P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Sehajdhari Issue
SGPC to file fresh affidavit in court
Challenges HC locus standi in Sikh matters

Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

SGPC chief Avtar Singh addresses the media in Amritsar on Sunday. A Tribune photograph

Amritsar , December 28
In a volte-face, the emergency meeting of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee executive committee today decided to stick to the definition of Sikh mentioned in the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 according to which only a Kesadhari could be a ‘Sehajdhari’.

The meeting, chaired by by SGPC chief Avtar Singh also decided to constitute a three- member committee comprising of Raghujit Singh Virk, Kewal Singh Badal and Rajinder Singh Mehta , senior vice-president, junior vice- president and executive committee member respectively to fix responsibility of those responsible for submitting ‘distorted’ definition of ‘Sehajdharii in Punjab and Haryana High Court. The three-member Inquiry committee would submit the report to the SGPC president within two days for taking strict action against the erring officials.

The affidavit was filed by Harbeant Singh, secretary, SGPC who had been in the news for getting job on the basis of ‘fake certificate’ of matriculation. Though he (Harbeant Singh) was sacked during the tenure of the presidentship of Gurcharn Singh Tohra but he was re-instated after his (Tohra’s) death.

After the meeting, SGPC president said the Shiromani Committee would also challenge the locus standi of the Court to ‘interfere’ in the internal matters of the Sikhs. The SGPC president said as per Sikh Gurdwara Act the Sehajdhari is a person who performs ceremonies according to Sikh rites; who does not use tobacco or kutha (halal meat) in any form. The Act further reads Sehajdhari is a person who is not a ‘Patit’ (apostate) and who can recite ‘Mul Manter’. The Sikh Gurdwara Act further says ‘Patit’ means a person who being a Kesadhari Sikh trims or shaves his beard or Keshas or who after taking Amrit commits any ‘Kurhits’.

President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Paramjit Singh Sarna sought resignation of the SGPC chief for submitting wrong definition of the Sehajdhari in the HC. However, the SGPC chief alleged Sarna had been openly supporting the Congress party which was responsible for Delhi riots and Operation Bluestar. On the other hand, the DSGMC president said the Shiromani Akali Dal, led by Sukhbir Singh Badal had alliance with the BJP which instigated Indira Gandhi, the then PM to launch Bluestar as mentioned in the political biography of L.K.Advani, PM candidate of the BJP.

‘Religion not subject to adjudication’

Chandigarh: Religion or belief is something personal and individual, says Tarlochan Singh, MP, urging the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, to withdraw its affidavit from the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

“Normally, the courts should not intervene in such matters as religion is something individual and personal and a direction or order of a court cannot distinguish between a Sikh and a non-Sikh,” argues Tarlochan Singh, a former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

Bhai Nand Lal and Bhai Ghanaya were people who held their belief in Sikhism though technically they never embraced Sikhism. “If someone has belief in Sikhism, no one has any right to challenge him or her belief. As such it is no matter for legal adjudication,” adds Tarlochan Singh.

Except for Sikhism, no other faith is linked to organisation. “To be members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee or voters in gurdwaras election is something different than being a Sikh or to having firm belief in Sikhism. But determining someone’s religion based on a legal adjudication is unwarranted and totally uncalled for.” — TNS


Making bureaucrats accountable
Punjab CM’s move on better governance
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Announcing the formation of state administrative reforms commission has come as good news for those for curtailing powers of Punjab’s bureaucracy appropriated during the era of terrorism. If set up and allowed to make independent recommendations, the commission can help correct aberrations in governance.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has apparently announced the constitution of the commission under pressure from fellow politicians to check the “unlimited powers” of bureaucrats, who make politicians dance to their tunes. Badal terms the move as a step towards “rationalising official procedures and to simplify and speed up delivery service”. Besides, he says it will also “genuinely make a public servant accountable”.

After formation the panel, it will submit its report in three months and the report will be implemented within six weeks after the government receives it.

The announcement has raised hackles in the officialdom and there is talk of scuttling the objectives even before its constitution, to look into “administrative digressions” that prevent good governance.

Punjab has obviously taken the lead from Haryana where the Haryana Administrative Reforms Commission, under the chairmanship of Palwal MLA Karan Singh Dalal, has submitted a 258-page report suggesting large-scale administrative restructuring in the districts, revamp of the tehsil set-up, setting up monitoring committees on security, investigation, prosecution, and law and order.

After enjoying vast powers since President’s rule was imposed in Punjab in late 1980s, Punjab’s bureaucrats are unlikely to let Badal succeed.

Badal has announced “once implemented, the report would put the onus of delivery on the officers or officials concerned to eliminate any possible excuse for delays both in meeting legitimate requirements of the public and also in implementation of people- friendly policies of the government”.

Vested interests are too strong in Punjab to let this move succeed, but if it does, people will see drastic improvement in “delivery of public service in key areas such as revenue records including registration land and other properties, police, transport, excise and taxation, health services, official verifications and certification of various documentations, etc”.

But the next step will be a tug of war between the “messiahs for change” those (public servants) opposing it.


Looking Ahead-I
Global meltdown big challenge for govt
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Though battle for political supremacy will be the event to dominate first half of the new year, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government will have to walk a tight rope to minimise the impact of the global financial meltdown so as to keep the economy and infrastructure development going.

The first major political test for the SAD-BJP government will be the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for the first half of 2009. The timing of the general elections, whether they are held in February-March or April-May, may have little bearing on the outcome, it will be the objective evaluation of the performance of the alliance ever since it assumed power in the state that will determine the winner of this important political bout.

For the past few weeks, both former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal have been in the testing waters. Though Amarinder has been handicapped by the absence of the organisational support of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), he has successfully made it up with “personal charisma as a leader with foresight”.

Badal continues to walk tall for being leader of the masses. He remains an undisputed leader and a seasoned campaigner whose main strength lies in his interaction with aam aadmi. Irrespective of the criticism of the Sangat Darshan programmes, he has been successful in establishing and sustaining one-to-one contact with the masses.

The just-concluded elections to state assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram have denounced “incumbency” to be a decisive factor any more.

“It is development, people friendly and transparent administration that get the mandate now,” is the message these five assembly elections have given.

Getting a hint from the message, Badal started the Vikas Yatra promising to disburse Rs 550 crore in 13 Lok Sabha and all 117 Assembly segments of the state.

Money alone may not enthuse voters. Punjab has plethora of problems. Governance has been at the lowest ebb. Economy is sluggish. Education and health care services are in a shambles. The power supply position is far from satisfactory. Many of those who signed MoUs or made bids to take up important infrastructure development projects in the state have quietly backed out. Real estate has slowed down.

Even farmers are up in arms demanding a better deal. Though most of the demands of the farmers are for the UPA government to decide, any agitation or unrest reflects on the state administration. The state is also grappling to cut the flab, reduce avoidable expenses and gradually eliminate the deficit component from its annual financial bill as soon as possible.

The Chief Minister may have announced setting up of the State Administrative Tribunal to revitalise delivery of basic services to a common man, the political alliance and leadership, too, needs an immediate corrective exercise. Messages or commands from a single source are more effective than the bureaucracy or technocrats getting confused with contradictory signals from different power centres.

Doling out promises alone does not impress the electorate. When the SAD-BJP leadership goes back to people for seeking their support for the 2009 general elections, people are bound to gauge progress or development.

To be concluded


Inside Babudom
Ex-bureaucrats jubilant over reforms panel
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Announcement by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at a rally in Jalandhar about the setting up of an Administrative Reforms Commission to streamline the functioning of the state administrative machinery has brought cheers to superannuated bureaucrats.

Though the present SAD-BJP regime has not done much in re-employing superannuated bureaucrats, including police officers, its recent announcements, however, show a significant shift in its policy of naming former civil servants on various commissions, boards and other public sector undertakings.

Going by the announcement of the Chief Minister, the commission looks like to be short-term one that will suggest ways and means to reinvigorating the state administrative machinery by making it efficient and people friendly.

Like the Pay Commission, it may be asked to give its preliminary recommendations in three months.

Front-runners for heading the commission are Chaman Lal Bains and Bikramjit Singh besides a few others. While Bains completed a full term as the State Election Commissioner after superannuating from the civil service, Bikramjit, who served Parkash Singh Badal during his previous tenure as Chief Minister, superannuated during the previous Congress regime.

Also in the run for re-employment is Ravinder Singh Sandhu, who retired a couple of months ago as Financial Commissioner (Development).

Other than these civil servants, some of the superannuated police officers may also be in consideration for re-employment. MPS Aulakh, who was Additional Director-General of Police, Intelligence, during the previous SAD-BJP regime, and retired as DGP some years ago, is also considered close to the Badals.

There are other officers, including retired IAS wife of a serving IPS officer, who may be nominated to one of the commissions.

Sources reveal that process for re-employing superannuated bureaucrats has already been set in motion and announcements would start during or immediately after the Chief Minister completes his development yatra in 28 days. The yatra had started from Amritsar last week.


Flights cancelled, trains delayed
Cold wave, fog paralyse life in region
P K Jaiswar /Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, December 28
Intense cold wave and dense fog paralysed life in the region with air and rail services remaining disrupted due to bad weather and poor visibility.

Large number of residents remained indoors due to foggy conditions while visibility was between 10 and metres. The minimum and maxi mum temperatures of the holy city were recorded as 1.6 degrees Celsius 10.6 degrees Celsius .

The flights remained disrupted with almost all flights were cancelled due to foggy conditions. According to the details 0187 flight from London besides flights from Sharjah and Dubai Express were cancelled while Singapore Airlines was diverted to Delhi due to poor visibility. Flights of the Turkmenistan, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Air Slovakia were also cancelled.

Poor visibility due to fog all along the rail tracks today slowed down major express trains, delaying passengers, delivery of mail and freight. The trains were running late by four to six hours.

Passengers, a large number of whom happen to be office-goers, educationists and college students, could not reach destinations in time. Besides express trains a large number of goods trains were also slowed down due to harsh weather.

The traffic in the city was almost curtailed as the people preferred not to venture out and confined themselves in their houses with the sun remained elusive whole day due to the which the temperature touched sub-zero level in the region.



State politics — looking back and ahead
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 28
Political scene in 2008, by and large, remained hot and it is likely to be so in the next year due to persistent political rivalry that appears to be bordering on enmity among two main political families of Parkash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh in the state. As the Lok Sabha elections draw closer, political temperature will go up further in the coming months.

A lack of political decency that had crept into political atmosphere a few years ago, continued aggressively this year and there is no chance of its vanishing in near future. In this fight of big-time politicians, loser is Punjab that has slipped many notches from the position of a leading state in the country.

The year saw no visible signs of tension between the SAD and the BJP, ruling the state jointly. Both parties continue to differ on the issue of mobilising resources for generating more revenue. However, owing to differences, the state’s financial situation continues to be shaky. It will deteriorate further because the SAD-BJP combine will not be in a position to levy fresh taxes in view of the Lok Sabha elections. The implementation of Pay Commission’s report in April will be a big financial burden on the state.

The SAD-BJP combine is already in the election mode. Following the failure of the SAD’s young leadership to deliver in the recent Delhi Assembly elections, the responsibility has again fallen on SAD veteran Parkash Singh Badal to ensure the SAD-BJP combine performs better in the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab.

On the other hand, the Congress, the opposition, continues to be a house divided. Sharp political differences among senior Congress leaders, including Amarinder Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mohinder Singh Kaypee continue to bother party’s rank and file. Instead of playing the role of a well-knit opposition, the Congress leaders are engaged in a tug-of-war with each other.

Among other parties, the BSP appears to be serious to contest the Lok Sabha elections. It has announced candidates for most of the Lok Sabha seats and has the capacity to make the electoral calculations go haywire for major political parties, especially the Congress. Other political parties and Akali factions continue to be peripheral players in the state.

A new trend emerging in the state is all members of certain political parties are jumping in the political arena. Take the instance of the Badal family. While Parkash Singh Badal is the Chief Minister, his son Sukhbir Singh Badal is the SAD president and his (Parkash Singh Badal) wife Surinder Kaur Badal is now active on the SGPC’s religious front. His daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur is active on the social front with Nanhi Chhaan project, testing her chances for the Lok Sabha elections from Bathinda. The same is true of other Akali and Congress leaders.


Medical College, Amritsar
Alumni to revamp lecture theatre
Arun Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
In an effort to pay back to their city and educational institute, the medicos passed out from Medical College, Amritsar, have decided to renovate the lecture theatre of the college which lies in a state of dilapidation. At least 104 alumni of the college reached here from different parts of country as well as abroad, including the USA, UK, Canada, Hong Kong and China to participate in the silver jubilee celebrations of batch 1978-83 being organised by the Chandigarh chapter of the college.

“The lecture theatre of the college has become outdated with old broken chairs and we have decided to do something since all of us are well-settled now,” said Dr Gurmohan Sandhu, organising secretary of the meet. The NRI alumni have decided to contribute a sum of Rs 6 lakh for the purpose so that the theatre could have modern seating arrangement with air conditioning and multimedia facilities, said Dr Sandhu.

Dr Anupam Sachdeva, another alumnus and now working at Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, as head, paediatric hematology and oncology, is for setting up a committee which would act as a pressure group to ask the government to have their services for better expertise and infrastructure in the medical college as well as in the state.

“We are ready to train people working in Amritsar College and other health institutions, provided the government take some initiative in this direction,” said Dr Sachdeva. “However, to begin with, we have decided to hold a 2-day continuous medical education (CME) programme in Amritsar starting from February 14 where experts from India as well as the USA, UK and Canada from all specialties of medicine will participate,” he said.

In addition to it, we are eager to extend our help in setting up infrastructure for bone marrow transplantation in this region of the country, said Dr Sachdeva, a specialist in the field.

“In fact, this is the time to pay back to the institution which helped us in gaining so much in life, including name and fame, that we aspired during our college time,” said Dr Sudhir Sekhsaria, a consultant in immunology and lung diseases in Washington DC.

“The country has taken a big leap in the medical field yet there is a lot more to do as there is a phenomenal difference in the research work and other health facilities here in comparison to countries like the USA,” he said.

“The medicos settled abroad would love to fund and do work with local research institutions,” he added.


Tubewell scheme to be re-launched
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Mehraj (Bathinda), December 28
“It is a misconception that we have been selling power to other states to earn profit. In fact, we are returning the electricity units that we had borrowed during the summer,” said H.S. Brar, member, distribution, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

Brar was here to attend the foundation stone laying ceremony of 66 KV grid by SAD (B) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“We have been returning around 96 lakh units per day to states like J&K, Himachal , Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra from which we had borrowed electricity. We hope that with our planning, we would be able to clear all debt by the end of February.”

“At this time, the PSEB has surplus units for consumption at night but during daytime people have to suffer as there is no other option that we have. In this regard, we have even requested the industrial units to operate on the basis of rotation,” Brar said.

About the own your tube well (OYT) scheme which hogged much importance, Brar said, “We are now all set for the relaunching of the OYT scheme. All assessment surveys and arrangements have been made and we are hopeful of issuing permits to all the 21000-22000 applicants.”

The priority in allotment would be given to waterlogged areas, as they are in dire need of it, but it would be done a phase-wise manner. The allotment would start in the first month of the New Year, he added.

On the success of the CFL campaign, he said, “At this time, 108 villages have been assessed, where the target of CFL use has been totally achieved. Interestingly, Darbar Sahib in Muktsar has also been fitted with CFLs, due to which the electricity bill there has decreased by five times.”

To a query about the poor response of bidders for the Rajpura thermal power project, he said, “Though our efforts are on, we can not overrule the effect of global meltdown upon the investors.”


89 pc cases of lung cancer due to smoking: Surgeon
Anshu Seth
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 28
Eighty-nine per cent of those suffering from lung cancer are smokers and every smoker consuming one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years is more susceptible to this disease, said Dr M S Bains thoracic surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. He was speaking on "Surgery for early lung cancer" at ongoing annual conference of the Association of Surgeons of India (ASICON 2008) in Ludhiana.

Dr Bains' areas of specialisation include lung cancer, esophageal cancer, mediastinal tumours, pulmonary metastases, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), pulmonary and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. The surgeon was a member of the team which treatd Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The surgeon cited smoking and exposure to toxic gases common causes leading to lung cancer, however, he did not rule out the possibility of other causes the scientists are trying to ascertain.

On tobacco users in India Dr Bains said, "People smoking 'biris' ere more prone to lung cancer compared to those smoking filtered cigarettes. awareness campaigns for lower middle income groups was the right way to reduce the number of biri smokers."

He also stated in the US smoking was banned at public places but some restaurants and bars had been given special licence for it . Penalty for offenders is heavy that prevents them from breaking the law, the surgeon added.

Meanwhile, Dr Bains, sharing experience as a surgeon said surgery in early stages of lung cancer was the best option adding, "it cures 85 per cent of the cases while the remaining 15 per cent had chances of recurrence. However, drug therapy is important in advanced stages of lung cancer as has been proved by newer range of 'angiogenesis drugs' that deactivate tumour cells." 


Mohali surgeon’s two papers rated best
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 28
Two papers of Dr Pankaj Garg, senior consultant, Fortis Super-speciality hospital, Mohali, were presented in the best paper category here at the ongoing international conference of of the Association of Surgeons of India. He is only from north India and only one to receive double honour out of seven awarded at the conference.

The research papers were received from all over the world. Dr Garg's papers are on the treatment of piles by non-operative painless method and of new keyhole(laparoscopic) surgery for treating hernia.

The other papers rated the best include : 'At risk group approach in breast cancer' by Dr Saumik Chatterjee and Dr Dipentra Sarkar, Kolkatta; 'Tunica vaginalis pedicled wrap Urethroplastt for Hypospadias Repair- An Institutional Experience' by Dr Vinitha Nair, Dr Murali A, Dr Arun Mohan and Prof R Hema, Bhopal; 'Quality of life: A study on patients of Carcinoma Breast and its Pitfalls in our Society' by Dr Maj A K Shah and Dr Col LS Vohra, Bangalore; 'Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumours : Our Experience' by Dr Maj Prashant Kumar, Dr Sqn Ldr Amit Agarwal, Dr Maj A K Shah, Dr Lt Col RPS Gambhir, Dr Lt Col A Galagali and Dr Col R Chaudhry, AFMC Pune; and 'Randomied Comparative study of Laparoscopic Vs Open Repair for perforated Peptic Ulcer- Centric Randomised Study' Dr Chaitanya P Garg, Dr Nimesh Verma and Dr Naresh Gabani, Government Medical College, Surat.


Akali MLA Bhullar dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Gurdip Singh Bhullar, sitting Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA from Nurmahal, was found unconscious in his room at MLA Hostel, Sector 4, here this morning. He was taken to the Sector 16 Government Multi-specialty Hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead. The police has so far ruled out any possibility of foul play in his death.

Bhullar, who was in his early fifties, is survived by his wife and three daughters. He was elected on SAD ticket from the Nurmahal constituency in Jalandhar district and had also successfully contested the 1997 assembly elections.

According to the police, Bhullar’s death came to light when one Devinderpal Singh Sekhon, a relative of Bhullar, came to meet him at around 11:45 am and found the door of his room (number 22) locked from inside. When his repeated knocks went unanswered, he went to room number 21 and gained access into Bhullar’s room through balcony.

Sekhon and the occupant of room number 21 found Bhullar lying unconscious on the bed. They called up the pharmacist at the hostel dispensary, who referred Bhullar to the hospital.

The SHO of the Sector 3 police station, inspector Har Sahai Sharma, said the death could be a result of a cardiac arrest, though the exact cause would only be ascertained after a post-mortem examination. He added that Bhullar was suffering from a chronic liver ailment and was taking treatment from the DMC, Ludhiana, PGI and also from the hostel.

Ruling out any possibility of foul play behind the death, the SHO said no visible injury mark was found on the body.

Meanwhile, the police has initiated the inquest proceedings under section 174 of the Criminal procedure Code in this connection.

In his condolence message, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal described Bhullar, a two-time MLA, as “pillar” of the party and said his family had always supported the party. Bhullar’s father had laid down his life during the Punjabi Suba Morcha. Describing the loss caused by the death of Bhullar as a big setback to the party and the state, Sukhbir said Bhullar was a people’s leader who relentlessly worked for the state and his constituency.

Many other SAD leaders, including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Information and Public Relations Minister Bikramjit Singh Majithia, Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Capt Kanwaljit Singh and KS Badungar, joined Sukhbir in mourning the death of the MLA.


Amritsar villagers raise voice against war
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 28
Various farmer organisations and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) today raised their voice against war and emphasised that the government should use diplomatic channel to persuade the Pakistan government to take action against the terrorists operating from their land.

They pointed out that the government should resolve the issue with talks rather than going for a war. They were speaking during a “Vishal Deshbhagat Conference”.

Mangat Ram Pasla, state secretary of the CPM, while paying tributes to freedom fighters, martyrs and communist leaders at Tapiala village here today, said there was panic among the villagers and there was a need to encourage them and boost their morale.

Raghubir Singh Batala, member, state secretariat, CPM, people should intensify their fight against terrorist organisations.

Rattan Singh Randhawa, district secretary, said the administration should visit border villages and motivate the rural people.


Joshi not our member, says sabha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The Punjab Brahman Sabha has clarified that Deepak Joshi, who joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) along with former Punjab Governor BKN Chhibber, does not belong to the sabha. Sabha spokesperson Behari Lall Saddi has said the sabha is a non-political organisation that does not support or get involved with any political party. Deepak Joshi is neither the president of the sabha nor was he associated with the Punjab Brahman Sabha, he added.


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