P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Giani Iqbal Singh to bring out White Paper
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 7
Jathedar, Patna Sahib, Giani Iqbal Singh has rejected the Gurmatta, passed by the Sikh clergy at Akal Takht, directing the Sikh masses to ignore the edicts issued from Takht Patna Sahib.

The meeting of Akal Takht, presided over by Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti here yesterday, had accused Giani Iqbal Singh of “misusing” his authority as Jathedar, Patna Sahib. Peeved over the decision of the Sikh clergy, Giani Iqbal Singh said he would bring out a White Paper on the alleged decision taken at Akal Takht in the past five years to expose Jathedar Vedanti. Jathedar Iqbal Singh alleged that he had been under tremendous pressure from Jathedar Vedanti and his personal assistant Prithipal Singh Sandhu, while taking important Panthic decisions. He alleged that he was humiliated by SGPC employees, including its task force, in front of the Akal Takht secretariat at the behest of Jathedar Vedanti, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and the RSS lobby, as he wanted to take some drastic decisions against them on the basis of complaints being received at Takht Patna Sahib.

He said the proposed White Paper would force the SGPC to sack Jathedar Vedanti. He claimed that he had enough material against Jathedar Vedanti and some of his relatives. It would be an eye-opener for the Sikh Panth.

Questioning the Gurmatta, Giani Iqbal Singh said the Sikh high priests of Takht Patna Sahib had excommunicated Prof Darshan Singh, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, for questioning the authenticity of the Dasam Granth.

It is reliably learnt that the pro-Badal management of Takht Patna Sahib may sack Giani Iqbal Singh as Jathedar if he convenes any meeting of the Sikh clergy at Takht Patna Sahib to embarrass the SGPC and the SAD. The management committee of Takht Patna Sahib has 15 members, out of which two are dead. President of the committee Mohinder Singh Romana and some office-bearers are confidants of Chief Minister Badal. However, Giani Iqbal Singh alleged that the Takht management had no authority to remove him as Jathedar.


Farmers want removal of ban on rice, wheat export
Trend towards sowing basmati 
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
Farmers in the region are all geared up to start sowing of paddy from June 10. The trend this year seems to be on sowing basmati again. It is estimated that the area under paddy will increase substantially from the current 35 lakh hectares. In that case there were likely to be chances of a glut of basmati in the region. Worried farmers have started putting pressure on the government for the removal of the ban on export of rice and wheat.

Talking to The Tribune, president, Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal), Balbir Singh Rajewal informed that on this issue they were seeking an appointment with Sharad Pawar, union minister of agriculture, in the near future. He said last year farmers had gained by sowing basmati. They had earned anything between Rs 45,000 and Rs 50,000 per acre. “Seeing last year’s profit, a majority of the farmers are keen on sowing basmati this year too.

It is expected that the area under production will also considerably increase. The government will not be able to manage if there is a glut of basmati in the country. The bumper wheat crop is an example that the country has moved from food deficit to food surplus status.

Now, the Indian government must remove the ban on export of rice and wheat,” said Rajewal adding that the government had gained huge profit to the tune of Rs 2,700 crore from wheat production. “But it is unfortunate that profits are never passed on to farmers of Punjab,” he complained.

He further added that in Vietnam, which is one of the highest paddy producing countries, the entire produce has been damaged. Rajewal demanded an MSP of Rs 3,000 per quintal on basmati. 


State empowers women the Andhra way
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
Punjab has decided to go for a full-fledged campaign for women’s empowerment at the village level and to achieve the desired results, the government has decided to give an organisational face to the Mai Bhago Women Empowerment Scheme.

Disclosing this, Punjab’s cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit said the scheme was launched about six months back. Till date, 2,500 societies had been formed at the village level, with 91,959 women members. He said out of these, 4,659 members had been advanced loans for making them self-reliant and generating their own incomes.

He said loans were advanced for 18 works, including tailoring, establishment of STD PCOs, making pappar-warris etc. He said a limit of Rs 2 lakh had been fixed for each society and the society would advance loans for its cash reserve. This advance would be refinanced by cooperative banks.

The scheme would be governed in the first phase by the officers of the Cooperative Department, but gradually its leadership would be handed over to progressive women who had been identified. These women would get a fixed amount as allowance.

Besides reducing economic dependence of women, this scheme would help to create leadership qualities among them which would further help in resolving social issues. He said seminars would be organised at the village level.

The minister said for making women prosperous and developing their social leadership qualities, Punjab had decided to tie up with Andhra Pradesh and gain the benefit of its experience in this field. He said CEO of the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty T. Vijay Kumar had given presentation in the one-day workshop on women’s empowerment held today. 


Election activity picks up momentum
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, June 7
With the declaration of civic body elections in Punjab, election activity has picked up momentum in Gurdaspur district. Out of the 11 municipal councils, elections will be held in 10 municipalities comprising Pathankot, Dina Nagar, Gurdaspur, Batala, Dhariwal, Qadian, Fatehgarh Churian, Dera Baba Nanak and Ramdas and Shri Hargobindpur. Elections will not be held in the Sujanpur municipality following a litigation pertaining to delimitation of the civic body in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Aspirants have submitted their candidatures to officials of parties concerned and are awaiting the final approval. Vinod Sharma, vice-president of the state BJP, today visited different municipalities and settled pending disputes between the party candidates.

Talking to The Tribune in Pathankot, Sharma made it clear that all party leaders, including ministers, MLAs and other office-bearers, have been asked to join hands and work together for the coming civic body polls.

He claimed that the dispute between Punjab transport minister Master Mohan Lal Sharma and state BJP general secretary Ashwani Kumar has been solved. The two have been directed to work for the benefit of the party. He also headed the meeting of the district coordination committee at Pathankot.

Besides party workers, Master Sharma, Dinesh Singh Babbu, MLA Sujanpur, Bishambhar Das, MLA Narot Mehra, Ashwani Kumar, Satish Mahajan and Vibhu Prakash, president and general secretaries, respectively, of the Pathankot unit of the BJP, also attended the meeting.

He said the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal will jointly fight elections in the municipal polls against the Congress and other rival parties. The BJP has decided to field winning candidates for the elections after considering their loyalty to the party and the previous performance of five years.


‘Khalistan’ activists related to SAD: Bhattal
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Kharar, June 7
The SAD-BJP government has failed to check resurgence of ‘Khalistan’ movement in Punjab. Many people, connected with the movement, arrested have turned out to be related to the SAD in one way or the other.

Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal stated this while addressing a rally at grain market here today. She added dealers of drugs, smack and heroin in state held recently were connected with SAD-BJP leadership, which raised questions on the authenticity of government's working.

Several Congress leaders accompanied Bhattal. These included union minister of state for finance Pawan Kumar Bansal, Ramesh Dutt, Harnam Dass Johal, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Mohinder Kaypee, Tej Prakash Singh and others. MP Perneet Kaur too was present at the rally. On the absence of Amarinder Singh from the event, Perneet Kaur said Bhattal be asked and Bhattal said vice-versa.

She said while the state government had failed to stand for the right of Punjab farmers, it is was the Centre that had granted them debt relief. "While Centre waived Rs 70, 000 crore of debt, it had approved loan of another Rs 280 crore for Punajb farmers. All this, when the SAD-BJP government had failed on all fronts," she said.

Bhattal said the Congress would intensify its stir against "high- handedness" of tjhe SAD-BJP regime. Also’ chakka jam’ and rallies would be held from Junen 30 onwards.

People related to ‘Khalistan’ movement have turned to be staunch Akali workers and the SAD was still to initiate action against them, says Bhattal at a rally held in Kharar. MP Perneet Kaur too participated in the rally despite boycott at the earlier one held in Moga.


Election of Sarpanch
SAD-backed panch seeking Cong support will be expelled: CM
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Killianwali (Muktsar), June 7
“Any SAD-supported panch seeking support of the Congress-backed panch to become sarpanch in his village, will not be entitled to remain with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal,” announced Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here at a function organised to felicitate new members of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in his Lambi constituency.

For the hike in prices of petroleum products, Badal blamed the UPA government. He also expressed government’s inability to give relief to people as done by some other states as the state lacked sources of income.

Accusing the Congress of increasing inflation in the country, he said, “The rate of inflation itself speaks time has come for the Congress to go.”

On “regular” incidents of alleged atrocities and murder of Congressmen by SAD activists, he dismissed the query terming it as “minor incidents” and “routine affair of elections”.

On the status of the BJP ministers’ memorandum, submitted to him demanding increase in the retirement age of government employees from 58 to 60 years, he said the Cabinet was authorised to decide the matter.

To parry a question on alleged mismanagement of the education cess, he said, “The collected cess is not as much as it has been hyped and a lot of educational institutions have been opened, on which that amount would also be spent.”

Addressing a gathering of winners of the PRI elections, he spoke at length about ongoing projects of drinking water, canal water, allotment of tube well connections, and 8-hour electricity supply during the paddy season.

He announced at Mahuana village in the Lambi area that Tata company would open an institution to impart transport-related education and students after getting diploma from there, would get placements with emouments more than that of a tehsildar. To encourage meritorious students, he said the deputy commissioner had been instructed to provide their names to arrange guidance for them.


UN body to promote farm tourism 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
The Punjab government and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) will jointly promote the state as a global destination for religio-heritage and farm tourism.

A decision to this effect was taken here recently at a meeting of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal with UNWTO team leader Richard Batchelor.

The Chief Minister agreed in principle to the proposal for engaging the organisation to create and promote a brand image for the state on the international tourist circuit. Senior ministers Monranjan Kalia and Hira Singh Gabria also attended the meeting.

Chief Minister's media adviser Harcharan Bains later told mediapersons that a 10-member UNWTO team went around the state, visiting potential sites for tourism. After a statewide survey spread over several months, the team submitted a preliminary report to the Chief Minister.

A final report by the UNWTO team was likely to be submitted by early September, 2008.

Batchelor briefed the Chief Minister on the concept of farm tourism which was fast catching up in countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Hungry, where lakhs of tourists from the UK and Germany visit every year.

Badal asked the UN team to prepare a blueprint for the development of Wagah-Attari border as a major tourist spot. The team was also told explore the potential of destinations around Chandigarh for leisure and village tourism. 


Sukhbir flays Centre’s economic polices
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
SAD president and MP Sukhbir Singh Badal has lambasted the UPA government for what he calls “passing the buck by asking the states to bear the brunt of its disastrous economic policies”.

In a statement released here today he said, “The Centre’s homilies are especially irrelevant and uncalled for in the case of Punjab where the government has already initiated unprecedented schemes like free power to farmers and Dalits and cheap atta-dal for the poor”.

He said it was for the Centre to do something to match the example set by the Punjab government in reducing the burden on the poor and the common man.

“But it has been unsuccessfully trying to blame the states for inflation. If the UPA believes it cannot manage the nation’s economy, it should step aside and allow other parties to set the fiscal house in order before the people force this change,” he said.

The Centre controls 70 per cent of revenue resources and it now expects us to fund its fiscal incompetence from the 30 per cent left with the states. “It is utterly unfair and unjustifiable for the Centre to first fatten its own kitty through a steep hike in fuel prices and then to expect the state governments to cushion the oil shock by sacrificing their meagre resources.”

The SAD chief was reacting to a reported communication from union petroleum minister Murli Deora to state governments asking them to “moderate their sales tax”.


Mixed response to Takht decision on Wadbhag dera
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 7
The decision of Akal Takht to bring a section of Dera Baba Wadbhag Singh into the mainstream of Sikhism today received mixed response from Sikh masses all over the world.

Some Sikh scholars have said it was for the first time that Akal Takht had put its stamp on a religious dera working in violation of the Sikh maryada since the period of Sikh Gurus. Moreover, the main dera of Wadbhag Singh, headed by Baba Karamjit Singh Sodhi at Murry in Himachal, has not come forward to accept the maryada of Akal Takht so far. Only the breakaway dera of Baba Wadbhag Singh has decided to accept the maryada of Akal Takht. Some Sikh leaders, including Giani Iqbal Singh, Jathedar, Takht Patna Sahib, has levelled serious allegations against Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and his personal assistant Prithipal Singh Sandhu for allowing Bhai Swarnjit Singh of breakaway dera of Baba Wadbhag Singh to join mainstream of Sikhism.

A fact-finding team of the SGPC had pointed out certain discrepancies in the ardas performed at the Dera Baba Wadbhag Singh.

Bhai Swarnjit Singh, vice-president, Singh Sewa Committee, Tap Asthan Gurdwara Manji Sahib, HP, had appeared at Takht and accepted to abide by the tenets of Guru Granth Sahib with heart and soul. The resolution adopted by Akal Takht pointed out that Baba Wadbhag Singh had been involved in some controversial literature and now Bhai Swarnjit Singh has come forward to wipe out old controversies and return to the Panthic fold. 


AISAD wants cleanup in gurdwara management
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
The working committee of the All-India Shiromani Akali Dal (AISAD)has recorded with anguish and pain over the continuous deterioration in the structure and management of Sikh gurdwaras, SGPC and other Sikh institutions and also the ever-increasing corruption and mismanagement of gurdwara funds.

Issuing a joint statement here today, six working committee members under the presdentsip of Jawant Singh Mann demanded and an early solution to all practices that have crept up into the management of gurdwaras.

The AISAD has pledged support to all forces aiming to fulfil this objective and has further decided to lead such movement and would work for adoption of the All-India Gurdwara Act. The AISAD records with regret that the SAD has adopted a double-faced policy by notifying two party constitutions, one with the Election Commission of India and the other with the Gurdwara Commission.

The AISAD is of the view that the Akali-BJP alliance and the Congress have lost relevance in the political matrix of Punjab.


Case of WW II veterans to be presented in UK 

Ludhiana, June 7
Col Chanan Singh Dhillon (retd), president, Indian Ex-services League, Punjab and Chandigarh, has been invited by British members of Parliament to present the case of veterans of World War II before them on June 18.

Dhillon has been pressing upon the British government to pay suitable compensation to war veterans of WW II who had fought on the western front for many years. He was earlier invited in 2006 to England where he presented the case before members of the House of Commons.

According to Dhillon, 70 members of the House of Commons, headed by John McDonald, had taken up the cause with the British government. The British Parliament had discussed at length the problems being faced by Asians, particularly Punjabis.

Dhillon said here today that nearly 50,000 troops, including about 38,000 Indians, were taken Prisoners of War (POWs) in World War II. The British government had not paid them any compensation on the plea that India had become independent and it was for the government of India to decide about the compensation. The POWs of eastern sector were paid compensation. Dhillon had contended that India became independent in 1947, two years after World War II that ended in 1945.

Therefore, it was the moral responsibility of the British government to give them compensation. The POWs of western sector were kept in North Africa and used as labourers during their two-year detention and not paid compensation for their work.


Badal demands wheat bonus
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal yesterday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately announce a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal on wheat to partly offset the potential loss suffered by farmers of Punjab for not being allowed to export their marketable surplus.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Badal said the need to sustain and increase domestic foodgrain production levels and boost farmers’ morale could never be over-emphasised given the strong possibility that international prices were unlikely to register any significant fall in the next few years.

The Chief Minister reminded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Punjab had once again risen to the nation’s call though a record procurement of wheat in the country. “Till date, a record 105 lakh MT wheat had been procured in the state,” he said adding that Punjab had surpassed the target of 80 lakh MT that the Agriculture Ministry had set for it.


Operation Bluestar — II
I refused to kill militants taken into custody: Gen Jamwal
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, June 7
Major-Gen J.S. Jamwal (retd), then General Officer Commanding (GOC), 15 Infantry Division, Thursday claimed that he had refused to accept the advice of two senior Army officers to kill the militants taken into custody during Operation Bluestar.

Breaking his silence on remarks by certain Sikhs for the first time after 24 years of Operation Bluestar that the Army had killed many Sikh youths after capturing them from the Golden Temple, General Jamwal said he had snubbed them (Army colleagues) by telling them to let law take its course. “I am not a butcher,” he told the two Army officers, who wanted the captured militants eliminated. General Jamwal, however, said being a religious person he took measures to restore the confidence of the Sikh masses. As part of the confidence building, he gave a two-hour curfew relaxation after Operation Bluestar, despite opposition by then deputy commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh (now chief secretary).

He said he was given the onerous task of restoring the sanctity of the temple and had invited 11 persons, including Hindus and Sikhs, when some prominent Sikh leaders, including the then Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Kirpal Singh, gave went to their rage. The General said the operation had become inevitable due to major threat to the pilgrims, but the blame lay with all of us. He said he tried to douse fire in the hearts of Sikhs through his humble and honest approach.

He had paved the way for reconciliation among different communities which allowed normalcy inside the temple and the then Jathedar, Akal Takht, agreed to address the Sikh masses via television about the safety of Kotha Sahib.

He said he had also apologised to a group of Nihang Sikhs whose dresses were burnt by a JCO in a fit of rage on the outskirts of the city. He said he gave them a fresh set of clothes which led to the restoration of faith of people in the Indian Army.

General Jamwal said he felt like resigning from his post when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had rejected his proposal of undertaking kar sewa of the damaged Akal Takht by the five designated Panj Pyaras ( five beloved ones), arranged by him through personal efforts. He said Indira Gandhi wanted the kar sewa to be undertaken by the union home minister.

Giving the inside story of Operation Bluestar, General Jamwal said the Army got perturbed when it failed to locate the body of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale amidst rumours that he had escaped from the rear side of Akal Takht. However, Army officials heaved a sigh of relief when his body was found from under the debris of a portion of Akal Takht. Later, the body of Major-Gen Shabeg Singh (retd) was found on the day when Giani Zail Singh, then President of India, visited the Golden Temple after Operation Bluestar.

“We concealed the body of Shabeg Singh in the Akal Takht complex itself, lest the President should see it”.


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