P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Prez rule: Centre may ask Guv for opinion
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 16
Citing total anarchy in Punjab and misrule by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP government, the Congress today demanded that President rule be imposed in the state.

A delegation of the Punjab Congress, led by PPCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, met President Pratibha Patil and demanded imposition of President’s Rule, saying that democracy was being subverted in the state.

It was brought to her notice that violence had taken place during the recently held Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections. The President was handed over a sheaf of news paper clips along with the memorandum.

Meanwhile, sources have indicated that the home ministry may even ask Punjab Governor Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd) to give his opinion on the matter.

The memorandum said the SAD-BJP government assumed office in March, 2007. From the very first day it unleashed a reign of terror and repression on activists and leaders of the Indian National Congress. False cases were registered against Congress workers.

The memorandum reminded that polls to the Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana, Jallandhar, Amritsar and Patiala were held on August 8, 2007, and even then the SAD-BJP indulged in rampant booth capturing and intimidation of voters.

This was repeated again in the elections to the Block Samitis and Zila Parishads held on the May 12.

Officers of the Punjab police unleash a reign of terror across the state. This time workers of their alliance partner, the BJP, were not spared.

Three persons were killed in the violence. More than 2,000 workers had to be hospitalised across the state.

Akali leaders like the Jathedar of the Akali Takht Joginder Singh Vedanti had openly called for the establishment of Khalistan. The president of the Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal has prepared a fascist organisation called the Student Organisation of India, which is openly unleashing a reign of terror in Punjab with all kinds of anti-national banners being put up in various cities of Punjab.

The Akali-BJP government is fast taking Punjab back to the dark days, when people of Punjab really suffered, the delegation said. Among others, who accompanied Bhattal were Ambika Soni, Munish Tewari, Surinder Singla, Parminder Singh, H.S. Hanspal, Preneet Kaur, Rana Gurjit Singh, SS Dullo, Santosh Chaudhary and Harnam Dass Johar.

Central forces for Asr likely
Varinder Walia /Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 16
The Chief Election Commission is likely to order the deployment of paramilitary forces for conducting the byelection of Amritsar (South) scheduled for May 22 in a free and fair manner.

Though ADGP (Crime) Chander Shekhar denied having received any communication from the CEC to deploy paramilitary forces so far, he has confirmed there are some indications in this regard.


Govt cold to fire brigade
S.P.Sharma/Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Bathinda/Sangrur, May 16
The town has been expanding and growing industrially, but fire-fighting service here is a shambles and the authorities have to seek help of the Indian Air Force and Army in case of a major fire incident.

Only three fire engines, of which only one is in a working condition, is what is available here to fight fires as far away as on the borders touching Haryana and Rajasthan.

Nine-storey malls are coming up here, but the fire station is equipped with a ladder that reaches only 35 feet. A system with at least 120-ft-high turntable ladder is needed to fight fire in such buildings and rescue trapped persons.

The officials do not want to be quoted, but while listing several shortcomings, they pointed out that the fire station did not have a foam tender that was a must because of the presence of three oil depots and an LPG bottling plant. During a recent fire in fields near here, the only fire tender broke down and was repaired the next morning.

As many as 208 small and big fire incidents were reported here last year and in current year till May 3 the number was 74.

One of the fire tenders is a 27-old-year model, while the two others are 25- year-old. These vehicles fail to run with the cavalcade of the visiting VIPs and are left far behind.

It becomes very difficult to fight the flames in the interior of the city as there is no small tender that can manoeuvre through narrow lanes. The staff strength, including officers, is 22 and that according to rules is sufficient for only one fire tender. Five firemen were recently recruited on contract.

Believe it or not, but it is true that all 14 sanctioned posts of fireman in the Sangrur fire brigade are vacant. Of these, 13 have been lying vacant for the past several years, while one post is vacant for the past six months. However, only three firemen here are working on contract basis. So, one can imagine the capability of the fire brigade in tackling incidents of fire in the district.

Not only the posts of fireman, but also some other sanctioned posts (one post of sub-fire officer, one of leading fireman and two of driver/operator) have also been vacant. Besides, the fire brigade station is being run by a regular fire station officer, two sub-fire officers, three leading firemen, two drivers/operators, a junior assistant and a peon. Thus, out of a total of 28 sanctioned posts, 18 are lying vacant.

However, like the three firemen, one driver/operator is also working on contract basis here. The fire brigade is performing its duties with two fire tenders of 1984 model, besides an old jeep.

Since April 1, 2008, the local Fire Brigade had received 43 fire calls, sometimes three or four at the same time. In such circumstances, the fire authorities could not reach all places.


Tejbir Singh is DC, Amritsar
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 16
The appointment of Tejbir Singh, a 1994 batch officer, as deputy commissioner (DC), Amritsar, on the direction of the Election Commission (EC) has broken the 30-year tradition of appointing Sikh DCs.

As per the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, the DC presides over the first meeting of the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) after the general elections in which office-bearers are elected for the “mini-parliament of the Sikhs”. Except for J.P.Khanna, who served as DC, Amritsar, from October 16,1975, to April 21,1977, all deputy commissioners since 1964 were Sikhs. A PCS officer Lal Singh Aujla served as DC, Amritsar, from May 17, 1964, to June 30,1964, for a brief period. He was succeeded by Iqbal Singh, S.S. Bedi, Kulwant Singh, K.S. Bains and Sukbir Singh (from 1971 to 1975).

The infamous Sikh Nirankari clash of April 13, 1978, had happened during the stint of K.S. Janjua who served as DC from April 22, 1977, to April 16, 1978, in which 13 Sikhs were killed. A few days after the clash, Janjua was removed as DC and Jai Singh Gill succeeded him on April 16, 1978, and completed his tenure till April 24,1980 .

Later, Bikramjit Singh, S.M.S. Chahal, Sardar Singh and Gurdev Singh Brar served till 1984. When Brar had refused to sign for requisition of Army for Operation Bluestar in June 1984 , Ramesh Inder Singh ( now chief secretary) was brought as DC on June 4,1984. Later, he was succeeded by Sarbjit Singh. During his stint, Operation Black Thunder was conducted to flush out militants from the Golden Temple in 1988. He continued as DC till May 1992. He was succeeded by Kirandip Singh Bhullar, A.S.Chhatwal, Amarjit Singh, Narinder Singh, Swinder Singh Puri, Iqbal Singh Sidhu, Raminder Singh, Kirandip Singh Bhullar and outgoing DC Kahan Singh Pannu.


EC’s faux pas on transfer 
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 16
The way authorities concerned at the Election Commission are handling the issue of the transfer of deputy commissioner of Amritsar, it has created the impression that the Commission was functioning in an arbitrary manner.

The Commission authorities directed the state government authorities concerned to transfer the incumbent deputy commissioner, K.S. Pannu, from Amritsar and post Rahul Bhandari in his place. No intimation was given to the state government regarding the grounds on which Pannu was to be transferred, the nature of the complaint against and who the complainant was. No copy of the complaint was forwarded to the state government for seeking its comment on the transfer of Pannu.

To transfer any officer from his place of posting in such a hasty manner during the elections, without informing him or his appointing authority about the nature of complaint against him, is a serious matter. Such a transfer can mar the career of the officer, brand him in a certain way and create problems in the future as well. While ordering Pannu’s transfer, the commission, it appears, did not pay attention to these aspects.

Moreover, while directing the state government to post Rahul Bhandari to Amritsar, there was no query by the Commission from the state government regarding the availability of the officer for posting at Amritsar. In the past, the standard practice with the Commission was to seek a panel of names from the state government and pick any of them for posting in place of the officer to be replaced following a complaint during the elections. However, the Commission did not think it proper to follow that practice in this case.

When the state government informed the Commission that Rahul Bhandari was posted as deputy commissioner Mohali only a few days back and his home district was Amritsar therefore he could not be posted there, the Commission authorities concerned themselves proposed the name of Jaspreet Talwar today morning, without asking for a panel of names. Once again, the authorities had to face embarrassment in this regard. For the past five months, Jaspreet Talwar is away to the Lal Bhadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, for in-service training which is mandatory for an IAS officer. Sources said that the Commission was informed this morning about the non-availability of Talwar.

“Exhibition of distrust in the state administration by the Commission can create several operational problems. No one is stopping the commission from transferring the DC of Amritsar or any officer, it wanted, but it should at least follow some procedure”, said a senior politician.

Instead of straightaway recommending the name of a particular officer for posting, the Commission should check up the requisite details with the authorities concerned, he added.


Now, PPCC trains guns on chief secretary
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 16
After getting the deputy commissioner of Amritsar transferred, the PPCC today trained its guns on chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh and the district police chief.

In a complaint to the Chief Election Commission, chief spokesman of the PPCC Bir Devinder Singh alleged that the chief secretary was seen visiting Amritsar city where a byelection is scheduled for May 22. He was seen in the local MK Hotel today at about 10 am. He is staying in one of the three rooms booked in the name of president of the SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal. However, Sanjay Galhotra, owner of the hotel, denied that the chief secretary visited the hotel today.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu claimed that the chief secretary did not visit Amritsar today.

Staff come to his rescue
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 16
A member of the chief secretary’s staff said the CS talked to a secretary in the Election Commission of India in Delhi on the phone in the Punjab Civil Secretariat here at 10 am today. And immediately after that he held a meeting on power reforms and it was followed by another meeting on issues related to the Irrigation Department. Question does not arise of CS’s presence in Amritsar at 10 am today, the official sources asserted. The Chief Secretary held a meeting with the Chief Minister at 9 a.m. Before leaving for lunch around 1.30 pm, he met a number of mediapersons in his office, said a member of the CS’s staff.


BJP braces for Gram Panchayat polls
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 16
The BJP said today that it would continue to expand its base in rural areas of the state at any cost.

Even though the BJP has patched up with the SAD over attacks on its workers by the SAD during the Panchayat elections, there is simmering discontent among the lower rung of the party cadre over the way the party had handled the vexed issue of power sharing.

State BJP chief Rajinder Bhandari said the party had decided to work more vigorously to expand its rural base. The party was committed to the alliance “dharma” as the people had voted in favour of the SAD-BJP alliance in the state for providing clean and better governance.

‘Shift DC, SSP immediately’
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 16
Senior leaders of the BJP yesterday urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to refer the case for the transfer of Tarn Taran deputy commissioner and SSP to the state Election Commission, if necessary, so that their transfers can be affected forthwith. The government has suspended Tarn Taran SP Tejinder Singh Maur and DSP Randhir Singh yesterday.

Party’s president Rajinder Bhandari said he had urged the Chief Minister to approach the commission, if necessary, to get the both officers transferred. “We will give it another few days,” he added.

SAD-BJP consensus on civic body posts
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 16
Taking a cue from the bad blood created between the alliance partners, the SAD and the BJP, during the Panchayat polls, the issue of sharing posts of chairpersons of boards, trusts and corporations has been resolved beforehand and an announcement is expected soon.

Leader of the BJP Legislature Party Manoranjan Kalia said here today that both parties had reached a consensus on the issue and the names of the chairmen would be announced as soon as the poll code of conduct comes to an end. Merit would be main consideration for the appointments, he pointed out.

The minister evaded a direct reply on whether his party had a tacit support of Dera Sacha Sauda, leading to resentment among the Akalis. 


Amritsar Cantt Poll
Objection over added constituencies
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, May 16
A resident of the Amritsar Cantonment area has raised many issues with regard to the Cantonment elections to be held on May 18 after a gap of more than one decade.

Swarnjit Singh, a former cricketer, has been in correspondence with the Army authorities at the Western Command Headquarters, Chandigarh, for the past couple of years with regard to raising the number of the constituencies from four to seven for the coming elections.

Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu has endorsed a copy of the representation by Swarnjit Singh with the local Army commander and has sought their action in this regard.

Swarnjit Singh has noted that the Army cantonment board has increased the number of constituencies by including two from the Railway Colony and one from the Canal Colony, which are under the control of the state government for many years.

He says in view of the confusion over the control of the area, the elections to the cantonment board needs to be deferred till a proper correction of the factual position is brought out to the voters.

He says there is no record of the transfer of both colonies to the cantonment.

The deputy commissioner said he had sought a detailed reply from the GoC, Amritsar division, with regard to the points raised by Swarnjit Singh.


Loan Repayment
Banks fear politicians, cops, journalists 
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 16
All banks do the profiling of potential customers before extending loans to them. They put certain people in the category of “negative profile”. Do you know who are in the “negative profile” category? — Police officials, politicians, mediapersons and farmers.

Some private banks treat police officials, politicians, mediapersons and farmers as “persons with high probability of defaulting on loans” and classify them as “risky cases” when it comes to granting loans to them. They exercise extreme caution in extending auto loans to people belonging to these categories.

The banking sector may have opened up and the banks may be vying with each other for a greater share of the credit market, but the private banks’ “disliking” for people belonging to these categories is still so intense that the Chennai-based head office of a leading private bank has officially instructed its staff in Punjab through an advisory to avoid granting vehicle loans to policemen, politicians and their relatives, mediapersons and farmers.

Ironically, though police officials, politicians, and mediapersons might be enjoying wide recognition, most of these private banks reportedly avoid them for the grant of loans. These banks generally put prospective customers belonging to these classes under the “negative profile” category.

The “negative profile” is a widely used term for potential “troublesome” customers by banks. Some of these private banks even categorise lawyers as customers belonging to the “negative profile” category.

On the other hand, most of the 27 scheduled commercial banks are liberal in their approach as they generally don’t exercise any such restraint even as they also profile loan seekers well in advance, banking industry sources say. At least none of the 27 scheduled commercial banks have a “negative profile” category for any of their customers officially. “Yes, we have directions not to extend vehicle loans to policemen, politicians and their relatives, mediapersons and farmers in normal circumstances, as they come under the negative profile category,” admitted an employee of a private bank. He said the reason for bank’s reluctance to extend loans to these people was owing to their “possibility and ability to create problems for the banks”.

The Chief Manager (PR) of the State Bank of Patiala, J.K. Khosla, said there was no classification of prospective customers in “negative profile” category as far as scheduled commercial banks were concerned. “It’s a different matter that banks exercise caution in some cases or in case of potential defaulters,” said Khosla.


Luthra takes jibe at Bush’s remark
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 16
US President George W. Bush’s remark of the Indian middle-class consuming more than ever before has evoked widespread criticism in India. Even Vandana Luthra, the woman who has changed the world of hundreds of ‘plus-sized’ persons, yesterday took a jibe over Bush’s statement.

“It’s absolutely wrong to say that Indians are consuming more. If this is true, then why does the USA continue to be the obese capital of the world,” she asked. She was in the city to release of a book on cosmetology, “Standard Textbook of Cosmetology”, published by US-based Cengage Publication.

Talking to The Tribune on the sidelines of the book-release function, she candidly expressed her views on the recent statement of the Uncle Sam.

“The lifestyle of the upper middle-class is changing the world over. People prefer to dine out on a regular basis. The flourishing hotel industry, especially in India, is an indicator of changing trend of eating habits. But still the Indian food is healthy and rich in fibre than the junk food the Westerners prefer to relish,” she said.

“It is the Americans who need to mind their eating habits. Bush must visit India where a large number of people still go to bed empty stomach,” remarked Vandana, who is also associated with NGO Amar Jyoti, which is taking care of the needs of nearly 3,000 special children.

She said the beauty and health management industry is an unorganised sector as more and more people claim to help by starting health centres for shedding instant weight using unscientific means and thereby putting the customers at risk.


Nihangs hold parallel akhand path for Baba Santa Singh
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, May 16
Parallel to the rituals being held by a Patiala group of Nihangs, akhand path to perform the last rituals of late Baba Santa Singh Jathedar of the Shiromani Panth Akali Budha Dal (Panjwan Takht) began at Gurdwara Dasmi Patshahi here today. The bhog and antim ardas would be held on Sunday.

Talking to The Tribune, officiating Jathedar of the Budha Dal Baba Joginder Singh said his group of the Nihangs had decided to hold these rituals so as to avoid any confrontation with their rival group backed by few leaders of the SAD and the state government.

Baba Santa Singh’s body was cremated at Patiala by the rival group of the Nihangs led by Balbir Singh. The group of Nihangs led by Baba Joginder Singh was not allowed by the police to attend the cremation.

The police today provided security to Baba Joginder Singh and said it would make tight security arrangements during the bhog.

The local DSP met Baba Joginder Singh and Surinder Singh Babbar, nephew of the deceased saint, who was declared his legal heir by this group of Nihangs.

Baba Joginder Singh claimed that Balbir Singh had forcibly captured few of their deras with the help of senior leaders of the SAD. “I am the real Jathedar of the Budha Dal,” he claimed. 


High Court
Treat action against Cheema as criminal contempt
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 16
The High Court today ordered proceedings against Punjab Financial Commissioner G. S. Cheema to be treated as criminal contempt. Taking up the matter, Justice Surya Kant referred it to Chief Justice Vijender Jain for listing before a Division Bench.

The High Court had taken a suo moto cognizance of a news-report on certain remarks made by Cheema against the judiciary in his inquiry report pertaining to the alleged irregularities in appointment of a professor at Government Ayurvedic College, Patiala. Referring to this inquiry report, Justice Kant had held: “On a bare reading of the inquiry report dated April 17, prima-facie, it appears that the respondent, for the reasons best known to him, was hell-bent on maligning the institution of the High Court.


Farmers to get one-hour power supply daily
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 16
Lakhs of Punjab farmers deprived of electricity will get an assured minimum one-hour daily power supply at least for the next 10 days. For this purpose, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has chalked out a comprehensive plan under which farmers of various districts of the state have been divided into night and day groups. 

The objective of the scheme is to provide those farmers with power supply who are into the process of setting up nurseries for paddy plantation. These farmers will now get power an hour daily till May 25. Power will be supplied during the stipulated period to over 10 lakh tubewell connections, irrespective of the crop of farmers. It will be up to the farmers to utilise power for irrigation of paddy plantation or for some other crops.

The decision has been taken by the board since farmers of the state, represented by various farmers’ organisations and kisan unions, had demanded assured power supply for Punjab farmers during their meeting with the PSEB chairman Y.S. Ratra in the last week of April at Mohali.

The chairman of the board had issued directions to field officers to ensure an hour’s compulsory power supply to farmers until May 25. These officers, it was learnt, would also notify farmers as to which group they belonged. Farmers of border areas of Punjab would also benefit from the power supply plan drawn up by the board.

The following was the PSEB schedule for providing power supply to the farmers in the state.

PSEB schedule for providing power supply

Group Name of the Circle Night Group Day group

A 1 (A) Khanna, Tarn Taran 5 to 6 pm 8.30 to 9.30 am

A 1 (B) Ferozepur, Nawanshahar 5 to 6 pm 8 to 9 am

A 2 (A) Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, 6 to 7 pm 6 to 7 am

Ludhiana (Urban and Suburban)

A 2 (B) Sangrur Group 1 7 to 8 pm 6 to 7 am

Sangrur Group 1 8.30 to 9.30 am

B1 (A) Faridkot, Amritsar 5 to 6 pm 7 to 8 am (Urban and Suburban)

B1 (B) Muktsar, Mohali, Gurdaspur, Ropar 6 to 7 pm 8 to 9 am

B2 (A) Patiala 6 to 7 pm 7 to 8 am

B2 (B) Kapurthala, Bathinda 6 to 7 pm 7 to 8 am

Border Area 8 to 9 pm


Helping farmers ‘net’ profits
New technology ensures pest-free, bounty crop
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, May 16
The Punjab State Farmer’s Commission here has asked farmers across the state to use net houses for the cultivation of vegetables and fruits. The commission, worried about the increasing number of small and marginal farmers has stated that net house cultivation of vegetables can rake in good profits from even small chunks of land.

“Net house cultivation of vegetables and fruits also reduces the spraying of pesticides to the minimum and the produce is healthier,” said Dr G.S. Kalkat the chairman of the commission.

Net house cultivation has already caught the fancy of some small and even landless farmers in the periphery of Ludhiana. The outskirts of the city are dotted with net houses. Harjit Singh, a farmer of village Jaspalon, who has taken three acres of land on lease has put up two net houses on two kanals of land and is awaiting a bumper tomato and brinjal crop.

“Both these crops need at least 12 to 15 sprays of pesticides and even then there is no guarantee that you will get pest free clean vegetables,” said Dr B.S. Romana, senior consultant (vegetables) with the commission.

“In a net house, which is closed on all sides, a full-fledged pest attack is not possible. Also the net houses are designed in a manner that the outer door does not lead directly into the inner doors. This double door mechanism also keeps the house pest free. Sticky pest traps on both the inner doors also manage to keep the pests away,” added Dr Romana.

“Other than the fact that a net house is producing almost pesticide free crop, the quality of the crop is also much better than the normal produce,” said Iqbaljit Singh another farmer of the area showing the difference between two tomatoes, one picked from inside the net house and one from outside.

“The attractive thing for the small farmer is that the yield also increases by about 50 per cent inside a net house as the environment lends itself to growing high yielding crops. And since the quality of the vegetable is good it fetches the best possible rate in the open market,” said Dr S.S. Bains, consultant with the commission.

The quality of the produce is now attracting big retail players like Reliance and Birlas. “The Birlas approached us to source the vegetables exclusively for their retail counters,” said Harjit Singh.

“There is an urgent need to find a farming-based solution for the small and marginal farmers in the state if we want to avoid a social strife 10 years down the line,” said Kalkat adding that vegetable cultivation in net houses was one such solution.

The cost of net house is about Rs 55,000 to 60,000 per kanal. The commission is giving Rs 20,000 per kanal as financial assistance to put up a net house.

More than 150 net houses have already been set up across the state with the best response coming from Sangrur, Moga, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Ropar and Patiala. “Except Gurdaspur, all the other districts in Punjab have farmers who have taken the initiative,” said 
Dr Romana.


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