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Punjab limps back to life
Badal offers state funeral for slain religious leader
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 26
Curfew was relaxed in most of the cities on Tuesday as the state limped back to life. With Sant Surinder Dass of Dera Sachkhand Ballan issuing another fervent appeal to devotees for maintaining peace and communal harmony, the situation appeared to be improving, although tension persists. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal claimed the situation in the state to be ‘under control’ and disclosed that the state government had offered a state funeral for the slain Dera preacher in Austria, Sant Rama Nand Dass.
Sant Niranjan Dass
Sant Niranjan Dass

“The decision is for his followers and the Dera to take. We will be very happy to announce a state funeral”, the Chief Minister said. He said the Ministry of External Affairs has been asked to take up the issue of the return of the Sant’s body with the Austrian Government. The Dera has expressed a desire to have the funeral at the Dera, near Jalandhar, he informed.

Meanwhile, the head of the Dera, Sant Niranjan Dass, who too sustained gunshot injuries, is stated to be out of danger and recovering in the hospital in Vienna.

However, a man was wounded in police firing in Malout town of Muktsar district when a mob damaged the official car of the Additional Deputy Commissioner near Ravidas Nagar. Curfew was imposed in certain parts of Malout and the injured man, stated to be critical, was rushed to Ludhiana for treatment.

The Railways introduced several special trains to rescue some 40,000 passengers stranded in various parts of Punjab, Haryana and Jammu. Intervention by senior officials prevented the situation from turning ugly at several railway stations, where the Railways ran out of cash and failed to refund tickets. The trains were provided security cover. Security was also provided to convoys of trucks and other vehicles stranded at various places.

Representatives of various political parties at an all-party meeting summoned by Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal saw a direct involvement of what they called “enemies of society and anti-national forces” in destabilising peace in the state.

Condemning the violence, the all-party meeting appealed for maintaining peace in the state. Cutting across party lines, politicians asked the Union Government to take up the matter with the Austrian Government for speedy trial of the guilty. Badal, however, said the Punjab Government was unaware about the identity of those who were involved in the attack in Vienna or the motive behind the assault.

The CM said the state government was duty bound to adequately compensate everyone who had suffered loss of life and property. He confirmed that three persons had died in clashes between security personnel and people showing an “emotional and spontaneous outburst” at the attack on Dera leaders in Vienna. But he denied charges that the administration did not react to the situation promptly.

Badal further appealed to people for maintaining the hard-earned peace, unity and communal harmony achieved after innumerable sacrifices in Punjab. Adopting a resolution unanimously, the all-party meeting endorsed the steps taken by the state government to deal with the anti-national and anti-social elements firmly and condemned the dastardly act in Vienna.

The meeting was attended by Lal Singh, acting President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, BJP president Rajinder Bhandari, CPI leader Joginder Dyal, BSP leaders Avtar Singh Karimpuri and Rajinder Singh Raja, CPM general secretary Charan Singh Virdi, Kamlesh Bhardwaj and Baljit Singh Dhillon of Shiv Sena Samajwadi and many others.

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Losses in Punjab estimated at Rs 7,000 cr

New Delhi, May 26
Public property worth Rs 6,000- 7,000 crore has been damaged in Punjab while industry has suffered a loss of Rs 400-500 crore due to violent protests in the last two days across the state, following killing of a Dera sect leader in Vienna, according to chambers' estimates.

Assocham estimated the loss to public property at Rs 6,000-7,000 crore and industrial loss at Rs 500 crore. Based on its feedback from the state units, the Confederation of Indian Industry said the industrial losses could be Rs 400 crore. Major industrial towns like Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Phagwara were affected due to violent street protests. Most of the boiler and furnace units in these areas were affected due to bandhs, suffering a Rs 150-crore loss a day, CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee said. — PTI

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Nurmahal bypoll now on June 12
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 26
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has postponed the byelection in the Nurmahal Assembly constituency from May 28 to June 12. 

Disclosing this here today, a spokesman of the Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, said the polling would take place from 7 am to 5 pm. 

The counting of votes would take place on June 15 at 8 am. The election process would be completed on June 19. 

According to the spokesman, the byelection polling schedule was postponed because of the incidents of violence which have occurred in the state following the attack on Sant Naranjan Dass in Vienna, Austria.

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