P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


PM tells CCI to resume cotton purchase
Tribune News Service & UNI

New Delhi, January 6
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today directed the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) to immediately resume its purchase and procurement operations of cotton in Punjab. The state Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had sought Dr Singh’s personal intervention in the issue.

Earlier in the day, Badal raised the issue with the Prime Minister during the Chief Ministers conference on internal security held in New Delhi.

The Chief Minister told him that the sudden decision by the CCI not to purchase cotton had not only created hardships for the cotton growers but also resulted in a law and order problem with farmers of the Malwa belt threatening to launch an agitation.

Responding to the concern expressed by Badal, the Prime Minister directed the CCI to resume procurement of cotton in the state from tomorrow. Dr Singh assured Badal that the Centre was committed to completing all procurement operations without any inconvenience either to the farmers or the state administration. He said he would personally look into the matter and monitor the procurement progress.

Badal wants greater role for state police

Badal set the ball rolling on the issue of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by saying that it should not be a parallel police force but should act as a co-ordinating body.

Speaking at the Chief Ministers conference here today, Badal advocated that the state police be adequately equipped and modernised as only a state police force was in a position to understand the ground realities.

Referring to the Mumbai terrorist strikes, Badal said that had strengthened the case for equipping the local security infrastructure.

Distinguishing between the domestic terrorism and external terrorism, Badal said we should understand reasons that lead to our own people taking to arms. Major reasons for these are poverty, unemployment, economic disparity and lack of basic amenities like housing, health, etc. 


6 lakh cheques for paddy bonus issued
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
Controversy over the mode of payment of bonus notwithstanding, Pungrain and Punsup have issued six lakh individual cheques to farmers for the just concluded paddy procurement season. The cheques have been routed through commission agents.

It is perhaps for the first time that the government has decided to pay interest at the rate of 11.60 per cent from the date of procurement till date of payment of bonus. Though all cheques were issued before December 31, many farmers were still to get the cheques from their commission agents.

Sources in both Pungrain and Punsup revealed that pressure from various associations of commission agents notwithstanding, the government insisted that bonus and the subsequent interest should go to the farmer directly.

Commission agents wanted that all cheques be withdrawn or cancelled and like payment for the procured grains, payment of bonus should also be made through them.

Six lakh cheques issued by Pungrain and Punsup would release a payment of bonus and subsequent interest of Rs 325 crore, almost half of the total amount of Rs 650 crore that is to be paid to Punjab farmers.

The Centre has released the money for payment of bonus. While the government wants to keep the commission agents on its side, it has so far refused to relent in releasing the payment of bonus through them.

“Each of the cheques has been individually prepared for the exact amount of paddy procured from the farmer concerned. Despite pressure from the strong lobby of commission agents, the whole exercise could not be undone. Further, government wants that bonus is the prerogative of the farmer alone and as such the commission agent has nothing to do with it,” sources said.

Meanwhile, the farmers have been asked to collect their cheques from their commission agents and get them encashed immediately.

There had been complaints that farmers were still to get the bonus. Sources reveal that only in certain pockets, payment of bonus and interest thereon have been made.


Farmers block Markfed gate
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 6
Farmers today blocked the Markfed gate for three hours in protest against the state government not commissioning any state agency to buy cotton.

Seven farmer unions, the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Dakaunda), the Punjab Kisan Union, the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Punjab, the Khetibari and Kisan Vikas Front, the Bharti Kisan Union (Krantikari) and the Kirti Kisan Union, joined to stir. The BKU Ekta (Ugrahan) also supported the protest.

The police had sealed the Markfed office and set up special tents for senior officials close to the dharna venue. A senior police officer said there were 600 cops deputed for security at the venue.

To why the area was turned into a fortress, SP Ajay Maluja said, “We recently witnessed that the farmers changed plan and blocked the railway junction. So we did not want to take a chance.”

The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) decision to suspend the purchase of cotton till January 9 extended till January 13 on account of holidays.

Farmer leaders said when the CCI had not been performing its duty, the state government should help the farmers.

“Despite requests and dharnas, the state government is not assigning any agency as it does not want to bear losses. Moreover, our voice against improper purchase of cotton by the CCI is not being taken seriously. Even after assurances of buying cotton at MSP of Rs 2,800, the CCI is purchasing it at Rs 2,200-Rs 2,600,” they alleged.

Before ending the dharna, the leaders announced hold a meeting on January 8 at Teachers’ Home in Bathinda to intensify the protest. Pishora Singh Sidhupur, Boot Singh, Ruldu Singh, Master Raghuvir Singh, Maghar Singh Kulrian, Gurmel Singh and Hardev Singh Sandhu, farmer union leaders, were the main speakers at the dharna.



New Youth Cong body pro Capt
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
The new Punjab Youth Congress dispensation, like the earlier one, is likely to vigorously support former Chief Minister and party campaign committee in charge Amarinder Singh. Recently elected state Youth Congress chief Ravneet Singh ‘Bittu’ has said the youth of the state felt Amarinder can provide an alternative to the Badal family.

Amarinder had received complete support from earlier Youth Congress chief Vijayinder Singla whom he had appointed to the post during his tenure as Chief Minister. After the end of Singla’s tenure, there was a feeling that the Youth Congress might not remain in Amarinder’s grip any longer, but this seems to be the case even now.

Sources said a crucial meeting between Ravneet’s cousin Gurkirat Singh and Amarinder’s son Raninder Singh had laid the groundwork for the close coordination between Amarinder and the Beant Singh family recently. This, they said, helped Ravneet in the elections.

Ravneet said there was a general feeling among the youth that Amarinder needed to be supported in his fight against the Akalis. This fact had even been stressed during a recent meeting with party Punjab in charge Mohsina Kidwai who told youth leaders that the party cadre must stand solidly behind Amarinder if it was to solicit votes against the family of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab.

The Youth Congress chief is confident that all party leaders will accompany Amarinder during the second phase of the campaign tour starting after Lohri.


Chhibber BSP candidate for Amritsar LS seat
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 6
The Bahujan Samanj Party (BSP) has decided to go it alone in the coming parliamentary polls in Punjab.

This was decided at a workers’ sammelan held at the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here today. It was presided over by party chief Avtar Singh Karimpuri. It was also decided at the sammelan that Lieut-Gen BKN Chhibber (retd), who recently joined the BSP, would be the party candidate from the Amritsar parliamentary seat.

Karimpuri said the major issues discussed pertained to the mobilisation of workers for the polls after getting the nod from the party high command that the workers should fan out across the state and work for the success of the party candidates.

Earlier, we were told that there were chances of an alliance with some party but now it has been conveyed to us that the party would contest all seats on its own. Accordingly, the party rank and file has been directed to campaign for our candidates in earnest, he added.

He said the candidates for the remaining seats would be decided in the coming days. The declared candidates include Dr Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi (Hoshiarpur), Madanjit Singh (Sangrur), Harbhajan Awla (Ferozepur), Kewal Krishan (Anandpur Sahib), Surjit Singh (Jalandhar) and Gurnam Singh Sewak (Ferozepur).

He said the workers were also told to keep the birthday celebrations of party supremo Mayawati a low-key affair in view of the Mumbai terror attacks. The functions will be celebrated in all the Lok Sabha constituencies, but no cultural shows would be held or cakes cut.

The BSP has earlier contested Ferozepur, Phillaur and Hoshiarpur parliamentary seats successfully.

Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the party still could make or mar the outcome in many constituencies. 


YC chief to realise grandfather Beant Singh’s dreams
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 6
After paying obeisance at the Golden Temple here today, Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) president Ravneet Singh Bittu said he would try realise dreams of grandfather Beant Singh, former Chief Minister who sacrificed life for peace in the state.

He said his grandfather had brought normalcy in Punjab. He (Beant Singh) wanted to ensure harmony in Punjab after decade-long violence in the state.

Bittu was given warm reception by party workers at various places.

Later addressing mediapersons, Bittu warned the SAD and the BJP against excesses on Congress workers. He asked bureaucrats not to commit excesses on Congress workers, otherwise they would have to face consequences when the Congress came to power. He claimed that the Youth Congress would work hard to win all 13 seats in the state in the Lok Sabha elections. He said Rahul Gandhi, general secretary, Indian National Congress, had ensured transparency in the Youth Congress election in Punjab because he (Rahul) was confident to win all LS seats with support of youth activists.

District Youth Congress president Dinesh Bassi took charge of office in the presence of the PYC president. Later, Bittu visited the house of Om Parkash Soni, Congress MLA.

Bittu was elected to the PYC post in December last. After 14 years after the assassination of Beant Singh, former Chief Minister, Punjab, in 1995, his legacy was revived because he (Bittu) was supported by major factions of the Congress led by Amarinder Singh and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, both former Chief Ministers.

After the death of Beant Singh, his younger son Tej Parkash Singh entered politics and became a minister in the Congress regime in Punjab. He (Beant Singh) also ensured the entry of another grandson Gurkirat Singh into the Youth Congress, but he failed to make a mark and was embroiled in a controversy. Bittu is 30 years old. 


Canadian MP meets Kanwaljit 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
Canadian Federal Parliament member from British Columbia Sukh Dhaliwal today called on Punjab Co-operation Minister Capt. Kanwaljit Singh here and deliberated on various issues of bilateral interests, especially the need for more exchange in the fields of education, latest agri-techniques, agro processing, agro forestry, packaging and power sectors.

Welcoming the Canadian MP, Capt. Kanwaljit appreciated the concerted efforts being made by the Punjabis in strengthening the Canadian economy and underscored the need to have closer co-operation between the two countries.

Taking part in the deliberation, Dhaliwal evinced keen interest in playing a significant role in enhancing the cooperation between two states and was quite impressed with the strides made by the Punjab in upgrading its infrastructure.


JD (U) not represented in govt: Raza
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 6
Addressing a delegates session of the Punjab unit of the Janata Dal (U) here, national general secretary of the party Javed Raza criticised the SAD, one of the constituents of the NDA, for not providing any representation to the JD (U) after forming its government in the state.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the then president of the SAD, while seeking the support of the Punjab JD (U) before the last state assembly elections gave a written assurance to leaders of the latter that due representation would be given to it in case the SAD would form government in the state.

After forming the government, none of the state leaders had been adjusted in it.

Later, 215 delegates from 19 districts of Punjab unanimously elected Ch Inderjit Singh Saini as state president for two years. Thirteen members for the national council were also elected.


Inside Babudom
Homecoming is always welcome
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
For those members of the central civil services, who are allotted other cadres, an assignment or posting in Punjab or Chandigarh is always welcome.

Such assignments are not only homecoming for them, but also provide them a chance to serve their parent state. Punjab has a couple of civil servants belonging to other state cadres. For Sukhbir Singh Sandhu of the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board, it is second time that he got an opportunity to serve his parent state. A qualified doctor, Sandhu comes from the holy city of Amritsar.

During the previous SAD-BJP government in Punjab, his tenure as Commissioner, Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, is still remembered by many for various development projects, including widening of roads, construction of flyovers and elevated roads.

When he returned to his parent cadre of Uttarakhand, he remained associated with the Dehra Dun Development Authority. Now, he has been entrusted the responsibility to carry forward the works left incomplete during his previous tenure. The most important project for people of Ludhiana has been the 75-km-long ring road. The project has been languishing for over two decades now for either want of funds or acquisition of land.

In fact, Sandhu originally belonged to the Uttar Pradesh cadre. The number of IAS and IPS officers in UP belonging to Punjab is substantially high.

Two of the UP cadre IPS officers are now on deputation with the central government organisations and posted in Punjab and Chandigarh. They are Himmat Singh, an IPS officer belonging to the 1980 batch, and Vitul Kumar, also an IPS officer, belonging to the 1993 batch.

Himmat Singh, a product of Government College, Ludhiana, has had worked as SP, the district police chief and zonal Inspector-General of Police in Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad, Agra and Bareilly are some of the areas where he has worked in different capacities.

In between, he had a five-year tenure as Director, Security, with Indian Airlines. He is now Inspector-General, BSF, and is posted at Jalandhar.

Vitul Kumar, who is a qualified engineer, comes from Bathinda, and is posted as Regional Passport Officer. He has been continuing good work of making passport office people friendly and free from corruption, as was initiated by his predecessor Arvind Kumar, also an IPS officer, but from the Madhya Pradesh cadre.


‘Every citizen must demand right to information’
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
“The right to information is a potent tool in the hands of the citizen to know what the government is doing,” said Maria Elena Perez-Jaen Z, commissioner for access to information and data protection, Mexico City. Maria was in the city to interact with the information commissioners at the Punjab State Information Commission here today.

Talking to mediapersons about the way the right to information has been implemented in Mexico, Maria said access to information was free of cost. “There is no money that has to be deposited with the application for information,” she said. She added that unlike India, applications could be made on the Internet and these had to be responded to within five days.

Maria also pointed out that Mexico City had introduced the system of collecting requests for information over the telephone also. “We have a call centre that works all through the five working days. Anyone can call on a given number and dictate the application for information. Also, the caller can request the operator to forward the application to more than one department,” she said.

When asked about the success of the system, Maria said the call centre was receiving over 80 to 100 applications a day over the telephone. She said the system of providing information in the 140 public offices of Mexico City was networked to the commission, which head appeals.

Maria said since Mexico had the state funded political parties and individual candidates, people had the right to know how the money was spent.

Interacting with Punjab information commissioners PK Verma and Ravi Singh, Maria said unlike India, Mexico allowed people from outside the country to use the Information Act. “A person need not be a citizen of Mexico to access information. The applicant also has the option of keeping his identity protected,” she said.


Dharna launched against land acquisition
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 6
Residents and farmers in protest against the alleged forcible acquisition of more than 17 acres (on the Sangrur-Sunam road) by the Improvement Trust (IT) for the Mansahia Nagar scheme here, started a dharna led by the Zamin Bachao Sanghrsh Committee, Sangrur. They put up a tent along the Sangrur-Sunam road near the acquired land to continue the dharna till the scheme was scrapped.

President of the Sanghrsh Committee Amarjit Singh said the dharna entered the second day today.Owners of houses and vacant land were participating in the dharna to save property as the IT had acquired the land for Rs 500 per sq yd, while the rate was from Rs 5,000 to Rs 40,000 per sq yd.

He said the BKU (Ugrahan) had also supported them. A rally would be organised at the dharna site tomorrow. The agitation would remain peaceful, he said. He said due to the acquisition of 17 acres by the IT, 79 families faced threat to their houses and land as they did not know where to go in case the administration evicted them.

Earlier on November 13 last when the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev was being celebrated, the IT authorities tried to take the possession of the land, but the residents foiled it.


Food grain: Govt to rent storage spaces
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
Even as the threat of procured grain rotting in the open storage spaces is looming large over the state, the Punjab government is now getting worried about where to store the wheat which is going to be procured in less that three months from now.

Other that the strategic buffer stocks and the grain procured this year, the grain, which was procured last year, is lying on open storage plinths across the state with no space left in covered godowns and warehouses.

The Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon said the state was drawing up a “hiring policy” for renting storage spaces in the state for the grain that was to be procured in the coming months. “We have studied the movement pattern of grain. Keeping in mind the buffer stock, we have decided to hire enough space for about 40 lakh metric tonnes of grain,” he said.

The minister added that there was a need for a comprehensive grain storage policy and though Punjab followed the storage policy defined by the Government of India through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) there was a need to press upon the Centre for a more “futuristic” policy.

“The kind of storage facility would depend on the length of time for which the grain has to be stored. We are working towards a policy that provides for different storage facilities for grain, which has to be stored for a few months and the grain, which has to be stored for years,” he said.

A similar approach had been suggested to the Centre as well. “We procure grain and store it for the central pool and they are equally interested in ensuring that the quality of the grain is not compromised,” said the minister.

Kairon is said to have written to the Union Minister for Food and Supplies Sharad Pawar, suggesting that the movement pattern of grain be studied before a storage policy is framed. 


Chunni-Landran road turns into jaggery market
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Kharar, January 6
The Chunni-Landran road has become hub of jaggery (gur) market. Pure and clean jaggery sold on the roadside is attracting thousands of customers everyday.

More than 12 makeshift units have come up along the road that make jaggery on the spot. Each unit uses upto 25 quintals of sugarcane on daily basis.

The business starts around Dussehra in October and continues upto March. “However, this year we are going to wrap up the entire set up early due to shortage of sugarcane. The government is not giving handsome remunerative prices to sugarcane growers, which has resulted in lesser farmers opting for this cash crop,” said Raju from village Jhanjheri.

Raju’s father, too, had been running the same business. People from nearby Kharar, Bassi Pathana as well as Mohali villages are running these makeshift units known as “kalahri” in Punjabi.

Another worker Sant Singh observed that with number of vehicles increasing on roads, business of jaggery making was also expanding with each passing day. “We have customers from Chandigarh, Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala and nearby areas. It’s the purity of gur that attracts our customers. None of us uses any kind of artificial agent or chemical while preparing gur,” Sant Singh added.

Jaggery forms an integral part of New Year and Lohri gifts. Customers bring dry fruits and ask the manufacturers to make gur with dry fruits sprinkled on it, added Sher Khan.

Khan has been making jaggery at the roadside for the past 10 years. He has taken a piece of land on rent and prepares gur after purchasing sugarcane from nearby areas, especially from Kurali. “The area under sugarcane cultivation is reducing every year and it is very difficult to arrange sugarcane these days,” he said.

People from far off places like Bathinda, Ferozepur, Mansa and Dabwali areas give orders in bulk of 10 kg or 20 kgs, he said. 


180 gram sewaks get job letters
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 6
Nearly 10,000 cards, under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), have been prepared to give work for 100 days in a year to rural people in nine blocks of blocks of Sangrur district. These villages have been approved by the Union Ministry for Rural Development on the recommendations of the deputy commissioner. The work includes cleaning of ponds, drains, construction of retaining walls of ponds/drains, construction of streets and street drains in villages.

Besides this, 180 gram sewaks have also been appointed in the district to oversee development works villages under the NREGA scheme. These sewaks will ensure the execution of development works in a proper manner. A gram sewak has been appointed for three to four villages, while a gram sewak for each village will be appointed when the administration gets more funds.

Sangrur MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa gave appointment letters to 180 gram sewaks here today. Chairperson of the Zila Parishad Sanminder Kaur, chairman of the District Planning Committee Gobind Singh Longowal, Dhuri MLA Iqbal Singh Jhundan and area in charge of the SAD for Sangrur Parkash Chand Garg were also present.


PTU move on syllabi to affect 3 lakh students
Varinder Singh 
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 6
Punjab Technical University (PTU) has decided to upgrade the syllabus of IT, management, pharmacy and hotel management courses to meet the needs of the market. Vice-chancellor Dr Rajnesh Arora said educational standards in respect of the varsity’s distance education centres would be observed. “We will not hesitate to close down the distance education centres lacking in faculty or infrastructure. Monitoring of these centres across the country was on,” asserted Dr Arora.

The varsity has more than 90,000 students on rolls in affiliated colleges which offer regular courses in engineering, hotel management, management and pharmacy streams, while about two lakh students are receiving education through varsity’s more than 800 distance education centres in the country. The proposed syllabus change exercise will affect three lakh students. The proposal of the syllabus will be discussed by the Academic Council of the varsity on January 21.

“I have observed that the syllabus is lacking in respect of the industry’s requirements which have changed in all these years. We will also involve the industry’s representatives in varsity’s Boards of Studies to know needs of the industry. They may be taken on these boards. Affordability of education is our another priority. Education is going out of the reach of common people. For this more scholarships will be offered and 10 per cent extra seats reserved for poor students and women as per the Chief Minister’s directions,” said Dr Arora, who has been head, Department of Placements, Guru Nanak Dev University, before taking over as VC.

PTU, said Dr Arora, was working on to involve industry in education. “We will approach the industry to ensure good placements for our students. The process to change the syllabai has been initiated from the point of view of parents who expect their wards to get degrees honoured in the job market,”said Dr Arora.


Agriculture officer to get state award
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 6
Dr Jaswinder Singh, agriculture development officer of Moga, has been selected for the state award for outstanding performance in creating an awareness among farmers of his area on the latest farming techniques and successfully organising a three-day state-level agro-mela here last month.

Agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah, while recommending Dr Jaswinder Singh’s name for the award that will be given to him on the Republic Day, has also given him an appreciation letter for his outstanding works. This appreciation letter was handed over to him by district magistrate Satwant Singh Johal on his behalf.

Meanwhile, the district unit of the Bhartiya Kisan Union in a function organised here on Monday had also honoured the officer. 


Demand to raise age of retirement
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
Members of the Punjab Government Non-Gazetted and Gazetted Personnel Welfare Association here have demanded age of retirement be raised from 58 to 60 years.

Swatantar Bhanot, press secretary of the association, said since the Punjab government had banned recruitment for 10 years, the government was working only with skeleton staff so the age of retirement needed to be raised as done by many states in the country.


Anti-graft drive by Punjab VB
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
In a drive against corruption in public life, Punjab Vigilance Bureau arrested two gazzetted officers and 13 non-gazzetted officers in 14 different cases and was able to secure the conviction of two accused in two vigilance cases.

Disclosing this here today, Harcharn Singh Bhullar, SSP-cum-joint director (admn.), Vigilance Bureau, Punjab, said the bureau had put up its best efforts to eradicate corruption amongst public servants and others in every sphere in the state. In this direction, the Vigilance officers had registered trap cases, disproportionate assets cases and criminal cases and ensured that suspect did not escape judicial punishment in the various courts in the state.


Murdered Man Alive
Police hunts for parents of accused
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 6
After taking “murdered-man-alive” Jagseer Singh’s blood samples for DNA fingerprinting, the Ludhiana rural police is in a dilemma who to match the samples with as his parents have both absconded fearing police action.

The police had taken the blood samples recently and sent to Chandigarh for fingerprinting. But, the DNA cannot be matched till the samples are taken from either of his parents.

The police wanted the fingerprinting to prove to the court that he was the son of Sukhdev Singh of Tallewal village, and five innocents were convicted for his murder.

SSP, Ludhiana Rural, Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said though the convicts in the case had identified Jagseer to be the man for whose murder they underwent a sentence, the police will produce the DNA report as an evidence in the court.

Jagseer’s family had absconded after his father was booked along with his maternal uncles and the prime witness in his murder case. The police had arrested his maternal uncles Gurdev Singh and Jeeta Singh, who had identified the body as that of Jagseer’s in order to get their political rivals framed in a murder case. They were reportedly aware that Jagseer was alive.

SSP Bhullar said: “I have asked my staff to expedite the investigation. Jagseer’s parents should be arrested soon. Then we would be complete with our case,” he added.


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