The Hindustan Times – What made BJP appoint Shwait Malik as Punjab unit president?

Shwait Malik’s appointment on Saturday as Punjab unit chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) underlined the oft-cited dictum in politics: Never say never again!

Ravinder Vasudeva and Surjit Singh

Chandigarh/Amritsar – Panjab – India, 31 March 2018. Six years ago, he was all but written off when he lost the municipal elections in Amritsar in spite of being the incumbent mayor from the state’s ruling alliance.

But Shwait Malik’s appointment on Saturday as Punjab unit chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) underlined the oft-cited dictum in politics: Never say never again.

This comes two years after he was seen as having been “adjusted”, again as a surprise, by the party with a Rajya Sabha seat in March 2016. This was essentially a grand re-entry into politics by Malik, bagging the seat that fell vacant after the party’s then national vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna’s RS term expired.

And now his elevation to the post of state unit president, replacing Union minister Vijay Sampla, has also left many calling him a “silent operator”.

The choice by the party is being seen as an effort to win back the urban vote it purportedly lost to the Congress that won 77 of 117 seats in last year’s assembly polls.

The polls saw massive resentment against the ruling alliance of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP. As the Aam Aadmi Party emerged a distant but primary opposition to the Congress with 20 of 117 seats, SAD was reduced to 15 and BJP to three. And then the Congress snatched the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat too from the saffron party in a bypoll in October.

Party leaders who did not want to be named said issues such as demonetisation of high-value notes in 2016 followed closely by implementation of goods and services tax (GST) still affects businesses and minds of the urban community in particular.

With Malik, the party is aiming to concentrate on the upper caste Hindu trader again. An engineer by education, Malik, who will turn 55 on April 29, comes from hardcore urban politics and was thrice elected councillor and then remained mayor.

When Hoshiarpur MP Sampla, a prominent Dalit face, was given the post in April 2016, the party had its eye on Dalits who form nearly a third of the state’s population, the highest proportion among all states.

“Sampla was given the post when he was already a Union minister too, and was made all-powerful with a strategy that it will help the BJP make inroads into the Scheduled Castes (Dalits).

But that experiment failed as the party lost badly in Sampla’s own area, Dalit-dominated Doaba region. Phagwara was the only seat there that the party won, and the winning candidate, Som Parkash, was openly opposed by Sampla’s group,” a former minister said.

Among choices for replacement were the party’s national secretary, Tarun Chugh, and former minister Manoranjan Kalia, whose name was being pushed forward by Sampla and Khanna.

Former Jalandhar mayor Rakesh Rathore was also in the race, while the Pathankot district president of the party, Narinder Parmar, was favoured by a section in the BJP’s parent body Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

But Malik had no dearth of his own RSS credentials too, as his late father, Rajinder Malik, was a pracharak (office-bearer) of the Sangh. The backing of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who contested and lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Amritsar, sealed it further.

It anyway worked for Malik that he is considered a neutral face within the BJP and has kept himself away from any controversy.

Malik’s performance as Rajya Sabha MP has also helped in bagging the post, observe leaders. In the two years of his tenure till now, he has been vocal and active in raising the issues of Amritsar.

He is credited with bringing special funds from the Centre for development of the city and for upliftment of Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport. A direct flight from Amritsar to Birmingham (UK) has been resumed and a new flight to Sikhism’s holy town Nanded (Maharashtra) has started too.

In Amritsar, although there are rifts in the local party leadership, there was happiness over a local leader becoming president. The holy city has got the post after 15 years. Former MP Daya Singh Sodhi was the last saffron party leader from here who served as state unit chief from 1998 to 2003.

Meanwhile, former state BJP chiefs Kamal Sharma and Sampla congratulated Malik. Sharma’s statement said, “Malik is full of energies and has proved himself in Rajya Sabha as well. He has risen from the level of a grassroots worker… We will unitedly work to ensure our win in next Lok Sabha polls.”

‘Expanding party base top priority’

In his first reaction after being named the Punjab unit chief of BJP, Shwait Malik said, “I will not leave any stone unturned to expand the party’s base in all 117 assembly segments in Punjab. We will take the party to grassroots level and will act as watchman in society.”

He added, “The first priority is to strengthen the BJP-SAD base in Punjab keeping in view the Lok Sabha polls scheduled in 2019.” He alleged that the Congress has not yet delivered poll promises to the state and “people here are living in deep mess”.

The Tribune – Beas reserve going dry, aquatic life in danger

Fallout of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) move to limit water release; situation alarming, says forest officer

Aman Sood, Tribune News Service

Patiala, 30 March 2018. Aquatic life in the Beas water reserve is under a serious threat due to extreme shortage of water.

The level started plunging in the reserve after the recent decision of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) to “limit the release of water”. The move, which has endangered the aquatic life, could also pose a threat to the Harike wetland.

The Wildlife Department is now trying its best to make the BBMB release at least minimum supply of water needed to sustain aquatic life as the water level has fallen by about four feet in the past four days.

Sources said the water level had been controlled to allow the Rajasthan Irrigation Department to complete some repairs. However, the BBMB denied it.

“While cutting water supply to the Beas, the BBMB did not bother about the aquatic life. A recent visit to the riverside shows that gharials are moving upstream to deal with water scarcity and for food,” the sources said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Punjab, Kuldip Kumar told The Tribune that the situation was alarming as island-like dunes had surfaced in the Beas.

“We have deputed our staff to meet any exigency. I have taken up the matter with the BBMB, which assured us that water would be released. However, nothing has been done till now,” he said.

A majority of border farmers are also dependent on the river for irrigation. “A regular check is needed to monitor the water supply, timing and quality to sustain the river’s ecosystem and livelihood of people dependent on it”, said Jaskaran Sandhu, a former Punjab irrigation engineer and a wildlife photographer.

“The Beas area is less polluted than the Sutlej. Hundreds of bird varieties are also dependent on it,” said Sandhu, who is a member of the Punjab Wildlife Board.

Denying that the water flow had been reduced for repairs in Rajasthan, BBMB Chairman DK Sharma said it had been done due to low water level in the dam. “We are more worried about water for humans during the peak summer and cannot do much about the aquatic life in Beas,” he said, adding that they would release water soon.

To meet the situation, the Irrigation Department is also contemplating diverting supply into the Beas from the Upper Bari Doab Canal. “We have made some arrangements and the problem would be sorted out. There is no need for us to talk to the BBMB,” said Jaspal Singh, Principal Secretary, Irrigation.

Brussel Noord – NS/NMBS IC train to the Netherlands

Brussel Noord – Bruxelles Nord
03 February 2018

NMBS / NS train to Amsterdam via Brussel Airport

NMBS / NS train to Amsterdam via Brussel Airport

NS Intercity carriages

NMBS logo instead of a NS one

Train from Eupen (Oost Kantons) to Oostende (West Vlaanderen)

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Times of India – Rahul calls for compassion and brotherhood – Union minister asks what about 1984 anti-Sikh riots

New Delhi – India, 31 March 2018. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Saturday in a tweet quoted remarks of West Bengal’s Imam Rashidi and Delhi’s Yashpal Saxena, who had lost their sons in incidents of communal violence, and made a call for “compassion” and “brotherhood” in the wake of communal unrest in West Bengal’s Asansol.

Union minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal responded to the Congress chief’s tweet by reminding him of his party’s alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

“The country saw the ‘love’ and ‘brotherhood’ of the Congress in October and November 1984 when thousands of innocent Sikhs were massacred. Congress talking about ‘करुणा’ (compassion) and ‘आपसी भाईचारा’ (brotherhood)… looks like someone is celebrating April Fool’s Day already!” She tweeted.

According to official records, about 2,800 Sikhs were killed across India, including 2,100 in Delhi, during the pogrom that broke out after the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

Earlier today, the Congress chief in a tweet had targeted BJP/RSS accusing them of promoting the “ideology of hate”. Rahul referred to messages of Yashpal Saxena and Imam Rashidi and said that in India “love will always conquer hate”.

Both Saxena and Rashidi had called for peace and restraint after losing their sons in communally motivated incidents of hate.

“The messages of Yashpal Saxena and Imam Rashidi’s, who lost their sons to hatred and communalism, show that in India love will always conquer hate. The foundation of Congress, too, is based on the principles of compassion and brotherhood. We will not let BJP/RSS’s ideology of hate win.”

Delhi’s Yashpal Saxena’s son, Ankit Saxena, was killed on February 1 by the family of a woman he was in a relationship with. According to Delhi Police, the woman’s family was against their relationship as they belonged to different communities and had told him to end it.

Saxena had urged the people to not politicize the death of his son. “I don’t want an atmosphere of fear against the Muslims. I have no complaint with any religion. Please don’t use me to spread communal tensions,” Saxena had said.

Earlier this week, Asansol mosque Imam Rashidi’s 16-year-old son was killed during communal riots triggered during the Ram Navami processions in West Bengal. “I want peace. I don’t want any more families to lose their loved ones,” the Imam said while addressing a congregation gathered to perform the last rites of his son.

The Ram Navami celebrations on March 25 had turned sour after clashes erupted in various parts of Bengal leaving three dead and several injured. Following the continued violence, Section 144 was imposed in Asansol, on March 28.

Dawn – Cores’ analysis reveals ‘startling’ facts about Mohenjodaro

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 30 March 2018. Sindh Minister for Culture, Archives and Heritage Syed Sardar Ali Shah on Thursday said that the preliminary analysis of cores obtained from Mohenjodaro during the year 2015-16 revealed startling facts as it suggested that the site was the world’s largest settlement of its time and its period of florescence spanned from 2600 to 1900 BC.

Mr Shah was speaking at a press conference along with some foreign and local researchers and experts, besides senior officials of his ministry.

The minister said that the previous research on the cores by some other institutions was partially studied by Dr Michael Jansen of the University of Technology, Muscat, and other experts who now made the fresh conclusion about the historical site.

“Interpretations offered strong indications that the site was considerably larger than formerly acknowledged by archaeologists and that the sediments that blanketed the terrain near the known city centre were both deep and of alluvial (floodplain) origin.

Based on earlier fieldwork and remote imagery, it was hypothesised that major (and intact) portions of the settlement lay buried beneath many metres of flood deposit,” he said.

Mr Shah said that in 2012, Unesco commissioned a study to identify the centre and buffer zone of the city to delimit its margins and to provide an overview of the buried contexts of the ancient and extended settlement.

To meet this obligation, the technical consultative committee (TCC) for Mohenjodaro, chalked out a dry core drilling programme and Sindh University’s Prof Sarfraz Solangi, a Quaternary geologist with extensive experience in alluvial geomorphology, was brought in to oversee the project, the minister said.

He said that the TCC and the SU geology division undertook a systematic drilling of approximately 60 cores that were aligned along transects crossing the site and its general vicinity. Several sets of cores had been excavated along the project footprint over the years but none was analysed in great detail, he added.

The objective, the minister said, was to identify the processes and periods of flooding which might have accounted for technical innovations probably allowed for permanent settlement within the proximity of the Indus.

He said that it was necessary to understand the stream behaviour and flooding processes that affected the human settlement and the landscape use of the site.