P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Rail Roko
Farmers resent preventive arrests
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
Police raids on houses and hideouts of leaders of various unions and organisations of farmers have evoked criticism from various kisan unions, who have alleged that the state was resorting to strong tactics to stifle the democratic rights of farmers.

Call off stir, appeals CM

Chandigarh, November 13
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has appealed to the leaders of several kisan unions of Punjab to call off their purposed rail roko agitation scheduled from today.

In a statement, Badal said the agitation would hurt only commuters, who were in no way responsible for the anti-farmer policies of the Centre. He added he would willingly lead a delegation of farmers’ representatives to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh any time it was required.—TNS

Seven farmer organisations have given a call for “rail roko” on November 14 to highlight their demands, including remunerative price for their produce as well as schemes to free farmers from their mounting debts.

“Though our organisation is not among those who have given a call for rail roko, the police has been conducting raids on the houses and other hideouts of our tehsil and district-level leaders,” alleges Sukhdev Singh Kokri, a farm union leader.

Talking to The Tribune over the phone, he said the police had conducted raids on the houses of Kirti Kisan Union in Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Amritsar, Mansa, Moga, Barnala, Ludhiana and some other places.

Our initial reports said at least 10 of our district-level leaders have already been arrested in Mansa, Barnala and Ludhiana, alleges Kokri.

“The government was resorting to unlawful and undemocratic measures to crush the farmers. Though we are not part of the agitation, we support all genuine demands of the seven farmer organisations, that have given the call for rail roko at Mansa and Khanna on November 14,” he added.

Because of the police raids, many farmers have gone underground. This action of the police was not only putting undue pressure on farmers but was also affecting the procurement of paddy. Many farmers had to abandon harvesting and transportation of their produce to grain markets for fear of police action.

The police action, he warned, would be counter productive as it would also hit the sowing of wheat, which had been delayed because of unavailability of the DAP fertiliser and other farm inputs. Even power supply was not adequate. And now when the farmers are on the run, entire farming operations in the state would be hit adversely.

At an emergency meeting of the union, he said, there was unanimous condemnation of the police action and the Punjab government was urged to immediately stop police raids.


Devotees take holy dip at Ram Tirath
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Ram Tirath (Amritsar), November 13
Thousands of devotees from all over the country today thronged the historic and ancient Ram Tirath Mela that concluded today on the occasion of “Kartik Poornima”, which coincided with the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
HOLY WATER: Devotees take dip in the sarovar of Gurdwara Haji Rattan on the occasion of gurpurb in Bathinda on Thursday
HOLY WATER: Devotees take dip in the sarovar of Gurdwara Haji Rattan on the occasion of gurpurb in Bathinda on Thursday. Tribune photo: Malkiat Singh

Devotees had a holy dip in the sarovar. The devotees, including Balmikis, Hindus, Sikhs and other communities, sought blessings to own a house by undertaking a holy ritual of “token assembling of loose bricks” during the mela. Hundreds of kiosks had sprung out inside and outside the complex selling sweets, toys and other items of daily needs.

Despite Ram Tirath attracting lakhs of devotees round the year, especially on the occasion of Kartik Purnima, the Punjab government and the ministry of tourism have not cared to notify it as a big tourist destination. According to historical facts, Love and Kush, the two sons of lord Ram, were born here. The government has failed to set up a development board inspite of the repeated assurances to develop it as a big religious centre to attract more tourists and devotees.

It is pertinent to mention here that tension had prevailed in the area as Balmiki organisations wanted to construct a temple in the middle of the sarovar whereas the Mahants, who claim to be descendants of caretakers of the ancient temple for last 500 years, were against any new construction in the area. The Balmikis had also filed three appeals against the stay granted by the courts after the case filed by Mahants.

Even though the district administration had made elaborate arrangement by providing buses for ferrying the devotees from various parts of the city, including the Logharh gate, Chattiwind gate, railway station and interstate bur terminal, hundreds of auto-rickshaws could be seen moving in the area causing traffic jams. The traffic police shifted the entry points away from the holy shrine. The devotees had to walk more than 1.5 km from the main entrance of the shrine to pay obeisance at the holy shrine.


Kaypee reluctant to contest Jalandhar seat
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
Call it the Hans Raj Hans effect or a wish to lead the Punjab Congress effectively in the coming Lok Sabha elections, because PPCC president Mohinder Singh Kaypee is reluctant to contest from the Jalandhar parliamentary seat.

Kaypee is touted as the best bet of the Congress for the Jalandhar (reserved) seat and the recent announcement that Hans Raj Hans would be the SAD candidate from there has given rise to an even more immediate need of fielding a stronger candidate.

Kaypee, whose family has a history of service from the area with his father Darshan Singh Kaypee serving as minister, wants to work towards consolidating the PPCC. When questioned on the issue by The Tribune, he said contesting the seat would limit him to Jalandhar alone whereas he would like to campaign for the party in all 13 seats in the state. He said though it was for the high command to take a final decision in the matter, he would not like to be “bottled” down during a crucial election.

The PPCC president also dispelled speculation that veteran Congress leader and National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman Buta Singh could be the party candidate from Jalandhar. He said during a recent visit to Punjab, the PPCC had offered Buta Singh to contest election from any of the four reserved seats in Punjab, but he declined and was expected to contest elections from Rajasthan.

The PPCC is also not in favour of putting up a celebrity from the seat. “I do not know about any appropriate celebrity who could be a candidate”, said Kaypee. He went on to say that he was in favour of giving precedence to a party worker than any celebrity. This, sources said, meant that senior Congress veterans Choudhary Santokh Singh and Choudhary Jagjit Singh were prominent candidates as Dalit faces of the party from the seat. Sources said Santokh Singh, who had lost from the Phillaur constituency in the Assembly elections, might be a better choice as Jagjit Singh (lost from Kartarpur) was embroiled in a Vigilance case.

The sources said this, however, did not mean that Kaypee would not contest the coming election. They said the high command could direct Kaypee to contest the election in order to give the best possible candidate against Hans as the party already has a full-fledged campaign committee headed by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to manage the election campaign. 



Badal justifies sangat darshan
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Sultanpur Lodhi, November 13
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is not sure whether his son and SAD president Sukhbir Badal will contest the coming Lok Sabha elections or not. This was evident from his answer to a query put forth by The Tribune during his visit to Sultanpur Lodhi today.

Badal said: “It’s his own will whether he wants to contest LS poll or not. Better ask Sukhbir, whether he will field himself as a SAD candidate for the Lok Sabha poll or not.” Sukhbir had won last parliamentary elections from Fardikot.

Meanwhile, to another query about the questions raised by CAT regarding sangat darshan programmes, the Chief Minister justified holding of sangat darshan programmes. Badal said being elected representative of the state, he had full right to hold such programmes.

“Communication of CM with general public is must for speedy service and sangat darshans provide a platform for that.” Earlier, he paid obeisance at Ber Sahib Gurdwara here on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji.


Bir Devinder’s remarks referred to panel
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) on yesterday referred the utterances made by former deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh against Union tourism and culture minister Ambika Sonia to its discliplinary committee.

PPCC chairman Mohinder Singh Kaypee held a meeting to discuss the issue, which was attended by former PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo and others. Following this, the disciplinary committee chairman G.K. Chatrath was asked to look into the case.

Nine Congress leaders, led by Ambika Soni loyalist Jagmohan Singh Kang, had demanded on Tuesday that an action should be taken against the former deputy speaker for making irresponsible statements against Soni.

Kaypee when questioned on the issue yesterday told The Tribune that he had handed over the newspaper cuttings to the committee and now it was up to it to take further action. He said he would also brief senior leader Mohsina Kidwai, who has taken over as general secretary incharge of Punjab affairs after the resignation of Margaret Alva, about the entire issue.

When asked what he felt about the issue, Kaypee said he had talked to Bir Devinder earlier also when the latter had spoken out against Congress leaders from the Majha region. He said even then he felt that the former deputy speaker should not have gone to the media and even now he felt the same.

Kaypee also said there was no question that Ambika Soni belonged to Punjab or not. “She is one of our seniormost leaders and in case she fights the coming parliamentary elections the party will get a huge boost,” he added.

Meanwhile, G.K. Chatrath said he had received all necessary papers and that he would give an appropriate chance to the former deputy speaker to explain his views before making any assessment. Chatrath also made it clear that since Bir Devinder was a member of the All India Congress Committee, the PPCC could only recommend against him to the high command.


Khaira urges EC to take notice of SAD ads
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
Punjab Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira today urged the Election Commission to take notice of “politically motivated propaganda” of the ruling SAD-BJP government, which was bringing out advertisements worth crores to divert the attention of the people from their failures.

Khaira said the advertisements issued by the Water Supply and Sanitation Department were not only misleading, but also criticised the previous Congress government in the following phrase “Congress government left you in tears of despair, we replaced the tears with waters of hope.” He said releasing such an advertisement out of the people’s money showed how frustrated the government was of its own performance.


Floriculture ensures blooming returns
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 13
Floriculture has become a profitable profession in the state with thousands of quintal of flower seed being exported to European, the US and West Asian countries every year. A number of farmers, who believed in paddy-wheat or cotton-wheat rotation till recently, have adopted flower seed crops, which have given them good returns.

Flower seed production for export purposes in 1990s was just to the tune of a few kilograms, but now the seeds are being exported to almost 20 European and US countries. With an increase in their demand, more and more farmers of the sate have been taking up the flower cultivation for seed production.

Experts say more than 200 farmers in the state are growing these crops and earning many times more than what they used to earn from the traditional wheat-paddy crop.

Simran Rang, a young farmer from Rakhra village, near Patiala, whose father serves at the Plant Breeding Department of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) here, said he had been into flower cultivation since 1993. He said farmers were producing flower seeds in all major districts, including Patiala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar. More than 155 varieties of flower seeds were being produced.

“I am owning 30 acres at Rakhra under flower seed production. We have engaged farmers in contract farming on about 1,300 acres. Maximum seed is exported to Holland. West Asian countries have also witnessed a great demand of flower seed in recent times. Low risk is involved as payments by companies in these countries are secured”, said Simran, adding that floriculture increased the fertility and nutrition of soil.


Residents foil possession bid by trust
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 13
Residents and farmers of the area didn’t let the local improvement trust authorities to take the possession of more than 17 acres on the Sangrur-Sunam road here today.

President of the Zamin Bachao Sanghrash Committee Amarjit Singh said the authorities had attempted to take the possession of their lands forcibly on an official holiday and a pious day when the entire world was celebrating the birthday of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.

He said the trust was offering them Rs 500 per square yard as compensation whereas it had sold its own land at a rate of Rs 40,000 per square yard just 112 metres away from their land. He said they would not allow the authorities to take the possession of their land till they receive a court order in this regard.

Executive officer of the trust Jiwan Bansal said they would go there again along with the police.


Providing ideal abode to HIV+ kids
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, November 13
To mark the celebrations of the Children’s Day in a unique way, Vijay Goel, a philanthropist and social activist, here has adopted yet another HIV positive child.

This is the second HIV positive child abandoned by his guardians that Goel has adopted. He adopted a girl when she was 2-year-old. She is now a grown up child of seven years. The one he has adopted now is a male child of 10 years.

Both of them are getting tuition at home as schools are reluctant to admit them due to fear of HIV. The girl, Ninu, was earlier admitted to Police Public School, but later withdrew because of “personal” reasons, Goel says. Because of fear of HIV schools have shown reluctance to admit these children.

Goel says that his ambition is to get Ninu married when she attains the right age. He ensures that she is medically examined after short intervals. On this Diwali, the whole family was in panic when she suddenly fell ill.

Goel says he was initially afraid of putting the proposal of adopting the girl, who belonged to a Harijan family, in front of his mother, who is an orthodox Hindu. However, his mother did not object to this.

Ninu’s parents had died of HIV and she was shifted to an orphanage at Sangrur when Goel decided to adopt her. When Goel recently got an information that a boy, who lost his parents due to HIV, was abandoned by his guardians at Rama Mandi near here, he lost no time to rescue the child and provided him shelter in his home.

Goel’s NGO, Sahara, is engaged in social work and has become a household name.


Dhillon on Ontario board
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
The provincial government of Ontario has appointed Harminder Dhillon, a Mississauga-based criminal and family law lawyer, a member of the Ontario Review Board.

The board is a tribunal that forms an integral part of the judicial system in Ontario, and exercises jurisdiction over individuals found by the courts to be either unfit to stand trial or are not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder. Dhillon, who had been the founder editor of Punjab Pani, a Punjabi newspaper of Toronto, is also a regular participant in radio and TV shows besides being a poet. He is an alumnus of Punjab Engineering College.


Rights panel has maximum cases against Police Dept
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
The police continues to be perceived as public enemy No. 1. The data compiled by the Punjab State Human Rights Commission shows that the maximum number of cases taken up by the commission deal with alleged atrocities committed by the police against the common man.

Out of the over 10,000 complaints registered by the commission till September 30 this year, more than 6,000 pertain to the police.

The fact that the common man has a large number of problems with the police has been evident ever since the inception of the commission in 1997. In the first year, out of the total 90 complaints received, 50 related to the police. Over the years almost 56 per cent of the total of 1.1 lakh complaints registered by the commission have been related to alleged police excesses.

The commission is dealing with over 25,000 cases, where the officer concerned failed to take lawful action. Another 16,000 cases relate to allegations of abuse of power and about 10,000 complaints allege false implication by the police.

More than 2 per cent of the cases relate to jails. The highest number of complaints in this category are of alleged custodial deaths. In 2008, the commission took up over 60 such complaints. Sources in the commission, however, caution that there could be doubling in the compiling of data regarding custodial deaths, as many agencies send complaints which relate to the same incident and these are counted separately.

Despite the overwhelming instances of child abuse and child labour, the commission has very few cases related to these violations. A majority of the complaints received in this category relate to incidents of child marriage and children having gone missing.

Almost 3 per cent of the cases deal with human rights violations against women. Allegations of demand for dowry constitute the largest group in this category. The commission has, this year alone, instituted 200 such cases. There were 26 cases of alleged rape this year.

Over the years, there has been a drop in the number of cases against malfunctioning of health professionals. Starting with a figure of only 10 cases 10 years ago, the commission received over 110 such complaints in 2004. This number, however, dwindled to 60 in 2006, 40 in 2007 and only 20 such cases this year.

However, cases against alleged irregularities in government hospitals and primary health centres has shown a steady increase.

The number of complaints alleging inaction by state and Central government officials has also gone down. It is about a 1,000 this year. In 10 years, six cases have been taken up by the commission where the complainants have alleged a “bias” by the judiciary. However, now there are 70 cases against judicial officers and over 230 cases against quasi-judicial officers.


Regularise our services, say rural docs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
The Rural Medical Services Association has demanded regularisation of their services. In a memorandum submitted to Cabinet minister Tikshan Sood, Dr Aslam Parvez, president of the association, has stated 1,193 doctors were recruited by the government on a contract basis for rural medical facilities under Zila Parishads. “Rural health is not a temporary service, which should be taken care for a few years.

The doctors working in the rural areas can’t do justice to their job until they are provided job security. We are working very hard in the rural areas by increasing the number of OPDs and are implementing various national health programmes efficiently,” memorandum reads.

The association has also demanded that the government should not go ahead with the process of regular recruitment of doctors, ignoring the rural doctors who have been serving for the past two and a half years. The government should regularise the services of contractual doctors first as had been done in Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.


Industrial Policy
‘IT to be thrust area in Punjab’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
The Information Technology (IT) sector has been listed as one of the major thrust areas in Punjab’s new industrial policy. The Industrial Policy 2009 would replace the Industrial Policy 2003 and would be ready by January next year.

Stating this during a press conference held here last evening, minister for industries and commerce Manoranjan Kalia said the aim was to revive the IT sector in Punjab and offer the state as one of the top IT destinations in the world.

Kalia said the road map for encouraging the IT sector in Punjab, other than attracting big national and international IT companies, would be giving a major push to the small and medium entrepreneurs in the IT sector.

Kalia, along with secretary, industries, S.S. Channy and MD Punjab Infotech, R.K. Verma, was interacting with the press. Kalia had returned from a 3-day delegation visit to IT clusters in Hyderabad and Bangalore.

He said the delegation interacted with industry leaders such as Infosys, Wipro and Satyam and also witnessed world class IT infrastructure. “We are leaving no stone unturned in creating a better investment climate for IT investors in the state. We are addressing the land issue by proposing two government-backed IT/ITeS SEZs in Kapurthala and Ropar,” he said.

Channy said the delegation also participated in the TiE conference at Delhi and hosted a meeting with over 20 companies which included Infosys, TCS, Wipro, Cognizant, Perot Systems, IBM-Daksh and Convergys, among others. NASSCOM president Som Mittal was also present on the occasion.

“A detailed action plan has been made and shall be implemented through task forces and 90-day action plan,” said Verma.

In a separate function, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had yesterday announced that the new industrial policy would be notified by January 1, 2009, to ensure level playing field to all investors and entrepreneurs.

Badal said it was being formulated with the recommendations of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), under the guidance of lead consultant Isher Judge Ahluwalia. A new industrial focal point was being developed on about 200 acre of land on Kapurthala-Subhanpur road, said the Chief Minister.


Coop Dept inks MoUs with MNCs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
Agricultural cooperative societies in Punjab will sell goods of multinationals at special discounts as part of a retail project aimed at making them financially independent as well as generating employment opportunities.

Disclosing this after signing MoUs with Philips, Dixon Electronics and Escorts at a function here yesterday, cooperation minister Kanwaljit Singh said the companies had agreed to offer their goods at discounts ranging from 25 to 30 per cent. 

The minister said the companies expected to gain from the 50 lakh captive market of cooperative societies in the state. The societies themselves would gain because all three companies had agreed to give a commission of 3.5 per cent to them. 

The societies will not stock any of the goods but will only act as facilitators. “We do not want to create stock piles due to lack of experience of retailing as of now, but could keep selected items for sale at a later stage keeping in view the demand for the same”, Capt Kanwaljit added.

The Cooperation Department is also working towards digitising all societies, giving them electronic milk testers as well as completing their buildings.

The minister said it had been decided societies would keep tractors and farming equipment that would be leased out for custom hiring. Besides, cooperative banks would initiate debt swapping under which members could return money taken from private banks and take loans with reduced interest rates. 

It had also been decided to streamline the functioning of the primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS) besides other cooperative societies at the village level through decentralisation of powers. 

A committee under the additional registrar had been formed to make recommendations on steps to be taken for expeditious disposal of cases, said the minister.


Punjab State Electricity Board
HC: Board responsible for power-related accidents
Grants Rs 11 lakh compensation to electrocution victim
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
Lajja Ram’s electrocution has not only led to compensation of over Rs 11 lakh to his legal heirs, but also in laying down of an extraordinary law for times to come. It now transpires that the responsibility of preventing power-supply related accidents vests with the electricity board.

Taking up the petition filed by the wife of the Mohali district resident, who lost his life after the bike he was riding entangled with a live wire, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held: It is expected of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to do whatever is required to be done to avoid an accident, irrespective of the mandate of the statute.

Coming down heavily on the Board, the Bench, comprising Justice S.K. Mittal and Justice Augustine George Masih, has elaborated: The board, being a statutory authority under the Electricity Act, 1910, read with the Electricity Supply Act, 1948, has the sole authority and duty to transmit electricity and regulate its supply.

“It has its own officials to install and maintain its transmission and supply equipment and systems…. Its negligence, whether attributable to some action or inaction on the part of its employees or its policies, cannot be equated with the negligence of an individual or a situational negligence. There is, thus, a presumption of negligence, when an accident of this nature occurs”.

Milk vendor Lajja Ram was returning to his village on May 4, 2007, when the bike came in contact with 11 KV electricity wire lying across the road. His counsel J.S. Cooner contended the victim sustained serious burn injuries and his body was removed after disconnecting the line.

As the matter came up, Punjab took the stand that the board was solely responsible for supply and maintenance. The board, on the other hand, insisted there was no negligence on its part.

After hearing the rival contentions, Justice Masih for the Bench observed: “The board is required to take into consideration all contingencies, which may arise due to natural or other reasons. Therefore, protective measures are required to be taken so no harm is caused to anyone.

“Had there been dense guarding under the high tension wire, it would not have fallen on the road, resulting in the death of Lajja Ram…. The innocent lives of the dependents have been ruined because of the negligence and carelessness on the part of the board. It cannot, therefore, run away from the responsibility and liability for its negligence.

“The minimum caution required for the board to take is missing. It is settled principle of law that where loss is caused due to negligence or inaction on the part of the authority, which is fully responsible to take care and caution, they cannot shirk responsibility”.


NRI Children
Notice to paternal grandparents
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 13
Taking up a petition by UK-based Paramjeet Kaur Toor for the production, release and return of her minor children Arman Preet Singh and Sazel Preet Kaur, the high court has issued notice of motion to the paternal grandparents.

Directions have also been issued for the production of the children in the courtroom.

In her petition through counsel Anil Malhotra, she had claimed both the children were British citizens by birth and had been detained in contravention of the British Court orders of the high court of London by paternal grandparents in Alowal village in Hoshiarpur district.

She had also sought directions for entrusting the custody of the children to their natural mother to enable their return to England — the country of their habitual residence. 


Canadian police quizzes Kanishka witness
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, November 13
A five- member team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) today visited the area to question a few potential witnesses of the infamous bombing case of Kanishka aircraft in 1985.

The team of the RCMP reportedly quizzed one of the acquaintances of Balwant Singh, alleged kingpin of the gang, identified as Naudh Singh of Rachhin village, for more than two hours in a closed room today afternoon.

Investigations by the police revealed that Naudh Singh had provided valuable information to the investigating team and probably he would be called to witness-box during prosecution process.

Naudh Singhonce used to teach as a science teacher at Harkrishan Public School Jalwana in Sangrur district, which has reportedly been funded by Balwant Singh.

Sources said the team focused its attention on gathering information about religious and educational organisations that had been receiving financial aid from him. The RCMP believes that Balwant Singh and some other members of staff of the said school could provide information about Balwant’s illegal activities. 


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