P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Lok Sabha Polls
Central Cong leaders dither on contesting from state
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
Many Central Congress leaders, who are eyeing Punjab as their launch pad for an entry into Parliament in the next Lok Sabha polls, seem to have developed cold feet after the party received a drubbing from the SAD-BJP alliance in the recent Panchayat elections and the Amritsar bypoll. Party sources say that the BJP’s victory in the Karnataka polls has made claimants of party ticket take a back seat.

The BSP taking a lead over its rivals in announcing the names of its candidates has further dampened the spirit of Congress’ aspirants.

Many Congress leaders say that the infighting within the party is unlikely to be resolved till the next general election and the obvious outcome will be the same as in the Amritsar (South) bypoll.

Two strong contenders for ticket, whose names were doing rounds in the party circles, included tourism and culture minister Ambika Soni and union minister of state for industries Ashwani Kumar. Both are Rajya Sabha members from Punjab, but have little mass base in the constituencies they want to test at the hustings. While, Ambika was keen on the newly constituted Anandpur Sahib seat, Ashwani expressed desire to contest the Gurdaspur seat.

The former Hoshiarpur seat is now reserved, but a substantial portion from Hoshiarpur now falls in Anandpur Sahib after the delimitation. She was reportedly making inquiries about the chances of her victory from Anandpur Sahib, it was learn from the sources. She is also believed to be exploring the possibility of fielding her son Anup Soni from here, but her son is disinterested in contesting the election.

The feedback given to her by her party colleagues is that she should be prepared to face a contest by either BJP heavyweight Avinash Rai Khanna or Madan Mohan Mittal, both of whom are lobbying for the seat. Also, in line for this seat is the sitting MP from Jalandhar Rana Gurjit Singh as the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat is now reserved. If Ambika declines, Rana Gurjit would prefer Anandpur Sahib to Khadoor Sahib, it is learnt.

Similarly, Ashwani Kumar, who was lobbying hard to get the Gurdaspur seat, feels that this may not be the right election to contest. Especially, since he will have to face actor Vinod Khanna. Pritam Singh Bhinder, husband of six-time MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, is keen to contest the seat that always favoured his deceased wife.

There is a talk that former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh may field his son Raninder Singh from the Bathinda seat. At the same time sources within SAD say that since Sukhbir Badal’s Faridkot constituency has been declared reserved and he is unlikely to contest the poll himself, being the party’s main campaigner. His wife Harsimrat Kaur or mother Surinder Kaur may contest the seat. Harminder Singh Jassi, a relative of the Dera Sucha Sauda chief, is also believed to be keen on contesting from here, especially since the Congress is confident of getting support of the “dera premis”.

From Sangrur, Congress president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is keen on fielding her son Rahul. Rahul has been making the rounds of Sangrur lately. Sources, both in the SAD and the Congress, feel that sitting SAD MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa will face a lot of opposition within the party if he seeks re-election from this seat. Other than Rahul, sitting Barnala MLA, Kewal Dhillon is also keen on the Sangrur seat.

The strongest claimant to the Ludhiana seat from the Congress is Manish Tewari, who lost to Sharanjit Singh Dhillon in the last polls. At the same time he is close to the leadership in the party high command. The party leadership has already reportedly told Rana Gurjit Singh that they cannot consider him for Ludhiana since the first claim to that seat is of Tewari.


Badal cautions hoarders of petrol, diesel
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 1
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said today that he would take serious action against hoarders of diesel and petrol.

Badal said he would hold a meeting in the evening and later issue directions to the deputy commissioners and the Food and Supply Department to take immediate action against those dealers who indulged in the hoarding of fuel.

He blamed the Centre for the mess regarding the prices of fuel, stating that the government had given hints of a price increase through the media and still failed to take any decision on the issue.

This had led to panic buying of petrol and diesel. In a way the government was encouraging hoarding, he said.

Badal was addressing a religious congregation organised on the occasion of “bhoomi pujan” of an ISKCON temple at Birmi village, near here.

He laid the foundation stone of Glory of Punjab Vedic Sanskrit Centre and announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for a library there.

Later, interacting with mediapersons, Badal said the union railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had agreed to undertake a number of projects in the state. Ludhiana railway station would be upgraded.

Referring to the demand of the Congress for deputing Central forces for the coming elections to the local bodies, the Chief minister said the Congress leaders were making such allegations just out of frustration, sensing defeat in the elections.

He said in the Amritsar byelection, which was held under the security of the Central forces, the SAD candidate had won with higher percentage.

Commenting on the case of naib tehsildar Mukesh Kumar, who was appointed sub-registrar keeping in view his honesty, Badal reiterated that the government would fight his case up to the Supreme Court.

Addressing the function, Gopal Krishan Goswami, GVC, ISKCON, said the body had also launched a food-for-life programme under which they were providing to people over 1,00,000 meals every day. 


Language Dept in a Fix
Tampering of records alleged
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 1
The Punjab Language Department, established in 1949 for the multifarious development of Punjabi, and its evaluators seem to be in a fix following the detection of tampering of official records, putting a question mark on the evaluation of the books selected for awards in 2007 under various categories.

Peeved over the alleged tampering, some renowned writers/critics, who had evaluated the books of last year, have decided not to evaluate books of the department in future.

However, Mittersen Meet, District Attorney and Punjabi novelist, who had “exposed” the department by seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the language department has demanded registration of criminal cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code against all those who had allegedly tampered with the official records to benefit certain “undeserving writers”.

Meet, who was among the writers who had submitted his novel for award, said some officials of the department and certain evaluators had tampered with the records, which was a fit case of “conspiracy and forgery”.

Ironically, some books of poetry and folklore were considered under the category of literary criticism, while the books of essays/articles were considered under category of biography etc. One of the pro formas was found to be unsigned.

However, Dr Balbir Kaur, director, Language Department, said though the books for awards were selected before her taking over as director, she claimed that no official was involved in the tampering of the records . She said anybody having doubt could scrutinise the record anytime.

Under the scheme, an award of Rs 5,000 is given to the book printed in the year preceding the current financial year.

The glaring discrepancies could be seen in various pro formas, presented by different evaluators. In one such book evaluation pro forma, an evaluator Dr T.R.Sharma gave no marks to a book, whereas another scholar Kirpal Singh Kasel gave 65 numbers to the same book.

Kasel admitted that the book in question was a collection of poems and did not fall under the category of literary criticism.

Punjabi writer Dr Dalip Kaur Tiwana, president, Sahit Academy, Ludhiana, and noted novelist Ram Sarup Ankhi said they would not do evaluation of any book of the Punjab Language department anymore. They, however, said their conscience was clear that they had properly evaluated the books.

Dr Tiwana dismissed that she had done any tampering in the pro forma of book evaluation. She said she had already taken up the matter with Dr Balbir Kaur, director, Language Department, to probe the matter.

Anakhi, who had given 90 out of 100 marks to a book, claimed that he had given the numbers on merit.

On the other hand, Om Parkash Gaso, a novelist, defended the department and said the allegations of “favourtism” while selecting books for awards were baseless. He, however, said he had replaced the typed pro forma with a hand-written one, as he did not want cutting on it.

President of the Kendri Punjabi Sahit Sabha Anup Virk alleged that some officials of the department had tampered with his pro forma with “ulterior motive”. He said he was contemplating to sue the language department.

Dr K.S. Thind also said he had never tampered with the records. However, Niranjan Tasneem, another evaluator, said he himself had given two grace marks from 58 to 60 through cutting to make the book eligible for the award.


Ordeal of Tarun Veer’s family continues
Mandeep Puri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
It seems to be unending grief for the family of Tarun Veer, a B.Tech student of Thapar Institute of Patiala, who died under mysterious circumstances on August 24 last.

For the past nine months the aggrieved father, Gurdev Singh, has been running from pillar to post to get justice for his son by getting his alleged “kidnappers” arrested but the Punjab Police has done little to nab them. Despite their identities being known, the three classmates of Tarun, Akshay Tyagi, Rahul and Vishnik Bhan, the prime suspects in the case, are on the run and out of the reach of the police.

While the SSP Patiala, A K Asthana claims that “efforts” are on to trace the suspects, these words have no meaning for Gudev Singh, who, by now, has lost all faith in the state police. “They are not interested in arresting them. Only a CBI inquiry can unravel the mystery,’ he says. His apprehensions about the intentions of the Punjab cops are not without reasons. He says the suspects come from influential families, with one of the boy’s father being a senior IAS officer in Delhi, and that’s why the police is hesitating to take action.

Gurdev, who was accompanied by his wife, said today that more than nine months have passed but till date why the police has failed to collect evidence. Tarun had gone missing after the car in which he and his friends were travelling reportedly met with an accident near Ganda Kheri village adjoining the Narwana canal on the Rajpura-Patiala highway. While the three youth survived the accident, Tarun’s body was recovered from the canal later.

Though initially, it was suspected that Tarun had died due to drowning, following the accident, doubts emerged when eyewitnesses, who pulled out the trio from the canal, insisted that there were only three people in the car when the accident occurred. Later, the postmortem report also revealed that the deceased was brutally beaten before death.

The case was registered following the complaint by Gurdev Singh, who stated that despite persistent queries, the three boys refused to reveal anything about the whereabouts  of his son. The case against the three boys was registered and later after the recovery of the body from the canal and the investigation; the police registered a FIR under Section 302 of the IPC against the accused. None of the boys have been arrested, and even the motive behind the killing was yet to be ascertained.


BSP to contest all 13 LS seats
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, June 1
Launching BSP’s campaign for the ensuing Lok Sabha elections in the state here today, national general secretary of the party and in charge of Punjab affairs Narinder Kashyap said the party had decided to contest all 13 LS seats in the state. He said party ticket would be given to those candidates only who were in a winning position.

Kashyap said the party would give chance to candidates from all communities and religions on the pattern of Uttar Pradesh, adding that former SP Madanjit Singh had been given ticket for the Sangrur LS seat.

Kashyap was addressing a Sarb Samaj Bhaichara Banao Sammelan, organised by the party at the New Grain Market. State president of the party Avtar Singh Karimpuri and in charge of the party for the Sangrur LS constituency Madanjit Singh were also present. 


Party activist beaten to death

Moga, June 1
A BSP activist today succumbed to his injuries, while his brother’s condition is critical after they were allegedly beaten by about a dozen people of their native village Jhandewal last night.

The BSP activist Nirmal Singh (32) and his elder brother Balwinder Singh, who works in a cold storage here, were on the way to their village on motorcycle, when around a dozen persons, of their village, who were on a truck, intercepted their motorcycle and thrashed them with lethal weapons.

After the duo raised an alarm, some villagers rushed to the spot. The police has registered a case. However, no arrests have been made so far and police is investigating the matter. — UNI


Sukhbir hoardings dot Malwa 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
The coming parliamentary elections are likely to see the emergence of another entity, the Students Organisation of India (SOI), a personal army created by SAD chief Sukhbir Badal.

SOI is active in the Malwa belt, with its headquarters in Patiala. It was active in the elections to the Block Samitis and Zila Parishads in Patiala district. It seems to have entrenched itself in colleges in the Malwa belt.

The SOI, which was born out of the “necessity” to take on Capt Amarinder Singh in his hometown during his chief ministership, is also sometimes referred to as Sukhbir’s green brigade while comparing it to the outfit created by the Chautala family of Haryana.

Stickers issued by the SOI are in “great demand” among youngsters in the Malwa belt, as it virtually ensures vehicles are not stopped for checking by the police.

Politicians, including Rana Gurjeet Singh of the Congress, allege this is happening because Sukhbir Badal has, in speeches, assured the youth that they would not be “harassed” by the police. Rana Gurjeet said political patronage had also ensured that the organisation had made itself visible throughout the state in a short span of few years by putting up hoardings on all state highways.

According to party sources, Sukhbir was keen to create a student wing and chose Gurpreet Singh Raju Khanna, who was then active in the Punjabi University politics, for the job in 2004.

Though Raju Khanna was also associated with Patiala MP Preneet Kaur for some time, his fortunes turned changed only when he threw his lot with Sukhbir, whose portrait along with that of Raju is the most visible signage of the SOI.

Raju claims that the SOI membership drive has crossed the one-lakh figure. He denied that his activists were involved in any booth-capturing incidents. All this is spread by our political opponents who could not hold their own in the countryside, he added.


Govt muzzling democracy, says Mann
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Ghasokhana (Bathinda), June 1
President of the SAD (A) Simranjit Singh Mann today accused the state police of becoming a “puppet in the hands of the ruling party which is trying to muzzle democracy”.

Mann was here to offer his condolences to the families of Congress men Hargobind Singh and Swaran Singh, who were allegedly killed by SAD activists.

The SAD (A) chief also attended the bhog of Congress MLA Gurpreet Singh Kangar’s business partner Sham Lal, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by SAD leaders at Bhagta Bhai village in the district.

Earlier, addressing mediapersons at Bathinda, Mann lashed out at Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and DGP N.P.S. Aulakh for not visiting the families of the post-poll violence victims. Criticising Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal for being ineffective, he implored all Congress men to join the SAD to get protection from the “brutality” of the ruling party.

He also took Capt Amarinder Singh to task for whiling away his time with his Pakistani friend Aroosa Alam, at a time when his partymen were facing tough times. 


Bathinda killings: Bhattal seeks CBI probe 
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Bhagta Bhai Ka (Bathinda), June 1
President of the PPCC Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today demanded a CBI inquiry into the killings of Congress workers in the district. “The criminals here have direct links with the Badals and even the police is hand in glove with them. All that the state government wants is bloodbath and nothing else. We demand that President’s rule be imposed in the state and the Panchayat elections be cancelled,” she said.

“For the coming Municipal Corporation and Nagar Council elections, we will be forming protection groups,” Bhattal added.

She was speaking at the bhog of Sham Lal, a Congress worker and business partner of Congress MLA from Rampura Phul Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who was allegedly murdered by SAD leaders a few days ago.

Bhattal was accompanied by 12 MLAs. Among them Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Ajit Inder Singh Mofer, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Makhan Singh Pakka Kalan, Joginder Singh Panjgrain, Surinder Sivia, belonged to the Amarinder group. Congress MLA from Bathinda Harminder Singh Jassi was conspicuous by his absence.

Bhattal, on May 29, appealed to all Congress MLAs to launch an agitation against the government from Bhagta Bhai Ka village.

Challenging the state government, Bhattal said: “The SAD should behave like politicians and not like criminals. After these incidents, our party will start a statewide agitation against the government”.

She also meet families of other slain Congress workers at villages Ghaso Khana and Rayya. 


Scared of eve-teasers, girl meets Badal
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 1
Sandeep Kaur (21) is one of the thousands of girls of the state who commute by bus daily to reach their respective colleges. But her story is different. She is unable to venture out let alone go to college, which is 30 km away from her residence. She has confined herself to her home for the fear of a group of eve-teasers, who have even slapped her.

In a poor reflection on the condition of the commoners in the state, this simple complaint of the girl from Jirakh village today reached Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The complaint could have easily been handled by the police. But, Sandeep had to travel over 60 km, along with her parents, to meet the Chief Minister today. Sandeep met Badal just after he had inaugurated the construction work of an ISKCON temple at Birmi village.

She alleged that her complaints to the police, including senior officers, fell on deaf ear. “I can’t go to college. I can’t even venture out. But for my parents, I would have ended my life by now. I feel like burying myself in sand or jumping into a canal,” the girl said, narrating her tale of woes to the Chief Minister.

Badal directed the Khanna police to report back to him on the case as soon as possible.

What was more shocking was that she was brought to the Chief Minister by Mann Singh Garcha, a brother of senior Akali leader Jagdish Singh Garcha. Usually, a phone call by even a street-level Akali leader is enough for the police to take action on a complaint.

Mann told The Tribune that all his complaints to the Payal police against the eve-teasers had not yielded any results. “The police seemed to be scared of the eve-teasers,” he said. Sandeep studies in a postgraduate course at Khanna. She changes two buses to reach college. “I change the bus at Rara Sahib. A group of youths have been teasing me for several days, but like thousands of girls I had no option but to ignore them.”

She said her patience ran out when the youths stopped her from boarding the bus last week by pulling her back. “I shouted at them. They slapped me. No one came to my help.”


Sangrur to have physiotherapy unit
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, June 1
A physiotherapy unit is being set up by the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC) with the financial help from the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, in the building of the District Red Cross Society here.

The unit will benefit a large number of patients, especially those belonging to weaker sections.

The DDRC is purchasing tools and equipments for the physiotherapy unit for the exercises to be done by patients under the supervision of trained physiotherapists.

These include short-wave diathermy, motorised intermittent clerical and lumbar traction bed threefold, static cycle, paraffin wax unit, moist heat unit, stimulator, IFT, TENS, shoulder wheel, hand function kit, cold pack unit, physic ball, ultrasonic machine, ankle exerciser and heel exerciser.

This unit will help the accident victims and patients with physical deformity, paralysis etc in a big way.


At 74, this sculptor’s not ready to quit
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, June 1
Fewer students opt for sculpturing nowadays as it is time consuming and requires a lot of labour and input cost, said Attar Chand Sagar (74) who was felicitated at a state-level function “Taven-Taven Tare” organised by Punjab Kala Parishad and Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi at Khalsa College here last evening.

In his 40-year career, he has sculpted more than 1,400 pieces, which have been appreciated by artists all over the world.

Talking to The Tribune, Attar said at present he was freelancing and organising sculpturing and painting workshops. He had tie-ups with many premier educational institutions and professional organisations. Students of Delhi, Chandigarh and Patiala are honing their skills under his guidance. He has organised 23 one-man-shows involving marble sculptures.

“Even after devoting four decades of life to sculpturing, I am still a learner and trying to explore the beautiful world of art,” said Attar Chand. Born in Kila Riapur village, he had graduated in Arts from Shimla. He never forgets to give credit of his successful career to his mentor late V.R. Khajuria, an artist from Jammu.

Among others who were honoured at the function were Punjabi singer Sardool Sikandar, dramatist Jatinder Brar, Prof Yashpal Singh, Surjit Kaur, Tera Singh Chann, Harbhajan Singh Bajwa, B.S. Narang, Guljar Singh Shounki, Iqbal Singh Dhillon, theatre artiste Kewal Dhaliwal, Darshan Singh 
and Gian Singh.


PSEB Plus II Exam
First 5 positions go to Ludhiana school
Our Correspondent


Mohali, June 1
The top three positions were won by girl students of a Ludhiana school in the plus II examination of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) held in March, the results of which were declared here today.

In fact, the first five slots of the combined merit list of the examination were filled by students of the same institution, B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Focal Point, Ludhiana. Shilpy stood first, getting 427 marks out of a total of 450, while Anu Sharma came second (422) and Shelly Vyas third ( 420).


Board chairman Dalbir Singh Dhillon told a press conference that overall girls performed better in the examination with a pass percentage of 75.89 with boys trailing with 64.69. There was an improvement of about 8 per cent in the overall results.

Dr Dhillon said for the first time the board had introduced the re-evaluation system for science students in this examination. The interested examinees could apply for re-evalaution within 15 days of the declaration of the results.


Among the others placed in the top 10 slots of the combined merit list were (marks in brackets): Shikha (418); Lovepreet Kaur (416 ); Manjita Vohra (416); Shipra Monga (412), Govt Girls Sr Sec School, Guru Har Sahai; Anu Dua (412), R.S. Model Sr Sec School, Shastri Nagar, Ludhiana ; Ritu Bala (411), B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Ludhiana ; Kirandeep Kaur (410), B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Ludhiana; Yasmeen (410), B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Ludhiana; Nisha (408), K.M.V. Collegiate Sr Sec School, Jalandhar city; Mridula (408), R.S. Model Sr Sec School, Shastri Nagar, Ludhiana; Sonia Sharma (408), B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Ludhiana; Kavita Malhan (408), B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Ludhiana; Sovit Singh (407), DAV Public Sr Sec School, Ropar; and Megha Marwaha (407), R.S. Model Sr Sec School, Shastri Nagar, Ludhiana.

In the science stream, the top three positions were won by Shipra Monga (412), Nisha (408) and Sovit Singh (407).

The students placed in the first three slots of the commerce stream were Navpreet Kaur Nagi (403), Sant Singh Sukha Singh Khalsa Sr Sec School, Amritsar; Dilraj Kaur (398), Shri Mahavir Jain Model Sr Sec School, Hoshiarpur road; and Tarandeep Kaur (396), B.C.M. Sr Sec School, Ludhiana.

The top three positions in the vocational stream went to Manik ( 396), Govt Sr Sec Model School, PAU, Ludhiana; Surinder Singh (394), Govt Sr Sec School, Sector 1, Talwara; and Manish Kumar (392), Govt Sr Sec School (Boys), Sangrur.


Patiala admn gears up for monsoon
Identifies 42 ‘weak points’; sets up 12 control rooms
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 1
The district administration has identified 42 “weak points” along the banks of the Ghaggar, Panjidaria and Markanda seasonal rivulets, which can play havoc in the region during the coming monsoon season.

Already the recent spell of rains has caused worries and forced the administration to set its house in order. It has set up about 12 control rooms in its bid to tackle any eventuality in this flood-prone district.

The authorities apprehended that early rains could well be an indication of the onset of early monsoon in the region.

Besides, these “weak points” requiring urgent and exhaustive repair, the Narwana branch of the Bhakra mainline, which passes beneath the Ghaggar with the help of siphons, requires immediate desilting.

The department has already sent repair job estimates and sought Rs 7 crore from the state government for strengthening the “weak points” of the Ghaggar and other rivulets. The officials said early rains could be nature’s warning and Patiala could witness a repeat of the horrifying 1993 events when more than 75 per cent of Patiala city and villages, particularly falling in Rajpura subdivision, got submerged due to flashfloods.

“About 48 ‘weak points’ have been identified along the banks of the Ghaggar, Panjdaria and Markanda rivulets and a couple of defence bundhs in the catchment areas of these rivulets need strengthening. Besides, four bridges in Devigarh and Gharuan areas demand immediate attention in the shape of sand filling of their support bases. I have directed the officials to undertake all requisite steps by June 30,” said deputy commissioner D.S. Grewal, who undertook a surprise inspection of the Ghaggar and other rivulets at Pur Mandi, Devigarh, Lachru, Samspur and Nanheri today.

Since the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal banks had a breach in the Banur-Ghanaur area, the accumulation of rainwater in this otherwise non-operational canal could play havoc with the lives of thousands of villagers of the area. The canal has last point at Kapuri where it has been plugged by the Haryana government ever since the eruption of dispute between both states.

“We are keeping strict vigil on the situation and the possibility of early onset of monsoon. Seven of a total of more than 12 flood-control rooms set up in the district would be manned by officials of the level of junior engineers, while control rooms have also been set up in the offices of SDMs, apart from the one in the office of the deputy commissioner,” said Grewal, who has also directed the officials of food and civil supplies and animal husbandry departments to take precautions.


Procurement agencies fined Rs 34.50 lakh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 1
The Punjab Mandi Board has imposed a fine of Rs 34.50 lakh this year on procurement agencies for not lifting wheat within the prescribed limit of 72 hours from mandis, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president of the Bharti Kissan Union, Punjab, and chairman of Punjab Mandi Board, said on the sidelights of a press conference here today.

The names of the mandis include Ferozepur (Rs 15.38 lakh), Faridkot (Rs 10.91 lakh) and Gurdaspur (Rs 1.04 lakh). He said the mandi board bye-laws provide for levying a fine of 25 paise per bag in case the wheat was not lifted within 72 hours of its procurement by the agencies.

Speaking to the press, after the monthly meeting of the union, Lakhowal said, "Keeping the Swami Nathan report as the base, the government should immediately increase the minimum support price (MSP) of rice to Rs 1,580 per quintal.”

Lakhowal said the government should also announce the MSP for other agricultural produce because the plantation for kharif crop had started. The board has sought an MSP of Rs 4,000 per quintal for dals; Rs 4,250 for cotton and Rs 1,500 for maize. "A better price for maize will have more farmers planting maize which will save the underground water levels,” he said.

This year Punjab has contributed more than 100 lakh metric tonnes of wheat to the Central pool which is 30 lakh metric tonnes more than the previous year. The government has saved foreign exchange worth Rs 510 crore in the process. The amount should be saved under a National Calamity Fund, he added.

"In a meeting with the Agriculture Price Commission recently, I have reiterated the need for increasing the price of crop yields. In fact, there is an emergent need to link everything, particularly the raw material, to the price index,” he added. He said it had also been sought that electricity connections to farmers, who had applied for the same long time back, should be released immediately.


Govt order to petrol stations in Patiala, Sangrur, Moga 
Told to keep minimum reserve stock of 2,000 litres
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
As the diesel availability in the state gets restricted on account of hoarding by consumers, the Punjab government has issued instructions to petrol station dealers in Patiala, Sangrur and Moga districts to maintain a minimum reserve stock of 2,000 litres of petrol and diesel.

Though the financial commissioner, Food and Civil Supplies, R.P.S. Pawar, denied that any such instructions had been issued, petrol station dealers in the two districts informed TNS that verbal orders were passed by the department to this effect.

“The department officials have also started stock checking of petrol pumps, besides asking them to maintain a minimum reserve stock at all points of time,” said a petrol pump dealer in Samana. He said, “To ensure that the minimum reserve stocks are maintained, we will be forced to stop supply once we are left with 2,000 litres of fuelaa’.

Up in arms against this order, the Punjab Petroleum Dealers Association said they were being pushed to the wall, even as no orders were passed for the oil marketing companies to maintain a minimum level.

“On the one hand, the gap between demand and supply, especially for diesel, has increased drastically because of hoarding by consumers and supply constraints by oil marketing companies, on the other hand, we are forced to maintain reserve stocks. This will only agitate consumers and we will be forced to face the public ire. In case any of the dealers is harassed by the department, we will be forced to close down the pumps,” said J.P. Khanna, president of the association.

Reports coming in from other parts of Punjab and Haryana showed that large-scale hoarding of diesel by individual consumers, especially in rural belts of Punjab and Fatehabad and Yamunanagar in Haryana, was still going on. Fearing a sharp hike in diesel prices and uncertainty over its availability in the wake of pumps running dry, farmers in the region continued to buy huge quantities of diesel. This led to a ‘rationing’ on diesel supply at several pumps in rural areas of Sangrur, Bathinda, Ferozepur and Barnala. The dealers refused to supply diesel for more than Rs 500 at several places.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has decided to review the situation tomorrow and a high-level government meeting, to be presided over by the Chief Secretary, Punjab, wherein a further course of action to increase the fuel supply will be decided. 


World Bank politics to blame for farming woes: Expert
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 1
By the year 2015, one of the biggest environmental displacements will occur in the country when 400 million people will migrate from rural to urban areas.

For food needs, the nation will have to rely on the US and European countries. Expressing concern over the deteriorating condition of agriculture in the country, Dr Devinder Sharma, a well-known food policy analyst from Delhi, blamed the World Bank politics for the present "ugly" situation.

Talking to The Tribune, Sharma said Western countries had created an impression in the farming community that agriculture was not a path to economic growth. "Even the traditional farmers are going away from farming. This is a matter of concern," said Sharma, adding that as per an independent survey, by 2020, a majority of the villages will no longer exist, as 80 per cent of rural Punjab and 67 per cent of Uttar Pradesh (rural) will shift to cities.

"This is, in fact, dirty politics by the World Bank, which lures farming community by offering lucrative loan packages for diversification. It is a challenge for country to make agriculture viable. The suggested diversification of crops (in place of wheat and paddy), which requires 10 times more chemicals and 15 times more water, will destroy agriculture further," warned Sharma.

Talking particularly about Punjab, he said in the past 12 years, 7000 acres of agricultural land had shifted towards non-agricultural purposes. "It is unfortunate that the so-called farmer-friendly SAD government gave 8,000 acres of farming land (apart from 7,000 acres) to corporates in just one year. Agriculture is being destroyed in the country. Rural youth is going abroad in search of greener pastures.”

According to National Sample Survey, the average monthly income of Punjab farmer with five members is Rs 3,200 only, he informed.


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