Malwa Versus Majha, Doaba Debate
Chandigarh, October 11
Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira wants the issue debated in the Vidhan Sabha.
Leaders of other parties, the Bahujan Samaj, Communists and Amritsar Akali Dal, have not joined the debate, while the Akali and BJP leaders have described the debate as “trash” denying discrimination against any region, city or town in the state.
“Facts should be placed before people of Punjab on all mega projects in the state since reorganisation of the state in 1966 and let them judge those who are responsible for a lop-sided development of the state,” says Sekhri holding that all three border districts of Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran and Ferozepur have been ignored.
Congress leaders maintain that due to discrimination against the Majha region, problems of joblessness and drug addiction have been growing. “There is hardly a single household in the Majha belt in general and border districts in particular that is not affected by unemployment,” says Sekhri questioning the shifting of projects sanctioned for Majha.
“Why do they want to shift the biotechnology park out of Majha to Dera Bassi?” he asks. Due to lack of facilities, youths are feeling frustrated.
Some Congress leaders also blame increasing unemployment and inadequate human resource development avenues for the growing domestic violence in the state.
Former PWD minister Partap Singh Bajwa feels that due to shrinking job opportunities and crumbling official infrastructure in rural and backward areas, more youths are becoming victims of travel and manpower agents. The situation is especially bad in Majha.
Knowing that hundreds of families are being cheated every day, those in rural and backward areas have no choice but to look for means to send their wards abroad in the hope that they will find jobs there, adds Bajwa.
SAD chief denies any bias
Gurdaspur, October 11 He was here today to meet party workers and mobilise them for a function at Goindwal Sahib on October 18 where the Chief Minister will lay the foundation stone of 600 MW thermal power station. With the Lok Sabha elections drawing near, Sukhbir said the Ranjit Sagar Dam project was set up by the SAD government. International airport at Amritsar was brought by the Akali government to Punjab. Now a university was being set up near Amritsar with the efforts of the SAD-BJP government. “Will a Congress leader of this region tell people the development projects set up here by its successive governments in Punjab?" asked Sukhbir adding that Congress leaders were in the habit of befooling people on irrelevant issues when out of power. He was talking at a press conference here. On priorities of the SAD-BJP regime, he said in three years, Punjab would be a power surplus state of the country. About 8,000 villages of Punjab would get potable water. Every Assembly segment would have 100 km new roads. Rural areas would get sewerage. The canal system would be revamped and cities given 100 per cent sewerage, he added.
Gurdaspur, October 11
He was here today to meet party workers and mobilise them for a function at Goindwal Sahib on October 18 where the Chief Minister will lay the foundation stone of 600 MW thermal power station.
With the Lok Sabha elections drawing near, Sukhbir said the Ranjit Sagar Dam project was set up by the SAD government. International airport at Amritsar was brought by the Akali government to Punjab. Now a university was being set up near Amritsar with the efforts of the SAD-BJP government.
“Will a Congress leader of this region tell people the development projects set up here by its successive governments in Punjab?" asked Sukhbir adding that Congress leaders were in the habit of befooling people on irrelevant issues when out of power. He was talking at a press conference here.
On priorities of the SAD-BJP regime, he said in three years, Punjab would be a power surplus state of the country. About 8,000 villages of Punjab would get potable water.
Every Assembly segment would have 100 km new roads. Rural areas would get sewerage. The canal system would be revamped and cities given 100 per cent sewerage, he added.
A Tribune Special
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 11
Warnings issued as early as early eighties on rising toxicity of river and canal waters in the state made neither farm scientists nor the doctors sit up. Even the Centre did not take cognisance of the disturbing reports of cancer deaths in the area.
The result is before all to see.Trainloads of cancer patients go to neighbouring Rajasthan, not because of cheaper or reliable treatment there, but owing to failure of the local administration to provide adequate and reliable diagnostic and treatment facilities to its populace.
What could be worse for a rich cotton belt than to have turned into a deadly cancer trap, even when a majority of decision- makers (Chief Ministers) in the state have come from this region. Healthcare facilities in the belt, except for some hospitals in the private sector, are good for nothing. The state is yet to have oncologists in its civil hospitals and health centres.
Deciding on a medical university and a medical college without ensuring minimum resources has been a cruel joke on the people of Malwa.
An all-India cancer research centre-cum-hospital should have been sanctioned to assure people that their contribution to the national agricultural pool is recognised. Instead, the state government preferred to hire Dr B.D. Gupta, Professor Emeritus in radio diagnostics (cancer treatment), to design a medical institute for Jalandhar. Unfortunately, this institute is yet to become operational even after a good 10-12 years of announcement.
What Malwa needs more than thermal plants is a proper healthcare system.
Mechanisation and increased use of chemicals as farm inputs may have acted catalysts in making Malwa highly carcinogenic. But unchecked and rising toxicity of river and canal waters, from which towns and cities in the Malwa draw their supplies of drinking water, has been an equally important contributing factor.
There have been instances when people from the Malwa belt took to legal recourse to check pollution of their water bodies.
Until about two decades ago, all municipalities, in the absence of water treatment plants, would discharge their sullage and sewage in nearby canals or rivers, thus making them “poisonous”.
An elaborative study conducted by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology in the eighties came out with a startling disclosure that water in the state was “unfit for human consumption”. But it failed to stir anyone.
Since the state was basking in the glory of its first green revolution, the warnings were simply ignored. Instead, increased use of chemicals - fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides - to raise farm production was advocated. Malwa suffered the most as it wanted to match its more affluent Doab and Majha regions in farm income.
Large land-holdings, scarce irrigation facilities and distances were reasons that had earlier rendered farming operations in the Malwa unremunerative. The shift that followed — improved canal and other irrigation facilities and use of chemicals in hybrid and high-yielding varieties — may have accelerated agricultural production, but it also made the population cancer-prone.
Not only that, the incidence of suicide has been alarmingly high in the Malwa belt. Even its per capita farm indebtedness is several points more then elsewhere in the state.
Drinking water remains a major problem in Punjab in general and Malwa in particular. Water treatment plants remain a far cry in many towns and cities other than those in Patiala, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Bathinda.
BJP wants bigger share in ‘parliamentary pie’
Chandigarh, October 11
Senior BJP leaders who met at Bathinda recently to discuss the strategy for the next parliamentary poll felt that the BJP should demand an additional seat other than the Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur seat on which they had contested last time. This they said would only be based on the strength of the BJP in the 13th Vidhan Sabha. Former Cabinet minister Balramji Dass Tandon, who is also the convenor of the BJP Election Committee, had chaired the meeting.
The SAD is on the other hand still undecided about the candidates it would like to field on various seats, whose constituency profiles have changed drastically after the implementation of the Delimitation Commission recommendations. While the SAD leadership is absolutely certain that they will contest the poll as allies of the BJP, they are in no mood to let go another seat.
In fact, there is a lot of debate within the SAD about the course of action SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal will take in terms of his political future as the Faridkot seat that he represents has become reserved after the implementation of the Delimitation Commission report. He has been nurturing the Bathinda seat as an alternative, but looking at some recent developments and change in his relationship with his cousin and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, he may want the latter to contest from Bathinda and move to Delhi.
While the BJP is adamant about demanding an extra seat, it is in no way prepared to part ways with the SAD if the issue is unresolved. The BJP and SAD have been allies in Punjab politics since 1967 and together contested the parliamentary polls of 1977. The two parties have stuck together during thick and thin ever since.
The BJP has already announced the candidature of Navjot Singh Sidhu and Vinod Khanna for the Amritsar and Gurdaspur seats. The third Hoshiarpur seat contested by the BJP last time has been declared reserved and half of its Assembly segments does not fall under the Anandpur Sahib seat.
The BJP is not very keen to contest on the Hoshiarpur seat, but will prefer the Anandpur Sahib seat along with one more seat, saying that the Punjab Vidhan Sabha has 49 SAD legislators, while the BJP has 19. The parliamentary seats too should be shared in the same ratio. Something that the SAD is unwilling to consider so far.
Farmers’ miseries to end soon: CM
Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, October 11
Badal said on receiving reports that the procurement was getting delayed, he immediately took action and assigned senior officials to ensure that no such problem was faced by farmers.
He said such problems were faced every year during the procurement season. “These will soon be over as everything has been looked into. There will be no delay,” said Badal on sidelines of the sangat darshan here today. He also stated the SAD-BJP government was committed to ensure prompt and hassle-free procurement and make timely payment to farmers.
Taking a dig at the Congress party for calling the sangat darshan a political stunt, Badal said he did not care what his rival party had to say. “I wanted to be among people and I have ensured that. I have listened to people and redressed their grievances. Has the Congress ever rewarded anyone that they will reward me now?” he satired.
Twice during the programme today, he directed R.K. Jaiswal, SSP, Ludhiana, to allow as many people as possible to meet him. He was heard telling him not to care about the security cordon.
“SSP Sahib, let them come inside and narrate their problem. If something has to happen to me it will. You will not be able to stop it,” he told the SSP.
Licences of 2 commission agents suspended
Shri Hargobind Pur (Gurdaspur), October 11
Reddy, who has been appointed observer of Gurdaspur district to supervise paddy procurement operations, along with DC Gurkirat Kirpal Singh and ADC Manasvi Kumar, visited five grain markets today to listen to grievances of farmers and see the procurement operations.
Reddy said the licence of Happy Trading Company, a commission agent of Shri Hargobind Pur, was suspended when it was found that he had been filling more quantity of paddy into gunny bags than the prescribed quantity as per the procurement policy.
He added that similarly the licence of Rama Trading Company, Paniar, was suspended when the commission agent concerned was found filling less or more quantity of paddy than the prescribed quantity into gunny bags. Moreover, the paddy-filled bags were not properly sealed.
He said procurement in Shri Hargobind Pur, Harchowal, Sidhwa, Gurdaspur and Paniar grain markets was going on smoothly.
The field staff had been instructed to lift paddy within 48 hours of its procurement and make payments to farmers concerned within that time.
Reddy also found some officials on procurement duties performing inadequately.He warned them to mend their ways or be ready to be taken to task.
Manasvi Kumar, when contacted, said about 70 per cent of the paddy that had been procured in all purchase centres of Gurdaspur district had been lifted. About 80 per cent of the farmers had been given payments in lieu of their produce, he added.
He said as a few godowns located in this district were still occupied with wheat stock, the lifting of paddy had been slowed down as agencies were finding it difficult to find proper space to store the procured paddy.
He said though it had created a glut-like situation in Shri Hargobind Pur and Paniar grain markets, the situation would ease shortly.
Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, October 11
A quantitative analysis carried out by them has rather attributed it to several other factors, including lack of awareness about the latest farming techniques, illiteracy, overspending on marriages, maintaining expensive lifestyle, improper use of fertilisers and drug addiction.
The study was carried out by Dr S.S. Bawa and Dhanwant Singh of the Lovely School of Education in the rural hinterlands of Mansa, Bathinda and Sangrur, from where the maximum cases of suicide have been reported during the past few years.
Overall 38 households were approached with first-hand experience of the malaise. Expenditure beyond means in social functions, especially marriages, diversion of loan amounts and loss of money in liquor and drugs have made these farmers more vulnerable, often resulting in suicide, the study says.
It also highlights that continuous reliance on chemical fertilisers has rendered the land infertile and to aggravate matters, the wheat-paddy cycle has diminished the groundwater.
Poor farmers bear the brunt of this double trouble in a more pronounced way. Lack of awareness about modern agricultural practices makes matters worse and even if some farmers are aware, lack of resources and poor financial health create a problem for them. Mounting inflation has further added to the woes of such farmers.
The researchers have suggested a four-pronged strategy to combat the menace of suicides among poor farmers.
They have recommended a more pronounced intervention on the part of the state and central governments by doling out subsidies on agricultural inputs, greater inclusion of technology in farming operations, a financial cover against any risk to the farmers’ produce and an adequate and timely compensation in case of a crop failure.
‘FCI owes Rs 1,100 crore to Markfed’
Patiala, October 11
Persistent efforts, however, made the Punjab Markfed to attain a little success to reclaim its big money as it was able to get just about Rs 250 crore of a total of Rs 1,300 crore from the FCI only a couple of days back.
The huge amount outstanding towards the FCI, according to the Punjab Markfed managing director Gurinder Singh Grewal, was owing to the supply of paddy to the FCI by the Markfed for the central pool over the years. “The amount had got accumulated over the years but it was not paid by the FCI. Now, our efforts have led the FCI to pay back over Rs 250 crore to us. The remaining amount is yet to be recovered and efforts are on towards this direction,” said Grewal while talking to The Tribune. Grewal was here to conduct checking of mandis of the district.
Meanwhile, Grewal suspended Markfed inspector Ruldu Ram for allegedly procuring paddy having more than 17 per cent moisture content while the licence of another commission agent Jatinder Kumar of the Sansari Lal firm, was also suspended for the same reason. “We have issued strict instructions to the procurement staff not to purchase paddy having more than 17 per cent of moisture content. We will not allow farmers to suffer shortage of DAP and the Markfed is already armed with supply capacity of 1.35 lakh MT of DAP for the forthcoming wheat sowing season. The cooperative societies will get 1.25 lakh MT of DAP between October 31 and November 10,” said Grewal, who was accompanied by Patiala deputy commissioner Vikas Garg.
Kits to detect dengue cases lying unused
Gurdaspur, October 11
Consequently dengue patients, particularly poor ones, were forced to pay for such tests done at private clinical laboratories.
Mohinder Singh Jassal, senior medical officer (SMO), Civil Hospital, said Elisa kits could not be used for patients as it was not decided whether the patients would be charged for it or not by the Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC).
He claimed that the matter was taken up with the PHSC to know the procedure to be followed in using Elisa kits, but he could not get any directions. He added that 45 kits had been purchased using the funds collected through users’ charges.
He claimed that so far no doctor of the Civil Hospital had prescribed Elisa test to any patient. Rajesh Lakhanpal, a medical specialist, said he prescribed Elisa test to two patients yesterday, but Elisa kits were not used. Jassal said he was not aware of this as he was not in the hospital yesterday.
Certain patients alleged that owners of clinical laboratories had been influencing the functioning of certain wings of the Civil Hospital. They added that private laboratories owners charged Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 for a test.
Security beefed up at railway stations
Bathinda, October 11
The duty hours of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel have been increased.
According to official sources, the duty hours have been increased from eight to 12 hours. Keeping in mind the shortage of RPF personnel, a demand for 150 Home Guards has been sent to the higher authorities in New Delhi, which is likely to be met by Monday.
RPF sources said that 40 Home Guards would be deployed at Bathinda, Patiala, Rajpura and Sirhind railway stations each, 45 in Ambala, 30 in Chandigarh, 15 in Kalka and 20 at the Saharanpur railway station.
Also, the district police has decided to provide the anti-sabotage team with a dog squad. The Railway police control room at Ambala has asked all railway stations to remain on high alert.
Rs 1 lakh for best govt school principal
Amritsar, October 11
In an endeavour to lift the standard of government schools, the GST has instituted an annual award of Rs 1 lakh to the principal who would produce the best academic results.
Talking to The Tribune here today, H.S. Phulka, a trustee, said teams of the GST would undertake an intensive survey of countryside schools so that a comprehensive report could be sent to the government for streamlining their functioning. After visiting government schools in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and other districts, Phulka said most of the teachers wanted to work, but the prevailing poor infrastructure did not allow them to show results. He, however, said there was a dire need to weed out “black sheep” from government education. He claimed that about 80 per cent students who had got training in the countryside, especially at coaching centres opened in Khadur Sahib, got admission in professional colleges, including medical and engineering colleges. He said the GST would take out an awareness march in Chandigarh in November under the leadership of former vice-chancellor Dr S.S. Johal.
It is noteworthy to mention that with a noble mission to offer good education in the countryside at par with cities, some Delhi-based Punjabis had launched an ambitious project, Gyan Sewa, in at least 100 villages of Punjab.
As part of the pilot project for the first year, two coaching centres had already been set up in villages - one at Talewal village in Sangrur district and the other at Khadur Sahib village in Tarn Taran district. Every weekend, subject experts from Delhi would teach students of classes XI and XII and train local teachers.
Patwant Singh, an eminent journalist, is the founder of the GST, while its trustees include Phulka, Dr G.S. Grewal, Dr Raghbir Singh Basi and Avtar Singh Dhindsa.
Plan to kill Dera chief unearthed
Patiala, October 11
Amarjit Singh of Marori village, who worked as a farm hand, and Bagicha Singh of Ratta Khera, who owned a photo studio at Samana bus stand, had also allegedly obtained two mobile phone connections on fake identity proofs for communication with Bakshish Singh. Bakshish of Nizammiwala village was wanted by the police for more than a year for attempt on the life of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Haryana. He was also said to be the brain behind the formation of the “Bhindranwale Action Committee” in Samana subdivision.
“Since Bagicha had close links with Bakshish and had been following his ideology, he somehow persuaded Amarjit Singh and Gobind Kaur to be part of the plan to eliminate the dera chief. Bagicha asked them to get baptised as dera followers. Subsequently Amarjit had partaken of “Naam Daan”. The objective of their becoming dera followers was to monitor security aspects like frisking, checking and underline the possibility of carrying explosives, arms and ammunition into the dera,” said SSP S.K. Asthana, on whose directions Amarjit and Gobind were nabbed from Samana on Thursday under the supervision of SP (D) Gurmeet Singh Chouhan.
Takht chief frowns on sewa by women
Amritsar, October 11
When Dr Mohinder Kaur Gill, a Sikh scholar, wanted the inclusion of baptised women among Panj Piyare ( Five Beloved Ones), Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Gurbachan Singh chided her for raising such sensitive issues publicly. He, however, said such matters should have been taken up by the sub-committee of SGPC representatives, Akal Takht, Sikh intellectuals and baptised women.
Rajinder Singh Mehta, member, executive committee, SGPC, at the function said women could not be allowed to participate in Panj Piyare or perform kirtan/seva due to a variety of reasons. He said the Almighty had differentiated man from woman at the time of birth, hence nobody should raise such a demand.
Dr Mohinder Kaur, contradicting her own point, said the SGPC had given certain administrative reasons for disallowing women to clean the sanctum sanctorum or carry Guru Granth Sahib in a palanquin, but there was no valid reason to deny them a chance to perform kirtan.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, after taking over as SGPC chief in 1999, had announced to treat baptised women on a par with men for discharging religious duties in the Golden Temple. Earlier, then acting Jathedar, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh had taken a jatha of baptised women to perform seva in the sanctum sanctorum, along with wife of Harbhajan Singh Yogi. Later, notwithstanding her announcement on February 3, 2003, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, a former general secretary, SGPC, could not arrange kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum.
Gender discrimination in the Golden Temple was highlighted at the international level on February 15, 2003, when two England-based Sikh women were allegedly assaulted by SGPC sevadars during ‘sukhasan’ (carrying Guru Granth Sahib in palanquin) in the Golden Temple .
Earlier, at the seminar Dr Upinderjit Kaur, education minister, said to preserve moral and ethical values in society, women should have to do introspection to awaken society ethically, morally and artistically by eradicating social evils.
Women and organisations, including GND University, Punjabi University, SGPC, Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Chandigarh, and Naad Pargaas Sri Amritsar participated in the seminar. The minister congratulated Dr Jasbir Kaur, president, and said such seminars would help form an ideal society.
7 hurt in firing incident
Tarn Taran, October 11 A case has been registered. Tejinderpal Singh,
SHO, Sarhali, said here today that the accused had been identified as Tarsem Singh, Harchand Singh, Sukhwinder Singh, Jagir Singh, Gurmit Singh Virsa Singh and Sabba of the same village. No accused had been arrested yet.
Tarn Taran, October 11
A case has been registered. Tejinderpal Singh, SHO, Sarhali, said here today that the accused had been identified as Tarsem Singh, Harchand Singh, Sukhwinder Singh, Jagir Singh, Gurmit Singh Virsa Singh and Sabba of the same village.
No accused had been arrested yet.
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 11
The plaintiff stated that in 1998 he was working as public relations officer with the Punjab government. He said Parkash Singh Badal was the Chief Minister at that time.
Chowhan maintained that he was asked by the then Chief Minister to undertake publicity campaign of his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who was contesting the parliamentary elections from Faridkot constituency held during February 1998.
He stated that he had spent Rs 1,50,458 for publicity during the elections. He mentioned in the affidavit that Thakur tours had raised a bill of Rs 19,058 on the taxi out of which Rs 4,597 was spent on petrol. Thus, the respondents still owe Rs 14,461 to the tours and travels.
To ensure proper publicity of Sukhbir Singh Badal, the plaintiff had spent Rs 10,000 on coverage on Doordarshan Delhi, Jalandhar and a few private channels.
To ensure affective publicity, the plaintiff claimed that he put the publicity campaign on radio and spent Rs 15,400.
Even the plaintiff hired a Patiala-based photographer and spent Rs 60,000 for the entire election campaign. He further added that during the campaign in the Adampur byelections held on November 23, 1998, the plaintiff had arranged Punjabi singers for election rally from his own pocket. The case is now adjourned to January 19, 2009.
Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, October 11
Mohit had arranged the taxi for diamond trader Bhupesh Shah after meeting him on October 9. He alongwith the taxi driver and four other unidentified persons had planned the entire crime.
Mohit, however, was not a part of group when the robbery took place. Shah was on a visit to Ludhiana since October 6 and was meeting traders there. He had also met Mohit as he used to deal with him.
Sources said the five accomplices of Mohit, who committed the crime, are still on the run. Further investigations are on.
Shah was waylaid on the night of October 9 at Bikhapur village, near Phillaur, while he was on his way to Amritsar. The driver stopped the taxi at a secluded place and called his accomplice, who was waiting for him. The accused stabbed the victim on his hands and legs and snatched the bag containing diamonds, a mobile phone and cash from him. Shah was spotted unconscious by commuters, who later informed the police.