P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Alliance wins Bathinda MC
Cong cries foul
S.P.Sharma/Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 22
The ruling SAD-BJP combine today swept the first ever elections for the Bathinda Municipal Corporation (BMC) by wresting 38 of the total number of 50 seats amid allegations of booth-capturing and clashes. The opposition Congress and independents shared six seats each.

While the SAD won 24 of the 28 seats for which it had fielded candidates, its ally the BJP won 14 of the 22 seats that it got under the seat-sharing.

Widespread allegations of booth-capturing were reported particularly from the wards located across the railway lines where the police remained “mute spectator” as the SAD activists barged into some polling booths and also vainly tried to carry away the EVMs. However, the SAD leadership refuted the allegations.

Congress candidates alleged they were chased out of the polling stations as activists of the Student Organisation of India (SOI) indulged in rigging. At least eight persons received minor injuries in skirmishes. Son of a senior SAD leader roughed up a sub-inspector of police who tried to intervene.

Congress candidate Jagrup Singh Gill won from ward number 44 despite attempts of SAD activists to capture the polling station. Gill has twice been president of the local Municipal Council and also chairman of the Improvement Trust.

There were allegations that a senior SAD leader led a group of youths to ward number 29 where they chased the opposition supporters from a polling both and indulged in bogus voting. The polling staff did not take any action to get the voting nullified. It was alleged some SOI activists moved from booth to booth to rig the elections.

Activists of the SAD-BJP combine reportedly clashed with Congress sympathisers at many places. SAD winner Baljeet Singh Birbehman was the front-runner for the mayor’s slot, while the BJP was likely to stake its claim to the post of deputy mayor.

The results indicate the Congress, which had won the Bathinda Assembly seat last year with a margin of over 14,000 votes, had miserably failed to retain the edge this time. Moreover the party went to the BMC elections as a house divided.


Panchayat Polls
Cops fire into air at Valtoha
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, June 22
The police fired into the air today at Wara Sher Singh village, under the Valtoha police station, to disperse workers of the ruling SAD and the Congress during panchayat elections.

Harwinder Singh Sandhu, DSP, said in the early hours of the polling for gram panchayat, two candidates of both parties picked up altercation over poll results. Soon, their supporters, too, clashed and attacked stones outside the polling station. The police deployed at the station opened fire to disperse them, said the DSP. However, no one was injured in the clash and no case had been registered, he added.

The election to Marri Megha panchayat has been postponed. The poll percentage was more than 83.

Bajwa to unite Cong factions
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, June 22
Upset at alleged irregularities by the ruling SAD-BJP alliance during the elections of Zila Parishad, Block Samitis, panchayats and municipal bodies, former minister and Congress leader of the Majha region Partap Singh Bajwa said the Congress had not played the role of Opposition according to people’s expectations. So, he has decided to initiate efforts for unity among factions of the party to launch united fight to ‘save democracy’ in the state.

“It’s right time for partymen to sink differences to give united fight to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal, ” said Bajwa, adding he would mediate to bring peace among factions and leaders of the party.


Assets’ case already in court: Amarinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 22
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today claimed the disproportionate assets case registered against him by the Vigilance Bureau was in contravention of the judicial process as all allegations were already being dealt by the court in the Ludhiana City Centre scam case.

The former Chief Minister said: “You cannot try a man on the same charges in two courts”. Though Amarinder Singh claimed the charges were not maintainable, sources said he might seek anticipatory bail. However, according to the information, the bureau was not going to arrest him.

Amarinder Singh said all three allegations were part of the alleged disclosures made under duress by advocate Harpreet Sandhu and his alleged associate Chetan Gupta. He said while Harpreet was being accused of transferring sacks of currency notes to Hoshiarpur, Chetan Gupta’s own flats in Noida and Goa were being treated as his flats. He said as far as the allegations in the alleged Intranet scam were concerned, a double bench of the high court had already dismissed those.

The former Chief Minister said the Vigilance Bureau acted on the directions of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as the case pertaining to disproportionate assets worth Rs 77 crore registered against him was pending before the Supreme Court, which was to take a decision on its transfer to the CBI.

“I on my part want Badal to tell where I have houses in Sweden, Canada, the US and the UK, so that I can claim them”. In 2004-05, the income tax authorities had conducted a scrutiny of his accounts and found these to be in order.

On whether he believed Bhattal was in league with Badal, he said he had always maintained this.

The former Chief Minister said an attempt was being made to malign him by brining up the issue of women in the case. “Have some shame”, he said while referring to the Vigilance. “Do you think every second day I send for some prostitute,” he said, adding “if you demolish decency what will be left”.


Theft of Passports case
Chandigarh Police raids travel agent’s premises
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, June 22
A team of Chandigarh police today raided the premises of a travel agent in Jalandhar in connection with the theft of 24 passports from Chandigarh two years back. The team reportedly seized several incriminating documents from the house and the office of travel agent Bharat Ghai.

The raid was made a day after Chandigarh Police caught the travel agent from Jalandhar on the charge of human trafficking.

According to police sources, the team led by DSP K.B. Singh started raid 7 am at the travel agent’s residence and office located in Mota Singh Nagar . The raid continued for seven hours.

After scrutinising the documents the team took these to Chandigarh, the sources added.

The agent was arrested on Saturday in connection with the theft of nearly 48 passports from Chandigarh on October 31, 2006.

Earlier the Punjab Police arrested on May 7 this year two youths Raj Kumar of Rajpura and Sukhwinder Singh of Kapurthala soon after they had been deported from Singapore to Rajasansi airport in Amritsar as they were found travelling on stolen passports while going to Italy.

They told Chandigarh Police they had been sent abroad by a Kapurthala -based travel agent Guljinder Singh alias Lucky in lieu of Rs 8 lakh taken from each of them, the sources added.

Following which, though the police could not nab Lucky but his wife was caught. Further Lucky’s wife named Bharat Ghai as one of their associates. Ghai is running Bipasha Travels in the Palm Rose building of the city.

The sources added as Bharat Ghai was also associated with an Airlines service, so he was supposed to be the king pin behind this human trafficking racket.

Meanwhile the Chandigarh police team reportedly seized a number of incriminating documents from Ghai’s premises.



Pontoon bridge dismantled, 11 villages cut off
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, June 22
Nearly 11 villages of this border district were cut off from rest of the country when the pontoon bridge linking these with mainland was dismantled by the authorities. The villages, known as Lassian enclave, are inhabited by more than 10,000 people, have access by land to Pakistan.

In certain pockets of this flood-prone area, alongside the Chakki and Ujh rivers flowing in this district, the Army has also vacated their dwellings and moved to safer places.

The authorities had to dismantle the pontoon bridge in June as one of its portions was damaged when water level in Ujh increased a few days ago. Though the bridge used to be dismantled in July or later in previous years, this year it was done as water in Ujh had damaged it making it unsafe for use.

S.R. Ladhar, commissioner, Jalandhar Division, and Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, deputy commissioner, along with senior officials of the Drainage Department, visited various vulnerable sites, including Makora Pattan, Nangal Bhur and Saili Kulian in the pockets of the Chakki and Ujh rivers, yesterday to inspect the situation to take flood protection steps.

The deputy commissioner said the authorities had decided to erect a cunette in the Chakki river to prevent its water from hitting the Pathankot-Mandi highway endangered due to erosion of soil at Saili Kulian point where the distance between the road and the bank of Chakki is 100 metres only.

He said at certain points, officials of the department would erect bamboo screens and revetments to regulate the flow of water in the rivers. They would also divert the water to reduce its force during floods. He said as of now there was no threat of floods in any river.

Baljit Singh Sandhu, SE, Drainage, Amritsar, said the Punjab government had released Rs 2.25 crore for the execution of different civil works in various rivers for the prevention of floods. He said work had been started to keep level of water in the rivers low.

Meanwhile, residents of the 11 villages, which have lost land contact y with the mainland of Punjab, have started using boats for moving one place to another. 


Factionalism plagues Chief Khalsa Diwan
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 22
Factionalism in the Chief Khalsa Diwan has come to the fore again. There is simmering feud within the oldest Sikh institution following the acceptance of the resignation of executive committee member Jatinder Singh Bhatia in a hush-hush manner.

Bhatia claimed his resignation had been accepted even though he did not submit any formal letter in this regard.

His resignation has been accepted on the basis of a speech delivered by him during the general house meeting of the Diwan held in March. He had stated he was resigning in protest against certain arbitrary decisions taken by Chadha. In his speech, which is part of the proceedings of the Diwan, Bhatia had alleged the institution had been converted into a “private limited company” by the persons at the helm of affairs.

Meanwhile, Chadha has said he is ready to restore the position of Bhatia provided he gave it in writing.

Bhatia has also accused Chadha of violating the directives of Takht by bringing arbitrary changes in the various bodies of the diwan. However, Chadha said Jathedar Vedanti had authorised him and the secretary for the changes.

VC Row: Dal Khalsa flays govt
Tribune News Service

Amritsar , June 22
Radical Sikh organisation, the Dal Khalsa today condemned the state government for ordering probe against Jai Rup Singh , vice- chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev university.

In a press note jointly issued by Kanwarapal Singh and Harcharn Singh Dhami , senior leaders of the party, here today said the probe by an IAS officer was aimed at denigrating the high institution of the vice-chancellor. They alleged the post of vice-chancellor had been politicised. Urging the Chief Minister to end witch-hunt of VCs, they said it was unethical to initiate a "crusade" to remove VC of Guru Nanak Dev university Jai Rup Singh merely because he had refused to dance on the tune of those "who are in power". 


Rs 1.25 cr power theft detected
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 22
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has detected power theft of Rs 1.25 crore May this year in an anti-theft drive. Chairman of the board Y.S Ratra said 25 cases of theft were detected in the five zones of the PSEB in the state.

He said nine cases were made out in the Bathinda zone and Rs 17.82 lakh dues were worked out.

In the Jalandhar zone, eight cases involving Rs 13 lakh have been identified while in the Patiala zone, seven cases power theft of Rs 93 lakh were uncovered. In the Ludhiana zone, one case involving RS 1.31 lakh was uncovered, while in Amritsar district the PSEB failed to identify even single case.


Govt ignores topper from humble family
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 22
Shilpi Negi, who scored 427 out of 450 marks in class XII examination held by the Punjab School Education Board and topped in the district, is disappointed at not being considered for the Rs 2 lakh reward by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Badal, who announced the reward of Rs 2 lakh for poor students three days ago at Guru Nanak Dev university, Amritsar, did not consider Shilpi eligible for the reward.

Badal announced Rs 2 lakh for Neeraj Saini, who secured the first position in matricualtion examination, and Navpreet Nagi, who secured the first position in the commerce stream by scoring 402 marks out of 450 in class XII examination of the board .

Shilpi is the daughter of Prem Singh, a cook in the SPS Apollo Hospital canteen, and Madhuri Devi, a peon in the school where she has studied.

Her parents feel Shilpi was considered neither a scholar nor an under-privileged student by the government to deny her the cash reward announced by the CM.

The denial of the reward has affected morale of the aspiring painter preparing for the bachelor of fine arts (BFA) entrance examination. She is overall topper in all streams - science, humanities, commerce and vocational.

“More than feeling sad for not getting the needed cash prize, I am hurt. Why has the reward been denied to me? If the CM can encourage other toppers in the state, why not me? I feel discriminated against,” she said.

Her father said, "Although some philanthropists and politicians have come forward to take the responsibility of her education, the duration of her course is four years and we don't want to depend on anyone for it. The Rs 2 lakh will ensure quality education”.

He added, "More than money, a reward by the Punjab CM means a lot to us and our clan back home at Taangi Tarli village in Garhwal, Uttarakhand, where Shilpi is considered an inspiration by youngsters, who want to follow her."

The girl, who lives in a one-room house with parents and younger brother, has declined to pursue studies after classX due to financial constraints.

"I want my daughter to study further," said her father.


Fish mortality: WWF for action units
Ashok sethi
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 22
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was alarmed at fish mortality due inflow of poisonous pollutants from units into Sutlej which meets Beas at Harike Pattan.

Chairman of the WWF Gunbir Singh said environmentalists and nature lovers were pained as pollution of water resources in the state had been causing colossal damage to natural habitats. He said this was wake- up call for the state government and the Punjab Pollution Control Board.

He said, prima facie, the phenomenon seemed to be the first flush of monsoon, which had released toxic waste, and untreated sewage, dumped along the banks of the canals and rivers.

The WWF felt some of the separated pools of liquid waste lying within the riverside have also flooded into the mainstream water resources creating major poisoning.

Some of the wastewater treatment plants do not have adequate resources or electricity to run these.

Gunveer Singh said he had met the chief secretary, Punjab, who assured him assistance of scientists to survey and study the ecology, assess damage and suggest measures to remedy to the situation.


Granthi stabbed near Akal Takht
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 22
A granthi was injured in an assault on him by another priest and his son at an SGPC building near Akal Takht today. Enmity was said to be the reason behind the clash.

Manager, Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) Harbhajan Singh said both priests were temporary employees, hence stood terminated. An injured Ranjit Singh was taken to the SGPC-run Guru Ram Dass Hospital.

The manager said priest Pishora Singh and his son Pargat Singh stabbed Ranjit Singh with a Kirpan. While Pishora was arrested, his son absconded.

Man drowns in Golden Temple sarovar

Satnam Singh, a resident of Dhariwal Sohia village, Gurdaspur district, today died after drowning in the Golden Temple sarovar. He had come along with his wife and entered the sarovar for holy dip.

Harbhajan Singh, manager of the Darbar Sahib, said, his had wife said he was upset and had come here to pay obeisance. He said body of the deceased had been handed over to the family members.


A versatila writer of Urdu songs
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 22
It was struggle for K. Sharnjit Singh ,a resident of border town Batala, who went to Mumbai as film journalist in late sixties and later became famous as ‘Fida Batalvi’ by penning a number of Urdu/ Punjabi lyrics for great singers of India and Pakistan .

He writes Urdu poetry in Devnagri script. Urdu is often contrasted with Hindi , another standardised form of Hindustani. Fida Batalvi, who strings for Punjabi Tribune from Batala, cannot read and write Urdu in Persian script. Yet , he has become most sought after for writing lyrics in Urdu for film makers and singers of the sub continent.

His first meeting with legendry Prithviraj Kapoor of Mughal-e-Azam fame in 1969 inspired him to enter the world of cinema. After earning name as film journalist, he started penning songs for Hindi/Urdu/Punjabi films and made a name for himself in Bollywood.

More than 400 recorded Urdu and Punjabi songs of Fida Batalvi have been sung by Asha Bhonsle , Rehat Fateh Ali Khan, Wadali brothers, Pervez Mehndi, Pankaj Udhaas, Manhar Udhaas, It is Urdu's similarity to Hindi , that helps Batalvi to pen songs in this (Urdu) language without special efforts. Speakers of the two languages can, usually, understand each if avoid using specialised vocabulary.

Fida Batalvi is a name to be reckoned with in India , Pakistan and other Urdu- speaking countries, yet he is known as a journalist in his home town Batala. He rues organisers of poetry/cultural concerts inviting as a journalist and not as poet or writer in his home town.

A member of the Film Writers Association, Mumbai, Fida Batalvi has written songs and scripts for Hindi films, including Tum Bin Jaon Kahan ( 1983), Jawala ( 1993), Chalo Bulawa Ayia Hai ( 1992) and Tum Hi To Thi etc.

He has also written stories , screenplay and dialogues of a number of serials, including Zameer Ki Awaz , Kaali Roshni, Pehchan , Prema , Rani Panj Daryawan Di , Irada and Zindgi Ki Talash ( Telefilm).

He has authored seven books- Rukhsat (Urdu poetry, ghazals), Shab-e-Firaq , Sache Sang Preet (spiritual Punjabi poetry), Aaena and three novels.


Funds for PAU
Panel for 50 paise cess on seller-farmer
K S Chawla,

Ludhiana, June 22
A committee of experts headed by Dr S. S. Johl, former deputy chairman, Punjab Planning Board, has suggested market cess of 50 paise per Rs 100/- on producer-seller-farmers to strengthen Punjab Agricultural University. This will generate approximately Rs 150 crore per annum which may be treated as extra budgetary provision and passed on to PAU for research, education ,extension . and other liabilities, including pension. 

The committee was set up by the Board of Management of the university to assess its problems. The report was presented to the Chief Minister in Chandigarh. The committee recommended the cess from next kharif crop arrival (Sept-October 2008).

The report says PAU cannot be compared with other universities of the state which have large base of students and many colleges affiliated with them. They hold entrance tests and collect money from those colleges, if needed."There is no such option with this university. Moreover, research in this university caters to social service needs of small, marginal and medium farmers. Due to this the university has to depend on budget to sustain research, education and extension functions, says the report."

Justifying the cess , the committee observed PAU was playing major role raising production of foodgrains and farm goods which have raised the income of farmers. 


Lalru-Baddi express highway
Farmers want alignment reviewed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 22
The proposed express highway from Lalru to Baddi via the Banur-Kharar-Sialba Majri belt has agitated farmers of the area and will result in felling of thousands of trees. The highway will pass through the Kharar belt which has huge area under mango, guava and other orchards. Most of the farmers in this belt are small and marginal and grow vegetables for a living.

“Because of the express highway we will be uprooted and left with no source of livelihood”, said Jasmer Singh, a member of the Shaheed-e-Azam Kisan Club at Sahoran village. He said a few days ago government officials came to the village to tell farmers that their land would be acquired for the highway. “We have been told the highway will be built at 12 feet in the low-lying belt of Kharar-Sialba Majri”, he said. “Such level of the highway would cause lot of problems for us”, he added.

Farmers say the government should review its decision on the alignment of the highway. “It should pass through the area where land is not very fertile”, said other members of the club. “The population displacement should also be considered he said. With the construction of the highway, distance of Baddi from Ambala will be shortened by a few miles. Moreover, there will be no need for vehicular traffic to pass through Zirakpur, Panchkula and other populated areas to reach Baddi from Ambala.

As Baddi has emerged as industrial belt, lots of goods manufactured there are transported by trucks to other parts of the country. At present, the Panchkula- Pinjore road is used to reach Baddi. Other route is from the Ropar and Nalagarh side. 


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