P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Gherao of CM’s Residence by Cong MLAs
Gimmickry on display
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
Gimmickry and one-upmanship were on display during the “gherao” of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s residence by Congress legislators here today, with Congressmen trying their best to be arrested even as the Chief Minister mocked them by opening the doors of his residence, rolling out a red carpet and making provision for tea and snacks for the protesters.

The Union Territory police arrested the Congress leaders after 45 minutes while they indulged in sloganeering, led by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. This happened when they burnt an effigy of the Chief Minister in front of his residence. They were taken to the nearby Sector 3 police station, where they were charged under sections 107/151, IPC, but let off.

Badal was not present at his residence. However, a banner “welcoming all legislators of the Opposition” had been put up outside the gates of his residence. A small tent had been erected outside his residence where tea and snacks as well as chairs had been placed for the protesters. A red carpet had also been laid out, leading from the front of the tent to the gate of the CM’s residence.

Bhattal, however, bristled at the “arrangements”, including laying of two special chairs for her as well as former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who did not attend the protest. She called for scrapping of polls to the Block Samitis and Zila Parishads and demanded an inquiry into the entire issue by a sitting judge of the High Court.

Bhattal also demanded fresh elections to be held under a government receiver by utilising staff of the Chandigarh administration. A memorandum in this regard was also submitted to the Punjab Governor.

Bhattal also announced that the party would continue its present agitation, saying another “gherao” of the CM’s residence would be undertaken on May 29, which would be attended by all 117 Congress candidates from the Assembly constituencies of Punjab, district presidents and MPs. She also announced that the party would hold agitations wherever Badal held a function.

CM’s media adviser Harcharan Bains, while briefing newsmen on the former’s behalf, claimed that Badal had told the Chandigarh police to let the opposition legislators approach his residence, as he did not have any fear from them. He also said he did not understand why May 29 had been chosen to repeat the “drama”.

Meanwhile, Badal condemned even the “symbolic” action against Congress leaders, and said he would officially convey his “disapproval” to the Chandigarh administration.


Amarinder questions party whip
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
The contradictions in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) came to the fore again today, with former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh questioning how a three-line whip could be issued to Congress legislators to force them to come to protest in front of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s residence here.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who did not attend the party protest, said the show was nothing but “gimmickry and friendship between the two Bs” while referring to Badal and PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Amarinder said he had been in parliamentary politics for 41 years, but it was the first time that a three-line whip had been issued outside the Assembly. “A whip can only be used to ensure the presence of members in the House with various degrees meant to convey their requirement at a particular moment.”

He claimed that Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, who had issued the whip, could not do so, adding, “Sodhi should learn parliamentary procedure before acting in such a manner.”

Meanwhile, Bhattal disclosed that only five of the 44 Congress legislators were missing from today’s protest.

Meanwhile, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, held at Bhattal’s residence in the morning, saw a few Congress leaders airing their grievances and giving suggestions to the party leadership. Amritsar legislator O.P. Soni urged Bhattal to take the advice of respective legislators on party matters concerning their constituency. Soni also said the party leadership was not even talking to a particular section (read Amarinder supporters) and urged that everyone be taken into confidence.


State dream of sweet oranges turns sour
Citrus project faces cash crunch

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
Bureaucratic tussles and dithering at the political level have turned Punjab’s dream of the sweet orange sour. Faced with grave ecological problems created by the wheat-paddy rotation, the Punjab government had come out with a diversification plan whose focus area was horticulture.

While the Punjab Horticulture Department had been asked to implement the programmes planned at the national level to promote horticulture under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM), the state government, on its own, had created the Council for Citrus and Agri Juicing that is facing an uncertain future due to lack of support on the part of the state government authorities.

At the moment, the council, that had taken the project to plant citrus fruits, especially the best varieties of sweet orange, kinnow, lime and lemon, is on the verge of financial collapse. It has financial liabilities to the tune of Rs 8 crore, but has only Rs 3 crore as balance of loan amount arranged by it on the basis of bank guarantee given by the state government.

During the next few days, the council is supposed to make the payment of rent, Rs 10,000 per acre, to farmers, whose land it has taken for 12 years to grow the citrus fruits. It had prepared a plan to grow citrus fruits on 20,000 acres, for which bank guarantee worth Rs 50 crore was required from the state government.

However, as the government showed lack of interest, the council had to cut down the proposal to only 5,500 acres. But till date, the council has covered only 3,000 acres under citrus plants and of the remaining 2,500 acres, some of the area is ready for plantation as the requisite infrastructure has been created there. But the plantation project has slowed down because of the indifferent attitude of the state government.

Even the state government has not released the subsidy that was provided by the NHM, as the council project was covered under the mission schemes. On preparing each acre, where plantation has already been done, the council has spent Rs 40,000. It has laid down the drip irrigation system etc. Besides, it has been spending money on the management of each of the acre under plantation.

The council has created a nursery at Jallowal that has the best varieties of 15 lakh plants. Its capacity can be raised up to 40 lakh plants.

Under the agreement, the land taken on rent from farmers by the council was to be retained by it for 12 years under its control.

After 12 years, it is to be handed over to the farmers concerned. As fruiting for picking starts at plant’s age of four, the council and the farmer were to share the income from plants on the 50-50 basis.

Now, the council has pegged its hopes on Cannizaro, a company with its headquarters in Hong Kong. Cannizaro, that is convinced that Punjab’s 80 per cent land can be utilised to grow world’s best citrus fruits, is keen to cover 1 lakh acres in the first five years and 5 lakh acres in 10 years.


Projects worth 20,000 cr cleared
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
Eight-lane super express highway, connecting Pathankot with Ajmer via Jalandhar, a luxury train for the religious artery of the state to cover Mohali, Patiala, Amritsar, Kangra and Anandpur Sahib, sprawling eight-lane ring-roads around Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar, an IT tower in Mohali to turn Punjab into the world’s new silicon valley, radio cabs in all major cities and a super express connecting the Mohali International Airport with Amritsar are some of the new landmark projects cleared at the 22nd meeting of the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) here yesterday. The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Projects worth Rs 20,000 crore got the Board’s approval to take Punjab into “the brave new world” of dream infrastructure facility. The Board approved an infrastructure transformation outlay of additional Rs 35,000 crore that would radically alter the way the world looked at Punjab today.

Harcharan Bains, media advisor to the Chief Minister, said the massive investments approved in the meeting of the PIDB would put the state in a new and higher orbit of growth. He said the Board also decided to undertake a special survey of the Kandi area to take it along the new trajectory of development. The Chief Minister was of the view that the new development had to be inclusive and evenly distributed over the state.

An expressway linking the Mohali International Airport with the Golden Temple and a nature walk at Moga was also approved.

Similarly, Punjab will now boast of a globally structured Habitat Centre at Mohali.

The Board gave its approval for the services of two infrastructure development consultancy concerns - one of international repute to conceive infrastructure projects of world-class quality in a time-bound manner and another to increase the revenue of PIDB, besides generating resources to make its functioning far more viable and result oriented.

The Board also approved the Lalru-Baddi and Mohali-Phagwara expressway, including a link to the Mohali International Airport.


Pak hands over 99 prisoners
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

Attari, May 24
After the two neighbours inked an agreement on consular access to prisoners, Pakistan this afternoon released 99 Indians, including 96 fishermen, who mostly belong to Gujarat where there is no marking to indicate the border. This was the first repatriation of prisoners under the new government.

Shahabuddeen from Poonch is returning home after 17 years, Pervez Ahmed after 16 years and Mangal Singh after spending 13 years in jail.

The trio claimed that in the Sialkot jail, nine Indians had completed their jail terms.


Cheema for 3-member poll panel
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 24
In the wake of the high number of complaints and disputes relating to the elections in the state, the state election commission, which is a single-member body, be made a three-member commission on the pattern of the Central commission.

This was demanded by M.M. Singh Cheema, vice-president of the PPCC. He said the government should form a three-member state election commission for the coming urban local bodies elections. Cheema cited various instances of party delegations and elected representatives not getting an audience with the commission due to a large number of complaints.

Since a large number of complaints are reaching the commission, no worthwhile decisions are being taken. In many cases the directions passed by the commission have gone unnoticed, he feels.


Elections for 57 Gram Panchayats postponed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 24
The state Election Commission today postponed the general elections to 57 gram panchayats in 12 districts of Punjab, which were scheduled to be held on May 26. Besides, three election officers have been removed.

Stating this here, a spokesman of the state Election Commission said that exercising powers vested with it under Articles 243K and 243N of the Constitution of India, the polls to 57 gram panchayats had been postponed.


Probe into SAD-BJP clash deferred
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 24
A high-level probe into the clash between SAD MLA Harmeet Singh Sandhu and BJP MLA Anil Joshi at Tarn Taran has been deferred till the completion of the panchayat elections.

Border range IG R.P. Meena, who has been entrusted with the inquiry, said the inquiry would begin after the elections were over. Joshi yesterday appeared before the IG and recorded his statement.

Joshi said the probe would vindicate his stand that he had never provoked SAD workers who had assaulted some members of his party and torched his car.


Bypoll Counting today
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 24
Arrangements for the counting of votes of the Amritsar South byelection have been made. Returning officer Vimal Setia said here today that the counting would start at 7am tomorrow. The entire process would have 10 rounds.


PRTC to replace 75 overaged buses
New fleet ready to roll

Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala May 22
The Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) is all set to replace 75 of its 500 overaged buses within the next three months. One of its proposed 75 new buses has already been fabricated and is ready to hit the road. Thanks to the corporations’ ability to stick to its time schedule in respect of replacement of its old vehicles with the new ones.

The original plan of the PRTC top brass was to replace 250 of its 500 “over-aged” buses, which had surpassed the maximum age limit of seven years, within a time frame of one year. Nearly half of these 500 rattling vehicles are those, which, have completed nine years in service of the PRTC and are hardly roadworthy.

While 150 of the 250 new buses will be inducted by the PRTC on its own, the rest 100 buses will be introduced under the kilometer scheme.

The corporation is in a hurry to replace at least 150 buses within next six months as it wants to keep pace with private operators who, are attracting more business.

The 150 buses, to be inducted by the PRTC on its own, will be made in the PRTC’s own fabrication unit, which, has already started working on the project at full speed.

In fact, the order for new vehicles like purchase of chasis was placed by the PRTC authorities way back in March. “The first new lot of 75 buses is ready with us and undergoing road worthiness and registration process. It is going to hit the road anytime from now onwards. Our plan is to phase out old buses in the first phase. Our drive to phase out old vehicles is in full swing,” PRTC managing director Manvesh Singh Sidhu said.


Help terrorism-hit families: BJP
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Badal is caring now, says Tandon

To a question regarding CM Parkash Singh Badal, BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon said Badal now was paying some attention to the issues raised by his party. He said the BJP was satisfied with the way things were being handled now between the SAD and the BJP.

Chandigarh, May 24
The BJP, Punjab unit, today said there was immediate need to extend financial help, apart from providing jobs to terrorist victim families in the state. The BJP said pension and other benefits being given to such families were not adequate and there was a need to do more to help such families.

Balramji Dass Tandon, chairman of the five-member committee, set up by the BJP to make recommendations to the state government to help such families, today said there were 20,000 families, including government officers, police personel and civilians, which faced the brunt of terrorism from 1980 to 1995.

The committee includes Dr Baldev Raj Chawla, a former minister, Master Mohan Lal, transport minister, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, health minister, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, member of Parliament.

Tandon said the committee held its first meeting today. By including some more members the committee would be expanded, he said. He said some of the private agencies had been helping terrorist victim families, but the government should do something more in this regard.


Raja Ali to gift PM 110-year-old ancestral shawl
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 24
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s childhood friend Raja Mohammad Ali from Pakistan wants visa restrictions removed for people of two neighbouring countries to cement the bond between them.

Raja Ali, who has brought gifts, including a 110-year-old ‘latcha’ (shawl) woven by his grandparents, for his friend, said this would help improve relations.

During an interaction with students of DAV Public School here today, he went down the memory lane sharing memories of the days spent with the PM and was eager to know about the days Manmohan Singh had spent in the city after Partition.

Interacting with students, Raja Ali said he was not fortunate enough as Manmohan Singh, popularly called Mohna, as there was lack of educational facilities in his native place. He said after passing out from the primary school at Gah village in Chakwal district, he helped his parents in agriculture. He said the memories of Partition still continued to prick him.

To a query Raja Ali said there was an improvement in the status of women as they now could move about freely. He said he had four daughters and each of them highly educated and serving in reputed institutions of his country.

To another query Raja Ali said he was going to meet his friend Mohna and not the Prime Minister, that’s why he had not sought any prior approval in this regard.

Speaking on the occasion, assistant commissioner, Customs, V.K. Mahajan said people of east and west Punjab had suffered a lot. He said the two governments should at least relax the visa norms for people of Amritsar and Lahore enabling them to visit each other and return in the evening.


Man from South popularises Punjabi literature
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, May 24
Lack of love of mother tongue among Punjabis has failed to promote literature of great Gurus the way it should be. Punjabi is a rich language and lack of its promotion has kept generations bereft of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus.

Literature has history and it never gets destroyed. Punjabi literature is enriched with teachings, religion and history of great warriors of the state. There is need to spread a message about the use of Punjabi language extensively, feels Pt Rao Dharenavar, a Karnataka resident.

A lecturer in a Chandigarh-based college, Pandit Rao is on a mission of promoting Punjabi literature and has been exploring its new possibilities.

Since there is no movement for the promotion Punjabi literature in the state, Pandit Rao, who hails from Indi village in Bijapur district of Karnataka, started his journey from nearby surroundings and has travelled almost the whole state to infuse love for Punjabi literature among masses in urban and rural areas.

Besides classroom teaching, this visionary - having Kannada mother tongue - has been performing stage and road shows, especially in remote areas of the state to make uneducated people aware of their state’s literature.

"I am travelling throughout the state and delivering lectures, besides staging plays and skits to educate school and college students to create passion among them for Punjabi literature and language," claimed Pandit Rao.

Pandit Rao claimed that educating masses in rural areas was quite a tough task, as at first they hardly relied upon him and, secondly, bringing people at one place was another challenge.

"It was shocking for me when some owners of open theatres and auditoriums demanded money for conducting shows for the promotion of their mother tongue at many places.Then I have to switch over to schools, colleges and other public places for performing plays and skits," he said heaving a sigh. "But I am not shattered. I will make all efforts to fulfil my dreams,” he added.


Promoting Punjabi ethos in UK
SD Sharma

Chandigarh, May 24
Neither an idealist nor a mystic, yet Wolverhampton (UK) based author Darshan Singh Dhir is hailed as the pioneering literary exponent of Punjabi ethos in the Queen’s land, especially reviving the spirit of Doaba in his creative writings. Credited with 17 literary creations, including 10 novels and seven short story collections, Darshan Singh has been undeniably reigning supreme as the preeminent novelist on the Punjabi literary firmament abroad.

Back home, he has been rightfully decorated with the Punjab government’s Shiromani Sahitkar award (1998 and 1999), Shiromani Videshi Sahitkar (1989) by Guru Nanak Dev University and the Best Fiction Writer (1987) by literary organisations in England. Most of his novels are prescribed in MA courses at various universities of Punjab, Delhi and Kurukshetra while his academic Punjabi books form the syllabus of the senior certificate course in England, which is nevertheless a crowning achievement.

Born in a sleepy village near Jalandhar, Darshan Singh treats the themes of Punjabi pastoral life with an exquisite touch of Doaba’s dialectal essence as also modern western culture of England. The author, who was recently in the city, talked to The Tribune about his literary voyage and his newly published novel ‘Hashiye’ (On the Margin).

Says Dhir that a novelist has to create an entirely new world in his imagination wherein characters, situations and ambience are so designed as to bring alive the intent of the conceived plot. ‘Novel’ as such is a living and evolving literary genre with plot, fusion of form, substance and expression as its main ingredients. One needs a life time experience to sculpt a good novel, maintains the septuagenarian writer who migrated to the UK way back in 1973.

Since then a substantial change in the lifestyle of the Punjabi diaspora, illegal immigrations and deterioration in ethical values have burdened the writer to be more considerate about the thematic content of his creations. The stereotyped sugared romance spiced up with crispy dialogues and contrived happy ending of a novel is a thing of the past.

Thereaders in distress look for a good reading for solace, succour and sustenance for facing the problems of life invariably aspiring for an ideal society.

“My novel ‘Hashiye’ has won rave reviews for its potent theme of social relevance,” claims Dhir. It depicts issues confronting people who follow new paths and mixed community relations and how society reacts to it. It also provides an engrossing analysis of the administrative autocracy that how establishment makes the less powered officers spineless, says Dhir.


SP retired ‘compulsorily’ due to sexual harassment
Gurdeep Singh Mann

Khanna, May 24
Ajmer Singh Romana SP (headquarter) was today retired "compulsorily" , two-and-a-half years before his superannuation. He was retired following a fax message received from the Raj Bhawan today.

Romana earlier was posted at Faridkot, Ropar and Bathinda as an SP. For three consecutive years his ACR had been negative to the department. His last posting, before Khanna, was at Bathinda where he was accused of using foul language with lower-rung police officials, besides misconduct with his seniors.

It is learnt that Bathinda SSP Naunihal Singh wrote a strongly worded letter against him to the DGP Punjab giving details about his misconduct. A native of Romana village near Kotkapura in Faridkot district, he was 50 and as per police rules he could have been given an extension of three years but was denied it.

As per sources the DGP had recommended his premature retirement in March 29, 2007. Highly placed police officials said many women constables in Khanna had accused him of sexual harassment.

IG Sanjiv Kalra said Romana had been retired compulsorily due to irregularities. "This is for the first time I have come across such retirement," he said.


‘Forcible conversion’ foiled
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 24
Members of the local Dharam Jagran Samanvay Vibhag today foiled an alleged attempt of a missionary of Dehra Dun to forcibly convert students of kusht ashrams. Stating this to mediapersons, president of the body Dinesh Sharma claimed that I. Jack Kumar of Dehra Dun, along with a woman, invited about 67 children from various kusht ashrams of the state to provide them financial help for their higher education. He alleged that the financial help was an allurement to trap them into the net conversion.

Sharma said when they came to know about their plan, they reached the Kusht Ashram on the Chabbal road being run by various Hindu organisations. When they asked them (missionaries) to explain their motive behind extending the help to the children, they said their organisation could help them (Dharam Jagran Samanvay Vibhag) too.

However, manager of the ashram Vijender Dubey said the parents of the children had approached the missionary for financial assistance for higher education of their wards.

Meanwhile, Sharma alleged that Kumar warned the students not to speak to any outsider and immediately disappeared from the site when they reached there. He said they had informed the deputy commissioner and the SSP in this regard and warned that if no action was taken against the culprit missionaries, they would be forced to launch an agitation.


Dr Markan joins as DHS (ESI)
Tribune News Service

Mohali, May 24
Dr Y.C. Markan, additional director health services, Punjab, has taken over as director health services (ESI), Punjab. Dr Markan, did his M.S. in orthopaedics from CMC, Ludhiana and joined the Punjab Civil Medical Service in 1979. He was promoted senior medical officer in 1984. Later he also served as civil surgeon Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar, respectively. He also remained director, Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC) and director ayurveda, Punjab.

The post of director health services (ESI) earlier was held by H.K. Nagpal, joint secretary, health, Punjab.


Old-age pension sought from SGPC
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 24
The district unit of the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) has urged the SGPC to give pensions every month to old, needy persons on the pattern of the Waqf Board.

District president of the LBP Sardar Ali said the Board was distributing pensions to aged persons to fulfill their day-to-day needs. The SGPC, which had a huge annual budget, should also give pensions to old-aged persons, he said.


HC grants bail to whistle-blower
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, May 24
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has granted interim bail to Gurdev Singh, a resident here, who was booked in a case under the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Act over land dispute with the Balmiki community on May 17. The court also issued a notice of motion to the state for May 31.

The defence said the petitioner had made a complaint against a minister after which the trouble started. The impugned FIR was registered on May 17, the defence said.

The defence had pleaded that the station house officer of the police station concerned was a nephew of the minister. The petitioner had taken the land in question from the Pathankot Improvement Trust on lease for 99 years and his building plans were also sanctioned by the trust.

The defence also said the dispute was regarding an open space adjoining the area which belonged to the Waqf Board and not to the Balmiki Samaj on behalf of which the FIR was registered.

Earlier, Punjab transport minister and local MLA Master Mohan Lal joined the community members and staged a dharna against Gurdev Singh and others. The minister even directed the area DSP to register a case against Gurdev Singh and others.


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