P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Punarjyot director, husband die in road accident
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, January 11
Dr Shivinder Singh Sandhu (50), and his wife Manveen Sandhu (46), principal of Spring Dale Senior School and director of Punarjyot, died in a car accident near Bikaner in Rajasthan this afternoon.

While Dr Sandhu and his wife died on the spot, Baldev Sohi, his cousin from the UK, and their friend Ajay Singh Pandit, a journalist, succumbed to their injuries in Prince Bijay Memorial Hospital, Bikaner. Eyewitnesses told The Tribune from Bikaner that a tyre of the car they were travelling in burst and the vehicle fell into a ditch at Gazner village, 30 km from Bikaner.

The Sandhus had gone to Rajasthan on a brief holiday after their silver jubilee wedding celebrations held here on January 2. They are survived by Dr Kirat (daughter), a dentist, and Sahiljit Sandhu (son), who had gone to the US to do aeronautical engineering, and father Surinder Singh Sandhu, founder of the Spring Dale School.

Thousands of people gathered at their residence at the school to offer condolences to the bereaved family.

The Sandhu couple had contributed tremendously to the growth of education, performing arts and worked to bring rural folks into the national mainstream by bringing education and culture at their doorstep.

Manveen had written two books on Maharaja Ranjit Singh and one-act play on Maharaja’s beloved Moran. She had produced several plays in an effort to revive the composite culture of Punjab, which had suffered a setback after the Independence. She had also encouraged Pakistan-based artistes and was instrumental in organising several joint cultural shows under the aegis of Saanjh and Punarjot.

She had also adopted schools in slums and villages. Recently, she had set up a scholarship fund corpus initiated by a media group.

Manveen, a great theatre buff, herself was sending monthly donations to Naatshala, an institute par excellence for the past many years. She had also been associated with SpicMacay for more than 30 years.

Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Bikram Singh Majithia, Public relations Minister, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, Health Minister, Navjot Sidhu, MP, Anil Joshi, OP Soni, Brij Bedi, Master Ajit Singh, Jatinder Brar, Vijay Sharma, Dr Harish Puri, Amritsar’s Artiste Welfare Association, and several educationists and mediapersons condoled the death of the Sandhu couple.

In his condolence message, Mr HK Dua, Editor-in Chief of The Tribune, who recently met the couple during his visit to Amritsar, expressed deep grief over the untimely death of Dr Sandhu and his wife. He described them as public-spirited persons, great philanthropists who were always keen to help the poor and needy. He said the vacuum created with their death was difficult to fill.


Nanhi Chhaan
One lakh saplings distributed
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, his wife Harsimrat Kaur, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar and Hans Raj Hans at a rally at Muktsar on Sunday. A Tribune photograph

Muktsar, January 11
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, today said she would suggest to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to institute an award for those village panchayats which would take initiatives for improving the sex ratio and environment.

Harsimrat, who is the patron of the Nanhi Chhaan campaign to check the incidence of female foeticide in Punjab, said special grants would be issued to such panchayats. Avtar Singh, president of the SGPC, which is a partner in the campaign, was among those present on the occasion.

Hundreds of women from the area participated in the rally that was held on the eve of the Maghi Mela. Earlier, Harsimrat and her husband Sukhbir planted a sapling on the premises of Gurdwara Tuti Gandi Sahib. Around one lakh saplings were distributed.

She urged the state government to provide an aid of Rs 15,000 as fixed deposit to financially weak parents of newly born girl children instead of giving it at the time of her marriage under the Shagun scheme. She also stressed the need for giving vocational education to women.

She said there would be a serious demographic imbalance in Punjab’s society in the next few years in case immediate corrective steps were not taken to improve the sex ratio. The declining tree cover was also a cause of great environmental concern as it would make the ecologically unsustainable.

Sukhbir said it was unfortunate that Punjab was at the top vis-a-vis the incidence of female foeticide.

Sukhbir said the SAD-BJP government would start a women’s college in each district of the state. The present infrastructure would be used efficiently so that government colleges and schools worked in shifts for women education in the morning and for boys in the evening.

Avtar Singh and MP Parmjeet Kaur Gulshan also address the gathering. Hans Raj Hans enthralled the audience by singing songs on the importance of women in society.


Kasab Pak national: SAFMA chief
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
A votary of Indo-Pak peace process, Imtiaz Alam, media personality from Pakistan, said today that the terrorist captured during the recent Mumbai attack Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national. He reiterated his stand that Pakistan should not have gone into a denial mode and should have accepted the facts about terrorist activities going on in that country.

At a seminar, “The Challenges of Terrorism and Role of Religion”, luminaries from India and Pakistan pledged to work for peace between the two nations. They said war was no solution to the problems between the two neighbouring countries.

Addressing the seminar, secretary-general of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), Imtiaz said after the Mumbai attack, he verified the antecedents of Kasab and found that he was a Paksitani national belonging to Faridkot in that country. He said Pakistan should have investigated properly into the facts as it itself was a victim of terrorism and had suffered 34 Fidayeen attacks, killing over 5,000 innocent persons.

Alam said both countries must give up war rhetoric and engage in serious negotiations to get cracking against the terrorist elements. He said: “Whoever had been behind the Mumbai attack wanted India and Pakistan to blow and divert the focus on the north-west region of Pakistan”. He said India and Pakistan must jointly investigate and find ways to prosecute the culprits.

Asma Jahangir, chairperson, Human Rights Commission, Pakistan, said there was no choice other than democracy in Pakistan to have peace in the region. “Yes, our democracy is weak, but we have to run it. We should be given time to run the democratic government in Pakistan, which has been ruled by the military for six decades. When we talk about friendship between the two countries that friendship includes people from grassroot level and not the elite class,” she added.

Kuldip Nayar, veteran journalist, said both countries must establish a joint tribunal with representatives from both countries and SAARC nations for investigations into the involvement of Pakistani elements in the Mumbai attack.

The others who spoke included Swami Agnivesh, minister Kanwaljit, Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Dr Joginder Dyal and former MP Iqbal Singh.


Suspense continues over 3rd BJP seat
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
While a broader decision has been taken that the BJP will contest three of the 13 Punjabi Lok Sabha seats, suspense continues over which will be the third seat as both Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur) and Navjot Sidhu (Amritsar) are certain to contest again. The SAD has already announced its candidates for six of the 10 seats it is going to contest.

The third sitting BJP MP and former president of the Punjab unit of the BJP, Avinash Rai Khanna, is in a quandary. After delimitation, his seat (Hoshiarpur) has been declared reserved. While the normal convention is that all sitting MPs get automatically nominated to contest again from the constituencies they represented before, in the case of Avinash he has either to shift to some other constituency or make room for a Dalit leader of the BJP to contest from Hoshiarpur. In that case, Vijay Sampla may be a strong BJP choice.

Punjab has now four reserved seats. The SAD wants that the BJP should continue to concentrate on the three seats it had won in the last general elections. The BJP is, however, keen that the SAD should contest the Hoshiarpur seat and give the BJP an alternative general seat. Those supporting Avinash maintain that after delimitation, four complete assembly segments of erstwhile Hoshiarpur LS seat are now part of Anandpur Sahib. Of these, two assembly seats are with the BJP and the remaining two with the Akalis. The fifth assembly seat is with the Akali Dal. Further, to strengthen his claim to the Anandpur Sahib seat, Avinash has moved his residence from Hoshiarpur to Kharar.

At some stage, Akalis were thinking of fielding Prem Singh Chandumajra from Anandpur Sahib in apprehension of opposition from within the party in case he was made a candidate from Patiala. But, now when Chandumajra has been declared party candidate from Patiala, this option too has gone.

Akalis have now to name candidates for Anandpur Sahib, Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Bathinda. Who will be the SAD candidate for Bathinda is anybody’s guess though recent developments indicate that Sukhbir Badal’s wife, Harsimrat Kaur, will be the nominee.


Canadian minister on Punjab visit
BKU urges him to resolve visa, immigration hassles

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 11
Canadian Federal Minister for Immigration and Multi-culturalism Jason Kenny, who will be on two-day visit of Punjab from tomorrow, has been urged to resolve all issues related to visa and immigration of Punjabis to Canada and other problems at the Canadian Embassy in Delhi and Canadian Consulate at Chandigarh.

Jason and his cabinet colleague minister of agriculture Gerry Ritz will visit Amritsar, Chandigarh and other places.

Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) president Balbir Singh Rajewal, who had organised a dharna in front of the Canadian Embassy in Delhi on September 16 last and submitted a memorandum to the Canadian Prime Minister through the embassy raising visa and immigration issues, said Kenny’s meeting with the Punjab government would be useful only if it redressed problems faced by Punjabis for getting visa and immigration to Canada. Rajewal said Kenny had been sent by the Canadian government to India and especially Punjab to deal with the issues pointed out by the BKU in its memorandum to the Canadian Prime Minister.

Rajewal said the Canadian Embassy in Delhi and consulate at Chandigarh had been rejecting 90 per cent applications for visa without valid grounds. He said even people who had close relations settled in Canada could not attend important functions in that country because they were not granted even temporary visa by the embassy in India.

Rajewal said Canadian Deputy High Commissioner Kenneth Macartney had admitted in a letter to him (Rajewal) that about 50 per cent applications were rejected. However, Rajewal said the number of rejected applications was higher.

The BKU has also urged Kenny to withdraw the “mission questionnaire” one has to reply and attach with the application submitted for visa. He said the questionnaire had several questions related to internal security of the country. There was no reason such questions be asked from any Indian citizen by Canadian authorities. He said most of the questions in the questionnaire were related to Punjab and the format of questionnaire had been designed seemingly to deny visa to most of the Punjabis. Rajewal has also urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to take up visa and immigration issues with the Canadian ministers when they called on him.

Rajewal said Kenny should also disclose the action taken against B. Hudson, former Canadian chief visa officer, who was posted in Delhi, for berating Punjabis. “We had complained against him to the Canadian authorities and sought an apology from him,” said Rajewal.



Kaypee ready to fight Jalandhar seat
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 11
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Mohinder Singh Kaypee is ready to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the Jalandhar (reserved) seat.

Talking to The Tribune outside the office of Jalandhar District Congress Committee (DCC) today, he said he was willing to contest, but the final decision in this regard would be taken by the Congress high command. Earlier, he had preferred to keep mum on the issue.

Meanwhile, Kaypee said the process of selecting Congress candidates was on. The PPCC would send a panel of three or four aspirant Congress men for each of the 13 Lok Sabha seats by January 20 to Central Congress Election Committee (CCEC), thereafter the CCEC and party high command would finalise the candidates.

He said the Congress would contest the polls in Punjab on the issue of achievements of the UPA government. Tough stand taken by the UPA government against terrorism had rendered Pakistan isolated and India was being backed by almost all countries of the world, he added.

To a query, he denied any infighting in the Congress and said a formal invitation to all party leaders about the Maghi conference in Muktsar had been sent. He said former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh might not attend it for he had suffered injury in foot.

Meanwhile, a former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who was also in Jalandhar in connection with a function by DCC marking the distribution of 1,100 blankets to the poor, criticised Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for his attempt to take credit of the central government schemes.

Bhattal told The Tribune that the SAD-BJP government had distributed Badal’s photos along with the cheques of paddy bonus provided by the UPA government. It indicated that the Badal government was trying to take credit of the central schemes. Bhattal said the PPCC would invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to contest the coming polls from any of the 13 seats of Punjab.


Raninder warns Badal govt
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

Goniana, January 11
Raninder Singh, general secretary of the PPCC and son of former CM Amarinder Singh, said today that Parkash Singh Badal-led coalition government would be dismissed on the charges of corruption in case the Congress-led UPA government returned to power at the Centre.

Raninder, who was addressing a meeting of Congress workers here, accused the SAD-BJP coalition of indulging in corruption and trampling democratic values. Five MLAs, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Makhan Singh, Darshan Brar, Gurpreet Kangar and Ajeet Singh Shant and state Youth Congress chief Ravneet Singh accompanied him.

Raninder, who is being projected as the Congress candidate for the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat, said incidents of political murders were for the first time reported in Punjab during the recent elections for the Bathinda Municipal Corporation when, he alleged, SAD supporters killed 48 Congress activists and as many as 782 false FIRs were registered against Congressmen.

In the coming Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission should declare Punjab a disturbed area and deploy central forces at the polling booths to prevent rigging by the SAD.


Preneet sees no harm in Cong list delay

Nabha, January 11
Delay in the announcement of Congress candidates for the coming parliamentary elections will not affect their victory chances, claimed Preneet Kaur. She said the failure of the SAD-BJP regime on all fronts was sufficient for the defeat of the ruling alliance candidates. She was talking to mediapersons at nearby Dulladi village, where she had come to attend a religious function, along with MLA Nabha Randeep Singh, MLA Amloh Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, former MLA Nabha Romesh Singla and Congress secretary Paramjit Khatra. — OC


Common man, unending woes
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
He stands for one hour in a long unwinding queue to get petrol for his motorcycle, pays 20 to 40 per cent extra for getting his weekly quota of vegetables and fruits because of truckers’ strike, gets a shock of his life when he learns of Rs 7,000-crore fraud in the info-tech company he had been investing his savings for the education and marriage of his two daughters.

His long list of woes does not end there. He finds his name omitted from the list of candidates recommended for promotion as only those of his colleagues who have been working with the ministers and senior bureaucrats of the state government have been picked and recommended for the higher posts. Merit and seniority, which he claimed to be his forte, have been shown the door. This sums up the weekly profile of a common man, a mid-career government employee.

His counterparts in private sector are no better. A little more than four years ago, the same common man felt elated when he was made the central figure or the hero in the election manifestos of all major political parties in the country. All parties promised to work for the betterment of the “aam aadmi” - the common man. But now as the five-year term is drawing to a close, the “aam aadmi” stands bewildered as odds are as heavily stashed against him as they were before the tall promises were made to him. But the governments, state or central, are yet to have any mechanism in place to safeguard the interests of the common man and protect him from the exploitation by the market forces. There is nothing that stands between him and monopoly houses that order unilateral increase in prices as happened in case of steel or other essential commodities, or provide him security in case of attacks by terrorists or antinational elements, watch his interests against rampant corruption in day-to-day life or promise a bright future for his educated children.

The Tribune talked to a cross section of people to ascertain their views on how much political parties have done to improve or better the life style of a common man. “If truckers’ strike, common man suffers. If petroleum employees strike, he bears the entire brunt and even when corporate houses commit frauds, victim is the common man,” says Anand Singh (not his real name), a government employee. Now, when the international prices of petroleum products have crashed, the government is taking its sweet time to slash the fuel rates, allowing oil companies to pocket huge profits. Even farmers are upset over the failure of government to cut prices of diesel and other farm inputs. Worldwide financial meltdown notwithstanding, common man continues to reel under uncontrolled inflation.

“Every politician, bureaucrat, corporate, industrialist or a judge needs security. What about a common man? Of 70,000-odd policemen in Punjab, nearly 8,000 are out to provide security to 500 to 1000-odd bigwigs. Of the remaining, 10 per cent are normally on leave or off duty. Calculating all other mandatory deployments and duties, total number of policemen left to protect and secure nearly 20 million people of the state is less than 10,000. So tell me who is safe common man or men in power!” rues Anand Singh.


Change in mindset a must to curb female foeticide: Majithia
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Information and Public Relations Minister Bikram Singh Majithia today gave a call to bring attitudinal change in mindset to check the increasing cases of female foeticide, especially in North India. He said this while presiding over ‘Kanya Lohri’, organised by the Sirhad Social Welfare Society here, today. Majithia said the change in attitude could not be brought about by legislative or coercive measures alone and religious bodies and NGOs would have to involved to bring in lasting change in the society.

He said the“Akal Takht”, had issued a “Hukumnama” on April 18 2001, that any Sikh indulging in female feticide would be excommunicated as the practice was forbidden under “Rehat Maryada”.

Taking this message of the Akal Takhat to the masses Harsimrat Kaur Badal has taken a noble initiative ‘Nanhi Chhan’ in which every newly wed couple visiting a gurdwara to seek blessings of the Almighty is offered a sapling as Guru-Prashad with a message to nurture the sapling into a plant and also to beget a girl child as their first issue.

He said that this campaign of involving the SGPC and NGOs would bring a change in attitude of the new generation.

The Public Relations Minister said the NGOs should come together in this movement, as it had to be impressed upon the people that daughters today were more efficient than sons.

He said right from Jansi Ki Rani to Indra Nooyi of Pepsico, girls had proved their competence in every field. He said Saroojani Naydoo, PT Usha , Kalpana Chawla, Saniya Mirza, Saina (badminton player) had shown that they could out shine boys in every possible field. He said that recently Chanda Kochaar had taken over as the chairman of largest private bank ICICI.


Move to raise retirement age irks medical teachers
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 11
A section of medical teachers have opposed the state government’s move to raise the retirement age from the existing 60 years to 65 years. According to them, this will lead to stagnation among teachers working in the government medical colleges of the state.

The Forum for Welfare of Medical Institutions, Punjab, has cautioned the government that increase in the retirement age will force many medical teachers to leave the job and join private sector.

According to forum chairman BS Dhillon and general secretary RS Sidhu, the government has already increased the retirement age of medical teachers in Punjab state from 58 to 60 years to meet the shortage. They said the decision had been counter productive as it had led to more stagnation of assistant and associate professors in the absence of any time-bound promotion. As a result, many of them had started thinking of premature retirement.

Sachin Walia, associate professor, Eye Department, Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, said the increase in the retirement age would benefit only those who had been holding administrative posts. This would also put more burden on the state exchequer as the highest paid teacher would stay put for five more years.

They said under the existing Punjab Medical Education Services Rules, the time period of PCMS doctors to become assistant professor was nine years and an increase in the retirement age would further increase the waiting period.

The forum has suggested that rules for the selection of an assistant professor should be immediately changed. They should be selected according to Medical Council of India norms, which provided that an MD/MS /MSc/Ph D and three years teaching experience as a resident/tutor/demonstrator/senior resident could become assistant professor.


Experts for joint panel to study organic farming
Jangveer Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11
Supporters of organic farming today called for a joint commission consisting of organic farming experts as well as proponents of intensive farming to scientifically analyse organic farming as a movement rather than giving this task to the PAU, Ludhiana, alone.

The Punjab State Farmers Commission, which had recently brought out a paper on Organic farming and its necessity, has asked the state government to provided funds to the PAU, Ludhiana, to scientifically study organic farming so that due recommendations on this issue could be made to farmers. Organic farming expert Kavita Kuruganti, who is presently assisting NGO Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), said organic farmers did not have faith in the commission or the PAU as these organisations were not aware of the parameters under which organic farming was to evaluated as a model. “Let them associate organic farming experts in equal number so that the real agrarian situation in Punjab can emerge,” Kuruganti added.

Kuruganti and Umendra Dutt of the Kheti Virasat Mission claimed that four decades of chemical agriculture had made 89 per cent of farm households indebted. They said rise in input costs and stagnation of crop harvests had turned agriculture into a non-viable profession, particularly for small and medium farmers. They said similarly the economic situation had a public financing angle to it too - the fertiliser subsidy bill of the country was a staggering 1.2 lakh crore in 2008.

He said the commission chairman Dr G S Kalkat by using the word ‘injudicious use’ of fertilisers sought to transfer the blame for disastrous consequences of indiscriminate chemical use on farmers - he converted the victims into the culprits.

The KVM head says the report examines ‘chemical v/s organic’ debate from the standpoint of ‘food security’ and ‘farmers’ income’. He said figures proved that sustainable intensification in developing countries through organic practices would increase production by 56 per cent.

The KVM head said organic farmers and experts passed a resolution stating that by supporting chemical fertiliser-based agriculture, India had become food insecure because about 40 per cent nitrogenous, about 80 per cent phosphorus and almost 100 per cent potash fertilisers being imported.


Chaos over Class V examination
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 11
There is an utter confusion with regards to Class V examination among the schools affiliated to the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). The state government’s Sarav Siksha Abhiyaan (SSA) wing has ordered the holding of Class V examination in government schools, aided and private schools. Heads of high and senior secondary schools have been asked to conduct the examination under their supervision.

The association of PSEB-affiliated schools had met the top brass of the SSA regarding the examination and the procedure. What will be the procedure to enable a student to sit in the examination and who will declare the result? Whether any pass or fail certificate will also be issued?

“We got no response from the authorities concerned,” Rajinder Sharma, president of the association, said. The PSEB was the examining body mandated by the government and it should have been authorised to conduct the examination.

“We had also met the PSEB authorities and they said they were not conducting the examination and could not say anything in this regard,” Sharma said.

Moreover, there is no provision of such examination in the schools affiliated to the CBSE and ICSE schools. Sharma said: “As our schools are affiliated to the PSEB and have nothing to do with the SSA, why are the authorities imposing their conditions on us?”

Sharma urged CM Parkash Singh Badal to remove the confusion regarding the Class V examination, otherwise the future of thousands of students would be in doldrums. Last year the Class V examination was conducted by the PSEB. However, before that no examination of this class had been held since 1988. 


CM’s Vikas Rally
Police beats up ETT teachers, pharmacists
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Malerkotla/Bhawanigarh, January 11
Members of the ETT Adhyapak Union today faced police ire when they interrupted the speech of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal by raising slogans against the government and demanding of shifting ETT teachers from Zila Parishads to the Education Department, at a vikas rally at Malerkotla.

As Badal started speaking, about 100 ETT teachers started raising slogans forcing Badal to stop the speech for 5 minutes. The police caught several of the teachers, beat them up and bundled them into a riot-control vehicle.

District president of the union Sukhvir Singh said the police had nabbed more than 24 teachers.

At the vikas rally at Malerkotla, Badal distributed Rs 3.24 crore development grants among 107 villages of the Dhuri Assembly constituency and Rs 2 crore to the Dhuri Municipal Council. He also gave more than Rs 3 crore to 84 villages of the Malerkotla Assembly constituency and Rs 3 crore to Malerkotla Municipal Council and Rs 2 crore to the Ahmedgarh Municipal Council.

At Bhawanigarh he distributed Rs 3 crore grant among villages and Rs 1 crore for the Bhawanigarh Municipal Council. He also distributed grants worth Rs 4 crore among 87 villages of the Dirba constituency and Rs 1 crore for Dirba Nagar Panchayat. At he Bhawanigarh rally, the police also beat up protesting rural health pharmacists and took them in custody when they raised slogans against the government.


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