P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Rahul pays obeisance at Golden Temple
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 22
The unscheduled visit of Rahul Gandhi, general secretary of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), to Golden Temple here today surprised the police, mediapersons as well as the public.

Clad in a white kurta-pyjama and wearing a saffron headscarf, the young Congress leader started his three-day visit to the state by paying obeisance at the temple amid tight security of Special Protection Group (SPG) commandos in mufti.

He partook of langar in the Guru Ram Das Langar Hall and listened to kirtan. The SGPC has not been honouring Opposition leaders with siropa (robe of honour) at the temple for quite some time. Hence Rahul preferred to keep the SGPC in the dark about the visit.

Except for senior airport officers, nobody in the district administration, including the police, knew about his visit.

It was the first visit to the Sikh shrine by the 38-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family. He was escorted by a few local Congress leaders because the visit was kept top secret from the security point of view.

The offices of the SGPC were closed in view of Gurpurb (death anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev) and none of its senior officials was present there.

The Congress general secretary reached the temple in a Tata Safari after landing at the local Rajasansi Airport at around 7 am in a Kingfisher-Air Deccan flight along with his six SPG personnel.

He stayed in the temple for about 25 minutes and left for Chandigarh in a chartered flight around 10 am.

So much so mediapersons came to know about his visit after seeing him in the live telecast of Gurbani. However, he refused to entertain any query of mediapersons.

However, on repeated requests of the media, he quipped: “I am here as a humble devotee and not to pose for photographs. For the next two or three days I am in Punjab for mediapersons, but now at a religious place I would prefer not to talk”.

Rahul Gandhi visited Jallianwalla Bagh and paid tributes to the martyrs of the 1919 massacre. He was presented with a siropa at the Durgiana temple by its head priest.

Rahul’s visit to the state is part of his “Discover India” programme under which he had toured Karnataka, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh this year.


Accorded warm welcome at Bhawanigarh
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 22
Hundreds of people accorded a warm welcome to Rahul Gandhi at Bhawanigarh, 22 km from here.

Rahul, who reached Bhawanigarh about two hours late, alighted from his vehicle and interacted with people standing there.

He stopped at Bhawanigarh for about 10 minutes and then left for Sunam at 7 pm. There he was welcomed by Aman Arora and other Congress leaders near the statue of Shaheed Udham Singh.

Opposition Leader in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Sangrur MLA Surinder Pal Singh Sibia, former minister Jasbir Singh, former Sangrur MLA Arvind Khanna and district youth Congress president Rajinder Singh Raja were among those who received Rahul Gandhi at Bhawanigarh.


Enjoys sarson da saag, makki di roti
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 22
Rahul Gandhi relished “sarson da saag” and “makki di roti” and said he enjoyed the flavour and taste of Punjab’s delicacy so much that he would try it once again whenever he got the opportunity.

Villagers were surprised to see Rahul’s entourage stopping at a farmer’s residence at Baran village on the Sirhind road. Rahul savoured the delicacy there. “I will come to Punjab shortly and will also taste meethi lassi then,” he said.

Commenting on the state of Punjab in comparison to other states, particularly,
the UP, Rahul said he had felt that Punjab was much ahead of UP as the land
was more fertile here.


Rahul stays away from Moti Bagh Palace
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 22
Rahul’s act of “staying away” from the Moti Bagh Palace of Capt Amarinder Singh despite “best efforts” of Congress MP Preneet Kaur to ensure his visit to the palace is being seen as a big setback to the former Chief Minister and his loyalists.

Rahul visited the Punjabi University campus and the Phool cinema, the two preselected places, which are largely inaccessible for general public and even ordinary Congress workers.

The hush-hush talk within Congress circles was that all might not have been well between the Gandhi family and Amarinder. Amarinder may catch up with Rahul during the second leg of his state trip.

The PPCC leadership and the Congress workers thought that Rahul could have easily paid a “brief visit” to the palace considering Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur was the Congress MP from Patiala.

A senior Congress leader close to Amarinder and his family revealed that Preneet had “tried her level best” to cajole Sonia Gandhi for Rahul’s visit to the palace to prove that Amarinder’s proximity with the Gandhi family was intact.

It had also been pleaded that even from the “security point of view”, the palace was far safer than a public place like the Phool cinema and that he could even stay in the palace for the night.

It had been suggested that Rahul stayed at one of Amarinder’s loyalists’ place in
Bathinda district.

Meanwhile, addressing gathering of select Congress workers and leaders at the cinema, Rahul exhorted youth to come forward and take command of the country.

“Our youths are full of energy required for taking the country ahead. They should brush aside the vices and march ahead with the vigour and integrity for which they are known the world over,” said Rahul in his brief address.

He said he was overwhelmed with the ongoing membership launched by the Punjab
Youth Congress.

District Congress Committee (Rural and Urban) presidents Sanjiv Bittu, Sharanjit Singh Jogipur and the Punjab Yough Congress chief Vijay Inder Singla presented a replica of the Golden Temple to Rahul, who was accompanied by senior Congress leaders Margaret Alva, PPCC chief Mohinder Singh Kaypee and Preneet Kaur.

Later, Rahul had a brief interactive session with senior Congress leaders, including Brahm Mohindra, former Patiala Mayor Vishnu Sharma, Prem Kishan Puri, K.K. Sharma and Hardiyal Kamboj. Vishnu had led a procession of Congress councillors and around 1,000 Congress workers.

Meanwhile, dubbing Rahul’s ongoing state visit as “big failure”, Students Organisation of India (SOI) has said Rahul will not be able to muster public support for Congress as his performance had been “hopeless” in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and certain other states where he had been projected as a “star campaigner”. The students body has been propelled by SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“Since, the Congress has got confused, it is changing its ‘generals’ every off and on,” said SOI chief Gurpreet Singh Raju Khanna.


Floodgates of Bhakra Dam opened
6 villages hit; crop damaged
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Burj (Anandpur Sahib), September 22
Keeping in view the rising level of water towards the danger mark in the Bhakra Dam, the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) opened the dam’s floodgates and released water last night.

As a result, villages situated along the banks of the Sutlej here were hit by the
released water.

Burj, Mataur, Gajpur, Chandpur, Mehndli Kalan and Bela villages were inundated, with water damaging paddy crop and making its way to houses.

"Last month, it was Swan rivulet that wreaked havoc and now it’s the Sutlej. These water bodies have become a bane for us," said sarpanch, Burj, Surinder Singh.

He added that villagers' entire strength was spent fighting rising water level. Meanwhile, a tractor was reportedly washed away at Bela Dhyani village.

Villagers claimed that they had not got any compensation for the losses in the Swan flooding last month.

"The government should work towards the channelisation of the Sutlej to increase its capacity and prevent floods," said Tara Singh from Burj village.

The water released was to the tune of 14,000 to 15,000 cusecs, said BBMB chairman U.C. Misra.

He added that this had been done after taking both Punjab and Haryana governments into confidence.

The water inflow in the reservoir was 39,000 cusecs, while discharge has been increased to 52,000 cusecs.

According to sources, the discharge of 15,000 cusecs is equivalent to 540 MW and 130 lakh units of power per day.

Normally floodgates are opened when water level rises to 1,685 feet. Deputy commissioner Ropar B. Purushartha has issued an alert for 72 hours.

The water level in the reservoir was 1675.3 ft on September 11, 1674.78 ft on September 17 and 1,680.25 on September 20.

The generation from the Bhakra complex, including 120 MW from Ganguwal and Kotla Power Houses, were 214 lakh units on September 12, 216 lakh units on September 17 and it was increased to 287 lakh units on September 20.

The average energy sent out in last 10 days was between 860 MW to 907 MW and yesterday energy sent out was 1,199 MW.

Even today, the BBMB has planned for 1,398 MW and in afternoon it was generating
1,438 MW.


Army help sought to plug Ghaggar breach
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 22
As the civil authorities were facing problems in plugging about 70-foot breach, occurred in the Ghaggar river near Andana village in the Khanauri area last night, additional district magistrate Indu Malhotra today sought the help of the military to get the breach plugged.

About 50 per cent stretch of the breach has been plugged by the civil authorities.

Talking to The Tribune, Malhotra said four officers of the military visited the breach site this evening.

They told the civil officers that they would provide technical guidance and expert opinion to the administration to plug the breach.

The work on the unplugged part of the breach would be started by the military tomorrow, she added.

Meanwhile a 70-year-old farmer of Andana village Deva Singh today died of heart attack at the breach site at as he was distributing langar among the people involved in the plugging work.

It was reported that he suffered heart attack when he got to know that floodwater had entered his standing crops too.

The river was flowing above danger mark of 752 ft in Khanauri-Moonak subdivision.

However, there was a decrease in the water level today compared to the level last evening when it rose to the 753-ft mark.

Despite the decrease in the river level, the flood situation has not improved much.


Panic button shouldn’t have been
pressed, says engineer

Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
The BBMB decision to release water from Bhakra Dam has come in for criticism from engineers in Punjab who feel BBMB has pressed the panic button instead of waiting to let the situation stabilise as rain has already stopped in the catchment area.

Former PSEB chief engineer Padamjit Singh while talking to TNS said spillage from the dam was only justified in case the worst happened.

He said the BBMB was in possession of satellite pictures from the Metereological Department, which did not give any ground for such an action.

Padamjit said according to a BBMB resolution filling should be restricted to 1,680 ft as on August 31.

He said Board was silent on what to do after August 31 in case of additional filling.

In the past the BBMB had been utilizing the margin between 1,680 and 1,685 ft
to absorb additional inflows that might occur after August 31 till the end of the
monsoon season.

The engineer said theoretically Bhakra Dam had a capacity to absorb water
till 1,690 feet.

He said this meant that inflows after August 31 should have been stored and water discharged only after water in the dam reached a height of 1,685 ft.

The dam had a height of 1,675 ft till August 31 and the recent rains had taken it
to 1,681 ft.

Meanwhile, PSEB engineers said since the critical period was over the discharge done last night were not justified.

They said the dam had released water equaling 15,000 cusecs per hour which amounting to losing 540 MW of electricity per hour.

They said this amounted to losing Rs 16 lakh worth of power per hour with Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan being the major losers.


State sans chief info commissioner for 2 months
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
The Punjab State Information Commission is without chief information commissioner (CIC) for almost two months now.

The state’s former chief secretary Rajan Kashyap, who was the commission’s first CIC, retired on July 29.

Punjab chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh said the state information commissioner P.K. Verma had been made the officiating CIC and had been asked to take on all responsibilities of the chief till a regular appointment was made.

Sources, however, point out that the division bench work of the commission is suffering in the absence of a regular CIC.

The commission has two division benches and a full bench. Each division bench met twice a week and included the CIC and a state commissioner.

The full bench, which included the CIC and two other commissioners, also cannot meet till a regular CIC is appointed.

The routine work of the commission, however, would carry on unhindered, as the CIC did not take up any individual cases.

The commission came into being in October 2005 and has eight state information commissioners and the CIC.

Four commissioners and the chief were sworn in in 2005 for a period of five years or till they reached the age of 65 whichever was earlier.

Kashyap headed the commission for about three years. Four other persons were sworn in as commissioners during the fag end of Capt Amarinder Singh’s regime.

According to sources, the former Chief Minister “went overboard” in appointing
information commissioners.

He had intended to fill maximum allowed strength of 11 information commissioners before he stepped down as Chief Minister.

The committee that appointed the information commissioner had the Punjab Governor, Chief Minister and leader of the opposition as the members.

During the second round of appointment, the then leader of the opposition Parkash Singh Badal refused to give his consent.

The former Chief Minister had shortlisted a total of six persons to be appointed to the commission but two names were reportedly rejected by the Punjab Governor on technical grounds.

Sources in the Punjab government pointed out the state’s information commission was “overstaffed” compared to the information commissions in other states.

Big states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have not more than five
information commissioners.

The central information commission, which has at least three times the workload, also has a fewer number of members than Punjab.

Sources in the commission, however, pointed out that the disposal rate of cases in the commission was quite high.

Since its inception in October 2005, almost 6,415 cases have reached the commission, out of which more than 5,300 have been disposed of.

The commissioners hold court twice a week in special courtrooms in the commission’s office in Sector 17.

“The unique thing about the Punjab Information Commission is that a case is
not considered ended till the complainant comes and reports to the commission
that he is satisfied with the information provided by the public body,” said a
source in the commission.



DAP fertiliser ‘out of stock’
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 22
Faced with the unavailability of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) ahead of the wheat-sowing season, state farmers have been making a beeline for Dabwali and Killianwali in Haryana to buy this fertiliser there.

The sudden disappearance of the DAP fertiliser from the stores of IFFCO and other agencies has created panic among farmers, particularly those of the Malwa belt where three cycles of picking cotton will end within the next few days and wheat sowing will begin soon after.

An officer of IFFCO said the demand for DAP fertiliser in Bathinda was to the tune of 1,500 tonnes, but only 2,800 bags of 50 kg each, which had been received last week, were sold out within a few hours.

No fresh stock was expected in the near future, he said. The total demand of the fertiliser in the state was about 5.5 lakh tonnes.

He said more than 300 farmers coming to the retail shop of IFFCO in the grain market to buy this fertiliser every day were returning empty-handed. Fresh stocks were likely to arrive towards the middle of the next month.

Before the entire stock of the DAP fertiliser was sold out last week, the farmers had been complaining that the officials of IFFCO were forcing them to purchase one bag of urea with each bag of the DAP fertiliser.

Kuldeep Singh, a farmer, said at the moment urea was not required in the fields and it would be required only around January.

Officials of IFFCO and other private agencies were just thrusting urea upon them to push up their sales and exhaust the piled-up stocks.

He said the private traders were also forcing them to lift their unsold zinc and sulphur with each bag of the DAP fertiliser.


Bathinda Air Terminal
Go-ahead for land acquisition
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
The Punjab State Land Acquisition Board (SLAB) today approved acquisition of 40 acres of Bhisiana village for civil air terminal adjacent to Bathinda Air Force Station.

The board has given a green light for notification under Section 4 for acquisition under which a price fixation committee headed by the Bathinda deputy commissioner would be set up. The farmers wiil be paid compensation after the price is fixed.

Secretary, Aviation, Visvajit Khanna said the government had permission to start civil flights from Bathinda.

He said the land after acquisition would be transferred to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for building the terminal.

With the establishment of the terminal, domestic flights will start from Bathinda using the runway of the Air Force Station, Bhisiana. The city is expected to be connected with Delhi on daily basis.

The civil airport is likely to boost economy of Malwa with the management of Guru Gobind Singh oil refinery in the region making out a case for it.


Baba Farid Purb declared heritage festival
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 22
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced to celebrate Baba Farid Aagman Purb as heritage festival from next year like heritage festivals of Patiala, Amritsar and Kapurthala to promote cultural significance of Baba Sheikh Farid’s legacy.

Presiding over the 23rd Baba Sheikh Farid Rural Sports and Cultural Festival at Nehru Stadium here organised by the Faridkot District Cultural Society to commemorate Aagman Purb, Badal said the Punjab government would provide funds to celebrate Aagman Purb of Baba Sheikh Farid in the next annual plan to organise it on a large scale after it was declared national festival by the government of India in 1998.

Paying tributes, the Chief Minister termed Baba Farid as “father of Punjabi poetry” and he stood for social order where love, compassion, equality, humanism and freedom reigned supreme.

Badal said Baba Sheikh Farid’s ‘bani’, including 112 shlokas and four ‘shabds’ had been incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib by Sri Guru Arjan Devji.

Badal also honoured five personalities - president, INTACH, Faridkot chapter, Baltej Singh Brar, poet Fauja Singh Brar, playwright Ajmer Singh Aulakh, research scholar Subhash Parihar and district public relations officer Manohar Singh - with cash award of Rs 5,100, citation and a shawl.

He also honoured five wrestlers - Randhir Singh Dhira, Hari Krishan, Balwant Rai, Harpreet Singh and Mandeep Kaur.

He also released souvenir “Faridkot Chronicle” prepared by the Faridkot District
Cultural Society.


Badal for more cops, modern arms
Tribune Reporters

Ghubaya (Fazilka), September 22
“Before framing a new law to check terrorism, the Centre should ascertain the views of all Chief Ministers,” said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at a press conference at Ghubaya, village of Sher Singh, chief parliamentary secretary and MLA Jalalabad, 20 km from here, today.

Badal refused to comment on BJP’s demand to re-impose the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) which the NDA government had imposed.

Badal said there was no terrorist activity in Punjab, but to check terrorism more policemen were needed. Also the police needed modern arms and vehicles.

The Chief Minister laid the foundation stone of 10-bed health centre at Ghubaya.

On the tour of Rahul Gandhi in Punjab, Badal said the Gandhi family should first set right its home state of Uttar Pradesh and then think of Punjab.

To a question on inadequate security leading to the cancellation of Rahul’s visit
of to two places in Punjab, Badal retorted that the government had provided full
security to him.

He said the visit had not been cancelled due to security reasons, but the Congress was not sure of mustering crowds in these areas.

To allegations of fleecing by sand contractors in Fazilka and Jalalabad areas by doubling rate of sand, Badal directed the deputy commissioner, Ferozepur, to act against the “erring” contractors.

Ruling party leaders accompanying Badal had uneasy movements when this question was posed to him because due to their alleged patronage the sand mining trade is considered lucrative.

Ferozepur: The state government has embarked on a special plan to improve the road network in the state.

Under the plan, new roads will be constructed in all Assembly segments.

Besides, existing roads will be repaired and recarpeted, stated Badal, who was here to attend the first death anniversary of Hardam Singh Khuranj, senior Akali leader, at Kharunj village on Monday.

Badal lauded the contribution of the Kharunj family and Hardam Singh, in particular, towards strengthening the Akali party.

Later, addressing the conference organised by Akali leader Gurbir Singh Sandhu, the Chief Minister said the state government had made a proposal of Rs 300 crore to deal with the water-logging problem which had plagued the fields in the Malwa belt.


Paddy allotment notified
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
The Food and Supplies Department today notified the schedule of paddy allotment to rice mills for kharif marketing season 2008-09.

The deputy director (Field) of Patiala, Ferozepur and Jalandhar, has said paddy to be procured for rice mills for custom milling by the state agencies in kharif marketing season 2008-09 will be allotted under the supervision of the director, Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Punjab, in his office.

The allotment of paddy for custom milling to rice mills in Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala and Jalandhar would be made on September 25, whereas for Patiala, Sangrur, Ferozepur would be on September 26.

For Ropar, Mohali, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana and Barnala districts allotment would be done on September 29.

The allotment to remaining districts of Moga, Bathinda, Faridkot and Muktsar would be on September 30.


High Court
Compassionate appointment
Heir of temporary staff can also be employed
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that compassionate appointment can be granted to the heir of an employee, who is in line for regularization, but dies before it.

The significant ruling by a Division Bench, comprising Justice Ashutosh Mohunta and Justice Rajan Gupta, comes as hope to the families of “work charged” employees struggling hard to make both ends meet after the death of the breadwinner before the regularisation of his services.

In her petition placed before the Bench, Sita Devi had stated that her husband Banarsi Dass was working with Punjab State Tubewell Corporation and was still in service when he died on February 18, 1997.

The petitioner added that she had submitted an application seeking appointment on compassionate ground and had cited another case, where an appointment on compassionate ground was given to a lady.

The petitioner had added that she was assured that her case, too, would be considered in due course, but was rejected vide order dated January 30, 2004.

During the course of arguments, it was pointed out that the petitioner had earlier also preferred a writ petition.

The same was disposed of on October 31, 2003, with the observation that as the “petitioner’s husband had been working with the respondents for 10 years before his death, it would be appropriate that the official respondents consider the petitioner’s case sympathetically”.

Subsequently, an order was passed on the ground that there was no government policy/rule for offering appointment on compassionate ground to the heir of deceased “work charged” employee.

Arguing before the court, her counsel contended the name of the petitioner’s husband was included in the seniority list circulated on December 12, 1998.

“It was due to his death that the services could not be regularised,” the counsel said, adding persons junior to Dass had been regularised.

After hearing arguments in the case, the Bench ruled: In the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the considered view that the writ petition filed by the petitioner deserves to be allowed.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Gupta added: “Accordingly, a direction is hereby issued to the respondents to notionally consider whether the husband of the petitioner was entitled to regularisation in light of the instructions… In case, it is found that he was entitled to be regularised in accordance with the rules/instructions, the petitioner’s case for appointment on compassionate ground be considered in accordance with law.”


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