P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Bhagat Singh Issue
Simranjit arrested
Son says Bapu, Nehru backed martyr’s hanging
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 6
While Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann was arrested by the Patiala police for hurting the sentiments of the people by reportedly stating that Bhagat Singh was “not” a martyr or a national hero, his son Iman Singh Mann kicked up a storm by saying that Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi had “supported” the hanging of Bhagat Singh.

Meanwhile, Mann was produced before a local court which remanded him in judicial custody till December 20.

Iman Singh was speaking on behalf of his father, who was brought to the Kotwali police station here after being arrested in the morning from his native Talanian village near Sirhind.

Iman said the Sikhs could not recognise a person (Bhagat Singh) who had murdered two “innocent” persons--Saunders and head constable Channan Singh.

“We cannot side with anyone involved in the killing of innocent people. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, as per historians, had supported the hanging of Bhagat Singh and had described him a ‘terrorist’. See the irony. While Nehru and Gandhi are accorded full respect, my father has been arrested for what he said about Bhagat Singh. In fact, my father had posed a question while interacting with mediapersons in Patiala as to whether anyone who had murdered innocent people could be described as a martyr or hero. Won’t we be doing injustice to mankind by justifying the killing of innocents? My father has been booked merely on the basis of a news report appearing in a vernacular. By these standards, Gujarat Chief Minister Narinder Modi should have been booked by the Punjab police for his reported statement, wherein he has tried to justify the killing of Muslims. Is this not a case of double standards?” questioned Iman Singh while talking to The Tribune.

DSP Manjit Singh Brar and SHO D.S. Dhaliwal, however, did not allow mediapersons to talk to Simranjit Singh Maan who, was arrested at 9.30 am from Taliana under Section 153-A of the IPC and brought to the Kotwali.

Iman Singh said, “Hindu fundamentalists and their organisations like the BJP, Congress, RSS and Shiv Sena have been behind the ordeal inflicted upon my father, who has been implicated in a false case. Our party will organise state-wide ‘fateh’ marches on December 14 to oppose the demand of the removal of the portrait of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Sant Bhindranwale was the only Sikh leader to hve awakened the Sikhs.”


Emergency party meeting today
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 6
In the wake of the arrest of party president Simranjit Singh Mann by the Patiala police today, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) has convened an emergency meeting of the political affairs committee (PAC) of the party tomorrow at Fatehgarh Sahib to chalk out the next course of action and issue party’s programme for the workers, activists, supporters and well-wishers.

Talking to The Tribune over the phone today, general secretary of the SAD (A) Jeet Singh Alloarkh termed the arrest of Mann as “unfortunate”. He alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had got SAD (A) president Mann arrested at the instance of the BJP.

Alloarkh said Mann had been arrested under Section 153-A of the IPC, as BJP minister Tikshan Sud on December 3 had demanded registration of a case against Mann under sedition charges. He also said that Mann had been arrested to make RSS’s call for Punjab bandh on December 14 a success. He said the RSS had given the call for Punjab bandh against the installation of portrait of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Central Sikh Museum.


Amarinder decries Mann’s remarks
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 6
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has not only hailed the arrest of SAD (A) chief Simranjit Singh Mann, but has dubbed the latter as a person who has of late gone insane.

Amarinder has also come down heavily on the reported statement of Mann that Bhagat Singh was “neither a martyr nor a national hero”. “Shaheed Bhagat Singh is a highly revered freedom fighter who sacrificed his life for the sake of the country,” he said.


A master stroke of SAD
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
Arrest of Simranjit Singh Mann, a former MP and president of the faction-ridden Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) in Fatehgarh Sahib in the Bhagat Singh case, has not only partially bailed the Shiromani Akali Dal out of Bhindranwale picture crisis but also got all major political parties at its back.

Besides its alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition party Congress, other political parties, too, have been criticising the decision of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to install a portrait of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Golden Temple museum.

Intriguingly, a statement made by Mann criticising Shaheed Bhagat Singh has come as a major diversionary relief for the SAD , which by ordering his arrest has been able to polarise support in its favour on the national martyrs’ issue.

Both the BJP and the Congress have gone on record criticising the utterings of Mann besides demanding his arrest in the case. By taking him in custody today, the SAD appears to have scored a point. Failure on the Bhindranwale issue has been converted to a success in the Mann case.

Though the SAD leadership has been trying to wriggle out of the Bhindranwale picture crisis by arguing that pictures or names of all those killed in the Golden Temple complex during Operation Bluestar are already there in the Sikh museum. As such putting a picture along with others should not be viewed as “anti-national”.

Further, they hold that Bhindranwale had never fought for “Khalistan”. He always termed it as a “war between Sikhs and the communal Hindu government at the Centre”. He was also quoted as saying that “Sikhs, if offered Khalistan on a platter, won’t mind accepting it.”

Sources reveal that even Congress high command is not very keen to play up the portrait case and instructions have reportedly been issue to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee to go slow on it.

Today, the Damdami Taksal issued a statement in Amritsar describing Sant Bhindranwale as a great supporter of communal harmony and amity.

To put things in proper perspective, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal issued a statement yesterday maintaining that no one, irrespective of his or her political affiliation, would be allowed to play with the peace and law and order in the state.

Instructions have been issued to all police officers to be extra vigilant and spare no one, be it a Hindu or a Sikh fundamentalist organisation, from vitiating the atmosphere in the state.

Putting the state law and order agencies on maximum alert may be alright but the continuous discrimination against the Dalits in rural areas in general and at places against Premis - followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda - may also not augur well for the government which pretends to tackle all communal bickerings with an iron hand.


Cash strapped govt sits on subsidies
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
A cash-strapped Punjab government has defaulted on payments of subsidies to provide cheap atta-dal to “poor” families and pensions for the aged. It has already defaulted on payment of power subsidy to the PSEB.

As on today, the total pending payment under all schemes stands up to about Rs 1,244 crore.

Sources in the government told The Tribune that since September 1 this year, no payment of subsidy had been made. With the present financial situation, there seems to be no way that the payments can be released in the immediate future.

The government was to pay Rs 380 crore as subsidy for the seven months of this fiscal to the food and supplies department for the atta-dal scheme. Only Rs 32 crore have been paid as subsidy for the scheme, which had been launched on August 15 with much fanfare.

For old age pensions, the state was to pay Rs 525 crore this fiscal. The quarterly release of instalment works out to be Rs 131 crore. The payments for the first two quarters ending September 30 have been made. Subsidy worth Rs 131 crore for the ongoing quarter ending December 31 is yet to be released.

A reality check will be done in January, an official said.

The Tribune, in its edition dated November 13, had highlighted that not a rupee had been paid to the PSEB against the outstanding subsidy of about Rs 930 crore. This subsidy is released to give power discounts to agriculture sector, Dalit families, etc. About Rs 2,500 crore is the power subsidy bill for this fiscal and this includes Rs 400 crore as arrears of last year. The money had been paid in monthly instalments till July this year.


Bittu faction constitutes youth wing
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
The Shiromani Akali Dal(Amritsar) headed by Daljit Singh Bittu today constituted its youth wing which has been named as Youth Akali Dal(Amritsar). Rajpal Singh Hardialeana has been appointed chief of the presidium announced today to run the affairs of the youth wing. Other members of the presidium will be Mandhir Singh, Jaspal Singh Manjpur, Gurvinder Singh and Gurbej Singh.

There will be five general secretaries of the youth wing. They are Ravinder Singh, Rajwinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Avtar Singh and Kuldip Singh.

Speaking on this occasion, Rajpal Singh said the first task assigned to youth wing was of collecting details with regard to the innocent Sikh youth, who were killed in fake encounters. He said his organisation was against interfering in traditions, customs and religious practices of any community.


Work on Kandi canal stops for want of funds
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 6
On account of failure of the state government in providing regular funds for the construction of 70 km-long second phase of the Rajiv Gandhi Kandi Canal from Hoshiarpur to Balachaur, work on the project has come to a standstill.

The construction of the second phase of this canal was started in 2005 during the Congress regime to provide irrigation facilities to 29,527 hectares in 218 villages, which are totally dependent on rains. The estimated cost of this project was Rs 271.09 crore and was to be completed in 2008-09.

The first phase of the Kandi canal, which is 59.5 km long from Mukerian hydel channel, Talwara, to Ajowal (Hoshiarpur) had already been completed and was providing irrigation facility to 22,594 hectares in 215 villages.

Superintending engineer of the Kandi canal project S.K. Sadana told The Tribune here today that the construction work from RD 59.5 (Hoshiarpur) to RD 112 had been completed. However, of the 53 bridges to be constructed only 35 had been completed. Rs 74.02 crore has been spent on this project so far.

The state government had released Rs 19.44 crore in 2007-08 against the required amount of Rs 78 crore, of which Rs 17 crore had been spent. The District Treasury Office, Hoshiarpur, had withheld the payment of the bills for Rs 3 crore. With the non-clearance of these, the contractors had stopped the construction work for the past three months.

Former health minister Ramesh Chander Dogra, with whose efforts the second phase of the canal had been started, criticised the state government for its failure in providing the required funds. 


Land acquisition reason for farmers’ stir: Study
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
What has led farmers and landless labourers to resort to violent and other forms of agitation? It is against acquisition of land for setting up SEZs, big industries or townships at Nandigram, Singur, Posco, Fatehgarh Channa(Barnala), Mohali, Jhajjar, Gurgaon and Manimajra, near here.

To find an answer to this and other related questions, two organisations-Navdanya and Actionaid - have conducted a study in the areas where farmers resorted to agitation with a special focus on Punjab’s Barnala area and Gurgaon and the Jhajjar area of Haryana.

While land was acquired near Barnala to set up an industry by a private company, at Jhajjar and Gurgaon, one of the largest industrial house in the country, is setting up the biggest SEZ in the country. At Manimajra the first phase of an IT park has been set up.

Most of the farmers,whose land was acquired for SEZs or townships are facing uncertain future and only 5 per cent of them will continue to be farmers. The study has found that the state has become a tool in the hands of industrialists to get land acquired for them. Because of the setting up of SEZ in Gurgaon and Jhajjar areas, 37 villages will be completely wiped out, says Mukesh Ray, who has coordinated and authored the study.

However, most villagers are ignorant regarding their certain displacement, says Ray.

He says that 30 per cent of the land was being forcibly acquired by the government authorities for industrial houses in that part of the country.

Land acquisition has negative impact on the income and per capita food availability of the farmers and hits the landless the most because they lose their livelihood in the process but are not compensated for it. Impact on women is more severe than men. It says that the government’s economic policy remains focused on market-led economic growth.

The study says that on the one hand the government claims that economy is growing at the rate of 9 per cent but on the other percentage of people employed in agriculture has come down from 64 to 54 per cent.

Women belonging to farmer families are also among the worst hit. They have been rearing milch cattle and selling milk but have no work to do.

The study has concluded that there is a negative impact of land acquisition on the income level of all farmers.

Around 40 per cent of all types of farmers have experienced decline in income since their land was acquired.


CM b’day: Bathinda may get development package
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 6
In a bid to placate the electorate of the Malwa region where his Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) suffered a drubbing from the Congress in the recent Assembly elections, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is expected to unfold a package of development projects during his birthday celebrations here on December 8.

BJP stalwart L.K.Advani and former Chief Minister of the neighbouring Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala, are among those who will participate in the celebrations.

The birthday celebration is being organised as a high-pitched affair by the SAD leadership and Sukhbir Singh Badal, working president of SAD and son of Badal, was here throughout the day yesterday making final arrangements for the “grand show”.

He said for accelerated development, the Chief Minister would make certain Bathinda-specific announcements on that day. “Bathinda will become the most happening place in Punjab,” he told this correspondent.

The SAD-led coalition government has already set the tone for Badal’s birthday celebrations by inserting advertisements in newspapers regarding the foundation stone laying of an international-level cricket stadium here on Saturday.

Sukhbir said the string of development activities would create a sea change in the Malwa belt in the next three years. The Chief Minister might also make some announcements pertaining to the farmers, who suffered damage to crop.

The highway between here and Chandigarh will be four-laned and a network of roads laid in the interior areas to pave the way for their development.

He said the Rs18,000-crore refinery being set up here by steel baron Lakshmi Kant Mittal would be a boon for economy of Bathinda in particular.


Slum dwellers of 11 cities to get houses
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 6
The government will hire the services of private companies to prepare a project report for providing water supply and sewerage facilities at Sunam, Majitha and Kotkapura.

PWD B&R minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa said today that potable water supply and sewerage would be provided in entire Sunam, Majitha and Kotkapura under the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns of the Central Government.

The minister said 11 cities and towns of the state would be covered under a scheme of the Central government for providing houses to slum dwellers and people of low-income group. People of Sunam, Kotkapura, Bathinda, Patiala, Ropar, Malaut, Muktsar, Rajpura, Zirakpur, Pathankot and Majitha would be beneficiaries.

He inaugurated a bus service from Sunam to Amritsar and a national rural employment scheme at Sunam.


Anand Marriage Act draft taken to Pak
Tribune News Service

Attari, December 6
Sikh legal experts, including K.T.S. Tulsi, a senior Supreme Court advocate , led by Paramjit Singh Sarna, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) today crossed over to Pakistan, from here to discuss the draft of The Sikh Marriage Act 2007 for Pakistan.

The draft has been prepared by a panel ,comprising Gurtej Singh , a former IAS officer , Prof Kashmir Singh , head Law department , Guru Nanak University and Harshinder Singh advocate and vetted by Tulsi .

Tulsi told reporters the draft of the Anand Marriage Act dealt with different issues like adoption , succession, divorce and weddings solemnised per Sikh Maryada . The deputation of the DSGMC meet Pakistan’s law minister Syed Afzal Haider in Lahore .

However Manmohan Singh Khalsa , a U.K.-based Dal Khalsa leader said on phone from Pakistan the Sikh leaders from various countries, including Avtar Singh Sanghera , a Babbar Khalsa leader from England would meet the law mMinister separately to discuss the Anand Marriage Act . He claimed the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee had already prepared a draft after consulting the Sikh leaders from various countries and there was no need to submit a separate draft. 


Dalits rally against atrocities
Ramanjit Singh Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
Activists of the Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan (DDVA) today held a rally in Sector 36 here to observe the martyrdom day of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, as Dalit Daman Virodhi Maha rally and demanded the Punjab government to take action on atrocities being committed against Dalits.

Swami Agnivesh, founder-member of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and president of the World Council of the Arya Samaj participated in the rally. The Swami sought minimum wages be fixed at national level. Advocating single education pattern at the national level to end disparity between public and government schools, the Swami said the government should make efforts in this direction.

The activists began assembling in the city since morning. Those coming in private vehicles reached the Sector 25 venue, those by trucks and buses assembled near Tribune Chowk and marched toward the venue from there. The Chandigarh Police had made arrangements at Sector 25, but later changed the venue and provided an alternative site to the Dalits in Sector 36.

The activists were holding placards and wearing blue robes reading “Give us land or land us in jail”. The traffic was allowed one way on all routes resultin in jams and chaos.

The activists, in a memorandum to the Punjab Chief Minister demanded abolition of the bonded labour, discrimination and untouchablity at cremation grounds, protection of their funeral rights besides filling backlog of government posts and new legislation for reservation of jobs in private sector.

They also insisted on making offences under Section 354 of the IPC (outraging the modesty of a woman) punishable with imprisonment for seven years, subsidised wheat flour and pulses, monetary help for marriages of Dalit girls (shagun scheme), amending laws relating to land reforms and give minimum five acres of cultivable land and residential plots including grounds for dumping cow dung.

Jai Singh president of the DDVA alleged the UT administration had also discriminated against the Dalit Samaj by depriving its activists of the Rally Ground in Sector 25 as the venue for the rally. The administration earlier permitted the activists to organise a rally, but on Wednesday ordered them to vacate the place as it was given to others for which the other party had not even applied for. 


5 dists to be covered under diabetes project
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Kharar, December 6
Five districts of the state are all set to be covered under a project of World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), Denmark, for diabetic eye problems. Extending a helping hand to diabetics in areas of Patiala, Ropar, Ludhiana, Mohali and Chandigarh suburban areas, the WDF has collaborated with Sri Guru Harkishan Sahib Eye Hospital at Sohana, near here.

Besides reaching out to diabetics suffering from retina problems, it will also create general awareness on disease among people. “In such circumstances, the project comes as a relief for many diabetics, especially in rural areas, who are unaware of their ailment,” said programme coordinator (India) for the SGHS Diabetic Retinopathy Project Khushwant Singh.

Spun over a period of three years (2007 to 2010), the project will cover around 50 lakh people. 


High Court
HC chides Punjab for haphazard constructions in 
Dera Bassi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 6
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today made clear its intentions of framing of norms by the state government for setting up residential complexes in Punjab after observing that nowhere in the world complexes had entry bang on the highways.

Coming down heavily on the state on a petition filed by Dharam Chand and another on constructions in the Dera Bassi area, a Division Bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, further observed that the entry points were at least a kilometre inside.

The Bench added that right from Zirakpur all the way to Amritsar there were multi-storied buildings without adequate parking space on lands abutting the highway. Simply because the fee is paid, the authorities concerned allowed the conversion of agriculture land to residential without taking into consideration issues like sewerage, electricity and even supply of potable water, the Bench asserted.

Taking a serious view of the matter, the judges added that one could actually see 20-storied structure coming up right in the middle of fields. Without adequate facilities for water supply and sewerage, such structures were bound to put additional pressure on the ground water resources.

The judges further added that they would like to know how the respondent state had allowed the structures to come up without taking into consideration issues like the provision of basic amenities.

Before parting with the case, the judges asked the state to file complete details on why norms had not been set to prevent buildings from having direct access to the highways, constructed with public money, as the same hampered the smooth flow of traffic. The judges also asked for details of guidelines in this regard. The case would now come up on January 28.

State quizzed on forest area fencing

After Punjab claimed the plantation of “species suitable for the consumption of wild animals” in the reserve forests of Nabha tehsil, a Division Bench of the high court has asked it to file a comprehensive affidavit specifying the number and types of plants grown in the area.

The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, added: “We would like to know how much time the government would take to fence the area in question and what steps had been taken to supply water and fodder to the beasts. The case would now come up on March 26.”

The directions follow a petition by Darshan Singh and 25 others of Patiala district against the state, the secretary in the Department of Forests, Patiala deputy commissioner and the chief conservator of forests.

The petitioners had sought issuance of directions to the state and other respondents to ensure the protection of life and property of residents of 40 villages in the Nabha area from wild animals in the reserve forests.

Misuse of residential premises

Taking up a petition filed by Ludhiana residents for directing Punjab and others to take appropriate steps for stopping the misuse of residential premises for commercial purposes in the city, a Division Bench of the high court today asked the state counsel to specify the number of demolitions carried out in areas where change of land use had not been obtained.

The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Mahesh Grover, asked counsel Rupinder Khosla to file a comprehensive affidavit and fixed February 5 as the next date of hearing in the case. The state had earlier informed the court that commercial activity was going on in certain areas after the change of land use was allowed in accordance with a policy. It permitted the use of “single depth plots” for commercial purposes.

After going through the documents and contentions, the judges also asked the state counsel to specify the term “single depth plots”. The judges made it clear that they would take a serious view of the matter in case the necessary steps were not taken to check the problem in the city.

In their petition against the state, the Municipal Council, the Mayor and others, Rajesh Inderpal and nine other Ludhiana residents had also sought directions to the demolition of illegal and unauthorised structures and buildings set up by the public in gross violation of the building bylaws and the city’s master plan. Directions were also sought against amending the town planning scheme with a view to regularise illegal and unauthorised structures in the city. They had also prayed for the court’s indulgence to ensure against the regularisation of misuse of the residential areas for commercial purposes.

Virk’s plea: Hearing on December 11

Justice S.S. Saron of the high court today fixed December 11 as the date of hearing on the blanket bail plea filed by Punjab’s former director-general of police S.S. Virk. He was seeking the issuance of a 10-day prior notice if any case was registered in the state by any wing of the Punjab Police.

The matter was initially listed before the court of Justice H.S. Bhalla, but as he was on leave today the matter was placed before Justice Saron's Bench. 


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