The Times of India – Ten long route trains arrive late by several hours

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 07 May 2018. As many as 10 long route trains running to and from the national capital arrived late by several hours on Sunday at the Ludhiana railway station, due to ongoing construction work of limited height subway, including laying new railway lines on the Amritsar-New Delhi railway route here on Saturday, which irked passengers waiting for them on different platforms of the city station.

Trains coming from far-off places like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal remained the worst affected, as they arrived late by more than eight to nine hours, which made passengers restless. Himgiri Express from Howrah to Amritsar arrived late by more than 16 hours at 12.45pm, instead of 8pm on Saturday night.

Lohit Express from Guwahati to Jammu Tawi arrived late by more than nine hours at 4.15pm, instead of 7am. Jansewa Express from Saharsa to Amritsar was also running late by eight hours. Tata Muri Express from Tata Nagar to Jammu Tawi arrived late by more than nine hours at 2.25pm, instead of 5.15am.

Avadh-Assam Express arrived four hours late at 11am, instead of 7am, and Lohit Express was delayed by more than five hours, arriving at 1.10pm instead of 7.30am.

Ludhiana railway station superintendent Ashok Salaria stated: “Construction work for the betterment of rail infrastructure is going on throughout the Northern Railways division, so trains coming from UP, Bihar, and Kolkata side arrived late by several hours.

Another reason for the unusual delay in arrival of trains were the several summer special trains running, which led to congestion.”

The Tribune – Shattered families drift between light and darkness

With drugs on doorstep, relapses after treatment make life scarier than death

P K Jaiswar, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 06 May 2018. With efforts of the police and government proving ineffective in stopping the flow of drugs in the streets of Punjab, addicts are getting desperate to find ways to stay out of temptation’s way, even after de-addiction treatment.

Their families are anxious to prevent sure ruin of finances as well as relationships.

“The only difference we have seen over the past year is that earlier heroin could be had for Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 per gram, now it is Rs 3,500,” a drug addict told The Tribune, requesting not to be identified, adding that getting the daily dose is not difficult.

“I started consuming drugs around six years ago after my friends lured me into it, and now I have nowhere to go. I consume 500mg to 1gm daily,” said a 23-year-old youth from Mughal Chak Pannuan village in Tarn Taran. He had been under treatment for around 10 days at the government-run de-addiction centre at Tarn Taran Civil Hospital.

Young deaths

The situation in border villages is even worse. And no one can know it better than Mukhtar Singh, a resident of Patti, who lost his son, Manjit Singh, a graduation student, to drugs in March 2016. But the unfortunate father decided to do something more than just grieve. He set up an organisation under the name of “Kafan Bol Paya Nash Virodhi Misson-e-Punjab”.

His first effort was to collect data from government de-addiction centres in 17 districts, which pegged the figure of addicts who received treatment at 4.94 lakh. Then he also did an intensive survey of addicts in Tarn Taran district, and found that only 20 per cent of them sought treatment.

“There is no doubt that the Special Task Force constituted by the government is working to nail the peddlers, but it is also true that the number of youth dying of drug intake has not gone down,” Mukhtar Singh said. He believed that though smugglers were nabbed, they continued to operate through mobile phones from inside jails.

He said the government should confiscate all properties of smugglers, and the revenue generated from those should be utilised for better and affordable treatment for addicts.

In January this year, a youth identified as Vicky died of drug abuse in the Patti area. In April, another youth, Harjit Singh of Sri Goindwal Sahib, reportedly died of drug overdose. He had married around three months ago. Three persons, apparently beggars, also died of similar causes in the Company Bagh area in Amritsar.

Desperate families

The story is not complete without taking into account the families of drug-abuse victims. In the hope that their wards would shun drugs and return to the mainstream, they are ready to try all means suggested by anyone.

Corridors of de-addiction centres are full of family members seeking help. Such has been the shattering effect in some cases, that families even start wishing death for their ward as repeated attempts at getting them cured fail.

At one private de-addiction centre, The Tribune spoke to a woman who was getting her husband, a cable operator, treated. She said though he was on the path to recovery, the fear of his falling back into the trap always loomed.

“When you have an addict in the family, society distances itself from you. Family members also change. At one point even I contemplated leaving my husband; but later decided to stick by him and get him treated,” she said.

There was a man who had come to get medicines for his father, a policeman who had been an addict for several years. “When the family learnt of the addiction, they were completely shattered. It was difficult for us to accept the reality,” he said. However, with support from the family, his father was now on the mend.

Yet another woman at the centre, a resident of Baba Budha Sahib area, was not so fortunate. Her only son had relapsed a number of times. He was addicted to synthetic drugs, available easily in the market.

Cheap pills

The rising price of heroin is also not helping much, as addicts switch to synthetic drugs, including intoxicants and medicines available at chemists.

The misuse of the addiction-treatment medicine tramadol, and even some Ayurvedic drugs, had also come to light before the Assembly elections when the Narcotics Control Bureau confiscated huge quantities of these.

A little over a month ago, the Chheharta police seized a huge quantity of tramadol tablets. It does not come under the preview of the NDPS Act, and those involved get away with milder charges under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

Dr Jaswinder Singh Gandhi, who has written a couple of books of short stories and also made short films on the problem, however, appreciated the fact that the government had at least shown its willingness to address the challenge.

“Different agencies are working, and the government has now also implemented the DAPO (Drug Abuse Prevention Officer) programme to involve people in this war,” he noted. There are many hopes pinned on that.

Profundo Programme Gent : Sint-Baafs Abdij – Sint-Michielsbeweging – Brabantdam Kerk

Gent Sint Baafs Abdij
18 March

Due to cold many people left after the kirtan

Ramandeep Singh joined the sufis on his tablas

Music unites – Music creates bonds !

Profundo Programme
School visits
20 March 2018


Sint-Michiels movement explained

Protestant Minister (dominee) in the Brabantdam kerk (Church)

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Asian Age – A Jallianwala Bagh of our own making

Aakar Patel

The democratic Government of India, just like the colonial government, sees citizens as a nuisance.

Op/Ed, 06 May 2018. Ninety-nine years ago, in April 1919, the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh happened, the details of which we all are taught in school. An officer named Colonel Dyer ordered 90 soldiers, 65 Gurkhas and 25 Punjabis from the Baloch Regiment, to open fire on a crowd in Amritsar.

The soldiers fired with their Lee Enfield 0.303 rifles, stopping to reload every few seconds. In about 10 minutes, the Indian soldiers fired over 1,600 bullets on the unarmed crowd.

The government said the crowd had gathered there in violation of orders and officials said that 379 people were killed and over 1,100 wounded. As per the Congress, more than 1,000 people were killed in the massacre; we will never know the exact number. I find it hard to believe that the official number was wrong for several reasons.

The crowd was protesting against the Rowlatt Act, according to which any Indian could be detained without trial. The government called it preventive detention, meaning the government could hold any citizen in jail without any crime having been committed.

Essentially, it meant that if someone in the government suspected a citizen might commit a crime at a later date, that citizen can be put in jail. Indians were outraged by such a law and one Lahore newspaper described the Rowlatt Act with the headline: No dalil, no vakil, no appeal. That is a good description of what preventive detention is.

This then is the background to the Jallianwala Bagh event and this is the nature of the law for which so many of our fellow citizens were protesting and were killed. They felt the colonial government was wrong to jail Indians without any charge or trial.

Because of Jallianwala Bagh, the Rowlatt Act’s provisions were not fully implemented. That was 99 years ago, under a colonial government. Let us turn to the present.

In November 2017, the Uttar Pradesh government jailed the Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan without a case. He was booked under the National Security Act (NSA). Under the NSA, Chandrashekhar Azad does not have any of the human rights protections that are part of ordinary criminal procedure and fair trial standards.

He can be jailed for 12 months without charge or trial. On his release, that is if he is released, he can be put back again under some other detention law.

Azad’s term of administrative detention expired on May 2. On that day, a non-judicial “advisory board”, established under the NSA, put him in jail for another six months. Instead of promising to have lunch with dalits, it would be better if our leaders promised to treat them fairly and not use laws against them that are a basic violation of Constitutional rights.

The High Court has also refused to release Azad. Remember that he has not been charged with any crime. This is preventive detention and, in the past, the Supreme Court has itself called the preventive detention laws, “lawless laws”.

There are many laws like the NSA under which the government of India and our various States detain Indians that they may not personally like or disagree with. We are doing to our people what even the colonial government hesitated to do.
The reason I mentioned the detail of the shooting of 1919 was to reiterate that it was fellow Indians, Gurkhas and Punjabis who actually took aim and pulled the triggers that killed so many of us in that peaceful protest.

The National Security Act sounds like a serious piece of legislation intended to save India from a security threat but the government is not holding Azad for fear of any terrorism.

Indeed, most of our preventive detention laws have nothing to do with terrorism. Gujarat can jail its citizens under the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act. Karnataka has the Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act (popularly known as the “Goondas Act”).

Periods of possible detention under the state laws range from six months to two years. Authorities can impose preventive detention for a range of activities in different states, including bootlegging, land-grabbing and even video piracy.

Tamil Nadu had 1,268 such people in jail in 2016, of whom 62 were either graduates or post-graduates, and 21 of them were women, according to a report in the Hindu.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015 showed that Telangana had detailed 339 Indians, Karnataka 232 and Gujarat 219. Tamil Nadu’s law is called the Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video Pirates Act.

The vague and open nature of the wording is absolutely deliberate. The democratic Government of India, just like the colonial government, sees citizens as a nuisance. It does not trust the legal system and demands to have open-ended and draconian laws that can jail us without a crime being committed.

Till we are able to understand and appreciate this reality of what is happening to our fellow citizens today, in 2018, it would be hypocrisy to continue to teach in our textbooks about the great atrocity of 1919.

Aakar Patel is Executive Director of Amnesty International India. A former editor, Patel is a senior columnist and a translator of Urdu and Gujarati works.

The Hindu – Getting water wise on the farm

Paddy in Punjab & sugarcane in Maharashtra are emptying irrigation resources

Priscilla Jebaraj

New Delhi – India, 06 May 2018. Paddy and sugarcane are India’s most water-guzzling crops, using up over half of the country’s total irrigation water resources, but procurement policies and water and power subsidies are skewing profitability and distorting crop decisions, says a recent study done by agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, and Gayathri Mohan.

It has been published as a working paper by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

The ICRIER team has also completed work on a water atlas, to be published by NABARD, which will track the water usage of ten major crops. “It will be published within a month,” says Dr. Gulati, who is a former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, the agency that recommends minimum support prices for major crops.

“But 60% of water for agriculture goes to just these two crops. If you can fix these two, paddy and sugarcane, you will solve the problem.” Agricultural usage accounts for at least 80% of total water resources.

Paddy farmers in Punjab need thrice the amount of irrigation water used by farmers in Bihar to produce one kilogram of rice, according to the paper. Punjab faces rapidly increasing groundwater depletion at a rate of up to 120 cm per year.

Yet, the government’s robust paddy procurement policy and farmers’ access to highly subsidised power for irrigation means that rice cultivation on a per hectare basis remains high in Punjab.

Rice in the desert

“When you start growing rice in a desert, what do you expect? Much of Punjab is an extension of Rajasthan,” says Dr. Gulati, pointing out that subsidies tend to disguise geographical facts.

“Which State is willing to reform power subsidies? State electricity boards are in the red because of subsidised power for farmers. And power is being stolen by others in the name of agriculture for non-agricultural purposes.”

Agriculture Commissioner Suresh Kumar Malhotra points to the crop diversification programme and the drive to double micro and drip irrigation by 2022 as efforts towards better water productivity.

However, he admits that progress is slow, and that water and power pricing reforms are needed. “If you have metering or charging, then farmers will realise it is not free of cost, and there will be a more judicial use of water and an incentive to diversify to less water-intensive crops,” he says.

Farmers will shift to corn, which uses one-fifth the amount of irrigation water in comparison to rice, says Dr. Gulati, if they can be sure they will be able to sell it at a profit.

Irrigation water productivity of Maharashtra’s sugarcane is lower than crops such as cotton, tur or groundnut. Sugarcane uses almost two-thirds of the State’s irrigation water. With guaranteed irrigation and sales, cane farmers in Maharashtra are reluctant to change to other crops.

The ICRIER paper says that in order to align cropping patterns better, marketing opportunities for sugar and procurement policies for rice must be strengthened in water-rich States, and marketing risks of less water intensive crops reduced. Farmer incomes should be supported with direct benefit transfers rather than water and power subsidies.