P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Labour shortage at mandis
Uttam Chand Mukhia, head of a labour group from Bihar, revealed that the inflow of labour from Bihar had dried up as factories have come up in various parts of that state and labour prefers to do job there
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
The first critical signs regarding labour shortage have begun to emerge for Punjab’s agriculture. The inflow of labour, on which the state’s agriculture is hugely dependent, has begun to dry up.

Firm indications in this regard were available to The Tribune team that visited various grain markets which have started choking owing to the critical shortage of labour to clear markets of the procured wheat stock. Contractors and commission agents are running the show by engaging local labour owing to the scarcity of the migrant labour.

Kulwant Singh, a commission agent at the Sirhind grain market, said, “I had 45 migrant labourers last year. However, this year there are only 20.”

“In case weather turns hostile, there will be huge loss to wheat lying in grain markets and that worries us most,” said a group of farmers in the Morinda grain market.

As harvesting of wheat is in full flow, it is being unloaded by farmers in various grain markets at a rapid pace. There is no problem as far as its procurement by government agencies is concerned. However, owing to the non-clearing of the grain markets, farmers are facing serious problems to unload their fresh stock in the market yards. Heaps of wheat can also be seen on roads constructed on the periphery of the grain markets at Sirhind, completely blocking the road.

Choking of grain markets has become a political issue, as the Congress has decided to hold a statewide protest on April 22 in this regard. It has caused panic in the SAD-BJP government, as during the tenure of the Amarinder Singh government, any such problem was not encountered by farmers and commission agents.

Uttam Chand Mukhia, head of a labour group from the Supual region of Bihar, revealed that the inflow of labour from Bihar had dried up as factories have come up in various parts of that state and labour prefers to do job there.

“In Punjab, the average per day earning of a migrant labourer is Rs 100-125, whereas in Bihar he can earn Rs 70-80. That way it is better to work in Bihar than coming all the way to Punjab to do labour,” Uttam Chand, who speaks English fluently.

And travelling from Bihar to Punjab in a train is a very challenging job. Migrant labourers are looted on the way from Bihar to Punjab and on return to their native land. The railway police not only thrashes them but exploits them to the hilt. Whatever railway minister Lalu Prasad may say, the truth is that migrant labour faces a lot of humiliating situations while travelling from Bihar to Punjab and back, he adds. Moreover, travelling to Punjab for doing labour in fields or at grain markets is not very profitable now, he said, going deep into the problem of labour shortage.

Till this afternoon, about 22 lakh tonnes of wheat had arrived in various grain markets, and out of it, 13 lakh tonnes is still lying in market yards. Chairman of the Mandi Board, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, today warned various government procurement agencies that they should clear the grain markets of wheat stock in the next 72 hours, otherwise 25 paise per bag would be charged from them under the Punjab Market Committee bylaws framed in 1963. At several places, trucks were seen parked in grain markets, but there was no labour to load the stock.


Vendetta Cases
Amarinder launches road show
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Dera Baba Nanak, April 19
To expose alleged atrocities on Congress workers by the SAD-BJP regime, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh kicked off his road show from Chenewal village, near here, today.

Accompanied by over 24 present and former MLAs, Capt Amarinder Singh visited the aggrieved Congress workers in the Fatehgarh Churian constituency and collected documents from them. Former PPCC president Santokh Singh Randhawa and H.S. Hanspal were also accompanying him.

He claimed that the criminal cases registered against the Congress workers during would be challenged in the High Court.

Talking to The Tribune, Capt Amarinder Singh said over 6,000 criminal cases had been registered against the Congress supporters out of vendetta. As many as 54 cases were registered against Congress supporters only in Shahpur-Gauraya village, he added.

He said the Punjab police had been playing in the hands of the Akalis, especially MLAs and local leaders. Certain top officials had been forced to quit their jobs. The law and order situation had worsened in the past over a year.

Replying to a query that he was working against the directions of the Congress Coordination Committee, Amarinder said he was on the road to meet supporters and was not organising any public rally. “No one can stop me from meeting my supporters,” he asserted.

Commenting on the “Badal-Bhattal relations”, he said they were sharing “playgrounds and dining tables” so that they could withdraw court cases against each other. “I differ with Rajinder Kaur Bhattal only on one point that she should have taken up with Badal the issue of settling the cases registered against Congress workers than getting her own cases settled,” he added.

About the comments made by former Kharar MLA Bir Devinder Singh regarding his relations with Pakistani journalist Aroosa, Amarinder said Bir Devinder was not a party spokesman.

Meanwhile, after receiving a warm welcome at Chenewal village, the former Chief Minister led the road show that passed through villages of Raichack, Kotli Surat Mali, Dehrfattuput, Rahimabad, Shahpur Gauraya, Agwan, Dera Baba Nanak, Rattar Chhatar, Haruwal, Maan, Ghania-ke-Bet, Nasrala and Talwandi Rama.


CJs, CMs Conference
Legal framework needs drastic changes: Badal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 19
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today called for revolutionary structural changes in the country’s legal framework. 

Speaking at a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of the High Courts in New Delhi, he said even 60 years after Independence, fair and cheap justice remained a distant dream for millions of people in the country. He called for "drastic measures to remove the common perception that law is a handy mistress in the hands of the rich and the mighty, or that it resides only in the air-conditioned chambers of the legal luminaries”.

Law must come out of these chambers and be easily accessible to those who desperately seek justice, but cannot buy it with hard and high cash, he added.

Badal referred to the “unduly long and seemingly endless” procedures for securing justice through courts of law.

Independence of judiciary loses its meaning and relevance if the judicial system fails to inspire confidence in the poor and the common people, opined Badal.


Sarabjit Issue
India accused of double standards
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 19
Godfrey Bloom, member of European Parliament (MEP), at a press conference here today, accused the Indian government of double standards, “as it had failed to apply the same humanitarian yardstick to Davinder Pal Bhullar, who was also facing death penalty for allegedly attacking M.S.Bitta, president, All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, as in case of Sarabjit Singh”.

Bloom said the External Affairs Ministry had been insisting that Pakistan grant clemency to Sarabjit Singh, who is on death row in a case pertaining to bomb blasts in Pakistan. However, no humanitarian view had been taken in case of Bhullar. He said Sarabjit should have a fair trial on humanitarian grounds.

On the turban issue, Bloom said he would raise the issue in the European Parliament so that a lasting solution is arrived at. He said he knew the importance of Sikh identity, as he was very close to Sikhs in his constituency of Yorkshire in the UK. He said turban was an important part of Sikh identity and should not be banned. They had earlier, too, raised this issue and would now raise the issue in European Parliament after his return.

The MEP also assured to take up the matter of release of Paramjit Singh, a British national who is imprisoned in India for the past more than two years.

Paramjit was arrested in connection with possession of RDX and is facing trial in the Nabha jail. He said the authorities concerned in Britain failed to take this issue properly and he would raise this question in Parliament on his return.

Meanwhile, he condemned the attack on Tibet by China. He said Tibet has a unique and wonderful culture. The attack of China on this country is destroying its culture, he lamented.


Capt defies Congress on Dullo turf
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Khanna, April 19
The directives of the Congress Coordination Committee issued to Capt Amarinder Singh making it mandatory for him to seek permission from the PPCC before holding any political rally seemed to have no effect on the former Chief Minister who today led a political rally here. Former PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo has a good number of supporters in the area.

Even as Dullo and his supporters, who are believed to be part of the Bhattal camp, stayed away from the rally, Capt Amarinder Singh’s loyalists outnumbered Bhattal’s supporters in the town.

Addressing the rally, reportedly organised by his supporters, Capt Amarinder Singh maintained that he had not come here to hold a political rally, but to mobilise the party workers for the coming Lok Sabha elections. His SAD-BJP bashing remained the core of his speech that lasted for about 25 minutes.

Later, speaking to mediapersons, he said his intentions were not to divide the party rank and file, but he was against the political working of Bhattal, whom he accused of having forged an alliance with the BJP and the SAD in the state.

The former Chief Minister said even as the ruling combine was getting false cases registered against Congress workers across the state, the PPCC chief was busy holding friendly cricket matches with Akalis. He would launch a campaign against the registration of false cases against his party men.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who has rejected the coordination committee calling it a “farce”, said he owed no explanation to it for meeting his party men.

Meanwhile, Dullo who stayed in his office throughout the proceedings of the rally, told mediapersons that Amarinder should not go against the party. He said being a former Chief Minister of the state, Capt Amarinder Singh should exhibit discipline in 
his working. 


Snap ties with Badal first, Capt to Bhattal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 19
Huge support of Congress supporters in the heartland of Majha region today emboldened former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who pledged to continue his fight against political vendetta unleashed on party workers.

After meeting the victims of political vendetta in the border belt, the former Chief Minister held a press conference here. He asked PPCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal why she had not taken up vendetta cases against Congress workers with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal? He, however, hastened to add that he and Bhattal would jointly fight against the ruling alliance in the coming Lok Sabha elections because such a gesture would strengthen the hands of president of All-India Congress Committee Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“I have nothing against Bhattal and would like to work with her provided she snaps friendly ties with Badal,” he said.

Meanwhile, when contacted, Congress’ chief spokesman Bir Devinder Singh asked why Capt Amarinder Singh kept silent for one year if Congress workers were being harassed or victimised? He should have confronted Badal from the day one but he preferred to stay away from the Vidhan Sabha, he alleged.

Meanwhile, the city witnessed a flurry of political activities in view of the coming Amritsar (South) byelection, which are slated for May 22. Both Parkash Singh Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh will stay here for night to hold emergency meetings with their supporters.


Bhattal threatens Capt with legal case
Our Correspondent

Mohali, April 19
President of the PPCC Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today threatened to file a contempt of court plea against Capt Amarinder Singh, former Punjab Chief Minister, if he did not desist from levelling baseless allegations with regard to a court case which was later withdrawn by the government.

Bhattal, who was addressing a press conference here at the residence of Kharar MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu, said Capt Amarinder Singh had been making baseless allegations over the past two months and she had been tolerating all that in the larger interest of the party. And if he kept going on with the allegations she would be left with no choice but to file contempt proceedings against him.

She said a case against her was filed by Parkash Singh Badal during his last term as Chief Minister of Punjab. But, when the Congress came to power in the state, Capt Amarinder Singh reopened the case against her. She said, now, the case has been withdrawn by the Punjab government. The allegation of her collusion with the SAD-BJP government in this regard was totally baseless, she added.

She said the former Chief Minister went against the decisions of the CLP and the PPCC and a number of complaints against him had been received by the discipline committee. The party high command was watching the activities of Capt Amarinder Singh and had already given him a signal that nobody was above the party. The party high command has told him not to hold parallel rallies, she added.

Bhattal, who also addressed a gathering organised by the OBC wing of the party, said the party had demanded that the Punjab government should waive loans of SCs, BCs and other economically weaker sections. But, the demand was turned down by the government. She demanded that amount under the shagun scheme to be given at the time of marriage of girls belonging to poor families and SCs and BCs should be raised to Rs 25,000.

Talking about the rising inflation, she said the Central government had taken various steps to bring the prices of various items under control. But, it was the duty of the state government to check hoarding of essential items.


Bhattal to take part in chakka jam
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has decided to take part in an hour-long statewide peaceful sit-in simultaneously at Sirhind and Patiala on April 22.

According to Bir Devinder Singh, chief spokesman of the Punjab Congress , wheat stock of millions of tonnes had choked the grain markets and payments to farmers were being held up because the FCI had failed to lift the stocks due to the ‘faulty policy’ of the state government for the purchase of wheat in the state.

Due to the ‘irrational’ approach of the Punjab government for the purchase of wheat, the farmers, labour, commission agents and truck operators were going through a lean period. He added that enough harassment was being caused to the farmers whose wheat was awaiting lifting and transportation to godowns.

Statewide chakka jaam had been planned by the Congress to highlight the plight of the farmers and the labour, he added. 


LS poll: Sukhbir may contest Bathinda seat
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
A major slice in the organisational set-up to the Bathinda parliamentary constituency by the ruling SAD has triggered speculations regarding the party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal contesting the coming Lok Sabha elections from here.

The two districts, Bathinda and Mansa, that constitute the Lok Sabha constituency, have been given an unexpected representation in the organisational set-up, point out SAD activists.

Paramjeet Kaur Gulshan, sitting MP of the area, who was last week nominated president of the women wing of the SAD, was given a rousing reception by SAD activists.

Speculations were rife that Sukhbir might shift to Bathinda, as the Faridkot constituency, which he represents, has now been reserved. However, senior SAD leaders say that it was premature to expect Sukhbir contesting from Bathinda. They point out that organisational responsibilities might have been given to local leaders in view of the elections for the prestigious election for the Bathinda Municipal Corporation.


6 DCC chiefs to be changed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
With Lok Sabha elections in view, the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) is set to be reorganised and six district presidents may be changed as the set up has enrolled 3.5 lakh new members in six months’ drive.

The PYC also planned ‘open membership’ in the state under which PYC workers would put up booths at public places such as religious congregations on the pattern of Karnataka. Those keen could get enrolled members after filling the form.

“We have got 3.5 lakh new members in six months till March 31. Our target was four lakh new members,” said PYC chief Vijay Inder Singla. Singla said he was going to change four-five district chiefs and replace with ‘young blood’. “Most of those district chiefs will be replaced by those who have crossed 35 years. The thrust of the new-look PYC will be to project the policies of the UPA government, especially the national employment guarantee scheme.

We are going to take the message of Rahul Gandhi to the masses that it was the right of the youth to get gainful employment,” said Singla.

Though Singla indicated that four-five of district PCY chiefs were being replaced with younger faces, sources in the organisation said change in respect of at least four district chiefs was imminent. Most district chiefs who were likely to face the axe could be from Doaba and Majha areas where the Congress had fared badly in the last Assembly elections. No change was expected in the Malwa region.


BJP seeks MSP for basmati paddy
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 19
On the pattern of ordinary paddy, the Central government should also announce the minimum support price (MSP) for basmati paddy to encourage farmers to sow basmati throughout the country. Besides this, the Centre should also announce MSP for vegetables to promote diversification of crops.

This demand was made here by district president of the BJP Jatinder Kalra after taking a round of three wheat procurement centres situated at Kherri, Gharachon and Batriana villages, as part of his party’s programme to ensure the procurement of wheat in a smooth manner so that farmers would not face any difficulty in grain markets at the hands of officials and traders.

He also called upon farmer organisations to compel the Centre to announce MSP for Basmati paddy also, as it would help the farmers and prevent them from heading towards suicides due to debts. He said the basmati paddy’s market price was nowadays about Rs 3,000 per quintal, while the market rate of simple paddy less than Rs 1,000 per quintal.

The BJP leader also told traders and commission agents to educate farmers to sow basmati paddy in a big way as it would not only strengthen their business, but also economy of the state.


Travelling to holy towns a costly affair
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Travelling by road to holy places like Anandpur Sahib and Naina Devi from City Beautiful has become a costly affair. For just travelling 10 km by car on a quality road from Kiratpur Sahib to Anandpur Sahib, one has to pay Rs 59 as toll tax. In fact, for travelling (up and down) from Chandigarh to Anandpur Sahib by car, one has to pay Rs 82 per trip in all.

Besides, most part of the road from Chandigarh to Anandpur Sahib is bumpy.

“Charging of the toll on the road that leads to Anandpur Sahib just amounts to taxing a pilgrimage by the state government. It is unfair,” said Parminder Singh, general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC).

The government should immediately do away the collection of toll on the road and compensate the company concerned from its treasury.

The first payment of Rs 15 is made for crossing the railway overbridge at Kurali, then Rs 8 near Gurdwara Parivar Vichora Sahib for crossing another bridge and then Rs 59 for travelling from Kiratpur Sahib to Anandpur Sahib.

The road from Kiratpur Sahib to Anandpur Sahib and further Nangal town has been constructed by a private company under the overall control of the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB).

Interestingly, while people have to pay money to travel to these holy towns in private vehicles, the Punjab government earns Rs 4 crore per year from this road.

Sources in the PIDB told The Tribune that the company that had constructed the road would pay Rs 60 crore in 15 years to the Punjab government from the earning it made from the road by charging the toll tax.

They said travelling to these holy towns would become costlier following the completion of a road stretch from Ropar to Kirtapur Sahib being built under the supervision of the National Highways Authority of India.

Though a good quality road has been constructed from Kiratpur Sahib to Nangal, a majority of the people who travel on the road just go to Anandpur Sahib and Naina Devi. As Nangal is on the boundary that Punjab shares with Himachal Pradesh, only those who live in that region travel on the road up to that town. Otherwise, beyond Anandpur Sahib up to Nangal, it is the least travelled road, except during the Holla Mohala festival and a mela at the Dera Baba Vad Bhag Singh.

No regulatory authority

Though the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) is awarding big contracts to set up various infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads etc, it has been violating the Act under which there is a provision to set up the PIRA. In the absence of any authority, people who have to pay toll for travelling on toll roads and bridges, have no platform to complain in case they face any problem with regard to the quality of roads and bridges. And they cannot challenge the fixing of toll rates by the PIDB for the same reason. With the entry of private players in services, infrastructure and other sectors, there is immediate need to set up regulatory authorities to protect the interest of people.


Govt to fund women’s coop societies
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
The Punjab government plans setting up women’s cooperative societies at the village level.

Punjab cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh stated this here today. "The scheme will be launched very soon to empower women and build up a social movement." The scheme aims at creating local leadership among women, making them self-dependant economically and boosting their self-confidence, the minister said.

He said the Cooperative Department would fund these societies, impart technical knowledge and give market assistance.

"We will offer options to women for choosing economic, social or cultural activities," remarked the minister.

He declared that cooperative banks would provide soft loans to these societies. The process to formulate the scheme was already on. Limit for advancement of loans by Agriculture Development Bank had been increased from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh.

"Earlier the loan amount was 70 per cent of the pledged property, now it has been hiked to 75 per cent of the total value of the property. Besides the rate of interest has been reduced by one per cent," he informed.

"Managers will be directly answerable and report to me in case the application for the loan is not decided either way within 15 days of its receipt," he warned.

Meanwhile, on administrative reforms, the minister said work was not getting completed and the people were not happy with a such state of affairs.

He admitted the biggest challenge before the government was dismal condition of economy, agriculture, industry, unemployment, drugs among youths. "Shrinking economy is never an index of social growth," quipped the Captain, who was finance minister in the earlier Akali government.


Cops turn to Ramdev for mental peace
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, April 19
Baba Ramdev today gave yoga tips to policemen and public at a camp organised at the Police Lines here today. Baba Ramdev expressed concern over rising cases of police involvement in heinous crimes such as molestation and rape. He said yoga was the only cure, which could help them to have self-control and avoid distractions.

He said the Maharashtra government was giving financial benefits to fit and healthy policemen . The Punjab government should also think on these lines .

Baba Ramdev said yoga could be beneficial for the armed forces where the incidents of suicides had shown an increase. The peace of mind which yoga provides help in reducing such tendencies in the common man, he added.

Answering media queries on the Tibet issue, he said one should support the cause of Tibet.

PATHANKOT: Baba Ramdev also attended a camp at Pangoli village, 3 km from here, on Saturday. Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal inaugurated the camp while actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna welcomed the Baba.


Ex-servicemen to stage dharna in Delhi
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 19
The ex-servicemen wing of the SAD today announced that it would stage a dharna at the India Gate, New Delhi, in protest against the treatment meted out to defence personnel by the Sixth Pay Commission.

Addressing a press conference here this afternoon, Col Partap Inder Phulka, secretary general of the wing, said they had rejected the committee formed by the UPA government for rectifying the anomalies made by the Pay Commission.

"We don’t want a committee. We want our separate pay panel Bureaucrats cannot understand the tough life of a soldier. Defence personnel get retired much before civil servants.”

The ex-servicemen handed over a memorandum to Member of Parliament Sharanjit Singh Dhillon also for raising it in Parliament. Dhillon told reporters that he would raise the matter and the SAD-Badal would support the issue at various levels.

Colonel Phulka also presented before mediapersons many ex-servicemen who retired in 1978, but were drawing a meagre pension of Rs 200 only. 


Book on terror released
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
“Terror in Punjab, Narratives, Knowledge and Truth” by human rights activist Ram Narayan Kumar was launched at a simple ceremony at the Chandigarh Press Club here this afternoon.

Ram said the book was woven in four strands of deliberative appraisal. His two-decade-long study of human rights violations in Punjab, the construction and politics of the narratives of events, their impact on the quality and integrity of democratic discourse on the framework of governance and the vital linkages between the quality and the integrity of this discourse had all been integrated and put together in this book.

The book is an examination of contemporary history at work under the miasma of hegemonic narratives. A copy of the book was presented to wife of slain human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra.

Harsh Mandar, a bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist, Abdulrahim P. Vijapur of Aligarh Muslim University and Roopinder Singh of The Tribune were among those who spoke at the launch ceremony of the book.


High Court directive defied
Ex-MLA’s security withdrawn
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 19
Violating the Punjab and Haryana High Court directive, the Police Department withdrew recently the security cover provided to Baldev Singh Bhatti, former MLA from Dharamkot constituency and at present general secretary of the state unit of the Bahujan Samaj Party (A).

Giving a copy of the High Court orders to The Tribune, Bhatti said the then Acting Chief Justice of the court on his petition No. 7251 of 1994 had passed the orders: “Learned Additional Advocate General has placed on record a copy of a letter written by the Additional Director-General of Police, Security (Punjab), directing the SSP, Ferozepur, to provide necessary security to the petitioner immediately. We hope by this time appropriate security must have been provided to the petitioner”.

The former MLA in a letter to the ADGP (Security) had written that he was framed in some cases due to political rivalry even as the courts had already acquitted him of all cases, but he apprehended danger to his life.

He alleged that the police here had withdrawn the security cover provided to him on the High Court order without assigning reasons.

“I have to make visits in the state and sometimes also outside the state being general secretary of the state unit of the BSP (A) to attend political functions and require security to move out as I am facing threat to life,” he added.

He has threatened to move court against the DGP, the ADGP (Security) and the state of Punjab through its chief secretary and the home secretary if his security was not restored.

Bhatti came to limelight during the Beant Singh government when he was elected MLA on BSP ticket, but faced ire of the Congress government. A case of murder and other cases were registered against him during that government tenure and he remained underground for many months. Finally, he surrendered before the High Court. He remained in the jail for more than one year. Later, he was acquitted of all criminal cases, but continued to face threat to his life. Once unidentified persons fired on his car near Chandigarh a few years back.


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