P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


I’m ready for scrutiny of assets: Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 20
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has accused the Punjab Vigilance Bureau of using third-degree torture to force Chetan Gupta into making alleged fictitious confessions.

Gupta had allegedly admitted before bureau officials that he laundered ill-gotten money of the former Chief Minister and his media adviser.

Capt Amarinder Singh, in a press note issued here today, stated: "I had been reliably informed that Gupta continued to be subjected to physical and emotional torture by the vigilance officials. The officials had orders from the state government to bring evidence against me, members of my family, friends and associates by using any means.

Bureau claims on disclosures by Gupta that he transferred crores of rupees from the country on my behalf and it was invested in property, bank accounts and other projects are false”.

I challenge Parkash Singh Badal and his government to come out with details of even one of the alleged transactions or overseas investment made on my behalf. I am ready to give authority on my behalf to any officer duly appointed by the court to scrutinise all my assets, bank accounts, properties in India and abroad, he said.

The Akalis had already filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against my son Raninder Singh regarding the Punjab Intranet scam. It was dismissed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The matter was being investigated by the enforcement directorate under FEMA-99. The bureau had no power to investigate the case under FEMA, indicating that the investigations and allegations against him were inspired by political vendetta.

“The fact is that the bureau, acting under specific directions of the Badals, is using old tricks, including custodial torture of individuals, to get confessional statements from them. Besides Gupta, similar methods were used against other persons recently”, the former Chief Minister alleged.

Though Capt Amarinder Singh is reportedly putting up in Nepal these days, his reaction to the allegations against him came through his spokespersons here.


Salabatpura dera under tight security
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Salabatpura (Bathinda), May 20
Two companies of the BSF have been deployed in and around the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda branch in this village in the wake of alleged threats by various Sikh organisations.

The BSF personnel have set up “morchas” on the dera premises, spread over about 90 acres. A large number of BSF personnel have been patrolling the dera area.

The Sikh clergy had given a direction to the Punjab government to seal all deras belonging to the sect in Punjab by May 20.

Around 7,000 followers, who have been camping inside the dera, have also made their security arrangements. They have collected a huge stock of stones, lathis and sticks. Some of the followers were carrying firearms.

Earlier, following the deployment of paramilitary forces in the village and a flag march taken out by it, the situation, which became tense on May 17, started moving towards normalcy. No incident of violence, except the incident in which some members of the Sikh community chased away the followers of the dera near Dulewala village, near here, today, was reported.

On May 17, a large number of members of various Sikh organisations, expressing dissatisfaction over the edict issued by the Sikh clergy in connection with the alleged anti-Sikh Panth activities of Ram Rahim Gurmit Singh, marched towards the dera with a motive to destroy it. However, timely action by the police averted the situation.

Almost all roads leading to this semi-urban village have been barricaded with large number of policemen deployed at every checkpoint. All visitors to the village were frisked and their identity was recorded at the checkpoints.

Jatinder Jain, DIG, Faridkot range, said the situation in the village was normal.

He added that nothing had been left to chance as far as the security was concerned.

Meanwhile, a meeting of a peace committee, including members of various political parties, social and voluntary organisations, prominent citizens and religious organisations, was held by deputy commissioner Rahul Bhandari and SSP Nau Nihal Singh at Bathinda today. They appealed the people to maintain peace and communal harmony.

Effigy burnt

Barnala: Though the police had made adequate security arrangements to thwart any untoward incident various Sikh organisations today burnt an effigy of dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh at Bhadaur and Tapa.

Earlier, the agitators marched through the streets of main bazars and raised slogans against the dera chief. The situation is under control. — OC


Another dera attacked
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, May 20
A historical dera, namely Dera Baba Atma Ram, was today attacked by around 20 persons who were armed with lathis and sharp-edged weapons.

Seven alleged attackers were arrested and a sharp-edged weapon and a car, which were allegedly used in the attack, were seized.

On a complaint of mahant of the dera Ramesh Dass, an FIR under Sections 447, 506, 511, 148 and 149 of the IPC has been registered.

The attackers stormed the dera, situated near Madevi Phatak, in order to take its control in their hands. Those arrested are Baldev Singh, Babbu, Gopi, Mohmmad Jahid, Soni Lal, Toni Singh and Mohmmad Soni.


Sacha Sauda followers fleeing state

Bathinda, May 20
Families of Dera Sacha Sauda followers have started fleeing their homes in Punjab fearing attacks in the wake of sectarian clashes that erupted on Monday over the alleged sacrilege by their leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

An uneasy calm prevailed today in predominantly Sauda neighbourhoods here with dozens of families slipping away to escape possible clashes.

“This conflict between Dera Sacha Sauda followers and the rest of the Sikh community has caused a lot of loss to everyone. Amid clashes and conflict, confusion and ambiguity prevail and that is why people are fleeing the area,” said Sanjeev Kumar, shocked as he woke up to a deserted neighbourhood on Saturday.

Sauda followers accuse the state government of having an inherent bias against them.

“The situation is Bathinda is tense. Families are leaving in large numbers. The situation is volatile. There is not much we can say about it, but families leaving Bathinda is unfortunate,” said Yogesh Batis, a resident of another Sauda-dominated neighbourhood elsewhere in the city.

Ram Rahim Singh on late Saturday night issued a statement regretting the incidents of the past few days, including the publication of the advertisement in which he appeared dressed up as Guru Gobind Singh that led to the tension.

However, his ‘regret’ has not pacified Sikh leaders who are meeting today to chalk out their future strategy. — ANI


Section 144 imposed on Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 20
The district administration today imposed a ban on carrying of firearms and sharp-edged weapons by promulgating Section 144 in the city.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu said this decision had been taken in view of the situation created over the Dera Sacha Sauda controversy. However, personnel of the Army and paramilitary forces who are legally authorised to carry weapons, besides those who carry these as a part of their religion had been exempted from the order.


Bandh coincides with PG exams
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 20
Many students are perturbed for the proposed Punjab bandh on May 22 , the call for which is given by the Akal Takht, coincides with many postgraduate examinations in colleges affiliated with Guru Nanak Dev University.

Prof H.S. Bolina, dean (students welfare), Layalpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, said it was the duty of every Sikh to implement the decision of the Akal Takht. However, the Akal Takht and the university should take immediate steps to ensure that students appearing for M.Sc (IT), MCA , MA (Punjabi Part I), MA (Economics -I) and MA (Geography) take their examinations without any hassle.

The Akal Takht has announced that no educational institution, bus and rail services would be allowed to function during the bandh.


Education dept camp deferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
The Punjab education department has postponed the camp, which was to be held at Mohali on May 22 to give appointment letters to the wards of the employees who died in harness.

A government spokesman said the camp would now be held on May 23.

Obviously, the camp date has been changed keeping in view the call for a Punjab bandh on May 22 given by the panthic organisations.


Dera branch cancels congregation
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 20
Following an appeal by the district administration to defuse tension in the area, followers of the local branch of Dera Sacha Sauda cancelled the weekly congregation here today.

In charge of the branch Chanan Ram said they had informed the followers of the dera about the cancellation of the congregation. No follower turned up at the dera for the congregation.

Sikh activists, led by Gurmail Singh, circle president of the SAD, burnt an effigy of chief of the dera Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh at Sikri village last evening.


Hindu, Muslim bodies back Sikhs

Jalandhar, May 20
Some Hindu and Muslim organisations have come to the support of Sikhs.

At its state executive meeting held at Bairagi Ashram here today, president of the state Shiv Sena Ravindra Arora said they condemned the role of the dera chief in hurting the sentiments of the Sikh community.

President of the Punjab Pradesh Muslim Welfare Committee Dilbagh Hussain said the Muslim community was with the Sikhs in the present conflict. — TNS


Kandi canal: 100 acres flooded due to breach
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Talwara (Hoshiarpur), May 20
Hundred of acres at Datarpur and its surrounding villages were flooded following a breach that developed in the Kandi canal (stage-I), near here, today.

According to villagers, the breach developed at a culvert on the Jhir di Khui-Datarpur road at an outlet from the main canal. Due to the breach, about 200 villages have been adversely affected. The canal used to provide irrigation water to these villages.

About 100 cusecs of water has overflooded seasonal choes and natural drains adjacent to the main canal. However, no loss of life and property has been reported so far.

Sweetshop owner Rajneesh Pathania said the canal had been leaking from the place for the past one week. The department had sent a few employees to plug the breach with the help of sand bags but this failed to stop the flow. The continuous leakage resulted in a major breach thus submerging the surrounding fields.

The overflowing water has damaged cash crops besides washing away the fragile land and a few other commodities, villagers said.

Executive engineer of the Kandi canal Ashwani Sharma said about 60-foot-long breach had developed in the canal. The exact cause of the breach could not be ascertained in the initial stage. But he did not rule out the possibility of rat holes and seepage in pipes as the main reasons behind the breach.

He said experts had been called to plug the breach. It would be plugged within two days after the water level in the canal recedes. “We have started restraining the flow of water so that the plugging of the breach could be done at the earliest,” Sharma claimed.

The canal has been supplying irrigation water to over 215 villages in the Kandi area and about 2,260 hectares was being irrigated by it.

As this happens to the peak season for sowing paddy, farmers who have been using the canal water for irrigating their fields are in a quandary. They have urged the authorities concerned to find a permanent solution to the problem. 


Killing of father, son
4 BSF jawans sent to police custody
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 20
Four Border Security Force (BSF) jawans, who had gunned down a farmer of Thakarpura village and his teenaged son on the Indo-Pak border on Friday night, have been remanded in police custody for five days.

The accused, Karan Chakarborty, head constable, Mohammad Latif, Shatrughan and Shivu Dey, constables, of 109 Bravo unit of the BSF were produced before the court of duty magistrate Sangeet Pal Singh today.

The incident had occurred when the four accused went to the house of Shinghara Singh, located hardly 200 yards from their BSF post, under the influence of liquor. They gunned down Shinghara and his son Daljit Singh (15). Balwinder Kaur, Shinghara Singh’s wife, had a narrow escape in the firing.

Villagers feel scared that the BSF might implicate members of the aggrieved family and other villagers in other criminal cases.


Tapping European markets through Internet
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 20
Harvinder Singh exports flowers seeds to European countries. He has also involved other farmers of the area in this endeavour by hiring about 100 acre land on contract for flower-seed farming.

After graduation, Harvinder Singh thought of breaking the traditional cropping pattern. He started floriculture in 1998 on his agricultural land at Bhato village, about 40 km from here.

Harvinder Singh, while talking to The Tribune, said initially he, along with his brother, who is a lawyer, started doing floriculture as a contract farmer. They perfected the technique after hit and trial and with technical support from his sister-in-law, who is M.Sc. in floriculture.

“Presently, we cultivate flowers in about 12 acres on our own land in place of wheat. We can bring more area under flower cultivation but the problem of availability of labour stops us from doing so. Floriculture, especially during harvest of crop, needs a lot of manual labour which is hard to find,” he said.

He added, “We supply seeds to the farmers associated with us on contract farming. They are also provided technical guidance. The produce is then brought from them. Each farmer associated with us earns up to Rs 50,000 per acre from one cropping season. We have set up a flower seed grading unit. Only properly graded seeds of flowers are exported to foreign countries.”

Internet helped us find buyers in the European market, he said.

Besides conducting the business of flower seed, they have also started cut flower farming in the recent past. “These flowers are in high demand in the Delhi flower market. A good cropping season in cut flowers earns us much more profit than tradition crops.”

Encouraged by results of flower cultivation, Harvinder and his family are planning to take up organic farming. He said, “Initially, we had left three acres uncultivated to prepare the fields for organic farming. But many customers have already started approaching us. They are offering a much higher price for organic produce. People are willing to buy organic wheat at Rs 2,000 per quintal.”

PEDA has recently been authorised by the Punjab government for certifying the organic produce of the farmers. However, the infrastructure and expertise for certifying organic produce of farmers needs to be established so that farmers can be encouraged from organic farming.


For 36 Jammu and Kashmir children, it was a dream come true
‘Operation Sadbhavna’ concludes
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, May 20
For 36 students from various schools located in the remote areas of Kathua and Samba regions of Jammu and Kashmir it was a dream come true when they visited various historical places in Amritsar, Ajmer, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi and Chandigarh during an educational tour organised by 9th Garhwal Rifles under “Operation Sadbhavna”. The students belonged to the Mansar, Bani and Machhedi areas.

The tour was organised to provide them an exposure and make them aware of the rich cultural heritage and industrial might of the country. It concluded at the Mamun Cantonment area here today.

The students and teachers shared their experiences and presented a cultural programme at a function organised by the Rising Star Corps at Mamun.

The GOC of the Rising Star Coprs, Lt. Gen B.S. Nagal, said the response of the students, selected from remote areas, was overwhelming. They were taken to the Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah border, Golden Temple, Durgah Sharief , Hawa Mahal, Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Indian Military Academy and Rashtriya Indian and Military College at Dehra Dun. Besides this, they also interacted with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in New Delhi.

The children were also taken to Rock Garden, Rose Garden and the Sukhna Lake and Chhat Bir Zoo during their visit to Chandigarh. Major Gen P.C.S. Khati said similar tours would be organised for the children living in remote areas in future also.


Cheema justifies parliamentary secys’ appointment

Jalandhar, May 20
Chief advisor to Chief Minister Daljeet Singh Cheema while justifying the appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries by the state government said today that things were done as the election commission did not object to it.

“Since the SAD had filed a petition with the election commission to seek expulsion of Congress MLAs who were given the post of chief parliamentary secretaries and parliamentary secretaries during the previous regime, but the election commission did not object to it”, Cheema said while justifying such appointments by the state government.

Pointing out that the Himachal Pradesh High Court has already given its verdict against the appointment of the chief parliamentary secretaries, Cheema evaded a direct reply. “Moreover, officially no departments are allocated to the chief parliamentary secretaries by the state government and as far as giving facilities like vehicles and accommodations were concerned, the Constitution does not state anything”, he added.

Asked whether the slapping a sedition case against former MP and SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann was justified, he said, “Since the act of Mann by hanging posters of Dilawar Singh, assassin of former Chief Minister Beant Singh on his statue hurt the sentiments of a section of society, it was valid to book him in a sedition case”.

On equating Mann’s case with that of dera chief, whose act had hurt the sentiments of Sikhs, Cheema refused to comment but added, “The state government did everything to defuse the tension, which reached created an explosive situation in both Punjab and Haryana”. — PTI


Lakhowal appointed chairman of national body
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 20
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, chairman, Punjab Mandi Board, and president, Bhartiya Kisan Union, Punjab, has been appointed chairman of the National Council of State Agricultural Marketing Boards. A meeting of the heads of marketing boards of 14 states was held at Chandigarh yesterday which appointed Lakhowal as its chairman by consensus for a period of two years.

The council coordinates the activities in the agriculture sector in various states. It also plays an important role in formulating policies related to agriculture and agricultural marketing. The council also takes into account the needs and requirements of different states and raises the issue at the Central level.

Lakhowal promised to come up to the expectations of the representatives of other states who offered him the post of the chairman. He pointed out the problems relating to agriculture were more or less same everywhere in the country and a joint and coordinated effort would certainly yield better results.

The council meets regularly mainly in Delhi.

But meetings are also held in different states to review the agricultural situation in the country. Since Punjab plays an important role in the agricultural development of the country, the state’s representative enjoys lot of influence and say in decision-making.


Key removed from stomach

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 20
Dr Sandeep Dhawan, DM (gastro), PGI, Chandigarh, today removed a two-inch key from the stomach of a 10-year-old minor patient with endoscope. The operation was conducted at a hospital in Sirhind.

The head of the hospital said the parents of Jagbinder Singh, resident of Khalspur village, had brought him to the hospital after he accidentally swallowed a key.

He said he consulted Dr Dhawan, who decided to operate upon the patient. Dr Dhawan removed the key within five minutes. — OC


Panchand chapter launched
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 20
With the aim to help people face sociological, economic and related problems threatening to disrupt the integrity and social fabric, Panchand Research Institute today opened its branch at Sirhind today.

It will give people the chance to share their concerns and agony with experts.

Veteran journalist-cum-chairman of the Chandigarh-based Panchand Research Institute Shyam Khosla launched the chapter.

Educationist Prof Ashok Sood was made the president of the chapter.

Khosla regretted that the creative intellect in India had become moribund and lost its direction.

On Panchand, he said the institute was a movement to involve the intelligentsia in the nation’s thinking process.

“It is neither a political platform to propagate any particular viewpoint nor to convert people to a particular ideology. Its aim is to influence the intellectual discourse that is as of now dishonest and without any direction,” he added.


Dispute over Rs 300 turns violent
One shot dead by patwari
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, May 20
Dispute over a meager amount of Rs 300 for renovating a watercourse led to the death of one person and seriously injuring another at Kotha Thangni village of this subdivision yesterday.

According to an FIR lodged with the Sadar police, Ajmer Singh, his brothers and a few villagers had on their own got the watercourse flowing near their field renovated. All farmers had paid their share except patwari Dara Singh.

Ajmer Singh told the police that yesterday his brothers, Gurmel Singh and Jasmel Singh, went to the patwari’s residence for collecting Rs 300 as the land owned by him also fell on the same watercourse. At this, the patwari, his brother Dholla Singh and nephew Mangat Singh got enraged and started abusing Ajmer Singh’s brothers and refused to pay the money. This led to a scuffle between them. The patwari took out his pistol and allegedly fired at Ajmer Singh’s brothers. One bullet hit Jasmel Singh’s shoulder. When his (Jasmel Singh’s) elder brother, Gurmel Singh, tried to intervene, the patwari sprayed bullets on the lower part of the abdomen resulting in his death on the spot.

Jasmel Singh was immediately rushed to a local Civil Hospital from where he was referred to Ludhiana.

A case has been registered against the patwari, his brother Dholla Singh and his son Mangat Singh, under Sections 302, 307 and 325 of the IPC.


Robbers strike despite cops’ high alert
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 20
Even though paramilitary forces and the police have been on a high alert in the city in view of the tension over the recent clashes between various Sikh organisations and followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, robbers struck a house and decamped with cash and jewellery worth Rs 25 lakh after injuring the housewife here late last night.

Despite tall claims of the police about curbing the activities of the robbers and other unscrupulous elements, the security scenario in the holy city has been exposed. Robbers struck the house of a textile industrialist in the posh locality of Rani ka Bagh area. The police has registered the case and was raiding various localities in and around the city to nab the culprits, said Ramneesh Kumar, SHO, Civil Lines.

According to police sources, four masked men entered the house of Nirmal Kumar. At the time of the incident, the wife of the industrialist was alone in the house. Her younger son had gone to the market. The incident came to light when Nirmal Kumar returned to his house at around 9 pm.


Hundal-Tiwari group wins key posts
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 20
Hundal-Tiwari group wrested key posts from Jagwant-Brar group after three years in the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) elections.

Hundal-Tiwari group emerged victorious on the posts of president, vice-president and financial secretary while Jagwant-Brar group managed to win the post of general secretary. Votes were cast last Sunday at Lyallpur Khalsa College.

S.S. Hundal from GN College, Moga, defeated his rival R.S. Brar from Khalsa College, Sandhaur, for the post of president with a margin of 31 votes.

Anil Sarwal of DAV College, Chandigarh, (234 votes) defeated Mukhwinder Singh Randhawa of SN College, Dinanagar, (206 votes) for the post of vice-president.

Iqbal Singh Sandhu of DAV College, Abohar, was declared victorious for the post of financial secretary as he defeated his rival J.R. Prashar from RSD College, Ferozepore, with a margin of 28 votes.

Kuldeep Singh of Jagwant-Brar group from a Doraha college managed to win the post of general secretary by defeating his rival R.B. Singh from DAV College, Jalandhar, by a margin of 16 votes. While Kuldeep got 230 votes, R.B. Singh could get only 214 votes.

M.S. Komal (Hundal-Tiwari group, 234 votes) from GGN College, Ludhiana, became area secretary (Punjab University) by defeating Anil Parti (203 votes) from SD College, Chandigarh, by a margin of 31 votes.

Mukhtiar Singh from Khalsa College, Jalandhar, and P.K. Sharma from a Sanghera college who were candidates of Jagwant-Brar group, won elections for the posts of area secretary (GNDU University and Punjabi University) respectively.

While Mukhtiar (222 votes) defeated Rajwinder Singh (216 votes) by a margin of eight votes, the margin of Sharma’s (221 votes) victory over Balbir Singh (217 votes) was just of four votes. Jagdeep Singh was elected a member for the state executive.

T.S. Sangha of Hundal-Tiwari group was elected president of Kapurthala district unit of PCCTU. Sangha (19 votes) registered his victory by defeating his rival by a margin of ten votes. Avtar Singh won the election for the post of secretary of the Kapurthala district unit.


Patiala lad scores 97.2% in ICSE
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 20
Aditya Aggarwal, a Class X student of the local Yadvindra Public School, has topped Patiala, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali by securing 97.2 per cent marks in the ICSE class X examination.

It has been a dream come true for the young boy who has broken past records of the school to bag the first position.

Aditya is the grandson of Dr N.D. Aggarwal, a Padma Shri awardee and known orthopaedician of the region and son of a reputed doctor couple.

Aditya told Chandigarh Tribune that he studied regularly for around three hours a day throughout the session.

“Hard work and dedication stood me in good stead,” said a beaming Aditya.

Dr Rajiv Aggarwal, his father, and the family are elated at the feat of their son, who has broken all past records of the school. Aditya wants to pursue medical education and his goal is to become a doctor.


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