P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Expulsion of Amarinder
House can declare Patiala Assembly seat vacant: EC
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 17
In a major ‘set-back’ to former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Election Commission of India feels once the Punjab Vidhan Sabha has expelled a member, there should generally be no obstacle in declaring the seat vacant and ordering a byelection, unless a court stays it.

Since the Punjab and Haryana High Court in September 15 order refused to stay Amarinder’s expulsion and granted him relief only in case of “custodial interrogation” ordered by the Vidhan Sabha, the file is likely to be cleared in routine, as it comes up for consideration before the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Dr S.Y. Quraishi, Election Commissioner of India, said the ECI was yet to receive intimation from the Punjab Vidhan Sabha notifying Amarinder’s expulsion. “But legally there is no bar on holding bye-election unless there is a stay from a court”.

He said, “In general one can say there is a parallel between the case of expulsion of 11 MPs from Parliament, the ECI got elections in all constituencies. There was initially stay in one case, but that too was vacated and polls were held there. So, I don’t see any technical hitch in holding the bye-electionin Patiala. But a clear answer can only be given after we receive intimation from the Punjab Vidhan Sabha”.

The secretary, Vidhan Sabha, has already sent a notification 70-LA-2008/46 dated September 10, 2008, to the ECI apprising it of the Vidhan Sabha’s decision to expel Amarinder from the House. In the notification the Vidhan Sabha has said based on the decision of the House the “76-Patiala Town Assembly constituency has fallen vacant with effect from September 10, 2008”.

Sources in the ECI said there was no obstacle in the Patiala seat becoming vacant as the legislature had the power to expel a member from the House. But if a court ordered stay, then even if the process of the polling had been started, it would have to be put on hold.

He said so far, the information before the ECI on the expulsion of Amarinder was only based on newspaper reports. “But once the facts are put before the commission, it will take a considered view and decide if and when the byelection is to be held. Technically the ECI has six months to hold bye-election.”

Meanwhile, Congress legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira has written to the Punjab Governor asking him to quash the notification of September 10 saying “it is against the laid down principles of the Constitution, illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary and displays vengeance against an elected member, besides being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution”.


Cotton arrivals indicate bumper yield
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 17
Having suffered heavy loss of crop last year due to mealy bug, the cotton growers in the Malwa belt are this time expecting a bumper yield that has started pouring in the main market here. However, this morning’s rain was likely to hit the earnings of farmers whose produce had become wet.

Iqbal Singh, who had come from Chhote Chogian village with the first pluck from his cotton field, said he had sold per quintal of the produce slightly over Rs 2,700 against Rs 1,850 last year. He had brought 24 quintals of cotton in the market although the Centre is yet to announce the minimum support price for the produce.

He was happy that on his four acres under cotton cultivation, this time he sprayed insecticides only worth Rs 4,000, whereas last year the expenditure for this purpose touched about Rs 12,000 as most of the cotton fields were infested by mealy bug.

Another farmer, Mohan Jeet, who had come from Narwana village, said the first-pluck yield from his five-acre cotton field this time was about 20 quintals.

A leading middleman, Ashok Kumar Dhunikay, said the early arrival of cotton in the market was beneficial to the farmers. The hybrid seeding had resulted in early arrival of cotton in the market. This level of arrival was witnessed around September 27 last year, he said.

Sadhu Singh, an official of the marketing committee, said about 4,000 quintals of cotton had so far been auctioned since September 2. About 800 quintals of cotton was arriving in the market every day. About 3,200 quintals was auctioned during this period last year.

He said against the initial auction of per quintal of cotton at Rs 2,950, it was now fetching Rs 2,850 but the price was fluctuating from day to day. Compared to this, the last year’s sale was between Rs 2,100 and Rs 2,200 per quintal during this period.

Sadhu, who has been cultivating cotton for the past many years, was hopeful that although the area under cotton had decreased by about 80,000 hectares, the yield this time would be more than the previous years.

So far, only private parties were trading in cotton and the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and Markfed were likely to start procurement next month.

According to Subhash Grover, chairman-cum-managing director, CCI, India has now turned the second largest cotton producing country in the world after China, relegating the US to the third position.

With wide usage of hybrid seeds throughout the country as well as changed mindset of cotton farmers regarding the adoption of better and improved practices, the average productivity of cotton has increased by around 7 per cent at 560 kg per hectare against 521 kg previously.



Amritsar MC
SAD skips contract panel meeting
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 17
Rift in the ruling coalition came to the fore again today when SAD’s senior deputy mayor Ajaybir Singh Randhawa and junior deputy mayor Kashmir Singh boycotted a crucial meeting of the finance and contract committee of the Municipal Corporation, which passed a Rs 22-crore budget. The committee is dominated by the BJP.

“We can’t be used as rubber stamp”, said an agitated Randhawa after the meeting. The meeting passed the budget for the solid waste management project, which has been proposed by of BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Randhawa said he would take up the matter with Chief Minister Parkash Singh, SAD supremo Sukhbir Singh Badal and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia for ignoring the SAD in the clearance of the tenders. He said BJP’s Mayor Shavet Malik had asked the tenders and works would be sanctioned on the basis of “strength” in the committee. He said while the SAD had 21 councillors, the BJP had only 17 in the general house. However, it was on the intervention of the SAD high command that Akalis agreed to induct only two members in the five-member committee. The SAD wanted more firms to be involved in the project thus saving about Rs 21 lakh per annum, he added.

When their demand was ignored, both Randhawa and Ajaybir boycotted the meeting.

On the other hand, the Mayor claimed that Amritsar would be the first city in the state where no garbage bin would be used and waste would be collected from doorstep.

Meanwhile, the Safai Mazdoor Unions of the MC has decided to stage a dharna in front of the office of the Mayor in protest against the project. However, Malik clarified that no employee of the corporation would be laid off. He said half of the city would be cleaned in the traditional manner while the rest would be covered under the project.


Party meetings fail to draw crowds
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Guru Ki Dhab (Faridkot), September 17
Political conferences organised by the SAD, All-India Lok Bhalai Party and the SAD (Amritsar) on the eve of the annual Jor Mela at Guru Ki Dhab near Jaito in this district today failed to draw crowds. Visitors enjoyed the mela more than hearing the political leaders.

SAD leaders today made the most of the party’s conference here for Congress bashing and singing praises of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal for taking up various development works in the state.

The father-son duo could not reach the venue due to inclement weather as their helicopter could not land at the nearby helipad.

Gurdev Singh Badal, Tota Singh, both former ministers, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, general secretary of the SAD, Mantar Singh Brar, former MLA of Kot Kapura in Faridkot district and SGPC president Avtar Singh attended the conference.

Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, national president of the Lok Bhalai Party, said if all secular forces were united in the state it could give a befitting reply to the SAD in the coming Lok Sabha elections. He reiterated his stand to support the Congress if it wanted to oust the SAD from the state.


Stone of first AC veggy market laid
14 more such markets soon: CM
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 17
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal inaugurated the state’s first air-conditioned Rs 23-crore vegetable market on the Patiala-Sanaur road here today. He announced 14 more such vegetable markets to preserve and market vegetables.

Meanwhile, Badal criticised the UPA-led Central government for not raising minimum support price despite demand of Rs 1,450 made by the SAD-BJP government. Badal rued that the Centre even ignored recommendations of the commission which had recommended the raising of paddy MSP from the existing Rs 850 to Rs 1,050.

“The Centre has been following anti-farmer policies,” said Badal. Cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra, former SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar, agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah, Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, Surjit Singh Rakhra and Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur accompanied the Chief Minister.

He said the Patiala vegetable market would be completed in 15 months.

“The Punjab government is going to set up 14 more such vegetable markets in the first phase, while the number of such mandis equipped with cold storage facilities would be around 50. Besides, cold storages, these mandis would have grading facility,” said Badal.

He also directed the Agriculture Department to provide technical know-how to fruit and vegetable farmers as the government wanted to subsidise farmers’ training camps.

Badal said he had apprised the Prime Minister of Punjab’s wheat share in the Central pool and had sought a “special gift” for Punjab farmers, but the state had got no response so far. Badal said the Dakala constituency had got Rs 2- crore grant for development and Rs 5 lakh was given to the Sanaur-based Government Girls Senior Secondary School.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh advised farmers to come out of conventional wheat-paddy crop cycle to be self-reliant. “Farmers can earn more by growing vegetables and fruits,” said Capt Kanwaljit Singh. Agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah said young farmers could increase income by introducing technology in farming.


Scheme for poor, bright students fails to materialise
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 17
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s much-touted initiative to reserve 10 per cent seats for poor and handicapped bright students in technical institutions is unlikely to benefit the concerned with private engineering colleges, yet to start admissions under this category.

The Chief Minister earlier signed an MoU to implement a tuition fee waiver scheme for women, poor and handicapped bright students in all unaided technical institutions in the state. The institutions were allowed 10 per cent additional seats to introduce this scheme and a notification for it was issued on August 26.

Though the academic session started on August 4, the scheme is yet to be implemented. The initial requirement of posting advertisements to solicit admissions under this category has also not been fulfilled till now. Punjab Unaided Technical Institutions Association (PUTIA) president J.S. Dhaliwal said the advertisements would be out in 10 days.

On admissions under this category, he said this could happen in the first week of October. The admission process ends on October 15. Dhaliwal said the late notification was partly responsible for delay in admissions.

Technical education principle secretary Tejinder Kaur said all colleges had been told to insert advertisements for admissions in this category. She said the process of implementation had been delayed.

Meanwhile, there have been protests with students claiming that private colleges stand to gain with 10 per cent increase in overall seats. They would not be passing this benefit on to the poor category. Dilbagh Singh, who has represented to the Technical Education Department in this regard, says the AICTE policy on tuition waiver had been violated. He said the AICTE had made it clear the information on tuition fee waiver scheme would be provided to the candidates’ institution and discipline-wise through the information brochure, which had not happened.


Pbi varsity gets ‘A’ from NAAC
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 17
Punjabi University here has been awarded "A" grade on a three-point scale among over 350 universities in the country for five years by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous institution of the University Grants Commission.

The award is given on the basis of the overall performance of a university in five years. Earlier, Punjabi University was given "five-star level" by the NAAC from March 2002 to 2007. The NAAC has changed the grading system from "five-star to one-star level" to from "A to C" grade, equating "five stars" with "A" grade.

The 10-member NAAC team had visited the university from August 26 to 28 and noted the activities and achievements of its various departments to review accomplishments at micro and macro levels. Vice-chancellor Jaspal Singh said the NAAC team had mentioned that the university had not deviated from promoting Punjabi language, art and culture.

The grading, he added, would help the university get enhanced grants from funding agencies to promote academic and research activities and establish tie-ups with institutions and organisations of national and international standing. 


MSP: Farmers hold dharna at DC’s office 
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, September 17
Farmers led by the Kissan Sangharsh Committee (KSC), Punjab, today to held dharna outside the office of the deputy commissioner, demanding Rs 1450 MSP for paddy.

Addressing the farmers, Satnam Singh Pannu, a spokesman, KSC, said the recently announced scheme of the Central government waiving loans was a farce as only 1 per cent of the farmers from the state have benefited from the scheme. The inflation had made it difficult for the farmers to make both ends meet.

Lashing out at the state government for privatisation of the state electricity board, Pannu said unbundling of the board would spell doom for all consumers, especially the farmers enjoying free power. He urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to move a resolution in the Assembly to stop privatisation in the interest of the state and agriculture and industrial segment.


Jaundice, malaria hit border villages
P.K. Jaiswar and Gurbaxpuri
Tribune Reporters

Tarn Taran, September 17
The rural belt of this border district has been hit by water-borne diseases with two deaths being reported due to jaundice in three days.

Health Department personnel visited Sohal, Bhuchchar, Gagobuha and other adjoining villages to hold on-the-spot health camps and take blood and urine samples of patients.

According to sources in the department, out of a population of 11,000 in the Sohal village, 1,296 blood samples were taken. The department confirmed three cases of malaria while two deaths due to jaundice.

Baldev Singh, SDM, visited Sohal village along with a seven-member medical team, to supervise the health arrangements.

Dr Amrit Kaur said chlorine and other medicines had been distributed among villagers and awareness camps were being organised. She said more camps would be organised to cover other effected areas in the district.

Last year too a large number of people had been hit by these ailments. According to sources 16 cases of malaria, jaundice, dengue and hepatitis C had been reported last year.

Narinder Singh, a teacher and resident of Sohal village, said though medical teams had been camping in the area for past week, more concrete steps were needed. The department should look into the real cause of water contamination in these villages. He said a nullah alongside these villages had contaminated the groundwater.


Tainted officer’s posting creates flutter
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 17
The Punjab Forest Department has created a flutter by posting H.S. Grewal, an Indian Forest Services officer, as conservator of forests at Patiala even though he has been facing a string of cases registered against him by the Vigilance Bureau. Grewal has been facing four Vigilance cases in Patiala and Ropar, which were registered during 2002-06.

Sources in the department say Grewal could influence staff members and other witnesses in these cases during his posting at Patiala. Also the officer would have full access to the official record, which were relevant to the cases.

Grewal, while working as conservator of forests, Shiwalik circle, was placed under suspension on June 19, 2003, on account of his prima facie involvement in a case involving the felling of over 90,000 trees in the Nurpur Bedi range of the Ropar forest division.

He was reinstated in the service on February 5, 2004, and posted as conservator of forests, working plan circle. According to a communication by the then principal chief conservator of forests to the financial commissioner and secretary, department of forests, Grewal’s work and general conduct after reinstatement remained far from satisfactory as “he took no interest in official work and devoted all his time and energies in making false complaints against the department in retaliation for the action taken against him.”

Punjab minister for forests Tikshan Sud, when contacted by The Tribune on the phone, said he was aware of the cases registered against Grewal at Patiala. He said his posting orders were being modified.


Petition withdrawn

The high court today made it clear that the remedy for seeking disqualification of elected state legislature members was election petition and not a public interest litigation.

CJ Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Surya Kant expressed the opinion after taking up a petition filed by freelance journalist Dilbagh Singh of Jalandhar. The petitioner had sought directions to disqualify five members of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from Jalandhar district, including cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia, for having incurred expenditure in excess during the general elections held last year.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |