P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Farmers upbeat
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
Farmers across this region are in an upbeat mood as the moderate to heavy rain during the past four days has given them a definite hope of an increase in the yield of various rabi crops.

Except in the Abohar-Fazilka belt, where the wheat and mustard crops on about 10,000 acres were hit by the hailstorm yesterday, rabi crops in all other parts of the state are in healthy shape and farmers are expecting a bumper wheat crop this year.

" The rain has proved good for various rabi crops at this stage", said Shingara Singh, a farmer near Sanoure village. He said that at certain places the rain accompanied with high-velocity winds had flattened the wheat crop, but it would come up again." No significant damage has been caused to the wheat crop that was flattened by fast- blowing winds in certain pockets", he added.

Endorsing what the farmer expressed, the Director, Agriculture, Punjab, Mr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, told The Tribune today that wheat and other rabi crops were coming up well and farmers were happy. He said there would be an increase in the production of wheat and other crops because of the rain in various parts of the state during the past four days. However, he said the weather should clear now as further rain could prove harmful to the crops. " The most significant aspect of the rain is that it has brought the temperature down, which was the need of the hour especially in the case of the wheat crop in the region", he added.

" Even the snowfall in the hilly region in the past days will benefit farmers of Punjab," he added. " The farmers will get more water during the coming kharif season for irrigation because of the snowfall at this stage", he argued.

However, he said that because of the incessant rain, the potato and tomato crops had been hit hard at various places. " Obviously, the rain has harmed the two crops. Besides, some other vegetable crops have also been hit", he added.

Asked about the hailstorm, Mr Sidhu said initial reports from the Fazilka area indicated that the mustard crop had suffered almost total damage. " I have asked the officials concerned to conduct a survey in the hailstorm affected areas and send a report", he said.

In Haryana the rain has cheered farmers, especially in the rain-fed belt. "There will certainly be a good crop in the rain-fed areas this time", said a senior officer.

Crops spread over 5,000 acre damaged
One killed in shed collapse
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 14
The hailstorm that lashed the region on the night of February 12 damaged crops spread over 5,000 acres.

Reports received from Sriganganagar indicated that the hailstorm had lashed areas falling under Gharsana and Fazilka.

More than 70 per cent of the mustard crop and 60 per cent of the wheat crop had been damaged.

The hailstorm was preceded by a high velocity duststorm in some areas close to the Pakistan border.

Mr Sunil Madan and Mr Jasmat Singh, residents of Kotha Pukki village along the border, said over telephone that Dulapur Keri, Odki, Sajawalpur, Kotha Pukki and Hindumalkot, near the border, were among the villages worst affected.

The storm lashed the region for between 25 and 35 minutes, they added.

Similar reports were received from the Kararwala, Sadulshehar, Motasar, Faquirwali, Netewala, Lalgarh, Chamarkhera and Padampur areas. Heavy rain claimed one life whereas hundreds of houses were damaged.

The boundary wall of the Nehru Park, recently inaugurated by Madhya Pradesh Governor Bal Ram Jakhar, had collapsed and virtually converted into a lake.

The hailstorm that lashed the town at 7.15 pm yesterday continued for half an hour, bringing vehicular traffic to a complete halt.

Farmers rued that though legislators had promised a compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, most of them were offered cheques worth between Rs 56 and Rs 2000.

Cheques’ distribution had to be postponed as the model code of conduct had come into force by then.

An employee of a local footwear showroom was killed when the shed of a gurdwara on the Kandhwala road collapsed on the night of February 12.

The victim had taken shelter under the shed along with others due to the heavy rain.


‘Political’ birds back in nests
But journey far from over
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
After a tireless flight through days, political “birds” are back in their nests. But none of them seems to be resting or so says the fret in their voices.

“I would have loved to put my feet up, but there is no way I can,” says Patiala MP Preneet Kaur, who had no respite from hectic schedules even today.

While her husband and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had to rush to Chandigarh after casting his ballot yesterday, she went on to tour her constituency and thank voters on her husband’s behalf. “I was so humbled by the way they came to vote despite the dull weather,” she said.

Later, she remained busy collecting field reports from workers for whom she plans to organise a thanksgiving now.

She was equally thankful to family members and friends who had been supporting her for months.

A special reference in this context was made to NRI Sukhinder Singh Mansahia, who has been in Patiala since October just to help the “Rani” manage her meetings and affairs.

A confidant, Mansahia was by her side as she drew an outline for the Patiala Heritage Festival, which is round the corner.

“Being chairperson of the Punjab Heritage Festival Committee, I have loads of work to do,” she said.

Back in Chandigarh, her better half had a meeting to attend yesterday. He took a quick overview of the law and order situation in the state before heading to Delhi. Sources in the Punjab bureaucracy said the Chief Minister spent the entire morning yesterday speaking to his party candidates from other constituencies and boosting their morale.

“He did not rest even for a second at his official residence,” said a senior officer, adding that the Chief Minister’s Delhi visit had a political purpose.

The “Rani”, however, was oblivious of the Chief Minister’s Delhi programme, as she said: “I don’t know if he has gone. I have barely spoken to him except for election planning.”

In the Badal camp, too, rest was not a priority. While Sukhbir Badal moved around Majha all day before settling down in Amritsar yesterday, his father Parkash Singh Badal was in Lambi trying to get rest, as he was running fever.

He had, however, not returned home until he had toured Malout and Lambi.

Today, he was at peace in his village, as his friends came calling on him.

Sukhbir had other plans. He offered prayers at Golden Temple yesterday. And now he plans to leave for Delhi, where his children have been living with their maternal grandmother for many days.

“I will take them for a holiday before I return for campaigning in Beas and Valtoha. I will be back by February 16,” he said.

He was accompanied by wife Harsimrat, whose support in elections, he said, was “precious”.

At another end in Lehra Gaga, an anxious Rajinder Kaur Bhattal spent the day with her people.

Although there were reports she would return to Chandigarh, she preferred to tour her constituency yesterday and remained inaccessible.

But today she sounded less anxious and more in control. “I am confident of victory. My constituency loves me despite everything,” she said, hoping to relax.


Assembly to be dissolved on Feb 27
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
The Punjab Assembly will be dissolved on February 27.

Sources today said a meeting of the Council of Ministers would be held on either February 23 or 24 to recommend the dissolving of the state Assembly to the Governor.

The recommendation of the Council of Ministers will be forwarded to the Governor in the morning on February 27, the day the counting of votes in Assembly segments will be held. On the same morning, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will submit his resignation to the Governor.

Acting on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, the Governor will issue orders to dissolve the Assembly and accept the resignation of the Chief Minister. However, he will be asked to continue till alternative arrangements are made, that is the formation of the new government. " It is a standard procedure that is followed at the time of the formation of a new government following the Assembly elections", said a senior officer. The Chief Minister has to submit his resignation even if his party comes to power again.

Following the results of the elections, the Chief Secretary will call on the leader of the party that gets the majority in the elections. The leader will give information about the programme regarding the formation of the government to the Chief Secretary, who will further convey the same to the Governor. After that the Governor will invite the person who is elected leader of the legislative wing of the winning party for the swearing-in ceremony.


Of those who weren’t allowed to vote
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Mukerian, February 14
A large number of voters, who braved adverse weather to arrive at polling stations from far-off places, had to return disappointed.

These were registered voters, who had cast their vote in previous elections, but could not vote as their names could not be located in the list this time.

The fate was no different for people, who did not have valid identity cards, but had their names in the voters list. “I pleaded and requested the returning officer to let me vote. I showed him my official identity card issued at the place of my employment, but he said no and did not relent”, said Mohinder Kaur, a government teacher who had to return home drenched in rain.

Several NRIs, holding Indian passports, who had come all the way from the United Kingdom to participate in the poll process were more than disappointed not to find their names in the voter lists.

President of the Indian Overseas Congress Bhagwan Dass Badhan said, “I had voted in the last Assembly elections. I am registered voter and have been here every time there has been a poll. I was not only surprised, but badly disappointed for not being able to vote.”

According to him, many of the 55 NRIs that accompanied him to vote in the Sham Chaurasi Assembly segment did not find their names in the lists. As per estimates, there would be 200-odd NRIs from across the globe who faced a similar predicament.

In Hoshiarpur city, 12 members of a family, who had come to vote at the polling booth set up at the Civil Supply Office, had to return without exercising their franchise, despite the fact that they had identity cards with them. Janta Dal worker Balwant Singh Khera said that the party intends to file a complaint before the election commission. In Hazipur, falling in the Mukerian Assembly segment, 40 odd people found their names missing in booth numbers 134 to 136.


Focus shifts to Valtoha, Beas
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
The political focus has shifted to the Valtoha and Beas Assembly seats where the polling is to be held on February 24 and March 11, respectively. All of a sudden both segments have become extremely important for the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal, the main contenders for power in Punjab.

As various exit polls as well as the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal are expecting a close finish in the 115 Assembly segments where the polling was held yesterday, the leadership of both parties has become hyperactive with regard to the elections in the two segments. As the political stakes are high for both parties, there will be intense competition in the two segments.

In Valtoha, the polling was postponed to February 24 following the death of the CPI candidate, Kulwinder Singh, in a road accident a few days ago. The CPI has named his wife, Kirandeep, as its new candidate. The SAD has put up Mr Virsa Singh and the Congress Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar.

In Beas, the polling was postponed to March 11 following the killing of an Akali supporter. The candidates include Mr Manjinder Singh Kang (SAD-BJP) and Mr Jasbir Singh Gill,who is also known as Dimpa (Congress). A petition has been filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court praying for the holding of the polling in the Beas segment on February 24, along with that in Valtoha .

The SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has already started marshalling his forces for the Valtoha constituency. He has convened a meeting of senior leaders of the party and party candidates who were in the election fray and now are free to campaign in the Valtoha segment, in Sindhwa village, near Khalra, on February 16. Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, secretary of the SAD, said the meeting had been called to assign duties to party leaders for campaigning in the Valtoha segment.

It appears all senior SAD leaders will be allotted villages for intensive campaigning.The leaders will be told to camp in the villages allocated to them till the end of the campaigning, it is learnt. Earlier, Mr Badal had adopted this mode of campaigning in certain Assembly byelections.

Likewise, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has also started planning his strategy for the two segments. He was away to Delhi today to hold consultations with senior leaders of the party, it is learnt. He has, according to sources, planned to direct his party leaders, including MLAs and Ministers, to camp in both segments to ensure the victory of the party candidates there.


FIR against TV channel for poll law violation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
The Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, Mr Sundaram Krishna, today asked all Deputy Commissioners in Punjab to file FIRs against the NDTV news channel for allegedly violating the electoral law on carrying out outcome projections during polling hours.

The FIRs will have to be registered immediately in the constituencies where NDTV carried out its “insta poll.” This was like an exit poll carried out by NDTV yesterday afternoon even as the polling was on across Punjab.

According to sources, the commission's orders came after NDTV allegedly violated Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, when it continuously showed the ''Assembly constituency basis'' exit poll.

Showing instant exit poll results, the sources added, could influence the election process.

Meanwhile, the CEO has also ordered a re-poll in Bal village, Qadian constituency. The re-poll has been necessitated as crucial documents relating to the poll process were misplaced.

The Director-General of Police, Mr R.S. Gill, today said that the high voter turnout of 76 per cent was an indication that the people of Punjab turned out to exercise their democratic right without any fear. This was the result of concerted efforts put in by the security forces in creating confidence among voters and a conducive atmosphere for smooth, fair and free polling.

He said that except for a few heated exchanges and minor scuffles there was no incident of firing, arson, looting or booth-capturing on the day of the polling. There was a significant decline in poll-related violence. There were just seven cases of serious offences like murder, attempt to murder and grievous hurt registered during the poll process. In comparison, in the 2002 elections 27 such cases were registered.


Poll duty staff killed in mishap, 6 hurt
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, February 14
One member of the election duty staff was killed on the spot while six others sustained injuries, when a bus ferrying them collided with a tractor trolley loaded with iron rods near Goraya on the national highway last night.

According to reports received here today morning, the bus (PB-08-8861) ferrying the staff was returning from Phillaur to Jalandhar when the tractor trolley collided with the bus. The deceased was identified as Diwan Singh of Jalandhar, while Ajit Singh, Jasbir Singh, Sodhi Ram, Deepak Sharma, Rajeev Kumar and Jagdish Raj were among those injured. They were referred to a hospital in Phagwara. The police has impounded the tractor trolley, but its driver managed to escape.


Hindu jatha leaves for Pak today
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 14
A 200-member Hindu jatha, slated to cross over to Pakistan tomorrow to visit Katasraj for celebrating Shivratri, arrived here today.

The jatha will take along marble idols of Radha and Krishna to the ancient Katasraj temple in Chakwal district of Punjab province in Pakistan as part of celebration of Shivratri on February 16.

Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president, All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, told The Tribune that the idols would be installed at Katasraj. He demanded that Pakistan should allow four jathas of 500 members each to visit Katasraj, Hinglesh Devi in Baluchistan, Maharshi Balmiki Temple and other religious places every year.

Many idols in ancient Hindu temples in Pakistan are missing.

The leader of the jatha, Mr Sardari Lal Goswami, said 266 persons had applied for the visa, but only 200 got it.

Mr Harnam Das Arora, president, Durgiana Management Committee, presented siropas to the members of the jatha.


Women, rural folk play key role in high polling
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar/Mansa, February 14
Rural population and women played a vital role in making Mansa the district with the highest polling in yesterday's Assembly poll. Surprisingly, it is listed as one of the most backward districts the state.

The district witnessed 85.47 per cent polling as against last election’s figure of 72 per cent. Out of the total of 5.46 lakh voters, 4.66 lakh exercised their franchise yesterday. Of these, 2.47 lakh were men and 2.19 lakh were women. Rural population also made its presence felt in heavy polling, as 16 villages witnessed over 95 per cent polling.

Interestingly, none of them have a high school. There were 86 other villages which saw over 90 per cent polling. These figures underline the awareness among people of the district, which has been grappling with lack of educational amenities since Independence. The polling percentage in each of the four Assembly constituencies of the district crossed 80 per cent mark, with Sardulgarh topping the list with 89.29 per cent, followed by Joga — 85.14 per cent, Mansa — 81.29 per cent and Budhlada — over 80 per cent.

The high polling percentage also brings to light the tough fight contestants were facing in these constituencies.

Meanwhile, Muktsar, too, has equalled the polling percentage of Mansa, as it crossed 85 per cent mark after the final tally came in last night. Out of the total of 5,52,211 voters, 4,70,410 cast their vote in the poll. The high-profile constituencies of Lambi and Gidderbaha crossed perhaps unprecedented figure of 87 per cent polling. The polling stood at 84.43 per cent in Muktsar, while it was over 81 per cent in the Malout Assembly seat. Like Mansa, women voted in large numbers in the district and they accounted for over 40 per cent vote in each constituency.


Punjab to start train for foreign tourists
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 14
Rajasthan has the ‘Palace on Wheels' while Maharashtra has the`Deccan Odyssey', both luxury trains that are minting money and both are the favourites of foreign tourists. Now Punjab will have its own luxury train which will chug along by the name of ‘Punjab Di Train’.

The Punjab Heritage and Promotion Board, a Punjab government undertaking, in collaboration with the Indian Railway Catering ad Tourism Corporation, has decided to start a luxury train, Punjab Di Train, under the Indian Railway's ‘Assistance for Large Revenue Generating scheme.' A high powered committee has been constituted by the Punjab Government to oversee the coordination of the train which will be an inter state venture.

The Punjab Chief Secretary will be the Chairman of this committee while the other members will be Principal Secretary (Finance), Mrs Geetika Kalha, Principal Secretary (Tourism), Managing Director, Punjab Infrastructure Development Board, a representative of the Northern railways, the Deputy Commissioners of Patiala, Amritsar and Rupnagar, Commissioners of the Amritsar and Patiala Municipal Corporations, Punjab Director (Tourism) and the PRTC Managing Director Mr Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon who will also be the member Secretary of the Committee.

There will also be an executive committee whose Chairperson will be Ms Geetika Kalha. The other members will be the Punjab Director (Tourism), Managing Director, Punjab Infrastructure Development Board and Mr S.D.S Dhillon, Managing Director of PRTC who will be the executive committee's Member Secretary.


Tribune lensman bereaved
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 14
The Patiala-based photographer of The Tribune, Rajesh Sachar, was bereaved when his father, Mubarak Rai Sachar, died after a prolonged illness here today.

The body of Mubarak Rai Sachar (64) will be cremated at the Rajpura Road cremation ground tomorrow at 11 a.m.


HC orders fresh probe into NIT ragging death case
Anuradha Shukla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has entrusted a reinvestigation of NIT ragging case allegedly leading to the death of first year engineering student Amit Gangwar to the Additional Director General of Police, Punjab (Crime). On a petition filed by the father of the deceased Naib Subedar Triveni Sahai, that the challan filed against the 10 accused named by Amit in a note found after his death did not include the name of the main accused named by him in the FIR, Rahul Bora, and also that the management of the B.R. Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, has been allowed to go scot free, the High Court ordered that a reinvestigation be conducted on the same and a supplementary challan, if necessary, be filed.

The High Court, in its January 25, 2007, orders, also directed the ADGP, Punjab (Crime) to entrust the further investigation within three days to a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which should be headed by an IPS officer along with one or two police officers not below the rank of DSP as its members. The SP Jalandhar Zone Crime Branch, Mr Kamal Kumar, now heads the investigation.

The High Court also directed that the reinvestigation by the SIT be completed by February 28. The SIT had been directed to decide whether or not the prosecution witnesses be produced in the trial court on March 20.

Talking of the allegation made by petitioner Triveni Sahai that the accused were out on bail and were threatening and or trying to influence the prosecution witnesses, the court allowed the petitioner to move an application for the cancellation of the bail of the accused in the case and the same shall be disposed of within a period of seven days.

Naib Subedar Triveni Sahai, father of deceased Amit Kumar Gangwar, had alleged that severe harassment during ragging had led to the death of his son who had taken admission in NIT, Jalandhar, for a course in Industrial Engineer.


Case against Badal adjourned for today
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 14
After hearing the arguments of defence counsels against the framing of charges in a corruption case involving SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and others, the Special Court Judge, Mr G.S Saran, today adjourned the case for tomorrow for further arguments.

While arguing for two accused Pavitar Singh and Harbansh Lal in the case, the defence counsels said the evidence against these accused were not admissible.

Mr Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal did not appear in the case. They had got exemption from the personal appearance today in the case.


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