P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Farmers SAD’s main focus
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 3
The manifesto of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) released here today promises comprehensive recast of economic priorities, putting the rural and urban poor at the core of a “bold and futuristic vision” for growth.

It talks of a war against poverty, price hike and unemployment. The manifesto, released by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the SAD, lists poverty, price hike, unemployment, neglect of the downtrodden and Dalits, and prolonged farm and industrial crisis among the greatest challenges before the SAD-BJP combine when “it forms the government in the state in the aftermath of the elections”.

The carefully drafted manifesto promises initiatives to propel the state into the “higher orbit of global economy.” A major push to agriculture, trade and industry and self-sufficiency in the power sector would be areas of priority.

Farmers form the focus of the manifesto. Recognising that Punjab faced farm indebtedness, the manifesto says the issue would be solved on a war footing through the implementation of a “one-time debt settlement scheme” and “staggered debt transfer plan”.

“A new scheme of free health insurance cover of up to Rs 2 lakh for every farmer and landless labourer would be introduced. Free power for tubewells, free canal irrigation and exemption from land revenue would come into force from day one. New tubewell connections would be given to farmers on a priority basis.”

It envisages grant of cooperative education loans of up to Rs 10 lakh at a nominal rate of interest to children of farmers, Dalits, BCs and other poor sections.

Besides, farmers' land will be acquired only after their consent. The payment against the land acquired will be made according to the market price with a 30 per cent displacement allowance as settled by a committee comprising the local sarpanch, the MLA and the MP.

“For promotion of marketing of agriculture produce like sugarcane, cotton and potatoes, economic ties with Pakistan Punjab would be explored afresh and biotechnology used for diversification. A package would be got allocated for a second push to the Green Revolution”, Mr Badal said.


Report: Rajan fired 13 rounds
Beas SHO suspended
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Beas, February 3
The district police chief of Majitha, Mr Lok Nath Angra, today suspended Mr Malkit Singh, SHO of Beas, on the recommendation of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for having failed to arrest the suspects involved in the poll violence here.

Mr Angra said the SHO had failed to accomplish the task assigned to him by the SIT.

Meanwhile, the preliminary report (confidential), sent by the SSP, Majitha, to the Election Cell has indicated that the two official gunmen of Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Congress candidate for Beas, and his brother, Mr Harpinder Singh Rajan, had told the investigation team that their assault rifles were snatched by Mr Rajan.

The report reads: The two constables, Mr Pawan Kumar (No. 1607) and Mr Kashmir Singh (No. 598), both from the Majitha police, confessed during the investigation that Mr Rajan had fired 10 rounds from one of the rifles of the official gunmen and three rounds from the other. Varinder Singh, alias Vickey, Gurbhej Singh, Sarpanch, and Balkar Singh also fired rounds.


CM promises more water; RO told to send report
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib, February 3
In spite the Model Code of Conduct, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today promised more water to the people with the construction of Dashmesh Canal Project worth Rs 1,200 crore on coming back to power.

He also promised a bridge and a college while addressing a rally organised by party candidate from this segment ManMohan Singh here this evening.

Later, the Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, Mr Alok Shekhar, directed the Returning Officer of Chamkaur Sahib, Mr J.C Sabarwal, to submit a report in this regard.

The Chief Minister challenged former Haryana Chief Minister Om Parkash Chautala on his claim on Chandigarh and SYL waters. He said under no circumstances he would provide more water to Haryana and allow Haryana to get Chandigarh.

Others who spoke were party candidate Manmohan Singh, former MLA Bhag Singh and former MLA Shamsher Singh Rai.


Chahal quits
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
Mr B.I.S. Chahal, media adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister, has resigned from his post. Sources said Mr Chahal was asked by the Chief Minister to put in his papers as his continuation on the post was leading to a lot of controversy.

His resignation, submitted on February 1, was accepted today. Mr Chahal, while acknowledging that he had resigned, denied that he had been asked to do so.

“Nobody has asked me to resign. I have done it on my own,” he told The Tribune. Serious questions were being raised over the continuation of Mr Chahal on his post as he was allegedly openly working for the ruling party. Asked about Mr Chahal’s resignation, the CEC, Punjab, denied knowledge of the same.


CM’s campaign gets aggressive
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 3
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, is trying to put the Akalis on the backfoot by his aggressive style of campaigning and witty remarks.

He flew to Kurali, Morinda and Nabha today to address rallies. The Chief Minister was at his oratorical best and spoke extempore. He doled out statistics to claim how the Congress had taken the state into the fast-forward mode while the Akalis left no stone unturned to put the clock back.

Having a dig at the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, he said: "Mr Badal and his ilk have developed assets for themselves. For the past five years, I have been planning and executing policies which are fast taking Punjab to the No. 1 spot in the country as far as agriculture and industry are concerned."

Capt Amarinder Singh said his government had constructed a memorial (khanda) to 40 Muktas at Muktsar and had made Tarn Taran a district. He said: "During his tenure as Chief Minister, Mr Badal was busy making money for himself and his kin like Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, Mr Manpreet Badal and Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon. Jobs were on sale.”

On Mr Badal's claims to provide “atta” at Rs 4 kg, he said, "These remarks are absolutely absurd. How can Mr Badal provide “atta” at Rs 4 per kg when the state government does not have wheat of its own.

Wheat is procured by state government agencies on behalf of the Central Government and subsidised food items are provided by the Centre only under the BPL scheme."

Trying to draw political mileage from his government's decision to terminate the water-sharing pact, Capt Amarinder Singh says, "When Mr Badal knew that Punjab did not have extra water to give to Haryana and Rajasthan, why did he not go ahead and terminate the pact when he was the Chief Minister.”


Capt, Badal leave it to sons
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Raninder Singh
Raninder Singh

Mansa, February 3
With MP Sukhbir Singh Badal, son of Akali stalwart Parkash Singh Badal, heading the campaign for SAD-BJP candidates and Mr Raninder Singh, son of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, managing the party's poll strategy, sons are virtually battling it out for their fathers in the elections.

Both senior leaders have left it to their sons. This has generated hot talk in the town, with voters and political analysts comparing their style and charisma.

The electoral outcome would largely determine the political fortunes of these two.

All important decisions regarding the campaign strategy, talking to rebels, were taken by these two. Both hold the important position of general secretary of their respective party in the state.

Sukhbir Singh Badal
Sukhbir Singh Badal

Sukhbir's cutouts are perched above major SAD-BJP leaders in the area. The growing clout of the Junior Badal is already ruffling the feathers of senior Akali leaders, some of whom are conspicuous by their absence at rallies.

It was Raninder Singh who announced that no rebel would be appeased in the district. He is the spokesperson for the party and everything he says is considered the viewpoint of the party high command.

Dr Ravinder Singh, a homoeopath, makes it a point to attend rallies of both leaders. "Dynasty rule is not alien to Indian politics. Mr Sukhbir is already an MP and tipped to be the main Akali leader in the state despite opposition from senior Akali leaders. Mr Raninder Singh may not have contested any poll, but the way he is heading the campaign suggests the Congress leadership has great expectations from him."

"The result will reflect the hold of the sons in the region," says Mr Jaipal Singh Laali, a prominent leader supporting Mr Badal. 


Faridkot: Four CMs, yet no development
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, February 3
This region continues to be socially and economically backward despite the fact that it has given the maximum number of four Chief Ministers to Punjab since 1966.

A former Chief Minister, the late Lachhman Singh Gill, who was the first to introduce the concept of rural development in the state, was from a village near Moga that was a part of Faridkot district till a few years ago.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who has been the Chief Minister of Punjab thrice and is trying for a fourth time, is from Badal village, which is now a part of Muktsar district that was created about a decade ago by bifurcating Faridkot district.

The village of another former Chief Minister, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, had been a part of Faridkot district. The late Giani Zail Singh, who remained Chief Minister in the early 70s, was from Sandhwa village, a short distance from here.

However, all four Chief Ministers - two from the Congress and two from among Akalis - could not do much to change the fortune of people of this area.

"There are two faces of the region. It is a land of feudal lords with big farms and of the poor, who work for the former’s prosperity", says Nishan Singh of Chhapianwali village.

Most of the big landlords have their bungalows either in Chandigarh, Mohali or in other urban centres.

From Badal to the Lambi belt, and then in the Malout-Abohar-Fazilka belt, one comes across a large number of orchards of kinnow that has a ready market in the country.

"These orchards are owned by landlords," says Makhan Singh of Lambi. Besides kinnow, a major crop of the area is cotton. The poor live in pathetic conditions. Most of them live in dilapidated katcha houses and are under heavy debt.

Diseases such as cancer have been on the rise, especially among small farmers and poor sections in the area.

The poor appear to be a subdued and suppressed lot. They hesitate to talk openly and freely. They are, perhaps, overawed by landlords.

"We have tried our best to get our daily wage raised from Rs 50 to Rs 80. However, as the area is dominated by landlords, they never allow it. If we insist on an increase in wages, our entry to the fields is curtailed," says Beera, a landless person of Abul Khurana village.

The region is without any basic facilities. Neither are there good hospitals nor good educational institutions in rural areas. Basic health facilities in the countryside are missing.

The moot question being debated by most people here these days is whether the Assembly elections will usher in a new era of social and economic development in the region or not.


Chautala poaching on Jassi vote bank
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 3
This constituency is hogging the limelight less because of key contestants and more due to their Haryana connection. While the stakes are high for Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa, as the dera head's close relative Mr Harminder Singh Jassi is contesting on the Congress ticket, the INLD supremo, Mr Om Prakash Chautala's family has thrown its weight behind the SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Sarup Chand Singla.

The votes of dera supporters will play a vital role in deciding the fate of this constituency as sources put their number at 18,000, which may tilt the balance in a seat having a total of 2,29,426 voters and a polling percentage between 50 and 60 in the previous elections. Riding high on the dera's support and bumper cotton crop, the campaign of Mr Jassi has gained momentum within a week and he seems to have an upper hand among rural voters of the constituency.

As Jagdeesh Singh, a farmer from Siwian village, puts it: "Revival of cotton crop, smooth procurement, termination of the water-sharing agreement and increasing land prices have transformed our lives."

Sukhdev Singh, a daily wager from Gillpatti village, says: "We've got work on a regular basis and our wages have also shot up."

Mr Jassi is likely to gain from development works carried out in urban areas during Mr Surinder Singla's tenure as Finance Minister.

On the other hand, the delay in the announcement of the Congress candidate gave Mr Singla, a political greenhorn, adequate time to campaign.

The shifting of the sitting MLA and Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, for the Amritsar bypoll has also boosted his poll prospects, as a sizable number of Hindu votes will move towards the SAD-BJP alliance, which otherwise would have got divided.

Interestingly, the issue of the prestigious Guru Gobind Singh Refinery Project, which has been hanging fire for the last decade, does not figure among the factors at play, probably because the electorate has got disillusioned with the way the SAD and the Congress have dealt with it. 


Kohli will be made minister, says SAD chief
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 3
The SAD Chief, addressing a gathering at Quila Chowk here late last evening in support of SAD candidate Surjit Singh Kohli, said the Akalis would romp home to victory in the coming elections and announced that Mr Kohli would be made Cabinet Minister if he won from this Assembly segment against Capt Amarinder Singh.

Mr Badal was at his best with his jibes at the Chief Minister, which left the audience in peels of laughter. He urged the people to come out in a big way on February 13 to defeat the `evil and negative forces'.

Mr Badal pooh-poohed Capt Amarinder Singh's assertions that Punjab was witnessing a 3.9 per cent growth rate. He said during his tenure as Chief Minister during 1997 to 2002, the SAD had initiated certain measures which had ensured a growth rate of 8.1 per cent.

Mr Badal alleged Capt Amarinder Singh had amassed wealth in a big way and for nearly five years he had exercised little or no control over the state exchequer. He criticised the government's decision to levy VAT on the trading community. He also termed Capt Amarinder Singh as a `property dealer' who was playing into the hands of certain industrial houses.

Urging the people to vote for Mr Kohli, Mr Badal said if his party came to power, he would initiate development works in Patiala at a faster rate than done by Capt Amarinder Singh during his rule.

Prominent among those present were Mr S.S Kohli, president of the Patiala unit of the SAD, Mr Inder Mohan Bajaj, president of the Patiala Youth Akali Dal, Mr Ajit Pal Singh Kohli and other district-level


SAD seeks transfer of DC, SSP
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, February 3
Former minister and SAD candidate for the Kapurthala seat Raghubir Singh has alleged that Congress workers, at the behest of the Jalandhar MP, are intimidating voters and the complaints in this regard have fallen on deaf ears.

He has demanded the transfer of the Deputy Commissioner-cum-DEO and the SSP besides deployment of paramilitary forces in the constituency.

Mr Raghubir Singh today reiterated his demand for the deployment of paramilitary forces in the constituency in the wake of the alleged kidnapping of president of the Online Lottery Union Raman Kumar yesterday. He had allegedly been kidnapped from an election rally where he was to make public his decision to join the SAD quitting the Congress.

The police has registered a case of kidnapping on a complaint of Raman Kumar’s friends Amarjit Gujral, Jagjit Singh and Amardeep Singh. Raman Kumar had allegedly been taken away by Harish Bhandal in a Scorpio jeep forcibly at the behest of the Congress MP.

The SAD general council member, Mr V.K. Guliani, and a former MC chief, Mr M.K. Aggarwal, said Mr Raman Kumar approached them to join the SAD along with his union members.

On the other hand, Deputy Commissioner Raminder Singh said the police was withdrawing the kidnapping case and instead going to register a case against the complainants for reporting a false kidnapping. 


Jasjit promises help to lawyers
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 3
In violation of the rules the SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Jasjit Singh, went to the district court complex in Phase III B 1 to woo voters here today.

He went to the court premises along with Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala, senior SAD leader, and a number of supporters. He promised the lawyers that he would get all their problems solved after winning the elections.

The lawyers, who had gathered when Mr Jasjit Singh reached there, also spoke on the occasion. They said that the court complex was running in a community centre but there was a need for a proper building for the court . The lawyers assured their support to Mr Jasjit Singh.

Mr Sandeep Hans, SDM-cum-Returning Officer, could not be contacted for comments. 


CVM pledges support to SAD-BJP alliance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
The Chandigarh Vikas Manch today declared its support to the BJP-SAD alliance for the upcoming Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections. Addressing a joint press conference Mr Harmohan Dhawan, president of the CVM, with Capt Kanwaljeet Singh, general secretary, SAD, stated that they had already sounded the victory bugle for the state with winning the Mayor’s seat in the capital.

Addressing the conference Capt Kanwaljeet Singh stated that the current government had given rise to widespread corruption. "When the Akalis come to power we will form a commission to check all the wrong-doings of the previous government,” he stated.

Talking about his son’s candidature the Captain stated that his son, Jasjit Singh, was fighting the liquor mafia in the Kharar constituency. Thus it had been declared a sensitive constituency.

CVM activists and MC councillors were present today in full support of Mr Dhawan. He stated that from the coming week they would all be contesting for the various candidates of the alliance in Punjab.


No smooth sailing for Bhattal
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 3
Deputy Chief Minister and Congress candidate from the Lehra Assembly constituency Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is facing a fierce challenge from SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra.

Ms Bhattal has won thrice from Lehra in a row. For the first time, she won in 1992 when the Akalis had boycotted the Assembly elections.

She again won from the seat in 1997 by defeating Mr Garja Singh Khandewad of the SAD by a margin of 10,370 votes while she defeated Giani Naranjan Singh Bhutal of the SAD in 2002 by a margin of 15,508 votes.

However, with Mr Chandumajra pitched against her this time, it is not going to be a cakewalk for her as in the past three elections, the candidates fielded against her were “weak”.

It is observed that Mr Chandumajra has confined the movements of Ms Bhattal to the Lehra constituency.

Ms Bhattal is spending maximum time in her constituency to counter the impact of Mr Chandumajra as "barring Mr Naranjan Singh Bhutal, rebel SAD candidate, almost all factions of the SAD are with Mr Chandumajra and have been campaigning for him in a big way.

Ms Bhattal has been describing Mr Chandumajra as an "outsider" to influence the voters while Mr Chandumajra is terming her as "hankari" (egoistic).

Highlighting the major development works in the constituency done by her, Ms Bhattal is appealing to the people to send Mr Chandumajra back by defeating him as he is an “outsider”.

On the other hand, Mr Chandumajra is asking voters to "teach a lesson" to Ms Bhattal for her "egoistic attitude" by giving a crushing defeat to her.


Cong MLA joins BJP
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 3
Sitting MLA from Jalandhar and district Congress president Raj Kumar Gupta joined the BJP here today.

Mr Gupta announced his decision to quit the Congress at a press conference, which was attended by BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley besides other leaders.

His son, Mr Pawan Gupta, a corporator, and several of his followers also joined the BJP. Mr Gupta said he had quit the Congress in view of “corrupt conduct of the party leaders and ignorance of committed workers like me”. 


Congress councillor joins BJP
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 3
Mr Harjit Singh Garewal, vice-president of the farmers’ wing of the BJP, has blamed the Congress for placing Abohar on the top of crime cities in the North.

Speaking to newspersons here before inducting Mr Surinder Vij, former Congress councillor, into the BJP at a function held on the outskirts of the sub-divisional town, Mr Garewal said the region had virtually made strides in thefts, loot, robberies and social injustice.

It was a pity that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo could spare time to visit the area.


SAD, Cong workers clash at debate
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 3
Supporters of Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu, MLA of Barnala and SAD nominee for this Assembly seat, and Mr Kewal Singh Dhillon, Congress nominee, clashed at a debate organised by Star News TV channel here yesterday.

Hardly had the question-answer session started when unruly supporters from both sides clashed on the stage.

However, security forces soon controlled the situation and the anchor of the debate Ajay Kumar called it off.

Personal allegations traded by both candidates led to the clash.


Flag march in Kharar
Tribune Reporters

Mohali, February 3
In order to create a sense of security among voters of the Kharar constituency, a flag march was organised by the police in the town today.

Police personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force ( CISF), along with the local police, went through different parts of the town on vehicles conveying the message that people should feel secure as additional police force had been requisitioned for the elections and there would be no law and order problem.

The flag march began from the Phase I police station and reached Phase XI after passing though the town. They also went through Sectors 69 and 70, Balongi village and then went to Kharar.

Mr Inder Mohan Singh, SP (HQ), said two companies of the CISF had reached Mohali, while five more companies were expected to reach here by Monday.

He said the police teams were patrolling in the town and were keeping vigil on the activities of candidates and their supporters. They were monitoring whether the code of conduct was being followed. He said five cases had been registered against candidates and their supporters by the police on charges of defacing public property.

As many as 37 vehicles were impounded for not having the required permission to carry out election-related activities. As many as 600 licensed weapons had been deposited with the police.

Fatehgarh Sahib: The district police led by Mr Sukhwant Singh Gill SP(D) along with the para military force conducted a flag march in the Sirhind and Amloh constituencies to infuse confidence among the people. A large number of police personnel and para military forces marched in vehicles through bazaars of Sirhind town and visited all sensitive polling booths.

Earlier, Mr Paramraj Singh Umranangal, SSP, held a meeting of police and paramilitary officers and briefed them about the guidelines of the Election Commission of India and model code of conduct.

The SSP directed all police officials to ensure the security of candidates as well as that of all visiting VIPs. He directed them to ensure peace in their respective areas. He directed them to impound all those vehicles, which are plying without permission. He said that none of the candidate could have a convoy of more than three vehicles.


Rajpura: Independents hold key
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Raj Khurana
Raj Khurana

Hardyal Singh Kamboj
Hardyal Singh Kamboj

Rajpura, February 3
A keen contest is in the offing in the Rajpura constituency of Patiala district, the home turf of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh even as the Independents hold the key to the results.

As the election campaign enters the last phase, the battle of wits is emerging between the sitting MLA, Raj Khurana, and the Congress candidate, Mr Hardyal Singh Kamboj. In fact, for Mr Khurana, who recently switched over from the ruling Congress to the BJP, discontentment in a section of the BJP and the Akalis over the imposition of the "outsider" on the party cadres may upset his applecart.

And contesting of the Akali-turned-Independent, Mr Avtar Singh Harpalpur, and Mr Karnail Singh Panjouli, SGPC member, on the Dal Khalsa ticket may make the going tough for Mr Khurana, who won by a huge margin of 16,746 votes in the 2002 elections defeating a senior BJP leader, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon.

Mr Khurana is considered an influential leader of the Bahawalpuria community, which has a sizeable presence in the predominantly-urban constituency. However, his changing of loyalties just before the elections has earned him the epithet of turncoat and given his rivals an opportunity to deride him.

"If he had no say in the Capt Amarinder Singh Government, then why he stuck to the Congress for almost last five years. He is a turncoat and the electorate would teach him a lesson for his non-performance," Mr Panjouli asserted.

Mr Kamboj, who is considered close to the royal family, is banking on the development undertaken by the Congress Government and the Patiala MP, Ms Preneet Kaur, from the MPLAD scheme.

Considering that the prestige of the royal family is at stake, the "Maharani" has emerged as the star campaigner for Mr Kamboj and campaigning hard besides the Chief Minister.

Mr Khurana is seeking votes on the issue of "injustice" meted out to him by the Amarinder Singh Government. In fact, at a rally addressed by the BJP General Secretary, Mr Arun Jaitley, and the SAD supremo, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, on February 2, various speakers wooed the voters to avenge the vicitimisation of Mr Khurana at the hands of the Punjab Chief Minister.

Observers felt that a lot will depend on the number votes secured by Mr Harpalpur and Mr Panjouli. However, as the things stand, a close fight makes this anybody's game.


Haryana-made voter cards
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
Strange as it may sound, all voter ID cards for the coming Punjab elections are being made in Haryana. The project involving online processing of electoral cards and lists is being handled by the Haryana’s Electronic Development Corporation (HARTRON).

The corporation beat the Punjab Infotech Corporation and other aspirants to bag the multi-crore project spelling a direct loss to Punjab’s exchequer. Ironically, the IT corporation of a cash-strapped Punjab failed to retain the project worth more than Rs 35 crore. Hartron has further sublet the work to about 12 of its approved vendors who are being paid Rs 12 per card. It itself is charging the Punjab Government a lot more per card.

The task, sources say, involved several complex activities, which Punjab Infotech could not have handled due to a lack of infrastructure. Many districts like Kapurthala had old Pentium II processors unfit for such a hi-tech job while some had no computers at all. Hartron’s job included the provision of hardware, including computers, in all 117 Assembly constituencies, provision of manpower to update voters’ software and data, issuing of new cards and updating official records.

The exercise was driven by Election Commission of India’s directive to Punjab to issue ID cards to all its voters. About 50 per cent of Punjab’s voters did not have ID cards until recently, preventing the conduct of free and fair elections. Patiala town, the Chief Minister’s constituency, had the lowest number of voters with ID cards (just about 32 per cent).

Before the task of issuing new online cards began, Bholath had 1,13,332 voters but 57,234 of them had no cards. In Sultanpur Lodhi, only 34 per cent voters had cards. The coverage in Kapurthala and Phagwara was 59.70 per cent and 44.29 per cent, respectively.

A senior Hartron official said: “We have issued about 55 lakh ID cards to those left uncovered in previous phases. We still have time up to February 12 to issue cards to those who are on the voters’ list.”

The exercise, which started in September last, has succeeded in cutting down several duplicate votes. 


Candidates canvass on cable networks
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur February 3
Local cable networks have leased channels to candidates which show speeches by local leaders and sarpanches round the clock. These also run advertisements and messages of candidates. One of the channels shows the Transport Minister as the ‘Lord of the destitute, Raghunath‘.

Another advertisement shows the former minister and BJP candidate from Pathankot with the sound bite : "Master aya rae, ab sab dukh door honge'. (Master Mohan Lal is here. Now all worries will be over)

The Congress nominee from Pathankot ,Mr Ashok Sharma, is using small snippets showing his supporters who talk of development works done by him.

The Congress men plan to hit at the turncoats who are now nominees of the SAD. The SAD has nominated two former Congress men Milkfed Chairman Gurbachan Singh Babehali and former Chairman of the Batala Improvement Trust Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal from Gurdaspur and Qadian, respectively.


Sales at liquor vends on a high
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
Liquor may not be the only thing which candidates may be using to woo voters. However, going by the excise policy the department has for to its licensees, revenue gets precedence over national sentiments.

Republic Day and Independence Day are no more full dry days. On both these days, which are otherwise dry days throughout the country, the Punjab Excise Department allows all its liquor vends to open after 5 pm.

A quick survey conducted by The Tribune in parts of Ropar, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana and Fatehgarh Sahib districts revealed that all vends were open after the “dry half” had passed.

“We were told to open the shop at 5 pm,” a salesman said at an IMFL vend in Banga on Republic Day. As he was displaying some popular brands in the showcase of his vend, other vends in the neighbourhood, too, opened their shutters.

Interestingly, almost all vends in Banga had customers waiting for the shops to open.

Salesmen at vends in Banga, Nawanshahr, Phagwara, Ludhiana, Samrala and Khamanon were unanimous that “sale will pick up once campaigning touches its peak in the beginning of second week of February.”

“It is too early to expect bulk sale. Maybe, some candidates are getting their supplies from wholesalers (L-1 licensees) or some select vends. Our sales are normal showing a marginal increase of 5 to 10 per cent which is usual for this time of the year,” they said.

“No dry day means from early morning till midnight,” says the Deputy Commissioner of Hoshiarpur, Mr D.K. Tewari, adding that: “I am not aware whether there is any relaxation in the policy for Republic Day. But as far as elections are concerned, we will have all liquor shops closed 48 hours before the completion of polling on February 13. Again, February 27 will be a dry day.”

“It is in our policy to allow opening of vends after 5 pm on Republic Day. The only dry day is Gandhi Jayanti when vends do not open at all,” reveals the Excise Commissioner, Mr D.P. Reddy. “Many district officials may not be aware of the nuances of the excise policy,” he adds.

Besides liquor vends, even ahatas - public drinking places - besides bars in hotels and restaurants, and pubs are also allowed to open after 5 pm on Republic Day.

Though vendors and excise officials maintain that there has been so far no upswing in sale of liquor to suggest any impact of the elections, yet they expect a boom in sales for seven to 10 days prior to the date of polling in the state. Interestingly, Punjab elections also feature some of the top licensees or vendors of the state, including Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon (Samrala), Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu (Kharar), both of the Congress, and Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha (Kila Raipur, Ludhiana) of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Even the family of Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon has business interests in liquor trade. There are others who are directly or indirectly connected with the state’s biggest revenue earning Excise Department.


BKU burns Amarinder’s effigy
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 3
Activists of the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) led by its vice-president Hardeep Singh Tallewal burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to protest against the acquisition of land at Fatehgarh Channa and Kaleke village. Agitators raised anti-government slogans and held a march in the village to mobilise support for the ‘rail roko’ action scheduled for February 9.

In today’s protest about 200 women also participated along with farmers of the affected families whose 376 acres has been acquired by the government for the expansion of the Trident group concern.

Addressing the agitators Mr Hardeep Tallewal held Chief Minister Amarinder Singh responsible for anti-farmer policies. He said it was unfortunate the Congress government was bent on ruining the farmers in Punjab for the sake of industry.



Lust for gambling takes infant’s life

Amritsar, February 3
In a fit of rage a father brutally killed his 26-day-old infant by smashing him on the floor as his family refused to give Rs 20 for gambling.

Ms Paramjit Kaur, a resident of Mohkampura and infant’s mother, alleged that Goldy, father, was an alcoholic and used to often gamble. He had lost the money in gambling and was demanding more from the family. As they refused to give money to him, he smashed the child on the floor. The child died on the spot. — OC


PGI to rescue of medico
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 3
Dr Geetika Sachdeva, a young and promising medico, here, who had met with a serious accident on January 10 at Gagan Chowk, Rajpura, had almost lost hope but resuscitation at Fortis Hospital saved her.

Dr Geetika had received grievous injuries like trauma of liver, lung and bone fractures.

After a few days of intensive care at Fortis Hospital, the young doctor was shifted to PGI, Chandigarh, under the care of Dr Arunansu Bahera, who specialises in liver and multiorgan trauma treatment. When everyone thought it to be a losing battle, a team of PGI doctors assured the family of Dr Geetika of good results from day one. Dr Geetika is making good progress, courtesy PGI doctors' hard work.


Radio phone-in counselling programme from Feb 5
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 3
The Department of Correspondence Courses, Punjabi University, is organising a ‘phone-in-counselling programme" for its students from February 5.

These programmes will be relayed from FM Band Patiala and Bathinda station at 5 pm to 6 pm on all days of the week except Tuesday. 


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