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Swollen Sutlej wreaks havoc in villages
Thousands stuck on rooftops, paddy crop bears the brunt
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, August 16
The swollen Sutlej breached its banks at two places, about 20 km from here, early this morning, causing widespread devastation to property and standing paddy crop in at least 25 villages of Moga and Ferozepur districts.

Thousands of people, stuck on the rooftops of their houses, were being rescued by the Army and the police in boats. Hundreds of domestic animals, including cows and buffaloes, have been feared drowned in the flood water. However, there has been no report of any human casualty so far. The district administration also deployed Home Guards and employees of various departments to meet the flood challenge.

Locals revealed that a small breach was developed on the banks of the Sutlej near Madaarpur village about an hour past midnight. People of nearby areas came out from their houses and tried to plug the breach, but their efforts proved futile.

By early morning, the breach had widened to about 50m and was increasing in the absence of any immediate efforts initiated by the administration to fill the widening gap. Another breach was developed just 500m from this spot early in the morning, eroding about 65m stretch of the embankment of the river.

Till afternoon, floodwater had entered Boghewala, Madaarpur, Sanghera, Takhtuwala, Kahnewala, Lalehandi, Bandala, Saide Shah, Machiwala, Melak, Akaliwala, Goluwala, Bahadurwala, Basti Gobindgarh and a few other villages of Moga district, forcing people to come out from their houses to safer places.

Similarly, in Khanna, Sarfari Shahwala, Burj Mohammad Shah, Amir Shah, Mallang Shahwala, Lalleh, Booh and a few other villages were submerged in the flood water.

According to an estimate, more than 1 lakh acres of standing paddy crop has been submerged in the flood water during the past couple of days.

More than 100 houses have reportedly been damaged in flood in the villages of Boghewala, Madaarpur, Sanghera, Sherpur, Kahnewala and Lalehandi in Moga district.

Meanwhile, the water level in the Sutlej that rose by 5 to 6 feet above normal on Friday was still flowing above the danger level even as officials of the irrigation department claimed that the water in the river had declined by more than 1 feet today.

Official apathy

People alleged that the administration had not provided them clean potable water, polythene sheets to cover their household items lying on the rooftops, food items, adequate boats to the panchayats, immediate financial aid and tents to take shelter in the monsoon season.

The Tribune correspondent repeatedly tried to contact SDM Lakhmir Singh on mobile phone for his version on the allegations of the people, but he did not pick up the phone.

Roads blocked

Roads leading to the flood-hit villages were all blocked with the accumulation of 2 to 4 ft water, the level of which was still rising. The only means of travel was boats. The administration had also cut the supply of electricity to these villages, fearing mishaps.

Daunting task

Flooded roads and muddy paddocks were hindering efforts to repair the breaches, from which huge quantities of river water were flowing out into the already saturated paddy fields and the rain-hit villages. As the flooded roads had made access to the breaches near impossible, the water was still coming out continuously.

Anirudh Gupta adds from Ferozepur: The Sutlej continues to pose danger in more than 25 villages in this area, with fields totally submerged due to the rising water level in the river.

At Basti Ram Lal, close to Indo-Pakistan border, Karnail Singh said farmers were working overtime to raise the level of the bundh by at least 3 feet to save the remaining portion of the village. One could see farmers, with tractor- trolleys hurriedly filling earth along the bundh.

The affected villages in this area include Basti Chamrianwalai, Laduwala, Muthianwalai, Bandala, Kahnsingh Wala, Bagiche Singh Wala, Waliwala, Kamalewala and Dhira Gaira

Earlier, officials swung into action in the wee hours today after reports of breach in Dhussi Bundh at three places in the Makhu area. Officials had been told to divert the water into Rajasthan Feeder and plug the breaches as soon as possible.

1000 villagers evacuated

Fazilka: Nearly 1,000 residents of Dilawar Bhaini village in Fazilka sector were evacuated to safer places today in view of the rising water level of the Sutlej.

The Army has been put on alert. The evacuated villagers said their standing paddy crop had been totally devastated.

A medical team from Primary Health Centre, Dabwala Kalan, was rushed to provide medicines to the villagers.


Breach in Sutlej, several Jalandhar villages flooded
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 16
As many as 12 villages in Lohian of Shahkot subdivision were submerged with water following nearly 150-feet wide breach in the Sutlej river near Mundikalu village on Friday midnight.

Realising the gravity of the situation, the district administration called the Army to carry out rescue operations in the worst affected villages, including Mundikalu, Mundala, Nasirpur, Mandala Chhana, Giddarpindi, Chananwandi, Darewal, Barajot Singh, Nahal, Manak, Maida, Sajjanwal, Makhi, Sindrur, Khosa, Nawanpind Kharowal and Raima. No loss of life had been reported so far.

The Army and the civil authorities had already taken around 250 families to safer places in the boats from the flood-affected areas. However, about 150 persons taking shelter on their rooftops refused to take help of the Army as they assured that in case of any intensive eventuality, they were capable enough to swim to safe places, DC Ajit Singh Pannu said.

Pannu said breach had been noticed around midnight in the area where the Chitti Bein rivulet merges with the Sutlej near Mundikalu village. Several surrounding villages were flooded with Sutlej water in no time, he added.

Ferozepur division of northern railway decided to cancel all trains on the Jalandhar-Ferozepur line due to heavy water on the railway track, a railway official said.

To a query about the reason of the breach, Pannu said the exact cause of the breach would be known only after detailed investigation, however, preliminary reports suggested that some villagers identified as Karnail Singh, Sucha Singh Pritam Singh and Gyan Singh had their land within the boundary wall of the dam over the Sutlej and to irrigate their land they had laid a pipeline from their tube well outside the boundary wall. It seemed that the passage of the pipeline and pressure of water created breach, he added.

Pannu said arrangements were being made to plug the breach. At the same time, he said, as large-scale preparation was required to plug the breach, once the required preparation is completed, action to plug the breach would be taken.

Meanwhile, Punjab minister Ajit Singh Kohar, who himself inspected the rescue operations, said crops in several villages were also destroyed as the Sutlej water gushed into these villages. Girdwari would be ordered to assess the exact loss to the crops, he added.

Tarsem Singh Thind, chief engineer, north zone Jalandhar, PSEB, inspected the affected villages and ordered to cut the electricity in the flooded villages to avoid any further mishap. There were reports of submersion of several villages in Sultanpur Lodhi due to flooded water.


Army called in four districts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
The civil machinery having completely failed to anticipate and check the damage caused across the state due to torrential rains, Punjab has sought the help of the Army at various places to help the civil administration.

The Army has already arrived at many places in Ferozepur district and launched the rescue and rehabilitation work.

The Army was called in after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal conducted an aerial survey of flood-affected areas in the Ferozepur and Hoshiarpur districts.

The Army was assisting the civil administration in the four districts of Punjab after the Sutlej breached the Dhussi Bundh, inundating villages in Jalandhar, Moga, Ferozepur and Kapurthala districts.

Badal was accompanied by cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who flew over the flood-ravaged areas . The CM had directed officials to make all possible efforts to rescue the beleaguered villagers on a war footing.

He also spoke to irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon to muster the support of social and religious organisations to organise langars.


25 villages face flood threat
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 16
Residents of more than 25 villages, falling in Patiala district, face the flood threat from the surging water of the Ghaggar. Also the heavy rainfall in the region for the past few days has led to the inundation of a number of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) grid sub-stations and the board sub-divisions in different parts of the state.

“We have not got any information of more rainfall in the catchment areas, so we are hopeful that the situation might not turn perilous for people,” said drainage department executive engineer Ashwani Kansal.

Meanwhile, the PSEB’s sub-stations which have got flooded and where power had been shut down include the 66 KV sub-station Chola Sahib and 66 KV sub-station Kot Mohammed in Tarn Taran circle, the 66 KV sub-stations Bhulath, Begowal and Meharjwala in Kapurthala circle , 66 KV Tanda badha in Khanna circle, Fatehgarh panjtur and Mallanwana sub-divisions under distribution division Zira and the Ferozepur city sub-division.


Cong vows to defeat SAD-BJP in LS polls
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 16
The Congress leadership today vowed to defeat the “communal alliance” of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was at the centre-stage.

Addressing a rally at Baba Bakala, 30 km from here, on the occasion of Rakhar Punnian festival today, Capt Amarinder Singh, chairman of the Campaign Committee of the party, said his party had made a “list” of top bureaucrats and leaders of the ruling party who had indulged in highhandedness against Congress workers at the behest of the SAD-BJP. He said after the formation of the Congress government in the next Assembly elections, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir, president, Shiromani Akali Dal, would be brought to book. “We will definitely settle scores with the ruling alliance,” he announced when former Congress MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa, in his address, alleged that more than 2,200 cases were registered against Congress workers after the formation of the SAD-BJP government at behest of the Beas MLA. Former PPCC president Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said the party workers should get ready for the mid-term Assembly elections as the present SAD-BJP government might fall under its own weight after the “defeat” of the party in the Lok Sabha election. She claimed that the party would win all 13 Lok Sabha seats.

Most of the speakers pinned hopes on Amarinder’s leadership though PPCC acting president Mohinder Singh Kaypee was also present on the occasion.

Kaypee said it was a matter of concern that the SAD had not given proper representation to the Dalits in the Badal ministry while most of the MLAs were from Scheduled Castes. He said it was the Congress party which had nominated a Dalit to head the PPCC.

Jagmit Singh Brar alleged the ruling party had indulged in highhandedness during the panchayat elections. Many sarpanches and panches were booked who had refused to toe the line of the ruling party. He alleged that the wife of the Chief Minister herself had ensured the election of sarpanches of the ruling party using unfair means.

Meanwhile, senior leaders like Lali Majithia, district president (rural), Sunil Dutti, a former mayor of Municipal Corporation, and Dr Raj Kumar, a former MLA, did not attend the rally.


Punjabi as Official Language
Bill in coming session: CM
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 16
The state government will present a Bill in the next session of the Assembly starting on September 4 for implementing the Punjabi language as official language in government departments.

Addressing the gathering at Baba Bakala on the occasion of Rakhar Punnian, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said Punjabi had failed to get its due status in Punjab and added that steps would be taken to promote it.

Badal reiterated that the SAD-BJP alliance would defeat the Congress in Lok Sabha elections in the state. He lashed out at the Congress for discriminating against Punjab in agriculture, industry and even in infrastructure development. He cited how Punjab was excluded from schemes like construction of link roads and rural electrification. President, SAD, Sukhbir Singh Badal said Punjab would be transformed from a power-deficit to power-surplus state in three years. He mentioned that three new thermal plants at Rajpura, Mansa and Giddherbaha would be set up to overcome shortage of power.

He said today the state was short of 30 per cent of power and would soon augment the power supply in a phased manner. Sukhbir said industrialisation was the only answer to accelerate state's economy because agriculture had already reached a point of saturation.

Rural development and panchayat minister Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, co-operation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh, MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP Rattan Singh Ajnala and MLA Manjinder Singh Kang were among the speakers. However, Bikram Singh Majithia, minister for information, and other MLAs were were not seen there.

Earlier, Badal after paying obeisance at Gurdwara Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur, inaugurated the Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur stadium built by the SGPC and also laid the foundation stone of flats for the staff of the gurdwara sahib.



Congress leaders welcome Amarinder
Jupinderjit Singh and Rajneesh Lakhanpal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 16
Congressmen and leaders, who had distanced themselves from Capt Amarinder Singh and his family during the trial of the City Centre scam case, surrounded him in the District Courts today after change in his political fortunes.

Even members of late Chief Minister Beant Singh’s family, led by his grandson Gurkirat Singh Kotli, reached with his supporters at the District Courts. Almost all the district Congress leaders who had chosen to rally behind Rajinder Kaur Bhattal were absent. Very few of them had stayed neutral in the political war of one-upmanship between Amarinder and Bhattal.

Amarinder’s wife and member of Parliament Preneet Kaur and son Raninder Singh were also largely ignored by the Congress leaders. Other than Youth Congress president Vijay Inder Singla, his activists, Congress Legal Cell chairman Dharamjit Singh Khera and a few others were seen earlier.

Every Congress leader seemed to show his face to Amarinder with folded hands. He was accorded a warm welcome by party workers, legislators, former legislators and ministers.

The former ministers, ex-MLAs and leaders present were MLA Koomkalan Ishar Singh, former minister Malkiat Singh Birmi, ex-MLA Surinder Dawar, ex-mayor Nahar Singh Gill, ex-MPs Gurcharan Singh Galib, Mohinder Singh Kalyan and District Congress Urban president Jagmohan Sharma. Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Mangat Rai Bansal, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Naresh Kataria, Harmohinder Singh Pradhan, Ajit Singh Shan, Joginder Singh Panjgrayan, Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Makhan Singh. 


Chawla ties rakhi to BSF jawans at border
P. K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, August 16
Laxmi Kanta Chawla, state health minister, tied rakhi on the hands of BSF, CRPF and Army officials and jawans at the Attari-Wagah joint check-post, 27 km from here, today to celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan.

This was for the 41st time that the festival was celebrated by Chawla, along with girls from various schools, by tying rakhi on the wrists of jawans who are deputed for guarding the borders of the country far from their native places. Speaking on the occasion, the health minister said it was the duty of all women and girls of the country to tie rakhi on the hands of jawans guarding the borders and Bharat Mata.

DIG BSF Mohammad Aakil and Commandant H.S. Dhillon said the jawans, whether of BSF, Army or CRPF, were always ready for sacrifices for the country. They were proud of sisters and mothers of the country who came to tie rakhi to them every year at the border.

Meanwhile, the minister expressed grief over the death of Harjit Singh, Guard Commander, who had died, along with his family, including two children, when his jeep fell into the Gang canal in Ferozepur. The Bhangra parties that had accompanied them to Attari did not perform in view of his death. 


Flood warning issued
People asked to move to safer places
Chander Parkash
Tribune News service

Gurdaspur, August 16
The authorities today sounded the high alert of floods in various parts of Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts bordering Punjab after it was found that all water bodies dotting the region had been swelling alarmingly and their catchment areas had been receiving heavy rainfall continuously for the past few days.

People living in areas prone to floods have been asked to move to safer places by officials of the drainage department. They have also been asked not to venture out in bed areas of Ujh and Ravi rivers running in these districts.

The general alert was sounded on June 15 also after the water flow in Ujh and Ravi river increased on that day and the rains kept on lashing this region.

While deputy commissioner Gurkirat Kirpal Singh pointed out that the district administration had been in constant touch with the Army to meet any kind of emergency, Baljeet Singh Sandhu, superintendent engineer, drainage department, said officials and police had been carrying out patrolling of the rivers round the clock.

Gurkirat said that all officials, who had been assigned the job of taking care of flood-prone pockets, had been told to take precautionary measures wherever necessary. He added that adequate funds had already been given for carrying out repair and desilting of drains.

Sandhu pointed out that general alert of medium flood was sounded after the flow of water in the Ujh and Ravi rivers increased. He said though the Ravi was flowing much below its danger mark, the Ujh river flow was a subject of worry. He said about 12,000 cusec water had been released from Madhopur headworks into the Ravi due to the fact that the level of water in Ranjit Sagar Dam (RSD) had gone upto 521.57 ft.

He pointed out that as per the BBC forecast, heavy rains were expected in the coming three days in the catchment areas of these rivers.

On the other hand Gurkirat said secretary, Irrigation and Power, Punjab, had also issued written instructions that all arrangements for taking precautionary measures should be made in Gurdaspur district as heavy rains were expected in the next three days.

The flow of water in the Ravi downstream of Madhopur headworks reached around 1.5 lakh cusecs today. The flow of water into the Ujh river reached around one lakh cusec and, thus, put the authorities on its toes to do the needful.

The endangered areas fell in Dera Baba Nanak, Fathegarh Churian, Ajnala and Narot Jaimal Singh subdivisions of Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts.

Meanwhile, due to heavy flow of water into the Beas, a stud in it, which was located near Mirtahl, the confluence point of Madhopur-Beas Link, Chakki and Beas rivers, got damaged severely today. Due to damage of stud, the gushing water in the Beas had started eroding the soil and so far about 40 ft bed of the Beas at that point had been eroded by water.


Ghaggar near danger mark in Khanauri area
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, August 16
As the Ghaggar water was touching the gauge at 750-ft mark just 2-ft below the danger mark (752 ft) at the RD-460 at Khanauri village (about 55 km from here) Saturday evening, the situation has become grim in several villages of Khanauri and Moonak areas of this district. In view of the grim situation and the danger of flood in these areas, villagers of several villages have been alerted to keep a close vigil on the flood situation.

Sangrur deputy commissioner V.K. Ohri, along with SSP Naunihal Singh, Moonak SDM RPS Walia, and Drainage XEN D.S. Kohli, today visited RD-460 at Khanauri and several villages, including Shahpur Therri, Chandu, Mandvi and Banarasi, to take stock of the flood situation. They assured the villagers that administration would do every thing for their safety.

Talking to The Tribune, Moonak SDM RPS Walia said the administration had made all arrangements to tackle the floods. As many as 50,000 sand bags, 15 boats and three motorboats had been kept ready at Moonak and Khanauri. Besides this, some control rooms, including one at RD-460, had been set up in these areas, he added.

People of these areas were reportedly of the view that situation was grim in Khanauri and Moonak areas as Ghaggar water might overflow tonight, leading to breaches in bandhs and spread of floodwater in fields. They also viewed that about 20 villages were under threat of floods till this evening.


Defeat evil designs in J&K: Ashwani
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 16
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leadership and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have been making efforts for political consensus on the Amarnath land issue.

Union minister of state for industries Ashwani Kumar, who was here today at a function of a vocational training centre, said the Congress-led UPA government was for peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said AICC chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were committed to find out “a just” solution of this issue keeing in view sensitivities and feelings of Jammu and Kashmir people.

He added that efforts made by the UPA leadership and the Prime Minister in a few weeks to solve the Amarnath issue was a strong indication in that connection. He added that the Congress party was trying hard to keep the social fabric of the country intact.

"My sympathies remain with people who are giving expression to their emotional and religious sensitivities," he said adding, "I am confident with the support of all political parties, a solution promoting unity and integrity of the country will be found and will accord with the sensitivities and aspirations of Jammu and Kashmir people."

He said the youth should come forward and a play constructive role in building communal harmony in the country and maintaining peace. The unity and integrity of the country was the need of the hour.

He added youths must defeat the designs of those indulging in corruption and using musclemen for political interests.


‘I make them realise their dreams’
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
For someone who could not clear the UPSC examination way back in 1979, Vinod Sharma has come a long way. Today, he can boast of helping more than 300 students to clear the same examination.

The Punjab government honoured him with a State award for this achievement in the “Learned Profession” category at the State-level Independence Day function held at Ludhiana.

Vinod Sharma did not let despondency set in after failing to realise his childhood dream. In fact, he made a career out of his failure by first starting to teach children aspiring for the civil services at his modest home in the old part of Patiala and then went on to establish the Vidya Sagar Shastri Memorial IAS Academy. Two of his students - Ashutosh Jindal and Ankur Garg, have topped the UPSC examination.

Despite the long sounding name, the academy has always remained a one-man show. “Students come to the academy and it becomes my responsibility to make them realise their dreams,” he says.

Explaining the reason for his success, he claims he is the only tutor in the country who is single-handedly providing coaching in History, Sociology and General Studies. Students come to him from all over Punjab and Chandigarh, knowing very well that he is the man behind many success stories.

Vinod Sharma advises a quick start to those aspiring for the civil services and says there is no short cut to success. Students have to go in for 10 to 12 hours of regular studies if they want to succeed in the coveted examination, he says. He, however, feels reading habit, particularly that of reading newspapers from a young age, goes a long way in preparing for the General Studies paper.


Sukhbir’s guards killed in road mishap
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 16
A vehicle of Shiromani Akali Dal Badal president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s convoy carrying his three gunmen collided with a private bus late Friday night resulting in the death of two gunmen, while one was seriously injured in the mishap.

Those killed were identified as Gursewak Singh and Rajinder Singh, both head constables belonging from Lambi and Anandpur Sahib, respectively. Baljit Singh was seriously injured in the accident.

However, the SAD chief was not accompanying them as he was in Delhi and was to arrive in Amritsar by air today morning for participating in the Rakhar Punnia festival at Baba Bakala.

The victims were rushed to hospital where they succumbed to injuries.

The police has registered case against the driver of the bus Dharamchand who was also injured in the incident was admitted to hospital.


Death of BSF man mourned
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 16
The roar of Harjit Singh, guard commander of Border Security Force squad, during the beating the Retreat Ceremony at the Attari-Wagah joint check-post, has fallen silent.

Harjit Singh, along with his two children, died a couple of days back when he was returning home in Ferozepur after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple. Their jeep fell into the Gang canal on their way to Ferozepur.

Even the Pakistan Rangers switched off the music on their side for two hours in mourning last evening organised by the BSF at the check-post. The BSF observed two-minute silence as a mark of respect.


A world-class pet project in region
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 16
Having strengthened its roots in North America, the Family Petcare Clinics Inc. (FPC), a California-based chain of world class pet clinics, is all set to expand its network and enter the region by introducing its pet clinic chain.

With more than 30 pet clinics in North America, the FPC plans to open a chain of world-class pet care clinics in the region.

In order to evaluate the Indian market scenario, FPC founders, Modesto-based Dr Davinder Sandhu, Dr Baljit Grewal and the FPC’s CEO Young Lee, plan to undertake an exhaustive tour of Punjab and other northern states in November.

“The FPC’s mission is to build the largest family of veterinary clinics under one name by providing better and world class medical aid to pets. The group is planning to broaden its base by opening more than 200 clinics in the US and outside, including India,” said Dr. Davinder Sandhu.

“The decision to broaden the base was taken at the recently held World Veterinary Congress 2008 at Vancouver in Canada, in which, more than 50 top veterinarians participated and pledged their support to the FPC plans,” he added.


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