P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Poll complaints unabated
Elections for 18 Panchayats postponed, 5 officers removed 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
The Election Commission (EC) today postponed the elections to 18 Gram Panchayats in six districts, which were scheduled for May 26. Five election officers have been removed.

Disclosing this here today, a spokesman for the commission said exercising the powers under Article 243K and 243N of the Constitution, the polls to Gram Panchayats of Karimpur, Pallian Kalan, Saloh, Pallian Khurd, Kot Ranjha, Ram Rai Pur, Bairsian, Gorakhpur, Chhokran, Punnu Majara, Gohlron and Begumpur, all in Nawanshahr district, Harlalpura in SAS Nagar district, Mangewal and Slempur Dhaha, both in Ludhiana district, Lahiri Gujran in Gurdaspur district, Rampura in Ferozpur district and Jamsher Khas in Jalandhar district had been postponed and fresh election schedule would be released separately. Surat Singh, a candidate from Hasanpur in Ludhiana district alleged that despite election commissioner A.K. Dubey ordering the postponement of the poll, the returning officer concerned had decided to go ahead with the poll on his own.

It has found that returning officer Parkash Ram, SDO, PSEB, Banga, had acted in an extremely irresponsible manner. Therefore, the elections to 12 villages of Nawanshahr district had been countermanded. The officer had been placed under suspension immediately and disciplinary action would be initiated against him.

The commission, on the recommendations of the district electoral officer, Gurdaspur, had suspended returning officer Zone No. 2, Block Pathankot, Rattan Anmol, assistant food and supply officer, Pathankot. His conduct had derailed the electoral process to Gram Panchayat Lahri Gujran.

The commission, considering the report of the district electoral officer, Ludhiana, found that the election process had been vitiated by the questionable conduct of returning officer Jeet Singh, secretary, Market Committee, Doraha, and assistant returning officer Ramandeep Singh, agriculture development officer, Madinpur. Accordingly, the election to Gram Panchayat Mangewal, Payal tehsil, Ludhiana district, had been countermanded.

In another case, the poll to Gram Panchayat Rampura in Ferozepur district had been countermanded. 


Put off polls now: CPI
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
The CPI today said that keeping in view the manipulations in the Panchayat elections allegedly at the behest of the ruling SAD-BJP combine, these should be postponed immediately.

Dr Joginder Dayal, member of the CPI executive, and Bhupinder Sambar, secretary of the Punjab unit of the party, said returning officers had played havoc with the electoral system at several places.

The CPI leaders said powers to deputy commissioners to look into the election-related complaints at their level was a wrong decision and it should be taken back.

Ballots not ready

Meanwhile, sources said the SDM, Abohar, had submitted a report to Dubey asking him that Panchayat elections for Lakhwali Dhab, Muradwala, Ramsukhpura, Tilianwali, Pandiwala, Sivana, Rup Nagar, Sabuana, Koelkhera, Kheowali Dhab and Baknewala should be postponed. The sources said the SDM informed the commission that ballot papers for these panchayats could not be prepared in time.


Tohra’s legacy in tatters in native village
Protégé, son-in-law, former confidant fight it out in Panchayat polls
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Tohra (Amloh), May 23
The legacy of late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who was president of the SGPC for a number of years, lies in tatters, with his supporters and adopted relatives working at cross purposes in the Panchayat elections in this village, which has been known for returning unanimous candidates according to the diktat of the Sikh “pope” of Punjab.

For a village that has seen a single candidate being elected 15 years at a stretch according to the wishes of Tohra, the race for the Panchayat elections has reached an all-time nadir, with three factions, including two of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and one of the Congress, fighting for the spoils of power in the village.

Among the SAD, the faction of SGPC member from Bhadson Satwinder Singh Tohra, who has earlier served as sarpanch of the village for 15 years, is arrayed against the former SGPC president’s son-in-law Harmail Singh Tohra. Both groups have put up their candidates, with Harmail supporting a candidate Bahadur Singh, who had fought the last election for sarpanch against Satwinder.The third faction in the fray is that of former G.S. Tohra confidant Rajinder Singh Tohra, who is now in the Congress and has put up his son and daughter-in-law, besides supporting the candidates of Harmail Tohra.

The twist in the story is the role of the wife of the former SGPC patriarch, Mata Joginder Kaur. The woman has been clicked giving her blessings to the four candidates put up by Satwinder, who claims that he has her active support. Her son-in-law Harmail, who is a former minister, when questioned on this, says he would not like to comment on the activities of Satwinder while accusing him of misusing the former SGPC president’s legacy.

This is an allegation that is being traded between both parties, with Satwinder alleging that Harmail had reached an understanding with the Congress while putting up his son from the Chalella Zila Parishad seat. Satwinder accuses Harmail’s son of indulging in rigging at Rampur Sahiwala where ballots were punched in favour of the SAD candidate in Parishad elections and the Congress candidate for the Samiti elections. The poll process was subsequently countermanded at the village.

While Harmail denies this vehemently, he claims he had tried for unanimity in the village and accuses Satwinder of undermining it. Akali-turned Congressman Rajinder Tohra also claims he does not have any tie-up with Harmail, but is open to post-poll negotiations. However, he was quite explicit about the politics in the Tohra household. “Mata Joginder Kaur does not get along with Harmail even as she enjoys a good rapport with Satwinder.”

Karnail Singh, who has remained a confidant of the late SGPC president, says, “We have a park which we created in memory of the late leader and also a stadium, but the spirit which made Tohra village the epicentre of Sikh politics for nearly two decades has been lost forever”.


Sidhu moots ways to mobilise funds for Amritsar
Central Jail land likely to be auctioned for Rs 2,000 cr
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, May 23
A grant as big as Rs 4,000 crore under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM) for the holy city has been held up for the past about four years because the state government has failed to release a matching grant for the project.

Member of Parliament Navjot Singh Sidhu, in a missive to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has urged him to create a corpus with the proceeds of the sale of identified surplus government properties in Amritsar to generate 50 per cent matching grant to get Rs 4,000 crore released under the scheme. He says if the state government allowed the money generated by selling surplus government properties of Amritsar itself then more than Rs 900 crore could be invested here.

The BJP MP has asked the Chief Minister to release the rest of the money collected through the auction of shopping plaza site at Ranjit Nagar (about Rs 185 crore). Amritsar had been allocated Rs 100 crore of it. The state should give Rs 152 crore, generated through the auction of a portion of the central jail, to the city.

The state is contemplating auctioning the land of the jail for about Rs 2,000 crore. He has urged the state government to release Rs 450 crore lying with it so that the Amritsar Municipal Corporation could deposit its share with the Central government along with a development project report for getting Rs 900 crore under the scheme for the city development.


Tribune Impact
Experts visit Majri dam
Villagers, students take up desilting work
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Tarapur Majri (Kurali), May 23
Technical advisers from the Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Punjab, visited the dam at Majri today. The Tribune had highlighted the plight of villages having dams lying defunct in the respective areas due to heavy silt on May 19.

Earlier, district soil conservation officer Mohali Krishan Lal paid a visit to the village. Today, department sub-inspector Gurmail Singh, too, visited the site.

The Universal Disabled Care Taker Social Welfare Society, Padiala village, an NGO, took up the matter with the department and asked for the permission to clear the dam of silt. “We met chief soil conservator S.S. Saini and apprised him of our willingness to clean the dam. He sent technical advisers to the village to give us technical expertise,” said Shamsher Singh, chairman of the society.

Earlier, the technical advisers were of the view that some part of the dam should be broken so that silt flows out on its own. But this was not viable as the silt has deposited in layers. It was then the villagers decided to clean up dam bed themselves.

Villagers from Majri as well as from neighbouring areas have thronged the village to desilt the dam. Around 20 students of Sikh Missionary College, Chanalo village, along with the villagers started desilting work on Thursday. Today, students from Government High School, Kubbaheri, joined in the work. Students of Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Kurali, are expected to join in the drive tomorrow.

More than 5 feet of silt has been removed by making 20-ft-wide crater on the bed of dam. There is around 8 metre of silt in the dam.

Shamsher said a JCB machine was being used to remove the silt. Villagers from Mianpur had extended their support and provided tractors for the work. The JCB machine costs Rs 650 per day per machine. “The more heavy machines put to use, the easier it would be to remove silt. The department has heavy machinery to remove silt and villagers have agreed to pay for the fuel,” Shamsher added.


Cheema saves SAD embarrassment
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
Sheer presence of mind of SAD secretary Daljit Singh Cheema has saved the party a lot of embarrassment and at the same time taken the sting out of the Congress demand for disqualification of SAD Amritsar (South) candidate Inderbir Singh Bularia. Anticipating that the Congress will keep a close watch on the activities of the SAD, Cheema has released the letter written to the chief election commissioner wherein he had listed 40 leaders of the SAD who enjoy a “special status of sorts” under Section 77 of the People’s Representation Act.

Talking to The Tribune, Cheema said: “Just as the poll was notified on April 28, I dashed a letter to the chief election commissioner (CEC) the same day referring to the EC letter of March 5 with reference to Section 77 of the PR Act enclosing the list of 40 political leaders representing the SAD, who would campaign for the party. Badal’s name was the first on the list.” The tour and travel expense of all people mentioned in the list is exempt from the “expenditure” of the candidate, he added.

Cheema further released a copy EC No 76/2007/J.S II dated February 10, 2007, sent by the ECI to the chief electoral officer, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand, clarifying the position on the issue. The letter reads: “As per clause (a) of Explanation 1 under sub-section (1) of Section 77 any expenditure incurred on account of travel of leaders of political party for propagating the programme of the party is not to be deemed to be expenditure in connection with the election of the candidate of the political party subject to the condition that the names of such leaders have been communicated to the commission and the chief electoral officer within seven days from the date of notification of the elections”.

Cheema said the SAD had been filing all its returns on expenditure before the commission and the CEO as it was fully conversant with the PR Act.

The Section 77 of the People’s Representation Act, 1951, exempts the tours and travel of politicians whose names are given to the commission as stated above. But the cost of posters, banners, etc, for the entire party are to be shared by each candidate as per the PR Act. As Amritsar (South) is the lone Assembly segment where a bypoll was held, all expense of publicity material used in the election will be counted towards the poll expenses of Bularia.

Reacting to a demand by Congress spokesperson Bir Devinder Singh, seeking disqualification of Bularia, Cheema said: “We have played the game by the rules and won.”


Sud seeks Shivraj Patil’s removal
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 23
Minister for parliamentary affairs, medical education and research, forest and labour, Punjab, Tikshan Sud has urged President Pratihba Patil to sack union home minister Shivraj Patil for his failure to protect the Constitution, life and property of the people of the country.

In a press note issued here this evening, Sud criticised the recent remarks of the minister drawing a parallel between Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner in Pakistan awaiting death sentence, and Afzal Guru, who was found guilty of attacking Parliament in 2001. 


PM’s childhood friend arrives
PMO contacts him on phone
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 23
The nondescript Gah village in Chakwal district of Pakistan came into prominence in the country when the son of its soil, Dr Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister of India. Now the name of the village is better known as “Dr Manmohan Singh village”.

This was disclosed by Dr Manmohan Singh’s childhood classmate Raja Mohammed Ali from his native village aftercrossing to India from the Attari land route today. The Prime Minister is so keen to meet his friend that the PMO has contacted local journalist Rashmi Talwar who is conducting the visit of Raja Mohammad Ali. The PMO official has enquired about the detailed itinerary of Dr Manmohan Singh’s friend.

Raja Ali was accompanied by his relative Mehmood Ahmed and came on foot via the Attari Indo-Pak border today. Tinytots of DAV Public School, along with Principal Neera Sharma and staff, accorded a warm welcome to the classmate of Indian PM and presented a thumping bhangra, while three girl students showered him with flower petals as also put tilak on his forehead.

Suffering from bronchitis, but extremely excited, Raja Ali, who expressed his only wish to meet the Indian PM, showed a pair of' "Chakwali Khussa tilley walli juttis” for his dear classmate, besides the "mitti of his school" sent by his classmates, including Ghulam Mohammed, Shah Wali Khan and Mohammed Ashraf, as also the “mitti” of the PM's ancestral house aptly labelled "Janam bhoomi ki mitti," besides a copy of the school registration record and a pictorial-cum-informative booklet made on Gah village.

The jug of water brought from Pakistan was labelled, "Ever-lasting and never-ending sign of life," from Primary School Gah.

He denied having any appointment fixed with the PM and said “Allah mallik hai!” and when asked, "If the PM doesn’t meet you?'' he asserted that "Allah will not let that happen to his own, I’m sure".

He said the name of the flyover passing over the native village of the Indian Prime Minister was also being named “Dr Manmohan Singh”. The village had witnessed an overall development after the alleviation of Dr Manmohan Singh as the PM of India, he added.

He said, “Dr Manmohan Singh is still “Mohna” for us and I shall call him by this name during over proposed meeting in New Delhi”.

However, the PM‘s friend received lukewarm response from the Border Security Force and district administration on his arrival at the Attari border. The BSF tried to create hurdles in proper coverage of the dignitary from Pakistan.

Raja will have a one-day stay in Amritsar, interact with students of DAV Public School on Saturday and later leave for New Delhi on May 24.


Punjab to hire docs in jails
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
The Punjab government wants to treat ailing healthcare facilities in district jails across the state by hiring the services of medical officers and pharmacists. The state government has already initiated the process of creating 10 posts each of medical officers and pharmacists. A detailed proposal in this regard has, in fact, been submitted to the principal secretary to government of Punjab, the department of home affairs and Justice (Jails Branch).

In an affidavit submitted before a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana, comprising Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Sabina, Punjab’s chief welfare officer-cum-assistant inspector-general of police added the Department of Finance and Personnel was seized of the matter; and the outcome was awaited. Taking on record the affidavit, the Bench asked the principal secretary to take up the issue with the Finance Department and submit a status report.

The affidavit was submitted to the court after the Bench had taken cognisance of overcrowding and lack of medical facilities at Ropar sub-jail. The judges had observed that the medical facilities were lacking. Besides, facilities for screening patients for HIV were not available, though the population of “drivers” was large.

As the matter came up for hearing this morning, the judges were informed that a part time doctor would visit the sub-jail regularly. Besides this, a pharmacist was also being deputed by the Ropar civil surgeon for visiting the jail daily. The Bench also took note of the fact that the Ropar district and Sessions Judge had intimated the high court on the administrative side that the blood samples of as many as 61 prisoners and under-trials had been screened for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The results were awaited.

The development regarding the appointment of medical professionals is significant as medical facilities in the prison across the state require urgent attention. Deputy-director of the Institute of Correctional Administration Dr Upneet Lalli says the doctors-prisoner ratio in the Punjab jails is low, with the prison population varying between 12,000 and 14,000. Dr Lalli has already filed a petition in public interest on medical facilities in prisons and other jail-related issues.


Demand to change routes of trains 
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 23
People of Barnala, Dhuri, Sangrur and Sunam areas have urged union Railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to change the routes of the Ferozepur-Mumbai (9023/9024 Janta Mail) and the Bikaner-Kolkata-Guwahati (5609/5610 Avadh Express) trains.

If these trains pass through the Bathinda-Barnala-Dhuri-Sangrur-Sunam-Jakhal section in place of the Bathinda-Mansa-Jakhal section part of the existing route, then residents of Sangrur and Barnala districts will have two trains for Mumbai and Kolkata each.

Som Nath Garg from Sangrur, who is leading a campaign for change in the routes of the two trains, said if the routes of these trains were changed from the Bathinda-Mansa-Jakhal line to the Bathinda-Barnala-Dhuri-Sangrur-Sunam-Jakhal line, even then residents of Bathinda-Mansa-Jakhal section would have two mail/express trains (Ganganagar-Kolkata 3007-3008 Udan Abha Toofan Express) and (Ferozepur-Mumbai 2137/2138 Punjab Mail) for Mumbai and Kolkata.


Turban row solved, for this session
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 23
The controversy with regard to forcing Hindu students to wear turbans by the Akal Academy, Cheema, near Sunam, ended yesterday for the current academic session as the academy has exempted the Hindu students from wearing turbans during this academic session only. 

A compromise was reached at a meeting of the parents of Hindu students and the management of the academy facilitated by deputy commissioner V.K. Ohri and additional deputy commissioner Indu Malhotra here.


Brar is SGJC head
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 23
Chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh today appointed Manmohan Singh Brar, a former Akali MLA and close confidant of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, as new president of the prestigious Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission (SGJC).

He replaces Kashmir Singh Patti, who was indicted following a high-level probe, conducted by a senior IAS officer.

Patti, who was given five days to give reply to a show-cause notice, had sent his resignation under protest.

A spokesman of the state government confirmed that Brar had replaced Patti as president of the SGJC.

It may be recalled that Brar was president of the SGJC twice during the stint of Badal as Chief Minister.


Fake Encounter Case
Bailable warrants against ADGP Virdi
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
CBI Special Judge Jagdeep Jain today issued bailable warrants against J.P. Virdi, additional director general of police (ADGP), for not deposing before the court in the alleged fake encounter killing of Kulwinder Singh, alias Kid, by seven Punjab police personnel, including SSP Surjit Singh Grewal.

The ADGP was summoned for the second time to depose as defense witness by the Special Court. On receiving the summons, the personal assistant of the ADGP replied that J.P.Virdi was unwell and would not be able to appear before the court. The court observed that if the ADGP was is in office, his health must be fine. Thereafter, bailable warrants of the ADGP were issued by the court.

Kulwinder Singh was killed in a “fake encounter” in July, 1989, by the accused on the Tangori Kurda road, under the Sohana police station, Mohali. In 2002, the District and Sessions Judge, Chandigarh, framed charges of murder and abduction against the police officials. A CBI probe had also held them guilty.

The court had earlier framed abduction charge against Surjeet Singh Grewal and ASI Amarjit Singh, while the murder charge was framed against five other police personnel - Birbal Das, Gurcharan Singh, Nikka Ram, Chanan Singh and Dayal Singh. 


Jail upgradation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
Taking up the issue of upgrading the Ropar sub-jail into a full-fledged jail, a High Court Division Bench of Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Sabina today asked Punjab principal secretary, department of home affairs and justice (jails branch), to discuss the matter with the finance department. The Bench also asked the state to file an affidavit in this regard a week before August 7, the next date of hearing in the case.

As the matter came up for consideration, Punjab’s chief welfare officer-cum-assistant Inspector General of police informed the court that although strenuous efforts were being made for upgrading the jail, yet status quo in the matter prevailed.

The Bench had on April 23 asked the state of Punjab and others to show-cause why directions should not be issued for upgrading the sub-jail into a full-fledged jail. The Bench had also asked the state and other respondents to apprise the court of the action taken against jail warder Jagtar Singh. He is facing allegations of permitting visitors to handover articles and eatable to under-trials.

An affidavit submitted in the court in response to the directions said Jagtar Singh had been awarded punishment of withdrawal of two increments. The case will now come up for further hearing on August 7.

Saini blast case

Punjab wants the proceedings in the Saini blast case, currently being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, to be stayed. In an application placed before a High Court Division Bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Harbans Lal, the state has also asked directions for being impleaded as a party in the matter.

The state has claimed the order regarding CBI probe has larger ramifications for police officers working in Punjab. Elaborating, the state asserted the matter regarding the escape of Balwant Singh Multani, now being probed by the CBI, has been investigated and the report had been submitted in the court.

After hearing advocate Rupinder Khosla for the state, the Bench reserved orders in the matter. The CBI has already examined as many as 70 witnesses, including Chandigarh, Punjab and Rajasthan police officials. The CBI was earlier asked by the High Court to look into the whereabouts of the proclaimed offenders in the blast case and allegations of their elimination. The matter pertains to an explosion aimed at eliminating IPS officer Sumedh Singh Saini.


Probe sought into Infotech MD’s foreign tours
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
A High Court Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Jaswant Singh today issued a notice of motion to Punjab, Vigilance Bureau, Punjab Information and Communication Technology Corporation Limited (Infotech) and Consumer Electronics Punjab Limited on a petition seeking vigilance inquiry into the foreign tours of managing director (MD), other directors and officers.

Petitioner H.C. Arora also prayed for a direction to the state to recover from them the expenses incurred on these foreign tours.

The petitioner had levelled serious allegation that the funds available with the company were being spent by the managing director, directors and other officers of Infotech on foreign tours. As many as 26 tours to foreign countries have been conducted at the cost of Rs 45 lakh since 2002-2003, he said, adding that IAS officer N.S. Kalsi had spent Rs 24.82 lakh by undertaking eight foreign tours.

He added that MLA Randeep Singh Nabha had spent Rs 10.76 lakh on four foreign tours. Two other officers Anil Dutta and B.R. Bajaj had spent Rs 3.24 lakh and Rs 3.45 lakh, respectively, on one foreign tour each.

The Division Bench issued notices for August 4 to the respondents only qua the foreign tours undertaken by the managing director of Infotech


Special courses for technical hands
G. S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 23
To open up fresh avenues for technically trained illiterate persons, Punjab has come out with a specialised certificate programme for bridge courses. The aspirants can avail this facility after their job hours.

Punjab technical education special secretary V.K. Sharma disclosed this while inaugurating a two-day management development programme (MDP), organised by Aryan Business School at hotel Shivalikview, here today.

While talking exclusively to The Tribune, Sharma said, “The idea of the programme is to equip technical people in different fields with theoretical knowledge and communication skills that would enable them to look for brighter career options in the corporate sector. We are focusing on roadside mechanics, small-time technical workers or factory mechanics like fitters, vendors etc.”

These mechanically skilled persons would have to undergo an examination and after qualifying the test awarded a certificate duly recognised by the Punjab government.

Sharma said to boost the education sector Punjab government is also coming up with plans to set up specialised universities for different academic streams in collaboration with ten private players, including Chitkara Group of Colleges, Reliance Industries, Rayat and Bahra Group, Bharti Telecom etc. This proposal is at the final stage, he informed. But to tighten the noose around these private players the government is emphasizing on keeping the fee structure in its own hand.

“The proposal is being designed in such a manner that the private public partnership (PPP) should be affordable for everyone,” said Sharma. The proposal would also help in re-building the dilapidated educational infrastructure in the state.

About the education at grassroots level, Sharma said the state government is taking steps to check the alarming dropout rates. “Actually it is the mindset of common people which needs to be changed. More and more vocational courses on the policy ‘Earn while you Learn’ should be introduced. People belonging to economically weaker sections often get their children enrolled in smalltime jobs rather than getting them admitted to schools. We have to do a lot of work in this field,” said Sharma.

Recently, the Punjab government had announced that 14,000 new teachers would be recruited for the schools in the state for the academic session 2008-09.


Samrala boy tops CET
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 23
Sumit Gupta of Samrala, who scored 317.5 out of 360 marks (88.2 per cent), has topped Combined Entrance Test (CET), Chandigarh, in the medical stream.

“I was sure to make it to the top 10, but attaining the top position was beyond my expectation,” said an elated Gupta.

He said he studied for 14 or 15 hours a day. He gives the credit of his success to his parents. They encouraged him and provided all facilities to him, he added.

However, Sumit said: “I would not be joining the medical college at Chandigarh as I am not eligible for MBBS at Chandigarh. I know about it even before appearing for the examination. I appeared for the CET to check how good I am”.

But, he has already secured his admission in AFMC, Puna, and Manipal University. His tutor M.L. Syal of Helix Institute at Chandigarh has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh to him.


Reaping fruits of community farming
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Mann Chopra (Gurdaspur), May 23
In a unique example of community farming when families are disintegrating fast, the entire agricultural land of this village, tilled by at least 60 families, is divided among only nine teams. The teams, led by seniormost family member of the particular group, are managing the affairs in approximately 550 acres of their cultivable land.

Brothers, in all families, live separately. However, agriculture is done in unison. All dairy farming ventures by the families are also done collectively. Besides, the panchayat land of approximately 300 acres, the village has approximately 550 acres of fertile land.

Jagir Singh ploughs his land along with three brothers. Niranjan Singh, another villager, ploughs his field along with three brothers. At least six families have four generations dependant on the common family land.

Impressed with the results of collective farming, Master Harpal Singh, a resident of adjoining Dilluana village, asked Prof M.S. Kang, vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University (Ludhiana), recently to conduct a survey on the functioning of the uncommon farming pattern. He has raised the issue at many university meetings and seminars.

All adults, including growing children, participate in the farm activities. Nirmal Singh said: “We never felt the need for daily labourers in our fields, particularly the labour rush from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. We never thought of working without each other”. When questioned about the functioning of the collective farming pattern during times when land share per person was rapidly decreasing, Sukhpal Singh said: “We have never thought about division”. Bakhshish Singh, a retired teacher, said: “The village had only 20 acres of fertile land when the originally allotment was made. Through sheer hard work, it now has more than 400 acres of absolute fertile land”.

Pargat Singh, a senior citizen, said: “For me, the biggest achievement for the village is freedom of youth from the bane of drug abuse. Youngsters are very conscious about its ill-effects”.


Couple held for elopement
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 23
The Pathankot police has nabbed an unmarried couple of the Narot Jaimal Singh area from Barmal Jattan village in Kapurthala district on the charge of elopement.

Case of rape was registered against the boy, who was later arrested, on the complaint of the girl’s father, Satpal Singh, a resident of Tash village, in Narot Jaim Singh.

The complainant alleged that Jagrat Singh, alias Jagga, had eloped with his minor daughter after alluring her. He also alleged that Shabi, a friend of Jagga, hatched a conspiracy against them. In her statement before a Pathankot-based court, the girl, however, expressed her wish to live with the boy. 


Rising Fuel Prices
Punjabi truckers in US look for alternatives
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 22
Rising fuel prices have forced nearly 50 per cent of Canada and US-based Punjabi transporters to keep off their once-lucrative business in the wake of the North American economic slowdown.

While trucking has been considered to be the lifeline of North America, nearly 70 to 75 per cent of the transport business in Canada, California and other parts of the USA is controlled by Punjabi transporters.

Trucking has been a lucrative venture till recently. But the rising cost of fuel has left Punjabi truckers with no choice but to look for alternatives.

The problem has particularly been intense for Punjabi operators with big fleets, as they are hardly able to sustain the large workforce in view of rising fuel costs and economic recession being faced by people of North America.

Though fuel costs have been going up steadily since the onset of the Iraq war, the situation has turned worse during the past about three months, as, on an average, there has been a straight 30 per cent fuel price hike during this period.

“If a litre of petrol was priced between 85 cents and $1 three months ago in Canada, the same was available for roughly about $1.24 nowadays. The same was the quantum of price hike in case of diesel. On the other hand, there has been no hike in transportation charges. So in this discouraging scenario, most of the transporters were left with no choice but to park their trucks and to look out for alternative jobs.”

“Many transport companies owned by Punjabis were forced to file bankruptcies,” said Ontario-based transporter Sanjiv Bajaj while talking to this correspondent over phone.

“The poor dollar position has further added salt to our injuries. Since the Canadian and the US dollar were almost at par in terms of their strength in the international market, the freight transportation operations between the two countries have got slowed down, resulting in wide-spread unemployment in the transporation sector. It has been the transport sector which has been supporting the highest number of Punjabis in Canada as well as the USA so far, but now they have to shift to some other businesses,” said Bajaj.


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