder Singh government to its logical conclusion,” said Mr Hardyal Singh Kamboj, Congress candidate from the Rajpura constituency.

Addressing a series of meetings at several villages, including Basantpura, Aluna, Dharamgarh,Sabdalpur, Amirpur, Sonti and Bhedwal, here today Mr Mr Kamboj claimed that a record number of the development works had been undertaken during the Congress rule in the past five years.

Listing various achievements of the Congress government, Mr Kamboj asserted that the farmers had been given remunerative prices of their crops during the Congress government. On the other hand, the farmers had been at the receiving end during the SAD-BJP rule in 1997-2002.


More jobs this ex-cop’s mission
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 30
“Unemployment among the youth is the biggest problem in the district. Terrorism in the border belt has hit the industry. If voted to power, I will take up the matter with the Union Government to provide a special industrial package for the industry in the district, which will help generate employment,” says Mr P.S. Bhinder, a former DGP and Congress nominee from Gurdaspur.

“The issue pertaining to the problems of farmers needs to be taken up with the Centre. Farmers generally fail to cultivate their land across the border fence and are given a meagre compensation.”

“My wife and five-time MP from Gurdaspur, the late Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, lobbied hard with the Centre for these issues. She got a hotel management institute sanctioned for Gurdaspur during her stint as the Union Minister of State for Tourism,” he adds.

A soft-spoken person, Mr Bhinder is unlike most other politicians. Going by the rustic rural culture in the district, some of his supporters consider Mr Bhinder's subtle behavior as his drawback. His supporters want him to be more aggressive like his rivals.

However, he says: “If being aggressive means abusing or threatening voters and the common man, I cannot do that. I convey my message to people effectively and do not compromise on my principles.” He says his two daughters have no intention of joining politics. Sukhbans Kaur never promoted her family members; instead she promoted other leaders from the area, including Mr Gurbachan Singh Babaehali, the SAD nominee from Gurdaspur.


Congress woos youth in Moga
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 30
In order to offset the Shiromani Akali Dal's move to woo young voters by announcing lucrative positions for the youth in the government, the Congress has pressed into action its youth wing which is now busy tapping young minds by promising perquisites if the party is voted to power.

Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) leaders are busy organising rallies and public meetings for the party candidates across the state. The campaign is being led by Mr Vijay Inder Singla, president of the PYC.

Speaking to The Tribune after holding three such rallies in the Moga and Nihal Singh Wala constituencies today, Mr Singla said the PYC was highlighting the positive steps taken by the Capt Amarinder Singh government.

Having chalked out a plan to woo the youth, the PYC is taking up issues pertaining to them.

Mr Singla said the SAD failed to generate any job avenues while in power, whereas the Congress had provided over 70,000 jobs.

He said the SAD always tried to ensnare young voters in the name of the Panth, but it was high time the youth thought what exactly the party had done for the promotion of the Panth. 


Congress expels eight for defiance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, today expelled eight workers from the primary membership of the Congress for defying the high command orders.

Those expelled are: Mr Yoginder Pal Dhingra, Mr Arun Pappal, Capt Rajinder Kumar, Mr Anil Dutta, Mr Amarjit Singh Saini, Mr Charanjit Singh, Mr Bhag Singh, and Mr Rajinder Deepa. Sources within the Congress said attempts were still on to mollify other rebels by asking them to formally announce their support in favour of the official candidates.

Mr Dullo has set up a control room at the Punjab Congress Bhavan. It will be headed by Mr Lakhmir Singh Randhawa, vice-president, PPCC, while Mr Gopal Krishan Chatrath, former Advocate-General, Punjab, has been appointed spokesperson for the Punjab Congress.

Mr Raj Pal Singh, general secretary of the party, will continue as in charge of the media wing and Mr Raminder Awla will assist the AICC president in the control room.


He is cooking poll curry
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 30
From preparing curries to contesting elections from the Ludhiana West constituency, Mr Jasvinder Singh Balliewal, a dhaba owner, has been cooking dreams that his ‘‘goodwill’’ will earn him a seat in the Assembly.

A first-timer, Mr Balliewal runs Palli Dhaba in Feroze Gandhi Market. Contesting as a Sanjha Morcha candidate, this Tohra loyalist is pitted against sitting Congress MLA Harnam Dass Johar, SAD candidate Harish Rai Dhanda and SAD (A) nominee Jagmohan Singh.

A hardcore critic of the use of liquor to woo voters, Mr Balliewal’s slogan is: “Vote for a liquor-free society”.

“I tell people that I will neither provide them liquor nor poppy husk. If they choose me it is fine, otherwise I have no qualms. I am glad that women folk are visiting me in groups and thanking me for not supplying liquor to the voters .’’

Having been associated with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for a long time, he claims he is not a greenhorn. His wife, Mrs Amritpal Kaur, has been a member of the SGPC for nine years. This soft-spoken 50-year-old nominee’s list of poll promises is not too long.

But, he says he would become the voice of the electorate and take up issues like female foeticide and those relating to the youth. 


Manpreet’s men clash with rivals
Tribune News Service

Gidderbaha, January 30
Two persons were arrested following supporters of SAD candidate Manpreet Singh Badal and Independent candidate Sant Singh Brar clashed at Kothe Himmatpura last evening. Workers from both groups suffered injuries.

According to sources, the clash occurred over a police official who was reportedly campaigning for Mr Manpreet Singh. He is posted in Chandigarh and has been the SHO of the Kotbhai police station in the constituency.

Earlier, Mr Baldev Singh Brar, a supporter of Mr Sant Singh Brar, had lodged a complaint with the Returning Officer (RO) alleging that the cop was coercing voters to vote for a particular candidate, the sources added.

The RO, Mr Charandev Singh Mann, said he had intimated the District Electoral Officer about the official’s involvement in the election campaign.

Baldev came across the official in Kothe Himmatpura last evening. An altercation between the supporters of both candidates took place which soon turned into a clash. Gunshots were fired into the air. The police denied this.

A case has been registered against Mr Baldev Singh, his sons Lakhvinder Singh and Harvinder Singh, and supporters Surjan Singh and Jaspal Singh under Sections 364, 323, 342, 511, 148, 149 and 427 of the IPC. 


DC issues ban orders
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 30
To conduct the elections in a free and fair manner Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner, in an order issued under Section 144 yesterday, banned the carrying of weapons, explosive material, iron rods, swords, knives, trishuls in public places.

She has banned the pasting of posters, hanging of signboards on all the government properties and on the four memorial gates. She has directed the junk dealers to immediately inform the respective SHO if they notice any explosive material in the scrap lying in their godowns.

Keeping in view the increase in number of accidents and deaths due to drowining in the canal, she has banned the movement of vehicles on the banks of Bhakra canal, she has made it mandatory for all landlords to give the list along with addresses of their tenents to the nearest police station. 


Candidates work hard to woo voters
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib. January 30
With 13 candidates in the fray for Sirhind Assembly constituency, a tough contest is ahead. All the candidates are visiting the villages, towns and colonies along with their supporters to woo the voters. The majority of the voters are keeping mum and not giving their opinion but attending the meetings, rallies and processions of all the candidates. They welcome every candidate, whenever he visits their village or mohalla. The game of defection is also going on. The leaders, workers are switching over their loyalties from one party to another. As far as the campaign is concerned, the SAD(B) has taken the lead, all the SAD(B) leaders of the area are working for their candidate. Meetings and rallies organised by Mr Didar Singh Bhatti of the SAD(B) attracted a massive gathering. Addressing the rally, he said that the overwhelming response of the people has decided the results of Sirhind seat before the election and the gathering shows that the people have given their verdict in favour of the SAD(B) and the Sirhind seat would be won by the biggest margin in the State.

Dr Harbans Lal of the Congress and Mr Emman Singh Mann of the SAD(A) are giving a tough fight to the SAD(B). The presence of BSP candidate and Mr Amarjit Singh Cheema Advocate, who is an independent candidate would definitely disrupt all the calculations. Dr Lal is making efforts to retain the seat and all the Congress leaders, who were annoyed from him have started working for him. The SAD(A) candidate is getting a good response in rural areas. Mr Amarjeet Singh Cheema is also making an entry in the Congress as well as the SAD(B) vote bank.


Poll observers appointed
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 30
Any kind of complaint related to elections can be discussed or submitted to four independent observers appointed in the district to conduct a fair poll.

The Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, Mr Alok Shekhar, said any party or any person having objection related to the elections could meet these observers and file their complaints.

These observers include Mr A.K. Yadav from the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, for the Nangal Assembly constituency, Mr O. Ravi, Secretary with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Gujarat, for the Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency.


Observers appointed

Patiala, January 30
The Election Commission of India has deputed seven Election Observers (general) and three Expenditure Observers in Patiala Parliamentary constituency.

They are Mr Ram Sarup Rattan (Rajpura), Mr Arun Kumar Singh (Ghanaur), Mr Harbhajan Singh (Dakala), Mr Udai Narain Thakur (Shutrana), Mr Sanjay Bhoosreddy (Samana), Mr Srikant Baldi (Patiala Town), Mr Kalipada Bhar (Nabha) and Mr R.Parirsmani (Rajpura-Ghanaur- Dakala), Mr S.K.Poddar (Shutrana-Samana) and Mr T. Kipgen (Patiala Town-Nabha). — TNS


Malta deaths a live issue
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 30
The families of 170-odd Indian youths, who were killed in the Malta boat tragedy a decade ago, have decided to form a pressure group.

“Ten years ago, several young Indians lost their lives as they were being ferried illegally across the Mediterranean. Around 150 families got together at Jalandhar’s Company Bagh in December and lit candles in memory of those who perished in the tragedy. They have decided to rake up the issue”, says Mr Balwant Singh Khera, Chairman of the Malta Boat Tragedy Mission (MBTM).

A majority of the youths killed in the tragedy were from the Doaba region. The families, under the banners of the MBTM and the Malta Boat Tragedy Sufferers Association, have decided to support only those candidates who promise to take up the issue with the Central and state governments.

In Hoshiarpur, where most of the families live, they have decided to support Janata Dal (S) nominee Kehar Singh. “Though we may not win, but it will send a clear message to the politicians that we will not let the issue die down till the matter is resolved by punishing the guilty.

“We want to tell politicians that they may have forgotten the tragedy, but the families still feel the pain of the loss of their dear ones”, says Mr Charanjit Singh who lost his son in the tragedy.

The families have moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking compensation.

Recalling the incident, Ms Jasbir Kaur, who lost her husband in the tragedy, says “as many as 170 Indian, 88 Pakistani and 149 Sri Lankan illegal migrants were drowned in the Malta-Sicily channel after their boat collided with a ship on the night of December 24, 1996. The government has failed to establish the exact number of the Indians killed in the tragedy, but the families have been able to make a list of 141 persons, who are missing following the tragedy.”

“Eight years after the Greek Government supplied all details about the mafia that killed our kin, the Indian Government and the CBI is yet to get the details of the case translated, throwing the onus on each other. Election time is the only opportunity to pressurise the politicians to listen to us,” says Amarjit who still longs for his missing son.

The families have got a positive response from the CPI candidate at Garshankar, Akali Dal (1920) nominee for Mahilpur and the Lok Bhalai Party candidate for Tanda.


Punjab’s first: Chital sighted, rescued
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 30
The state Wildlife Department has added a new species to its wildlife list. The presence of chital, a spotted deer, has been recorded for the first time in the state.

The wild authorities here say it is reported in archeology that bones of chital were there in 1890s in the state. Though the species is abundant in India, it was never sighted in any part of state.

Mr D. Rajasekar, DFO, Pathankot, said the cub was spotted by villagers in sugarcane fields of Jhela Amda village, near Taragarh in Pathankot. The area is 2 km away from Kathlour protected forest, which is soon going to be declared as a wildlife sanctuary. A wildlife rescue team reached the spot and took the 5 to 7-days-old male spotted deer in custody.

Since the cub was too tender and young, an unsuccessful attempt was made to locate its parents in the nearby area. The cub was then brought to Chatbir Zoo, near Chandigarh, and handed over to the officials there.

Chief Wildlife Warden Kuldip Singh and Chief Conservator of Forests, Shivalik Hills, Jitendra Sharma have also confirmed that the new species rescued is indeed a chital, which was never reported officially in the state.

The officials have also congratulated the members of the team who have rescued the animal.


Rally against social evils
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
Makhan Singh Fariad, who is on a Punjab cycle yatra to spread awareness among masses about the eradication of social evils from society, reached here yesterday.

The president of the Ajnala-based Dr B.R. Ambedkar Social Welfare and Free Education Society, Mr Makhan Singh, has already covered over one thousand villages.

Fariad is running a home for orphans, children of addicts and needy women in Ajnala. He is covering 70 km daily meeting people from all walks of society, including students, politicians, administrators and others.

Expressing concern over the increasing drug addiction among youth, he was at pains to reveal that the entire generation had fallen prey to this slow poison, especially the Majha area of Punjab. He said he would submit a memorandum to the Governor of Punjab, after his rally.


Transporter among 7 killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 30
A local transporter was killed when he accidentally smashed his car into a tree near here last night. In another accident, six residents of Udaykaran village, including an ailing woman, were killed when an ambulance collided with a bus near Loonkaransar in the Sriganganagar area yesterday. A local resident died due to suffocation in an oil tank last night, sources said today.

Mr Krishan Tuteja (45), a local transporter and partner in the Pepsu Bharati Transport Company, was returning in his car from Bathinda. While trying to avert a collision with another vehicle, due to the dense fog, he accidentally smashed his car into a tree near a plywood-manufacturing unit on the outskirts of the town. He was immediately rushed to the local civil hospital. He was referred to Sriganganagar due to serious injuries. He died on the way to Sriganganagar. Offices of the private goods transport companies remained closed today to mourn his death.

A Qualis van (PB 03 L 0482) used as an ambulance to ferry Ranjit Kaur (80), wife of Rajinder Singh, a resident of Udaykaran village located on the Abohar-Muktsar road, to BMB Hospital, Bikaner, reportedly collided with a bus (RJ 31 PA 0375) near Loonkaransar on the National Highway No. 15 in the Sriganganagar area yesterday. The bus had been hired for a marriage party. Thick fog was said to be the reason behind the mishap. Six occupants of the van were killed on the spot. They were identified as Vinod Sharma, alias Pappu, driver of the van and resident of Bathinda, Ranjit Kaur (80), Gurnaib Singh (40), Baljit Singh (45), Swaranjit Kaur (30), and Gurmail Kaur, wife of Baljit Singh. Ten bus passengers also sustained injuries. The van was mangled beyond recognition. The police has impounded both vehicles. A case had been registered against the bus driver. Meanwhile, Rakesh Kumar, alias Chinnu (30), died due to suffocation while trying to repair the oil tank near Khuyiansarwar village, 15 km from here, on the Abohar-Sriganganagar road.


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