P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Centre delays lifting of food grain stocks
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 3
As the situation on food front has become quite comfortable in the country, the Centre has turned its back on Punjab as far as the management of food grain, especially wheat and rice, is concerned.

In spite of the repeated reminders given by the Punjab government, no urgency is being shown by the union government to lift wheat stocks from Punjab to make space for stacking the fresh wheat the arrival of which will start in 13 weeks from now. The state government wanted that there is need to take away about 50 lakh tonne of wheat from Punjab to other states to make enough space available for stacking the fresh wheat.

As off-take of wheat from Punjab to other states is negligible at the moment, it will take several months to transfer existing wheat stock to the national pool.

“Obviously, we are concerned over the huge stock of wheat lying with us as fresh wheat crop will be due for harvesting in 13 weeks from now,” said Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Punjab Food and Supplies Minister. The union government would reimburse money spent on wheat procurement only after physical transfer of wheat stock to the central pool.

“We have to spend a lot of energy and resources on the management of wheat stock till its transfer to the national pool”, said Kairon. “Some people feel that state government’s responsibility end immediately after the procurement of wheat and paddy. However, it is not true. Till the physical transfer of wheat and rice to the central pool, the responsibility is ours to manage the stock of these food grain,” said Kairon.

About 290 lakh tonne of wheat and rice is available to the union government at the moment. It is almost double of the capacity of the buffer stock needed for the country. Owing to easy situation on this front, the union government has toughened its conditions with regard to the acceptability of rice, etc, for the central pool. As Punjab is a highly surplus state in wheat and rice, it has to abide by the conditions laid down by the union government.

“Though procurement of paddy ended in November, our job is far from over. We are now distributing bonus. We are also giving interest on it to farmers from the day it became due. And then we are supposed to give evidence in black and white to the union government that bonus has reached to every farmer, who sold paddy for the national pool,” said Kairon. “That is why we pressed for opening the bank accounts of farmers for direct transfer of bonus money to farmers. It will make our task easy to present proof to the union government regarding disbursement of bonus,” said Kairon.

“We had to work a lot hard to make the union government agree to relax certain conditions regarding the acceptance of rice for the national pool as rice shellers had pressed for it,” the minister added.


Power generation in sugar mills
MoUs to be signed with nine companies
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The Punjab government will collaborate with nine private companies for co-generation of power from government sugar mills in the state.

Gurgaon-based A2Z Infrastructure Limited will take over the sugar mills at Nakodar, Fazilka and Morinda. The Nakodar sugar mill with a crushing capacity 1,250 tonnes of sugarcane, had registered Rs 31 crore loss till March last year, while the one at Fazilka 1,250 tonne capacity was losing Rs 45 crore. Morinda sugar mill with 2,500 tonne capacity registered Rs 40 crore loss.

The company will invest Rs 80 crore each in the mills at Nakodar and Morinda where it intends to generate 20 MW of power each and another Rs 100 crore in Morinda where it expects to produce 25 MW of power. In three cases the company will operate the mills for 15 years.

New Delhi-based Saraya Industries Limited will take over the mills at Nawanshahr, Batala, Ajnala and Gurdaspur. The Nawashahr mill is losing Rs 10 crore and has 2,500 tonne crushing capacity. With the same capacity the Ajnala mill had registered a loss of over Rs 70 crore. The company will invest Rs 70 crore each in these intending to generate 12 MW of power each while increasing capacity to 3,000 tonnes of both mills.

The mills at Gurdaspur had registered losses beyond Rs 30 crore each and the company will invest Rs 135 crore to run these to produce 12 MW of power each.

Mohali-based Spare Industrial Devisors Limited will run the Bhogpur sugar mill for 19 years. The company will invest Rs 185 crore in the mill recording loss of over Rs 20 crore. The capacity of the mill is a little over 1,000 tonnes, but the company intends to increase it to over 5,500 tonne will produce 18 MW of power.

The Budewal sugar mill which registered a profit of over Rs 2 crore would be handed over to Purab Infrastructure Limited, an Amritsar-based company for 15 years. The company will invest Rs 80 crore and intends to generate 20 MW.

State Cooperation Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the MoU with these companies would be signed on January 12. “These nine out of the 15 sugar mills in the state will be functional soon,” he said.



Centre’s bias hurting us: Kanwaljit 
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 3
Discrimination on the part of the Centre was one of the major reasons for the economic downslide of Punjab.

Cooperation Minister Kanwaljit Singh, who was in the city to preside over a district grievances committee meeting, said the state was being meted a step- motherly treatment even though more than 70 per cent of the food grain to the central pool was provided by farmers of the state.

Terming the relief package announced for the farmers of the country, he said the parameters of eligibility of the scheme were set in such away so as to exclude the Punjabi farmer. The Centre seems to have made up its mind that no relief is to be given to us, he alleged.

The minister said the government had been taking up the issue of the appointment of the member, irrigation, Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), for the past several years, but to no avail. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal even urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in the matter that had been hanging fire since 1966, but the state was not even given an opportunity to present its case, he said.

Our contention is that since Bhakra Dam was built by Punjab, we should be allowed to manage it. Since its waters are being extensively used for irrigational purposes, we have a legitimate right in having a controlling stake on the dam, on which the very survival of the state rests. Even this logical plea was turned down, he pointed out.

Commenting on the poor fiscal health of the state, he said here, too, the Centre had dealt them a bad hand. While neighbouring states like Himachal Pradesh got Rs 10,000 crore, Punjab was allocated only Rs 3,000 crore by the 12th Finance Commission.

He revealed that out of that amount, not even a single penny had been received in the past year and a half, adding to the economic crisis of the state.

The minister said the Centre had sanctioned no major project for the state. All promises of SEZs and other prestigious projects had come hollow.


CPI against SAD doling grants in Oppn areas
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 3
Opposing distribution of development grants by Shiromani Akali Dal leaders (SAD) in the constituencies of MLAs belonging to the Opposition in the state, the Communist Party of India (CPI) today asked Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to stop this practice as it amounted to discrimination against elected representatives of other parties.

Member of the national executive committee of the CPI Joginder Dayal added that Badal was distributing grants at sangat darshans even in areas of Opposition MLAs. He said the money from the state exchequer should be distributed through the elected representatives only. He said Badal should not live under the illusion of bribing voters for the Lok Sabha elections by distributing grants at this stage as people knew that Badal had not fulfilled many promises made during Assembly elections.

Dr Dayal today also visited Niamatpur village (near Amargarh in Sangrur district) and paid tributes to former CPI MP Bhan Singh Bhaura at a function held to observe the fifth death anniversary of Bhaura in the village.

Dayal alleged that state-owned buses were suffering losses as the Badal family’s buses were not allowing government buses to do business freely. 


Khaira seeks probe into ‘SAD control’ over cable network
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Punjab Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira has demanded a CBI inquiry into what he termed as capture of the cable television network business in Punjab by two companies at the behest of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal with the support of the state machinery.

The Congress leader, while addressing a press conference here yesterday, said he had talked to Minister for State for Information and Broadcasting Anand Sharma on the issue and the latter had assured that he would look into the allegations being made in this regard.

Khaira, who also released a number of complaints received by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry about theft and piracy of dish TV signals by Digicable in Amritsar in February this year, said though the state Chief Secretary had been directed to act in the matter, nothing had been done till now.

Khaira alleged that Digicable and Fastway, who he claimed were being patronised by the SAD president, had terrorised all small cable operators across the state. He claimed even national-level channels were finding the going tough as was seen in the case of Zee Punjabi the frequency of which was changed so that an average viewer could not tune in to it.


Farmers want dues soon
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Batala, January 3
Braving severe cold, farmers of this subdivision, led by Ashwani Shekri, convener, Congress’ state election campaign committee, today blocked traffic on Batala-Gurdaspur national highway for about two hours to lodge their protest against the failure of the SAD-BJP government to make payments to farmers against the sale of sugarcane and basmati paddy.

Farmer leaders dubbed Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as “master liar” as he (Badal) always claimed that his government was the protector of interests of farmers, but in reality it always did the other way round.

They alleged that though the state government had been announcing new schemes daily for the welfare of all sections of society, the payment to the tune of Rs 37 crore for the sugarcane crop procured from farmers last year was yet to be made. The lone Batala cooperative sugar mill was yet to pay about Rs 3.8 crore to the farmers of this area.

Addressing the dharna, Shekri alleged that the Punjab government had also failed to make payment of the paddy procured from the farmers during the just passed procurement season. He added that hundreds of crores of rupees was to be paid to the farmers by the state government.

Those addressed the dharna included Gurwinder Singh Sahbi, vice-president, Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (Kisan Congress), Punjab, Jaspal Singh Tatla, district president, Kisan Congress, and Sanjeev Kumar, a youth Congress leader.


Makkar’s resignation sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Objecting to the recent controversy on the issue of “Sehajdharis of the Panth”, a human rights organisation - “Lawyers for Humanity” and Sikh youth of Punjab have demanded the resignation of president of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), Avtar Singh Makkar.

In a press conference organised here, members of the human rights organisation questioned as to who should be held responsible for submitting the affidavit on behalf of the SGPC. The affidavit stated that the Sehajdaris could continue to cut and shave hair without becoming “Patits”.

The affidavit was submitted in a writ petition that was to define - “who is a Sikh under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925” which is pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The SGPC had appointed the Expert Committee in response to the query of the high court.

The committee gave a report which was approved by the executive committee of the SGPC to be filed before the high court. The members of the human rights organisation, however, handled the matter in a casual manner and an overzealous advocate extrapolated the report of the committee and the affidavit was signed by the secretary, SGPC, in a routine manner without even glancing at the contents of the said affidavit.

The members of the human rights organisation stated that the matters pertaining to Sikh Panth should not be allowed to be handled in a careless manner.


Poor nestle with this Kiwi
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 3
She might be from New Zealand, but her heart beats for India. Patricia Steinkamp, a self-effacing woman, who has been living here for the past more than six years, has brought a significant difference to the lives of the poor, destitute and sick of this town.

This 60-year-old New Zealander lives with her husband who is a factory manager in Nestle’s local industrial unit.

She is not running any non-governmental organisation or any other social help group nor does she operate from any fixed premises, but whenever she comes out of her home she always helps the poor — rickshaw-pullers, beggars, orphans and others.

She is simple, passionate and progressive with the milk of human kindness.

Not only does she spend every single penny from her pocket for the cause of the poor, but also knocks the doors of officials of the local administration to get help for the helpless people. She has been often taking needy patients to the civil hospital for treatment, regularly organising Christmas party for poor and orphan children. She also provides sewing machines to helpless women, distributes clothes among poor children, pays school fees for needy children and a lot more.

Keen to serve society, she says, “More than doing something for them, what is important is to make them feel wanted and cared for.”

She feels the family of, say, a widow who agrees to take care of a couple of orphans and help them lead a meaningful life should be provided help.

Four years back, when she walked into the civil hospital along with some poor patients, she was shocked to see the messy state of affairs on the hospital premises - no cleanliness and soggy walls of wards. “I met the then district magistrate and took him along with me to show him the hospital, who launched a drive to clean and white-wash the whole hospital,” she says.

She has got donated many tri-cycles for disabled persons from Nestle through her husband, wheel-chairs for needy people and funds for other social works. Patricia has also provided water tanks for stray cattle in cow-sheds, offers medical care to stray cattle and plants trees in the town to give a message to the public to preserve ecology. 


He lit up Punjab differently
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 3
The man behind conversion of rural Punjab into power-saving CFL-lit clusters of villages has finally hung his boots after putting in 35 years of hard work at the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

Amrik Singh, the engineer-in-chief (south) of the PSEB, who had shouldered the daunting task of making all villages of Punjab adopt CFLs and replace ordinary power-guzzler bulbs by March 31 on an initiative taken by the PSEB’s member (distribution) HS Brar, superannuated on December 31.

Not only this, it were Amrik Singh’s efforts which had led to expansion of computerisation process of bills pertaining to consumers in domestic, non-residential, and small power sectors of the PSEB in a big way and at the same time had got power bill payment machines installed in different parts of Punjab for on-the-spot payment.

Amrik Singh was credited with enhancement of power generation capacity at Bhakra dam, Pong dam and Kotla power project and for bringing the annual repair time at these projects from an average of 21 days to 15 days. But what was largely unknown about this man was his contribution towards implementation of the much-publicised target of the PSEB to convert Punjab into a 100 per cent CFL state by March 31 in a big way. His efforts have started bearing results with people of Punjab finally going in for replacement of their ordinary bulbs with CFLs.


Badal’s finger caught in car door
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 3
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal received three stitches on the middle finger of his left hand that was accidentally crushed in the door of his official car when he stepped out to attend a function in Muktsar today afternoon.

He was rushed to DMC Hospital here after first aid was administered to him in Muktsar itself. Dr Naved Aslam and Dr Ashok Gupta treated him. The X-ray report ruled out fracture, but the CM will have to wear a sling for a few days.

The CM remained in the hospital for 50 minutes. Apart from Akali MLAs and leaders, bureaucrats and police officers rushed to enquire about his health as well as to manage the crowd.


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