P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Poll lights up villages
The PSEB has issued verbal directions to remove villages from the ambit of unscheduled power cuts
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Panchayat elections seem to have brought electricity supply back to the villages and also encouraged the PSEB to follow an age-old directive, which it was flouting with impunity for years together.

Villages, which only a week back were bearing the brunt of unannounced long power cuts, sometimes twelve hours together in a day, are suddenly being shown favour by the PSEB on the eve of the Panchayat poll.

The board has issued verbal directions to impose equal power cuts on both rural and urban areas besides removing villages from the ambit of unscheduled power cuts. Small towns are facing the brunt of unscheduled power cuts that were earlier exclusively reserved for rural areas.

According to board sources, the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission has been issuing directions to the board since years to impose equal power cuts on both rural and urban areas. This has also been reiterated in successive tariff orders. However, the board has been reserving unscheduled cuts, which occur due to low grid frequency or outage of thermal plant units, for rural areas only.

This, sources said, was because rural areas account for only a fraction of the total board revenue. Besides, long power lines result in more transmission losses and more pilferage. So whenever there is a crunch situation power to rural feeders is the first to be switched off.

The change in the policy for the past few days has served as a bonanza for villages. At present the scheduled cut in villages has gone down to one and a half hours every day. In contrast, small towns are undergoing power cuts for more than six hours every day despite the official scheduled power cut for small towns as of today being only one and a half hours. Take for example Zirakpur. Banker S.C. Dhall says though the board has announced a cut for a couple of hours only a day, in practice it stretches to nearly 12 hours everyday.

However, there may be some respite in the coming days with the Ranjit Sagar Dam, which was closed for the last fortnight or so, starting generating around 120 MS of electricity every day. However, the demand-supply ratio is still skewed against the power availability pegged at 850 lakh units against a daily demand of 1,000 lakh units.


Election Time Is Sop Time
PSEB acts fast to pay fire-hit farmers
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 2
The PSEB has notified as many as 246 claims of farmers across the state whose wheat crop had been destroyed in fire due to sparks from electricity wires.

A survey was conducted by PSEB officials following Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s assurances to fire-hit farmers for adequate compensation.

A total of Rs 50 lakh of compensation has been disbursed among the affected farmers. Out of these 246 cases, 102 fall under the jurisdiction of the chief engineer (west), 47 under the chief engineer (border zone), 46 fall in the territory of the chief engineer (north zone), 28 with the jurisdiction of the chief engineer (central) while 23 cases were being handled by the chief engineer (south).

This time the board worked on a war footing to complete the survey. The board has simplified the process to enable farmers get compensation as soon as possible.

A source in the board, said Rs 10,000 was given to the affected farmers instead of Rs 1,000 given on earlier occasions. He confirmed Rs 1,000 was paid extra this time to farmers for damaged wheat stubble. A farmer leader said it was for the first time ever since the inception of the board that such a farmer friendly step had been undertaken.

Board chairman Y.S. Ratra said everything had been done in accordance with the orders of the Chief Minister.


Draft of water policy, 2008, approved
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
Punjab will set up an appropriate regulatory authority to control, manage and regulate water resources for its judicious and equitable utilisation.

The state government will also formulate a new comprehensive and unified legislation on the management and administration of canals and drains in the state.

These proposals are part of the State Water Policy-2008, the draft of which was approved today by the State Water Resources Committee, headed by chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh.

The policy also indicates tough measures against those involved in polluting various water bodies and to introduce systemic irrigation reforms. The most significant part of the policy is to link agriculture and industrial production with per unit of water.

There is a proposal for water charges for the utiliation of water for various purposes in such a manner that they cover at least the operation and maintenance costs of providing the service to users.

While protecting riparian rights of the state, greater emphasis will be given on reliable and scientific assessment of demand and supply of surface water for the basin states.

The draft would now be presented to the State Water Council headed by the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for its nod. Dwelling on various issues related to water and its utilisation for irrigation, industry, drinking etc, the water policy states that against the estimated demand of 50 million acre feet (maf), Punjab gets only 17.37 maf water out of the total surface water of 34.34 maf of three rivers.

Owing to the non-availability of surface water, the continuous increase in demand of water due to the growth of population, urbanisation, industrialisation, sowing of water-guzzling crops, high cropping intensity has resulted in over-exploitation of groundwater resources in 103 blocks out of 137 in the state.

In South-West Punjab, groundwater is saline and is not fit for drinking. The area is facing rising water table and acute water logging. Untreated sewage and industrial effluents have reduced the availability of fresh water resources and has adversely affected the health of the people. The government will promote the reuse of water by recycling the treated industrial effluents and sewage waste for irrigation, industry and other permissible uses.

The water allocation priorities enlisted in the policy are drinking water, ecology, irrigation, hydro-power, thermal power, agro and other industries.

Encouraging the scientific water management, farm practices and sprinkler and drip irrigation system is part of the policy. Evolving of the appropriate administrative and legal measures to avoid overexploitation of groundwater is also part of the policy. Besides preparing master plan for flood control, there will also be modification in the reservoir regulation policy.


Govt forgets promises made to martyr’s family
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
Residents of Datewas, a village located near Budhlada in Mansa district, witnessed an unusual spectacle of ceremonial parade by soldiers drawn from the 2nd Sikh Regiment, sounding of bugles and playing of tunes by an Army band in memory of late Joginder Singh on October 11, 2006.

Besides several officers and other ranks of the regiment, the then Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh also made it a point to attend the function organised to observe the 50 death anniversary of Hav Joginder Singh, who was awarded Ashok Chakra (Class-I), one of the highest gallantry awards, posthumously for making supreme sacrifice for the country on April 24, 1956, in the Naga hills in North-East India.

In fact, with their collective efforts, the gram panchayat of the village had installed a statue of their illustrious son. And a function was held to unveil his statue.

Family members of late Hav Joginder Singh also presented the medal that was awarded to the soldier posthumously to his regiment to keep in its memorabilia as a symbol of sacrifice.

Several announcements were made at the function. Capt Amarinder Singh announced to give Rs 5 lakh as financial help to the family of the deceased soldier. One member of the family was promised a government job.

A grant of Rs 5 lakh was announced to build a memorial gate for the martyr. A grant of Rs 10 lakh was announced for the construction of streets, drains etc of the village. Besides, Rs 36 lakh was announced for the construction of stadium, for which the gram panchayat offered to give 4.5 acres free of cost.

However, none of the promises have been fulfilled so far. Harchand Kaur (85), sister of the late soldier, has reminded the Punjab government as well as Union defence minster A.K. Antony of the supreme sacrifice made by his brother while fighting elements hostile to the unity of the country in Naga hills. However, there is no response either from the Punjab government or from the Union defence ministry.

A few weeks after the announcements made by Capt Amarinder Singh in October, 2006, code of conduct was imposed due to the Assembly elections and later he went out of power, as his party lost to SAD-BJP combine. After that Parkash Singh Badal took over as Chief Minister, but his government has simply ignored the commitments made by the previous Chief Minister to residents of the village.

Like many others, Hav Joginder Singh gave his life for this country. He was, perhaps, not aware at that point of the time that politicians of the country would treat its martyrs like his family and village have been treated.

Bogh Singh, a social activist and former soldier from the village, said it was unfortunate that now politics had started affecting “our martyrs and patriotic soldiers, who lay down their lives for the country. We should avoid it and treat our martyrs, especially our deceased soldiers, as a glorious part of our history. Otherwise those who rule the country should remember that consequences would be too bad”.


SAD dons secular colours
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 2
In a bid to project the SAD as a secular party, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who has been camping here in connection with the coming byelection, today visited a number of deras and temples. He allowed people to come close to him by breaking the security ring around him.

He even chided a black commando who tried to stop a Hindu priest from coming close to him in Gali Munshiwala. The priest applied “tilak” on the forehead of Badal and chanted mantras for the success of the Akali candidate in the byelection.

The Chief Minister directed his commandos not to prevent the women folk from presenting their grievances to him in the Amritsar (South) constituency.

Meanwhile, the election scene is likely to hot up with senior PPCC leaders, including its president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, starting Congress campaign here tomorrow. She would be accompanied by senior leaders. The party’s chief spokesman Bir Devinder Singh held a series of meetings with the party leadership to chalk out the election strategy.

On the other hand, Badal had already covered more than 50 per cent of the constituency.

Meanwhile, ETT teachers have reposed their faith in Badal. The Chief Minister released a calendar brought out by the Punjab ETT Teachers Union during an election rally at Antaryami Colony in support of SAD candidate Inderbir Singh Bolaria yesterday.

Badal assured the teachers that their demands would be sympathetically considered.


SGPC unlikely to sack Vedanti
Comments on Separate Sikh Homeland
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 2
Even as Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, has landed the ruling Akali Dal in an unsavoury situation by justifying the demand for a separate Sikh homeland during his current visit to New York, the SGPC finds it difficult to remove him unceremoniously like his two predecessors, Giani Puran Singh and Bhai Ranjit Singh, due to various reasons.

Jathedar Vedanti has already completed eight years as Jathedar of Akal Takht, the longest term of a Jathedar since Operation Bluestar in June 1984, mainly due to his “pliability” with the ruling Akali Dal and the SGPC.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is likely to prevail upon Jathedar Vedanti to withdraw his statement on the Sikh homeland on his return from New York in a couple of days.

Earlier, too, Badal held a “secret meeting” with Jathedar Vedanti in the presence of BJP’s Member of Parliament Navjot Singh Sidhu and senior RSS leaders last year to resolve some matters.

SAD sources said any drastic action against Jathedar Vedanti would be detrimental to the SGPC, especially SAD, at the time when byelection is round the corner.

On the other hand, describing the formation of the Sikh state as the inalienable right of the community, the Dal Khalsa lambasted Parkash Singh Badal for ridiculing the concept and the goal of Khalsa-raj.

The controversy was triggered in the wake of Jathedar Akal Takht Gaini Joginder Singh Vedanti, who while addressing a public meet in New York, justified the demand for Sikh homeland.

Party general secretary Kanwarpal Singh said after a long time, Jathedar, Akal Takht, had articulated the collective aspirations of the Sikhs. Highly placed sources in the SGPC, the appointing authority of the Sikh clergy, said it is not for the first time that Vedanti had landed the ruling Akali Dal in problem. Though the Chief Minister had been restraining from giving any statement against Vedanti, it is for the first time that he had sharply reacted to the announcement of the Jathedar, Akal Takht, who had justified the demand fo “Khalistan”.

The quick reaction by Badal was proof enough that he did not want spoiling of relations with the BJP due to “irresponsible” statements, given by the Jathedar.


What kept minister mum?
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, May 2
One could easily sense that something was amiss between two Cabinet rank BJP ministers of the state who avoided each other at the National Hydro Power Corporation Rest House here today.

Though Punjab minister for industries and local government Manoranjan Kalia and transport minister Master Mohan Lal Sharma happened to be in the Rest House, they were hardly seen interacting with each other.

Kaila had come here for the identification of a site on inter-state border of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir at Madhopur village for setting up of a memorial to Dr Shyama Prasad Mukharjee, founder of the Jansangh. Accompanied by the state BJP general secretary Ashwani Kumar and certain other BJP workers, Kalia visited the site. He later held a meeting with officials of the department.

The local MLA and transport minister was not informed regarding Kalia’s visit till late last evening. Ashwani Kumar, along with While Kalia, Ashwani Kumar and certain BJP leaders of the area were holding a meeting with the officials inside a closed room, the transport minister kept sitting on a dining table at the Rest House. He shifted restlessly to the drawing room and interacted with certain complainants.

Later, Kalia addressed mediapersons during the course of which Master Mohan Lal Sharma remained mum.


Nominations filed
Tribune Reporters

Fatehgarh Sahib, May 2
Sixty candidates today filed their candidature for Zila Parishad and 334 filed for Block Samiti elections. There are five Block Samitis in the district. Sixtythree nominations were filed from Khera Block Samiti, 71 from Sirhind, 72 from Amloh, 60 from Bassi Pathana and 68 from Khamano.

Pathankot: As many as 1,103 candidates filed their nomination papers for the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad elections from Gurdaspur district today. Deputy commissioner has divided the district for the elections into 25 zones.


Panchayat election on May 26
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Punjab State Election Commission today said the polling of gram panchayats will be held on May 26. A detailed schedule for this purpose will be issued separately. Gram panchayat elections were to be held on April 7, but were postponed. Since the model code of conduct is already in force on account of the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad general elections, the same will remain in force till the completion of the gram panchayat elections. The polling for zila parishad elections will be held on May 12.

Driving skills

The Punjab government will establish a state-of-the-art State Institute of Automotive and Driving Skills (SIADS) as a joint venture between Tata Motors and the Transport Department, Punjab. A spokesman of the Punjab government today said the institute would be set up at Mahuana village, Muktsar district, at a cost of Rs 13 crore approximately. The institute would come up on an area of nearly 14 acres.

Observers appointed

The Punjab State Election Commission has appointed 21 IAS and 7 PCS officers as observers to conduct free and fair general elections of zila parishads and panchayat samitis going to be held on May 12. Appointed observers will immediately take charge of their duty. 


‘Official encroachment’ plagues hostels 
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Patiala/Sangrur/Ropar, May 2
Youth hostels in Punjab are among the many buildings in the state which are plagued by the “official encroachment” syndrome.

The hostels at Patiala, Sangrur and Ropar also double up as the offices of the assistant directors (ADs) of the Department of Youth Services posted at 
these places.

At least two rooms out of eight to 10 rooms which are available for lodging in these hostels are being used by the ADs.

The fact that a Government of India facility for the youth is being used as office space by Punjab officials is not taken kindly to by the hostel wardens wherever they are posted.

The department officials, however, do not term the use of rooms in the hostels as “encroachment”.

“The land has been provided by the state government. The construction was got done by the department. All work has been done by us. Our assistant directors have generated funds and shown results,” said Hirdaypal Kaur, director, Youth Services, Punjab.

According to the regulations laid down by the Union Ministry of Sports and Youth Services, the functioning of these hostels was to be looked after by a couple - a warden and his wife. The couple is paid an honorarium by the Central government.

However, the Patiala hostel only recently got a warden, while the ones at Ropar and Sangrur still do not have any. While at Sangrur the assistant director G.S. Samagh also has the additional charge of the warden at Ropar, the coordinator, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, is holding the additional charge of a warden for the hostel.

Notices from the Union government asking the assistant directors to vacate the premises have been consistently ignored. “A demi-official letter to the former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was sent by the ministry, but nothing has happened,” said Rajinder Singh, warden at Patiala.

The hostels are also plagued by unresolved administrative anomalies. The hostels, which were to be run by a hostel management committee, constituted under the chairmanship of the deputy commissioner, do not exist anywhere. Interestingly, not even on papers.

At Amritsar, it might be some time before the city gets its youth hostel back. The Punjab government has been asked by the Centre to shift the Indo-Pakistan bus stand out of the hostel premises.

“The priority of the state is the Indo-Pak bus. And till an alternative site is allotted for the bus stand, the bus-stand cannot be shifted,” said an official of the department.

Amidst all this, another youth hostel is coming up at Jalandhar. The land near Burton Park was allotted in 1991, but the construction began only three years ago. “More than half of the construction is finished. The youth hostel in Jalandhar would do the best, as it is located near the hockey and the cricket stadium,” said Col I.S. Dhami the assistant director posted at Jalandhar.



State for more rights on federal pattern
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Punjab government has expressed hope of getting more autonomy for the state under a truly federal setup following a Union government initiative for developing better understanding and coordination between the Centre and states with the help of the commission on Centre-state relations.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is upbeat and says that the best thing that can happen to Punjab is to accord it more autonomy on federal structure. Punjab has been very enthusiastic in responding to a draft questionnaire sent to chief secretary R.I. Singh by Amitabh Pande, commissioner at the Commission on Centre-State Relations.

In response to the Central initiative, Punjab has raised issues regarding criteria for the transfer of funds and resources to states, legislative relations, role of Governors, emergency provisions, economic and financial planning, Panchayati Raj institutions, sharing of resources, including inter-state river water etc.

Punjab’s Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal after going through the draft questionnaire has said that Punjab has raised many issues with the Centre that include the state’s concerns about the unfair exemptions granted to neighbouring states violating Article 301 of the Constitution.

The commission was constituted last year with a view to involving states in a consultative and participative process to review and improve relations between the Centre and the states. Punjab has repeatedly asked the Centre to “review the working of the Constitution”.

In this regard, Mattewal, during his earlier tenure as Advocate-General, had prepared a draft highlighting Punjab’s aspirations as per its changing needs.

According to this draft, Punjab has identified 10 areas of prime concern to it, besides emphasising the need to strengthen constitutional provisions relating to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, other Backward Classes and minorities.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) or rather Badal has had a consistant stand in demanding autonomous states characterised by decentralisation of power with the Centre retaining federal functions in respect of defence, foreign affairs, currency and general communication. He has maintained that on all other subjects, the states should be fully entitled to formulate their own policies and frame their own laws.

Punjab is of the view that the legislature of the state should have sole and exclusive power and competence to legislate over matters given in the redrawn state list, and that Article 249 be deleted. According to the SAD, all residual powers should vest in the states according to the formula suggested by Mattewal.


Panel tells DC to help 
Mom’s plea brings hope to addict boy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
Coming to the rescue of Jaswinder Singh, a drug addict, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission has directed the deputy commissioner (DC) and the SSP of Tarn Taran to admit the youth to a de-addiction centre.

Swinder Kaur, a resident of Bathe Bhaini village, Tarn Taran district, had filed an application before the commission to help her in the treatment of her son Jaswinder, 36, who is addicted to liquor, intoxicants and drugs. She stated that her son had also developed suicidal tendencies.

The commission stated: “The present application expresses the emotions of a mother who wants to save the life of her son irrespective of the fact that he was an addict. She wants to save a human life and thus requires the attention of the administration.”

The commission has sent a copy of the order and a copy of the complaint to the deputy commissioner and the SSP, Tarn Taran, who will coordinate with each other in this regard. 


Row over dist forums ends
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The controversy over the appointment of presidents and women members of district forums in the state of Punjab today ended with additional advocate-general Anmol Rattan Singh informing the court that the selections had been cleared.

The appointments were earlier hanging in the balance due to difference of opinion between the selection committee and th food and supplies minister. In the matter, advocate H.C. Arora had then filed a petition for the issuance of a direction to the state to clear all the appointments.

During the hearing, the state counsel said all appointments, except one had, been cleared, and appointment letters had also been issued. R.K. Kashyap has been appointed the president of the Gurdaspur District Forum, while Jagdeep Kaur, Bhupinder Kaur, Harvinder Lal Sharma and Neena Rani Gupta have been appointed as members of district forums at Gurdaspur, Moga, Sangrur and Mansa, respectively. 


Notice to scribe

Taking up the petition filed by a Ludhiana resident seeking a probe into alleged exploitation and harassment by a journalist and the local police, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued a notice of motion to the journalist and the police.

A Division Bench of Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Sabina also fixed July 7 as the next date of hearing on the petition filed by the alleged victim, Sukhdeep Kaur.

In her petition, the “victim” facing “matrimonial dispute” had alleged that journalist Tarsem Lal offered to help her out during a meeting. Subsequently, he sold a flat to the petitioner, but without actually executing the sale deed, the petitioner’s counsel submitted in the court.

Gradually, he offered to marry her and developed intimacy. But, instead of fulfilling the promise, he started to threaten her and involved the police in the matter.

The petitioner had lost her parents in childhood and was brought up by a relative. She is fighting a divorce case in a Ludhiana court. In her petition, she has also prayed for providing her security.


Wheat-lifting at a snail’s pace
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 2
Traders have started stacking wheat bags on roads and at unhygienic places, with market committee yards in the Malwa region overflowing with the fresh arrival of bags that the authorities are lifting at a snail’s pace.

More than 2.50 lakh tonnes of wheat is lying in the main grain market here. Farmers and commission agents lament that procurement agencies have failed to deploy adequate number of labourers and trucks to carry wheat to the godowns.

Similar was the situation in the market committee yards at Govindpura, Teona, Banewala, Beman-Dewana, Mehta, Bhego, Talwandi Sabo, Rampura and Goniana. The situation was equally bad in Barnala district.

As there is no space left for keeping the fresh arrivals, traders have started dumping wheat outside a public toilet on the roadside in the market committee complex here. Stray dogs and cattle were seen sitting on wheat bags.

Magar Singh, a farmer from Jassi village, said he was guarding his stock of wheat for the past six days as the authorities had so far not lifted it.

The wheat lying in the open will be rendered unfit if it rains.

DC Rahul Tiwari said, “Even if we deploy maximum workforce, we will succeed in lifting only about 25,000 tonnes of wheat from the market here”.

Jaswant Rai, commission agent, said wheat stocks would be destroyed as the market committee yard here had the problem of water-logging.

Goverdhan, labourer, said a meagre increase of 5 paise for cleaning, filling and loading of each bag had been done this season. The wage of Rs 4.12 per bag for that much effort was not sufficient, he lamented. Moreover, commission agents deducted the cost of diesel for running the generators during night from their wages, he said. After putting in hard labour for one month of procurement in the grain market, a labourer hardly earned around Rs 4,000 at the end of the season.

An official of the market committee said notices had been sent to Punsup, Pungrain and Markfed to lift the stocks within 72 hours, failing which demurrage at the rate of 25 paise per bag would be levied per day. 


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