P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Wheat worth lakhs lost to sparking at 2 places
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
Standing wheat crop, worth several lakhs, in more than 100 acres was burnt due to sparks from overhead electric cables and a combine harvesting machine engaged in harvesting in two separate incidents in the district here today.

Ready-for-harvest agri-produce in at least 80 acres perished in a fire on the Humbran-Nurpur Bet road, near Mullanpur Dakha, today. Sparks from an overhead electricity cable were said to be the reason behind the fire.

In a separate incident, ripened crop in at least 22 acres was reduced to ashes at Chuanta village on the Mattewara-Ghumana road later during the day. The fire occurred because of sparks from a combine harvesting machine, villagers said.

Farmers at Nurpur Bet lost their yield from at least 10 more acres, which was trampled under the tractor engaged in the fire-dousing exercise. Farmers at Chuanta also suffered minor loss on the same ground.

In both incidents, villagers from the adjoining villages rushed to the site and were engaged in the fire-fighting exercise before the fire engines became functional in both cases.

In both incidents, separate announcements about the fire in the fields was made on the public address system from gurdwaras. People rushed out immediately on tractors and even on foot loaded with spades and buckets. The Fire Brigade Department was also informed about the incident. However, villagers were able to control the fire before the Fire Brigade arrived at Nurpur Bet. The Fire Brigade at Chuanta arrived a little before the fire had been nearly brought under control.

In the fire incident near Nurpur Bet, Mahinder Singh lost his yield in 25 acres; Joginder Singh in 20 acres; Mahinder Pal Singh Basaimi in 25 acres and Bahadur Singh in 10 acres.

At Chaunta village, Jarnail Singh lost his produce in 3 acres, Gurnam Singh in 8 acres, Balwinder Singh in 6 acres, Harpal Singh in 3 acres and Gurmail Singh in a little less than an acre. Jarnail Singh, a farmer, said, "The government should intervene in the matter immediately and announce compensation for the farmers. In fact, the Electricity Department should be asked to make the entire compensation for not upgrading the load carrying system".

Another major fire destroyed the standing crop in approximately 32 acres at Dhanaula and Amargarh villages near Khamon on Saturday. At least 10 families were affected. Crop in at more than 10 acres was destroyed in a fire at Nizampur village near Payal on Saturday.


State all set for bumper wheat crop
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Despite bad weather that damaged rabi crops last week, farmers in Punjab are all set to have a bumper wheat crop this year. There is all possibility that the state may set a new record as far as per hectare yield of wheat is concerned. The average yield per hectare is certain to go up this year.

Farmers say that per acre yield this year varies between 20 and 22 quintals, whereas last year it was 17 and 19 quintals. Even the quality of the wheat grains is better this year compared to previous years.

During the past few years, wheat yield was not very satisfying. However, this year, if weather remains fine during the next three weeks and did not cause any further damage to crop, smile will be back on the face of farmers.

Punjab has been given a target to procure 80 lakh tonnes for the central pool. Keeping in view the existing inflow of wheat in various grain markets, there should be no problem in achieving the target. Sources said that about 5.50 lakh tonnes of wheat was arriving daily. This trend will continue for about a week more. Already about 27 lakh tonnes of wheat has arrived in various grain markets.

Sher Singh, a farmer from Boor Majra, says that the yield of early sown wheat is less compared to the timely sown wheat. He said by and large, the yield of wheat is good in the Morinda region.

Officials of the market committee at Morinda told The Tribune that last year, the total arrival of the wheat in grain market there was 1 lakh quintals.

This year, already 70,000 quintals of wheat has arrived. By the end of procurement, the figure will certainly touch 1.50 lakh quintals. Same is the case of the Bassi Pathana market where already 77,000 quintals of wheat has arrived and is likely to go up to 2 lakh quintals by the end of the procurement season.

Last year, the total arrival in that grain market was 1.46 lakh quintals. Commission agents also corroborate what farmers say with regard to the better yield of wheat compared to last a few years.

Asked with regard to the wheat yield, director agriculture, Punjab, Balwinder Singh Sidhu said, “Certainly we are going to break the 42 quintal barrier this year as far as the per hectare yield of wheat is concerned. I feel that we will touch a figure of 43 quintals.” However, it would not be correct to say at this stage that a new record of wheat production in the state would be set up this year.

Contrary to expectations, most of the farmers are releasing their wheat stock immediately after its threshing and not holding it back. Asked in this connection, Kulwant Singh, a farmer near Sirhind, said “to retain wheat stock is a costly affair. One has to take its extra care because it is prone to attack by insects”. Early, there was impression in official circles that farmers may hold back the stock and sell the same at the time of further increase in the price of wheat in the open market.


Bhattal’s ‘relations’ with ex-militants
Amarinder to talk to high command
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Beas, April 20
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today received a good response from residents of the Majha heartland on the second successive day and tried to raise the morale of Congress workers who have been allegedly facing “political vendetta” after the formation of the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government in the state.

Workers showered rose petals on the former Chief Minister wherever he went in a cavalcade of vehicles. He received better response compared to his previous Vikas Yatra when he visited the border belt as Chief Minister.

Hundreds of party workers on bikes led the convoy of the former Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, Amarinder said he would meet senior leaders of the Indian National Congress to apprise them of the alleged close-knit relations of PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal with former militants who would use her house as their “safe sanctuary”.

He, however, reiterated that he was ready to work with Bhattal provided she snapped “friendly ties” with the Chief Minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

He, however, clarified that he did not come here to address any political rally as being alleged by his rivals. “I am here to visit the Congress workers who had been facing political vendetta. People still like me and it is my duty to take care of them,” he quipped.

Replying to a question about his relations with Pakistan’s woman journalist, he said he would clarify his position to the party high command.

Former MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa took Amarinder to the house of one Rakesh Kumar, a resident of Gaggar Bhanna village, who spent seven months in jails in a “fabricated case”.

The former Chief Minister also visited Government Hospital, Amritsar, to know the health of woman Congress worker Balbir Kaur, who was injured in gunfire, allegedly at the behest of a former Akali leader.

The former Chief Minister also visited the house of a Hindu Congress worker at Maddi village whose house was allegedly damaged by Akali workers.

“They are forcing us to leave the village or face dire consequences,” the head of the family told Amarinder Singh.

Earlier, he had breakfast at the residence of Harjinder Singh Thekedar, a former MLA and aspirant for the party ticket for bypoll of Amritsar (South).


Bureaucrat on a ‘healthcare to all’ mission
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Sujata Das, a senior IAS officer of Punjab, is on a unique mission to provide affordable medicare to state’s population, particularly middle and lower strata of the society.

At a time when medicare expenses have hit the roof, Das has taken upon herself to popularise ayurvedic acupuncture, an alternative system of medicine, to bring treatment without side effects at the doorsteps of a vast majority of state’s population.

In fact, the officer has made a good beginning by opening two treatment centres under the aegis of the Sital Das Charitable Trust.

While the first centre was opened at Talwandi Sabo, notorious as the cancer capital of the state, the other got underway at the Guru Ravi Dass Bhavan, Sector 20, Chandigarh.

And if the response at these centres is any indication, the trust is inching towards its goal of “affordable health for all”.

“Under ayurvedic acupuncture, acupressure through micro-magnets, half mm in size, is used to apply pressure. Since ayurveda is associated with herbal medicines this system of medicine is without any side effects,” Das told The Tribune.

Recent research at the Acupressure Research Centre, Allahabad, has re-interpreted the ayurvedic texts in the context of “ayurvedic vision”. Ayurvedic author Charak has stated that the human body and the cosmos are similar in nature and governed by the same principles.

Even modern medicine acknowledges the importance of alternative system of medicine. So much so that the Directorate of the Central Council of Research on Ayurveda and Siddha was toying with idea of collaborating with to the PGI, Chandigarh, to carry out research on cancer and HIV positive patients to validate the claim of “engineering immunity” of this therapy, she asserted.

Since the medicare was without any side effects and its cost was negligible (a magnet costs Re 1), a variety of diseases, including asthma, diabetes, migraine, arthritis, slipped disc, constipation, blood pressure and cancer could be cured through this system of medicine, she claimed.

Buoyed by the success of its Talwandi Sabo and Chandigarh centres, the trust is in the process of expanding its network. Already medical camps at Patiala and Amritsar have been organised and the trust has written to the deputy commissioners to help in popularising the treatment all over the state.

“The trust’s endeavour is to create an army of bare-foot doctors in every village. Besides providing much-needed medicare in rural areas, it will go a long way in tackling the unemployment problem in the state,” Das added.


Paramjit for more women in SAD
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, April 20
The state government is contemplating to start cooperative societies for empowering women, especially those belonging to rural areas. This was revealed by Paramjit Kaur Gulshan, member of Parliament from Bathinda, who was here to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple after being nominated as president, Shiromani Istri Akali Dal (Badal).

Talking to this correspondent, she said the state government was going to take a number of steps for women empowerment, and the opening of cooperative societies was one of them. She said the cooperative societies would provide easy and low interest loans to women helping them start a new small-scale venture so that they could become self-dependent.

Being an MP, she said, she had raised her voice in Parliament to give 33 per cent reservation for women in the House, along with other women MPs. She said although there were a number of women activists in the party, she would endeavour to get more representation for women for strengthening the SAD.

When asked about the “cancer belt” of Bathinda, she said she had taken up the issue with the Central and state governments for opening a cancer hospital and making provision of safe drinking water there. She said now the state government was coming up with a cancer hospital in Bathinda. For clear and safe drinking water, she said people were being made aware about various schemes under which they had to give only 10 per cent of financial share for installing water systems.

Meanwhile, she was honoured with a siropa, a Golden Temple model and Sri Sahib at the Information Office in the Golden Temple premises here.

She expressed gratitude and said she would work for the strengthening of the SAD in the state and for various issues concerning women folk, including female foeticide, illiteracy and population etc.

She assured various old women workers that she would take up the matter with party president Sukhbir Singh Badal for providing them their rightful place in the party. 


Amarinder trying to redefine Cong politics
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is trying to redefine Congress politics in the state. For a person who was thrust into the leadership role by remote control from Delhi, the former Akali-turned-Congressman is now using the popularity barometer to force the Congress high command into giving him his due in the state.

Amarinder has timed the tsumani he has released in the Pradesh Congress well. With parliamentary elections round the corner, he has presented the high command with a sort of ultimatum - adjust me in state politics or be ready for the consequences.

In just two days, yesterday and today, Amarinder has cocked a snook at both the high command and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who has being trying her best since last fortnight to smother him into silence.

None of the state leaders expected the former Chief Minister to start touring the state so aggressively once he had been told to suspend all activities. The diktat, which worked in favour of Bhattal, was expected to result in a majority of Congressmen rallying behind her.

Though it did have the desired effect for a few days, the manner in which Capt Amarinder Singh has come out to take over the mantle of the party in the state seems to has redrawn political affiliations. Congressmen, who understand politics and people, have been attracted to his “do or die” spirit against the Akalis, as they feel this sentiment alone can ensure a winnable fight against the SAD- BJP government.

Congress leaders themselves are also having a rethink on their affiliations. Though Amarinder has a number of die-hard supporters among legislators in the Malwa region, which the party was able to wrest from the Akalis during the last elections, there are many others, who now feel they should hedge their bets evenly.

Known Bhattal supporters have also shown this trait, which could be sampled from the fact that senior leaders of her camp, including former ministers Tej Prakash Singh, Avtar Singh Brar and Amarjit Samra, met Capt Amarinder Singh after the Talwandi Sabo rally despite the fact that he openly snubbed Bhattal on the stage.

Today, the former Chief Minister had tea with working president of the party Mohinder Singh Kaypee at Jalandhar. For someone who many felt was on the brink of political suicide till a few days ago, Amarinder seems to have recovered quickly.

With Congress workers raising the slogan “Capt Amarinder Singh Vapas Laiao” (bring Amarinder back) at his public meetings, he his likely to go back to Delhi to parley with the top leadership from a position of strength. 


‘Congress not effective Oppn’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 20
SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann here today blamed the Congress for not playing the role of an effective opposition because of its infighting between former Chief Minister Capt Amrinder Singh and CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

In a statement issued here, Mann said the political scene in the state had turned from bad to worse, with the SAD-BJP alliance, too, failing to deliver and falling flat in its first year in office itself.

The problem has been aggravated by an infighting-ridden Congress.


CPI for ban on forward trading of foodgrains
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 20
Seeking a complete ban on forward trading of foodgrains by private traders and corporates throughout the country, the Communist Party of India (CPI) today asked the Central government to issue a White Paper to tell the nation the real reasons behind the scarcity of foodgrains (including wheat) in the country.

It asked why a country which was self-reliant in foodgrains was nowadays running with an empty bowl to other countries to import wheat.

Member of the national executive of the CPI, Joginder Dayal, asked the Central government to amend the Essential Commodities Act to initiate harsh steps against those private hoarders who had created artificial scarcity of foodgrains, resulting in sky-rocketing prices.

He also said the Act had been amended by the previous NDA government to watch the interests of private traders. Dayal also said the public distribution system (PDS), which had been totally abandoned in the country (except in states ruled by Left parties), should be restored in a big way.

He asked the Centre to strengthen the PDS in all states to provide at least atta-dal to the poor at cheap rates.

With regard to steep hike in prices of essential commodities, Dayal said the CPI totally differed with the union finance minister P. Chidambram that the price rise was an international phenomenon. He said price rise in India was not due to international phenomenon, but due to “wrong policies” of the previous NDA government and the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh.

Commenting on the hue and cry by the BJP and its allies over price rise, Dayal said they had no moral right to do so, as it was due to the polices of the previous NDA government that had pushed the country into crisis by way of lowering import duty and allowing free trade in 730 items, including wheat, pulses etc.


Govt committed to developing Amritsar as model city
Rs 1,000 cr set aside for overall development: Badal
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 20
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said the state government was committed to developing Amritsar as a model city and a sum of Rs 1,000 crore had been set aside for its overall development.

Badal was talking to mediapersons here today after interacting with party ticket aspirants for the Amritsar (South) bypoll.

He said the state government would soon move the Supreme Court to seek special economic incentives for Punjab as had been done in case of certain other border states. He said that the Centre could not turn a blind eye to the declining industry in Punjab, even as it was thriving in neighbouring states.

Elaborating on the projects sanctioned for Amritsar, Badal said the Government College in the city would be developed into the best in Asia by spending Rs 144 crore for equipping it with state-of-the-art infrastructure.

He added that work on the ambitious Elevated Road Project was under way in full swing. The project was worth Rs 210 crore and would provide easy and direct access to the Golden Temple.

He said the candidate for Amritsar (South) constituency would be decided by the party on merit and it would be ensured that polling was held in a free and fair way.

He said the state government had already given approval for the Rs 73-crore ‘Galiara’ scheme for the beautification of the vicinity of the Golden Temple. Besides, Rs 360 crore would be spent on the laying and repair of sewerage in the municipal limits of Amritsar.

Asked about the allegations about Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal giving shelter to militants, Badal said there was no proof to substantiate such charges. He refused to comment on former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s friend and Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam.

Information and public relations minister Bikram Majithia said the provision of issuing yellow identity cards to mediapersons had been stopped after reports of their misuse.

But the policy has now been revived with the modification that the editor of the media house concerned would have to certify the reporter’s credentials. He added that the ball had been set rolling for setting up a Press Club in Amritsar.


Pak ready for passage to Kartarpur Sahib: Jatha
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 20
Giving positive response to the long-pending demand of Sikh devotees for giving passage to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, situated on the Pakistan side of the border, the Pakistan Prime Minister has said they were ready to give passage, but asked the Indian government to take initiative in this regard.

This was claimed by Baldev Singh Chunga, member, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and leader of the Sikh jatha that returned to India after celebrating Baisakhi at Panja Sahib.

A delegation of the jatha, led by Chunga, met Pakistan’s Prime Minister and interacted with him on the SGPC’s role on the upkeep of historical gurdwaras situated on the other side of the border.

He said the delegation, that also included Surinder Puri, Bibi Surjit Kaur Jammu, Avtar Singh Sanghera (UK) and Dr Pritpal Singh, convenor, America Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, urged for giving kar sewa of various historic gurdwaras in Pakistan to the SGPC.The Pakistan PM assured them of all possible help.

Meanwhile, the devotees also complained about a number of thefts during their stay at Panja Sahib.


Ajnala Sugar Mills Poll
‘Cong men not allowed to file nomination’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 20
Demanding a probe by an independent agency, Sukhjinder Raj Singh Majithia, president, District Congress Committee (Rural), today accused Cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia of using illegal means during the election of the Board of Directors (BoD) of the Ajnala Co-Operative Sugar Mills Ltd, Ajnala, being held on the directions of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In a press statement, he alleged that police force was used to prohibit the Congress nominees to file their nomination. He added that according to bylaws of the mill, no close relative of an employee could contest the election of BoD.

He alleged that Kashmir Singh of Uggar Aulakh village, chairman of sugar mill during the previous Akali regime, is a relative of a supervisor in the mill.

He claimed that Kashmir Singh had been declared elected unopposed while Congress nominees were stopped outside the mill. 


GST centres boon for teachers, students
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 20
The in-service training centres started by the Gyan Sewa Trust (GST), New Delhi, in coordination with the government-run Punjab Edusat Society are proving to be a boon not only for students, but also for government teachers across the state.

Harvinder Kaur, a biology teacher in Government Senior Secondary School, Ram Bagh, said the concepts which were not clear to her till last year, looked easy now. Teaching skills of many had been enhanced due to the training centres, she said.

H.S. Phoolka, chairman, GST, who was in the city yesterday to inspect the working of the hub-station and other regions of the border area, said he had received requests from government-aided schools in the state to start such stations in their institutions.

He said one of the principals in the holy city had claimed that the faculty provided by the trust was not available in the state. He said these schools were even ready to provide multimedia infrastructure needed to run such hub stations.

Phoolka said he would take up the matter with the state government for starting these so that teachers, especially in rural areas, could be benefited, as the programme helped them in enhancing their teaching skills. He said it would help students of the remote border areas compete with their urban counterparts in getting seats in professional courses in the country.

The GST, to provide the best of the available resources like the best faculty to coach students for various competitive exams like AIEEE, CET and PMT, had started various hub stations across the state. There are about 95 hub stations in Punjab and eight centres in Amritsar. The state government had launched the Rural Talent Hunt Programme last year in association with the GST by giving 45-day crash course to brilliant students of the state.

Shivinder Singh, in charge of the hub centre in the school, claimed that even some of the students who were getting coaching from various private reputed institutions were registering them and attended the classes in which they felt they were weak and needed expert guidance of the GST faculty.

He said presently about 60 students had registered with their centre and 40 students out of them were regularly attending the classes for about six hours daily.


Ayurvedic varsity awaits Cabinet’s nod
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 20
A proposal to establish a separate ayurvedic university in the state is awaiting green signal of the state Cabinet. Minister for medical education Tikshan Sud told The Tribune here today that the detailed proposal for setting up the university had been prepared for listing it in the Cabinet agenda.

He said the land for this purpose had been identified in the foothills of the Himalayan range in Hoshiarpur. Ayurveda and other indigenous systems of medicine will be de-linked from the Faridkot-based Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences and assigned to the ayurvedic university. The Baba Farid University will thereafter deal only with allopathic system of medicine.

He said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had personally approved the idea of setting up the university, but the seal of the Cabinet was necessary for the purpose.

Sud said the Draft Act of the proposed university had also been prepared in consultation with the Law Department and other agencies.

He said the setting up of ayurvedic universities in all BJP-ruled states was the policy of the party. The idea to set up the university here was mooted as the BJP is a partner of the ruling coalition in the state.

Sud said the proposed university would not only control the existing government and private ayurvedic institutions, but would also give a push to the ancient system of medicine in a big way.

Expressing concern over the continuing shortage of teaching faculty in the three medical colleges of the state government, he said steps were being taken to meet the challenge. He appreciated the privately run institutions that were supporting the medical requirements in the state.


Clash between gangs averted, 17 held
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, April 20
The Phillaur police succeeded in preventing a clash between two criminal gangs, Badhanga and Maunni, last night in Masani, Apra, Sultanpura, Chuck Saboo and Bharsinghpura villages.

Phillaur DSP Rajinder Singh Sohal, while confirming the incidents, told The Tribune today that both groups, who were in search of each other, were chased by different police parties led by ASI Bharat Masih, chowki in charge, Dhaleta, and ASI Subhash Baath, in charge, Apra police post. Both gangs attacked and fired upon police parties.

As many as 17 members of both gangs were nabbed by police parties while several others managed to flee.

DSP Sohal said Sukhdip Singh of Chookran village, Surinder Singh of Hamirkhurad village, Gurjit Singh of Rurrka Kalan, Yuvraj Singh of Partappura, Mandip Singh of Khambrra and Kuldip Singh of Hamirikherra were arrested under Sections 307,353,186,148 and 149, IPC, near Masani village on the charge of attacking ASI Bharat Masih today.

Harpreet Singh of Talwandi Fattu, Jaspreet Singh of Mukandpur, Harpal Singh of Heena, Surinder Singh of Heena, Harpreetpal of Beesla, Balbir Chand of Bahadurpur, Rakesh Kumar of Sakrauli, Manjinder of Gehalmajra, Churr Singh of Apra and Jiwan Singh of Sotran were nabbed under Sections 307,148 and 149, IPC, and Arms Act near Apra village on the charge of unsuccessfully attacking and firing upon a police party headed by ASI Subhash Baath.


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