P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Sehajdhari Issue
Sants withdraw ultimatum
Sikh History Research Board director’s resignation accepted
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 2
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) today accepted the resignation of Dr Anurag Singh, director, Sikh History Research Board, even as the Sikh Conclave, held in the SGPC complex, here endorsed the decision of the committee to file a fresh affidavit in the Punjab and Haryana High Court with regard to the definition of Sehajdhari.

Talking to The Tribune after the meeting, SGPC president Avtar Singh reiterated that only a Kesadhari could be a Sehajdhari. Meanwhile, the three-member SGPC inquiry committee has decided to meet within a couple of days to fix the responsibility of SGPC officials/office-bearers, responsible for the “wrong” affidavit filed in the High Court.

Meanwhile, the Sant Samaj, headed by Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, decided to withdraw the ultimatum served on the SGPC for withdrawing the affidavit.

However, eyebrows were raised over many Sikh organisations, including Sikh Missionary College, Gurmat Missionary College and Akal Purkh Ki Fauj, not being invited to the conclave.

Among those who attended today’s meeting were Sikh high priests, representatives of the Damdami Taksal and Chief Khalsa Dewan, headed by Charnjit Singh Chadda, both factions of Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Sikh Babas.

Earlier, Dr Anurag Singh had challenged the formation of the inquiry committee that included the SGPC member who had enforced amendment in the affidavit filed in the High Court. However, Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh said the SGPC must take stern action against the “big fish” responsible for the “Sehajdhari muddle” since accepting of the resignation of Dr Anurag Singh was just an eyewash.

Earlier on December 28, in a volte-face, an emergency meeting of the SGPC executive committee had 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 representatives of the organisations, who attended the conclave, appreciated the decision of the SGPC to challenge the locus standi of the court to ‘interfere’ in the internal matters of the Sikhs. They also endorsed that 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 mantar’. The Sikh Gurdwara Act further says patit means a person who being a Kesadhari Sikh trims or shaves his beard or hair or who after taking Amrit commits any kurhits.


Organic farmers protest commission report
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The Punjab Farmers Commission’s report on organic farming has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the state, with members of the Punjab Organic Farming Association (POFA) as well as the Kheti Virasat and the Nabha Foundation today staging a protest in front of the commission office in Mohali, besides claiming that the commission had neither involved farmers nor evaluated the organic farming work being done in the state before filings its report.

A delegation of the organic bodies also met commission chairman Dr GS Kalkat.

According to Kheti Virasat chairman Surinder Singh, the commission chairman denied that any study on organic farming had been done in Punjab. He claimed that his organisation had established the largest organic farmers group in Nabha block where more than 300 farmers were practising organic farming. He claimed that the commission had consulted none of these farmers.

POFA convenor Jaspal Singh said the delegation also protested against what he termed as the casual manner in which the commission allegedly collected data for its report paper. He said according to the commission use of farmyard manure was the mainstay of organic farming while in truth organic farming today evolved on use of advanced techniques.

Kheti Virasat chairman Inderjit Singh, who is also an organic farmer, claimed that in Nabha organic farmers were getting a paddy yield equivalent to that of “chemical farmers” and in some cases the yield was more in organic farming. He said in the light of this fears of facing a food crisis in case of shift to organic farming were unfounded.

Dr Chander Parkash, joint director, Kheti Virasat, questioned the wisdom of commission claiming that in one of its reports it had mentioned that two lakh marginal farmers and small farmers had quit farming between 1991-2001 and that 89 per cent of farmers were under a debt of Rs 27,000 crore.

Dr Kalkat when contacted for his reaction to the protest said the organisation leaders had been provided with a copy of the report on organic farming prepared by the commission. He said the report had never spoken against organic farming, but only stressed that this could not be adopted as a principal for the entire area. 


Farmers resent CCI’s apathy
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Refusal of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) to resume its operations in Punjab may once again bring this central agency face to face with members of six organisations of farmers who have been demanding minimum support price (MSP) for their produce.

Farmers have been up in arms against the CCI since the start of this procurement season. Initially, the CCI insisted that farmers should produce documents or copies of their revenue record to establish their credentials as genuine farmers before their produce could be procured.

Now when this condition has been waived, the CCI officials have rejected their produce on the plea that it does not meet the procurement norms.

“We got 40-50 samples from various cotton markets and got them tested in different laboratories. All samples were found to be in accordance with the procurement norms,” says Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan of the Kirti Kisan Union.

“We took the reports to CCI officials, who rejected them saying that only those samples taken and tested in the presence of CCI officials would be accepted. The CCI is just making excuses to harass farmers who are being forced to go for distress sale. Against the MSP of Rs 2,800, farmers were getting only Rs 2,200 to Rs 2,350 from private buyers,” adds Kokri Kalan.

Not only Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board Ajmer Singh Lakhowal have written and held meetings with senior functionaries of both Union Ministries of Agriculture and Textile to demand hassle-free procurement of cotton, nothing appears to be happening to mitigate the sufferings of the farmers. “Though we decided on December 29 to postpone our proposed rail roko agitation on an assurance that the CCI would resume its procurement operations, we are now being forced to review our decision,” asserts Kokri Kalan.

A meeting of senior leaders of six organisations of farmers, including the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), Kirti Kisan Union, Kisan Sabha and Kisan Sagharash Samiti, will be held at Sector 35 Kisan Bhawan in Chandigarh on January 4 (Sunday) to decide the future line of action.



Cong slams Badal over fund disbursal
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 2
The Congress has castigated the Akali-BJP government for throwing all norms to the winds while disbursing funds during sangat darshan programmes out of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) and the market free collected by the state Mandi Board.

Senior Congress leader and former minister Umrao Singh told The Tribune that that this was not the first time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was doing so. Earlier too, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had commented in 2004 that then Chief Minister Badal’s mode of disbursement of funds from June, 2000, to December, 2000, by way of sangat darshan was not only unauthorised but it was also “an act of excess as it vitiated the settled norms of public accountability”.

He said under the rules, funds could only be disbursed after taking the approval of a committee constituted for the purpose. Besides, the funds could be used for projects of schemes that had been approved by the committee. Someone should be deputed to oversee the execution of the projects, he pointed out.

One just cannot go about disbursing money just like that without any accountability, he added.

Similarly, firebrand MLA from Bholath Sukhpal Singh Khaira said why was the sangat darshan being made out as big issue by the ruling party. After all, the money was for the people and would have been spent for public schemes in due course.

The ongoing vikas yatra is nothing but an eyewash and is being undertaken with an eye on the parliamentary polls. What else could explain the media blitzkrieg being orchestrated at the expense of the exchequer, he added.

Moreover, Umrao Singh and Khaira agreed that the money was only meant for the developmental activities in the rural areas but now these funds were being doled out to the urban areas that were a violation of norms.

Umrao Singh revealed that earlier too the court had pulled up the government for diverting funds from the Punjab Mandi Board coffers. The then government had to give an undertaking that it would not use such funds other than the purpose they were meant for. The same was applicable in the present context too, he added.

Its is pertinent to mention that the CAG report of 2004 states that contrary to the rules governing the funds in the Rural Developmental Fund (RDF) and the Punjab Infrastructure Fund (PIF), all administrative and financial powers were entrusted to the Chief Minister. 


SAD (A) to form Parliamentary Board next week
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 2
In view of the ensuing Lok Sabha (LS) elections, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) is going to constitute a seven-member Parliamentary Board next week. The board will be constituted under the chairmanship of party president Simranjit Singh Mann. Though the party had decided to contest 10 LS seats, it is now planning to contest all 13 seats in Punjab to give a tough fight to candidates of the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress.

Talking to The Tribune here today, general secretary, SAD (A), Jeet Singh Alloarkh said the party had already announced names of two candidates, Simranjit Singh Mann for Sangrur seat and Dhayan Singh Mand for Ferozepur seat, but candidates for the remaining seats would be decided by the proposed board.

Alloarkh said the board would also consider names from other backward classes (OBCs), along with scheduled castes, to allot party tickets for the LS elections. He said the SAD (A) felt that the OBCs had not been given proper representation by any political party in the elections so far, due to which they (OBCs) felt “ignored” in the state.

Alloarkh said the SAD (A) would also form an election manifesto committee soon, so that it could be released before the end of February. He said the committee would seek opinions from journalists, writers, advocates and common masses to prepare a welfare-oriented manifesto. He said his party would not make false promises to people in the manifesto, rather would show them a true picture of the party’s programmes and ideology. He said during elections his party would oppose personal attacks on any leader, so that elections could be contested in a free and fair atmosphere.

Alloarkh said the SAD (A) also opposed the blamegame being played by SAD and Congress leaders against each other. He asked the leaders of all political parties to give up blamegame in the larger interests of the state as well as of people. 


Emulate example of Maharashtra, says Khaira
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Punjab Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira has urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to emulate the example of Maharashtra which has announced a Rs 6,208-crore package over and above the central package.

In a statement here yesterday, Khaira said the issue was a testing time for Badal’s leadership as the Chief Minister had been repeatedly claiming that the central waiver did not cover the bulk of the state’s farmers.

Khaira said like the Maharashtra government which had decided to help farmers who had debts pre-1997 which were not covered by the central package, the Punjab government should also announce a similar package for farmers of the state who were presently out of the ambit of the central package.

The Congress leader said the agrarian society in Punjab was in a shambles with over Rs 25,000 crore as bad debts on farmers. Out of these Rs 12,000 crore were institutional loans and the remaining Rs 13,000 crore loans of commission agents. 


Cheema inspects youth mela preparations 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 2
The Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, has chalked out an ambitious programme for generating employment at the village level all over the country.

Amardeep Singh Cheema, newly appointed vice-chairman of the sangathan, while talking to The Tribune, here today, said it was a 2.60 lakh-strong youth organisation with the widest reach in all districts of the country. It had more than 80 lakh active workers and ran the most crucial youth programmes in the country.

Cheema was here to oversee arrangements for the first national-level youth mela to be held here from January 12 to 16. He was accompanied by Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan, director-general of the sangathan. The meeting decided to remember writers and poets of Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi hailing from Punjab.

Youth from all 28 states of the country have been invited to participate in a food festival, young artistes’ camp, kavi sammelan, adventure camp and yuva kriti during the mela. It would be inaugurated by the Vice-President of India on January 12 on the Guru Nanak Dev University campus. Competitions in painting, sculpture and photography would be organised.

An adventure park will be established featuring the activities such as zorbing/roller ball, inflatable artificial rock wall climbing, repelling jummaring, Burma bridge and commando web/spider crawl.

Cheema said the proposed mela was the brainchild of Dr Manohar Singh Gill, Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, who was keen on uplifting the youth and promote culture of Punjab.

Cheema also held meetings with the district administration headed by deputy commissioner KS Pannu and Dr Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the university, and Dr Daljit Singh, principal of Khalsa College, where all major events would be held.

Earlier, Cheema was welcomed at more than dozen places en route to Batala. After taking over the charge in New Delhi, Cheema reached his native district Gurdaspur to a rousing reception by people from all walks of life.


Pargat Singh awaits extension letter
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
It is no wonder that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal issues a statement at least once a month that the state’s bureaucrats should work and behave more like what they are: public servants.

For the past four months the state’s ‘sports director’ Pargat Singh is awaiting a letter from the sports department to inform him that his term as director, sports, has been extended by one year.

The national hockey star was given an extension by Badal in September 2008 to continue in his post. It is 2009 now and Pargat Singh is yet to know what his exact status is in the government.

The Chief Minister’s file was reportedly sent to RPS Pawar, principal secretary, sports and youth affairs. “We have accepted him as the director sports and that is all that we had to do,” said Pawar. He added that since Pargat Singh was otherwise holding the rank of an SP in the police department, it was for the home department to issue him an extension letter.

Interestingly, if this was the rule, it was not followed earlier, starting with the joining of Pargat Singh three years ago to his annual extension, all letters were sent by the sports secretary. The home department was simply sent a letter “for information” when these extensions were granted.

When contacted, Sudhir Mittal, home secretary, said the file had not reached his department.

Sources alleged that for the past three months the file had been lying either with the Minister of Sports or in the sports department and no intimation had been given to the ‘sports director’ for reasons known only to the minister or the sports secretary.

When contacted Pargat Singh said he did not want to comment on the issue.

Sources added that this was not the first time that inter-department juggling of files had caused damage. “Last year Pargat Singh was chosen as the manager of the Indian hockey team and was to go to Malaysia for a tournament. The requisite permission was to be given by the sports department. However, the sports secretary asked for a clearance from the home department also. Despite the fact that the home department gave a clearance in no time, the sports secretary cleared the file two days after the Indian hockey team had left,” said the source.

“The process of clearances for going abroad is a long one. There are a host of things which has to be checked. That could have caused a delay,” said Pawar.


Farmers block traffic over youth’s death
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 2
Activists of various farmer organisations today blocked traffic outside the post-mortem centre situated on the Majitha road here.

They were protesting against the alleged police inaction and negligence of the medical staff of the Ajnala Civil Hospital resulting in the death of Arwinder Singh of Tede Kalan village falling under Amritsar rural police district. They brought the body of the deceased at the venue of demonstration on the Majitha road and raised slogans against the police and government.

Arwinder sustained bullet injury in a crossfire over a land dispute at Dhupsari village on December 23. Gagandeep Singh was killed and Harwinder injured, both of the opposite party, in the firing. The police booked a Capt Gulzar Singh (retd) and father of Arwinder and his brother Harjinder Singh, along with seven other persons in this regard.

Dr Satnam Singh, state president of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, said the police failed to take action on the statement of Arwinder. He said the police must have taken into consideration the statement of the deceased. He also raised questions over the functioning of a senior medical officer and the staff of the hospital. He alleged that Arwinder was discharged from hospital on December 29 even as he had not fully recovered while the police presented him in the court on December 31. He was then referred to the Amritsar Civil Hospital by the jail authorities.

The peasants blocked the traffic for two hours and could be pacified after SDM Sandeep Rishi and SP (D) (Amritsar, Rural) Amrik Singh reached the spot. The leaders demanded that a case should be registered on the statement of Arwinder.


Dip in mercury may damage crops
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The increasing cold is bringing mixed reactions from Punjab farmers. While the weather is most suitable for wheat and kinnow, for those who have grown vegetables, specially potato, any further dip in mercury could lead to a damage of crops.

“No damage to any crop has been reported till now. But for those who have grown delayed potato need to be careful. A cold spell that brings in lengthy frosting period can lead to damage,” said Dr Baldev Singh, director, horticulture, Punjab.

He, however, added that there was no fear of blighting among potatoes this time as farmers had been suggested to take the requisite precautions.

“Other than potatoes, continued frosting could affect tomatoes, peas and capsicum yields,” added Dr Baldev. He said the cold was, however, beneficial for kinnow fruit.


Depleting coal reserves worry power board
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 2Coal reserves meant for thermal plants operated by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) are depleting following which the power board has no option except to impose unannounced power cuts in the state.

Sources claim that due to delays in trains following heavy fog in the region, the board has been left with just a couple of days’ coal reserves. Although the board has officially claimed that it was imposing a four-hour power cut in the state, in reality a six- hour power cut was being imposed, putting residents and commercial consumers to inconvenience.

Sources also claimed that according to rules, it was mandatory on the part of the PSEB authorities to maintain a month-long stock of coal. Rules also say that if just 10 days’ coal reserves are left with the board, a “critical zone” is imposed while when just two days of coal stocks are left a “super critical zone” is imposed. Now the situation is such that the board is reeling under “super critical zone” and if the coal stocks do not improve, the board may well be on its way to increase the power cuts from the present six-hour cut.

At present, coal stocks in Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal plant, Ropar, is just 67,000 lakh metric tonnes, which in layman’s language is just three days’ quota. In Guru Hargobind Thermal plant, Lehra Mohabbat coal reserves are down to 72,000 lakh metric tonnes which is just five days’ stock.

In Guru Nanak Dev Thermal plant, Bathinda, which sources reveal has already outlived its utility, the coal stock is down to 42,000 lakh metric tones, which is just six days’ quota of coal.

A board official, on condition of anonymity, claimed that if the weather conditions did not improve and if rail traffic was continually affected by more fog, the board was in for some dark days.

At the same time, the Central Electricity Authority was washing its hands of the position of coal stocks which was worsening with every passing day, he added.

When contacted YS Ratra, chairman, PSEB, however, claimed that the power cuts being imposed were not due to any coal shortage. 


Save power, appeals PSEB chief 
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 2
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) chairman YS Ratra here yesterday in his New Year message said the board took a pledge to provide better services to its consumers in this year and appealed consumers to make a resolve to save energy by using CFLs in place of ordinary bulbs, use shunt capacitors at tubewells and avoid wasteful decorative lighting. He said “energy saved is energy produced” and hoped that people of Punjab would help themselves by reducing their bills and help the nation by reducing the gap in demand and supply.

Ratra disclosed that the board had tied up with Vodafone for corporate connection to PSEB employees which may result in saving of Rs 2.5 crore annually. The board has been able to get same last five digits of mobile numbers, as were being used earlier, from Vodafone whereas the first five digits shall now change from 98725 to 96461, he added. 


New market committee chairmen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The Punjab government yesterday nominated four more chairmen in market committees in Faridkot district.

Disclosing this here yesterday a spokesman of the Punjab government said these chairmen had been nominated under Sub Section (1) of Section 16 of Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961.

Ranjit Singh has been nominated as chairman of market committee, Jaito, Jasanpreet Singh Dhillon of market committee, Faridkot, Amarjit Singh of market committee, Sadiq and Nachattar Singh as chairman of market committee, Kotkapura, all in Faridkot district.


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