P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Exit polls predict strong opposition in Punjab: Expert
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
“The voting pattern in Punjab elections is welcome news for the state of democracy,” said Mr Yogender Yadav, a leading psephologist and political scientist, here today.

In the city to attend a seminar organised by the Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Mr Yadav said in an interview to The Tribune that Punjab was back to normal, secular politics as there was no panthic or religious agenda in these elections. He added that the exit polls were predicting the presence of a strong opposition in the state, which again was a positive thing for the state.

Collaborating with CNN IBN for an exit poll, Mr Yadav said their exit poll had calculated an almost equal number of seats for the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine. He admitted that he was surprised with the results of the exit poll. “Traditionally Punjabis have always voted for a change and this time it was the turn of the Akalis to come back to power which is what I was expecting six months ago. But when the first field results of our poll started coming in I realised there was something different happening,” he said.

He said Punjab had seen a close election, which would throw up many surprises in terms of regional equations. “Malwa for example is a traditionally a Jat Sikh vote bank of the Akalis spread over both the rural and urban areas. But this time Congress seems to have an upper hand here. The main reason being that the traditional SAD Panthic plank was missing and the Congress managed to score well with the peasants,” he said.

He further pointed out that Doaba which abounded in the Congress Dalit vote had this time tilted in favour of SAD -BJP alliance.

The Majha had traditionally swung between the Congress and SAD and this time it seems to have swung decisively in favour of the SAD-BJP. “The reason that Congress lost its hold in Doaba and Majha is mainly because it re-nominated many of its sitting MLAs from here who had not performed well,” he said.

When asked about the credibility of exit polls, Mr Yadav said politicians in India had not got used to handling pre-poll and exit-poll surveys. “While the exit poll industry itself is nascent in this country the reaction of politicians is even more infantile,” he said.

Reacting to the high-polling percentage in the state he said this was due to the sense of keen contest that was prevailing for the elections. “This was missing in 1997 when everyone had presumed that the SAD would win and in 2002 that the Congress would win. When there is a close contest, the voter feels that his vote matters and also candidates mobilise voters better,” he said.


Voters befuddle pollsters
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 15
The dynamics of Punjab elections-2007 have become a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Unlike the past, when pollsters made hay by predicting to near perfection the outcome of the poll once the exercise was over in the evening, this time utter confusion prevails and nearly all pollsters worth their salt are still making hazy guesses which is further confounding the electorate.

This time the Punjab elections witnessed an amazing and historic phenomenon - that of nearly 76 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise. And this despite the fact that the rain god decided not to be kind to the electorate of this agrarian state as continuous rains lashed the region on the D-day. But that did not prevent people from coming out in large numbers to push the electronic voting machine (EVM) button.

This phenomenon in itself has confounded the layman and the experts alike. Even the sleuths of different intelligence agencies operated by state and central government, who were put on duty to form an opinion about the outcome of poll, are a confused lot.

On the other hand, a cross-section of experts, when interviewed by TNS, disclosed that such a heavy polling indicates a sure shot ‘anti-incumbency wave' hitting the state.

However, on the other side of the coin is the argument that the heavy turnout means a ‘vote for the king' due to the various developmental policies initiated by the state government under his stewardship.

They point out that one of the major factors which led to the heavy polling was that due to the adverse weather conditions the working and labour class, who normally do not venture out to cast their votes, had little else to do on a rain-marred day and finally decided to take part in the electoral process.

Another set of experienced political observers too seemed to be confused terming the present elections as one of the most `fuswi' (tight) election ever seen by them. They disclosed that though there was no particular wave in favour of any of the main contenders--the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance --and even then people came out in droves to cast their votes.

Normally, political analysts believe that in the absence of any particular wave, which can sway the elections results in favour of a particular political party, people are reluctant to come out in the open to exercise their franchise and normally they keep their cards close to their chests.


‘Dera’ culture raises clergy’s hackles
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 15
Concerned by the fact that the religious ‘deras’ in Punjab and Haryana can influence election prospects in the state, the Sikh high priests have been contemplating a meeting at Akal Takht shortly to formulate Dharm Parchar programme to check rising ‘dera culture’ in the state, especially in the Malwa belt, having proximity with Haryana.

The support extended by religious leadership of the ‘dera’ had given sleepless nights to the Shiromani Akali Dal candidates, thereby giving a new twist to the electoral and religio-politics of the cotton belt of Malwa. Obviously, the call, described as “fatwa” by political observers, has come as a surprise to the radical Sikhs too.

The initial decision of the political wing of the Dera Sacha Sauda (Haryana) to vote for the Congress had made senior leaders of other parties including the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP to make rounds of the ‘dera’, seeking ‘blessings of the dera chief’. The advertisements, making claims and counter-claims on support, later ‘being neutral’ had established beyond doubt the ‘Premis’ (followers of Sant Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh) could ensure victory of any political party in the elections. ‘No election could be won without their support’, most of the residents claim. Though the big advertisements published on behalf of the dera chief had claimed that such diktat was never issued, yet radical Sikhs feel that the SGPC had failed to do ‘Dharm Parchar’ in the Malwa belt properly that led to the mushrooming of ‘Deras’ in Punjab and adjoining states. Though certain ‘Deras’ have been implementing the ‘maryada’ (Sikh code of conduct) as formulated by the SGPC and Akal Takht, but most of the ‘Deras’ have their different codes of conduct.

Earlier the Communist Party of India (CPI) had complained to the Election Commission of India (EC) seeking disqualification of some candidates for using religious ‘deras’ in the Assembly elections.

Followers of the ‘dera’, called “premis”, have a substantial presence in Sardulgarh, Talwandi Sabo, Pakka Kalan, Bathinda, Nathana, Mansa, Budhlada, Gidderbaha, Lehragaga, Lambi, Rampura Phul, Joga, Barnala, Dhanaula, Bhadaur, Dirbha, Sunam, Sangrur, Kotkapura and Muktsar segments. They are a decisive factor in certain constituencies.


Rare surgery restores Nigerian’s vision
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, February 15
Tears roll down the eyes of 22-year-old Nigerian Esther, who got her vision back through a rare artificial cornea implant surgery performed at Dr Daljit Singh eye hospital here.

Addressing mediapersons today, Padma Shri Dr Daljit Singh and Dr Indu R Singh who performed the revolutionary "keratoprosthesis" or artificial cornea implant said Esther had lost her sight in a major car mishap two years ago and had been refused surgery in view of the severity of the injury.

A senior ophthalmologist from Nigeria, Dr Oluydi, who had been treating her while surfing stumbled upon the website of Dr Daljit Singh, came to know about the surgery. He persuaded the family of the Esther to visit Amritsar, also known as Mecca of eye treatment in the medical world.

Describing this rare surgery, Dr Indu who led the team of doctors, said the most unusual part of the surgery was the implantation of the artificial cornea in the white part of the eye, avoiding the badly damaged cornea thereby creating an alternative path for vision which has been known in the medical term as "Para Limbal Scleral Window".

Dr Indu said on the removal of the bandage on the fourth day, Esther had her 80 per cent vision restored. Unable to mumble out the right expression, she cried as she saw the face of her mother who accompanied her and the doctor.

Dr Indu said Esther could now move about independently and even read bold print. Dr Oluydi who persuaded the family of Esther to trip to Amritsar described the city as Mecca of eye treatment in the world.

Dr Daljit Singh said he had been researching artificial cornea grafting in 1979 and later trained Dr Indu who designed the artificial cornea through sustained work.


Cong’s secularism unmasked: Dhindsa
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
The secretary-general of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, says the mask of secularism donned by the Congress was removed in the Assembly elections in Punjab.

He said it had been proved beyond doubt that the Congress was a communal party and could go to any extent to achieve its political ends.

Addressing a press conference , he said the Congress openly sought votes in the name of religion in the state. The support taken by it from the Sacha Sauda dera was a clear proof of this. He said the SAD had been saying for several decades that the Congress had been ruling the country by dividing people in the name of religion and by engineering communal clashes to remain in power. The Congress had used the Sacha Sauda dera for its electoral politics, he added.

He said the political wing of the dera might have caused some political harm to the SAD by issuing an edict to support the Congress in the Assembly elections, but the dera too suffered a loss of credibility in the eyes of those who used to consider it as a purely religious organisation.

Mr Dhindsa said it had been reported that the dera had supported the Congress under pressure from the CBI. “ But no religious organisation should bow to any sort of pressure and should maintain its neutrality”, he added. SAD supporters became more active when the dera announced its support for the Congress.

He said the SAD-BJP combine would form the government in Punjab and all Congress stalwarts, including the CM, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Congress chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo would be defeated.


All mega projects will be probed, says Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 15
Confident about SAD-BJP alliance victory in the state, SAD General Secretary Sukhbir Badal has said that an inquiry will be initiated against all mega projects ‘sanctioned through corrupt practices’ during the Congress regime.

A commission will also be constituted to prosecute, as per law, all those involved in corruption. He said this while talking to mediapersons after attending a hearing at a Special Court in Ropar this evening.

We are hopeful to get between 85 to 95 seats to form government. After coming to power, our priority would be economic development of the state, he added.


Ex-minister accused of anti-party activities
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 15
Resentment is brewing among SAD workers over the alleged dubious role of ex-minister Mr Chiranji Lal Garg and his son Rajan Garg in the recently held Assembly elections.

As per a release issued here today, a meeting was held in this regard under the leadership of district SAD chief Sikander Singh Maluka. It was alleged that the father-son duo indulged in anti-party activities in Bathinda and Rampura Phul Assembly seats. They were also accused of aiding the Congress candidates Mr Harminder Singh Jassi and Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who contested from these constituencies.

In a resolution passed at the meeting, the SAD leaders stated that some party workers themselves told them as to how they were "instigated to vote against the party".


EC has failed to hold fair poll: BSP
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 15
The Election Commission has failed to conduct free and fair elections in Punjab as liquor, money and wheat were freely distributed among the people by candidates of the major political parties to lure the voters.

Alleging this, Mr Surinder Arjun, BSP candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat and Amritsar Central Assembly constituency in the recently held elections, in a press conference here yesterday said that the election observers had failed to initiate any action against such candidates despite repeated reminders.

He said even the vehicles provided by the district transport authorities to ferry security men for the security of the candidates after the polling had been withdrawn. The observers had also failed to check the expenditures by the candidates during the campaigns.


Foundation stones are all what Lohara has
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Lohara (Moga), February 15
Elections come and go by but the residents of this dusty village keep their hopes high that one day their village would witness a string of development works, the promises of which have been made by politicians from time to time. What consolidates their hopes is the more than 30 foundation stones, some of which were laid more than a decade ago, which are scattered across the village.

Lohara has only seen foundations stones being laid in the name of development. The villagers boost of having the maximum number of foundations stones installed with promises of development.

Some stones in the village, which is visited by thousands of pilgrims daily, who come to pay obeisance at Baba Damu Shah Shrine have been laid twice by different political leaders to flatter the villagers and visitors at the same time. These are standing testimonies to the fact how politicians forget their promises once they are in power.

A foundation stone was laid to build a polytechnic college in the Baba's name in March 1996 by the then Technical Education Minister. The land for the purpose was donated by the villagers. This project never took off and now even the stone has gone missing. Prime land worth crores of rupees donated by the village Panchayat is lying unutilised.

In September 1996, another foundation stone was erected for setting up an 11-KV feeder that was promised for the village. This project also failed to take shape.

Similarly, the foundation stones installed in 1995 and 1996 are all that remain at the proposed sites of an ayurvedic and a veterinary dispensary in the village.

In March 1996, the then Cooperatives Minister had laid the foundation stone of a stadium but today the only construction on the site is a decaying boundary wall.

Dozens of other foundations stones of some proposed works are also standing here mocking at the undying expectations of the villagers, who still hope that one day these projects would materialise and might lead to prosperity of the area.


Punjabi musical play artistes awarded
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 15
Mr S.K. Girdhar, a great connoisseur of art, advised the Patiala Theatre artists to expand their activities in other parts of the country and abroad. He said quality theatre could have good response and scope of marketing like visual arts, Indian antiques and traditional jewellery. Mr S.K. Girdhar, a widely travelled businessman, based in Patiala was presiding over the felicitation session of a Punjabi musical play "Sanu Kee", staged by the National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS), here today.

Mr Pran Sabharwal, Director of National Theatre Arts Society, expressed gratitude to Mr Girdhar for his noble gesture of awarding 14 wrist watches to the NTAS artists in appreciation of their performance. Mr Sabharwal said the NTAS neither charged fees from the trainees nor levied tickets at theatre performances as per the old tradition of Indian theatre. The government and affluent art lovers should come forward to support the cause of theatre in the country, he said.


Stone of judicial complex laid
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 15
Mr Justice Vijender Jain, Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, laid the foundation stone of a new judicial courts complex for Dasuya at Khera Kotli village, 40 km from here, today.

The complex will have six court rooms and the same number of residential quarters for judges, a lawyers chamber and a shed for litigants in 8 acres and 3 marlas. The complex will be constructed with a cost of Rs 11.63 crore. Addressing the gathering, Mr Justice Vijender Jain said Dasuya will have a magnificent new judicial courts complex.


Nabard plans new scheme for farmers
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
Punjab is no longer the land of plenty. The state has gained infamy for having the third largest extent of indebtedness in India, after Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. However, the magnitude of indebtedness in rural households is the highest in the country, with per capita debt of Rs 41, 576.

These figures, revealed through the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) estimates, has been released by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) today, along with the State Focus Paper for Punjab, for the coming financial year.

Use of loans for non-agriculture activities like marriages and social functions; and, financial exclusion of small and marginal farmers have contributed to the high level of rural indebtedness in the state. While 33 per cent of loans taken by farmers in the state account for non-productive loans, an astounding 34.60 per cent farmers in the state remain financially excluded. Over 37 per cent of these financially excluded farmers were small and marginal farmers.

Social groupwise, the financial exclusion was more in the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (46.05 per cent) and backward classes (36. 17 per cent).

Considering the sorry state of affairs in Punjab, NABARD has recommended that small and marginal farmers in a congruous area be brought together to form producer-group companies so that they have economies of scale with externalities and can gain better bargaining powers with good volumes of produce at hand.

“Since these farmers are either in debt or out of banking outreach net, the principle of group dynamics would work well for them. We will ensure a tie-up of these producer companies with big retail chains like Bharti, Reliance and Godrej Agrovet, who will help them in better technology adoption, increase in productivity, improvement in quality of produce and better price for the produce by adoption of contract farming and direct sale to retailers,” informed a senior officer at the Punjab and Haryana Regional Office of NABARD.


Fine slapped on info officer

Patiala, February 15
The Punjab State Information Commission has imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on the Public Information Officer of the Punjab Medical Council for a delay in supplying information pertaining to one Dr Gurmeet Singh against whom a local resident had alleged that his wife's death had occurred due to the doctor's negligence.

A local resident Mr Harnek Singh, who resides at 127, Sewak colony, had complained that Dr Gurmeet Singh had conducted a gall bladder stone surgery operation on his wife on August 11, 2004 after which she had died allegedly owing to negligence on the part of Dr Gurmeet Singh.’ Subsequently, Mr Harnek Singh had complained against the erring doctor to the Medical Council of India which had forwarded the complaint to the Registrar, Punjab Medical Council, for `investigation and necessary action' under the Indian Medical Council (professional conduct, etiquette and ethics) regulations, 2002. The Punjab Medical Council, in its reply to the Punjab State Information Commission, had stated that` no negligence had been found on the part of the operating doctor.'.

Not satisfied with this, Mr Harnek Singh submitted to the commission that "He wanted to know as to what was the medical basis on which the conclusion was reached by the Punjab Medical Council." On hearing both the parties, the commission had directed the council to give the medical details within a month.

However, with the council failing to provide the information, the commission decided to impose a fine of Rs 5,000 on the Public Information Officer of the council because “no satisfactory explanation had been given by the respondent (Punjab Medical Council) for the inordinate delay made in supplying a copy of the proceedings to the complainant," noted the commission.

The Chief Information Commissioner also noted that " the Disciplinary Committee of the council seems to have dealt with the case in a perfunctory manner. The committee has not recorded its medical reasons for the conclusion absolving the doctor concerned of negligence." — TNS


JE booked for not doing poll duty
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, February 15
On the directions of SDM-cum-Returning Officer Fazilka, the city police today registered a case against Hakam Singh, Junior Engineer, Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Fazilka, under Article 34 of Public Representation Act 1954 for allegedly not performing election duty.

It has been stated in a letter written to police by the Returning officer that Hakam Singh was assigned the duty as Supervising Officer in reserve by the District Magistrate-cum-District Returning officer but he did not attend the rehearsal on January 30. The

Returning Officer served him a notice for his absence the same day in reply to which the JE assured to attend the duty in future. But he failed to turn up for election duty on February 12 and 13.


Record seizure of liquor, says police
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
The Punjab Police has claimed that it made a record seizure of liquor from various parts of the state in the days ahead of the Assembly elections.

The police seized 45,562 litres of unaccounted liquor from various places in the state. In terms of number of bottles, this means about 60,000 bottles of 750 ml each.

Another 7,422 litres of illicit liquor was also seized apart from 11,782 kg of lahan. Lahan is used in the manufacture of illicit liquor. The maximum seizure of lahan was 2,290 kg from Amritsar district. Similarly, the maximum seizure of illicit liquor (1,653 litres) was made in Ropar. The maximum seizure of unaccounted liquor (12,982 litres) was made in Barnala, a spokesperson of the police said today.


10 injured in clash, 45 rounded up
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla , February 15
Ten persons were injured seriously in a clash between two groups at Beri Wala mohalla here today.

The seriously injured persons, including Sarbari wife of Mohd Sharif, Balkish Bano wife of Mohd Yameen, Safian wife of Mohd Mushtaq, Mohd Bundu son of Rehmatulla, Bashiran wife of Abdul Rehman and Mohd Iqbal son of Mohd Siraj were admitted to the Civil Hospital here. Mohd Bundu and Bashiran were referred to Ludhiana due to the serious condition.

According to information one group wanted to take possession of the government land under other group’s possession.

Mild lathi charge was carried out by the police on both groups to disperse clashing members.


Seminar on clash of civilisations
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 15
The Guru Gobind Singh Department of Religious Studies of Punjabi University today organised a seminar on ‘The Clash of Civilisations and the Role of Religion’. Dr Rajesh Sharma from the Department of English, Punjabi University and Syed Nooruzzaman, Assistant Editor of The Tribune, were the main speakers at the seminar.

The seminar was presided over by Dr Gurbhagat Singh former Professor of English. Mr Nooruzzaman described the clash of civilizations as just a myth. According to him the real issue “is an attempt to impose western culture on people who are bitterly resisting this attempt. The popularity of the use of terrorist methods is a reaction against attempts of American domination and it comes out of strong feelings of resentment”. Mr Nooruzzaman traced the global scenario of conflict, particularly since September 11, 2001.

Dr Rajesh Sharma critically examined the methodology and logic of Samuel P. Huntington in his book 'The Clash of Civilizations'.

He stated that the hypothesis of ‘Civilisational Clash’ is only a fig-leaf to conceal the American neo-liberal and hegemonic agenda.

He cited evidence against Hungtington's hypothesis and also discussed the arguments against it by Amartya Sen. “The real clash is over the global resources and it can be avoided if we can democratically manage diversity and dissect at the global level”, he said.

In his Presidential remarks, Mr Gurbhagat Singh also dismissed Huntington's argument, including his fear of a looming clash between civilisations.

According to him, only a balance between cultural identity and openness to other cultures could ensure a peaceful future for the globe.

Dr Pradyumna Shah Singh of the Department of Religious Studies read a paper prepared by Dr Swaraj Singh on the topic.

The seminar was attended, among others, by Dr Rajinder Pal Brar, Dr Sarabjinder Singh, Dr Gurunek Singh, Dr H.S Boparai, Dr G.S Sidhu, Dr Jodh Singh.

Dr Harpal Singh Pannu, HOD, inaugurated the seminar, while Dr Darshan Singh introduced the theme and the speakers.


Coaching for PMT, CET from March 28
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 15
The IAS and the Allied Services Training Centre of Punjabi University will start coaching classes for the PMT and CET from March 28 for the SC, OBC and minority communities and also for the general category candidates.

Mr G.S. Bajwa, Director of the centre, said interested and eligible candidates, who were appearing in Class X and XI examinations or had passed Class X and XI with 50 per cent marks and intended to appear in the IAS and the allied services test, could apply on a plain paper along with three latest passport size photographs and attested copies of testimonials by February 20.

Interview for the PMT will be held on February 24 and CET on February 25, at the IAS Training Centre at 10 am. The Director of the Centre, Mr G.S. Bajwa, could be contacted on 0175-3046351 and 3046352, for further details.


Conference on IT begins today

Patiala, February 15
A two-day conference on "Recent advances in future trends in IT (RAFIT 2007) will be organised by the Department of Computer Science of Punjabi University from February 16.

The series of conference was started in 2006 and now has attained the status of well-established platform for sharing views regarding the recent trends and developments in the area of IT. The thrust areas of the conference will be natural language processing, pattern recognition, image processing and data communication. Mr M.Moni, Deputy Director-General (National Informatics Centre), who has been working for computerisation in the rural areas will be the chief guest for the inaugural function of the conference. — TNS


Protest rally by traders
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 15
A large number of traders today took out a rally claiming that Pardooman Kumar Jain, a 49-year-old businessman, who has been missing for the past 13 days, was kidnapped. They demanded arrest of the accused here today.

The traders led by Aridaman Jain, the brother of Pardooman, came from Bhagpat district of Uttar Pardesh as Pardooman belong to UP.

After taking out a protest march in the city, they submitted a memorandum to the police.

Aridaman Jain said that he suspect foul play and said his brother had been kidnapped.

Pardooman had come here on January 30 to monitor the pharmaceutical factory functioning in Nalagarh along with others partners. He had been staying in the rented accommodation at Pakawad mohalla in Ropar. He went for a morning walk on January 3 and did not return back.

The SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, said that a special team headed by the SP (D) had been constituted. “we have got vital clue in the case,” he added.


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