P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Channel on Ravi-Beas Link
No decision sans Punjab: Centre
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Punjab government’s sleepless nights over proposed second channel on the Ravi-Beas link are over. The Centre has assured the government that it will not proceed further on the issue without taking Punjab, a host riparian state, into confidence. The assurance has come in the form of a formal communication from the union government after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal took up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi recently.

Punjab was taken aback unexpectedly last month after the union Cabinet approved in principle to building of a second channel on the Ravi-Beas link to divert its waters into Haryana what the Centre termed as “unutilised water flowing into Pakistan”. Punjab was actually caught napping after the Centre cleared Haryana government’s proposal for creating a second Ravi-Beas link and included it in the 14 national projects to be taken up under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Projects (AIBP).

Punjab chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh told The Tribune that Punjab had put forward a case to the Centre saying that no surplus water was flowing into Pakistan and that Punjab was itself running short of water. The dam at Madhopur was already withholding water that was being released for irrigation. Besides, the state put up a case that the land in Punjab was almost flat, making it impossible for large streams of water to flow into Pakistan.

Reacting to Punjab’s concern and the objection, the union government has sent a letter to Punjab saying that it would not go ahead with the project sans consultations with Punjab and without making it a partner in the project. Badal has already declared that the Punjab had no water to spare and further it was unviable and unfeasible to dig a canal through Punjab’s territory.

Earlier, Haryana had submitted a proposal to the Centre without consulting with Punjab to include creating a second Ravi-Beas link in the 14 national projects to be taken up under AIBP.

Haryana’s claim is that a large quantity of Ravi water, which belonged to India under the Indus Water Treaty, was flowing into Pakistan. Haryana has also in the past pressed for installation of a automatic gauge to be monitored by the Central Water Commission (CWC) on the Ravi to measure the amount of water flowing across the border.


BKI Plot
Surender falsely implicated, claims family
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kasupur (Jalandhar), March 21
Contrary to the claims of a special cell of the Delhi police on the arrest of two Babbar Khalsa militants Surender Singh, alias Fauji (23) of Kasupur village in Jalandhar and Jaswant Singh, alias Kala (31), of Muktsar district, the former’s family alleged Surender had been falsely implicated in the case.

Talking to The Tribune at Kasupur village falling under the Shahkot police station, Surender’s sister Amarjit Kaur said: “His brother is innocent and he is a religious man. He is a paathi for the past over three years”.

He had been a paathi at a Damadami Taksal gurdwara in Ajnala for about three years and at the gurdwara of Billi Warriach village falling under the Nakodar police station for about three months, she added.

Corroborating her statement, his brother Guljar Singh, also a paathi, said: “Surender had gone to Amritsar to pay obeisance at Golden Temple on March 18 morning. They were stunned when a Delhi police constable, accompanied by the Shahkot police, informed them on March 19 evening that he, along with Jaswant, had been caught near Sutlej Bridge in Jalandhar by the Delhi police with two weapons and some cartridges, he added.

Gulzar reiterated that his brother had been falsely implicated as he had no such background as not even a single case had been registered against him in any of the police station in Punjab.

Shahkot DSP Diljinder Singh Dhillon said the Delhi police had not provided any information to the police before arresting Surender and Jaswant. He said a Delhi police constable had come to the Shahkot police station on March 19 evening just to verify Surender’s antecedents. 


Derecognition Fear
23 teachers shifted to Patiala medical college
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, March 21
With a view to avoiding derecognition to medical college, Patiala, in view of the proposed inspection by the Medical Council of India (MCI), the director, Medical Education and Research (DRME), has shifted 23 medical teachers from medical colleges of Amritsar and Faridkot.

Teachers were asked to join the medical college, Patiala, at the earliest. However, it has hampered working of the local Guru Gobind Singh Medical College as it has already been facing acute shortage of staff.

Dr J.S. Dalal, DRME, confirmed the large-scale transfers. He said an MCI team on a two-day inspection would visit the medical college from March 23. He stated that the department's promotions committee held a meeting and recommended promotions of several teachers and its recommendations would be implemented soon.

Meanwhile, interested PCMS doctors for teaching would be absorbed soon. The department received encouraging response after it demanded applications for swapping from active practicing to teaching, he said and added that against 60 special posts applications from 85 PCMS doctors were received.


4 MLAs back Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 21
The ongoing tussle between former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PPCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today took a serious turn as four of the five Congress MLAs of this area of the Malwa region raised a banner of revolt against the latter by accusing her of having become a puppet in the hands of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Reports indicate that discontent was brewing among Congress activists in the Malwa region against Bhattal for endorsing certain actions of the SAD-BJP combine government.

Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Gurpreet Singh Kangar and Makhan Singh, all Congress MLAs, today endorsed the statement in which Amarinder had accused Bhattal of having a pact with Badal. These MLAs claimed that another legislator Jeet Mohinder Singh was also with them. However, Harminder Singh Jassi, MLA of Bathinda, was maintaining silence over the issue as he was considered part of the Bhattal camp.

Speaking on behalf of the dissident MLAs, Makhan Singh, who represents the Pakka Kalan constituency, said it was unfortunate that instead of raising voice against the victimisation of Congress activists, Bhattal had chosen to remain a silent spectator.

He said at this crucial juncture the party high command should have appointed Amarinder as leader of the party in the state. They said they would take up the issue with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Majha leaders also join
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
Senior Congress leaders from a border belt, known as “King’s men”, have rallied behind Capt Amarinder Singh, former Chief Minister, following his decision to end his self-imposed exile from politics.

Not mincing words, former Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa said party workers would extend a warm reception to Capt Amarinder Singh during his proposed roadshow after Baisakhi. He said the former Chief Minister was the only leader who could confront the ruling SAD, which had been unleashing repression on Congress workers.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Dimpa said senior Congress leaders, including Sukhi Randhawa, Harpartap Singh Ajnala, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukh Sarkaria had taken a unanimous decision to boost support to Capt Amarinder Singh.


Akali MLA opposes free power, atta-dal plan
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Balbir Singh Bath yesterday said free power to farm sector and subsidised atta-dal scheme should be stopped. No one was interested in free power and atta-dal scheme, he said in the Punjab Assembly in a debate on the Budget. He is the second SAD MLA to say so. Earlier, Harish Rai Dhanda, SAD MLA from Ludhiana, had argued against free power etc.

Bath said the government should concentrate on providing shelter, employment and poverty removal, instead of giving free power etc. On the decline in the Punjab economy, he said the day was not far when the state would be again at the top. Quoting P. B. Shelley, Bath said, “ If winter comes, can spring be far behind”. He said finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal had pain of the Punjab at his heart and he would certainly do his best to put the state back on the road to recovery.

Speaking on the Budget, Congress MLA Brahm Mohindra said to bring down steel prices the government should slash entry tax on it. He said power was not available in the countryside and people were facing problems. He said those entitled for refund from VAT should be given immediately. He thanked the Punjab government for earmarking Rs 7 crore for Rajiv Gandhi Law University, the campus of which would be set up at Sidhuwal village, near Patiala, in Brahm Mohindra’s Samana constituency.

However, he criticised the implementation of Sarb Sikhsa Abhiyan in the state. By spending even Rs 260 crore, the number of students had remained only to a few thousand, he added. Its implementation was faulty and the government should pay due attention in this regard. Teacher and student ratio should be set right. Innovative schemes should be launched to improve the standard of education and retaining of students in schools, he said. There was nothing in the Budget that could be praised, he said. As model code of conduct related to panchayat elections had come to an end, the finance minister now had the opportunity to do something for the state, he said.

Speaking on the budget, Congress MLA Kanwarjit Singh Brar said those taking part in the debate should look forward and not in the past. Focus should be on what should be done in the next five years.

BJP MLA Jagdish Raj Sahni said it was a growth-oriented budget. The previous government did nothing for Punjab and now the entire burden was on the finance minister to improve the economy of the state. He drew the attention of the finance minister towards certain problems faced by the Batala area.

Harish Bedi, Ishar Singh Maherban and Amarjit Singh Shahi also spoke.


Woman seeks protection from in-laws
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
Fearing threat to her life and other members of family, Gurvinder Kaur of Lalla Afghana village in Ajnala tehsil has urged the police to provide protection from her in-laws who were threatening her for not signing divorce documents.

In a missive to the SSP (rural) here today, Gurvinder (21) said she was married to Gurdev Singh of Jagdev Kalan, who is presently living in the Philippines, on April 11, 2007. She said she was not treated well and was told to bring more dowry. She said when she told them that her parents were poor she was thrown out of the house on June 1. She said later they came to know that Gurdev was already married and was living with his wife and two children.

Gurvinder said when she took up the matter with her husband Gurdev he assured her that he was ready to take her with him. However, he demanded an affidavit from her parents that he would not responsible for anything as she would be travelling to the Philippines on fake documents, she added. Daljit Singh, brother-in-law of Gurdev, refuted the allegation. He said he had a land dispute with the family and they were now conniving with another party to frame Gurdev in a false case.

Meanwhile, Sukhjinder Kaur, rmother of Gurinder, who was also married to Gurdev, said Gurdev took her to the Philippines and allegedly forced her into prostitution. She added that her daughter was killed by Gurdev, who later prepared fake documents to show it a case of accident. 


Sarabjit’s kin apply for passports
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
Members of Sarabjit Singh’s family have applied for passports under the “Tatkal” scheme in the hope of getting visa to Pakistan soon.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone from New Delhi, his sister Dalbir Kaur said Pakistan’s human rights minister Ansar Burney had assured her that the members of the family, including wife, both daughters and brother-in-law of Sarabjit, would get visa immediately. She said Burney had said he would take up Sarabjit’s case with President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf.

Meanwhile, Swapandip Kaur, elder daughter of Sarabjit, and many of his relatives paid obeisance at the Golden Temple. Swapandip claimed that her father was innocent and falsely implicated in the case of bombings in Lahore and Multan in 1990.

Meanwhile, International Human Rights Organisation chairman D.S. Gill called upon all Panthic and political parties of the state, converging on Anandpur Sahib for Hola Mohalla tomorrow, to take up the case of Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, who has been awarded death penalty.


Another loan waiver soon: Soni
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, March 21
Union minister of tourism and culture Ambika Soni today chose the occasion of Hola Mohalla celebrations to announce a bonanza for the poor.

She said the Congress was going to announce another loan waiver for farm labourers, farmers with less than 2 hectares, poor SCs, backward classes and OBCs. Under it small loans taken by the said sections of society for agriculture or education purposes would be waived. The government had calculated that the total financial burden of the loans on the said sections of society came to about Rs 3,000 crore, she added.

Ambika also chided the SAD-BJP government in the state for failing to take benefit of the recent loan waiver for farmers with less than 5 acres. Till date the Punjab government has failed to provide list of farmers who could be benefited by the scheme, she said.

Meanwhile, smitten by criticism by Amarinder, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal spitted fire against the SAD and Parkash Singh Badal. She alleged that SAD was misusing religious institutions for political gains.

Bhattal chose the occasion to boost the group of late Beant Singh. She made special request to the organisers to give chance to Tej Prakash Singh, son of late Beant Singh, to express his views on the occasion.

At today’s rally the Congress managed to put up an impressive show of strength. It was addressed by former PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo and party general secretary Jagmohan Singh Kang. 


Punjab babus in VB net
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday directed the state of Punjab to decide within eight weeks 26 applications pending before it for prosecution sanction.

The directions were issued by the Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jaswant Singh, on a public interest litigation seeking directions to Punjab and the Punjab Vigilance Bureau to ensure the passing of necessary orders, withholding or granting sanction for the prosecution of the public servants caught red-handed while accepting bribe. In a statement, DSP (Vigilance Bureau) Anil Kumar revealed that out of 86 cases prosecution sanction had been received in 20 cases.


Army recruitment rally
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 21
An Army recruitment rally to induct sepoys will be held from April 1-10 at Tibri Cantt to cover Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran districts.

Director, Recruiting, Col K. K. Kiren in a press statement said soldiers in the general category from Sikh, Sikh (M and R), AIAC, Dogra, Muslim, Brahmin, Gorkha (Magar and Gurung), soldier clerks (all castes), soldier technical (Sikh and Sikh M & R and AIAC), soldier nursing assistant (all castes) belonging to three districts were eligible for the recruitment. 


Early paddy sowing banned in Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 21
Concerned over the depleting groundwater table in the border belt, district magistrate-cum-deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu has imposed a ban on the sowing of paddy nursery before May 10. Besides, transplantation of paddy before June 10 has been banned. The district magistrate has to invoke Section 144 to enforce the ban from today.

This is probably for the first time that stringent measures have been taken to discourage early sowing of the crop. Paddy is grown on 1.78 hectares out of net sown area of 2.22 lakh hectares.

Passing the order, Pannu said groundwater in Amritsar district had been depleting at a rate of 48 cm per year in the past five years. Experts had held early sowing of paddy during May and June as the main factor for depletion in water table.

Quoting from a report prepared by the state government in collaboration with the Central Ground Water Board, he said the net groundwater availability in Amritsar district was 1.30 lakh hectare metres per year whereas the draft of groundwater for irrigation per year was 1.87 lakh hectare metres. Therefore, during paddy cultivation, the district had been drawing 62,313 hectare metres water, which was meant for future irrigation needs.

All eight development blocks of the district had been put in the category of over exploited blocks.

According to the recommendations of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, early sowing not only resulted in depletion of groundwater but also causes outbreak of various pests and diseases and environment pollution.


Pay subsidy to farmers, says Rajewal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21
The Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), headed by Balbir Singh Rajewal, has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to pay all subsidies on fertiliser, irrigation, etc, to farmers directly instead of giving it to the industry.

Rajewal, who was invited by the Prime Minister’s office for discussion on the issues raised by him during a week-long dharna in Delhi, told The Tribune here today that he had also urged the Prime Minister to devise a scientific method to fix the minimum support price of agriculture produce.

Rajewal said he held a meeting on various demands with minister of state Prithviraj Chauhan.

“Through Chauhan, we have submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Chauhan was convinced with the points we raised in it,” said Rajewal.

The BKU has urged the Prime Minister to amend terms of reference to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) because the existing terms of reference had been designed to protect the interest of consumers and not of the farmers. He said on the basis of cost of production, the wheat price should be pegged at Rs 1,720 per quintal.

Wards and widows of farmers, who committed suicide, should be suitably compensated for and they should be given pension. The government should ensure free education for their wards to the university level.

The union government should make arrangement to provide gainful training and employment to rural youth and ensure quality education for them. As much as 50 per cent profit to the farmers on the cost of production of all agricultural products should be given as per the Swaminathan Committee report. There should be no ban on the export of wheat and rice.

Rajewal, who was accompanied by Onkar Singh Augol, Megh Singh, Ranjit Singh and Naranjan Singh, told Chauhan that recently declared loan waiver for farmers having less than five acres of land would not benefit farmers of Punjab. Most farmers had joint landholdings.

Punjab farmers usually borrowed money from commission agents for a week or so to return the bank loans and then again borrowed money from banks. A large number of farmers, who otherwise were not in a state to repay their loans, would not be benefited by the loan waiver scheme, for they did not fall in the category of defaulter farmers.


Admn again goes anti-encroacher
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, March 21
The local administration yesterday pulled down certain unauthorised structures which had come up on the Amritsar-Pathankot-Kullu road.

A team of the enforcement wing led by the SDM Abhinav Tarikha had called in police force besides riot-control vehicles and fire engines to avoid any untoward incident. Interestingly, the entire machinery instead of being pressed into service became part of a video film to be produced before the court. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed the local administration to remove all encroachments from the road and submit a comprehensive report in this regard on March 25.

After being in a deep slumber the administration today again took the initiative and removed a couple of structures. The enforcement wing, however, granted 24 hours to certain encroachers to remove their belongings and pull down their illegal structures.


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