P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Manpreet to attend Sukhbir’s swearing-in
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 20
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal will attend the swearing-in of Sukhbir Singh Badal as Deputy Chief Minister in Amritsar tomorrow.

It had been speculated in the media that Manpreet would not take part in the oath-taking ceremony.

“I have decided to skip the empowered committee’s meeting to be held in Delhi tomorrow,” said Manpreet. “I, along with people from my Gidderbaha constituency, will join the swearing-in ceremony,” he said. “Though both Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir had told me to attend important meeting in Delhi, I have decided to stay back to be in Amritsar.”

“My absence from tomorrow’s function in Amritsar would have made people draw various sorts of meanings and invent all sorts of stories.”

“I have informed Satish Chandra, secretary of the Empowered Committee, that I will be unable to attend the meeting. I have sent a detailed note to the committee justifying the collection of market fee, infrastructure fund, VAT, rural development fund (RDF) on food grain procured for the central pool,” said Manpreet. “Satish Chandra has assured me that he will take the note on record to consider it as Punjab’s view on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that will replace VAT next year across the country,” he added.

With the implementation of the GST, states will have to bring about major changes in their tax structures and systems.

The union government has opposed the collection of VAT, RDF, infrastructure fund and also commission by arhtiyas and has sought 50 per cent share from the VAT collected on food grain.

However, Manpreet has been justifying the collection of various taxes on food grain as these are used to operate the marketing system for farmers. Manpreet says he had asked the Centre to give due share and compensation from the GST to Punjab in lieu of withdrawing various taxes on food grain.


PM unlikely to contest from Amritsar seat
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
Has the Punjab Congress succeeded in persuading Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to contest the Amritsar parliamentary seat? Politicians in the Punjab Congress say they are hopeful, but highly placed party sources in Delhi say the Prime Minister has already turned down the offer.

“It is very unlikely that Dr Manmohan Singh will change his mind on this,” a senior member of the party has said.

However, the state Congress has retreated its request asking the Prime Minister to come back to Amritsar, his native place. Senior leaders of the Congress, who attended a meeting of the coordination committee in Chandigarh today, confirmed that the party leadership felt that the Prime Minister contesting from Amritsar would be a big asset to the party in Punjab, so he be persuaded in the interest of the party.

Those optimistic about him agreeing say: “The recent announcement by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav of inviting global tenders for conducting pre-feasibility study of high-speed train corridor (to run a bullet train) on the Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar route is a pre-election move aimed at facilitating Prime Minister contest from Amritsar. This is despite the fact that Punjab is a non-Congress ruled state”.

Senior Congress leaders, who met in Chandigarh today, said though the issue did not come up formally, informal discussions on this did take place. “Congress leadership in Punjab is unanimously of the view that if the Prime Minister contests from Amritsar, it would swing a majority of the seats for the Congress”.

Chaired by party president Mohinder Singh Kaypee, today’s meeting brought up several important issues including, that of discipline within the party and strategy to be followed to fight the SAD.

Many leaders expressed dismay at the absence of campaign committee chairman Amarinder Singh and Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (she marked her attendance and left). Besides, Ambika Soni and Ashwani both probables for the Anandpur Sahib and Gurdaspur seats were also conspicuous by their absence.

The party appointed one member for each parliamentary seat to become “the eyes of the party in the constituency” and coordinate with the high command bringing to their notice the defects and deficiencies in the organisational and operational matters.

All campaigning will be done under the directions of the state Congress president, a move which is being viewed as a political setback to Capt Amarinder Singh, who was earlier made the in charge of the campaign committee.

It has been decided that the Congress would launch its poll campaign from Malout on January 25 and it will culminate in Jalandhar on February 9. By mid-February, the nominees are expected to be announced.


Badal harps on development
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 20
Development of Punjab will be the main poll plank of the SAD-BJP combine in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

This was made clear by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who addressed a series of public rallies at Patran, Samana and Ghanaur as a part of his ongoing development tour. Badal said Punjab would soon be developed as a model state.

Badal said he was confident of party’s landslide victory by capturing all 13 Lok Sabha seats to enable the BJP-led NDA form government at the Centre.

“We are committed to the development of Punjab and welfare of its people because we have come to power due to their mandate and are equally confident that the people of Punjab will fully support us to root out the Congress from the Centre.”

On agriculture front, Badal explained how the state’s peasantry had been exploited on one issue or another due to political reasons. The Centre had not even recognised state’s significant contribution towards the national food basket even at the cost of over-exploitation of our natural resources.

Despite reduction in prices of petrol and diesel globally, the Centre had not yet slashed the fuel prices in accordance with international prices. It has kept all powers to collect income tax, excise and duties and even the fixation of MSP with it and left states at their mercy.

Badal gave away cheques worth crores of rupees to the representatives of municipal committees of Patran and Ghagga. He announced to set up a sub-tehsil at Badshahpur village and ordered the Commissioner (Patiala division) to depute a naib-tehisldar till a full-fledged sub-tehsil was set up.

Cooperation Minister Kanwaljit Singh said Badal was the only leader who was capable of deciding the destiny of the state as well as the party besides steering the SAD-BJP alliance efficiently.

Nominee of the SAD-BJP combine from the Patiala parliamentary constituency Prem Singh Chandumajra said they would give the Congress a crushing defeat in the polls.


SGPC honours Canadian Sikh for work on ecology
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 20
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) today felicitated Dr Jagtar Singh Bhatti, who has been awarded Peace Prize by the Canadian government for his pioneering work on the effect of changing climate on environment.

He was honoured at a special function held at Akal Takht here by Giani Gurbachan Singh, Jathedar, Akal Takht. Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, and Avtar Singh, SGPC president,were also present.

The Jathedar, Akal Takht, said Bhatti had made the Sikhs by his work on environment. He said his work would inspire the youth.


US aid for de-addiction centre
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 20
The Rotary International Foundation of the US has decided to give financial aid to the local Red Cross de-addiction and rehabilitation centre.

This was announced by Rotarian Jeanne Clark, the leader of a five-member team from Kentucky district in the US, which visited the centre under a group study exchange programme. The team was impressed with the functioning of the centre and the facilities being provided to its inmates and their attendants. The team members interacted with 67 inmates of the centre.

Romesh Mahajan, project director at the centre, while talking to The Tribune on Monday, said after inspecting the facilities, including a yoga centre, indoor gymnasium and various training courses.


Punjab No. 1 in school infrastructure
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
The National University of Educational Planning and Administration has ranked Punjab the number 1 state in the country for providing adequate infrastructure facilities in primary and upper primary schools. Punjab beats Delhi, which has dropped to the second position this year. Infrastructure index for Punjab has been calculated at 0.917, higher than 0.909 for Delhi.

The grading of states is based on Educational Development Index (EDI) calculated by the university. Established under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the university is a premier organisation dealing with capacity building and research in planning and management of education in South Asia

On the basis of 2007-08 data, there are 18,508 govt schools in Punjab out of which 65.23 per cent have playgrounds, 88.38 per cent schools have the facility of common toilet. A little over 86 per cent of the schools have separate toilets for girl students.

Drinking water is available in 96.68 per cent of the schools in the state and electricity is available in 83.65 per cent schools. More than 96 per cent schools are running in government buildings.

The pupil-teacher ratio is less than 40 in over 70 per cent of the schools, while it is between 40-50 in only 18 per cent of the schools. There are 54,875 classrooms in total, out of which the state can boast of over 72 per cent being in a “good-condition”.

The enrolment of boys in schools is 10,77,613 and of girls 9,63,730. This means that for every 1,000 boys, there are 894 girls in schools.

The state has a strong workforce of 50,793 teachers and 5,332 head teachers. Apart from this, there are about 12,000 teachers in the schools under the Panchayati Raj institutions.



Reinstall Nishan Sahib at Hira Mahal: SAD (A)
Our Correspondent

Nabha, January 20
Following the removal of the Nishan Sahib from its premises, historical Hira Mahal here is once again in the news. The SAD (Amritsar) today decided to launch an agitation to get the Nishan Sahib reinstalled atop it.

General secretaries of the party Prof Mohinder Singh and Bhai Jit Singh Aaloarkh accused the district administration, the SAD and the SGPC of working under the clout of the BJP. They criticised SGPC president Avtar Singh for not lending support to the cause and asserted interference in religious matters won’t be tolerated.

On January 11, after performing ardas, various Sikh bodies, led by former minister Raja Narinder Singh, had installed the Nishan Sahib atop the palace, which is in the possession of Pritam Singh Sandhu. They had written to the Chief Secretary to make Gurdwara Siropa Sahib in the palace a permanent abode for the relics belonging to Guru Gobind Singh. In the High Court, Hanumant Singh, son of Raja Partap Singh, had agreed to hand over the relics to the state government and the High Court had asked the petitioners to file a representation to the government for their transfer to any place in Nabha from the Anandpur Sahib Khalsa heritage complex.

But, a couple of days ago, citing it a threat to communal harmony, government officials, accompanied by SGPC employees and Sikh leaders, got the Nishan Sahib removed in the absence of Pritam Singh.

Bhai Gurinder Jit Singh Sodhi, spokesman for the Virsa Sambhal Dharam Prachar Committee, said Pritam had set up a gurdwara in his residence and Nishan Sahib was installed there. He rubbished the police claims that Pritam tried to grab a portion of the palace in the garb of religion. He was residing there for many decades and the order of a district court pronounced on August 2, 2002, had legitimised his stay, he added.

Hira Mahal was the residence of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh and his grandson Hanumant Singh had sold it to local BJP leader and businessman Om Prakash Jindal. The deal had sparked off a controversy and the ADC impounded the registry. It was learnt that the local administration recommended the cancellation of the mutation.


Babbar Khalsa threatens strikes on Republic Day
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Sirhind/Bassi Pathana, January 20
The Babbar Khalsa has threatened to strike at various places in Punjab on the Republic Day.

The station master Bassi Pathana railway station today received a letter stating that major installations like Bhakra Nangal Dam, railway stations of Anandpur Sahib, Bassi Pathana, Una, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr and Phagwara bus stand would be targeted on January 26.

The letter is addressed to GD Sharma, station master, Bassi Pathana, and is written in Hindi. The stamp on the letter reveals it was dispatched on January 16.

The writer of the letter has identified himself as Babbar Khalsa area commander of Punjab and Karachi, Pakistan. The two-page inland letter envelope created panic at Bassi Pathana railway station and security officials were called from nearby police station.

The SSP, Fatehgarh Sahib, said the letter was received in the evening by the station master. “We do not rule out the possibility of the letter being a prank played by anti-social elements. Still, officials have been put on high alert,” said the SSP.

“We have beefed up security at all the railway stations in Fatehgarh Sahib and intensified patrolling in view of January 26,” he said.

He said senior police officials, including the district police heads of other districts, have also been informed who too are looking into the matter.


Panthic bodies submit memo to Takht chief
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 20
Several Panthic organisations today urged Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh to seek explanation from Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal for violating edicts( hukamnamas) issued by Akal Takht on anti-Sikh activities of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

In a memorandum to the Jathedar here today, the Damdami Taksal, the Khalsa Action Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Panj Pardhani), the Akal Federation, the Human Rights Organisation, the Tat Khalsa, the Ek Noor Khalsa Fouj and the Buddha Dal alleged that the Badals were encouraging activists of the Dera for congregations in Punjab.

They referred to statements of SAD nominee from Patiala Prem Singh Chandumajra that the religion had no place in politics and they would ask for votes from followers of Dera.


Relief for 1984 riot victims
To get houses, booths at lower rates
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
Finally, the 1984 riot victims are in for a major relief.

Displaced from their homes and left to fend for themselves after the riots broke, the victims will finally get booths and houses in Punjab at much less than the prevailing land rates.

For, the council of ministers in December has amended the earlier policy to allot 727 booths, and 2,017 houses, to the victims. Besides this, over Rs 81 crore has been released to the department of housing and urban development for the purpose.

As a petition filed by Ludhiana-based Danga Peerat Welfare Society through counsel Vikram Bali came up for hearing this morning, a detailed affidavit on the relief granted to the victims was placed before a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In the affidavit, Punjab under-secretary in revenue, rehabilitation and disaster management department Anita Bhalla said: The policy regarding the allotment of plots/houses to the victims was considered by the council of ministers in its meeting held on December 2, 2008.

“The policy was further amended so as to allot land for 327 booths at Ludhiana and 200 each at Mohali and Patiala at 50 per cent of the last auction price to the eligible riot victims by the PUDA in consultation with the deputy commissioners concerned.

“It was further approved by the council of ministers to allot to the riot victims 364 government staff quarters situated at Ludhiana, which included 69 houses under unauthorised possession of the riot victims and 295 vacant government staff quarters. These houses are to be allotted at the price prevailing in the year 1991-92”.

The affidavit added the department had already issued instructions in this regard on December 16, last year.

Before parting with the affidavit, Bhalla has asserted: “In order to meet the remaining 50 per cent cost of land of 727 booths and 2,017 houses, which include 50 houses already allotted to the riot victims, an amount of Rs 8,102.22 lakh has been released….”

After going through the affidavit, the Bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Hemant Gupta were of the view that no further direction was required to be issued. The matter, as such, stands disposed of.


Protest against privatisation on Jan 25
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 20
The Democratic Employees Front (DEF) has opposed the privatisation of the public sector by the government and dubbed the ongoing bid as an attack on the fundamental rights of the working class.

Meanwhile, through a resolution passed here in this connection, employees associated with the DEF have decided to hold a district-level convention under the presidentship of Jarnail Singh Kaleke, Balwiner Singh Chahal and Shiv Rattan. The state- level convention and protest march of the DEF will be held at Jalandhar on January 25, Kaleke said.

They would raise their voice against non-implementation of state government’s promise to hand over certain departments to panchayats, not regularising jobs of adhoc employees and filling vacant posts in various departments.

Kaleke said the Punjab and the Central government were bent to handover the state’s resources to foreign companies. He said it was part of a conspiracy of ruling class irrespective of political parties.

Kaleke said the convention had general consensus that problems like unemployment, poverty and hunger were results of policies of respective governments working under the influence of capitalist forces. The participants resolved to struggle for the cause of common man.


Defacement of information
Advocate questions revision of orders
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
HC Arora, an advocate of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in a complaint to the Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab, has demanded a probe into the “revision” of orders done by one of the information commissioners.

Arora had sought information from the Punjabi University, Patiala, about the appointments made by its former VC SS Boparai. The university, allegedly, handed over thousands of pages of information but “defaced” with permanent ink.

Arora brought the matter to the state information commission and following the hearing of the complaint, received an attested copy of an order of December 19, from the deputy registrar of the commission wherein information commissioner Kulbir Singh had observed: “It is a very serious matter. PIO is directed to provide information in original form to the complainant and should also appear personally on the next date of hearing.”

Arora said he later got a call from an employee of the commission saying that they had sent him an uncorrected copy of the commissioner’s order and that the corrected copy was on the website. “When I saw the corrected order, I noticed that the operative portion of the order has been drastically changed,” said Arora.

The corrected order read: “PIO is directed to provide complete information in original form to the complainant and should also appear personally on the next date of hearing to explain as to how the documents were defaced.”

When contacted, information commissioner Kulbir Singh said, “The order dated 19.12.08, as dictated by me, was typed by the reader and put up for signatures. On going through the order as originally dictated, I was of the view that before calling upon the PIO to file an affidavit showing why action be not taken against him for concealing the information, he should be given an opportunity to explain as to how the documents in question were defaced, by appearing personally before the Commission. I, accordingly, made this correction in the order. The order was thereafter retyped and signed by me. The order, as signed by me, was also posted on the website of the Commission.

However, on account of an inadvertent mistake by the staff, a copy of the order, as originally typed (without the correction made by me), got sent to the appellant, HC Arora. The mistake in sending the uncorrected order to the appellant is purely clerical.”


Ex-MP’s brother held with fake currency
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, January 20
Former Rajya Sabha member Dharama Pal Yadav's brother Dharamvir Singh was held today with fake currency at Nakkian toll barrier .

Dharamvir Singh, a resident of Rajnagar, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, was coming from Mehatpur industrial area in Una to Chandigarh in Endeavor car (HR 26 AS 1325). He stopped at Nakkian toll barrier and staff asked him to pay toll. He gave them Rs 500 currency note, which turned out to be fake. He then gave Rs 1000 currency, which again was found fake. The police arrested Dharamvir and recovered fake currency notes worth Rs 4,500. Till filing of the report the police was to verify whether Rs 20,000 currency notes were also fake or not.

Dharam Pal Yadav is an MLA from Siswan constituency in UP. His son Vikas Yadav's name figures in the Jessica Lall and Nitish Katara murder cases.


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