P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Proprietary rights for tillers near border
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 23
In a major relief to landless farmers who have been tilling government land along the zero line of the Indo-Pakistan border for the past several decades, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced that the state government would grant proprietary rights to the tillers who have been cultivating the land since ages at a subsidised cost of Rs 15,000 per acre which would be payable in three easy instalments. He instructed the DC to prepare a report of all such cases within a month so that the rights could be granted at the earliest.

The CM and his cabinet colleagues were here today to pay obeisance at the memorial of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev who were cremated here on the banks of the Sutlej near Hussainiwala on March 23, 1931.

Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Surjit Jiyani, Sukhpal Singh Nannu, Gurtej Singh, Sher Singh Ghubaya, all MLAs, along with scores of senior Akali-BJP leaders also accompanied the CM to pay homage to the gallant martyrs who had lit the eternal flame of liberty and smilingly embraced the gallows for freedom of the motherland. On the occasion, relatives of the martyrs and freedom fighters were honoured by the CM.

The CM was earlier received at the golf range helipad by senior civil and police officials, including Commissioner Surinderjit Singh, DIG Ishwar Chander, DC Bhagwant Singh, SSP DP Singh and ADC Rahul Tiwari. The CM, who was visiting this border district for the first time after assuming charge, took the salute from a contingent of Punjab police.

Addressing the gathering at the martyrs memorial in Hussaniwala, Badal reiterated that the Akali-BJP government would not pursue vindictive politics to settle scores with Congress leaders. However, he added that those who were involved in bungling of government funds and corrupt practices would be brought to book as per the law of the land.

In a sarcastic attack, Badal said Capt Amarinder Singh left the country in haste as he was scared that his misdeeds would come to the fore.

The CM further stated that the state government would grant compensation to farmers whose standing crops had been destroyed due to natural calamity within 20 days. He instructed the DC to complete the process of special girdawaris within 15 days so that the compensation could be granted at the earliest. He also announced that the compensation amount thus granted would be enhanced from Rs 2500 per acre to Rs 5000 per acre.

In another significant announcement, the CM said farmers having land holdings across the cobra fencing along the international border would be given compensation at the rate of Rs 2500 per acre which was discontinued during the previous Congress regime.

Badal also said he would approach the union government to look into the opening of the Hussainiwala border for trade and transit so that the “shattered” economy of this border state could be revived. He also promised to exhort the union government to install life size statue of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh in Parliament House.

The CM stated that the age-old railway overbridge connecting Ferozepore Cantt to Ferozepore City would be constructed soon for which funds would be provided at the earliest. He also promised to bring some major economic package for the development of the border area.

Later, while talking to mediapersons, the CM in an indirect reference stated that the two MLAs hailing from this border district, Sher Singh from Jalalabad and Sukhpal Singh from Ferozepore City would be made Parliamentary Secretaries soon.


75th Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh
Badal adds political colour to patriotic function
Announces free schooling for poor bright students
Tribune News Service

Khatkar Kalan (Nawanshahr), March 23
Terming it as a step towards realisation of Bhagat Singh’s dream, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced setting up of a high-budget school for imparting free education to poor intelligent students at the martyr’s ancestral village.

Speaking at the 75th martyrdom day function of Bhagat Singh, Badal outlined his idea, “We plan to set up one such school in every block of the state but we want to take the first step in this direction from this village. The panchayat has already allotted land for this purpose. Children seeking admission will get free books and meal everyday without being levied any fee.” “Budget will not be a problem. We are ready to spend Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore on it. I also want Charanjit Singh Atwal to shell out Rs 50 lakh from his discretionary funds. I am confident that this school will be ready when I address the gathering here next year”, he said even though he was not able to clearly spell out whether this project was a part of adarsh schools he had promised in his manifesto.

The Chief Minister also assured a grant of Rs 10 lakh for setting up of a hall at Khatkar Kalan for holding path and other ceremonies related to Bhagat Singh's functions.

Further, he promised 24-hour power supply to a dispensary set up in the name of Bhagat Singh's father within next four days besides assuring restarting of the bus service from here to Khanna in a week’s time.

Badal also declared that farmers whose crops were adversely affected due to hailstorm would be paid compensation within 20 days. The compensation, too, has been raised from Rs 2,000 per acre to Rs 5,000 per acre, he added. He also promised to raise power production in the state by 1,000 MW within six months.


MBA-qualified Pak spy held in Ludhiana
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 23
The police has arrested an MBA degree-holding resident of Bahawalpur in Pakistan on the charge of espionage from Haibowal here. The police claims to have recovered several incriminating documents, sensitive to the country's security, from the youth, besides two local SIM cards. The police has beefed up security around the sensitive places in the region.

Terming him as a well-trained Pakistani spy, prepared and launched specially in the region, SSP R.K. Jaiswal said the police was baffled how the 22-year-old youth managed to make a genuine driving licence, a ration card and open a bank account on the basis of his assumed identity. He was in the process of getting an Indian passport made on the basis of the documents.

The SSP said the youth lived in India under the identity of Rajveer Ranawat, whereas his real name was Abdul Hanan Rashid. He was an MBA from a reputed college in Faisalabad.

The youth was unmarried. Jaiswal said as per the investigation so far, the role of the youth was to gather information only. There has been no lead to suggest that he was involved in the Samjhauta Express train blasts case. The youth had done a six-month training course in computer from a private college in the city.

The police said the youth was quite committed and motivated for the task. He has been answering questions in English during interrogation.

The police has learnt that he had a three-phase startegy. First was to establish himself in Ludhiana, then to obtain documents proving his assumed identity and finally after getting the Indian passport to get married here and be a frequent flier to Pakistan and other countries.

The youth had entered India on December 1, 2005, legally and travelled by train to Delhi. From Delhi, he had taken a bus and reached Ludhiana. He destroyed his passport and other documents linking him to Pakistan and began his operation.


‘Power-surplus Punjab govt’s priority’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 23
The Punjab government will observe the death anniversary of former SAD stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra at the state level and a function in this regard will be held at Tohra village.

Stating this here today, SAD acting president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who was here to review arrangements for the function, said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would preside over the function. Earlier, Sukhbir Badal’s visit witnessed jostling by local SAD leaders to grab the attention of the party chief. Even senior leaders of the party, including Prem Singh Chandumajra and former minister Ajaib Singh Makhmailpur, were seen making efforts to please Sukhbir Badal. The local administration also left no stone unturned to make arrangements for his visit despite the fact that Sukhbir Badal was not a government functionary. The Deputy Commissioner and SSP were also present to welcome the SAD president.

Talking to newsmen at gurdwara Moti Bagh, Sukhbir said making Punjab power surplus was the top priority of the present government. Arrangements were being made to add at least 5000 MW power in the next three years. This target would be achieved by entering into long-term agreements with power-surplus states and private power companies. New power plants are also being planned at coal pitheads and ports in other states and in Punjab also.

Experts are of the opinion that 500 MW of power can be generated in Punjab from the wheat and paddy husk that is generally burnt in the fields by farmers. Private investors would be called to invest in power plants where electricity can be generated from wheat and paddy husk. This would also generate extra income for farmers.

The state has constituted a committee that would periodically monitor the progress of various power projects planned for making state power surplus, Sukhbir Badal said.

He, however, evaded questions on issues like the trifurcation of Punjab State Electricity Board. He also said that the party offices at Chandigarh and district headquarters would go hi-tech to improve communication with ground-level party workers.

Sukhbir Badal evaded questions regarding former Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and his adviser, Bharat Inder Singh Chahal. He said the government would not adopt a vindictive attitude and development would be its main agenda.


No place for tainted leaders in Congress: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana March 23
In a surprising, rather conciliatory posture towards the SAD-BJP government, former Chief Minister and leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, today said her party would have nothing to do with those Congress leaders who might be found guilty of acts of omission or commission by the government.

She also said her party had no objection to the appointment of Sumedh Saini as head of the vigilance bureau. She remarked that it was the discretion and the prerogative of the Chief Minister and nobody should have any objections to it.

Talking to reporters during a function organised to commemorate the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru at Punjabi Bhavan here today, Bhattal said if the SAD-BJP government found any Congress leader guilty of anything, the party would have nothing to do with him or her. "No such leader can take refuge in the party,” Bhattal asserted to the surprise of everybody.

However, she hastened to add that the party would not tolerate any vindictiveness by the government. She said if the government goes by the merit, the party will not object. "But we will not let them victimise our leaders and workers for sheer political vindictiveness,” she asserted.

She reiterated that her party had nothing to do with Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, media adviser to the former Chief Minister. She said her party had made it clear many a times that he was an ad hoc employee of the Public Relations Department during her government and he was not even a member of the party.

Bhattal also feigned ignorance about some reports being published in Pakistan media about the former Chief Minister and hence refused any comment. But she added that Amarinder had told her before going to London that he was supposed to get himself medically examined. Nobody should have any objections to it, she remarked.

With the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Shamsher Singh Dullo already having resigned, Bhattal seemed to have taken over the reins of the party as well. She said she would be touring the entire state and meeting all the workers and leaders to boost their morale. She asserted that the Congress would be cooperative and an effective opposition.

Meanwhile, she has called a meeting of all the legislators and defeated candidates at Chandigarh on March 28 to review the election results and try to find out the reasons for the defeat in the elections.


Martyrdom day function of Bhagat Singh turns sour
Bhinder, Ashwani groups clash 
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, March 23
A stage decked up to celebrate the martyrdom day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh turned into a stage of confrontation when two groups of the Congress reached the Congress Bhawan - the venue for celebrations- and exchanged heated arguments here today.

The close confidants of Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder and Ashwani Kumar reached the Congress Bhawan and raised slogans against each other instead of paying tribute to Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Bhinder was a former union minister for state tourism, while Ashwani Kumar is union minister of state for industrial policy and promotion.

The slogan shouting went on for over 5 hours. The police had to intervene as members of both groups virtually came to blows. When this reporter reached the spot Congressmen with flags and batons were raising slogans against each other with an intention to clash.

The Bhinder’s group comprising senior Congress leaders like Anu Gandotra, Neeraj Salhotra, Ajay Verma, Chander Pal and others barged into the room of district congress president Krishan Chand and occupied his seat. The rival group - Ashwani Kumar’s - under the leadership of Raman Behl, president of the local civic body, garlanded the photo of Shaheed Bhagat Singh placed on the table. The group members, however, occupied other rooms of the bhavan.

Tempers flared up when the Bhinder’s group objected to the presence of the Ashwani Kumar’s group at the ceremony. The Binder’s group claimed that the rival group was expelled from the party hence they had no right to take part in the martyrdom day celebrations.

The district congress chief, however, explained that he had not received such any information from the high command. The police tried to pacify the agitated congress leaders and their supporters. It also locked rooms of the Congress Bhawan.

The behaviour of the leaders has left a bad impression on society. A large number of people have criticised the incident saying that the leaders should be ashamed of their act that they did on this auspicious day.


Martyrs remembered
Tribune Reporters

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 23
The 75th martyrdom anniversary of Saheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev was observed by the Congress at Sirhind today.

Dr Harbans Lal, former MLA, organised a function at old grain market where hundreds of party workers, leaders and local residents paid tributes to the martyrs.

The former MLA said the sacrifices made by martyrs were instrumental in our nation attaining independence. He urged the youth to wage a war against social evils like drug abuse and female feticide.

Ranjit Singh Tarkhan Majra, chairman market committee Sirhind, also addressed. The families of some freedom fighters were also honoured.

Patiala: Chug Homeo Clinic, Patiala, observed the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in collaboration with the Chhoti Baradari Market Association, here, on Friday.

Former president of the Homeo Medical Association of India, Dr Mahinder Singh Chugh, exhorted the youth to inculcate the sense of the sacrifice and patriotism.


Unruly scenes at ‘shaheedi divas’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 23
Unruly scenes were witnessed at the “shahidi divas” organised by the District Congress Committee here today when some party workers got agitated over the fact that those who had opposed the party candidates in the assembly elections were also attending the function at Congress Bhavan.

Member of the Congress Seva Dal Vineet Sareen said an ex-MLA Jugal Kishore came to the function even though he had not been invited. He, along with his supporters, entered into an altercation with some Congress workers and the DCC leadership present on the occasion had to intervene to stop the two groups from coming to blows.

When contacted, Jugal Kishore dismissed it as a minor incident wherein some Congress workers were only objecting to the presence of those who had worked against the party in the recent assembly elections.


Manhandling of colleague: PRTC staff block traffic
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, March 23
A large number of commuters passing through the district remained stranded for hours today as PRTC staffers were demanding prompt action against general secretary of the SAD youth wing Yadwinder Singh Yadi, who was booked for assaulting a PRTC driver a few days ago.

Traffic remained disrupted for hours together as the protesters staged a dharna on the main road and raised slogans against Yadi. The traffic police had a tough time managing the vehicles. It was only in the evening that normal traffic was restored.

According to the protesters, Yadi, who owns a private bus service, had manhandled Jarnail Singh, the PRTC driver. They alleged that since Yadi was a close confidant of SAD acting president Sukhbir Badal, the police was reluctant to take any action against him.

Meanwhile, the police maintained that a case had already been registered against Yadi and action would be taken as per the law. 


Cancellation of buses to be probed
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 23
Transport Minister Mohan Lal said here today that an inquiry would be conducted into alleged cancellation of buses plying from Sujanpur to Hardwar, Sujanpur to Shimla and Sujanpur to Chandigarh. He said that he did not know about the cancellation of the buses which were started by the previous government from Sujanpur. He said the Akali-BJP government was committed to provide better transport facilities to the people.

When contacted, Puri said the direct buses were started from Sujanpur to facilitate the local people of the town to save their time and money as the people had to board buses from Pathankot, 5 km from Sujanpur.


Where liquor flows as prasad
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Bhoma (Amritsar) March 23
More than one lakh 'devotees' today visited the tomb of Baba Rode on the Amritsar-Fatehgarh Churian road to offer liquor as offering on the first day of the three-day annual fair here.

The young and old, kids and even women folk were seen partaking 'liquor prasad' in the presence of police. Many policemen even believe that they would earn the wrath of Baba Rode, if they stopped the devotees from consuming the "prasad.” Stalls selling fish and chicken dotted both sides of the road at Bhoma. After taking the “prasad” the devotees danced to the beat of drums. Round the clock community kitchen was also arranged at the shrine.

Though Taraksheel Society members (rationalists) debunk the claims of miraculous cures at the shrine, the annual fair draws a big crowd. Interestingly, Baba Rode himself belonged to a Jat Sikh family and was a teetotaller.

As a ritual, devotees bring bottles, pouches and buckets containing a heady cocktail of drinks. People having faith in Baba Rode are seen offering prayers for jobs, happiness and success in life. As folklore goes, Baba Rode underwent austere penance and was blessed with mystical powers. Today, the shrine is known for its "miraculous cures", even as the Taraksheel Society members (rationalists) have openly challenged the claims.

Devotees offer liquor at the tomb and the offerings measure up to thousands of litres, particularly during the three-day fair. The liquor flows into an iron pipe and devotees line up, holding steel and plastic glasses in their hands.

According to a myth, Baba Rode moved to a village near Bhoma in 1896 and lived on the outskirts for 28 years. His sister was married in this village. People believe that Baba Rode started performing miracles to help people in distress. A big hoarding at the entrance of the dera gives details of the offerings in the shape of liquor. It reads that once a devotee of Baba Rode, who was blessed with a son, offered him liquor to show his gratitude for a fulfilled wish. The Baba, being a teetotaller, distributed the offering among his disciples. And later, this became a tradition.

The ancestral village of Baba Rode was Dhiman (Damodar), which falls in the border district of Gurdaspur. He was son of Sham Singh, a farmer. The room where Baba Rode was born is still intact.

Liquor of all kinds is being offered at the shrine, be it country-made liquor or expensive foreign-brewed whisky. The offered liquor is put into one container and the "cocktail prasad" is distributed among the devotees. The devotees, who come from far-flung areas, including remote areas of Himachal Pradesh, are given this "unique prasad" in the form of liquor in small plastic bags. Though Baba Rode passed away in 1924, the tradition is still alive, much to the chagrin of the Taraksheel Society.


Bus overturns, 19 injured
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 23
A PRTC bus on its way from Patiala to Jalandhar overturned this evening near village Kharori on the Patiala-Sirhind road. 19 passengers and driver of the bus were seriously injured and have been rushed to the civil hospital Fatehgarh Sahib. The condition of one person is reported to be serious and has been taken to the PGI. Deputy commissioner Alak Nanda and SSP Nilabh Kishore visited the hospital and assured full help to the injured.

While talking to The Tribune, a few injured persons said as soon as the bus came out of the city it stopped due to some technical defect. The passengers pushed the bus and it started moving again. But as soon as the bus reached Kharori village a tyre of the bus burst. The driver lost control and the bus hit a roadside tree and over-turned.

Soon, the villagers and the police reached the spot and helped the passengers out of the bus. 


Farmers: Scrap land acquisition policy
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Chhanna Barnala), March 23
At a "shaheedi conference" organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) here today, thousands of farmers, including a large number of women, passed a resolution by raising their hands asking the newly elected SAD-BJP government to scrap the policy of acquiring land of farmers for private companies.

They also asked the government to scrap the notification related to the already acquired 376 acres in Fatehgarh Chhanna, Dhauala and Sangherra villages (near Barnala) for the Trident Group so that the land could be given back to the farmers.

In other resolutions, the gathering also asked the state government to give Rs 5 lakh each to the families of three farmers, Sarmukh Singh Jethuke, Balwant Singh Dugalwala and Jagroop Singh Shahpur, who had lost their lives during farmers' agitations.

At the "shaheedi conference", dedicated to martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, the gathering observed a two-minute silence as a tribute to the farmers of Nandigram in West Bengal who lost their lives protesting against the acquisition of their land recently .

Almost the entire leadership of the BKU (Ugrahan), was present at the conference. 


Relief for farmers hiked 
Badal visits rain-hit villages
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Malout, March 23
Punjab Chief Minsiter Parkash Singh Badal today announced a compensation of Rs 5,000 per acre to farmers whose wheat and other crops have been completely damaged due to rain and hailstorm which hit the region in the recent past.

Earlier, the government had fixed this amount at Rs 2,000 per acre.

Badal, who visited a number of affected villages, including Tarkhanwala, Khunan Kalan and Lakhmireyana in Muktsar district, said the compensation would be paid within 15 days.

He said a special girdawri was being carried out by revenue officials to asses the quantum of loss suffered by the farmers.

The Chief Minister, who was accompanied by finance minister Manpreet Badal, irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Malout MLA Harpreet Singh and senior civil officials, said the government would also give adequate compensation to those whose dwellings had suffered losses due to the rain and hailstorm.

Badal announced that all 18 villages in Muktsar district where crops had been damaged would be given a special grant of Rs 4 lakh each for development projects. The Chief Minister said the government had decided to compensate farmers whose landholdings had become uncultivable due to waterlogging.

He said the deputy commissioner had been asked to prepare a report of the damage caused by waterlogging in this district. 


Kisan mela today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
Chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh will inaugurate a state-level kisan mela at Rakhra (Patiala) on March 24.

The mela is being organised by the Young Farmers Association, Punjab. Association secretary-general Bhagwan Dass said the participating farmer-members would be given seeds of the Pusa 44 variety of paddy and the export variety of basmati -- Pusa 1121. The farmers would be taken around demonstration fields. Scientists of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute would interact with the farmers. An agricultural exhibition would also be put up. 


Man found murdered
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 23
Rajinder Singh of Katra Charat, Khuh Suniara in the walled city, was stabbed to death by some unidentified persons here this morning. His body was found in the Gole Bagh area.

The police reached the spot as soon as the news of the dead body spread. The D-division police station has registered a case under section 302, IPC.

The police said the deceased was stabbed for nearly 18 times in his stomach. They said the matter was seemed to be of personal enmity. However, they said anything could be said only after investigations. The body was handed over to the family after conducting. 


Married woman raped
Our Correspondent

Taran Taran, March 23
A married woman has been reportedly raped by her neighbour at Khemkaran.

The police has registered a case under sections 376 and 506, IPC, against the accused. Police sources told newsmen here today that the case had been registered on the statement of the victim.

The victim, in her statement, alleged that the accused trespassed into her house when she was alone. 


Man killed by nephew for cash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 23
A nephew killed his uncle for a mere Rs 4,500, in the Baba Jeevan Singh Colony, near here.

Jamna Prasad, along with his friend, Majoj Kumar, hacked, the former’s maternal uncle Mishri Lal to death on March 19. Later, they placed the dead body in a sack and dumped it in a gutter.

The police recovered the dead body to Mishri Lal from the Jail Road, near Hanuman Mandir in Patiala on Friday morning.

Within a few hours of the recovery of the body, the police arrested both the accused.

Addressing media persons here on Friday, Jagdish Kahlon, SP said Mishri Lal was working as gardener-cum-watchman with the PSEB, sub-division, Model Town and had gone missing from his home in Baba Jeevan Singh Colony on the day of his murder.

His wife, Sita Devi lodged an FIR in the Tripuri police station. She had not named anybody as a suspect in her statement.

However, on Thursday night, Sita Devi, had named her nephew Jamna Prasad as the person behind her husband’s sudden disappearance.

A case has been registered against the accused. 


Preet Agro gets award
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 23
In a function organised to celebrate 100 years of the Canara Bank, the Preet Agro Industries Pvt. Ltd was awarded the first prize for growth in the SME sector.

This prize was awarded by V. Leeladhar, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, to Hari Singh, managing director of the Preet Agro Industries.

Around 2000 companies vied for the award. Chairman and managing director of the Canara Bank M.B.N. Rao was also present at the function

Hari Singh, managing director of the company, extended his thanks to the Canara Bank for the award.

Preet Agro Industries Pvt. Ltd started as a small workshop and has grown to become the country's largest combine harvester producer. The company also produced the first maize harvester in India for harvesting standing maize and also developed, indigenously, the axial flow wet land paddy harvester.

Delegates from Canada, impressed by the quality of Preet’s products, invited the company to establish a unit in Canada. Leading personalities of the country also conveyed their wishes to the company.


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