NDTV – 5000 Pilgrims a day, no restrictions on faith: India to Pakistan on Kartarpur

India is already constructing a bridge on the zero line of the Kartarpur Corridor to provide all-weather connectivity

Reported by Mohammed Ghazali, Neeta Sharma, Edited by Debanish Achom

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2019. Pakistan today agreed in principle to build a bridge on the zero line of the Kartarpur Corridor to provide all-weather connectivity, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after a two-hour meeting to iron out issues in the second round of talks over the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims.

India is already constructing a bridge on the zero line; Pakistan, however, had been insisting on constructing a causeway, which India believes, would act as a barrier, directing more flood water towards India.

“Pakistan side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest.

Pending the construction of a bridge over the old Ravi creek by Pakistan on their territory, India offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational in November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

Both countries agreed to allow visa-free travel for Indians and those who have Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards, the statement said.

“Throughout the year, 5000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara per day, Pakistan highlighted the infrastructural constraints on their side and conveyed that they may be able to accommodate many of the Indian proposals in a phased manner,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“There should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith,” it said.

The second round of talks comes a day after Pakistan removed pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from its committee that is involved in talks with India.

The Indian delegation for the talks today was led by the Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary (Internal Security) SCL Das and the Foreign Ministry’s Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) Deepak Mittal, while the 20-member Pakistani delegation was led by Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

“Pakistan is fully committed and cooperating to operationalise Kartarpur Corridor,” said Mr Faisal this morning.

The Kartarpur corridor will be vulnerable to flooding as it is being built near the flood plains of the Ravi river. In 2013, when the area was flooded, it had caused great damage to people living in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

Once built, the corridor will connect the Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims. The pilgrims will require just a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, an important Sikh shrine established in 1522 by the faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev.

The first level of talks were held on March 14 and second round, which were to take place on April 2, were called off pending clarifications by Islamabad on New Delhi’s security concerns. In May, India had raised concerns that Pakistan is promoting the interest of Khalistani groups under the garb of the Kartarpur corridor.


Dawn – Rain, windstorm lash many cities of Punjab

Our Staff Reporter

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 14 July 2019. Rain that was heavy at places and windstorms lashed many cities in Punjab and upper parts of the country on Saturday.

The Met office reported rain in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Malakand, Hazara, and Peshawar divisions, besides Kashmir and Islamabad.

Attock recorded 58mm, Hafizabad 33, Mandi Bahauddin 32, Islamabad (Zero Point 31, Bokra 23, airport 6, Saidpur 5), Rawalpindi (Shamsabad 33, Chaklala 27), Sargodha 26, Joharabad 20, Narowal 19, Gujranwala 18, Sialkot (airport 20, Cantt 16), Jhelum 15, Mangla 14, Gujrat 12, Lahore (airport 11, city 5), Chakwal 10, Murree 5, Okara 4, Faisalabad 3, Kasur 02, Muzaffarabad 43, Garidupatta 5, Rawalakot 3, Kotli 01, Kakul 5, Malamjabba 4, while Kalam and Saidu Sharif recived 2mm rain.

Rain in the country is being caused by monsoon currents and the Met department says these are likely to strengthen on Sunday.

It forecast widespread rain, thundershower (few moderate-to-heavy falls) with windstorm in Kashmir, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Malakand, Hazara, Peshawar, Gujranwala divisions, while at scattered places in Kohat, Bannu, Faisalabad, Lahore, Sargodha divisions and Gilgit-Baltistan in the next 24 hours.

Heavy-to-very heavy falls are also expected at isolated places in Hazara, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore divisions, besides Islamabad and Kashmir.

The Flood Forecasting Division says the River Kabul at Nowshera was in medium flood. All the other major rivers are flowing below the low-flood level.

It expects moderate to heavy thunderstorm/rain with one or two very heavy falls over the upper catchments of the River Indus. Scattered thunderstorm/rain with isolated heavy falls was also expected over the upper catchments of rivers Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej.


Tolo News – Saffron fields cover 70 hectares of land in Balkh

Arif Musavi

Mazar-e Sharif – Balkh – Afghanistan, 09 JULY 2019. Saffron cultivation has turned into good business for farmers in the northern Balkh province, especially for women who make 40 percent of those who are busy in cultivation of the spice to support their families economically.

A local official said that as part of efforts to improve the saffron cultivation, the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture distributed eight tons of saffron bulbs to farmers in five northern and northeastern provinces.

“We have 70 hectares of saffron fields and around 40 percent of woman farmers are busy in saffron cultivation,” said Mohammad Salim Saee, head of the agriculture directorate in Balkh.

A female farmer from Balkh, Khalida Nazari, said she started saffron cultivation four years ago and that her incomes have increased.

“I collected 20 grams of saffron in the first year, 35 grams in the second year, up to 50 grams in the third year and I will collect more this year,” she said.

Shazia Qasimi, a female farmer from Samangan province, said she is interested in saffron cultivation, therefore, she has visited Balkh to purchase saffron bulb.

“I started saffron cultivation eight years ago. It is a good business and it has improved my economy,” said Qasimi, a farmer from Balkh.

Figures by Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock show that at least 200 women are busy in saffron cultivation in northern provinces who earn almost $500 from one jerib (0.2 hectares) of land.

Afghan saffron is considered among the best in the world and has scooped international awards on numerous occasions.

The western province of Herat is famous for saffron cultivation and processing.

Statistics show that Afghanistan produces 15 tons of saffron annually, most of which is produced in Herat province in the west of the country.


The Tribune – Why Punjab has a water crisis, and what now

Punjab needs organically linked agriculture and water policies to tackle the alarming situation, says Ranjit Singh Ghuman.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 July 2019. Though Punjab’s water crisis has been in the making for the past over three decades, no serious efforts have been made to address it. Paradoxically, all stakeholders, including political parties, have been hitherto in the denial mode about the gravity of water insecurity.

Fortunately, the state government now seems to be seized of the emerging water crisis, going by the convening of a brainstorming session on the problem by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in Chandigarh on June 21.

The meeting was attended by various stakeholders, including farmer leaders, representatives of the industry, experts and scientists, besides Cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats. The in-principle approval by the CM to constitute the Punjab Water Authority, though long overdue, is certainly a step forward.

Punjab was once comfortably placed in terms of water availability, but over the years, the situation deteriorated. In 1984, Punjab had 2.44 million acre ft (MAF) of groundwater, which dwindled to minus 11.63 MAF in 2013. It was mainly due to overexploitation of groundwater.

In 1984, there were five districts doing overdraft of groundwater; in 2013, there were 15. The range of overdraft was between 1.34 (Ludhiana) and 1.91 (Kapurthala) times in 1984, while it was 1.21 times (Gurdaspur) to 2.11 (Sangrur) times in 2013. The average total draft in Punjab was 149 in 2013.

The overexploitation of groundwater led to fast depletion of the water table, due to which the average depth of tubewells increased from 49 ft during 1960-70 to 128 ft in 2013-14 in nearly 15 districts of (predominantly paddy zone). Of them, the pre-monsoon depth of the water table went down by 7 metres to 22 metres in 10 districts during 1996-2016.

Genesis of depleting water table

Historically, Punjab has never been a paddy-growing area. Of the total irrigated area, paddy accounted for 9 per cent (2.37 lakh hectares) in 1939. Even in 1970-71, 9.62 per cent of the net sown area was under paddy. Nonetheless, paddy has been a major crop of Punjab since the 1980s and the area under it went up to 72 per cent of the net sown area in 2015-16.

The Green Revolution transformed Punjab’s diversified cropping system into wheat-paddy rotation. The country’s increasing demand for food and the vested interests of global agri-business, inter alia, were the major factors behind the Green Revolution and the promotion of paddy in Punjab.

The assured supply of high-yielding varieties of seeds, fertilisers and public investment in irrigation were aimed at meeting these objectives. The public procurement under the MSP regime (since the mid-1960s) assured market clearance for the farmers’ produce of wheat and paddy.

The area under tubewell irrigation increased from 56 per cent in 1970-71 to 71 per cent in 2014-15, while the area under canal irrigation declined from 45 per cent to 29 per cent.

This can be attributed to the increasing demand for groundwater due to an extraordinary increase in the area under paddy and a significant increase in the gross cropped area. It is interesting to note that the area under rice and the number of tubewells increased concurrently.

Mind-boggling water consumption

Paddy is the main consumer of groundwater in Punjab. Water productivity of rice (quantity of water required to produce 1-kg rice) in the state in the triennium (TE) ending 2013-14 was 5,337 litres, whereas the all-India average was 3,875 litres. This is also due to applying higher number of irrigations than the recommended doses.

The water consumption for total rice production in Punjab increased from 16,642 (13,449 billion litres, 81%, for Central pool) billion litres in 1980-81 to 59,047 (73% for Central pool) billion litres in 2013-14. It is the case of virtual water export from Punjab to the rest of India.

Punjab provided much-needed food security to the nation at the cost of its groundwater (the most precious non-renewable natural resource). Even the quality of its sub-soil water has got polluted in the process.

Electricity usage

As compared to 1970-71, electricity consumption in the agricultural sector increased by 1,652 times in 2015-16, while the gross cropped area rose just by 1.38 times. Clearly, an increase in the gross cropped area does not justify such a huge consumption of electricity in agriculture.

Can it be attributed to the increase in irrigation intensity? Perhaps no, as 71 per cent of the net sown area was under irrigation in 1970-71.

The ever-increasing demand for water for paddy (and overdependence on groundwater to meet this demand), the higher and higher number of tubewells, sharp depletion of the water table, the increasing depth of tubewells and the rising number of submersible motors (up from 6.2 lakh in 2009 to 8.4 lakh in 2014) seem to be behind such a huge consumption of electricity in agriculture.

Injudicious use of water due to the provision of free electricity in agriculture is also the reason for the depleting water table and hence the increasing consumption of electricity.

Policy intervention

Though the state government has been trying to respond to the depleting water table, the only effective policy response came in 2009 when The Punjab Preservation of Sub-soil Water Act prohibited sowing of nursery of paddy before May 10 and transplantation before June 15.

Other measures such as crop diversification, resource conservation technologies and micro-irrigation techniques are yet to show substantive results.

For crop diversification, the government constituted two committees (1986 and 2002), popularly known as Johl Committee 1 and 2. But not much has happened on the ground.

The Union Government has been advising (without any policy intervention, alternative crops and financial support) Punjab to shift massive area from under paddy. The promotion of paddy in Punjab was mainly due to the policy mix (focused on country’s food security). Now, how can we expect crop diversification in the absence of a compatible policy set?

The way out

Punjab needs to shift huge area from under paddy. That would require a compatible policy set and support (from the Union and state governments) and an alternative crop combination (with MSP and assured market clearance) which could give farmers at least the same amount of per-hectare returns which they are getting from paddy.

The free power to agriculture would have to be rationalised if we really want to address the issue of diversification and depleting water table. It would not be possible without bringing farmers on board.

There is a need to have a social movement by the farmers for rationalisation of free electricity and reducing area under paddy. It is of utmost importance for having sustainable agriculture, ensuring livelihood, saving water for future generations and saving Punjab from the looming desertification.

Generating awareness among the stakeholders is a sine qua non for mobilising any social movement for addressing the issue of water scarcity. Harvesting and conservation of water (through the mantra of Reduce, Recycle and Reuse) must be made mandatory.

In my own empirical study of 10 districts of Punjab, I found little or no awareness (about depleting water table, wastage and injudicious use of water, harvesting and conservation) among farmers, domestic water users and industrialists.

The state needs to have comprehensive agriculture and water policies, organically linked with each other, as 97 per cent of the groundwater is being used in agriculture. The constitution of the Punjab Water Authority would also play a significant role in supporting and supplementing the government’s efforts in addressing the emerging water crisis.

Ranjit Singh Ghuman is a professor at CRRID (Centre for Research in Rural & Industrial Development), Chandigarh. Views are personal.


Gent : Edward Pynaerkaai – Keizerpoort

Edward Pynaerkaai
06 July 2019

Blue and white




These bits of wild Gent are ideal for our bees, bumble bees and hover-flies

06 July 2019

Tram 2 to Zwijnaarde

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Mumbai Mirror – Pakistan redrafts Gurdwara Prabandhak’s panel list

Drops pro-Khalistan member from Kartarpur talks.

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2019. Just a day ahead of the second round of talks between India and Pakistan over fixing of modalities of the Kartarpur corridor, Pakistan has reconstituted its Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) list, thereby dropping the name of a pro-Khalistan member from talks.

On Friday, Pakistan, in an official statement, said, “The federal government (federal cabinet) has been pleased to re-constitute PSGPC.” Addressing India’s concerns raised earlier, Pakistan removed the name of pro-Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla from the list.

Officials of the two countries are slated to meet on July 14 to finalise modalities of the corridor and related technical issues.

The Kartarpur route along the India-Pakistan border is three kilometres away from Gurdaspur, Punjab. Once opened, it would allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev died in 1539. Sources added that the work on the corridor is expected to be completed by October 31, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.


The Hindu – Kartarpur Gurdwara: Pakistan agrees to allow year-long visa-free access

Second formal discussion between New Delhi and Islamabad makes progress on modalities of pilgrimage

Kallol Bhattacherjee

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 14 July 2019. Pakistan on Sunday agreed to allow year-long visa-free access to Indian pilgrims to the holy Gurudwara of Kartarpur. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement that discussions in this regard were conducted at the second formal meeting between the two sides that made progress on the modalities of the pilgrimage and took up the presence of Khalistan supporters in Pakistani territory.

“It was agreed to allow visa-free travel for the Indian passport holders and OCI cardholders seven days a week. Throughout the year, 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara per day. The pilgrims will be allowed to travel as individuals or in groups and also on foot,” stated a press release from the MEA emphasising that India had urged that the holy shrine should be open to Indian citizens of all faiths.

India also urged Pakistan to prevent Khalistan supporters from misusing this historic initiative. “Concerns regarding individuals or organisations based in Pakistan who may try to disrupt the pilgrimage and misuse the opportunity to play with the sentiments of the pilgrims was shared. A dossier was handed over the Pakistan side to highlight concerns in this regard,” stated the MEA press note without explicitly naming the Khalistan supporters.

The discussion highlighted the preparatory work under way on both sides of the border for the 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. India claimed that significant progress had been made in building the necessary infrastructure to handle the pilgrims from India and abroad. The statement claimed that Indian facilities would handle 15,000 pilgrims a day. The work is expected to be completed by October 31 this year, a week before the celebrations are expected to begin.

India also urged Pakistan to allow “Nagar Kirtan” from Delhi to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan in July and in October-November 2019 as part of the celebrations to mark the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru.