P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Central nod to food park
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
Manoranjan Kalia, minister of industries and commerce said the Centre would give Punjab a grant of Rs 50 crore for setting up of the project and this mega food park would be set up under the mega food park scheme of the ministry of food processing and industries by Unity Infrastructure limited, Jalandhar.

The food park would be set up with at a total cost of Rs 360 crore near Jalandhar. He said this would give a boost to the food processing industry in the state as excellent infrastructure for food processing industry along the value chain from the farm to the market will be provided in this mega food park.

V.K. Janjua, secretary and director, industries and commerce said a total of 10 mega food parks 
have been sanctioned by the Centre, out of which one has been given to Punjab.

The food-processing units under the scheme would be located at a Central Processing Centre (CPC) with a common infrastructure required for processing, packaging, quality-control labs, trade facilitation centres etc. Between 50 and 100 acres of land would be required for establishing the CPC. The food-processing park will have around 30 to 35 food processing units, with a collective investment of Rs 250 crore, that would eventually lead to annual turnover of about Rs 450 to 500 crore and will create direct and indirect employment for about 30,000 persons. 


Amritsar Trust Scam
Chaudhry, Sharma grilled
Varinder Walia and P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 12
Finally, former local bodies minister Chaudhry Jagjit Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma, former chairman of the local Improvement Trust, today joined the investigations in the 32-acre land scam of the New Amritsar Scheme of the trust.

They were grilled by the Vigilance sleuths for about seven hours. Earlier, they had gone underground fearing arrest and following raids by the vigilance Bureau, which has re-opened the case pertaining to the scam.

Talking to The Tribune today, Sharma said he had cleared his position to the sleuths as whatever he had done was done under the directions of the state government.

However, Vigilance sources said both Sharma and Chaudhry were passing the buck to each other. They alleged that their attitude was non-cooperative. Most of the tough questions were put by Chaman Lal Sharma, who belongs to Amritsar.

According to the sources, both were trying to mislead the investigations being conducted by the vigilance team that include Chaman Lal Sharma, P S Khaira and Inderjit Singh Randhawa, all SP rank officers, as they knew that they were on bail and could not be arrested.

The exemption of 32 acres from acquisition by the trust under the New Amritsar Scheme during the previous Congress regime had led to the expulsion of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh from the Vidhan Sabha. Sharma and Chaudhry were said to be confidants of Amarinder.

According to sources, the trust had exempted the land without calling any objections and amended the trust rules under section 42. The sources said the rules were amended to benefit a private developer. 



Bhattal, Dullo factions share dais with Capt
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 12
First phase of the mass-contact tour of chairman of Campaign Committee of the PPCC Amarinder Singh concluded today with the Congress witnessing blurring clouds of factionalism.

Supporters of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Shamsher Singh Dullo shared stage with Amarinder. A massive rally held at Giani Zail Singh Nagar witnessed an enthusiastic crowd, which mainly comprised of supporters of party MLAs and other leaders of nine Vidhan Sabha constituencies.

Leaders like former animal husbandry minister Jagmohan Singh Kang and former MLA Tarlochan Singh Soond were seen sharing dais with Amarinder and pledging their support to the Congress candidate from Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat.

Interestingly, while most of party workers lobbied for the name of Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni from the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat, sitting MP Rana Gurjit Singh expressed his keen desire to contest the seat. “Even if party wants me to contest from some other seat, I am more than happy,” he hastily added.

Harminder Saini, executive member of the PPCC, said: “While the SAD has been aggressively campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls, no related activity was going on within the Congress. The mass contact programme has infused a new life into the otherwise demoralised party workers.”

Amarinder said: “Cycle and its parts manufacturing units form Ludhiana have bought land in Gujarat and are moving there. Similarly, Trident Barnala is looking for place to shift its units to Madhya Pradesh”.

MLA Rana Kanwar Pal Singh had organised the programme of bringing together party workers of nine constituencies of Vidhan Sabha (falling under the Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha seat), including Anandpur Sahib, Ropar, Chamkaur Sahib, Kharar, Mohali, Banga, Balachaur, Nawanshahr and Garhshankar.


Ex-CM proves his mettle
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
For a man who was at the helm for five years during Congress rule and then saw a downslide with even former ministerial colleagues questioning his seniority, just five days of hectic campaigning have again made Amarinder Singh the de facto ‘king’ in Punjab Congress.

If Amarinder’s tour was aimed at galvanising the party, it achieved the objective.

He started from Sangrur, warning Congress workers would take on ‘lathis’ to counter Akali attempts at ‘goondagardi.’ Subsequent speeches made by him set the tempo for Congress workers to take on Akali workers and culminated in beating up Akali workers who had come to protest with black flags at Gurdaspur. Though the action is deplorable, it speaks of the manner in which Amarinder revved up Congress workers.

Party workers and leaders came to attend his meetings during the past five days because of the perception that he was a leader who mattered. The campaign committee chairman built up on this image by announcing he was making a list of party candidates to be recommmended for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. This had the desired result with prospective candidates organising his programmes and turning up in full strength to show their influence in respective areas. Even senior leaders, including the contender for a ticket from Gurdaspur, Partap Singh Bajwa, and Ferozepur hopeful Jagmeet Brar attended Amarinder’s meetings.

Amarinder also took on executive power that rests with the pradesh Congress president. He unilaterally announced that he was admitting former legislator Dhanwant Singh and Rajinder Deepa into the party at the Sangrur rally, and “admitted” expelled leader Harjinder Thekadar into the party at his Amrtisar meeting.

Even while he was doing all this, he also set about undermining the authority of the state Pradesh Congress president Mohinder Singh Kaypee by refusing to obey the latter’s diktat to postpone his mass-contact programme. He portrayed Kaypee as a simpleton who was a “very fine gentleman” but was being “misguided”.

Amarinder accused Rajinder Kaur Bhattal of trying to derail his programme and also told her to remain confined to managing the affairs of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

He was also able to keep the Congress high command in good homour. Despite summons to Delhi to attend the hurriedly convened meeting of the campaign committee, he was able to take permission to skip it. Even party Punjab in charge Mohsina Kidwai sent out positive signals saying he could continue with his mass contact programme and not cancel it (as Bhattal and Kaypee wished) in view of the youth Congress elections in the state and elections in Jammu and Kashmir.


Populism also behind Punjab’s ills: Manpreet 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
Punjab has expressed inability to fund centrally sponsored schemes, maintaining it was moving towards becoming a state with the slowest growth rate because of the accumulated burden of militancy and the tendency of successive governments to fall into the trap of populism, at a workshop on ‘Centre-state’ relations here yesterday.

Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who earlier expressed reservation about subsidies, while interjecting during a discussion at the workshop held at Panjab University, claimed ‘the era of populism’, which followed the turbulent years of militancy, was partially responsible for the present high 40 per cent rate of debt on gross domestic product (GDP).

Manpreet Badal, addressing Planning Commission member secretary R.R. Shah, said ‘giveaways’ had become the ‘political philosophy’ of elected governments in Punjab.

Earlier, speaking on the subject of ‘Centre-state economic and financial relations’ at the workshop organised under the aegis of the commission on Centre-state relations, the finance minister made some candid observations. He said Punjab had been de-industrialised. “Not only has it not received any investment, but investments made have also been taken out”.

State finance secretary S.C. Aggarwal said Punjab was one of the slowest growing states and could soon become the slowest growing state in the country. He said while agriculture was the major driver earlier, now secondary and tertiary sectors were leading the surge. He said the state had been ‘badly hurt’ due to the concessions given to industry in Himachal and that it had even lost out to Haryana which had benefited due to its closeness to the national capital.

The finance secretary said high debt had resulted mainly due to the accumulated burden of years of militancy. He said though the principal amount of Rs 3,000 crore was waived, the burden had put strain on the state’s economy.

Aggarwal said the state was not likely to fulfil its fiscal responsibility and budget management targets (FTBM) in such a situation. “We are also not in any position to fund centrally sponsored schemes. Growth has slowed down at an alarming rate and if we are not helped by the Centre, we do not see a bright future for the state”, he added.

Shah, replying to the points made by the Punjab team, including chief secretary R. I. Singh, said Punjab could make out a case for further relief by quantifying the value of the lost opportunity due to the period of militancy in the state.

He, however, expressed grave concern one of the most productive states of the country felt it did not have any money for even good projects. 


State reels under power cuts
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 12
The claim of the PSEB to supply round-the-clock electricity during summers notwithstanding, the state is reeling under long scheduled and unscheduled power cuts ranging between four and six hours daily.

The meltdown-hit Punjab industry has suffered another blow with the PSEB increasing the duration of the power weekly off from 24 to 34 hours for thousands of industrial units falling in group II from yesterday.

Even urban areas are subjected to daily cuts of four to six hours. It is perhaps for the first time when such long power cuts are haunting residents in winters.

Board officials are allegedly trying to pass the buck and are attributing the bad power situation to one or the other factors. “We have to return from 100 to 100 lakh units of power daily to states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand under the banking system or for the power taken from these states during summers,” said an official.

Sources in the PSEB, however, revealed the board which, was suffering from a severe power crunch, was resorting to “resale” of electricity to other needy states at a higher price after drawing it from the Central grid. The board, sources said, was drawing power from the Central grid at the rate ranging from Rs 2.75 paise per unit to Rs 3 per unit and was selling it to other states at a whopping price of Rs 7-8 per unit.

“Power cuts are affecting our life in a worst manner. Not only this, our kids are suffering from power cuts as they have to reschedule their day according to power outages,” laments Dr Bhupinder Singh, a resident of Patiala.

Former chairperson of the Punjab Social Welfare Board Harsimrat Kaur said power cuts have virtually derailed life of people in rural as well as in urban areas of Punjab.


Industry hit
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
Power cuts are back to haunt the recession-hit industry in Punjab. While the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has increased the scheduled power cut on the industrial consumers from 24 hours a week to 34 hours a week, the unscheduled power cuts, too, have been increased, bringing industrial production to a halt.

Officials in PSEB confirmed that the power cuts have been increased by 10 hours a week on those industries that have an independent feeder. A power cut of 12 hours is also being imposed on the steel rolling mills and industrial furnaces. Other than the scheduled cuts, industry in the state is forced to go without power for four to eight hours a day.

The irregular power supply and increasing cost of captive power generation has reportedly led to a huge dip in profit margins, besides bringing down the industrial output by more than 20 per cent. With Christmas round the corner, this is the peak time for finishing off export orders.

Official sources in Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) informed TNS that as against the availability of 850 lakh units (LUs), the demand in the state had gone up to over 980 LUs. This deficit has forced them to impose power restrictions. Officials say that they have also imposed a two to three hour cut on domestic consumers in order to meet the gap in demand and supply.

P D Sharma, president of Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, rued that the electricity board was in a financial mess, and thus did not have enough money to buy surplus power from other states. “They have in fact been selling power to other states so as to make more money,” he alleged. Another steel rolling mill owner from Mandi Gobindgarh, requesting anonymity, said that erratic power supply to industry and frequent tripping was taking a toll on production. The exporters are the worst-hit as they cannot finish their orders in time. “Already export orders are thinning down because of recession in USA and Europe. The lack of support from the state government is further adding to our financial problems,” said an exporter from Jalandhar. 


NRI meet turns flop show
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 12
The annual convention of the NRI Sabha that had been feted as a gala event turned out to be a flop show with most of the expected members staying away from the event. The meet belied the earnestness of the government towards NRI affairs in the state.

With CM Parkash Singh Badal and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal giving the function a skip due to a scuffle between a section of the members at a dinner last night, it was left to MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa to do the honours.

Most speakers lambasted the government for betraying their trust. Interestingly, Sukhbir did not reach the venue even though he was in the city. Announcements of his arrival were made several times from the stage but he did not come, thereby leading to the perception among the diaspora regarding the sincerity of the ruling 
SAD- BJP alliance in redressing their problems.

Harry Lalli, former minister and legislator from British Columbia did some plainspeak on what ails the system here. “Rampant corruption is the order of the day where even ministers and top bureaucrats are acting as roadblocks towards foreign investment by NRIs, especially Punjabis who wanted to do something for their state,” he thundered.

Citing his own example, a visibly charged Lalli said that he had approached the then Akali government to set up a project worth $8 million but red tapism and corruption paid put to all his efforts and he had to bow out after two and half years. Drawing the attention of Dhindsa, he said the system is so rotten here that their work is not done even after paying huge bribes.

Earlier in his address, Dhindsa too pulled up the NRIs saying that they should behave responsibly. Referring to the fight last night, he said it was a matter of shame. You have painted a sorry picture of the community by fighting for the presidentships of gurdwaras abroad and do not even think twice before assaulting each other. We should refrain from such activities and come together and do something constructive for the state, he added.

The convention began on a tumultuous note when scores of members present in the gathering opposed resolutions to bring major changes in the sabha constitution that included five- year term for the president.

On this, the opponents assembled in front of the dais and disrupted the proceedings. Surjit Singh Rakhra and Kamaljit Singh Hayre, patron and president of the sabha, could be seen pacifying them. The members alleged that they had not been supplied with the agenda and the changes were being rushed through without a dialogue among the members of the sabha. 


Land identified for LIG flats
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
Punjab cooperation minister Kanwaljit Singh said yesterday that his department had identified unutilised land in various cities of the state for the construction of flats for low-income groups even as he claimed rural cooperatives in Punjab had been acclaimed as successful models internationally.

The minister, who was addressing a press conference after participating in the eight international cooperative alliance Asia-Pacific regional assembly at Hanoi in Vietnam, said unutilised land identified by the department would be transferred to Housefed.

Capt Kanwaljit said Housefed projects were already going on in Banur, Amritsar and Ludhiana and that more such projects would come up in Kapurthala and also in Bathinda and other towns. “We are also taking up with PUDA for the allotment of land on subsidised rates for such projects”, he added.


Randhawa is PPS officers’ body chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
Gurmeet Singh Randhawa has been elected as the new president of the Punjab Police Service (PPS) Officers Association, Punjab. This was resolved in the general body meeting of the association held here under the chairmanship of Inderjit Singh Randhawa. Pritam Singh, SP (D) Jagraon would be the vice-president while Ashwani Kapoor, SP Security, would be the general secretary. Rajinder Singh Sohal, DSP Phillaur, would be the joint secretary and Rattan Singh Brar, DSP Security, would be the finance secretary.

The executive members of the association include Manjinder Singh, DSP 2nd Commando BN, Balraj Singh Gill, DSP Sahnewal, Paramjit Singh Goraya, DSP Dakha, Varinder Singh Brar, DSP City-II Ludhiana, Jaskaran Singh Teja, DSP Patiala, Dilbagh Singh Baghi, DSP Batala, Rajbalwinder Singh, DSP Mohali, Mukhwinder Singh, DSP I IRB, Sukhdev Singh Virk, DSP Patiala, Joginder Singh, DSP Bathinda, Ajay Maluja, SP Bathinda, Pritam Singh Teja, SP Tarn-Taran, Sandeep Sharma, DSP C.R. Ludhiana, Pirthipal Singh, DSP INT, Harmohan Singh, DSP Ind.Area, Ludhiana, Jagdeep Singh Sidhu, DSP Amritsar, Arun Saini, SP CPO, Mandar Singh Sandhu, SP IVC, Sukhdev Kaur, DSP GRP, Mohan Lal, DSP Dera Baba Nanak and Kesar Singh, DSP Patiala.


Court relief for Ludhiana hotel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12
Acting on a petition by Ludhiana-based Hotel Majestic Park Plaza against the move to seal the hotel for alleged non-compliance of parking bylaws, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed the operation of a show-cause notice issued in the matter by the civic body.

The division bench, comprising Justice K.S. Garewal and Justice Jitendera Chauhan, also issued notice of motion to the municipal corporation and other respondents after hearing preliminary submissions made by the counsel for the petitioner. The matter will now come up before a Division Bench on January 29 next year.

In the petition, the hotel management had earlier contended they had taken full care of the parking issue. Claiming to have complied with the relevant bylaws and the original plan, it had asserted there was no violation as such.

Counsel had added the notice for sealing the hotel after three days, if the bylaws were not complied with, too was liable to be struck down.


Warrants against secy recalled
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 12
The President of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Ludhiana, has recalled the non-bailable arrest warrants of D.S. Bains, a senior IAS Officer and principal secretary, local bodies, Punjab following the implementation of the Forum’s order in case of Shakuntla Devi by the Improvement authorities concerned at Ludhiana.

The president of the Forum has directed the Senior Superintendent of Police at Chandigarh not enforce the warrants as these has been recalled.

As a respondent, Bains today submitted an application to the Forum informing that its order has been complied with. Shakuntla Devi has been allotted a 500-yards plot, as per the orders of the Forum. Shankuntla Devi’s family land was acquired by the Ludhiana Imporovement Trust in 1973 and she was a to be given a 500 yard plot in lieu of the acquisition of her land.

Executive officer suspended

Meanwhile, D.S. Bains, Principal Secretary,Local Bodies, Punjab has suspended Avtar Singh Azad, Executive Officer, Improvement Trust, for not bringing into state Government’s notice in time the order of the forum with regarding the plot and for creating an unpleasant situation for the state. During suspension, Avtar Singh’s headquarter will be at the office of Director, Local Bodies, Punjab, in Chandigarh.


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