P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Row over prize to minister’s grandson
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
The valedictory function of the 14th National Youth Festival today kicked off a controversy over the distribution of special awards to three children, one of whom happens to be a grandson of state’s Animal Husbandry and Sports Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, who was the chief guest of the function.

Ishar Judge Ahluwalia, an economist who was specially invited to the function, was totally ignored, while the kin of the minister, including his maidservant, were sitting on the seats in the front row. She reportedly left the function in a huff after awaiting to be ushered on the dais and stood unattended during the function.

A senior official of the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), while talking to The Tribune, said there was a total breakdown of protocol and they would submit a complete report to the central government in this regard.

However, the minister said the award was given to his grandson due to his talent. He said he was a very brilliant student. He said that the state government had fully cooperated during the five-day festival and he had personally visited the venues of various competitions.

Meanwhile, the host state won the maximum number of first prizes in the festival, which concluded at Dashmesh Auditorium of Guru Nanak Dev University here.

The festival was organised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in collaboration with the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) and the state government. Around 3,000 youth took part in 18 competitions out of which 15 were solo items and three were group items.

Punjab bagged first prizes in four competitions, folk dance, one-act play, tabla and classical vocal (Hindustani), while it remained second in harmonium competition and scored third positions in kathak performance and guitar playing. Andhra Pradesh won three first prizes while Karnataka, Manipur, West Bangal and Andhra Pradesh got two first prizes each. Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat bagged one first prize each.

Ranike gave away the prizes to the winners. Addressing the function, he said the festival was true example of unity in diversity for thousands of participants from all over the country mingled with each other and shared their views and culture during the festival.

Sindhu Shree Khullar, Secretary, Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry, government of India, Amardeep Singh Cheema, vice-chairman of the sangathan, also spoke.

Earlier, rain played spoilsport as the venue for the prize distribution and concluding function had to be shifted to Dashmesh Auditorium from the scheduled venue of hockey ground of the university.


Anyone trimming beard cannot be Sehajdhari 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
Just over a month after the affidavit on to the definition of “Sehajdhari Sikh” raised controversy, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) today submitted an additional affidavit to say anyone cutting or trimming his beard was not a Sehajdhari.

In the affidavit placed before a three-Judge Bench of the high court, the SGPC also drew a distinction between “patit”, “keshdhari” and “Sehajdhari” Sikhs.

Claiming that the affidavit contained the committee’s final stand, SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh said Sehajdhari was one “who performs ceremonies according to Sikh rites, who does not use tobacco or kutha in any form, who is not a patit and who can recite mul mantar”.

The affidavit submitted through counsel Gurminder Singh added: Patit means a person, who being a keshdhari Sikh, trims or shaves his beard or keshas or who after taking amrit commits any one or more of the four kurahits.

Elaborating, the affidavit said: “Sehajdhari and patit are two separate entities. Any keshdhari who cuts/ trims his hair and beard is a patit. So, it is clear that a person who cuts/trims his beard/hair, although he might be performing his ceremonies like Sikhs, might not be using tobacco, kutha meat in any form and could recite mul mantar, cannot be a sehajdhari because he cuts/trims his hair and beard”.

As the hearing resumed before the full of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal, Dalmegh Singh was present in the court.

Heading the Bench, Justice Khehar verbally made it clear the only question before the Bench was how important the hair issue was for admissions in educational institutions of the Sikhs.

Senior Supreme Court counsel HS Phulka, appearing for the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, commenced the argument with submission on the jurisdiction of the court to go into the definition of the Sikh, and whether the Sikh Gurdwara Act contained a valid classification.

Justice Khehar interjected to remind the counsel that the court was not concerned with the totality of the Sikh religion but only with the significance of the body hair and if it is just important or very important to the Sikhs.

The counsel submitted an impression had been given as if the court was defining the faith and that the scope of the main petition had been enlarged. After taking on record the additional affidavit and hearing arguments of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, the Bench adjourned the hearing to February 20.



Stop Sukhbir march, BJP men tell Rajnath
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The Punjab BJP today impressed upon its central leadership to prevent Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal from becoming Deputy Chief Minister of the state, saying that such an elevation would not send the right message on the eve of parliamentary elections.

State BJP president Rajinder Bhandari, Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia and general secretaries Kamal Sharma and Manohar Lal met national party president Rajnath Singh to convey the sentiments of the party rank and file. All of them will meet senior leader LK Advani.

Party general secretary Kamal Sharma, when contacted about Rajnath’s response to their protest, said: “This is an ongoing process”. He said the state unit of the BJP had stressed that this was not the opportune time to nominate any person to the post of Deputy Chief Minister. Other members of the delegation, however, claimed that Rajnath had responded “positively”.

Earlier, the delegation members had met BJP in charge for Punjab Balbir Punj and conveyed their sentiments against the “unilateral” decision of the SAD to nominate Sukhbir to the post.

Meanwhile, BJP senior leader Balramji Das Tandon said the SAD should reconsider its decision to elevate Sukhbir to the No. 2 post in the government. He said a wrong message would be sent out to the public if the father-son-duo occupied the topmost posts in the government and people would think they were more interested in coveting posts rather than solving the problems of the people.

Meanwhile, the working committee and general house of the SAD is likely to give its approval to the elevation of Sukhbir at a meeting scheduled for January 21. 


Majithia offers to quit in favour of Sukhbir
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
Minister of Information and Public Relations Bikram Singh Majithia today offered to resign from the cabinet and vacate his Majitha assembly seat for the sake of SAD supremo and his brother-in-law Sukhbir Singh Badal to clear way for his appointed as Deputy Chief Minister.

However, he clarified that he volunteered to resign as minister and neither the Chief Minister nor the SAD chief had asked to do so. He said he was happy that the voters of Majitha would get “Wada Wakil” (bigger lawyer) who would transform the constituency into an ultramodern place.

Later, in a written statement, Majithia said his (Majithia) family right from the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh had been working selflessly in the service of people of Punjab and Punjabiat. His family in pre-Independence era and post-Independence years dedicated themselves to ensure balanced development of Punjab. As a loyal and humble servant of the party, he would continue to discharge any duty assigned to him by the party, he added.


Malwa upbeat
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 16
The move to induct Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy Chief Minister in the SAD-BJP coalition government has generated enthusiasm not only among SAD activists, but also the general masses, particularly in the Malwa belt.

Although the SAD suffered a severe setback during the past assembly elections, Sukhbir, in his capacity as the president of the party, has been taking a lot of interest in launching development projects here.

The political development has generated hope among the local residents who believe that Sukhbir would be in a position to implement his promises once he was inducted into the ministry. He has been visiting here frequently and was almost in one or the other town of Malwa as the Lok Sabha elections have drawn nearer.

SAD activists distributed laddoos in the court complex here this morning to celebrate Sukhbir’s elevation. Rajan Garg, a lawyer and municipal councillor, offered sweets to the Mayor and practicing lawyers.

Senior SAD functionaries, including Sikendar Singh Maluka, Chiranji Lal Garg, Sarup Chand Singla, Baljeet Singh Birbehman, Mayor of the Bathinda Municipal Corporation, and Om Prakash Sharma, media secretary, have welcomed the move.

Meanwhile, the Congress suffered a severe jolt here today when its three general secretaries of the district joined the SAD in the presence of Sukhbir. They are Shivaji Ram, Rajinder Singh and Bibi Paramjeet Kaur.


Chandumajra endorses SAD chief’s elevation
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 16
Senior Akali leader Prem Singh Chandumajra has ruled out any bickering in the party following the elevation of Sukhbir Singh Badal Deputy Chief Minister. The move will boost morale of the party workers in the coming Lok Sabha elections, he added.

He was here today along with 2,000 residents of the Lehragagga constituency (Sangrur) to perform sewa at a langar in the Golden Temple complex.

He said Sukhbir would share the burden of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and it would increase efficiency of the coalition Akali-BJP government besides bringing in new ideas and concepts to accelerate the pace of growth in Punjab.

He said the move would silence the Congress which had been blaming Sukhbir for inaugurating development projects without having any constitutional power.

When asked whether the move indicated promotion of interests of a family in the Akali party, Chandumajra said each individual of the Badal family had been in public service for a long time and during the course of service if one attained an office it was not a promotion of a family interest.

Meanwhile, the Dal Khalsa termed the move as an outcome of an “assessment that after elections his (Sukhbir’s) popularity was going to hit the low”. 


State politics: It’s all in the family
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
Father and son holding number one and two positions in the government, looks odd and unprecedented. The elected leader of a party working under the leader of the legislature party, which is a part of the main party, also looks odd. But, not to the Badals.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal are out to set new milestones in politics, thus, putting to shade all precedents that had illustrious politicians grooming their wards in democratic governance.

Alliance partner Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) may not object to the proposal as long as its status remains unaltered. It may also press for second Deputy Chief Minister’s post for Manoranjan Kalia.

It was not only the core committee of the SAD, but also reconstituted district units, both rural and urban, that had of late started demanding induction of Sukhbir in the government. Undoubtedly, Parkash Singh Badal continues to be the tallest politician 
Punjab has today.

He is a crusader, strong campaigner and, above all, believes in politics at the grass-roots level.

There has been no reason or provocation for his immediate displacement. But, Sukhbir supporters think that it is an opportune time for him to take up some responsible position in the government so as to see the party through both in the coming general elections and the next assembly elections. Toning up the administration is one thing in which Sukhbir can deliver better results than his experienced father. Whatever be the logic, the move for giving him a senior functional position in the government came as no surprise.

It is also being viewed as scoring a point over his cousin and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal in the ultimate run for chief ministership

Though Akalis quote examples of Pt Jawahar lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi, Devi Lal and Om Parkash Chautala, Bhajan Lal, Chander Mohan and Kuldip Bishnoi, Shamsher Singh Surjewala and Randeep Surjewala and Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, besides numerous others, they could not cite an example where five members of an extended family are part of the Council of Ministers in a government.

Once the formality of inducting Sukhbir as Deputy Chief Minister is completed, the council will have Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal (son), Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal (nephew), Food Supplies Minister Adesh Partap Singh (son-in-law) and Public Relations and Public Health Minister Bikram Singh Majithia (brother-in-law of Sukhbir) who has now offered to step down in favour of his brother-in-law and vacate the Vidhan Sabha seat for him.

Unprecedented and odd. But, oddities have no place in politics.

Intriguingly, power has changed hands among few families in Punjab. Members of families of Partap Singh Kairon, Parkash Singh Badal, Beant Singh, Harcharan Singh Brar and Capt Amarinder Singh have wielded a strong political clout in the state. There are a few others, but none can equal the Badals in consolidation of power.

The question being asked is what extra power Sukhbir will get by accepting the new post that he does not wield being the president of the SAD.


Inside Babudom
Punjab has little say in central postings
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
If recent appointments made in the union government from among officers of different states are any indication, Haryana is doing better than Punjab in meeting its central deputation quota demands.

It not only got its 1975 batch IPS officer SC Sinha inducted as Special Director in the CBI, but also secured for its IAS officers key positions in various ministries and independent bodies.

Vivek Mehrota, a 1974 batch officer, has been made Secretary, Minorties Affairs, in place of MN Prasad, an IAS officer of the 1972 batch belonging to Bihar. Incidentally, Prasad is moving to the Prime Minister’s Office as Secretary.

He will replace Pulok Chaterji, a 1974 batch officer of the UP cadre, who is set to take over as Executive Director in World Bank later this month.

Besides Mehrotra, the Haryana government yesterday placed the services of Feroz Mehrotra, also a 1975 batch IAS officer, at the disposal of the Planning Commission as consultant. Only some weeks ago, Punjab’s previous Finance Secretary, Dilsher Singh Kalha, too, was appointed consultant in the commission.

Punjab’s IAS officers on the GOI deputation include Dr Jivtesh Maini, Dr A Didar Singh, Sundram Krishna and Dilsher Singh Kalha.

Incidentally, Mehrotras are one of eight IAS officer couples serving the Haryana government. And on this front, too, they outscore their neighbouring state. Though Anil Razdan, a 1973 batch officer, retired on December 31 last year, his wife Rajni Razdan, like him, has her last posting in the union government. She is due to retire on November 30 this year.

Gulatis, Urvashi and Naresh, besides Jakhus, Shakuntala and Raminder, are other IAS couples. Other IAS couples serving the Haryana government include Guptas, Anuradha and Parveen, Khandelwals, Krishna Kumar and Dheera, Aroras, Jyoti and Rajiv, and Likhis, Abhilaksh and Sukriti.

In Punjab, IAS couples are Kalhas, Dilsher and Geetika, and Tejveer Singh and Jaspreet Talwar. Punjab, however, has more IPS-IAS officer couples than Haryana. They are Kamal Attri and Asha Attri (retired), Jains, Parag and Seema, and D Gupta and Vini Mahajan.


Faridkot to have Microsoft academy
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, January 16
Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal has announced a Microsoft academy for Faridkot to impart computer software education to students. The state government has signed an agreement with the Microsoft Corporation in this regard.

Addressing a gathering at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Badal said initially the academy would be set up in the Government College of Education, here. He also announced setting up of a flying academy and a super-speciality hospital here to provide latest healthcare facilities to the people of the border areas.

The Chief Minister said the government was committed to set up state-of-the-art medical institutions to provide better healthcare facilities to the people especially the poor at affordable prices.

Badal also laid foundation stones of various projects worth Rs 68 crore in the complex of the Baba Farid University of Health and Medical Sciences, besides, a modern jail building being constructed at a cost of Rs 113 crore.

He also revealed that the SAD-BJP government had already undertaken the renovation of the reputed Government Medical College, Amritsar, at a cost of Rs 150 crore. The government medical colleges of Patiala, Amritsar and Faridkot had been linked with PGIMR, Chandigarh, through tele-medicine project to provide latest healthcare to the patients and medical research facilities to the faculty members.

Badal also announced that all the civil hospitals at district headquarters would soon be linked with PGIMR, Chandigarh, through this project.

Referring to the upcoming model jail, Badal said it was the endeavour of the state government to provide better facilities to the inmates by replacing the old Prison Act of 1894 with the Punjab Prisons and Correctional Services Act. He added that another such model jail would also be constructed at Kapurthala.


SSP told to investigate ‘kidnapping’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The Punjab and Haryana High Court wants Amritsar SSP Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh to look into the murky side of the municipal polls.

It has directed the officer to personally probe the disappearance of a candidate’s husband, allegedly kidnapped on the election day at the behest of the rival candidate.

The directions to investigate Jaswant Singh’s disappearance by Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia have been issued to “safeguard the democratic polity”.

Taking up the petition by victim Jaswant’s wife-cum-Congress candidate Manjit Kaur, Justice Ahluwalia has asserted: This court reposes trust in the SSP, Amritsar.

Manjit had alleged that rival Akali party candidate Rakesh Kumar Rimpi, “to browbeat and allay his apprehension of defeat had turned into reality the threats given to her, as her husband was kidnapped on the day of polling on June 30, last year”.

Justice Ahluwalia asserted that a status report had been submitted on Tuesday.


Border women take to police
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 16
Recruitment of women constables in Punjab has found maximum takers from border districts of Ferozepur and Gurdaspur.

These two districts, which are considered backward according to literacy percentile, have recorded maximum sale of forms. Within just three days of being advertised, these posts have attracted 287 applicants from Ferozepur, 220 from Gurdaspur, 218 from Bathinda and 215 from Moga.

For the post of 500 women cops, 3,000 forms have already been sold in the state. The form is also available on Punjab police’s website www.punjabpoliceindia.org.

Interestingly, more urban areas like Mohali, Patiala, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar have shown a lukewarm response to the advertised posts. Eight teams from Patiala and Faridkot range have been appointed to scrutinise the forms received. Total 466 candidates will be recruited, excluding those from sports quota. Also recruitments will be made in the intelligence wing of the department.

The applicants should be between 18 to 22 years of age and be +2 pass. Five years of exemption has been given to those belonging to SC/ST and backward classes as per government prescribed rules. 


3,000 villages to get water in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The Punjab government will provide water supply in 3,000 villages which were either not covered by this facility or only partially covered, PS Aujla, secretary, Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation disclosed here.

Aujla, who was speaking at an ongoing training programme held at Panjab University, said the coverage of 1,126 villages by the department upto December, 2008, was the highest in one financial year. He said in previous years, only 477 villages had been provided with safe drinking water and it was hoped that by the end of this financial year around 2,000 villages would be covered under this scheme.

Aujla said 471 villages, which had high concentration of fluoride in underground water, were proposed to be covered with reverse osmosis (RO) plants. He said out of this, installation of RO plants had already been implemented in 225 villages and that the same would be made functional during the current year. 


‘No power cuts in Punjab from March’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 16
Giving a new ray of hope to the people suffering from power shortage in Punjab, the newly appointed chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), Harinder Singh Brar, has extended an assurance that there will be no power cuts in Punjab from March onwards.

Brar’s assurance comes at a time when residents of Punjab are forced to live with prolonged power cuts — ranging between four and eight hours a day and when the state’s industry and agriculture are adversely affected by the scheduled and unscheduled power cuts. “My priority is to improve the present conditions at the PSEB in every possible way, particularly from the financial point of view, ” added Brar.


Tainted Police Officers
Punjab told to file fresh affidavit 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
The Punjab and Haryana High Court wants Punjab to file a better affidavit on its stand regarding the mandate of the Punjab Police Act against the continuation of tainted police officers on plum postings.

As the public interest litigation against the posting of tainted police officers on key positions came up for hearing, the Division Bench of Justice JS Khehar and Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal made it clear the court was not satisfied with the affidavit so 
far prepared.

The Bench also fixed February 13 as the next date of hearing in the matter. Taking a serious view of the continuation of tainted police officers on plum postings in alleged violation of the Police Act, 2007, another Bench headed by Justice Mehtab Singh Gill had earlier ruled propriety demanded their removal or transfer.

Notice of motion

Issuing notice of motion for February 12 on a petition challenging recommendations to the PCS (executive), Justice Permod Kohli today said a seat should be left vacant.

In his petition filed through counsel Gurminder Singh, Phillaur-based tehsildar Varinder Pal Singh said the recommendations were based on personal equations, rather than merit. As such, the action was totally in contravention of the statutory rules and was vitiated by malafide.


Coach Factory Death
FIR filed against officer
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, January 16
The district police registered a case against a Railway Coach Factory class I officer for the accidental death of senior technician Pramod Kumar (43) at its shell shop.

Sadar SHO SI Ravinder Singh told The Tribune today that the FIR had been lodged under Section 304-A of the IPC (death due to negligence) against deputy chief mechanical engineer (shell) Ravi Narula on a complaint of Pramod’s wife Bhuvneshwari Devi.

The SHO said the matter would be investigated before taking any action in this regard. An FIR had been lodged against certain other officials of the factory whose names had not been mentioned, he added.

Meanwhile, Pramod was cremated at the factory crematorium in the presence of a large number of employees, including its general manager of the factory Pradeep Kumar.

Yesterday, the general manager had suspended two class I officers after employees went on a strike over death of Pramod on Wednesday evening.

The suspended officials are deputy CMEs Ravi Narula and deputy CME (furnishing progress) Pramod Kumar Pandey.

Joint secretary of the Staff Council, Sarabjit Singh, and general secretary of the Karamchari Sangh Brij Mohan said they demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of the deceased and free education to his polio-stricken daughter. Sarabjit and Brij Mohan said the strike was called off on Thursday evening as the GM accepted their demands.


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