P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


LS Polls
Declare Punjab sensitive: Amarinder to EC
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 9
Former Chief Minister and chairman of the Campaign Committee of the state unit of the Congress, Capt Amarinder Singh has asked the Election Commission (EC) to declare Punjab “sensitive state” for the Lok Sabha elections keeping in view large-scale violence in the recently held panchayat and local body elections. He was addressing reporters before a public meeting here today.

He said during those elections 7,000 Congress workers were framed by the police and 48 Congress workers had died in the violence, which was enough evidence for the EC to declare Punjab “sensitive state”. He alleged that violence was patronised by the Shiromani Akali Dal.

He said his party would soonmeet the chief election commissioner and provide him with facts and figures of the incidents of violence. “We want the EC should deploy Central forces in the entire state for fair and free elections,” he said. Stating that there was no rule of law in the state and the Badal family was using the official machinery, particularly the police for political ends.

To a question, he said the Congress had not entered into any poll alliance with Balwant Singh Ramoowalia or his Lok Bhalai Party for the LS elections. He said his party could consider to accommodate him provided he merged his party with the Congress.

The Congress leader claimed that the Congress was yet to decide the names of candidates for the LS elections. The state unit his party was yet to send the names of probable candidates to the party high command and no list had so far been made or finalised in this regard, he clarified .

He said this time there was enough time for the Congress to go to people and expose the Akalis, particularly the Badal family, who were playing with the sentiments of rural people for vested interests.

During the rally 11 MLAs of his party were with him. They were Avtar Singh Brar, Jeet Mohinder Singh, Joginder Pal Jain, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Darshan Singh Brar, Ajit Singh Shant, Ripjit Singh Brar, Makhan Singh Pakka Kalan, Joginder Singh Panjgrain, Gurdeep Singh Bhaini and Har Mohinder Singh.

Working president of the state unit of the party Mohinder Singh Kaypee, leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and member of the Central Working Committee of the party Jagmeet Singh Brar were not present in the rally. 


Capt gets Malwa’s support
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 9
Overwhelming response of Congress activists to Capt Amarinder Singh’s two-day whistle-stop tour of the Malwa belt of Punjab is bound to rattle his detractors who made futile attempts to “derail” his mass contact programme.

The public and workers meetings of Amarinder in the Sangrur, Bathinda, Faridkot and Ferozepur Lok Sabha constituencies were largely attended and participants were responsive to what he said.

Despite efforts of CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to sideline Amarinder, his popularity can be gauged from the fact that out of 24 Congress MLAs of the Malwa belt, at least 16 accompanied him for the programme. Besides, two party MLAs from Ludhiana district also reached Faridkot today to express solidarity with him.

The first two days of his five-day tour were devoted to the Malwa belt where the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was badly defeated in the Assembly elections last year. Hereafter, he will touch the Lok Sabha constituencies of the Majha and Doaba regions in the next three days.

The Amarinder group received a shot in the arm when a Bhattal loyalist MLA Darshan Singh Brar, turned up at his workers meeting in Faridkot. Ajit Singh, an independent MLA of Nihal Singhwala, was also there. All three sitting MLAs of the Congress in Faridkot district backed Amarinder by being present at the meeting. Except Harminder Singh Jassi, a Bhattal loyalist, all four other MLAs of Bathinda district were with him.

Besides the main meetings, Amarinder Singh’s supporters accorded him warm welcome at several places en route.

He, however, regretted the absence of PPCC president Mohinder Singh Kaypee and CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal from the meetings. They should have participated in the programme aimed at strengthening the hands of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he added.


Amarinder’s campaign too early: Bhattal
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 9
The war of words in the PPCC continues with Leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Rajinder Kaur Bhattal hitting out at former Chief Minister and chairman of the Campaign Committee Amarinder Singh for ploughing a lone furrow rather than following the party’s programme on holding rallies in the state.

What else would explain the purported show of strength at Sangrur yesterday where the former CM virtually projected Arvind Khanna, who has been named in the report of the Volker’s Committee on the oil-for-food scam, as the party nominee for the Lok Sabha elections from Sangrur, Bhattal told reporters here today.

She quipped, “If the rally was meant to highlight the atrocities on Congress workers in the state, it was too late. And if it was to launch the party’s campaign for the parliamentary polls, it was too early”.

Where was the need for such shows when the high command had summoned state leaders yesterday and instructed them to launch a massive campaign in Jammu, which had a sizeable Punjabi population, she said.

PPCC chief Mohinder Singh Kaypee will today open an election office and all leaders will go to the neighbouring state for campaigning.

The party will only start canvassing in Punjab after the Assembly elections in the neighbouring state are over. “We will launch the second phase of our mass contact programme before officially launching the poll campaign for the parliamentary polls,” she added.


Muslims pray for peace
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, December 9
Muslims participated in the Namaaz-e-Id held at the Idgah here today and celebrated Id-ul-Zuha. Hindus and Sikhs also greeted their Muslim brethren. Muslims prayed for peace, unity and integrity of the country.

MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa reached the Idgah to wish Muslims General council member, SAD, Nadeem Anwar Khan, ex-ministers Nusrat Ikram Khan Bagga and Ch Abdul Gaffar, DSP Gurpreet Singh Sikand and SDM Jaspal Singh Jassi were also present. Muslims at Bhaini Kamboa, Mandiala, Madevi, Amargah and Naudhrani villages also celebrated Id.


Mumbai attacks cast shadow on Indo-Pak trade
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 9
Jittery pangs were noticed among the traditional Indo-Pak traders due to hesitancy to continue trade in the aftermath of Mumbai terror strikes in which 200 innocent lives were lost.

The Id festival had given a much-needed buoyancy to trade with tomato and potato-laden trucks crossing the Radcliff Line daily to meet the growing demand of vegetables to meet the festival consumption. During the Id festivities, the perishable cargo business had gone up more than three times and there was a hope that the trade would bounce to a larger quantum and Pakistanis were keen to add more non-tariff items bolster their trade.

A leading Indian businessman, who recently returned from Pakistan, said uncertainty had gripped the trade as India had put on hold all trade and commercial dialogues with Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai killings.

He stated that before the attack India and Pakistan were keen to develop business, especially from the land route of Attari-Wagah joint check post, but the present situation had acted as a damper.

The member of the Amritsar Exporter Chamber of Commerce representing the Indo-Pak trade said though relations between the two countries were under tremendous strain in view of the Mumbai fallout, the present bilateral trade was showing a sign of increase and economics should prevail over the political situation.

Meanwhile, the Customs has also geared up to hasten the clearance of daily trucks from the check post to meet the demand from across the border.

An Amritsar-based leading exporter foresees a slowdown in the trade in the coming months as panic has set in among the traders from the across the border. They believe that India may tighten the trade noose to send a strong message for taking action against the extremist forces there.



SAD to contest LS poll in Haryana, Rajasthan
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
Emboldened by the fight given to the Congress in Delhi, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has announced to contest the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan on its party symbol. It has also decided to contest municipal elections in Delhi on its symbol.

“Scrutiny of election results shows that the SAD may have lost the poll, but it has done exceptionally well (in getting votes) and given a good fight to the Congress on the four seats that have always gone the Congress way and had its sitting ministers in the fray,” SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said .

On poll results, Sukhbir said, “These seats were given to the SAD to contest only days before the poll. In these four constituencies Punjabi population is outnumbered by Bengali, Gujarati and Tamil voters, but we made a dent in the Congress vote bank in just 22 days. Our fight was against heavyweights backed by the Congress which has over 100 years of experience in the Capital’s politics. Therefore, it will be unfair to say we did not do well”.

Sukhbir said it would be too simplistic to look at the “victory” or “defeat” of the party.

To get a real picture one has to see that in Jangpura (Manjinder Singh Sirsa) seat has 1,09,633 votes with only 9336 Punjabi votes. Here the SAD polled 23,310 (35.66 per cent). In Rajouri Gardens (Avtar Singh Hit) out of 1,37, 818 votes the SAD polled 31,084 (37.53 per cent) votes and lost by only 46 votes.

Similarly, in Adarsh Nagar (Ravinder Singh) out of 1,47, 159 votes, the SAD polled 31,933 (39.29 per cent) and lost by 4512, whereas in Shahdra (Jitender Singh Shunty) out of 1,61,130 the SAD polled 37, 658 votes (43.13 per cent) and lost by mere 1,536 votes, given the fact a large number of voters in these constituencies are non-Punjabis. On all the four seats the SAD candidates lost to the Congress and were placed second.

The party has become a force to reckon with under the leadership of Badal Junior after the first-ever election contested outside Punjab by the party established in 1920, Sukhbir said the party would contest most elections in the future on its symbol.

The party president said, “The party had reviewed its poll performance and keeping in view the high voting percentage in favour of the SAD, both cadres and the leadership had suggested that the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April/ May next year should be fought on the party symbol (scales) in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. This suggestion has been accepted and the cadres, after the Delhi poll have asked to start preparations for it. This will also apply to the next municipal elections in Delhi”.


SAD-BJP rout in Delhi
Badal, son should quit: Sarna
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 9
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal should quit leadership of Sikhs following defeat of the SAD- BJP alliance in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections, said Paramjit Singh Sarna, president of the Delhi Akali Dal.

Talking to The Tribune today on the defeat of all four SAD candidates in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections, Sarna said Sikhs this time overwhelmingly voted for the Congress and worked to defeat the SAD-BJP combine in the Delhi elections. He said Sikhs, by and large, in Delhi did not trust the BJP and considered it as an anti-Sikh party. So they voted against the SAD-BJP alliance in Delhi, he said.

Most of the Sikhs were allergic to the SAD’s alliance with the BJP, he added. All Sikh candidates, who contested against the candidates of the SAD-BJP combine in Delhi, won with a huge margin of votes, he said. The SAD leaders from Punjab had come to Delhi with 10,000 supporters and bags full of money, but they failed to make any impact on the Delhi elections, he added.

“We supported the Congress because its leadership had promised to meet our five demands before the beginning of the Assembly elections in Delhi,” asserted Sarna. Among these five demands were removing of the black list of Sikhs, converting of the death sentence of Prof Devinderpal Singh to life sentence, enacting of the Anand Marriage Act, Indian citizenship for Sikhs and Hindus ousted from Afghanistan and now settled in Delhi and restoration of the land belonging to Majnu-ka-Tilla gurdwara.

“Unlike the SAD, my party did not ask for any seat from the Congress, but pressed for accepting our demands,” said Sarna. “As the Congress has come to power in Delhi, I will not press it to fulfill the promise made with the Delhi Akali Dal,” said Sarna, adding; “I am certain the SAD-BJP combine would lose the Lok Sabha elections in the same way it lost in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha,” he said. “We will camp in Punjab to defeat the SAD-BJP combine.”


Tainted Officers
Police Act not applicable to vigilance: AG
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
The Punjab government today made clear its stand that the mandate of the Punjab Police Act, against the continuation of tainted police officers on plum postings, was not applicable to the state vigilance department.

With this, the state has asserted in no uncertain terms that it finds nothing wrong with the continuation of IPS officer Sumedh Singh Saini as the director, Vigilance.

As the public interest litigation (PIL) against the posting of tainted police officers on key positions came up for hearing before the Division Bench headed by Justice J.S. Khehar, Punjab advocate-general Hardev Singh Mattewal said the vigilance department was under the state chief secretary and not governed by the 2007 Act.

Mattewal also sought adjournment to file a detailed affidavit of officers facing departmental inquiries, as well as criminal proceedings, but still holding sensitive posts. The affidavit would also disclose the nature of the charges.

Taking on record Mattewal’s request, the Bench granted liberty to the state to formulate and place on record a policy to be uniformly adopted where serious charges, departmental or criminal, are pending.

Taking a serious view of the continuation of tainted police officers on plum postings in alleged violation of the Police Act, 2007, another Bench headed by Justice Mehtab Singh Gill had earlier ruled propriety demanded their removal or transfer.

An officer not below the rank of an Additional Director-General of Police was asked to clarify the state’s stand in the matter.

The ruling had come on a petition filed by Punjab’s Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Rajinder Singh. In fact, what started as a promotion matter turned out to be a major headache for the government, and the tainted cops, right from station house officers (SHO) to directors-general of police (DGP).

Section 15 of the Punjab Police Act, 2007, pertains to the term of office of key police functionaries. The Section says officers posted as IGP of a zone, DIG of a range, SSP, SP, ASP, DSP and SHO of a police station in a district shall have a minimum assured tenure of one year, against posts extendable to maximum period of three years.

The officer may be removed or transferred by the competent authority from his post before the tenure’s expiry, if he is, among other factors, “convicted, or against whom charges have been framed by a court of law”.


Inside Babudom
Encroachments in District Admn Complex 
PCS officers threaten to go on leave
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
Perturbed by turn of events in Amritsar last week, the Punjab PCS Officers Association has decided to serve a ultimatum on the state government: take an affirmative action by December 15 or all PCS officers will go on mass casual leave.

Interestingly 80 PCS officers who assembled in Amritsar for a general house meeting were unanimous that ugly incidents in the holy city since the beginning of this month showed that there was a complete breakdown of rule of law in the state.

The unfortunate incidents that followed forcible removal of encroachments from the district administrative complex could neither be classified as lawyers vs employees nor a clash between encroachers and enforcement staff. Instead, they felt, it was an incident that sadly saw the state authority being challenged and ridiculed.

Talking to The Tribune over the telephone, president of the association P.S. Shergill said participating PCS officers expressed solidarity with organisations of employees who took an appreciable stand in defending the right of the state to defend the rule of law.

The PCS officers, a resolution adopted at the meeting said, also deplored inaction on part of the authority that allowed a breakdown of the rule of law.

“No PCS officer would carry out any enforcement duty till a conducive work atmosphere has been created,” said Shergill maintaining that these were the PCS officers who were working as a buffer between people at large and higher echelons of the state bureaucracy and political masters.

“We are still hopeful that affirmative action will be taken by the government to restore the rule of law failing which all PCS officers will proceed on one day’s casual leave on December 15.

The general house of the PCS Association will meet again on December 15 to review the situation and decide future line of action,” adds Shergill.

The PCS officers have also appealed to all associations and unions of employees of various departments, revenue staff and others to join the common cause struggle for restoration of the rule of law, which is the essence of democracy, and support the stand taken by their association.

The association later presented a copy of its resolutions to deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu for transmission to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh.


Agri Loan
Over Rs 20,196 cr outstanding: Punjab
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
Punjab today claimed that the outstanding agriculture loan in the state was running into over Rs 20,000 crore.

In a reply filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, joint secretary in agriculture department Gurwaryam Singh said agriculture loan worth Rs 20,196.67 crore was outstanding against 15,66,202 farmers in the state as on December 31 last year.

The officer also made it clear that the state was serious on the issue of tackling the matter of farmers’ suicide. The cooperative banks had exceeded the target while disbursing loans to the farmers to prevent suicides. The banks had advanced Rs 1927.77 crore of agriculture loan against a target of Rs 737.10 crore, during the current year.

Quoting fresh figures, he said agriculture loan of Rs 8110.95 crore was advanced by the corporative banks in the state in 2007-08. In the current year, a target of Rs 7370.10 crore had been set up.

It was added that the state, “in order to meet the requirement of the farmers with respect to the raising of crop loan through cooperative banks, had issued 8,43,997 kissan credit cards, sanctioning a limit of Rs 4829.07 crore”. The loan was advanced at the rate of seven per cent to the farmers.

A revolving cash credit of Rs 1927.77 crore was sanctioned to 1, 45,226 farmers up to March 31 for meeting their socio-economic requirements and save them from the traditional money lenders.

Besides this, the banks were also providing “non-farm” sector loans for generation of employment opportunities.

The officer claimed that the government had launched numerous schemes for the welfare of the small and marginal farmers. Elaborating, he said farmers were being given fertilisers on subsidy, along with free electricity.

On a public interest litigation for directions to the Union of India, the State of Punjab and others to compensate and rehabilitate the families of farmers who had committed suicide, a Division Bench of the High Court had earlier issued a notice of motion.

In the petition, movement against State Repression, through convener Inderjit Singh, had asked for framing a comprehensive policy. 


Flu scare brings down poultry prices
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
The avian flu scare has once again led to crash in prices of all poultry products. Ever since the avian flu outbreak in Assam, the prices of broiler, chicken and eggs have gone down by 20-50 per cent.

Interestingly, the demand for the poultry products has not come down. But there is a glut of these products in the market. As news spread through the region, the poultry traders, who had started hoarding eggs in huge quantities in anticipation of the prices touching Rs 300 per 100 eggs, began clearing their inventories. This has led to a crash in prices. Broiler, which was selling at Rs 85 a kg last month, is now available for Rs 38 per kg. Egg prices have crashed from Rs 250 per 100 eggs to Rs 200 now, while retail chicken price has come down from Rs 130 per kg to Rs 70-80 per kg.

G.S. Bedi, president of Amritsar Poultry Farmers Association, said though they were expecting a very good business this year, the avian flu scare had once again dashed all their hopes. “As it is the poultry industry was hit by the spiralling prices of poultry feed. It is only during the past two months that we managed to do a good business. But things are again heading for the worst,” he said.

Poultry farmers say the highest ever price of poultry feed and the growing debt on poultry farmers in the region have forced the closure of several poultry units across Punjab. Several poultry farmers in Amritsar, Sangrur and Ludhiana have already closed operations.

Surjit Singh, chairman of North Zone Broiler Breeders Association, said though there was no scare of bird flu here, the fear psychosis was hitting the business.

“Though no avian flu case has ever been reported here, its outbreak in other parts of the country decreases the demand and hits our business,” he said. 


Sikh council celebrates Badal’s birthday
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 9
The Sikh Intellectual Council has begun the celebrations over completion of 82 years of age by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal by organising “path” at Gurdwara Hansali Sahib on the Patiala-Sirhind road.

The celebrations started with recitation of “kirtan” by the “Ragi Jatha” of the Golden Temple, led by Bhai Sajjan Singh Gandharava.

Council president Baldev Singh Balluana and a number of other leaders prayed for the well-being of the CM. “The celebrations will carry on for seven days,” said Balluana.


NRI play on misuse of sanctity of marriage
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 9
The society nowadays is witnessing western influence on youth, who are misusing the pious alliance of marriage to go abroad. “Rishtey”, a play shedding light on the social evil, is probably the first NRI production that is being staged across the state. The cast and crew of the play, including the writer and the director, are NRIs from British Columbia, Canada. The 11-day tour ends on December 16.

Penned by Anmol Kaur and directed by Gurdeep Bhullar, “Rishtey” takes an insightful look into the “corruption and pollution of the family institution” and shows illegal means being used to forge alliances, manipulation of papers to go abroad. “People there are stunned at the widespread impact of the corrupt social development on the institution of traditional values. We are shocked,” said Bhullar, adding, “The sanctity of relations is being polluted in the entire exercise of tying a knot and flying abroad. Families are being distorted”.

The play, already staged at Amritsar and Jalandhar, will now be performed on December 10 at Punjab Agricultural University here, on December 12 at Tagore Theatre, Chandigarh, as part of the ongoing theatre festival, on December 14 at Punjab Education Board (Mohali), Kala Bhavan, Chandigarh, and on December 16 at Punjabi University, Patiala.

Bhullar said: “The fragmentation of social structure is slowly but definitely assuming a frightening face.”

A majority of the cast and crew is engaged in jobs in Canada. “We are not any professional theatre group and not financed by any institution or being sponsored by any business house. A big chunk of the travel expenditure also comes out of our own pockets. Our theatre is an ensemble of like-minded people. We are concerned with the changing value system threatening our identity,” the group said.

The Gurdeep Arts Academy was started in 1998 with a view to keep Indians aware about the Western influence creeping into Indian society and corroding its originality.

“Our glorious past carries immense strength in shaping our future. We need to maintain our originality even while rubbing shoulders with the developments in modern day world,” Gurdeep said. The academy also made “Kammo,” a telefilm on female foeticide in 1998, and “Tilkan” on AIDS.


High Court
Stay vacated
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 9
Justice Ashutosh Mohunta and Justice Rajan Gupta vacated the stay on the termination of some of the Punjabi teachers recruited for state-run schools in 2006.

The main writ petition of Inderjit Singh and others is to be heard on January 20, 2009.

The state government had recruited about 450 Punjabi teachers in 2006 and the notice for termination of service had been given to over a hundred odd 
teachers due to availability of regular recruits for 
these posts.


Man gets life term for throwing acid on sisters
Chander Parkash/Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 9
Additional Session Judge (fast track court), Gurdaspur, today sentenced a man to life imprisonment for throwing acid on two sisters in October 2004. One of the girls had died in the attack.

The judge also held Narinder Singh guilty of attempt to murder the other sister. He was sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. In both cases, the judicial officer also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the convict.

According to the information, two sisters Kuljit and Mandip were seriously injured when the accused threw acid on them when the victims were going in a rickshaw in Batala town. Narinder Singh had attacked the sisters after Kuljit had rejected his marriage proposal.

As the victims had suffered more than 40 per cent burns and their faces were disfigured in the attack, they were immediately rushed to a nearby hospital. A case under Section 307, IPC, was registered against the accused and he was subsequently arrested. Kuljit and Mandip had deposed against the accused before the police. Later, Kuljit died due to burn injuries and Section 302, IPC, was added to the FIR.

Harinder Singh Bajwa, additional public prosecutor, Gurdaspur, said after listening to the arguments put forward by the prosecution and defence, the Additional Session Judge held Narinder Singh guilty. The two sentences would run concurrently. 


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