P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Scramble in BJP for LS seats
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 10
A tug-of-war has begun among senior leaders of the BJP over the Lok Sabha elections. Whereas the BJP’s incumbent member of the Lok Sabha Avinash Rai Khanna is keen to contest from Anandpur Sahib, a newly created Lok Sabha seat, the BJP leadership has not forcefully pressed its claim over this constituency so far.

Khanna had earlier won from the Hoshiarpur seat, that has now been declared reserved. As some parts of the Hoshiarpur constituency have now been included in the Anandpur Sahib constituency, Khanna has laid his claim over it because he represents that area already in the Lok Sabha.

Instead of Anandpur Sahib, the BJP leadership is keen to get allocated any one of the Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Jalandhar constituencies from the SAD, its senior electoral ally in the state. Last time the BJP had been given three seats, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur, which it had won.

However, this time the BJP has sought four seats. Already the BJP has announced its candidates Navjot Singh Sidhu from Amritsar and Vinod Khanna from Gurdaspur. The BJP has the understanding that over the Hoshiarpur seat it has a natural claim because that was won by it last time. Vijay Sampla, a senior Dalit leader of the BJP, is keen to contest from Hoshiarpur, it is learnt.

Sources said Prof Rajinder Bhandari is keen to contest from Ludhiana and Kamal Sharma from Ferozepur. There are reports that not laying the claim over Anandpur Sahib seat by the BJP leadership in a forceful manner has left the Avinash camp fuming. The BJP leadership, sources said, had taken the plea that not staking claim to the Hoshiarpur seat can annoy the Dalit leaders within its ranks. Last time, the BJP had not put any Dalit leader in the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab. However, the sources said supporters of Avinash also wanted that a Dalit leader must be put up as BJP candidate from Punjab for the Lok Sabha elections. However, they have argued that in the process, Avinash should not be made a sacrificial lamb.

There are reports that the same leaders, who were now talking about putting up a Dalit candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, had strongly opposed the BJP high command’s decision to make Swarna Ram, a Dalit minister, leader of the BJP’s legislature party in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and had instead supported Manoranjan Kalia for the post.


Debate over Majha, Doaba intensifies
Govt presents flowery facts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
Three Punjab ministers today charged the successive Congress governments at the Centre and in the state with a systematic and sustained neglect of the Majha and Doaba regions.

The three ministers said if it was not for exemplary and unparalleled growth-incentives and investments made by the SAD-BJP governments, there would neither have been an international airport in Amritsar nor three universities, including a world-class one. Besides, Ranjit Sagar Dam, the All-India Medical Institute in Amritsar, two regional passport offices and world-class infrastructure network of four-lane and six-lane expressways have been set up in both regions.

“We challenge Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Mohinder Singh Kaypee and Capt Amarinder Singh to a direct and live television debate on the criminal neglect of the Doaba and the Majha areas by the Congress governments. In the past 18 months alone, the SAD-BJP government has started projects worth over Rs 55,000 crore in these two areas, which are at different stages of completion. This is more than the total investment made by the Congress governments in over 50 years of their misrule,” said Manoranjan Kalia, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, and Sucha Singh Langah, local government, rural development and agriculture ministers, respectively.

These ministers said the entire border belt remained in a state of utter neglect during the Congress regime and it was left to Parkash Singh Badal to get ownership rights and border-area compensation to the farmers along the border.

The ministers said whereas the Congress neglected these regions, the SAD-BJP government this year alone had completed infrastructure projects in the Majha and Doaba areas to the tune of Rs 3,372 crore. Projects worth Rs 28,661 crore are on the anvil in these two regions.

The ministers said 27 road projects with an estimated cost of Rs 450 crore had already been completed whereas seven high-level bridges with an estimated cost of Rs 125 crore were at the advanced stage of completion. They said in the Majha and Doaba areas, eight ROBs (at a cost of Rs 110 crore) and five other infrastructure projects (costing Rs 80 crore) were completed by the government.


Set up IIT in Doaba: Khaira
Sarbjit Dhaliwal/Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 10
To push the Badal government further to the wall on the issue of development of Majha and Doaba, the Congress today offered 250 acres of land to the state government at Ramidi village, near Kartarpur, on the Jalandhar-Amritsar highway, for setting up an IIT. The government authorities have already selected a site at the Birla farm near Ropar.

“We want that the IIT should be set up in the Doaba region where it was originally planned”, said Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Congress MLA from Kapurthala district. Khaira said he had already talked to the Ramidi village panchayat in this regard. It was the most suitable place to set up an IIT”, he said. In fact, the IIT allocated to Punjab had already started functioning in Delhi and after the construction of the building, the campus would be shifted to the state.

Refuting the Badal government’s allegation that the Congress was promoting regionalism by raising the issue of development of Doaba and Majha, Khaira said: “We are pressing for a share from the development projects allocated to the state by the Centre and to term it as regionalism is a sure sign of political frustration of the Badal government”, said Khaira. “The discriminatory attitude of the first family against Doaba and Majha can only be summed up as a narrow, parochial and political approach, just because the Badal family is preparing to put its own member as candidate to contest the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat”, he added.

“Taking all major projects to Malwa, specially to Bathinda such as the oil refinery, thermal plants, cricket stadium, has upset the natural and overall development of the state. Although Badal must remember that he is Chief Minister, courtesy Doaba and Majha, which have given him 50 MLAs, when it comes to give it back to the electorate, Badal has chosen only Bathinda”, said Khaira.


‘Ludhiana-Sonmarg freight corridor will cut costs’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 10
The current global economic crisis would have an impact on India as well, union minister for industries Ashwani Kumar said here today. The minister was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of his visit to the city in connection with the inspection of the manufacturing units of the Trident Group of Industries here today.

He said the government was trying its best to help steer the country out of the current situation and would see to it that the interests of the people were safeguarded.

The minister added that the government responded immediately to crisis situations. “As soon as the Sensex fell this morning, the government cut the CRR by one per cent so as to increase the amount of liquidity in the market,” he remarked.

He said 75 per cent of India’s export to the US was the main reason for the situation.

Admitting that the country was facing a bad situation, he said it could take some time for normalcy to be restored.

The minister admitted that Punjab was at a disadvantage as compared to other states in terms of connectivity with port as a result of which transportation costs were very high.

The incentives given by the central government to its neighbouring states and their extension had further hit the industries of Punjab. He assured that there would be no further extension in these incentives.

In addition to it, the creation of a dedicated East Freight Corridor from Ludhiana to Sonmerg would result in the reduction of transportation cost as well as time from 72 hours to 24 hours.

This would get Punjab industry the much-needed boost in the time to come.

He also said the four-laning and three-laning would improve the connectivity further. Rail connectivity was also being improved, he added. Five industries namely textiles, leather, electronic hardware, skills upgrading and food processing had been identified so that it could be given the top priority in Punjab, the minister disclosed. The state would get economic boost from these industries within 3-5 years, he said.

He further said the level of education among the youth was low and not in accordance with the industrial requirements.

The youth lacked technical and vocational specialisation. This was a major hindrance in the industrial development of Punjab, he said. On the Sainiwala border issue, the minister said, “There is no hitch from our side. We want to trade with Pakistan.”



Mandi board chairman for gherao of officers
Jangveer Singh/Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
It seems the Punjab government is at war with its own agencies over non-procurement of paddy at certain places with State Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal today advocating gherao of officers responsible for it.

The officers claimed they were following the guidelines on procurement and could not procure paddy with heavy moisture content or discoloration as per the parameters for procurement laid down by the Centre. However, populism seemed to have carried the day with a successful gherao in Zira and more on the anvil during the ongoing tour of procurement centres by the Mandi Board chairman.

Lakhowal, while talking to TNS, admitted that in some areas the moisture content was more than the permissible 17 per cent, adding that there were also cases where procurement agency officers were in league with private traders to benefit the latter. He said it was noticed that once procurement did not take place at a particular centre, private traders made a common pool and procured the produce at rates ranging up to Rs 100 less than the maximum support price (MSP).

The chairman, who toured mandis in Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozepur and Muktsar districts today, said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would take up the issue with the Centre of giving relaxation in the moisture content from 17 per cent to 22 per cent, besides allowing discoloration from 4 per cent to eight per cent.

Meanwhile, following a demand by farmers, the Punjab government is also going to urge the Centre to recognise sharbati and muchal varieties of paddy as basmati rice. The chairman said rice sheller owners were mixing both these varieties in basmati rice being exported by them. He said the Punjab government would also demand relaxation in export of both rice and cotton during a meeting with the secretary, agriculture, on October 20.

Lakhowal also claimed that cotton growers were also suffering and that the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) was late in entering the state. Meanwhile, state chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh has on the directions of the Chief Minister deputed seniors from the state headquarters to supervise the ongoing procurement operations.

Disclosing this here today, a spokesman said districts had been assigned to individual officers for this purpose. P. Ram has been given Amritsar and Tarn Taran, Vijay Kain Ropar and Mohali, S.C. Aggarwal Jalandhar and Kapurthala, D.S.Jaspal Faridkot and Muktsar B.K. Srivastava Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr, G.S Sandhu Barnala and Sangrur, Kusumjit Sidhu Patiala, D.S..Bains Bathinda and Mansa, R.C. Nayyar Ferozepur, Swaran Singh Moga, N.S.Kang Fatehgarh Sahib, D.P.Reddy Gurdaspur and Arun Goel Ludhiana. The officers have been requested to undertake extensive tours of the mandis and supervise procurement operations. 


Development officers to launch stir again
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, October 10
Officers of Rural Development and Panchayat Department may take the state government head on if it failed to redress their grievances, including the alleged harassment and political victimisation of certain employees at various levels on flimsy grounds.

A formal decision in regarding the agitation will be taken on October 18 when the Punjab Development Officers Association holds its general house meeting at Ludhiana.

There is anger among block development panchayat officers (BDPOs), district development and panchayat officers (DDPOs) and other senior officers of the department over the “maltreatment” meted out to them by senior functionaries of the state government.

“We will be discussing all these issues relating to the termination, suspension and other actions, which have been taken against officers of the department in the past few weeks,” said Bhadur Singh, president of the association.

The association had launched an agitation when one of its members R.S. Moodal, DDPO, Gurdaspur, had been attacked a few months ago. The association had taken the agitation to its logical end, he added.

He said the association had conveyed the grievances of its members to the minister concerned, who had instituted an inquiry into the reasons that led to the suspension of BDPO, Pathankot, Ram Lubhaya. Lubhaya had been placed under suspension after a resolution to that effect was passed by block samiti, Pathankot. He had allegedly misbehaved with chairperson of Block Samiti Kamlesh Kumari and MLA, Sujanpur, Dinesh Kumar Babbu. However, Lubhaya had denied all allegations levelled against him.


Kidney case: Pannu does volte-face
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 10
District magistrate Khan Singh Pannu, chairman, Authorisation Committee, in a volte-face, said the district administration would not take any action against unmarried Sunny (23) for submitting false and misleading affidavit wherein he had mentioned that he wanted to give his kidney to Kirpal Singh, additional deputy commissioner (ADC), Tarn Taran, “out of sheer love and affection”.

Earlier, Pannu had announced that action would be initiated against Sunny for misleading members of the committee.

However, Vishal Gogna, who is providing free legal aid to Sunny, said the case, filed against the ADC and members of the committee, would not be withdrawn. The court had directed the DC, SSP, civil surgeon and other members of the committee to submit their reply by November 3. The petitioner alleged that Sunny was forced to submit an affidavit that he wanted to donate his kidney out of “love and affection”.

Talking to The Tribune, Pannu said the district administration had taken the decision not to take any action against Sunny purely on humanitarian ground. 


Ill-maintained statues put off Netaji’s nephew
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 10
Member of Parliament of the All-India Forward Bloc Subrata Bose, who had visited Amritsar 72 years ago along with his paternal uncle Subhas Chandra Bose, before latter’s Great Escape to Kabul, today expressed dismay over the sacrilege of the statues of freedom fighters installed at various places here.

He is son of Sarat Chandra Bose, elder brother of Netaji.

While visiting the statue of Netaji at Bhandari Bridge here today, Subrata was shocked to see strings of torn banners tied to its legs, giving an impression as if the martyr had been shackled.

He said even after 61 years of Independence, it seemed as if freedom fighters had not got the respect they deserved. He said it was a matter of shame that the statues of freedom fighters were not cleaned every day.

Subhas Chandra Bose had a great association with the city, hence it was like a pilgrimage for his nephew to be here. Netaji had escaped from Kolkata to Kabul through the city route.

In a trip to the memory lane, Subrata said he was only four years old when he had visited Amritsar with Netaji.

En route to Kabul, Netaji had visited the hub of nationalist movement, Bara Makan, in the Islamabad area in Amritsar and interacted with local leaders to put up a united front to oust the British from India.


Lecturer facing reversion posted as acting principal
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 10
This can happen only in a government department. A teacher, who was promoted “wrongly and illegally” as senior lecturer by the Punjab Technical Education Department and subsequently faced reversion, has been posted as acting principal of Government Girls Polytechnic College, Jalandhar, on the orders of state technical education minister Swarna Ram.

The “special case” of Baljit Singh, a former head of department at J.R Polytechnic, Hoshiarpur, has raised many a eyebrow in the department circles. Baljit allegedly enjoys the “patronage” of a Punjab minister.

According to department sources, Baljit did not possess the requisite qualification and work experience to be promoted as senior lecturer, as he had three years and five months’ experience after he acquired the requisite diploma in 1996.

The stipulated period for promotion as senior lecturer is five years.

He was issued a show cause notice by the department as to why he should not be reverted as his promotion was “wrong and illegal”.

Ironically, the Punjab Technical Education Department, according to the undertaking given to the State Information Commission on September 11 by the department through its Deputy Director-cum-Public Information Officer Sham Lal Goyal, had stated that the department was taking necessary action to revert Baljit Singh as some irregularities were found in his promotion as head of department.

A copy of the statement supplied by the department on the basis of a complaint filed by Sukhdarshan Singh of J.R. Polytechnic, Hoshiarpur, is in the possession of The Tribune.

What is more shocking is that while the “reversion” proceedings were on, Baljit was the principal of Government Polytechnic, Bhikhiwind.

Interestingly, while those who were affected by the “wrong” promotion of Baljit Singh came to know that instead of “reversion” he had been “rewarded” with a prized posting once again and had been posted as acting principal of Government Polytechnic, Jalandhar.

Punjab Technical Education Department Director (ITIs) G. Ramesh Kumar said Baljit had been posted as acting principal on the orders of state technical education minister Swarna Ram. “I have nothing to do with it. You know about the things better,” he said.


Youth plead with Badal for jobs
Kanchan Vasdev/Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 10
Unemployment among well-qualified youth and negative vibes from the BJP stared Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in the face during his first sangat darshan in the district today.

Seven years after Nisha Kaura of Raikot embarrassed Badal by her letters over unemployment in the state, a number of girls armed with B Ed degrees pleaded with him for jobs with folded hands and tears in their eyes.

“Badal Sahib, mainu naukri dilwa do. Badi majboor haan,” pleaded a girl at the first of the 10 sangat darshan venues in the city at Sartaj Palace in Haibowal. More requests poured in at the second venue at Mann Palace on the Balloke road. Badal was quick to handle the situation saying: “Biba, naukriyan iss tarah nahi mildiyan. Tussi apply karo. Proper process hai inna kamman da”.

Though sangat darshan attracted quite a crowd, prominent leaders of the BJP, an alliance partner in the government, remained conspicuous by their absence.

While SAD MLAs, including Harish Rai Dhanda, Hira Singh Gabria and Darshan Singh Shivalik, were present during the welcome address of the Chief Minister, none of the BJP MLAs could be seen at the venue. Even senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor, Parveen Bansal and Sunita Aggarwal, respectively, were not present. Both are BJP leaders.

Meanwhile, taking a serious note of allegations of substandard material being used for the construction of flats at Giaspura, the CM has directed SE Manmohan Singh to enquire into the matter. The flats are being built for the economically weaker section.


Akshay in Deepa’s film on Komagata Maru
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
The little-known saga of Komagata Maru, a ship which was hired by Malaysian Sikh Gurdit Singh 94 years ago to challenge the policy of exclusion in Canada, is set to get international attention with renowned director Deepa Mehta roping in Akshay Kumar to play the gutsy Sikh.

The movie, which will be shot on an epic scale at a cost of around $ 35 million, will include Hollywood A-listers, according to Mehta who says the movie is an important opportunity for her to “reveal a significant moment in Canadian history and illustrate the steadfast bravery of the Sikh community, who sacrificed so much to help create a more tolerant community within my adopted country.”

The subject and the story of Gurdit is also a revelation for Akshay who says it is an honour for him to play “one of the bravest Sikhs, Gurdit Singh, in this tragic forgotten moment of history.” He avers the films subject has moved him “as it is a true representation and a testimony to human struggles for freedom, justice and equality.”

According to Hamilton Productions, which is producing the film along with Akshay’s home production, Hariom Entertainment, it is a film “with high-level government intrigue, duplicity, racism, spying, military engagements, court battles, sedition and assassination”.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently offered an official apology from a public platform in Surrey (British Columbia), which was in close proximity to the 1914 tragedy. However, many Sikhs have demanded an apology to be issued in the House of Commons as only such an apology would be recorded in history and help to undo part of the pain of the past.


Sikhs resent Pashaura’s appointment
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 10
In a communication to the Jathedar, Akal Takht, certain Sikh organisations from the United States of America have sought action against Prof Pashaura Singh for his alleged blasphemous writings.

Earlier, a large number of Sikhs had demonstrated at UC Riverside protesting against the appointment of Prof Pashaura Singh to the Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies.

Representatives of many Sikh organisations have been communicating with the UC Riverside authorities for the past three years regarding the scholarship of Prof Pashaura Singh. Dr Jasbir Singh Mann, an orthopaedic surgeon from Anaheim, alleged that Prof Pashaura Singh had conducted research using unauthentic sources of information with regard to Guru Granth Sahib.


Martyr cremated with military honours
Our Correspondent

Barnala, October 10
Hundreds bid adieu to Lance Naik Amarjeet Singh, who was killed in an encounter with Pak intruders at Keri post in Rajouri sector, at his native place Dhaula (Barnala) here today. His body, wrapped in the Tricolour, was cremated with full military honours.

A contingent of 44 Armoured Battalion and the Punjab police saluted the martyr by reversing arms and firing in the air as a mark of respect to the departed soul.

Gurdial Singh, father of the late soldier, said he was proud of his son who had laid his life while fighting for his motherland.

Tapa Jaipal Singh, SDM, district administration, laid a wreathe on the martyr’s body while Gobind Singh Longowal, former minister, Baba Tek Singh Dhanaula, SGPC executive committee member and Jagjit Dhuala, district Congress president, paid floral tributes to Amarjeet. 


Criminal case against Bhajji for playing Ravana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
After Akal Takht’s decision to ask cricketer Harbhajan Singh to apologise for playing the role of Ravana in a show that comes on an entertainment channel, a human rights activist and Vijay Singh Bhardwaj, spokesperson for the Bajrang Dal, have filed a criminal complaint against the cricketer. The case is yet to be taken up by Chief Judicial Magistrate Kanchan Mahi, Chandigarh.

The complaint has been filed under Section 298 that amounts to “uttering words with deliberate intent to hurt religious feelings of any person” and Section 120-B that amounts to “punishment for criminal conspiracy”.

The complaint stated that they received a phone call from a friend after which they viewed the TV channel wherein Harbhajan and Mona Singh played the roles of Ravana and Sita, respectively, and the cricketer was singing the song -- “Janeja you are my love” -- for Mona.

The complaint stated that under the grab of entertainment the accused had made such gestures, which had never been heard and seen in the history or in any religious story concerned with the Ramayana.

It was stated that the whole act was done in connivance with the two accused deliberately with an intention to hurt the religious feelings of Hindus.


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