P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Politicians ponder over record polling
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
Political parties and observers are trying to find the reason behind record polling in Punjab. Though politicians say that there were number of factors responsible for the unprecedented percentage of polling, however, most of them are unanimous to point out that the money played a major role in increasing the poll percentage this time. It may go up a little further following the polling in the two remaining seats-Valtoha and Beas.

Politicians, especially in the cotton belt, admit that votes ranging from 5 to 20 per cent were purchased in certain segments by supporters of the main political parties. Compared to other regions, the districts falling in the cotton belt have recorded 80 to 85 per cent of polling that jacked up the state polling average.

The CPI’s national executive member, Dr Joginder Dayal, said today that the Election Commission should conduct a probe to determine what led to such a high polling. Of course, there was a cutthroat competition among the main contenders-the SAD and the Congress-for power and because of this both parties tried hard to get maximum votes polled.

However, he said in a few villages 90 per cent polling was recorded. Such a polling percentage was not heard of even during panchayat elections, which were contested with much vigour and enthusiasm.

Dr Dayal said leaders of both parties aggressively purchased votes in the countryside and no one tried to stop them from doing so. “ As far as purchasing of votes is concerned, supporters of both parties did not impede each other's effort in this regard”, Dr Dayal added. He urged the Election Commission to find out how much vote was polled in the Malwa region after 3pm.

Mr Jagroop Singh, Secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPI, said this time people had an alternative in the shape of a third front. Many preferred to vote its candidate. It was one of the main reasons for the increase in voting percentage besides money.

Besides it, he said a large number of bogus voters were removed from the lists this time. Only genuine voters were listed in the electoral rolls because of the issuance of the voter identity cards. This had also resulted in high percentage of polling, he added.

Politicians say that the call given by the Dera Sacha Sauda was another factor responsible for this phenomenon. Followers of the dera, residing in the cotton belt, turned up in large numbers to cast their votes. This is evident from the highest percentage of polling recorded in the cotton belt.

The Secretary-General of the SAD, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, said party activists worked hard to ensure that supporters cast his or her vote to neutralize the dera’s call to support the Congress in the poll.


Singla denies hitting poll officer
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
Speaking on the case registered against him, the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, today said the Assistant Presiding Officer, Majitha, Mr S.S. Dhaliwal, lodged an FIR against him as an afterthought to save himself from violation of electoral laws.

Mr Singla said he never slapped Mr Dhaliwal. He also provided copies of the FIR in which he claimed overwriting had been done by the police on the crucial entries. Mr Singla has written to the Election Commission accusing Mr Dhaliwal of having guided an old woman to press the button to register her vote for the “lotus” on the electronic voting machine (EVM). The Lotus is the symbol of the BJP.

Mr Singla says: “I protested and brought the matter to the notice of the Presiding Officer, Mr Anil Sareen, who removed Mr Dhaliwal and the machine operator from poll duty”.

The old woman was accompanied by a young woman, hence Mr Dhaliwal, or any other staff, had no business to go within the enclosure where the EVM was kept.

As an afterthought, Mr Dhaliwal got registered an FIR to save himself for having violated electoral laws. Mr Singla has actually sought registration of an FIR against Mr Dhaliwal for having guided the woman to vote for a particular party.

Mr Singla pointed to the FIR against him. He said overwriting had been done to alter the time of receiving a complaint at the police station. Mr Singla showed that the time was originally mentioned as 11.50 a.m. This was latter changed to make it 10.50 a.m. Also the entry into the DDR was overwritten to change it from 7 in the serial number to 9 in the serial list. The time of this entry was also changed.

The minister said it is not that he had protested against the act of Mr Dhaliwal after the registration of an FIR. “My protest against Dhaliwal’s action was much before the FIR was registered, it was he who acted in afterthought and at the behest of my rival Navjot Singh Sidhu, the BJP candidate”.

Mr Singla has demanded an independent enquiry by high-level functionaries appointed by the EC.


Akali, Cong leaders to camp in Valtoha till Feb 24
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 16
All roads lead to Valtoha, the border constituency of newly carved out Tarn Taran district where senior leaders of the SAD and the Congress would be camping till February 24, the election day.

SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal took the lead and divided the constituency into 20 zones from where senior party leaders would give him minute to minute progress report. While the SAD president held a party meeting today, PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo would hold meeting of his party in Valtoha tomorrow. Mr Parminder Singh, media in charge of the PPCC, said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh would also visit Valtoha shortly.

As the political stakes are high for both parties, there will be intense competition between the two. The election in Valtoha had to be 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 widow Kirandeep as its new candidate. The SAD has put up Mr Virsa Singh Valtoha and the Congress Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar in the fray.

Both parties do not want to leave anything to chance in Valtoha, the result of which would be declared along with 115 Assembly seats on February 27. However, the election in Beas constituency would be curious since it would be held on March 11, twelve days after the declaration of the results, as the party which would win the majority would be able to have an edge.

The polling in Beas 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, a sitting MLA.


Electorate ‘reject’ women candidates
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
Despite a four time increase in the number of women candidates in the fray for Punjab Assembly poll in the past 25 years, the representation of women in the Assembly has not gone beyond 6 per cent.

This points to a startling fact that while more and more women are ready to throw their hat in the ring, its the electorate which is downrightly rejecting women candidates, preferring men to represent them. The same seems to be true for independent candidates. During this period, not a single independent woman candidate has made it to the assembly.

Equally surprising, the presence of a woman candidate does not move more women to come out and vote for another woman. Gender solidarity in Punjab politics is sadly missing.

During the 1980 elections, 19 women candidates were in the fray and only six made it to the Assembly. The number of women candidates increased to 33 in 1985 but only four made it. In 1992 the number of women candidates dropped to 22 and six won. In 1997 the number shot up to 52 but only seven women won. The number of women candidates was the highest in 2002 when 71 of them were in the fray. Yet again, only eight of them were elected to the Assembly. It’s no wonder that women issues are rarely raised in the Punjab Assembly.

This time as many as 55 women candidates were in the fray and it remains to be seen how many make it to the Assembly.

The number of women standing as independent candidates was just eight in 1980, it was 12 in 1985, eight in 1992, and 20 in 1997. In 2002, as many as 19 women independent candidates were in the fray, but not a single one has ever won elections.

Women candidates have not just been losing, but losing with disgraceful margins. In 2002, 52 out of the 71 women candidates who stood for elections had to forfeit their deposit. In 1997, 39 of the 52 women candidates had done the same. In 1985, 13 out of the 33 women candidates lost abysmally.

The only good news is that political parties are still launching women into politics. In 2002 when over 70 women were in the fray only 19 were independent candidates. The rest were candidates of political parties. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the BSP (A) launched 20 women candidates that year. In 1997, nine were Congress candidates, seven SAD and another seven BSP and BSP (A).

The biggest adversary of a woman candidate seems to be the women electorate itself. In 1980, three women were contesting for the Chamkaur Sahib seat- Satwant Kaur, Harbans Kaur and Navjot Kaur. Satwant Kaur of the SAD was voted to victory when she was polled 23,352 votes with the other two independent candidates could barely get 600 votes put together. Only 40 per cent of the total women voters of the constituency turned out to vote while the constituency polling average was 60 per cent. The same year, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal of the Congress won from Dhanaula defeating Suminder Kaur of the CPM. Only 45 per cent of the women came out to vote, which is very low when as compared to the total voter turnout of over 74 per cent.

In 2002, the year that saw the maximum participation of women has four women each contesting from Jalandhar cantonment and Dharamkot. But the participation of women did not cross beyond 45 per cent.


EC notice to SAD candidate Kang
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
The Election Commission today issued notice to Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) candidate for the Beas Assembly constituency, for allegedly making threatening calls to the ADGP (Security), Punjab, Mr Shashi Kant.

According to available information, Mr Kang, who is pitted opposite the sitting Congress MLA, Jasbir Singh Gill ‘Dimpa’, has been seeking more security for himself on the plea that he faces threat to his life from Mr Gill.

Voting for the constituency, which was deferred by the EC following the alleged incident of firing on SAD workers by Mr Gill and his accomplices, is to be held on March 11.

While the Punjab Police has already arrested a few of Mr Gill’s supporters for their alleged role in the incident, Dimpa continues to be out.

It is learnt that the ADGP complained to the EC about the threats made out by the SAD candidate, following which the EC sought the explanation of the nominee. Mr Kang has been given time till February 18 to reply to the notice.


Rain ends need for irrigation; water to Sirhind, Bist Doab canals stopped
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 16
Supply of water for irrigation to parts of Punjab has been stopped via Sirhind canal and Bist Doab canal from Sutlej headworks here due to fall in demand following rain in the region. Besides it, power generation at Ganguwal hydel project and Nakkiyan of 65 MW capacity each in Anandpur Sahib sub division also stopped due to non-release of water from Bhakra dam into Anandpur canal due to decreased demand of water in the state.

The officials of the BBMB and the PSEB said heavy rain in the region and snowfall in upper hills was sign of great relief. As demand for water was reduced so more water could be saved for summer in Bhakra dam to supply it to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Chandigarh. Moreover record snowfall in the upper hills could prove fruitful, as more water will reach Bhakra dam when snow melts in summer and will help consumer states to get more water, the officials added.

Demand for water for irrigation through Sirhind canal was 6200 cusecs a week ago but after the rain it has decreased to zero. similarly in Bist Doab canal. As a result water from Sutlej to Sirhind canal, Bist Doab canals has been stopped at headworks, Ropar, till February 20, official sources said.

All water, 3311 cusecs received at headworks now is being released which finally reached Harikepattan. With decline of demand for water more in Punjab, extra water from Harikepatatn is being supplied to Rajasthan now.

At present water level of Bhakra dam is 1602 feet. Total 8000-cusecs of water is being released from Bhakra dam to Bhakra mainline. Out of this 5600-cusecs of water is being used for power generation at Kotla hydel project to BBMB. Rest of the water is used in thermal plant for cooling process and Sutlej in Patalpuri.

Power generation at Ganguwal hydel project and Nakkiyan to the PSEB in Anandpur Sahib came to halt due to non-supply of water from Bhakra Dam.


‘Selective’ demolition draws flak
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, February 16
The “selective” demolition drive carried out by the Pathankot Improvement Trust has drawn flak from various quarters here. The authorities demolished two shops owned by former trustee of improvement trust Ram Murti Mahajan yesterday evening.

Mr Mahajan today alleged that the trust had demolished his shops illegally. He was in possession of the shops since 1982. The land in question was allotted to a Dalit woman, Kartaro Devi. She bequeathed the property in his name and the land was legally transferred.

The trust challenged the will in the court and the matter was still pending. The trust maintained that land allotted to a Dalit for housing purpose could not be transferred.

However, in another such case the trust was allegedly defending the change of land use, Mr Mahajan said, adding that a local politician had constructed a commercial building on a land allotted to Dalits for housing purpose and the trust did not raise any objection.

In another case, he said, the trust allowed the construction of a shop on the Dalhouise road even though the Pathankot SDM and the Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner directed the authorities to get the shop demolished.


Experts arrive to catch wild beast
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 16
Following the yesterday’s incident in which a wild animal attacked two residents of Ghudda village, a team from Chhatbir Zoo has arrived in the village to trap the animal.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Ram Dev, a team member, said the animal could be a wild dog. They were eliciting information from the villagers who had spotted the beast. He said they would stay in the area till tomorrow evening.

Meanwhile, the persons, who had been attacked by the animal, were identified as Mr Mal Singh and Mr Gura Singh. They were admitted to the Civil Hospital.

The DFO, Ms Geetanjali, has asked the Forest staff to warn the villagers of the presence of the wild animal. She said a few traps would be set up tonight to catch the animal.


Drive against foeticide
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 16
Dr H.P.S. Walia, Chairman, Global Punjab Foundation. here today announced that two movements, 'stopping female foeticide and foeticide care' and "foeticide and childcare centre "will be started by the foundation.

Speaking on the occasion, he said foeticide and childcare centre" will be inaugurated by Mahant Chamkaur Singh, head of Tikana Bhai Ram Singh, Sheranwala Gate.

"This practice will be started shortly at other places also and there will be no lack of funds", answered Mahant Chamkaur Singh.


Shiv temple vandalised; residents sore
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 16
Resentment prevails among the residents of Rorian and its adjoining villages over the alleged act of vandalism at Shiv temple in the village by some miscreants today.

According to Mr Kuldip Singh, Additional SHO of Sadar police station, some miscreants went to the temple at Rorian village last night and desecrated the Shivlingam, idols, wooden portrait and framed photographs of Lord Shiva and threw them out from the temple. The miscreants also broke the holy pitcher before the gate of the temple.

A case under Section 295 of the IPC has been registered in this connection.

Meanwhile, people of the area staged dharna in front of the temple to lodge protest against the incident. They demanded the arrest of the culprits.


Mahashivratri celebrated
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 16
Mahashivratri was celebrated here today with great religious fervour at different ancient and historic temples of the holy city. A large number of devotees from various parts of the city made beelines to have early morning prayers and “darshan”.

Hundreds of Kavrias, carrying holy water of the Ganga in pitchers, were seen in the morning going in processions to the Shiva temples for paying obeisance.

All the ancient and historic Shiva temples were tastefully decorated. Devotees organised a number of langars throughout the city, while religious processions showing the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati were carried out at various parts of the city.


Amritsar-Nanded air link sought
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 16
The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM) today sought an Amritsar-Nanded air link to help pilgrims pay their obeisance at Nanded in Maharashtra.

In a letter to Prime Minister, President and Civil Aviation Minister, manch adviser Charanjit Singh Gumtala stated that tercentenary of Guru Gaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib was being celebrated on a large scale at Sachkhand Abchal Nagar, Nanded, next year and hence both the holy cities should be connected by air. He said Air-India and the Indian Airlines should take the initiative by launching flights to mark the forthcoming mega event of Sikhism.

He said efforts should be made to link Nanded with the UK, the USA, Canada, etc. via Amritsar so that visitors from these countries could easily visit these two shrines.


11 held for clash
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, February 16
The police today arrested 11 persons involved in a group clash at Beriwala mohalla here yesterday between two groups over the possession of government land.

According to DSP Rachpal Singh, these persons were arrested under Sections 323, 341, 148, 149 of the IPC and 107, 151 of the CrPC.

They were produced in a court here which remanded them in judicial custody for four days. The arrested persons include Lachman Khan, son of Bhola Khan of Saroud, Amjad Mohd son of Mohammad Anis of Nusrat Khani, Mohd Imran son of Mohd Jangir of Beriwala, Abdul Sattar son of Mohd Jamil of Beriwala, Mohd Iqbal son of Mohd Faiz of Nusrat Khani, Ajay Kumar son of Mohan Lal of Lav Kush Nagar, Mohd Asif son of Abdul Rashid of Beriwala, Monu Aslam son of Khayaz Mohd of Jarkoba mohalla, Mohd Adrish son of Mohd Rashid of Nusrat Khani, Mohd Anwar son of Mohd Deen of Maler Mohalla and Mandeep Singh son of Saudagar Singh of Malo Daud (Payal).

Yesterday in a clash between two groups 10 persons were injured. Seriously injured persons were referred to Ludhiana where their condition was said to be out of danger.

According to information, one group wanted to take possession of government land which was occupied by the other group.

Both groups used sharp-edged weapons, lathis and stones against each other. The police resorted mild lathi charge to disperse clashing members of both the groups.

DSP Rachpal Singh said the remaining persons would be arrested soon.


College of physical education sans sanctioned posts of teacher
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 16
Government College of physical Education, Patti, has been without a teacher of sanctioned post since its establishment.

Dedicated to the 400th death anniversary of fifth Sikh Guru Sri Guru Arjun Dev, the college was opened by Punjab Government last year.

Dr Vijay Sharma, lecturer in English at Patti Government College who has been deputed temporarily to this newly opened college, said here today the department of Higher Education had made ad hoc arrangements for the college. He added there were only three teachers including himself who had been deputed here. Ms Surinder Kaur, lecturer in Punjabi and Mr Kulraj Singh, lecturer in physical education had been sent here from government college, Kala Afgana, and government college of Physical Education, Patiala, respectively.

Ms Mohinder Gandhi, Principal of the local Sri Guru Arjun Dev (SGAD) government college, has been given the additional charge of this college. She looks after the administration of government college, Patti.

The government while giving district-level status to this town had announced to establish this college of physical education on the 400th death anniversary of fifth Sikh Guru Sri Guru Arjun Dev. Last year 50 students were admitted to the college for first year of the three-year degree of Bachelor of Physical Education (B.P.E.).

The college has neither hostel facility nor playgrounds of the standard of physical education college. There are nine girl students and remaining are boys. Mr Charanjit Singh Randhawa, a resident of Kirtowal village of the area, said if the government was serious to run the college, it should employ regular staff for the college according to requirements.

It is learnt Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had sanctioned Rs 4.25 crore for the building of the college. However, due to elections, the grant could not be released.


Conference on ‘Recent Advances and Future Trends in IT’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 16
The second national conference on “Recent Advances and Future Trends in IT” was organised by the Computer Science Department of Punjabi University on the university campus here today.

Mr Swaran Singh Boparai, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, presided over the inaugural session of the two-day conference.

In his presidential remarks, he asked the Computer Science Department to adopt a road map for the development in rural areas.

Mr M. Moni, Deputy Director-General, National Informatics Centre, who has been working for computerisation in rural areas, in his keynote address focused on empowering rural India through a wider choice.

He said the rural India should be given a chance through Digital Networks for Farmers (DNF), DISNIC programmes, e-cooperatives and digital SMEs to usher in “digital inclusion” for fostering rural prosperity and grassroots level development and also provide a broad base for the uplift of the rural poor.

About 40 paper presentations are to be made in different technical sessions during the conference, in which eminent researchers and IT-related professionals from all over India are participating.

The conference will provide a platform for sharing of innovative and pioneering views regarding the recent trends and developments in the area of information technology.

The thrust areas of the conference are natural language processing, pattern recognition, image processing and data communication.

Dr S.S. Gill, Dean, Academic Affairs, Dr Chandan Singh, Dean, Faculty, Computer Science, and Dr G.S. Lehal, Head, Computer Science Department, were present at the conference.


SBI Life Insurance for loan borrowers
Tribune News Service

Patiala February 16
The State Bank of Patiala has decided to cover all its existing home loan borrowers under Group Housing Scheme of SBI Life Insurance, as a special gesture to its customers.

This saves the family members from the hardship of repayment. In case of untimely death of the borrower, the entire outstanding loan amount will be paid by SBI Life Insurance as per original payment schedule.

Any existing home loan borrower under the age of 60 years is free to join the scheme.


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