P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Fuel Price Hike
CM writes to PM for rollback 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 6
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "to roll back the steep and unbearable" hike in fuel prices announced by the UPA government.

CM's media advisor Harcharn Bains said Badal was also likely to press for this in a meeting he proposed to have with the Prime Minister on the issue.

The Chief Minister said the untimely decision would result in the overall slow-down of the economy. Trade and industry in Punjab, which were already facing severe constraints as a result of the Centre’s refusal to extend to the state the same concessions which were given to its neighbouring states, would suffer a further blow, he added.

BJP for cut in ST on petro products

The state unit of the BJP will press upon its coalition partner, SAD, to take steps to reduce the burden imposed on the common man in the state due to the increase in prices of both petrol and diesel.

Even though Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has condemned the price hike in petroleum products, the government has refused to effect any reduction in the sales tax on either of the products as it has claimed the price of diesel in the state is already the lowest in the country.

The BJP will pressurise the SAD to effect a reduction in the sales tax with the final decision to be taken at a meeting of its executive committee in Ludhiana on June 8. Party spokesman and general secretary Ashwani Kumar when questioned on the issue, said the party was of the view that some relief should be given to the common man.

“The quantum of relief and its nature will be discussed by the party before making a recommendation to our coalition partner,” he added.

The BJP is also likely to ask for a decrease in the sales tax on petrol. This is because the SAD is not even talking about any reduction of tax on petrol. Petrol in Punjab is nearly Rs 5 more expensive than that in Haryana and Chandigarh.

Senior BJP leader Balramji Das Tandon said, “The state BJP’s appeal on the issue of sales tax reduction would be in line with the directive issued by the BJP high command.”

Pay heed to Sonia’s plea: YC

Punjab Youth Congress president Vijay Inder Singla today said the decision of the SAD not to reduce sales tax on petrol and diesel was against the spirit of cooperative federalism.

Singla said ever since the SAD-BJP came to power in 2007, the UPA government had approved a number of projects in Punjab, including extending the Mumbai-Delhi industrial corridor up to Ludhiana, rail freight corridor from Kolkata to Ludhiana, allocation of 2225 mw from five mega power projects and allocating funds for opening Adarsh schools in every block of the state.

He said the appeal of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to all state governments to reduce sales tax on petrol and diesel needed to be viewed from the common man’s perspective.


Chandumajra flays fuel price hike
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 6
Accusing the union government of ignoring interests of farmers and the common man, Shiromani Akali Dal general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra has estimated that fuel price hike would put an additional burden of Rs 560 crore on farmers in paddy season alone.

Chandumajra has also alleged that the centre, particularly the Congress, has always been playing gimmicks with the farmers and was working against their interests.

“On one hand, they have increased the MSP of paddy by Rs 250 per quintal while on the other they have put an additional burden on them by hiking price of diesel by Rs 3 a litre.

Our estimates suggest that every farmer would have to spend an additional Rs 1,600 per acre in paddy season,” said Chandumajra.

Chandumajra also criticised the Congress for holding the dharna “drama” against the alleged government “highhandedness” in recent civic polls.

“It was the Congress which had given birth to malady of poll high-handedness in the Indian polity.

The Congress leadership was indulging in blame-game after the polls as it had lost,” said Chandumajra.


Jathedar Iqbal Singh roughed up
Takht Edict
l Akal Takht has sole right to resolve the common Panthic matters
l The other Takhts can take up regional matters only
l Sangat should not raise any  controversy over the hymns of the Dasam Granth
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 6
A piquant situation arose outside the Akal Takht secretariat here today when SGPC’s task force and some hardliners roughed up Jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib Giani Iqbal Singh and did not let him attend the meeting of the Sikh clergy.

After two hours of humiliation, the Jathedar of Patna Sahib left the Akal Takht complex in a huff. He announced that the task force and some supporters of Jathedar of Akal Takht Joginder Singh Vedanti had not only insulted him but denigrated Takht Patna Sahib.

Some of the hardliners used extremely harsh language, speaking about the personal life of the Jathedar. One of the Sikh hardliner asked Giani Iqbal Singh to immediately step down as Jathedar because he failed to keep his own house in order. He also levelled serious charges of “moral turpitude” against him.

The Jathedar of Patna Sahib, who faces charges of bigamy, was not invited to the meeting. The meeting was held after a long time for Jathedar Vedanti had gone on a foreign trip. Jathedar Iqbal Singh has been in the web of controversies for challenging the supremacy of Akal Takht.

Meanwhile, the meeting of the Sikh clergy accused Giani Iqbal Singh of misusing his authority as Jathedar. It said Akal Takht, being the temporal authority of the Sikhs, had the sole right to resolve the common Panthic matters. In a “Gurmatta”, the Sikh clergy said all other Takhts were also honourable and hence could take up the regional matters only.

In yet another setback to the Jathedar of Patna Sahib, the meeting described the controversy over Dasam Granth as unwarranted. The meeting, however, appealed the Sikh Sangat not to raise any controversy over the hymns of the Dasam Granth, being chanted at the time of “Amrit Sanchar”. They, however, warned Prof Darahsn Singh, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, not to raise any controversy against Dasam Granth, which is integral part of the Sikh history.

The Gurmatta also urged the Sikh Sangat to ignore the directives being issued by Giani Iqbal Singh as Jathedar Patna Sahib.

By passing this resolution, the Sikh clergy have imposed an undeclared ban on the entry of Giani Iqbal Singh in the meetings of Akal Takht.

President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee Parmjit Singh Sarna has welcomed the decision of Akal Takht to ban the entry of Giani Iqbal Singh for creating division in Sikh Panth through his controversial directives. He said Giani Iqbal Singh should immediately resign as Jathedar on moral grounds because he was facing serious charges of bigamy.


Can’t mend ties with Bhattal: Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 6
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today said there was no chance of any reconciliation with PPCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal even while stressing that only a united Congress could win parliamentary elections in the state.

Showing his strength in the party, Amarinder addressed reporters with 16 sitting Congress MLAs flanking him apart from a number of former MLAs. There was only one MLA from Ludhiana district - Harmohinder Singh Pardhan. Youth Congress workers led by Vijay Inder Singla were present in a large number.

"There cannot be any rapprochement with Bhattal,” he said in response to a question in a press conference held here after attending the court hearing in the City Centre scam case. His statement came moments after he had said a united Congress had a better chance of winning the parliamentary elections.

“Those elections are meant to be fought for AICC president Sonia Gandhi, not for me or anyone else,” he said.

He said the SAD-BJP government had killed democracy in the state by using state machinery against Congress leaders and workers, “and because of weak opposition by Congress leaders, there was no check on the harassment”. Amarinder also claimed a major revamp of the PPCC, including a change in its leadership, was on the cards. He said the Moga rally organised yesterday by Bhattal wasn’t a success. “Margaret Alva, AICC general secretary, was in the state for her first official function as in charge of Punjab Affairs, but there were only a few thousand persons to greet her."

He said Jagmeet Brar rightly showed resentment when he was not given time to speak at the Moga rally. “He is a senior leader. He deserves to deliver a speech at any forum, let alone the area where he wields a huge influence."

The MLAs present at the press conference were Joginder Pal Jain, Sunny Brar, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Mangat Rai Bansal, Gurpreet Kangar, Jeet Mohinder Sidhu, Harmohinder Singh Pardhan, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Makhan Singh, Love Kumar Goldy, Rana K.P. Singh, Tripat Rajinder Bajwa, Naresh Kataria, Joginder Singh Panjgarayian, Sukh Sukharia and Nirmal Singh Kamboj.


Tribune Impact
Election of Sarpanches for Reserved Seats 
Punjab government issues fresh orders 
Tribune News Service

Mohali, June 6
The Punjab government today followed up Chief Minster Parkash Singh Badal’s categorical declaration about not disturbing the status of reserved seats in the panchayats elections by issuing fresh orders on the election of the sarpanches of the village panchayats with regard to the reservation of posts for the Scheduled Castes and women panches, Chief Minister’s media advisor Harcharan Bains said here today.

Under the fresh instructions, there will be no change allowed in a reserved panchayats where the post of a sarpanch is reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) woman and a SC woman panch refuses to contest elections.

The post cannot be offered to another SC candidate or another woman candidate.

Similarly, there will be no change in status of a reserved seat even if someone belonging to SC sarpanch and a SC panch refuses to contest elections.

These seats will remain strictly for reserved categories under all circumstances.

Thirdly, in case the post of sarpanch is reserved for a woman panch and a woman panch refuses to contest elections, the post cannot be declared open for all other panch candidates.

A circular had already been issued to all deputy commissioner-cum-district electoral officer for strict compliance of these instructions, added Bains.

However, when contacted some of the deputy commissioners in the state stated that the circular was yet to reach their offices.


Phoolka gives jolt to secessionists
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 6
The management of Pro-Khalistan Sikh Shrine, Gurdwara Dashmesh Parivar, Surrey, British Columbia, got a jolt today when H.S. Phoolka, a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court and human rights activist, walked out of a gathering, saying that he loved India and did not believe in any secessionist movement.

When the organisers of the gathering tried to project Phooka as pro-Khalistani, he stood up and said he was a true Indian. Phoolka said he had been fighting the case of Delhi riots’ victims as a human rights activist and not as a Sikh.

Phoolka is touring British Columbia to raise awareness on the plight of riots’ victims. He refused to accept the airfare from the organisers. He said he was invited by the Sikh Students Association in Vancouver and Cynthya Mehmood, a human rights activist from the USA, to deliver a lecture on human rights violations in the world.

Phoolka added that his projection as pro-Khalistani won’t help the riots’ victims but would give a point to two Congress MPs facing allegations of inciting mobs to the riots.


Don’t come without appointment, says CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 6
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has issued orders that any government officer or employee desirous of meeting him should seek appointment from his office.

An official spokesman said here yesterday that the Chief Minister had noticed that government officers and employees came to his office or residence without appointment.

Such persons come in the morning and keep on waiting till the evening.


Ensure potable water, says Khaira
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 6
Following samples of drinking water not meeting the requisite standards in the Malwa region, including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s home constituency, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Congress legislator from Bholath, has asked the Chief Minister to take immediate steps to comply with the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for safe drinking water in the entire state.

He emphasised that lack of safe drinking water is leading to cancer, hepatitis, jaundice and other water-borne diseases. He said, “Instead of embarking on the new World Bank scheme of Rs 1,280 crore, we must bring corrective measures in our existing water supply system in the state and ensure potable water to people.

Citing examples of Lambi and Kot Bhai blocks of the CM’s constituency, he declared drinking water was found to be contaminated with organic and bacteriological waste in some villages, while the samples in others indicated lack of proper chlorination which had rendered water unfit for drinking. 


Ghallughara Divas peaceful
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 6
The slogan of “Khalistan and Bhindranwale zindabad’ were raised in front of Akal Takht by SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann to mark the 24th anniversary of Operation Bluestar here today even as Ghallughara Divas passed off peacefully. Though the SGPC had deployed its task force to deal with any untoward incident, some youths were seen attending the function with firearms.

However, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of the Takht, in his message delivered from the Takht, urged the Sikhs to beware of those forces who planned to challenge the age-old Sikh institutions for ulterior motives. The Jathedar honoured kin of many slain militant leaders, including Sant Bhindranwale, Major-Gen Shabeg Singh and Bhai Amrik Singh at the Takht.

Jathedar Vedanti asked the Sikhs to come on a single platform in a real tribute to all those who had made supreme sacrifice during Operation Bluestar.

Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar of Patna Sahib, was also sitting at Akal Takht when Jathedar Vedanti criticised those who had been challenging the age-old Sikh institutions.

After the ardas at the Takht, the SAD (A) president criticised the ruling Akali Dal for continuing alliance with the BJP despite the fact that L.K. Advani, former Deputy Prime Minister, had confessed in his autobiography that the BJP had provoked the Central government for ordering Operation Bluestar. He said Advani had also used derogatory remarks against Sant Bhindranwale in the book.

The All-India Sikh Students Federation, led by Karnail Singh Pirmohammad, oranised a “Khalsa Insaaf March” to mark the anniversary of the operation.

The Akal Purkh Ki Fauj, headed by SGPC member Jaswinder Singh Advocate, organised a blood camp outside the Golden Temple complex to pay tributes to those Sikhs who were killed in the operation.

Meanwhile, Dal Khalsa activists assembled outside the main entrance of Darbar Sahib and pledged to carry on with the struggle for “Khalsa Raj” in a democratic manner.

The Khalsa march was organised by the All-India Sikh Students federation, Damdami Taksal, Sikhs for Justice and Riots Victims Society from Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh.


Wadhbhag sect plea accepted
Sanjay Bumbroo and Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, June 6
In a bid to bring the sect promoted by Baba Wadhbhag Singh to the mainstream of the Sikh religion, Akal Takht today accepted the plea of Bhai Swarnjit Singh, vice-president of the Singh Managing Sewa Committee, Tap Asthan Gurdwara Manji Sahib, Himachal Pradesh. He submitted himself at the Takht and accepted that he would abide by the tenets of Guru Granth Sahib. 

The resolution adopted by the Takht pointed out that Baba Wadhbhag Singh had been involved in some controversial literature and now Bhai Swarnjit Singh had come forward to literally wipe out the old controversies and return to the panthic fold. 


Sikh priests voice concern
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 6
Expressing concern over the style of functioning of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee, Sikh priests in its resolution said the complaint of the violation of the maryada of the holy scripture should be brought to the notice of Akal Takht Sahib, besides the SGPC and the Dharam Prachar Committee.

The Sikh priests said the committee would look into such complaints for necessary action. They pointed out that it was brought to the notice of Akal Takht that the committee without informing the authorities of Akal Takht and the SGPC, took direct action against the violators which had erupted into protests in the Sikh community.

The Satkar committees in the past used to blacken faces, besides indulging in violence during their “action” against violators.


Notice to Punjab EC for contempt of court
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 6
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice for July 24 to Punjab state election commissioner A.K.Dubey, among others, as to why proceedings under the Contempt of Court Act be not initiated against him for non compliance of court orders on deciding the representation of the petitioners for allotment of election symbols.

The petitioner, Kulwant Kaur, and others of Tarn Taran had pointed out that despite high court directions of May 23, the respondents did not consider their representation for allotment of election symbols for the Panchayat elections.

The notices were issued by Justice T.P.S. Mann also to the deputy commissioner and the sub divisional officer and the returning officer after hearing the counsel for these petitioners.


Case against Mann adjourned
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 6
A sedition case slapped against SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann has been adjourned by the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate till July 24.

The SAD (A) president was booked on sedition charges on November 4 for speaking out against freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.

Mann was arrested two days later by the Patiala police. The court later adjourned the case till July 24.


Loan Waiver 
5.39 lakh farmers identified
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 6
Punjab has identified 5.39 lakh small and marginal farmers who will be eligible for a collective loan waiver of Rs 1,325 crore under the one-time loan waiver of agricultural loans in the country.

A high-level meeting attended by representatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Nabard and bankers which was presided over by chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh today reviewed the entire loan waiver policy in the state.

Earlier, the government had projected a loan waiver amount of Rs 1,696 crore according to its estimate of small and marginal farmers in the state. However, a revised estimate has reduced the number of beneficiaries by 52,000.

Small and marginal farmers are defined as farmers who cultivate less than one and two hectares of land. They will be eligible for waiver of loans disbursed to them by banks till March 31, 2007, and which were overdue on December 31, 2007, and remained unpaid till February 29, 2008.

The government has fixed June 20 as the date by which bankers will identify the individual beneficiaries. By June 25, each bank will display a list of beneficiaries in its premises by and June 30 the banks will issue discharge certificates.

According to sources, the loan waivers are spread across the state, but the cotton producing Malwa belt may not fully benefit from the loan waivers. When questioned on the issue, economist and chairman of the government’s MSP and Price Index Committee Dr Ranjit Singh Ghumman said the extent of loans in the Malwa region was high and nearly 30 to 40 per cent of the loan amount in many cases was not taken from banks. He said another factor, which could be to the detriment of cotton farmers, was the fact that many of them were frequent loanees.

Chief secretary R.I. Singh said it was not possible at this stage to demarcate loan defaulters regionwise or disclose the number of defaulters in Sangrur and Bathinda districts, which have recorded the most number of suicide cases due to alleged indebtness. He said PAU was presently conducting a study on indebtness in both districts. 


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