Explosion in potato cold storage in Sangrur
Chandigarh:MMNN:31 March 2017
One person was killed and four others were injured after an explosion in a potato cold storage in Sangrur district in Punjab.
The building was crowded when the tragedy occurred as many farmers were there to stock the potato harvest. It is learnt that the gas leak started in the chiller plant and that led to an explosion. However, it is yet to be cleared.
As soon as the news broke out, the police rushed to the spot. However, a probe into these charges is yet to be issued, with the administration now focusing on the rescue operations.
Police Withdraws 800 Cops Deployed For The Security Of VIPs, Politicians
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:31 March 2017
The new Congress-led Punjab government has committed to end VIP culture and prune their security which was being shown as a status symbol by many political leaders.
About 800 personnel deployed with VIPs, including politicians, have been withdrawn by the Punjab police following a review of the security cover provided to various protectees in the state.
"About 800 police personnel have been withdrawn from various protectees. The security has been reviewed on the basis of threat perception, intelligence and norms," a senior police official said here today.
However, those who were being given 'Z plus' and 'Y plus' security cover would continue to get the same, he said, adding fresh threat perception reports were also being prepared to ascertain the threat level to various individuals as part of security review exercise.
During the previous SAD-BJP regime, several political leaders were allegedly enjoying police security more than the prescribed norms.
The new Congress-led Punjab government has committed to end VIP culture and prune their security which was being shown as a status symbol by many political leaders.
After Amarinder Singh formed the government, the Director General of Police Suresh Arora had constituted a State Level Review Committee (SLRC) under the chairmanship of DGP (Law & Order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon to review the security provided by the state police to various 'protectees'.
The committee has mandate to carry out a comprehensive security review of the security provided to constitutional or public functionaries, officers as well as private individuals.
An interim report and two supplementary reports on review of security cover have already been submitted to the Punjab DGP, the official said.
The other members of the committee are ADGP Intelligence Dinkar Gupta, ADGP Security B K Bawa as Member Secretary and IGP (Special Protection Unit) Pramod Ban.
Navjot Singh Sidhu appeased or ignored? No Deputy CM post, unimpressive portfolio
Chandigarh:MMNN:17 March 2017
The swearing-in of Captain Amrinder Singh's cabinet while at one hand has left his camp overjoyed, it appeared as a bittersweet for Navjot Singh Sidhu supporters who were hoping that he will become teh Captain's deputy.
Induction of Navjot Singh Sidhu as Cabinet Minister has proved as bursting the bubble of his supporters who were hoping for his appointment as deputy chief minister. Sources close to the party said a faction led by former Punjab Congress chief Pratap Singh Bajwa was in favour of a number two position for Sidhu but the demand automatically got rejected as more senior Congress legislatures secured a victory.
A three-time parliamentarian, Sidhu will be having a third number in the government and has been allotted departments which were being considered insignificant by the opposition and people from his own camp in comparison to others including the ministers of state. While the Minister of State Razia Sultana got the Public Works Department besides Social Security and Women Development.
Other MoS Aruna Chaudhary has been given independent charge of Education department including Higher Education. Sidhu was neither considered suitable for the Health Department (his wife was Chief Parliamentary Secretary Health) nor for the Rural Development. He has been made a Tourism, Culture and Local Bodies minister.
"Captain has cleverly manipulated the things so that Navjot Singh Sidhu is deprived of the number two position. His wings have been clipped so that his image does not overshadow him or any of his cronies," Chief of Whip, AAP Sukhpal Singh Khaira said.
Sources privy to the information say, senior Congress legislatures were against giving a Deputy Chief Minister's post to Sidhu as he had joined Congress a few days before the elections. They had also expressed their reservations about Sidhu and had conveyed the same to the Captain. Captain in turn had told the party high command that he can accommodate Sidhu by giving him a third position but not as his deputy.
"I have won six assembly elections . It was my right to be at number two," says Brahm Mohindra who will be having a number two position in the government and was once in anti-Captain camp.
Sidhu was not available for a comment but one of his trusted aides Daman Deep Singh told India Today that Sidhu had personally not demanded any post for self but his supporters were hoping that he will be number two in the cabinet.
DEPARTMENTS GIVEN AS PER CHOICE
"No no ...it is wrong .Sidhu had never asked for any position. He was consulted by Captain Amrinder Singh before allotting the portfolio. All the departments given to him are as per his choice. However, it is true that his supporters wanted him to be a Deputy Chief Minister," Daman Deep Singh said.
Insiders say a Punjab Congress faction wanted to project Sidhu as Captain's rival before he contested election but it did not work. Seeking help from Captain's rivals to meet Rahul Gandhi had not gone down well with Captain who played safe during the elections. He proved his mettle by winning 77 seats and then called the shots by sending the demand to create a deputy CM's post to seed.
17 IPS officers transferred in Punjab
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:17 March 2017
In a major reshuffle, Amarinder Singh led Punjab government today transferred 17 IPS officers and 24 PPS officers with immediate effect.
The transferred officers included two ADGP rank officers and 13 SSPs.
An official spokesperson said senior IPS officer Gaurav Yadav has been posted as ADGP Administration while Dinkar Gupta has been posted as ADGP Intelligence.
IPS officer Naunihal Singh has been posted as IGP Border Zone, Amritsar, while Naresh Arora has been posted as IGP Crime Punjab.
Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh has been given the post CP Ludhiana and Nilabh Kishore has been posted as IGP STF (Int.) Punjab.
Jatinder Singh Aulakh has been posted as IGP Law & Order-1 and Ranbir Singh Khatra has been given the post of DIG (Admin) IRB, Patiala.
Among SSPs transferred are Alka Meena who has been posted as SSP Sri Fatehgarh Sahib, Baljot Singh Rathore as SSP Sri Muktsar Sahib, Gurpreet Singh Bhullar as SSP Jalandhar (Rural), Surjit Singh as SSP Ludhiana (Rural), Vivek Sheel Soni as SSP Pathankot and Jagadale Nilambari Vijay as SSP Ropar.
Among PPS officers who have been posted as SSP are Andeep Goel as SSP Moga, Bhupinderjit Singh as SSP Gurdaspur; Parambir Singh Parmar as SSP Mansa, Raj Jit Singh as SSP Khanna, Sushil Kumar as SSP Barnala, Sandeep Kumar Sharma as SSP Kapurthala and Satinder Singh as SSP VB Jalandhar.
Among other police officers who have been shifted are Gurpreet Singh Toor who has been posted as AIG CI Ludhiana; Jasdeep Singh Saini as Commandant 3rd Cdo Bn., Mohali, Mandeep Singh Sidhu as Commandant 2nd IRB, Sangrur, Opinderjit Singh Ghuman as AIG CI Jalandhar, Navjot Singh as DCP Jalandhar, Amarjit Singh Bajwa as DCP Amritsar, Gurmit Singh as DCP (Inv.) Jalandhar, Mr. Jagmohan Singh as DCP (Inv.) Amritsar, Gurtejinder Singh as Commandant-cum Deputy Director (General), MRS PPA Phillaur, Diljinder Singh as AIG Int., Punjab (STF), Gagan Ajit Singh as AIG Armament, Punjab.
Varinder Pal Singh has been posted as AIG CI while Varinder Singh Brar as AIG VB FS-1, Unit-3, Punjab, Kamaljit Singh Dhillon as AIG Zonal Crime, Ludhiana, Shamsher Singh as Superintendent Jails, Patiala, Gursharandeep Singh, as Commandant 82nd, Bn, PAP Chandigarh, Parveen Kumar as Assistant Commandant 80 Bn, Jalandhar Cantt. and Ravinderpal Singh as ADCP-II, Jalandhar, the spokesman said.
Why Punjab should not provide free power; state can reward farmers via cash
Chandigarh:MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
Who will form the next government in Punjab next month is currently sealed in the ballot boxes. In the mean time there are reports that the Election Commission has written to the home minister reinforcing its demand to make electoral bribery a cognisable offence. But what about the assurances made in election manifestos which promise moon before election? Can that not be checked by the Election Commission? The reference is to Punjab elections where all major political parties have promised to waive-off farmer loans. That means any incoming party will be under tremendous pressure to fulfil its promise of loan waiver. And if it is done in Punjab, very soon it will spread like an infectious disease in other states, taking the same shape as was during the 2008-09 mega loan waiver of UPA government, which finally cost the exchequer R52,517 crore. But, if a loan waiver was the solution to the problems of peasantry, there should not have been any farm distress after 2008-09. Problems of peasantry still persist simply because answers lie somewhere else.
Take the case of Punjab. Punjab has been a front runner in agriculture since green revolution days. Its agri-GDP registered an average annual growth of about 10% during the first four years of green revolution (1966-67 to 1969-70). But during the period of current government, agri-GDP growth dropped to 1.5% per annum (2007-08-2014-15, latest available data), which is even lower than the national average of 3.2%, and way below the best performer Madhya Pradesh whose agri-growth stood at 10.9% per annum during the same period (see accompanying chart).
Notwithstanding the fact that Punjab's per hectare productivity is pretty high, the moot question is where did Punjab go wrong, and what sort of policies can get it back on high growth trajectory on sustainable basis?
First, Punjab seems to have become a victim of its own success. Grain, primarily wheat and rice, occupies 80% of its gross cropped area (GCA), with almost highest productivity in India. This was great when India was suffering from food shortages. However, the situation today is completely different. After 2007-08, India emerged as a net exporter of cereals. Cereal stocks crossed 80 million tonnes (mt) on July 1, 2012, more than double the buffer stock norms. As a result of this 'abundance', the increases given in minimum support prices (MSP) of wheat and paddy were very meagre. This has brought down the profitability in these crops, and thus the income of Punjabi farmers. Just to give a flavour of the MSPs in India vis-a-vis some neighbouring countries, the MSP of wheat in China was $385/MT in 2014-15, in Pakistan $325/MT vis-a-vis India's $225/MT. Similarly, for Indica rice China gave a support price of $440/MT as against $320/MT for India's common rice.
Punjab peasantry suffered due to ban on exports of wheat and rice (during 2007-11), stocking limits on private trade, besides heavy taxes and commissions imposed on purchase of wheat and rice from state, which go as high as 14.5%. In a country where 1% tax on purchase of jewellery creates uproar, it is ridiculous to have 14.5% tax on basic staples like wheat and rice. The net result of this misguided policy is that food processing industry, which can add value, feels extremely reluctant to enter Punjab and most of the roller-flour mills in Punjab buy their wheat from Uttar Pradesh!
Second, although Punjab was the first to build a good marketing infrastructure for wheat and rice, it failed to create similar facilities for perishables like fruits and vegetables. As a result, prices of perishables remain volatile increasing the risk of farmers, who feel reluctant to shift to high value agriculture. Only 3.4% of Punjab's GCA is under F&V compared to 8.3% at all India level. The state has to realise that there is a limit to augment farmers' incomes through cereals unless lot of value addition is done, and the state has to shift towards high value horticulture and dairy to benefit farmers. Punjab has one of the highest milk productivity in the country, but share of milk production being processed by the organised sector is just 10%, compared to 20% at all India level and 53% in Gujarat. This clearly speaks of the need to ramp up milk processing facilities in the state.
Third, the most critical problem of Punjab agriculture is its depleting water table primarily due to paddy cultivation during summer. The nexus of ground water irrigation-free power-assured procurement- are sending wrong signals to farmers. The water table declined by 70 centimeter per year from 2008 to 2012. Currently, 80% of blocks in Punjab are declared dark blocks where water is over exploited (see accompanying map). It looks as if the current generation is taking away the water rights of future generations.
With one kg of rice consuming 3,000-5,000 liters of irrigation water, exporting common rice is not a very wise proposition for Punjab's agriculture. This has to be rationalised and government should incentivise technologies like direct seeding of rice and drip irrigation in rice. Pilots in these areas show savings of 30-50% irrigation water.
Promotion of high value agriculture necessitates investment in cold storages and processing, many of which can be operated through cost effective solar power. Instead of giving free power, state can reward peasantry for saving power through cash incentives, which will also help in checking water depletion. Hopefully, these issues will be taken up by the new government to take Punjab to a higher level of prosperity.
Punjab including Chandigarh to witness good rainy spell
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
It is not unusual for the state of Punjab to witness rainy spell in the month of February. Such has been the case this year as well. Back when the month started, around February 5 & 6, light rainfall was recorded, and such rainfall activity is likely to make a comeback again.
At present, Western Disturbance is moving across North Pakistan and an induced cyclonic circulation has formed over South and Central Pakistan. Both the systems are likely to move in a northeast direction soon. Due to this weather build up, clouding is likely to increase gradually tomorrow onward initially over North and West parts of Punjab and gradually over entire state. Chandigarh will also witness some rainy spell, so residents are advised to carry an umbrella on March 1.
The temperatures in the morning and afternoon hours will rise significantly with the approach of the weather systems. So the residents of the state may experience a very warm afternoon. Along with rise in temperatures, thunderclouds are likely to develop towards early morning on March 1.
The conditions will be ideal for the rainfall is expected in few parts. This rainy spell will gradually spread in some more parts of north and as well as southeast parts of the states. With the rainy spell the day temperatures are very much likely to drop, paving way for a comfortable weather.
Punjab polls: Sidhu meets Rahul, to discuss joining with Captain Amarinder this week
Chandigarh:MMNN:21 Dec. 2016
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi at New Delhi on Tuesday. During the meeting that lasted for half-an-hour, the former BJP MP discussed his plans about joining the party.
Both Rahul and his sister, Priyanka Gandhi, were holding talks with Sidhu after he floated his own front, Awaaz-e-Punjab in September. However, after Bains brothers of Ludhiana aligned with the Aam Aadmi Party, Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur and former Indian hockey team captain, Pargat Singh joined the Congress on November 28.
According to party sources, Sidhu will meet Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh this week to discuss his role in the party and work out the modalities of his joining. Both leaders had traded barbs earlier. Sidhu, while floating his front, had announced to work against the "Badal-Amarinder nexus" in Punjab and Captain had dubbed him a "clown".
Dr Sidhu says she won't contest assembly polls
In Amritsar, Sidhu's wife and Amritsar East MLA Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu said she won't be contesting the upcoming assembly elections. Her name had not figured on the first list of 61 candidates declared by the Congress last week.
Talking to HT, she reiterated that Sidhu will contest from the Amritsar East constituency.
"Sidhu wanted to play an active role in the state politics and that's why he has decided to contest the assembly polls. He will join the Congress soon and contest from Amritsar (East). I will assist him," she said.
Dr Sidhu also said they had no plans to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll. "We have made it clear to the party. We will contest only one election and that is assembly. Sidhu will campaign in entire Punjab and in his absence I will look after his seat," she added
Amid speculation that Sidhu has been offered the post of deputy chief minister by the Congress high command, she said: "I do not know anything about this but yes whatever role high command gives, Sidhu will accept."
She also said Sidhu has no qualms in working under the CM picked up by the high command.
On why Sidhu wants to contest from Amritsar East segment, Dr Sidhu said: "He contests or I contest, it doesn't make a difference. We are a family."
On whether Sidhu's entry may lead to dissent in the local Congress leadership, she said: Sidhu's entry has a clearance from the highest level. The message must be clear to all. Moreover, it is the job of Congress vice-president and PPCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh to tackle such issues."
Punjab farmer commits suicide outside state FM Dhindsa's residence
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:21 Dec. 2016
Hours before he consumed poison on Monday, Malerkotla farmer Darshan Singh, 50, had brought together nearly hundreds of other farmers from the region for a demonstration outside Punjab Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa's residence in Sangrur district.
Even as the farmers were sharing their financial woes and highlighting their demands, Darshan, who hailed from the Saddopur village near Malerkotla, consumed poison. He died in the hospital later in the evening.
He is survived by his wife and two children. Led by as many as 13 farmer and labour unions, farmers across the state had organised protest demonstrations outside the homes of many Punjab Cabinet Ministers to demand a debt waiver and compensation for families of farmers who committed suicide.
"Darshan had taken a loan of nearly Rs 15 lakh from some private money lenders and banks. He invested the money in a rice mill that was not successful. The banks had been pressing upon him to repay the loan," said Joginder Singh, leader of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Ugharana.
According to a report tabled in the Parliament in May, Punjab is second only to Maharashtra in the number of farmer suicides in 2016. In 2015, 495 farmers had allegedly committed suicide in the state, the report stated.
Professor Gian Singh, Agriculture Expert at Punjabi University in Patiala, who had conducted a survey titled 'Indebtness Among Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab (2014-15)' as part of an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) research project, said 80 per cent of the sampled agricultural labour households were grappling with debt.
"Apart from loans from co-operative and private banks, a large number of farmers are dependent on private money lenders. On an average, a farmer has a loan burden of at least Rs 6 lakh, even for the smallest of land holdings. There is frustration among farmers that pushes them to take such drastic steps," said Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary, BKU, Dakonda, Patiala.
Ahead of the Assembly elections, the issue of farmer suicides in the state that is largely dependent on agriculture has also become a major poll plank for political parties.
Punjab Congress Chief Captain Amarinder Singh has announced to waive off farm loans, if the party comes to power, and said that over 33 lakh farmers across the state have signed the debt-waiver forms.
At the same time, SAD-BJP is flagging how it has provided power subsidy to farmers and has lambasted the Congress for luring farmers with the promises of providing debt relief.
Demonetisation: ED Recovers Rs 30 Lakh, Gold From Tailor in Punjab
Chandigarh:MMNN:17 Dec. 2016
The Enforcement Directorate has recovered about Rs 30 lakh cash and 2.5 kg gold from the premises of a prominent tailor in Punjab as part of its operation to unearth illegal cash.
The seizure comes three days after ED officials recovered Rs 2.19 crore cash from a cloth merchant in Mohali.
Acting on tip off, the sleuths of ED swooped down on the premises of Maharaja Tailor in Mohali (Punjab) and at sector 22 in Chandigarh here.
The seizure included Rs 18 lakh in Rs 2,000 denomination and while the rest was in Rs 100 and 50 denominations, ED official said on Saturday.
The ED sleuths said that they were verifying how the notes were exchanged and from whom, the owners of the shop bought the gold.
Officials were examining the bill books of the shop. The owners of the tailoring shop had allegedly bought 2.5 kg gold at a rate of Rs 44,000 per 10 gram after demonetisation, they said.
Investigations were underway, ED officials said.
Meanwhile, the Chandigarh Police had arrested a senior bank employee of a private bank in Mohali for allegedly providing new currency to cloth merchant Inderpal Mahajan on commission basis.
ED had seized Rs 2.19 crore including Rs 17.74 lakh in Rs 2,000 denomination, Rs 12,500 in Rs 500 denomination from the house of Mahajan on December 14.
Punjab and Haryana HC collegium recommends 3 district judges for elevation
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:17 Dec. 2016
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has recommended names of three Haryana District and Sessions Judges for elevation as High Court judges. These are Kuldip Jain, legal remembrancer and administrative secretary oflaw and legislative department of the Haryana government; Inderjeet Mehta and Anil Kumar Singh Panwar who are District and Sessions Judges of Faridabad and Panipat, respectively.
The names were recommended in a recently held meeting by the High Court collegium comprising Chief Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar, Justice SS Saron and Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal.
The High Court is functioning with the strength of 47 judges against the sanctioned strength of 85 and around 2.84 lakh cases are pending adjudication before the High Court.
Recently,on December 12 former Patiala District and Sessions Judge Harminder Singh Madaantook oath as additional judge of the High Court after his name got final stamp of the President of India.
However, names of other two Punjab judicial officers, High Court Registrar General Gurvinder Singh Gill and Jalandhar District and Sessions Judge Raj Shekhar Attri, are still pending clearance for elevation as High Court judges.
The High Court collegium had in June this year also recommended names of senior advocate Anil Kshetarpal, advocates Arvind Singh Sangwan, Rajbir Sehrawat, Mahabir Singh Sindhu, Major Sudhir Mittal (retd.), Harnaresh Singh Gill and Avneesh Jhingan for elevation as High Court judges. But their names are also pending clearance.
Arvind Kejriwal's Sole Intention is to Grab Power in Punjab: Prakash Singh Badal
Gurdaspur:MMNN:14 Dec. 2016
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday accused his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal of having no affection for Punjab or its people and his sole intention is to "grab power" in the poll-bound state.
"Kejriwal's statement on the Sutlej-Yamuna-Link (SYL) canal issue is aimed at deriving political benefit from this move. He is against the state from the core of his heart," Badal said after laying foundation stone for a college and sub-division complex in Kalanaur here.
He claimed the AAP leader "changes" his stand on the issue "as per his convenience to mislead the people".
Recently, Kejriwal accused ruling SAD, and Congress of "befooling" Punjabis on the SYL issue.
"Kejriwal hails from Haryana so he is naturally inclined to safeguard interests of his state. He has no affection for Punjab and his sole intention is to grab power for Haryana's benefit," he said
"In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on SYL, the Delhi government said the Punjab government's stand will disintegrate the country," Badal alleged, adding the "Delhi government has also claimed this step was unconstitutional and anti-national".
Meanwhile, at a function ahead of Christmas, Badal slammed Congress and AAP for hobnobbing with each other on the SYL issue and asked people to foil their "nefarious designs to ruin the state".
"They are conniving to deprive Punjab of its legitimate share of river water by constructing the canal," he said, adding as per the Riparian principle Punjab is the rightful owner of its river waters
The Congress has divested the state of its rights by giving water to Rajasthan, Haryana and other states and now AAP has joined it to rob the state of its waters, Badal alleged.
He said Congress in the past had signed various water agreements to "deprive" the state of its waters and now the AAP is trying to ensure them at the earliest.
"Punjab has no spare water to share with anyone. Nobody will be allowed to construct the canal," Badal said, adding the parties are hell bent on turning the state into a desert.
He said by conferring ownership rights of land acquired for the canal to original owners the SAD-BJP government "had buried this issue forever".
Reiterating the state government's firm commitment to ensure development of the Christian community, Badal said his government has earmarked Rs 100 crore for providing land for burial grounds as required by the community, he said.
No voluntary disclosure scheme for tubewells this year in Punjab, farmers fearing heavy penalties
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:14 Dec. 2016
Farmers in Punjab are a worried lot as the state government has not offered them a voluntary disclosure scheme (VDS) this year to declare the increased electricity load on their tubewells.
Farmers resorting to increased load without the permission of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) are liable to be penalised. Unlike the previous years, the state government has not offered them a VDS this year.
As per an estimate, 40% of the total agriculture tubewells go defunct every year due to fall in sub-soil water level and the farmers have to dig deeper and instal machinery of bigger capacity to pull out water.
In 2006, the average power of the machinery over tubewell was 5 BHP (brake horse power), which now has increased to 12.5 to 15 BHP.
"I am getting several calls every day from the farmers seeking help. In case their load is not regularised, they have to pay heavy penalties to get their power loads sanctioned," said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal), while talking.
A delegation of farmers, led by Rajewal, had called on Punjab CM on November 13 to take up the matter. "The CM then assured us that the government will come up with a VDS in just a few days, but a month has passed and we are still waiting," he said.
When contacted, PSPCL chairman-cum- managing director KD Chaudhari said the corporation has sent a petition for VDS to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) in March this year, but a decision is still awaited. Senior PSERC officials, on the other hand, feigned ignorance about any such petition from the PSPCL.
As per information gathered by HT from the field, when a raiding team checks a tubewell using more power than the sanctioned load, penalties up to 50,000 are imposed, farmers are booked for theft and they even have to secure bail to avoid arrest.
About 70% of agriculture in Punjab is dependent on subsoil water, which is receding at a fast pace. Water is now available at a depth varying from 80 ft to 200 ft. At some farms in Ropar and Nawanshahr districts, the water table has gone down to even lower than 220 feet.
40 lakh drug addicts in Punjab, says Arvind Kejriwal
Tangra (amritsar) :MMNN:10 Dec. 2016
Arvind Kejriwal, national convener of Aam Aadmi Party and chief minister of Delhi, has given a new figure of drug addicts in Punjab. Addressing a rally in Tangra, Amritsar, on Friday, he said there are 40 lakh drug addicts in the state.
On the first day of his six-day visit to Punjab, he said, "We have all the planning. We will stop the supply of drugs in state within one month of forming government. Big names are behind this smuggling. They all need to be put behind bars to stop supply of drugs." Kejriwal added, "After stopping drug supply, we have to focus on the drug addicts. They are needed to be treated at first. I had met a person a few days back. He has worked on it and formed an estimate. According to him, 40 lakh youths are drug addicts in Punjab. We will get all these 40 lakh drug addicts treated. We will open new clinics and bring doctors to treat them. We will treat all the addicts within six months."
Kejriwal also alleged that the SAD-BJP alliance and Congress have reached a secret pact to contest the 2017 Assembly polls. "After being threatened by AAP's rising popularity, PPCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh and SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal have held a clandestine meeting to discuss their respective poll prospects in the forthcoming polls. As both of them know very well that both SAD-BJP and Congress would not be able to form the government in Punjab, they have decided to field candidates with mutual understanding," he charged.
The Delhi chief minister said the Akalis were well aware that they were not coming to power in Punjab as people were simmering in anger and many of them (Akalis) would not even be allowed to enter villages, after announcement of the election. Hence, both Sukhbir and Captain thought it would be appropriate to contest the forthcoming polls with mutual understanding and agreement.
Kejriwal further alleged that the secret pact reached between Sukhbir and the Captain could not have been more evident especially after the Badal government withdrew all corruption cases against Amarinder in Amritsar court.
Dense Fog Persists In Punjab, Haryana, Minimum Temperature Above Normal
CHANDIGARH:MMNN:10 Dec. 2016
Minimum temperatures hovered well above normal in several parts of Punjab and Haryana as a thick blanket of fog engulfed the two states, affecting road, rail and air traffic.
According to the MeT Department in Chandigarh, fog reduced visibility at several places including Amritsar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Faridabad and Gurugram.
Chandigarh also witnessed a low visibility due to fog early in the morning.
Movement of vehicular traffic was affected at many places in the two states due to fog while several trains were reported running late.
Chandigarh recorded a minimum temperature of 11.2 degrees Celcius, four notches above normal limits.
Ambala recorded a low of 10.4 degrees Celcius, up three notches against normal. Karnal recorded a low of 10.2 degrees Celcius, two notches above normal while Hisar registered a low at 11.3 degrees Celcius, up four notches.
In Punjab, Amritsar recorded a low of 8.8 degrees Celcius, three degrees above normal.
Ludhiana's minimum also settled at 8.8 degrees Celcius, up two notches while Patiala registered a low of 11.5 degrees Celcius, three degrees more than normal level.
Jailbreak and Politics Go Together in Punjab
Chandigarh:MMNN:30 Nov. 2016
A situation is there to be taken advantage of. If the advantage is not obvious then a spin has to be added to deflect the blame or at least reduce the potential for damage.
Six criminals including two terrorists escaping from Punjab's Nabha jail is such a situation.
Six to 10 criminals masquerading as policemen brought in a handcuffed jail inmate in four cars at the Nabha maximum security prison around 8.30 am on Sunday. With hardly any modern verification systems in place, they got quick access to the inner gate which has access to the radially arranged prisoner barracks at Nabha's circular jail.
The escapees had already gathered at the exit point as if in anticipation of the exact moment of escape, making it clear that it was a well laid plan. Police sources now say it was a plan was three months in the making.
Shots were fired by the incoming criminals who soon had access to the inner gate after overpowering a prison guard. The six waiting inmates ran out, boarded the two cars brought into the jail and, in a hail of gunfire, made their way out. They turned left and encountered a closed railway crossing, made a u-turn, passed in front of the prison gate, fired a few more bullets and were on their way to Haryana and beyond.
Even as the police forces of several states swung into action to nab the escapees, it became a political issue. Eventually, the Delhi Police special cell nabbed Khalistani terrorist Harminder Mintoo, politics in Punjab began to heat up.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal was quick to hint at a plot connected with Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence. The information behind this link is unknown - presumably "secret", a term that a former director general of intelligence in Punjab claims safely covers dubious or incredible claims made by politicians and sometimes police officers.
The Congress in Punjab made an equally unfounded connection saying the escape of the terrorists and the criminals could be a conspiracy hatched by the Badals to destabilise Punjab ahead of the elections, and score brownie points by claiming to be the only party and the only leaders who can control and handle the situation in the sensitive border state that saw more than a decade long militancy.
Captain Amarinder Singh has demanded a CBI probe saying the Punjab DGP Police has already admitted to connivance and conspiracy, and that the Akalis would resort to communal politics and polarisation in the face of "imminent defeat".
Expressing fears that there would be more such attempts by Akalis to create a terror-like situation and tighten their grip over the state police, Amarinder has demanded President rule in Punjab.
The SAD-BJP says peace is hard won in the state and they are the best equipped to keep it that way since they straddle the Hindu-Sikh divide despite having a clear leaning towards Sikh religious affairs.
The Congress claims to be the secular front that can make sure militancy does not raise its ugly head ever again. AAP, the latest to join the chorus, says inequality breeds militancy and they are here to bridge the gap.
Till such time that the major stakeholders in Punjab's security continue to see criminals, terrorists and militants as pawns to be used to political or departmental advantage, crime and security in the state will continue to remain vulnerable to vested interests and not in the grip of the law enforcement agencies.
Indian man in US pleads guilty to conspiracy for attacks in Punjab
RENO:MMNN:30 Nov. 2016
A 42-year-old Indian citizen in the US has pleaded guilty to planning terrorist attacks in India, including assassination of officials, by allegedly providing material support and resources to terrorists involved in the Khalistan movement aimed at creating an independent Sikh state.
Balwinder Singh, a resident of Nevada, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Larry Hicks to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, knowing and intending that such support would be used to carry out terrorist attacks overseas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord said yesterday.
"Singh attempted to provide material support and resources to terrorists to create violence and disruption abroad," McCord said.
"Identifying, thwarting and holding accountable individuals who pursue international terrorism is a top priority of the Department of Justice," she said.
A citizen of India and permanent US resident, Singh went by the aliases of "Jhaji", "Happy" and "Baljit Singh" and has been detained and charged since his arrest in December 2013.
He faces the statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
According to the court filed documents and admissions made in connection with the plea agreement, between September and December 2013, Singh conspired with others to support terrorist attacks in India as part of a movement to create an independent Sikh state from Punjab.
Singh communicated with co-conspirators by telephone to discuss these plans and agreed to provide material support by facilitating a co-conspirator's travel to and within South Asia, providing funding and materials necessary to carry out an overseas attack.
In October 2013, Singh and the co-conspirators agreed that one of them would travel to India in 2013 and carry out likely assassination or maiming of an Indian government official. The final target would be determined after the co-conspirator arrived in South Asia.
Singh purchased two sets of night-vision goggles, gave them to a co-conspirator who was going to carry out the planned attack.
In December 2013, the co-conspirator attempted to board a flight from the San Francisco International Airport to Thailand in order to carry out the attack, but was prohibited by the US law enforcement from boarding the flight.
As a result, the planned terror attack was never executed.
After this, Singh and his co-conspirators continued to discuss and plan terror attack in India until he was arrested.
Punjab won't forgive Cong for '84: Sukhbir
Patiala:MMNN:23 Nov. 2016
SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister (CM) Sukhbir Singh Badal attacked the Congress, saying people of the state would not forget the party "for the sins it had committed in 1984, by attacking the holiest Sri Darbar Sahib with tanks, and then indulging in massacre of innocent Sikhs in Delhi and other states".
Sukhbir stated this while addressing a gathering in Devigarh near Patiala on Tuesday, on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of development projects worth Rs25 crore, like strengthening of the Patiala-Guhla Cheeka road, lining of Kauli and Rajpura distributaries, and construction of a check dam at Mehmoodpur and Hadhana villages for bringing up the water level to ensure better irrigational use of river Ghaggar.
He said Congress never did justice to Punjab on any issue, especially the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal. Sukhkbir said, "Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh never cared to venture out of his royal palace to know the condition of people of Sanaur region, so how can he be expected to devote time to the entire state? For the sake of probity, he owes an explanation to the people of Punjab about his foreign bank accounts."
Also, taking on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the deputy CM said it stood exposed before the people of the state with its changing stands on SYL Canal, while its convener Arvind Kejriwal was tight-lipped on the sharing of the state's river waters.
He went on to attack AAP for entering into an alliance with the Bain brothers'-led Lok INsaaf Party. Sukhbir said AAP went back on its word of not forming any alliance with anyone, by teaming up with the Bains brothers, who have several cases pending against them.
Kirron writes to Punjab, Haryana CMs
Chandigarh:MMNN:23 Nov. 2016
After increasing the age limit for entry into government service in Chandigarh from 25 years to 37 years on the pattern of the Punjab Government, city MP Kirron Kher has now written a letter to the Punjab and Haryana governments to change the eligibility rules in their respective states for job aspirants of Chandigarh.
At present, residents of Chandigarh are not eligible to apply in Punjab and Haryana. In separate letters addressed to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Kher has strongly advocated for the need of allowing the job aspirants of Chandigarh to apply against the posts advertised by the governments of Punjab and Haryana.
She has requested the Chief Ministers of both states to look into the matter personally to allow the job aspirants of Chandigarh to apply against the posts advertised by the governments of Punjab and Haryana.
In the letter, she has written that Chandigarh is the capital of Punjab and Haryana. Whenever posts are advertised by different departments of the Chandigarh Administration, a major chunk thereof is grabbed by the candidates from Punjab and Haryana as they are eligible to apply in Chandigarh. Job aspirants of Chandigarh do not have right to apply in Punjab and Haryana due to the non-availability of domicile certificates concerning Punjab or Haryana.
She has mentioned in her letter that Chandigarh being a small UT has limited number of posts in the government departments. Consequently, fewer opportunities are here for job seekers. Under the existing practice, job seekers of Chandigarh are bearing irreparable loss in the matter of getting employment.
Kirron said she was of the opinion that job aspirants of Chandigarh should not be discriminated in the matter of employment, particularly when they are residing in the capital of Punjab and Haryana. Further, she has mentioned that Chandigarh residents are persistently demanding that job aspirants of the city should also be eligible to apply against the posts advertised by the governments of Punjab and Haryana on a reciprocal basis.
Cash crunch hits wheat-sowing activities in Punjab, Haryana
Chandigarh:MMNN:19 Nov. 2016
The cash crunch in the country, created through the demonetisation of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes by the Union government, has taken its toll on wheat-sowing activities in Punjab and Haryana.
With the cash flow slowing down to a trickle, wheat farmers in the two states are finding it hard to initiate the agricultural process. They do not have money required to meet input costs such as seeds, fertilisers and diesel. According to experts, even a single day's delay can affect the harvest.
Data accessed by HT shows that 75% of wheat has been sown in Punjab's fields till now - translating to around 26 lakh hectares of the state's 35 lakh-hectare coverage area.
"Sowing work should ideally be finished by November 15, and any delay means suffering a loss of 1.5 quintals per acre every week (18-20 quintal per acre is the average production)," said agriculture director JS Bains.
In Haryana, wheat is sown across two belts in a staggered manner. At present, sowing has been completed in around 70% of the 19 lakh hectares across the state's southern and northern parts. However, there are another 5.5 lakh hectares of land in the cotton belt, where sowing of wheat goes on till mid-December. Many farmers who had primed their fields for this activity lack money to purchase seeds, pesticides and fertilisers.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of a Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) faction in Punjab, bemoaned how scarcity of money was preventing farmers from sowing wheat on time. "Some farmers managed to get seeds and fertilisers on credit, but not everybody can afford to do that," he said, adding that the government must take steps to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
Anil Kumar, a farmer who owns 10 acres of land in Fatehabad, said agriculturists in Haryana have been facing too many problems in the recent past. "First the hailstorm, then the whitefly attack, and now, demonetisation. We are under a lot of stress," he said.
Avtar Singh, a farmer from Binjon in Punjab, said that while he appreciated the Modi government's efforts to combat black money, it should have taken the farmers' plight into consideration before taking the plunge. "I can afford to buy seeds and fertilisers on credit to sow wheat. However, many small farmers don't have that luxury. Even I am facing difficulty buying pipes for irrigation because I don't have any cash," he added.
However, Haryana additional director (agriculture) Suresh Gahlawat claimed the slowdown in sowing will not have a major impact on the wheat yield. "A lot depends on the weather in the coming months," he said.
Punjab elections: Sangrur Bhagwant Mann vs Sukhbir Singh Badal on the cards
Chandigarh:MMNN:19 Nov. 2016
AAP MP from Sangrur Bhagwant Mann may be fielded from Jalalabad, an Assembly segment represented by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The party is considering announcing his name during a rally to be addressed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on November 20 in Jalalabad, from where the AAP chief will sound a poll bugle for Assembly elections in Punjab, said a party leader.
The Deputy CM's candidature, however, was not announced in the first list of his party Shiromani Akali Dal declared on Wednesday. AAP sources said the party wanted to convey a message by organising a rally in Deputy CM's constituency that it was taking on the ruling dispensation. Kejriwal will be in Punjab for 10 days and address 21 rallies in all three regions of the state till November 30.
Sources in AAP said Mann had himself requested the party to field him against junior Badal. "The party is already telling is workers that Kejriwal will make an important announcement in Jalalabad on November 20. Such is Mann's desire to take on Sukhbir that he is saying he would take on him in two constituencies also if he decides to contest from two," said an AAP leader requesting anonymity.
Mann has also made his desire public quite a few times while addressing gatherings. The party has already made it clear its stalwarts would not get easy seats. AAP already set a precedent when Kejriwal took on former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit in Delhi Assembly elections and then Narendra Modi in Varanasi during 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
A source in AAP said Mann could be projected as the Deputy CM candidate. "Even if the party would not like to declare its CM or Deputy CM before elections, Mann's candidature against junior Badal would subtly convey a message that he could be the Deputy CM." Mann is a crowd-puller of AAP in Punjab. He won the Lok Sabha election with a huge margin of 3 lakh votes, a maximum in Punjab during 2014 LS polls.
SYL row: Haryana to move SC on Punjab cabinet decision
Chandigarh:MMNN:16 Nov. 2016
Hours after the Punjab cabinet's decision to return the land acquired for construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal to its original owners, the Haryana government decided to approach the Supreme Court against the move.
Disclosing this, Haryana advocate general BR Mahajan told Hindustan Times that Punjab's move had "strengthened" Haryana's case.
"We will be taking appropriate legal action in the apex court," Mahajan said, though he did not elaborate on the matter.
"As the Punjab government did not get the governor's assent for the Punjab SYL Canal Land (Transfer of Propriety Rights) Bill passed in March this year, now the cabinet has decided to return the land. They cannot do so," he said, adding that Punjab's action was in defiance of the apex court order.
Another senior functionary handling the SYL issue in Haryana said the state would wait for formal notification on the Punjab cabinet decision and thereafter move the Supreme Court.
The Haryana government was already in the process of filing a petition for execution of the apex court orders passed in 2002 and 2004 for the completion of the SYL canal.
In March this year, the Punjab assembly had unanimously approved a bill, seeking transfer the entire SYL land measuring 5,376-acre free of cost to its original owners. The land was acquired for the canal over three decades ago for Rs 35 crore.
Punjab to get 200 kmph superfast train to Delhi: Railway minister
Ludhiana:MMNN:16 Nov. 2016
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday said India is nearing the launch of superfast trains with speed of 200 kilometers per hour and that Punjab will get one to Delhi.
Prabhu also announced that special trains from Punjab will be steamed off for Patna Sahib for facilitation of Sangat during 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.
In Bathinda, Prabhu laid foundation stone of Rajpura-Bathinda railway line doubling project worth Rs 1,720 crore and 16 Limited Height Subways at a cost of Rs. 40 crore on various rail locations in Punjab.
He also inaugurated Mansa-Bathinda newly doubled rail line laid at a cost of Rs 150 crore, New station building at Beas, New running room at Ludhiana worth Rs 3 crore, Food Plaza at Ferozepur Railway Station and five Water Vending Machines at Bathinda railway station.
Speaking about the annual rail budget for Punjab said the NDA government had increased it to Rs 700 crore by fixing annual increase.
Punjab readies water bill, Haryana stops bus service
Chandigarh:MMNN:12 Nov. 2016
The Punjab government is likely to bring a new bill on the inter-state water dispute in a move that could complicate the legal tussle with Haryana over sharing of water from the Beas and Sutlej rivers, official sources said on Friday.
The SAD-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal asked President Pranab Mukherjee to ignore the Supreme Court's terming as "unconstitutional" a 2004 state law that scrapped all water-sharing arrangements between Punjab and its neighbouring states,including Haryana.
The dispute is likely to become a major issue with the opposition Congress turning the heat on the Badal government ahead of next year's assembly polls.
On Friday, all 42 Congress legislators resigned from the assembly, a day after the party's state president Amarinder Singh quit as a Lok Sabha MP to protest the court ruling.
Singh's government had enacted Punjab's Termination of Agreements Act to stop work on the 212-km-long Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. Haryana, which is banking on the canal to bring water from the rivers to the state's "dry and arid areas", had moved the top court opposing the law.
Punjab government sources said the fresh bill was likely to be introduced at a special session of the assembly, convened on November 16 to discuss the verdict.
The Badal government has vowed not to "allow a single drop of water" to be taken from Punjab.
Sources said the government has tasked advocate general Ashok Aggarwal and other top legal eagles to put in place a legal strategy to hit-back politically and stay ahead of the Congress, which has blamed the ruling alliance of failing to protect Punjab's interest in court.
"The Supreme Court's judicial reference is not a binding on President who may accept, reject or send (it) back to Supreme Court for fresh opinion. Punjab government has set up a team of lawyers, including me, to examine the advisory. We will be able to give our viewpoint by Saturday," Aggarwal said.
Government sources say at the heart of the move to bring a fresh bill is to go beyond the 2004 law.
"The Constitution clearly forbids the Centre from arrogating to itself the right to adjudicate on distribution of river waters among states. Grave injustice has been done to Punjab by the Centre, violating this Constitutional clause," CM Badal said in his letter to the President.
Earlier in the day, the Congress announced a statewide agitation from November 13, with a public rally at a village in south west Punjab.
"This area would become a desert incase water flows into SYL, taking water from Punjab into Haryana," Amarinder Singh said.
With tension rising, Haryana suspended state-run buses to Punjab citing security reasons.
"It is a precautionary measure in view of the prevailing situation," said Haryana additional chief secretary, transport, Sudeep Singh Dhillon.
Though the transport department claimed that only long-route operations have been temporarily stopped, some depots have stopped plying buses even on short routes.
Some Haryana leaders and khaps have threatened not to allow vehicles from Punjab to pass through the state if the Badal government does not accept the court verdict.
City gas distribution network; Piped cooking gas a reality in Chandigarh
Chandigarh:MMNN:12 Nov. 2016
Piped cooking gas became a reality in Chandigarh on Friday, with Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurating the city gas distribution (CGD) network, connecting 200 households of five housing societies in Sector 49 in the first phase.
In the second phase, Sectors 49, 50, 51 and 53 will be covered under the project which later will be rolled out in Sectors 7, 8 and EWS (economically weaker sections) flats in Dhanas and then the same will be extended to the entire city within a year, officials said.
The main gas supply centre is located in Punjab's Rajpura, located nearly 30 km from the city.
It will be a great relief to those availing the facility as they will no longer have to make bookings or wait for the dealer to deliver LPG cylinders anymore.
Pradhan also lit the first connection at the Sector 49 EWS Society where Punjab BJP chief Vijay Sampla, MP Kirron Kher and Punjab minister Daljit Singh Cheema were present on the occasion.
Later, the minister inaugurated a CNG (compressed natural gas) station in Sector 44. Then he launched Punjab's first CNG station at an Indian Oil petrol pump in Sector 56, SAS Nagar.
He asked the firms to set up more 30 CNG stations in Chandigarh in two years and asked Kirron Kher to personally monitor the project.
Serpentine queues at petrol pumps, ATMs in Punjab, Haryana
Chandigarh:MMNN:9 Nov. 2016
Serpentine queues were witnessed tonight at ATMs and petrol pumps across Punjab and Haryana, including in Chandigarh, barely an hour after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes with effect from midnight.
In Chandigarh, there were long queues at most of the petrol pumps.
Despite the prime minister, in his televised address to the nation, making it clear that people holding currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 can deposit the same in their bank and post office accounts from November 10 to December 30, people rushed to ATMs and petrol pumps.
"I thought everyone was stocking up. So, I too followed suit. I will fill up my car's fuel tank which will also help me dispose of some of the Rs 1,000 currency notes. I thought I could also get some currency notes of lower denominations in change which will be of help in the present scenario," said Baldev Chand while waiting in a long queue at a petrol pump here.
Similar scenes were witnessed at many petrol pumps of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Ambala, Gurgaon, Faridabad and other towns in the two states.
People also rushed to ATMs to withdraw currency notes of lower denominations, while some said they were queueing up to deposit the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes in the cash deposit machines.
Punjab on alert as intelligence agency warns of terror threat by sleeper cells
Chandigarh:MMNN:9 Nov. 2016
Punjab is scaling up security after an Intelligence Bureau alert about Pakistani spy agency ISI activating terror sleeper cells in the state to launch attacks in retaliation against the government's crackdown on Sikh radicals ahead of a Sarbat Khalsa in Bhatinda district on November 10.
"According to an input received from reliable channels, Pak ISI has directed Pak-based Sikh terrorists to activate their associates in India to carry out terrorist strikes in Punjab to take advantage of prevailing resentment over detention/arrest of radical entities involved in organising Sarbat Khalsa," says the IB alert dated November 7 of which Hindustan Times has a copy.
The IB has asked the state agencies to take "appropriate preventive and precautionary measures".
"We have fully mobilised and deployed the police force wherever required keeping in view the Sarbat Khalsa call and other inputs," HS Dhillon, director general of police (law and order) told Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, Punjab has asked Centre to deploy 10 companies of paramilitary in the state to tackle the law and order situation in the poll-bound state.
The government has also pulled out all policemen under training and deployed them for law and order duty.
Another top cop said that gunmen on duty with private citizens as personal security officers have also been withdrawn.
"Maximum mobilisation of the police force is underway," a top police officer said.
Apprehensive about pro-Khalistan forces attempting to take advantage of the Sarbat Khalsa, the ruling Akali Dal had refused permission for this gathering of Sikhs at Talwandi Sabo being spearheaded by radical leaders.
The Parkash Singh Badal government had ordered the crackdown to prevent radical elements from creating law and order problem and the anti-Akali forces becoming active again in the state.
About 2,000 Sikh hardliners, who were expected to attend the Sarbat Khalsa have been arrested across the state in the past three days. There is simmering anger against the government crackdown which the ISI is trying to capitalise on.
While a key radical leader Dhyan Singh Mand is under arrest, others such as Baljit Singh Daduwal and Amrik Singh Ajnala have gone into hiding. All three were appointed as head priests of three Sikh shrines in the last year's Sarbat Khalsa.
Another hardliner, Mokham Singh, head of the United Akali Dal is also in hiding.
Last year, after two months of unrest in Punjab due to protests led mainly by Sikh radical organisations against incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, hardliners had held Sarbat Khalsa on November 10 in Amritsar.
The overwhelming response of the crowd had rattled the ruling Akali Dal.
The Punjab government had then claimed that it had "evidence" about "foreign agencies" funding and sponsoring Sarbat Khalsa in Amritsar.
African natives add muscle to World Kabaddi Cup this year in Punjab
Chandigarh:MMNN:5 Nov. 2016
Sierra Leone, Kenya and Tanzania will perhaps be the last countries one can associate kabaddi with. Still, the Punjab government's World Kabaddi Cup this year has three teams from the African countries. For Sierra Leone, who will travel a distance of nearly 10,000km, it will be their fourth visit, Tanzania are the debutants, while for Kenya, it's their second appearance. The three teams' players are natives and are in India on the invitation from the state government, who had sent kabaddi coaches to the countries to train the teams.
Sierra Leone also has plans to stay back for a month and take part in the upcoming local kabaddi tournaments in order to hone their skills. Introduced to the sport by the Indian expats, the natives got a further push to take a plunge into the tourney when the organisers changed rules which meant that only passport holders can represent a country. Until then, most of the foreign teams comprised NRI Punjabis.
Ravinder Singh Jassal, president of the Sierra Leone Kabaddi Federation, said initially he had tough time convincing the locals to take to the game. "They are physically strong, an essential for circle style kabaddi. So, I approached wrestling clubs and bouncers to take up the game. I even had to shell out money from my pocket for diet and other things.
But now we have proper teams in both men and women categories," Jassal said, who was himself a kabaddi player and shifted to Sierra Leone for business.
Kenya and Tanzania also participated in the recently concluded Kabaddi World Cup, organised by International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) in Ahmedabad.
Members of the 14-member Kenyan women's team that will take on India in Ludhiana on Saturday are glad to be part of the event. Team's coach Saron said Punjabi NRIs introduced them to the sport.
"We were here in 2012 also. We do need more support from India. Maybe if they can spare coaches for training, certainly the game will get a boost," he said. The only trouble Saron said has been the spicy Punjabi food that isn't going down well with the Kenyans. "It's too spicy, but is good. Other than that we are happy with the facilities," he said.
Old Guard in Punjab, Haryana Fields Choking Efforts to Clear Delhi's Air
MMNN:5 Nov. 2016
As Delhi suffers its worst smog in 17 years, there is much gloom among officials working to curb crop burning in the neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab, and parts of western Uttar Pradesh.
The window to bring down one of the biggest pollutants in the region - smoke from the burnt stubble - is lost for this season too, those working with the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) told News18. Delhi will have to suffer the toxic blanket engulfing it till either wind speed picks up or it rains.
"We've run into a generational gap among the farmers we talk to," said Dr. Bhure Lal, chairman of the EPCA, speaking mainly of Punjab and Haryana.
The young, he said, understood the hazardous fallout of the farming practice and were ready to change their ways, but the older generation, still the heads of the families and the fields, were not.
On Friday, after meeting secretaries from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan (together the NCR states), Union environment secretary Ajay Narayan Jha told the press that except in Punjab, crop burning had been controlled. He added that Punjab had assured the Union ministry it would make efforts to check the practice and that the Central Pollution Control Board would meet state secretaries every month to monitor the situation.
This seemed contradictory to the resignation seen behind closed doors.
In a meeting with the EPCA on October 7, Chandigarh, government representatives from Punjab and Haryana threw up their hands in despair at trying to change this deeply ingrained practice, according to those present.
EPCA officials, who have been visiting farmers across districts, trying to persuade them to adopt newer methods and technologies since 2014, too, see no hope of immediate change, till at least the young takes over the farming.
Farmers have been burning stubble for almost 25 to 30 years, estimates Lal, since Haryana and Punjab switched over to paddy. But the damage was never so acute, as seen in the past few years.
Haryana now produces 12 to 15 million tonnes of paddy straw and Punjab some 20 million tonnes.
On October 30, a Centre for Science and Environment report notes, "Crop burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh became more aggressive," as seen in the images of NASA's fire mapper.
Apart from the smoke that billows monstrously towards Delhi, burning paddy straw causes harm to friendly insects in the soil, it lowers soil fertility and leads to carbon deposits in the soil. The young understand this, discovered Lal in his interactions.
He recalls the innovative tools created in in areas such as Ludhiana - a machine called 'bhaiya' that turns off the irrigation pumps on time, saving water and electricity, named after the ubiquitous bhaiyas who once did all such odd jobs.
However, Lal and his team also understand why, year after year, farmers resort to this quick fix method of clearing their fields.
1984 year of destruction, 2016 year of development for Punjab: Arun Jaitley
CAmritsar:MMNN:2 Nov. 2016
Besides celebrating the golden jubilee of Punjabi Suba and their school Sri Guru Harkrishan Public School, GT Road, members of the Sikh organisation Chief Khalsa Diwan on Tuesday also celebrated its 114th foundation day with great fanfare on the school campus.
Besides Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Rajya Sabha member Shwait Malik, local bodies minister Anil Joshi, Amritsar mayor Bakshi Ram Arora and various educationists attended the high-profile event.
Addressing the gathering, Union minister Arun Jaitley said while Punjab has a rich heritage to showcase, at the same time it has a painful history to narrate.
"Punjabis have contributed immensely in the country's history and at the same time suffered a lot during various phases of history. If 1984 was the year of destruction for Punjab, 2016 is the year of development. Celebrating 50 years of Punjabi Suba, we all should be proud to see where the state stands today," he said, while praising the Badal government for putting in efforts to develop Punjab, and making Amritsar a benchmark of this development with the newly inaugurated heritage stretch of the Golden Temple.
Open more schools in border areas: Badal
The chief minister congratulated the Chief Khalsa Diwan management on the 114th foundation day. He emphasised on the role of Punjabis in the country's progress and prosperity, whether in the field of agriculture, education, security, industry or urbanisation.
Motivating the organisation to come up with more schools in rural areas, Badal said youths in such areas, especially in villages along the Indo-Pak border, deserve better education.
Earlier, Chief Khalsa Diwan Charitable Society president Charanjit Singh Chadha threw light on the history and achievements of the society and gave details about the upcoming 66th World Sikh Educational Conference 2016. The students presented a cultural programme, comprising giddha, sufi qawwali and a Punjabi play.
Air quality in Punjab on Diwali: Ludhiana the most polluted, Patiala the least
Ludhiana :MMNN:2 Nov. 2016
Ludhiana topped the chart of most polluted cities in Punjab during Diwali last Sunday. According to the Punjab Pollution Control Board, even the least polluted city, Patiala, marked 187 microgram per cubicmeter (µg/m³) in respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM), clearing the safe limit by 87 µg/m³ in residential areas. Ludhiana, with 302 µg/m³ RSPM levels in residential areas had three times the permissible limit, the worst of all five cities where sampling was done. The permissible limit for RSPM is 100 µg/m³.
The commercial areas of Amritsar and Ludhiana recorded 302 µg/m³ and 405 µg/m³, respectively. The Board monitored residential, commercial and sensitive areas of Patiala, Mandi Gobindgarh, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar.
The air quality in the residential areas of cities of Punjab worsened this Diwali- Ludhiana being the worst and Patiala still comparatively less polluted. Even then in all the cities the Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) crossed permissible limits of 100 microgram/cubic meter (µg/m³) in residential areas.
The figures worsened for Ludhiana where RSPM levels almost doubled than last year from 148 to 302 µg/m³ in residential areas. Since 2012, this number was the third highest for Ludhiana after 390 in 2012 and 316 in 2014. Jalandhar witnessed minor increase in residential area numbers from 239 µg/m³ to 247 µg/m³ this year but was less than 305 and 285 in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
The iron and steel town Mandi Gobindgarh had minor increase in RSPM levels than last year but showed declining trend since 284 µg/m³ in 2012. This year it recorded 230 µg/m³ compared to 214 µg/m³ in 2015. Speaking to The Indian Express Gulshan Rai, chief engineer PPCB Ludhiana said, "There is no specific reason to point out that why Ludhiana is again at the top of the list this year. Maybe it is due to Black Diwali observed by Sikhs last year that numbers reduced to 148 in 2015. PPCB made all efforts to convince residents to celebrate Green Diwali."
In noise pollution too, Ludhiana the worst
Surpassing the permissible limits of 55 decibels (dB) in residential, 45dB in sensitive and 65dB in commercial areas- Ludhiana recorded the worst figures of 73.7, 73.2 and 76.2 decibels, respectively.
In residential and commercial areas this year, Patiala was the noisiest after Ludhiana with 71.1dB and 75.3dB respectively. In sensitive areas, Amritsar was the noisiest with 66 DB after Ludhiana.
Punjab govt clears way for regularisation of over 30,000 temporary staff
Chandigarh:MMNN:26 Oct. 2016
Terming it as Diwali bonanza, the SAD-BJP alliance government in Punjab on Tuesday finally approved regularisation of the services of its over 30,000 employees working on contract/ad hoc/daily-wages/temporary/work-charged basis in various government departments, boards, corporations and societies in the state.
The decision, which would cost state exchequer an additional Rs 2,000 crore annually post entitlement of such employees to get regular scales after three years, comes in the run-up to 2017 Assembly polls.
The decision was taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The cabinet also decided that the employees working on contract through private outsourcing agencies or contractors would be absorbed by the government as contract employees with immediate effect.
A sub-committee headed by Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal had held a number of meetings on the issue of regularisation of services of temporary employees before taking a final decision in a meeting on Monday.
A spokesperson from the Chief Minister's Office said, "It may be recalled that the last decision on regularisation of employees was also taken during the SAD-BJP government in its last tenure when more than 45,000 contract employees were absorbed as regular members of the government staff. Whereas no employees were regularised during the 2002-2007 tenure of the Congress government headed by Captain Amarinder Singh.
On the contrary, the Amarinder government had slapped a blanket ban on fresh recruitment and regularisations. Even the posts falling vacant due to retiring employees were scrapped or allowed to lapse so that they could not be filled even at a future date. However, the SAD-BJP government filled those posts with contractual employees who have now been regularised with today's decision."
"Both the CM and the Deputy CM were of the view that these contractual employees had come to the aid of the government when the latter required their services at a short notice and had been working diligently and conscientiously since then. They have gained precious experience on the job, which cannot be allowed to go in vain. The state owes it to the families of these employees to absorb them now as regular and proud members of the government," the spokesperson said.
Till the time the employees get regular scales after three years, the Cabinet has decided to protect their existing pay. One of the ministers present in the meeting said the existing pay would be "protected and frozen" till the employees were entitled to regular scales after completion of probation period of three years.
The Cabinet also directed the Chief Secretary to ensure that all the cases related to employment on compassionate grounds in all departments should be decided and disposed of on priority within a period of three weeks.
The Cabinet further decided that the entire backlog of posts related to all reserved categories which included scheduled castes, backward classes and the physically handicapped should be immediately filled up through a special recruitment drive.
Grant for war widows
Special grant-in-aid of Rs 50 lakh to be given to each of the war widows or their legal heirs in 100 cases wherein they could not avail the benefit earlier for some reasons and applied till the extended cut-off date of January 4, 2010. The grant would be payable in three half-yearly instalments of Rs 20 lakh, Rs 15 lakh and Rs 15 lakh.
Robust Strategy To Prevent Use Of Money, Drugs In Punjab: Election Commission
Chandigarh:MMNN:26 Oct. 2016
With the drug menace becoming a huge issue in Punjab elections, the Election Commission on Tuesday said a robust strategy will be prepared to prevent use of money, drugs and liquor in the assembly polls.
The CEC said all efforts will be made for conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in Punjab.
"The suggestions given by (opposition) parties have been taken note of by the EC with all sincerity and we have assured we will leave no stone unturned for conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections," Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said addressing a press conference in Chandigarh.
"We want to conduct the elections in a totally neutral and unbiased manner," he stressed.
On concerns raised by various parties regarding use of drugs and liquor during Punjab polls to influence voters, Mr Zaidi said, "Robust strategy will be prepared to prevent use of money, drugs and liquor".
Replying to a question, the CEC asserted that "The Commission is committed to prevent use of drugs in polls. The Commission is ready to tackle the issue of drugs during poll process."
Mr Zaidi also said that various parties have sought "overhauling" of the police and civil administration in the State.
A delegation of various parties including Congress and AAP had met a team of Election Commission led by Chief Election Commissioner in Chandigarh two days back.
A nine-member Election Commission had arrived in Chandigarh on Sunday on a three-day visit to review preparations ahead of polls which are due early next year.
About the issues raised by the parties, Mr Zaidi said "political parties want polls be conducted in free and fair manner."
He said the parties want the Election Commission to take steps to ensure that voters do not face any kind of any threat or intimidation.
"They (opposition parties) have requested that there should be overhaul of police and civil administration for free and fair polls," he said, adding these parties have brought to notice the large number of criminals and anti-social elements, who may be operative in the system or out on parole.
Parties have also highlighted abuse of liquor, money and drug problem. They have requested that there should be special task force to check these during poll process, the CEC said.
Punjab govt releases 6% DA for employees, pensioners
Chandigarh:MMNN:22 Oct. 2016
Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa on Friday gave his nod to release 6% dearness allowance (DA) with November salary or pension for the government employees and pensioners.
With the release of this DA installment, the state would touch 125% from present 119% of the basic pay/pension, Dhindsa, in a statement issued here, said.
In a relief to foreign-settled retired employees, he said DA would continue with their pensions.
The government has decided to take back a letter stopping DA of pensioners who have acquired foreign citizenship, he added.
Punjab liquor vends running half-empty in festive season
Chandigarh:MMNN:22 Oct. 2016
The last thing Punjabis expect ahead of the festival season is empty liquor shops. But that is what they are getting this year, thanks to a legal battle and sudden changes in the excise policy. Retailers are fast running out of stocks of popular brands of beer and Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and they are blaming it on the excise and taxation department being unable to smoothly revert to the system of direct billing from manufacturers to wholesalers (L1).
Sales usually jump by 15% to 25% post Dussehra, but this time there is no spurt and retailers fear that this will make it difficult for them to pay even their licence fees.
"Popular brands like Royal Stag, Imperial Blue and McDowell's are no longer available in all quantities at most vends. Sales of both beer and IMFL are usually low during the monsoon season and there is a further slump during Shradhs' and 'Navratra' days. This is why retailers look forward to the festivals after Dussehra till Lohri in January," said a wholesaler dealing in Fatehgarh Sahib and Ropar.
"Almost 70% of the vends are affected by the short supply. Only those who had received their supply before the L1A category was scrapped have stocks," said a retailer requesting anonymity. "But six months into the year, the quota which should be around 50% is at 20% and we fear that it will be difficult to pay even permit fees. It is an adverse situation for both the state exchequer and the liquor traders."
Punjab government cancelled the controversial L1A liquor licence as it was criticised for having created a super wholesaler' in the state. This decision was taken after the Supreme Court last week upheld the Punjab and Haryana high court's decision which had termed the provision as invalid and inoperative. All wholesalers in Punjab were mandatorily required to buy liquor only from these eight L1A firms.
The retailers and wholesalers rue that on the issue of L1A, even though the judgment by the high court was pronounced on June 9 and the apex court ruling came on September 29, the state government delayed issuing the notification for direct billing from manufacturer to wholesale licence holders.
Wholesalers allege that "now even after the notification on October 12, stocks are yet to be released by the manufacturers".
Despite repeated attempts excise and taxation commissioner Rajat Aggarwal did not respond. Gurtej Singh, additional excise and taxation commissioner-cum-director (investigation) confirmed that retailers from the state took up the issue with him on Thursday but he refused to comment on the scenario.
More return martyrs' medals to join chorus against Punjab govt apathy
Chandigarh:MMNN:19 Oct. 2016
A day after Surinder Kaur, a war widow, returned her husband's gallantry award as a mark of protest against the Centre for delay in compensation, the kin of other martyrs as well have come forward and expressed their anguish at the meagre compensation offered by the Punjab government after a gap of 40 years.
As many as 161 war widows and their family members have been protesting against the state government since April this year demanding the 10 acres of land which was promised to them in 1976. Even after months of protests, the state government remained a mute spectator, which forced them to sit on a 21-day dharna outside the Chief Minister's residence.
Speaking to The Indian Express on behalf of the war widows, Gursewak Singh, himself the son of a war widow, Bant Kaur, said that it was with a heavy heart that the Punjab cabinet decided to pay a sum of Rs 50 lakh, which was was accepted by them. "We are pained at the fact that it has taken 40 years for the war widows to receive the compensation which is not only inadequate but is also against the spirit of the decison given by Punjab and Haryana High Court which had ordered that the monetary compensation should be at par with collector rate of the land," said Gursewak. His father, Sepoy Piara Singh of 5 Sikh Light Infantry had been martyred in the 1965 war in Mendhar sector in J and K.
Having been at the forefront of the protests led by the war widows, Gursewak said that several of them were in dire straits and had no choice but to accept the delayed and meagre compensation. He said that the government officials also told them to accept the offer before the the code of conduct for elections were imposed. "Many war widows fell ill during the protest. Moreover, since we had already lost a member of our family, we did not want them to further suffer the apathy of the government," he said.
Expressing his anguish that a martyr's wife had to run from pillar to post for compensation, Lt Gen Depinder Singh (retd), former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command and Overall Force Commander of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka, said, "Instead of making her running around for compensation it is the government which should be running around to help her. The officials should wake up and not only come forward to her aid but help all other brave ladies like her."
Recalling the war in which Kaur's husband Halvinder Kashmir Singh died while fighting the LTTE militants, Depinder said that it was an action which equalled that of the Sikh Regiment jawans in the famous Battle of Saragarhi. "These men of 13 Sikh Light Infantry fought till their last breath near Jaffna University after their wireless set was shot to pieces in the action and they were left without any reinforcements," he said.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress has also expressed anguish after Kaur returned the Sena Medal Monday.
In a joint statement issued Tuesday, DCC president Col Babu Singh, senior Congress leader Captain Harmander Singh and ex-servicemen cell chairman Col Bhag Singh said the incident showed the total apathy of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and its ally, the BJP, towards the plight of war widows.
Punjab, Haryana farmers ignore ban on stubble burning
Chandigarh:MMNN:19 Oct. 2016
Ignoring warnings by state authorities on burning paddy stubble, many farmers in Haryana and Punjab are still continuing the banned practice, leading to health risks and adversely affecting soil health.
Both the Haryana and Punjab governments have imposed a ban on burning of paddy residue and the erring farmers can also be prosecuted by authorities.
However, reports from various areas, including Karnal district in Haryana and Patiala district in Punjab, suggest that farmers are still burning paddy straw despite being asked to shun the practice by the authorities, including the state pollution control boards and the agriculture departments.
Farmers are also being provided subsidy on farm implements like happy seeder, rotavators, straw reapers for managing straw in a sustainable manner to stop the practice.
In the last few years it has been noted that when stubble is burned in the two leading agrarian states, the pollutants enter Delhi, adversely affecting the air quality in the national capital.
The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the fact that within a span of just three weeks in the current harvest season, authorities in Haryana have initiated action in 480 incidents of paddy burning.
"We are taking action as stubble burning is a serious issue. Till yesterday, we have initiated action in 480 cases against those found burning the stubble," Principal Secretary, Environment Department-cum-Chairman, Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), Shrikant Walgad told PTI today.
He said fines were imposed on violators and cases under the Environment Pollution Act were tried by environment courts at Kurukshetra and Faridabad.
Asked in which areas of Haryana the problem was more prevalent, Walgad said, "Generally it is the paddy belt of Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Karnal and Yamunanagar".
Burning of paddy residue causes air pollution, smog and also poses a serious threat as it leads to medical problems such as breathing issues, allergies and asthma attacks.
It causes emission of smoke and toxic gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and nitrous oxide. It also leads to poor soil health by eliminating essential nutrients, agri experts said.
Training workshops and awareness programmes for farmers
are conducted from time to time in both states where peasants are informed about the harmful affects of stubble burning, officials said.
The Haryana government has also directed district level committees, which have been constituted for this purpose, to monitor the incidences of crop residue burning through satellite images and submit a daily report to headquarters, Walgad said.
Besides, the committees have been directed to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and register cases against violators of this Act in special environment courts along with photographic and videographic evidence.
A multimedia campaign would also be launched in Haryana under which the district administrations would conduct workshops, competitions and rallies, apart from making preventive and educative efforts, he said.
While the air quality is being monitored through Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations of the Pollution Control Board, the incidences are monitored electronically and remotely through satellite images for which Haryana Remote Space Application Centre (HARSAC) has been engaged.
Walgad also directed deputy commissioners to gear up their field machinery to monitor the incidences of violation of the ban.
20-Year-Old In Punjab Found Dead With Leg Chopped Off, 6 Charged
Chandigarh:MMNN:12 Oct. 2016
A 20-year-old man was found dead with his leg chopped off on Monday night in the Mansa district of Punjab, around 180 km from capital Chandigarh. Six people of his village have been charged with his murder.
The police say the young man, Sukhchain Singh Pali, was involved in liquor smuggling and killed by members of a rival gang. The groups had reportedly clashed several times in the past few months.
Mr Pali's family alleges that he was murdered because he was a Dalit. They have refused to cremate his body until his missing leg is found and the accused - all upper caste men - are arrested.
The body is in the mortuary.
Mr Pali's father Resham Singh says he was attacked on his way home when he was attacked late on Monday. The attackers, he alleges, were led by powerful landlords of the village who are involved in liquor smuggling.
The body was found around 10 pm, after Resham Singh, on hearing from his son's friends that he was attacked, went to the police for help.
An FIR or police complaint has been filed against Amandeep, Balbir, Sita Singh, Babreeq Singh, Hardeep Singh and Sadhu Singh on Resham's complaint.
Local politicians have seized the case and protested in the village, alleging that Dalits are being harassed and attacked.
In December last year, another Dalit man, Bheem Taank, was found dead in the state with his hand and leg chopped off.
Punjab Congress farmer outreach drive from today
Chandigarh:MMNN:12 Oct. 2016
Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh will launch a farmer outreach programme - party's door-to-door campaign - on Wednesday by visiting farmers' homes in Gurdaspur.
The programme, christened "Karza-Kurki Khatam, Fasal Di Poori Rakam," is aimed at connecting with the farmers, with an assurance of debt waiver if the Congress is voted to power.
Amarinder will also visit grain markets in Fatehgarh Churian, Kalanaur, Batala, Dera Baba Nanak and Ghaniyae Ke Bet mandi across the Ravi bridge where he will join the local farmers for lunch.
Carrying the "kisan jholas", Amarinder will go to farmers' houses in Kot Surat Malhi in Gurdaspur. The "kisan jhola" will contain 'maangpatras' (pro formas), mobile stickers, badges, door stickers and marg darshika. The "maangpatra" will record household details and farmers' debt.
The Congress plans to establish a direct contact with 75 lakh voters by October 25, according to a press statement.
Punjab wants UAVs to secure border
Chandigarh:MMNN: 8 Oct. 2016
Punjab government has tabled a proposal to put its own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the sky and patrol boats in the water as it told Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday that sweeping riverine bends spread over 90km area in the border between Indian and Pakistan seems to be a big concern for Punjab.
The BSF has already installed 44 high mast floodlights in the riverine areas where construction of fence is not possible.
The government has identified 30 such river entry points near the border across six districts in Punjab. The state government pointed out that both in Dinanagar and Pathankot terror attacks, riverine routes were used for infilitration.
These disclosures were made at a meeting chaired by Rajnath Singh in Jaisalmer on sealing India-Pakistan border. Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, DGP Suresh Arora and home secretary Jagpal Sandhu briefed Rajnath on the border management.
"A UAV station is likely to come up soon. At this stage, we have already opened the bids for UAVs, 24 bullet proof armoured tractors, ambush-protected vehicle (Cassipir) and a dozen bullet proof vehicles and night vision devices," said DGP (law and order) Hardeep Dhillon.
Punjab shares 553-km border with Pakistan.
Bullet-proof tractors are making a comeback nearly after three decades in Punjab after they were first introduced by KPS Gill to combat pro-Khalistan terrorists in early 90s.
There will be 11 armoured personnel carrier, each at a cost of Rs 36.3 lakh and light bullet proof carrier (4-6 personnel) for Rs 41.8 lakh each.
The government also told the Centre that nakas (checkposts) at three national highways with Jammu and Kashmir, spread over 70km are loosely manned with district police. They include Kathua-Narot Jaimal Singh, Dharkalan-Jammu and Pathankot-Jammu.The government also told the home minister that an 11-feet-wide path running along the border, nearly 400 acres, is being acquired by Punjab government.
"Nearly 30,000 acres of agricultral land lies after the zero line under cultivation and 20,500 acre is private property. Centre has only disbursed about Rs 19 cr for acquisition of land. We expect more funds and assistance," Sukhbir is learnt to have told Rajnath.
Jail for Punjab cops who tattooed 'jeb katri' on 4 women's foreheads
Patiala:MMNN:8 Oct. 2016
Pronouncing the judgment in the 23-year-old 'jeb katri' tattooing case, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court has convicted three cops. The case involved tattooing of 'jeb katri' word on the foreheads of four women in 1993 that had brought criticism to the Punjab Police from world over.
Terming the act of the accused as inhuman, special CBI judge Baljinder Singh, who wrapped up the trial in a year, on Friday awarded three-year rigorous imprisonment (RI) to the then superintendent of police Sukhdev Singh Chinna and sub-inspector Narinder Singh Malli, the then SHO of Rambagh police station, and a year's RI to ASI Kanwaljit Singh.
The victim women were: Gurdev Kaur, Parmeshri Devi, Mohinder Kaur and Jaswinder Kaur.
The Punjab Police had faced widespread criticism as the incident hit the headlines across the world in 1994 after cops in Amritsar tattooed 'jeb katri' on the foreheads of four habitual offender women.
The National Human Rights Commission took cognisance of a press report dated January 12, 1994 and lodged proceedings under Section 12 (b) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
The victims had also filed a writ petition in the high court in 1994, praying for directions to the respondents, the government of Punjab, Amritsar superintendent of police, and others, to arrange for plastic surgery for removal of the tattoo, giving compensation for the inhuman act and humiliation and punishing the guilty cops.
On January 17, 1994, the NHRC not only approached the high court to become a party, but also addressed a letter to the Punjab chief secretary, seeking a report on the matter. The NHRC had also submitted an affidavit in the court, demanding a CBI probe.
After hearing counsel of NHRC and petitioners, the high court not only handed over the probe to the CBI, but also directed Punjab government to arrange plastic surgery of the victims and pay a compensation of 50,000 to each victim, as recommended by NHRC.
The case, reached to the Supreme Court, which upheld the decision of high court. The CBI filed the challan in 2015 under Sections 326 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement), 346 (wrongful confinement in secret)and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
How it happened
As per the petition, the victims alleged that they had gone to visit Golden Temple on December 8, 1993. After paying obeisance when they reached at bus stand, ASI Kanwaljit Singh stopped them and kept them custody from December 8 to 15. Later, the ASI on the directions of the SP and SHO, got tattooed 'jeb katri' on their foreheads. The case came to fore when during a hearing of a pick-pocketing case, the police produced them in the court, foreheads covered with 'dupatta'. One of the women showed to the court the tottoo on her forehead. Though the court didn't make any observation, the media highlighted the story. Police had alleged that women's neighbours had tattooed 'jeb katri on their foreheads to aware the public about their misdeeds.
Punjab government to start new health centres in border areas
Chandigarh:MMNN: 5 Oct. 2016
In a bid to provide best healthcare facilities to the villagers living in the border areas, Punjab government today decided to set up new health centres.
The decision came after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's recent visit to the border areas from October 1 to 3.
The Cabinet approved several demands of the local residents, including opening of four new veterinary dispensaries in village Bharyal (Gurdaspur), Khalara, Chhina Bidi Chand and Maidipur (Tarn Taran), an official release said.
It also approved setting up of three Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in village Bharyal (Gurdaspur), Chhina Bidi Chand (Tarn Taran) and Dhariwal Uddar (Amritsar), it said.
Conceding to the other demands of the border residents, the Cabinet also sanctioned two boats for district Ferozepur at a cost of Rs 10 lakh, Rs 30 lakh to Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) for the erection of Grid Pylons, Rs 10 lakh for stadium and Rs 3 lakh for commemoration gate at village Gonnewal in district Amritsar.
Apart from these, the Cabinet also gave approval for special provision of employment opportunities for unemployed youth on the zero line, issuing Release Orders (ROs) for lifting paddy on priority basis in Border Districts by Department Food and Civil Supplies and construction of bridges at various places near Zero Line area in border districts.
It also gave approval to initiate the process of disbursement of cash grant to the eligible war widows/legal heirs as per the decision taken by the Council of Ministers in its meeting held on August 11, 2016.
An official spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office said, all those who had applied till January 4, 2010 would be eligible for the benefits.
The Cabinet also gave nod to recruit 102 persons on contract basis under the grant of 13th Finance Commission in the Economic and Statistical Organization of Planning department.
It also approved to create Road Safety Fund.
The regularisation of various categories of employees were also considered by the Cabinet after due deliberations and a committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been formed to further look into various aspects and make recommendation in this regard.
According to the Cabinet decision, all the ministers would be touring extensively to various mandis to ensure smooth and hassle free procurement of paddy across the state.
In another significant decision, the cabinet gave green signal to the policy for disposal of apartments/plots for Economically Weaker Sections in the Municipal areas of the state.
Punjab on alert: 2 suspicious men seen in Chakan Walia, search operation launched
Gurdaspur:MMNN:5 Oct. 2016
Punjab Police has sounded an alert after two suspected terrorists were sighted in in border village Chakan Walia in Dera Baba Nanak sector of Gurdaspur district on Wednesday.
According to initial reports, locals of Chakan Walia village claimed to have seen two suspicious men in the area. A search operation has been launched by Punjab Police and Border Security Force to locate the suspected militants. Currently, the Punjab Police is searching the border villages including Chakan Walia. Area has been cordoned off and heavy deployment of security personnel were seen in the area. No suspicious person has been detained to arrested till now.
After suspicious men were reported, tight vigil is being maintained near key installations including the Pathankot Airforce base. Last week, a massive search operation had been launched on Pathankot-Dalhousie road in Punjab after inputs were received regarding suspicious activities in the area. Punjab Police was put on high alert after it found some Army fatigues and belts abandoned in bushes which raised the doubts of presence of suspicious men in Pathankot.
In the wake of the Uri attack and surgical strike by Indian Army across the Line of Control (LoC), Punjab Police and Border Security Force (BSF) carried out a joint search operation and flag march in villages near Indo-Pak border last week.
Border villages like Pathankot and Gurdaspur have been on high alert following the terror strike on an army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 18 soldiers.
Earlier this year, heavily armed terrorists had attacked Pathankot air base on the intervening night of January 1-2. The Pathankot attack had claimed the lives of seven security personnel while four terrorists were killed.
On July 27 last year, three militants wearing army fatigues had stormed a police station in Dinanagar town in Gurdaspur district killing seven persons, including a Superintendent of Police, before they were gunned down during a day-long operation.
Punjab has doubled its power generation, says Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh
Chandigarh:MMNN: 1 Oct. 2016
Punjab has doubled its power generation in the last nine years with the state now producing 12,392 MW, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said today.
"When the SAD-BJP alliance government assumed reins of the state 9 years back, the power generation capacity stood at 6201 MW which increased by leaps and bounds under the present government to stand at 12392 MW today, an increase of 99.84 per cent," he said.
The average demand of Punjab is between 9000 MW to 11,500 MW, but it generates 37.69 per cent surplus, he claimed.
The Deputy CM claimed the Congress government had spent Rs 4937 crore on power generation and Rs 2544 crore on developing a power supply network from 2002-2007.
Whereas, the SAD-BJP government, between 2007-15, has spend Rs 30,000 crore on increasing power generation, while Rs 12,309 crore was spent on developing a supply network, he added.
"Punjab has the largest rooftop solar plant at Beas and only yesterday (Thursday) the largest single location 31.5 MW solar power plant was inaugurated Mirpur Kalan village," he said, adding the state by 2017 will produce 500 MW from solar power, compared to the current 470 MW.
"Separate feeders for domestic and agriculture ensure 24-hours power supply. Both sectors have recorded improvements," he said, adding, the project was completed at a cost of Rs 11540 lakh.
Transmission and distribution losses as on March 31, 2007, was 22.53 per cent of total power supplied. By March 31, 2015, it dropped to 15.19 per cent making Punjab's network one of the most efficient in the country, he claimed.
Surgical strikes: In Punjab, many want to leave camps, many more stay home
MMNN:1 Oct. 2016
On the campus of Sant Kabir ITI in Fazilka were trolleys loaded with household items. A cow was tied to a tree, villagers rested on cots, and children played or cried. The college, closed until further orders, is now a relief camp.
But of the 270 people it accommodated from a number of villages, many either returned home later in the day or said they would go back soon. More than twice that number have stayed back in any case.
Said Piyar Kaur, who is in her 60s, "You are asked to pack your bags and leave your homes within three hours . How can anybody decide what to take along and what to leave behind at such short notice?" And Bimla Rani of Mohar Khewa said, "We who have come are 14 members of three families. As many families are staying back. Who will take care of our animals?"
Kulwant Kaur's four-month-old son was crying. "He is feeling out of place. He misses his father and grandfather back home."
In a camp for villagers of Theh Kalandar, Laluwala and Chuarwala, one resident said, "Since nothing has happened, we may go back to our homes by tomorrow."
In Amritsar, too, few went to relief camps and those who did wanted to return. At a camp at Bhakna village, no one had arrived till evening . "We hope we will get some guests towards the evening. We will stay here even if two people come," said Amarjit Singh, nodal officer.
In the hall of Gurdwara Baba Bhuda in Satha village of Tarn Taran, 200 villagers are taking shelter. "Who wants to live in a relief camp? We will go back to our homes as soon as this trouble ends," said Gurbachan Kaur.
Attari MLA Gulzar Singh Ranike, an SAD minister, said, "People are not ready to leave their villages. We had been
trying to convincing them to come to relief camps. But most of them have been staying home and sending women and children to their relatives. Thus we have decided to provide them food at their homes as there are no women to cook."