P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Vajpayee calls for change
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 10
The inclement weather notwithstanding, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today addressed a gathering, which listened, with rapt attention, to his brief speech calling for “change of weather” in Punjab.

Addressing the gathering, in his charismatic style, Mr Vajpayee said: “Mausam badal raha hei , dhup nikalne wali hei” (political weather in Punjab is about to change, sun is likely to shine soon).

Earlier, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, secretary-general of the SAD, and Mr Tarlochan Singh, Rajya Sabha member, received Mr Vajpayee at Rajasansi International Airport at 11.45 am in incessant rain. He was taken to the Circuit House where senior party leaders had even suggested him to cancel the rally. However, Mr Vajpayee quipped, “Come what may, he would address the rally, let people listen to him by holding umbrellas in their hands”. The venue of the rally was the heart of the city, close to Durgiana Temple.

Recalling suicides by farmers in Punjab, he said no compensation was given to the kin of the deceased farmers while other states granted adequate compensation to them.

Expressing deep anguish over the deteriorating economy of the state, Mr Vajpayee said: “Punjab khushhaal tha, phir khushhaal hoga, naksha badlega (Punjab was prosperous, it will regain its glory once again). He wanted to come to Punjab again on his ‘thanksgiving visit’ if voters would change the government. He predicted that the SAD-BJP combine would together change the “tasveer” and “takdir” of Punjab, if voted to power.

Coming down heavily on the Congress over “raising the bogey of terrorism”, Mr Vajpayee said people could see themselves that there was no sign of militancy left in the state . “It (terrorism) is in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam or such other states”. He said Punjabis knew how to deal with militancy.

The Centre and state governments had failed to arrest inflation. The SAD-BJP would fight against price rise which had made the life of the common man miserable.

Pointing out a poor medical infrastructure in Punjab, he said there were many hospitals, especially in countryside, without doctors and nurses.

The candidate of the SAD-BJP for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, said it was Mr Vajpayee who had given too much to Punjab during his stint as Prime Minister. Dr Manmohan Singh had failed on that front, he claimed.

Quoting from the story published about the plight of the residents of Masol village in The Tribune on February 7, Mr Vajpayee said if the residents of the village, barely 10 km from Chandigarh, were living without water supply, electricity, sanitation and a link road, nothing could make them or other people vote in favour of the ruling party.


Sonia Gandhi’s second leg rained away
Prabhjot Singh and Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Sirhind/Rampura Phul, February 10
As weather played spoilsport, the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, could not keep her date with party workers and supporters on the second leg of her election campaign in Punjab.

Punjab Congress men are, however, still hopeful. Weather permitting, Mrs Gandhi may address a rally in the Malwa region tomorrow before the campaigning for the February 13 poll comes to an end at 5 pm.

Interestingly, a large number of Congress workers and supporters sat through the rain for several hours at Sirhind, hoping the weather would improve, but had to go back “disappointed”.

In Rampura Phul, the onus fell on the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to step in as the star speaker as a sizeable crowd, braving rain and strong chilly winds, waited under sheds at the grain market for a couple of hours.

In Sirhind, besides the local candidate, Dr Harbans Lal, and the PPCC chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, who is the candidate from the adjoining Khanna constituency, Mr Sadhu Singh Dharmsot (Amloh) was also present at the rally.

The speakers alleged that the Akalis, were not only “corrupt, but were also land grabbers and lacked vision to take Punjab forward.” The organisers had arranged for tea and snacks for party workers. The turnout was impressive.

While the announcement about the cancellation of the visit in Rampura Phul was made early, around 10 am, the audience at Sirhind kept waiting for the Congress president till 2.30 pm.


Kanwaljit sails on ‘winds of change’
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Lalru, February 10
A confident Capt Kanwaljit Singh arrives in his office at his residence in Chandigarh's Sector 9 around 8 am. Inclement weather fails to dampen his spirits as he warmly greets his supporters.

Catching up with his supporters on the mobile, he heads straight towards the Chandigarh-Ambala highway on his way to the Lalru circle, which holds the key to the crucial Banur segment from where the Akali stalwart is aiming for a hat-trick.

"We are going to the February 13 polls with a definite edge," Capt Kanwaljit Singh says.

"See how the Amarinder Singh government played havoc with the state's economy with every section of society at the receiving end of the political class and the bureaucracy," says the leader as he instructs his lieutenants in the field to plan the election campaign for Banur and Kharar, from where his son Jasjit Singh Bunny is contesting.

Jasna Kalan on the outskirts of Lalru is the first on his day's itinerary. A motley crowd gives him a rousing welcome.

"The weather has changed for the better for your wheat crop," he says in the local dialect - a mix of Punjabi and Hindi - preferring not to deliver a speech as the crowd weighs him against coins.

"The political weather is changing in Punjab too," says an upbeat farmer, Jasmer Singh.

"This area was at the mercy of rain and during my tenure as Finance Minister, I had installed about 110 tubewells for irrigation," says Capt Kanwaljit.

At Balopur, his gestures talk more than his words. “Get ready for the battle royal of February 13 and the margin from the village should be higher than last time,” a beaming Capt Kanwaljit Singh tells the electorate as he travels towards Lalru Mandi to seek votes from arhtiyas and traders.

"Development and easy accessibility are my USP," claims the former Finance Minister, who first wrested the Congress stronghold in 1985. People expect a prompt grievance redressal system and that's what I do, sums up the leader, who survived the Congress wave in 2002. 


Ashwani banks on development
Admits Behl was his choice
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Pathankot, February 10
Union Minister of State for Industrial Policy and Promotion Ashwani Kumar, spoke with The Tribune at his residence in Gurdaspur, two days ahead of the Punjab poll. The following are the excerpts.

Q You have been campaigning in Punjab for the last two weeks. What is your assessment of the Congress prospects in the Assembly elections ?

A I have been campaigning in the Majha region, particularly Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur. While these are strong pockets of Akali influence, we will be able to make it on the basis of development done by the government. However, we will need to minimise the effect of rebels opposing official candidates. The voter’s silence can be misleading.

Q Who is the party’s star campaigner ?

A The party looks up to Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh for strength. The Punjab elections, however, are being held under the stewardship of Capt Amarinder Singh. It is on his recommendations that the party high command allotted tickets to candidates.

Q Who will be the party candidate for chief ministership if the party comes to power again?

A The Congress Legislature Party expresses its views and the final decision on Chief Minister is taken by the high command.

Q Over the last 10 years, you have worked intensively in Gurdaspur, but your recommendation on ticket allotment for the Gurdaspur seat was not accepted. Would you like to comment ?

A It is true that I had supported the candidature of Mr Khushal Behl who, in my opinion, could have won the seat. But the Congress is a big party and we have to accommodate several claims. Mr P.S.Bhinder was the choice of the party high command and we respect the decision.

Q The Chief Minister has expelled Mr Behl and his son from the party just before the polling. Do you think this will damage the winning prospects of the party?

A All I can say is the development is unfortunate but the silver lining is that, as per the reports in the press, the Behl family has reiterated its commitment to the party.

Q Considering your work in the district, do you plan to contest the next Lok Sabha elections ?

A The Lok Sabha elections are far away and all will depend on the decision of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Q Do you see the possibility of a defeat for the Congress in the elections?

A I have already said that we hope to win.

Q You are known for speaking out against the politics of acrimony and bitterness. Do you think that bitterness witnessed during the election campaign was avoidable?

A I firmly believe in showing respect to the opponent. Elections should be contested on issues and not be reduced to “ tu tu, mein mein.”


3 Brars in fierce battles
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, February 10
The Muktsar-Faridkot belt is keenly watching three heavyweight Brars - former Chief Minister Harcharan Brar's son Kanwarjeet Singh Brar, senior Congress leader Jagmeet Brar's brother Ripjeet Brar and former Congress minister Avtar Singh Brar, battle it out with their rivals in hotly contested elections from the Muktsar, Kotkapura and Faridkot Assembly seats, respectively.

Of these three constituencies, Muktsar is witnessing the most closely contested poll battle, as the fight has turned triangular with SAD rebel Bhai Harnirpal Singh Kukku entering the fray.

In the last elections, an Independent and SAD rebel, Mr Sukhdarshan Singh Marar, had defeated former Chief Minister Brar, while SAD's Kukku ended up third. Ironically, in a reversal of roles, turncoat Marar is now the SAD candidate, while Kukku has stepped into his shoes.

The Congress has fielded Kanwarjeet, better known as Sunny Brar, in the area. While Kukku has gained the common man’s sympathy following the denial of the ticket by the SAD, Marar is having a tough time justifying his decision of switching loyalty to the SAD on the eve of the elections.

Backed by his family members, Sunny Brar seeks votes on the Congress government's achievements and his father's works during his stint as Chief Minister. On the other hand, Kukku speaks about the Badals "being unfair to him" in denying him the ticket.

The support of SAD general secretary Sukhbir Badal and his wife Harsimrat Kaur has boosted the morale of Marar for whom it will be no cakewalk this time.

Meanwhile, the stakes are high for firebrand Congress leader Jagmeet Brar in Kotkapura, where his brother Ripjeet faces sitting SAD MLA Mantar Singh Brar in a challenging contest. BSP candidate Krishan Singla and Lok Bhalai Party's Gursewak Singh are also in the fray.

In the neighbouring Faridkot seat, former Education Minister Avtar Singh Brar is engaged in a straight contest with sitting SAD MLA Kushaldeep Dhillon. In yet another important constituency of Panjgirain, senior SAD leader Gurdev Badal is pitted against Congress candidate Joginder Singh and perhaps for the first time the fight appears to be tough for the former.


SAD happy in Sham Chaurasi
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Sham Chaurasi (Hoshiarpur), February 10
The rural constituency of Sham Chaurasi comprises 170-odd villages, each one making no bones about its displeasure with the Congress for ignoring it during the past five years.

The little support that the Congress finds is confined to the township with a small population of around 6,000 people, mostly traders and baniyas.

Ms Mohinder Kaur Josh of the SAD, contested as an Independent in 1997 but lost to the sitting Congress MLA, Chaudhary Ram Lubhaya, by a mere 1,481 votes.

This time she is the SAD-BJP nominee and has done the rounds of the constituency three times, going to each house personally. In contrast, the Congress candidate is being accused of staying away from the people for the past five years.

Interestingly, the official residence of the sitting MLA in the Officers’ Colony is already deserted. There is, however, a small gathering at the nearby private house, rented by Chaudhary Ram Lubhaya so as not to violate the Model Code of Conduct by using his official residence for electioneering.

However, the crowds are too meagre compared to that at Piplawala on the outskirts of Hoshiarpur.

Travelling on link roads in this vast constituency, one finds banners and posters sparsely put up in contrast with those of the SAD.

Though a large number of NRIs are camping in the Sham Chaurasi constituency, supporting the Congress, the SAD-BJP alliance and the BSP candidates, electioneering here has been quite lukewarm till date.

A former MP, Mrs Santosh Chaudhry, is the Congress star campaigner in this constituency, while Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Sukhbir Badal have campaigned for the SAD nominee.

Dr Jagdish Kumar, a private medical practitioner who cycles across various villages attending to patients, sums up the situation, saying, “People in this constituency are poor, so anyone who gives them hope of employment and bringing down prices will gain immediate success. The contest is a direct one between the Congress and the SAD. However, since the Congress MLA has hardly done anything in the past five years, the SAD is the choice at the moment.”

Indian Overseas Congress president Bhagwan Dass Badhan, who is here from the UK along with 55 other NRIs and is campaigning for the Congress in Sham Chaurasi, however, is hopeful and says, “The Congress has provided peace and stability, which is still an important issue in this area.”


Foreign hand for help
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
Mr Beant Singh Dhaliwal is a diehard Akali and president of the Youth Akali Dal, Canada, an affiliate of the SAD.

Over 20 years after he immigrated from Raikot in Ludhiana to Canada, he and 14 others have returned home to campaign for the SAD. Since the last almost over 15 days, he has been leading the group in campaigning in different districts of the state.

Even as he is confident his party will “sweep” the Assembly poll, he is saddened by the ills that are affecting democracy here.

“I have seen many elections in Canada. They are much more fair and transparent. Voters don’t only vote for a candidate but also rate his vote. But, voters here are swayed by wrong reasons. I have seen voters being bought. Liquor, wheat, anything that can sway voters, is being offered. What is alarming is that voters, especially rural, are more often than not actually accepting these poll-time gifts as a matter of right. This is not sign democracy.”

Ask him what he and his friends from Canada have done to fight the practice and he says they have been telling voters not to barter away their future for short-term gains.

“It’s not just the leaders. Voters are equally guilty. But, I am sure, as India develops, voters will realise their folly,” he adds.


Police remand for Rajan
Tribune News Service

Baba Bakala, February 10
Ms Jaswinder Kaur Shimar, Subdivisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) today sent Harpinder Singh Gill (Rajan), a brother of Congress MLA and candidate for Assembly elections from the Beas constituency and Balkar Singh, chairman Block Samithi Rayya, to two days’ police remand.

The two had surrendered before the SIT in connection with the firing, which had resulted in killing of an Akali worker on January 2. They were sent to two-day police remand and would be presented in the court again on February 12. They were produced in the court at 4.10 PM and later sent to the Civil Hospital here for medical examination.

As soon as Rajan came out of the court, the mediapersons gathered near him for questioning, but the police, led by DSP Ashish Kapur, pushed them back and did not allow the media to talk with him.

The presenting of the duo before the magistrate was kept a low-key affair, as only a few supporters were present in the court premises. However, Ms Balbir Kaur, Sarpanch of Baba Bakala, who had allegedly been kidnapped by Akali supporters, which led to the Beas violence incident, was also present in the court.

While four persons had already been arrested, warrants of the remaining, named in the FIR, were obtained by the SIT.

Meanwhile, the Congress MLA, Mr Dimpa, appeared before SIT.

Meanwhile, the special investigation team (SIT), headed by the DIG (Border), has sought a report from the Department of Forensic Medicine regarding minute details of the postmortem examination of Dilbagh Singh, the Akali worker who was killed in firing at Beas on January 29, to establish the cause of death.

Eyebrows were raised as one of the three members of the medical board which conducted the postmortem examination was found to be an MD student (junior resident) and not a regular employee of the medical college.


Bhinder surrenders
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 10
Mr Varinder Singh alias Vickey Bhinder who also was booked for the clash between Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal workers, resulting in the killing of Akali activist Dilbag Singh, today surrendered before, Mr Manmonder Singh, SP who heads the Special Investigation Team (SIT), at Beas.

Mr Harpinder Singh Rajan, a younger brother of Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa a Congress MLA, and Mr Blkar Singh, Chairman, block Samiti Rayya had surrendered yesterday.


Police told to be vigilant
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
With the arrest of two more persons, including Vicky Bhinder, the police is narrowing down on the remaining suspects in the Beas shooting case in which one Akali worker was killed on January 29.

Yesterday, Congress candidate from Beas Jasbir Singh Gill, alias Dimpa, joined the investigations, while his younger brother, Mr Harjinder Singh Rajan, and Mr Balkar Singh Brar, Chairman, Block Samiti, Rayya, surrendered before the police.

Other election-related incidents, including the shootout in Sardulgarh and snatching of voter identity cards in Ferozepore, have been solved. Instructions have gone to the police top brass that it is important for the men in uniform and officers of the force to “maintain their time-tested tradition of ensuring peaceful, free and fair polls in the state.”

The communication, which has reportedly gone to all Inspector-Generals (IGs), Deputy Inspector-Generals (DIGs) and Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs), says that the eyes of the “entire country are on Punjab. Every member of the force should be fully prepared to pass the crucial test of professional competence.”

The communication directs the force to be objective, transparent and fair while discharging poll duty and to implement all orders of the Election Commission. The force has also been directed to act ‘within the law’ while ensuring smooth polling. 


Ferozepore: Family vs family
Ajay Banerjee & Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Bal Mukand Sharma
Bal Mukand Sharma

Ferozepore, February 10
The electoral battle here continues to be fought mainly between two families, with either of them having won the seat nine times between themselves. Veteran Congress man Bal Mukand Sharma is in the fray against sitting BJP MLA Sukhpal Singh Nannu. It is an open field so far.

In the past 40-45 years of his political life, Mr Sharma has fought many electoral battles with Mr Gardhara Singh, the late father of the sitting BJP MLA. Mr Gardhara Singh won the seat three times while Mr Sharma wrested it five times and became Cabinet Minister.

Sukhpal Singh Nannu
Sukhpal Singh Nannu

This time, Mr Sharma has put everything at stake.“ It is my last chance at 75 years of age”, he says while promising almost everything that he could not do in his previous five terms. Mr Sharma lost to Mr Sukhpal Singh Nannu in 2002 whereas in 1997 the Congress gave the party ticket to Ms Shavinder Kaur Johal, mother-in-law of the SAD, MLA, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal.

The BSP always had a crucial role on this seat. This time is no different. The party has fielded Mr Mukhtiar Singh, who was second behind the BJP in 1997. He can prove to be spoiler. Thankfully for the Congress, the left has not fielded its nominee.

Interestingly, Mr Sharma represented the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1967. In 1969, he shifted to the Congress while Mr Gardhara Singh shifted to the Janata Party and from there on to the BJP.

Mr Sharma promises: “I will get the Hussaniwala border opened and ensure SC status for the Rai Sikh community.” He says a mega industry will be set-up if he is voted to power. He goes to blame the BJP for doing nothing in the past 10 years, despite holding the seat since 1997.

Mr Sukhpal Singh Nannu has worked with his father and knows the pulse of the electorate. He has worked hard to maintain relations with everybody. 


Sahib Singh pitches in for Tohra
Tribune News Service

Devigarh (Patiala), February 10
Former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma gave a fillip to the campaign of the SAD candidate from Dakala, Mr H.S Tohra, while addressing a gathering at Anaj Mandi in Devigarh.

Bollywood actress of yesteryear Hema Malini was scheduled to address the gathering, but inclement weather forced her to cancel the trip.

Mr Verma said the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had ignored the interests of the common man during his five-year term.

“The people of Punjab are all set to throw out Capt Amarinder Singh from power due to his repressive policies,” Mr Verma said.

Mr S.S Bhaur, general secretary of the SGPC, spoke also and exhorted the people to vote for the SAD-BJP candidates in the forthcoming elections.


BSP candidate ‘premi’ too
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 10
It is a neck-and-neck contest on the Sangrur Assembly seat between SAD candidate Parkash Chand Garg and Congress candidate Surinder Pal Singh Sibia.

It is no smooth-sailing for either of the two and the victory margin is likely to be thin.

The open support to the Congress by the political wing of Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa, has provided a boost to the Congress camp and left the SAD camp worried.

Interestingly, BSP candidate Avtar Singh Illwal is claiming that he will get a big share of votes of Dera Sacha Sauda's followers, as he himself is a "premi" (follower) of the dera.

The Congress and the SAD candidates have been facing opposition from within their respective parties as the Khanna group (MLA Arvind Khanna) has been allegedly extending support to the BSP candidate due to denial of the Congress ticket to him while many supporters of Mr Ranjit Singh Ballian, former SAD MLA from Sangrur who was denied the SAD ticket this time also, are reportedly not supporting the SAD candidate wholeheartedly and are allegedly supporting other candidates in the poll fray.

In this constituency, local issues have not emerged in a big way. However, subdivision status for Bhawanigarh is a major demand of the people of the Bhawanigarh area. Besides, supply of pure drinking water in villages and setting up of industrial units in the constituency are among the other issues.

Besides Mr Garg, Mr Sibia and Mr Illwal, some other candidates, including Mr Chamkaur Singh (CPM) and Ms Manju Gill (Lok Janshakti Party), are also trying their luck in this election from the Sangrur segment. 


Orders to furnish advt details
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 10
The Election Commission has urged newspapers to furnish details of advertisements to the District Election Officer by 6 pm on February 11.

Though, earlier, advertisements could be differentiated as “advt” in small letters was usually written at the end of those, this time, sources alleged, those letters were either missing or were usually represented by four dots or stars.


Guru Harsahai RO removed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
The Election Commission today ordered the removal of Mr Sanjay Popli, Returning Officer, Guru Harsahai.

According to sources, Mr Popli’s removal has been ordered following complaints against him, alleging that he was siding with one of the contestants in the fray.

The EC also ordered the posting of Mr Rahul Tiwari, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, as Returning Officer, Guru Harsahai.

Meanwhile, the EC has ordered the posting of Mr Neelabh Kishore as Senior Superintendent of Police, Mohali. Yesterday, the EC had shifted Mr G.S. Dhillon from the post for the controversial survey on “voting habits” carried by the official website of the Mohali police.


Nayagaon SHO shifted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
Taking strict notice of the pending complaints against Nayagaon SHO Mahesh Kumar, the Election Commission today ordered that he be relieved with immediate effect and attached to the Police Lines.

The SHO had been facing complaints of influencing the voters and using unparliamentary language to force them to favour the Congress candidate from the Morinda constituency, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang.


Plea to remove CEC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 10
The Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC) today demanded removal of the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr N. Gopalaswami, stating that he was “biased in favour of the SAD-BJP combine and was taking decisions against the Congress.”

In a press note, Mr Ajay Thapar, secretary of the PPCC, said Mr Gopalaswami was Home Secretary during Mr L.K. Advani’s tenure as Home Minister.

Mr Thapar said telegrams had been sent to the President and the Prime Minister against the acts of the Chief Election Commissioner”. 


Kin of councillor booked
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, February 10
On the instructions of the Returning Officer, Fazilka, the police yesterday registered a case against kin of Mr Davinder Kumar Sachdeva, Congress councillor, for getting enrolled as voter at more than one places.

Mr Sandeep Babber, secretary of the BJP Ward No. 12, had complained to the Returning Officer-cum-SDM, Fazilka, that the councillor’s brother, Mr Satish Kumar Sachdeva and sister-in-law Anita Sachdeva were enrolled as voters at three places while his sons Gaurav Sachdeva and Raman Sachdeva were enrolled as voters at two places. 


Another notice to Brahm Mohindra
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 10
Congress candidate from the Samana Assembly segment Brahm Mohindra has been served a notice for violating the Model Code of Conduct.

Sources said Returning Officer Gurmeet Singh had issued a show-cause notice to Mr Mohindra for holding a “rally” at a religious place without taking permission from the authorities concerned.

Mr Mohindra has been asked to file reply by 6 pm tomorrow. Earlier, the Election Observer (Expenditure) had served a notice on him for not filing his return within the stipulated time. Mr Mohindra is locked in a tough fight with SAD candidate and sitting MLA Surjit Singh Rakhra.

On February 4, Mr Mohindra held a rally at a satsang of Dera Sacha Sauda at Rajgarh village, which falls under the Samana Assembly segment. It was addressed by the leaders, including Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Mr Gurmeet Singh said CDs of the “rally” had been handed over to the Observer of the Samana Assembly segment, Mr Sanjay Bhoose Reddy.


Studies can wait: Pupils clear way for booths
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Jandu Singha (Adampur), February 10
Students and teachers of Government School, Jandu Singha, on the main Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur road are working hard to ensure a peaceful election.

This endeavour has forced them out of their classrooms on to the road putting their studies on the back burner, at least till after the February 13 poll.

The students and the teachers, instead of being involved in pre-board activity, are bending backwards so as not to annoy the official machinery responsible for the conduct of the elections in this area that falls under the Kartarpur Vidhan Sabha segment.

Security officials and the Returning Officer of the constituency have directed the school authorities to immediately clear bricks meant for construction of bathrooms lying outside the school compound. “As the school will house two polling booths, both of which have been declared sensitive, officials don’t want bricks here, lest they be used in case of a tussle. Brickbats were used here in the last panchayat elections,” a school employee told this correspondent.

“We are under a lot of pressure to clear the bricks immediately. However, since we have not been able to procure labour, the school is using students to move the bricks to the roof of the school building,” Mrs Kulwant Kaur, officiating head of the school, said.

People residing in the area said the Returning Officer and police personnel from the local police station were threatening the school management to clear the bricks from the road before the day was over, so the school lined up the students and asked them to pass on bricks from one hand to another moving most of it before mid-day.

“The bricks were bought for construction of urinals and toilets through a grant of Rs 35,000 the school received recently,” Bakshish Singh, a teacher of the school, said.

He disclosed that three labourers and a mason had been employed to complete the construction work with the objective of using up the bricks. But since the officials wanted the bricks removed immediately, services of the school students were used.

The school was an elementary-level school till Mr Parkash Singh Badal verbally passed orders to upgrade it to a high school. Though students were admitted from classes VI to X, the school did not get any extra grants or more staff.

It was only recently that Capt Amarinder Singh during his Vikas Yatra stopped here and assured the people of the area to formally upgrade the school and upgrade facilities and sanction more staff. But as far as the people of the village are concerned, both the Akalis and the Congress have only made false promises.


Jeers for politicians, cheers for farmers
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, February 10
Saturday brought jeers for politicians and cheers for the farmers. With inclement weather playing the spoilsport, a number of scheduled rallies by the contesting candidates on the penultimate day of electioneering today for the Banur Assembly segment were washed out giving a severe blow to the last-minute efforts of the parties to woo the electorate. In the absence of star campaigners, the candidates were left to struggle for themselves and seek votes in the inclement weather.

However, the rainfall, considered to be beneficial for the wheat crop, brought smiles on the faces of the farmers.

Even as three major rallies, including two to be addressed by the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, were cancelled, other meetings were held at indoor venues.

The “Dream Girl” and Rajya Sabha member Hema Malini, who was scheduled to canvass for the SAD-BJP candidate, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, at Zirakpur could not make it to the venue apparently on account of the rainy weather. Mr Om Prakash Chautala, former Haryana Chief Minister, also failed to make to the venue.

Even as Mr Pradeep Chaudhary, spokesman of the INLD, showed up to muster support for the alliance, his bete noire, Mr Hooda, cancelled his two rallies at Lalru and Zirakpur. However, Mr Venod Sharma, former Haryana Power Minister, considered to be instrumental in getting the ticket for the Congress candidate, Mr Rakesh Sharma, campaigned for the Congress candidate.

Meanwhile, another major rally planned for the SAD(A) candidate, Mr Avtar Singh Saini, at Dera Bassi also fizzled out. The SAD(A) chief, Mr Simranjeet Singn Mann, and the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, were to address the rally. Ms Daljit Kaur, general secretary of the Lok Bhalai Party, one of the supporting parties of the SAD(A), did, however, address a press conference at Lalru and came down heavily on both the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance for their failed promises.

Despite inclement weather, Capt Kanwaljit Singh managed to put up an impressive show with the Property Dealers Association throwing in their lot with the veteran Akali leader aiming for a hat-trick from the Banur Assembly segment.

“Dream Girl” disappoints

Hema Malini disappointed her fans at Zirakpur this evening. The Rajya Sabha member, who was scheduled to canvass for the SAD-BJP candidate from Banur, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, cancelled her visit due to inclement weather. “I had come to have a glimpse of my favourite star. Otherwise, who wants to listen to the rhetoric of the politicians again and again,” a visibly upset Parveen Kumar said.


“Milk will replace liquor”
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 10
Milk will be made available for the youth of Kharar constituency instead of liquor once he wins the Punjab elections.

This was stated by Mr Tarlochan Singh Mann, an Independent candidate, while addressing an election rally in Kharar today. He said that he would make all efforts to root out social evils from the area.

Launching an attack on the SAD-BJP candidate, he said that a rally was held by Mr Jasjit Singh here but he had to get people from the Banur and Morinda areas to show a big gathering. Mr Mann said he depended only on the cooperation of the people of the area who came to his rally in large numbers despite bad weather.

He said once he won the elections he would not relax in palaces but would go to the people for solving their problems. He claimed that he had been offered a huge amount of money by his opponents for withdrawing from the election field but he stuck to his stand of wanting to serve the people of the Kharar constituency.


11 govt employees face action
Participation in political rallies
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, February 10
As many as 11 government employees are likely to face action from the Election Commission for allegedly being associated with rallies being held here in connection with the Punjab Assembly elections.

While three of them are employees of the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA), eight of them work in the Punjab School Education Board. It is alleged that they actively participated in the election rallies of the SAD-BJP candidate from the Kharar constituency, Mr Jasjit Singh.

Action is likely to be taken against them for allegedly violating the code of conduct.

According to sources, someone had complained to the Election Observer that three PUDA employees had invited the SAD leaders for holding a rally. They had got invitation cards printed which were shown to the Election Observer. The names of two employees, Mr Gurmail Singh Dhanoa and Mr Pawan Kumar, were printed on the cards as invitees while Mr Jaswant Rai Sharma, another PUDA employee, managed stage activities on the day the rally was held. The rally was addressed among others by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD general secretary.

Sources said it was also brought to the notice of the Election Observer that some employees of the education board had also participated in an election rally which was addressed by SAD-BJP leaders. As such the authorities concerned sent a photograph of the rally which was published in a section of the Press to the board authorities to identify their employees.

It is learnt that the board authorities identified eight of their employees who participated in the election rally. They are Mr Mukesh Diwan, deputy secretary, Mr Ravinder Singh Cheema, Mr Gurprem Singh, Mr Gurmel Singh Maujewal, Mr Amar Singh Dhaliwal, Mr Jarnail Singh Turka, Mr Ravinder Madan, all senior assistants, and Mr Mewa Singh Gill, superintendent.

It is learnt that the administration had also videographed some of the rallies and there is a possibility that these employees must be figuring in the CDs prepared in this regard. The matter is being brought to the notice of the Election Commission by the authorities concerned.


Videography at sensitive booths
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 10
The district administration has made special arrangements for videography at certain sensitive polling stations in connection with the Punjab Assembly elections being held in the state on February 13.

Supervisers as well as mobile patrolling parties of the police will also be equipped with video cameras to keep a watch on the activities of supporters of the candidates and others.

The Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, Mr Tejveer Singh, held a meeting with the Election Observers, Returning Officers, SPs in charge, and supervisers of the three Assembly constituencies here today to review the election preparedness.

He said patrolling by the mobile teams of the police and the Excise Department officials would be intensified in the coming two days. All presiding officers had been provided training in the use of EVMs and were also apprised of all other statutory duties to be performed during elections.

He said that candidates would be required to stop campaigning at 5 pm on February 11 and the ‘dry day’ restrictions would also come into force the same evening. Only two vehicles would be allowed for use by the candidates on the polling day but with prior permits from the Returning Officer.

Mr Tejveer Singh said that the Election Observers would be intensively touring their respective constituencies and persons who wanted to contact them could do so on their telephone numbers. The Election Obsevers for the SAS Nagar district are Mr VB Pathak (94176-00492), Ms Anita Karwal (94176-00491), Mr SK Das (94176- 00493) and Mr Farhat Qureishi (94176-00494).


Voter cards row: Officer suspended
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 10
A booth-level officer (BLO), put on election duty at Nayagaon, has been placed under suspension on charge of dereliction of duty.

Mr Raghwinder Singh, who worked as a physical education teacher in a school and was given the charge of booth number 126 at Nayagaon, was suspended by the DPI (Secondary) today.

Mr Tejveer Singh, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, said he had received a copy of the orders of the suspension of Mr Raghwinder Singh.

The BLO had failed to ensure that the photo identity cards prepared for the Assembly elections were delivered from door to door in the village. He had handed over around 25 identity cards to a PCO owner, Mr Prem Parkash Dhingra, for distribution. He said the lapse came to notice when a compliant was made in that regard. The Election Observer, Mr V.B. Pathak, had recovered 10 cards from Mr Dhingra’s possession.

The Deputy Commissioner said he had ordered verification of all cards prepared at that booth to avoid any misuse. As many as 932 cards were verified today and things were found in order.


Power theft: Case registered
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 10
The Ropar police today registered a case of theft against the organisers of the function held at Gandhi Chowk four days ago to boost Congress campaign by using ‘kundi’ connections. The SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, said the case was registered on the report of the Returning Officer.

Giving details, he said the candidate of the All-India Forward Bloc, Mr VP Saini, sent a complaint in this regard to the Returning Officer (RO) after which the SHO (City) sought legal opinion and registered a case of theft against the organisers of the function. But the organisers are yet to be identified.


Strike threat by bank employees
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 10
A general body meeting of the Patiala unit of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation was held here at Prabhat Parwana Trade Union Centre, Baradari Garden. The meeting, attended by members from all banks, was addressed by Mr N.K. Gaur, secretary, All-India Bank Employees Association, and Mr Yog Raj Gupta, general secretary, Punjab Bank Employees Federation, and other leaders of the local unit.

Mr Gaur condemned the Central Bank management for victimisation of employees of the Central Bank of India. He said about 7000 employees had been charge-sheeted and served show-cause notices for imposing the penalty of three increments for officers and two increments for workmen violating all rules and regulations.

He further said the management was adopting all types of methods to harass the employees and in case the management did not withdraw these actions, the United Forum of Central Bank Unions will go on indefinite strike from February 22.

Further, in solidarity with the Central Bank employees, the United Forum of Bank Unions having more than eight lakh members would observe a one-day strike on February 23.

While addressing the meeting, Mr N.S. Grewal cautioned the management of Central Bank to resolve all issues instead of adopting a confrontationist attitude in the interest of the bank and the banking industry.


Arrangements for Pulse Polio reviewed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 10
A meeting was held in the office of Civil Surgeon to review the arrangements for the Pulse Polio round to be held from February 18 to 20.

The meeting was presided over by Dr Rakesh Gupta, Civil Surgeon, and attended by all MOs, SMOs , LHVs of the Patiala district. It was addressed by Dr Goldie (WHO) and Dr Archana Gupta, DIO, Patiala.

Dr Rakesh Gupta reviewed all arrangements made for the Pulse Polio round. He disclosed that 902 booths had been planned in the district on the first day of Pulse Polio, covering all urban and rural areas.

He asked all officers and staff of the Health Department to work with dedication.

Dr Archana Gupta disclosed that 1,804 teams had been constituted, which would go from house to house on the second and third day of Pulse Polio to vaccinate children.

Dr Rakesh Gupta requested people of the district to bring their children up to five years of age to the nearest Pulse Polio booth on February 18 for getting polio drops.


Hans Raj Hans enthrals audience
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 10
Hans Raj Hans, famous folk and Sufi singer, today enthralled the audience during a light and folk music festival organized by All-India Radio (AIR) at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here today.

Famous ghazal singer Roshan Bharti from Jaipur and Ranbir Badwasnia and Neelam Chaudhry, classical singers from Rohtak, also held the audience spellbound.

The AIR had organised the festival to promote traditional folk music all over the country. A spokesman said that about 11 festivals were organised at different parts of the country at the same time. In Punjab it was organised at GNDU.


5 booked for gang rape
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 10
The Mahilpur Police last night registered a case of gang rape of a 22-year-old woman.

A daughter of Amrik Singh (name changed) of Mahilpur town, in a complaint to the police, said that she was working in a PCO and was living with her parents’ house for the last two months due to strained relations with her husband.

She alleged that Harwinder Singh of Rampur village came to the PCO and told her that her mother had met with an accident. She immediately accompanied him on his motorcycle to see her mother.

He then allegedly took her to nearby bushes near Rampur Choe, a seasonal rivulet, where four other persons, Surjit Singh, Harpal Singh, Rajinder Singh and Babu, all from Rampur, were also present. They allegedly gang raped her and threatened her with dire consequences if she narrated the incident to anyone.

The Mahilpur Police has booked all accused under Section 376 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of ST/SC Act.


Overall trophy for Pine Grove school
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 10
Lincoln College of Education, Sirhind, today organised 'Jagriti- 2007' on the college campus.

Dr Sucha Singh Gill, Dean (Academics) Punjabi University, Patiala, presided over the function in which 240 students from eight schools of the district participated. This event provided a platform for rich interaction between teachers and students of different schools.

In his address, Dr Sucha Singh Gill, an economist of international repute, appreciated the effort on the part of the college management. He said ‘jagriti’ meant awareness and it was a novel method to create awareness regarding organizational skill, event management and exposure to factual situations.

He said in the era of competition, only those could survive who excel in every sphere. He urged the teachers and students to update their knowledge.

On this occasion, competitions were organised at different levels. In the kindergarten category, Divine Light International School, Sirhind, stood first, while in the primary category, Pine Grove Senior Secondary School, Bassi Pathana, finished on top. In primary level II, Rana Munshi Sarv Hitkari Public School, Sirhind, stood first, while in the middle category, Pine Grove Senior Secondary School, Bassi Pathana, secured the first position. In the secondary category, Baba Dyal Puri School, Sirhind, stood first.

The overall trophy was won by Pine Grove Senior Secondary School, Bassi Pathana, whereas Divine Light International School, Sirhind, was runner-up.


Students recruited

Ropar, February 10
Six final-year students of the IET Bhaddal were recruited by the ITS Company during campus interviews held here today. The students include Ranjeet Kaur, Suruchi Bawa, Surjeet Singh, Nitin Burman, Jasjeet Chawla and Mansi. — TNS


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