The Tribune – High-stakes battle for Punjab

Captain needs to ensure big win to retain position, Sukhbir to revive SAD

Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. It’s a direct fight between the Congress and SAD-BJP in 12 of the 13 constituencies in Punjab, which go the polls on Sunday. The Congress is grappling with anti-incumbency and the Akalis sacrilege ‘taint’, even as the voter is unusually quiet.

This Lok Sabha election is a litmus test for both Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. For Captain Amarinder, an impressive tally will help him retain his position as the undisputed leader of the Punjab Congress, especially when his minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and former PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa are pointing a finger at him.

For Sukhbir, a creditable performance is necessary to revive his party that suffered an ignominious defeat in the 2017 Assembly elections. He and his wife Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal are contesting from Ferozepur and Bathinda.

Sangrur is the only seat where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in the reckoning. Here AAP state chief Bhagwant Mann is locked in a triangular fight with Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon and SAD’s Parminder Singh Dhindsa.

Gurdaspur, Patiala, Bathinda and Ferozepur seats are expected to see a keen contest. The fight in Anandpur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib will be interesting too.

This has been a campaign high on rhetoric and optics with Congress and BJP top guns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi – holding impressive rallies in support of party candidates.

What was unique in these elections was assertive voters posing uncomfortable questions to candidates, demanding greater development and more jobs. On the back foot initially over the 2015 sacrilege incidents, especially in Malwa, the Akalis managed to bounce back by raking up the anti-Sikh riots, making it a 1984 versus Bargari contest.

Observers fear that a ‘disconnect’ between voters and candidates could mean only dedicated cadres of each party reaching the polling booths with fence-sitters choosing to abstain.

The Hindu – BJP offered Rs 10 crore each to 7 MLAs to quit party: AAP

Sisodia claims party offering money to more AAP legislators, but won’t be successful

Staff Reporter

New Delhi – India, 02 May 2019. The Aam Aadmi Party on Wednesday alleged that seven of its MLAs were approached with an offer of Rs 10 crore each by the BJP to leave the party before the Lok Sabha election.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed that the BJP was talking to more AAP MLAs, but insisted that its mission would not be successful. “People from the BJP contacted seven AAP MLAs and said that if they leave the party before the Lok Sabha election, they will give them Rs 10 crore each. They are talking to more, but the seven have told us,” he said.

“I want to tell the BJP, [party president] Amit Shah and [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi ji, don’t try to buy AAP MLAs and fight election; if you have courage, fight election on issues. You will try to buy them and they will tell us [about it]. You can’t buy AAP MLAs,” he asserted.

Mr Sisodia said Mr Modi should be “ashamed”, referring to the latter’s earlier comment that 40 Trinamool Congress MLAs in West Bengal were in touch with him.

“Is it right for the Prime Minister to say that? He is saying it openly that to weaken democracy he is going to buy 40 MLAs. He should be ashamed. There [West Bengal] he wants to buy TMC MLAs, in Delhi, the BJP wants to buy AAP MLAs,” the AAP leader said.

He said the BJP has no issues to fight the election in Delhi. “They were able to get one of our MLAs from Bawana before the MCD elections, but people taught the BJP a lesson. If you have any agenda to change the country, then fight the election on it,” Mr Sisodia said. “Modi ji, if you have done anything for the people in the last five years, then fight the election on it,” he added.

AAP leader Gopal Rai said the alleged attempt to buy legislators showed that the BJP’s seven candidates in Delhi are going to lose. “The BJP’s actions show that it does not believe in democracy. Delhiites will reply like they did in Bawana [bypoll which AAP won by a huge margin],” he said.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who took out his first election roadshow in Delhi on Wednesday, said, “In the last three days seven of our MLAs have said that BJP people have contacted them and offered Rs 10 crore to break them. This is not becoming of a Prime Minister.” When asked whether AAP had any proof, Mr. Kejriwal said, “Will give all proof on time.”

Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari dismissed AAP’s claim as a “joke”. “Are they the same seven [AAP MLAs] who beat up Kejriwal a week ago,” he said, denying any such attempt by the BJP to poach seven AAP legislators.

The Tribune – Bargari activists hold protest

Fazilka – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. Activists of the Bargari Insaf Morcha and other hardliners took out a protest in Fazilka town on Friday. They appealed to people not to vote in favour of Sukhbir Singh Badal, whom they accused of being responsible for sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

The activists, holding the black flags, were led by parallel acting Akal Takht Jathedar and former MP Dhian Singh Mand. OC

Army man held for spying

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. The Amritsar rural police arrested another Army man on charges of spying. Princedeep Singh of Master Avenue falling under the Chheharta police station was an accomplice of Malkeet Singh of Mahawa village, an Army man held by the rural police for spying for Pakistani intelligence agencies a week ago.

DNA – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Justice has not been served to us, says victim

As Gurjal Kaur, 75, stares blankly at the dirty, moldering wall of her house, her nightmarish memories of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots turn into fresh bleeding wounds.

With Punjab going to polls on Sunday, Congress leader Sam Pitroda’s flippant remark that “1984 hua to hua” and the BJP’s relentless offensive over it has brought the anti-Sikh riots back into the political discourse.

The survivors of the riots in the CRPF colony of Ludhiana claim that successive Congress governments delayed justice to the affected families.

Kaur, who lost two of her sons, Harbhajan Singh and Amarjit Singh, in the 1984 communal flare-up, claims the Akalis have helped the survivors of the riots the most and that the previous Congress governments at the Centre and in the state “ruined our lives”.

Charanjeet Kaur, 59, who lost her two sons and husband in the riots, says, “We saw what people would not have seen during Partition. Mobs burnt thousands of Sikh men alive and raped the women.”

Gurdeep Kaur of the women’s wing of 1984 Sikh Katle-Aam Peerat Welfare Society alleges former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal did not let the grant given by the Centre reach the victim families in the state.

“The Akali government took some steps, but those were not enough. There are around 35,000 riot-affected families in Punjab, and the Badal government gave flats only to 3,000,” she rues.

“Four commissions, nine committees, and two SITs were set up to probe the killings. Why? It is clear that the Congress governments wanted to hide someone’s role in the riots,” she says.

Former AAP leader and senior lawyer H S Phoolka, who has been representing victims of the riots in court cases, says that instead of punishing leaders involved in the anti-Sikh riots, the Congress had elevated and promoted them.

A state Congress leader on condition of anonymity says no one can question Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on his commitment toward ensuring justice to the victims of the riots.

“He had himself resigned from Parliament to protest against what had happened…,” the leader says.

The Hindu – Punjab’s voters say real issues are missing from discourse

Vikas Vasudeva

Patiala – Panjab – India, 17 May 2019. Focus on ‘religious issues’ by political parties distracts from pressing concerns on unemployment, agrarian distress, and the drug trade.

As the election draws closer, the political discourse in Punjab continues to be dominated by ‘religious issues’. But many voters, especially youth and farmers, feel it is an attempt by political parties to divert attention from the real issues of unemployment, drug abuse and trade, and agrarian distress.

As the campaign gained pace across Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be seen repeatedly raising the 1984 anti-Sikh riots issue.

The ruling Congress, on the other hand, is attacking the Akalis on the “Bargari sacrilege” of 2015, and the Kotkapura-Behbal Kalan police firing incident that followed it.

In Patiala, home town of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, a Punjabi University student Navdeep Singh strongly feels that if a country needs to progress, it cannot afford to get stuck in its past, be it on religion or any other issue.

“Political parties in their manifestos promise to give jobs but later, when it comes to implementation, there’s no accountability. In 2014, the BJP government promised to gives jobs but what happened? The same is the case with the State’s Congress government here, promises were made but there is nothing on the ground.

I feel the time has come to evolve a mechanism where the manifesto of political parties should be made a legal document, which, if not implemented, could be challenged under the law,” said Mr. Singh, who is pursuing doctorate in Economics.

“As I complete my doctorate, I would want to venture something on my own. I am not averse to a job but the problem I have been witnessing, especially in the private sector, is the non-availability of a job in keeping with the qualification.

If I get a job that is below my qualification, then what’s the whole point of getting an education? It’s one of the reasons that India is facing the problem of a ‘brain drain’,” he said.

Lost turf

In Patiala, the Congress candidate, former Union Minister Preneet Kaur, is embroiled in a battle to reclaim the party’s lost turf as the seat is set for a triangular electoral contest. Ms Kaur, wife of Captain Amarinder, tasted bitter defeat at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Dharamvira Gandhi in 2014 Lok Sabha poll.

Another student on the campus, Jaswant Singh, shared similar sentiments: “Unemployment is a big issue here, but the main political parties have been raising ‘religious issues’ to divert attention from real issues. Youth from Punjab are going to foreign countries in search of jobs.

There is no guarantee of a job even after completing my studies. These days, there are hardly any jobs in the government sector. The private sector offers jobs but then, there’s no job security there.”

Patiala, which has traditionally seen a fight between the Congress and the SAD, is witnessing a triangular contest this time with AAP rebel Dr Gandhi fighting as a joint candidate of the Punjab Democratic Alliance.

The SAD has fielded former minister Surjit Singh Rakhra as its candidate. The AAP’s Neena Mittal is also in the fray.

Patiala-based farmer leader Avtar Singh Korjiwala of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Dhakonda), points out that political parties continue to adopt an indifferent attitude towards the farmers’ plight.

Also, in this election, there is hardly anyone talking about the drugs menace in the State, he added.

“Be it the ruling Congress or the SAD-BJP, no one cares for us. Now they are raising ‘religious issues’ to deflect attention from their failures. Our Union is urging farmers across the district to boycott the elections. If they don’t want to boycott, then farmers should opt for NOTA (None of the Above),” Mr. Korjiwala said.

BBC News – India’s next government will have a growth problem

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 17 May 2019. As India lumbers towards the final phase of an exhausting general election and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP seeks a second term in power, there’s some worrying news. The world’s fastest growing major economy appears to be headed for a slowdown.

The signs are everywhere. Economic growth slowed to 6.6% in the three months to December, the slowest in six quarters. Sales of cars and SUVs have slumped to a seven-year-low. Tractors and two-wheelers sales are down. Net profits for 334 companies (excluding banks and financials) are down 18% year-on-year, according to the Financial Express newspaper.

That’s not all. In March, passenger growth in the world’s fastest growing aviation market expanded at the slowest pace in nearly six years. Demand for bank credit has spluttered.

Hindustan Unilever, India’s leading maker of fast moving consumer goods, has reported March quarter revenue growth of just 7%, its weakest in 18 months.

One newspaper wondered whether India was “losing the consumption plot”. Taken together, all this points to a fall in both urban and rural incomes, leading to demand contraction. A crop glut has seen farm incomes drop.

And credit stagnation, partly triggered by the collapse of a major non-banking financial institution, or a shadow bank, has led to a fall in lending and worsened matters.

Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank and professor of economics at Cornell University, believes the slowdown is “much more serious” than he initially believed. “The evidence is now mounting to the point where it can no longer be ignored,” he told me.

One reason, he believes, is the controversial currency ban in 2016, also called demonetisation, which adversely hit farmers. More than 80% of the currency circulating in India’s sprawling cash-driven economy was taken out of circulation in what, in the words of one of Prime Minister Modi’s own advisers, was a “massive, draconian, monetary shock”.

“This was evident to all by early 2017. What many observers did not realise then, I did not, is that the shock made the farmers take on debts which ended up causing sustained hardship to them that is continuing and slowing down the agriculture sector.”

The other major disappointment, according to Professor Basu, has been exports. “Export growth has been close to zero for the last five years. For a low-wage economy like India, a little policy professionalism, a combination of monetary policy and micro incentives, is all that is needed to grow this sector.

It is regrettable that the rhetoric was not backed up with policy design.”

Others like economist Rathin Roy, a member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, believe that India’s consumption story could actually be levelling out.

Dr Roy believes India’s rapid growth has been essentially powered by its top 100 million citizens. The leading indicators of economic prosperity, he says, are things that these Indians consume, cars, two-wheelers, air conditioners and so on. Having had their fill of home-made goods, they have now moved to imported luxuries, foreign holidays and Italian kitchens, for example.

A majority of Indians want nutritious food, affordable clothing and housing, health and education, which really should be the leading indicators of economic growth. “Subsidies and income support cannot pay for such consumption on a massive scale.

At least half the population should earn incomes that enable them to buy these at affordable prices so that a maximum of 500 million people can be subsidised to improve their welfare,” Dr Roy says.

Unless India is able to do this in the next decade or so, Dr Roy believes, it is headed for what economists call a “middle income trap”, when a country stops being able to achieve rapid growth easily and compete with advanced economies.

Economist Ardo Hannson defines it as a situation when countries “seem to get stuck in a trap where your costs are escalating and you lose competitiveness”.

One problem is that once you are stuck in a middle income trap, it is difficult to get out. A World Bank study found that out of the 101 middle-income countries in 1960, some 13 had become high-income by 2008 based on per capita income relative to the US.

Only three of the 13 countries have a population of more than 25 million. India is a lower-middle income economy and to get caught in a trap at this stage will be tragic.

Dr Roy says the classic middle income trap means that the rich are taxed to provide minimum services to the poor, who will kept from extreme poverty and vulnerability by using such taxes to subsidise their existence, including an universal basic income in perpetuity.

“We will be Brazil. On the other hand If India produces what all Indians want to consume efficiently, and at affordable prices, then inclusive growth will stave off the middle income trap. We will be Japan,” says Dr Roy.

The next government has its work cut out. – Congress and BJP are fighting over 1984 Sikh genocide just for votes, says Dal Khalsa

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 May 2019. Hitting out at Congress and BJP for playing dirty politics over 1984 Sikh genocide, the Dal Khalsa has said that the duo mainstream parties of India have stains of innocent blood on their sleeves.

Appealing the masses not to get carried away by deceitful talks of Modi, Gandhi and Badals as they all are chips of the same block, the Dal Khalsa has taken a clear stand to boycott parliamentary elections.

Dal Khalsa’s spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh has criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for raking up the November 1984 carnage to gain electoral benefits out of it.

“We are concerned because Modi is harping on November 1984 issue not out of sympathy or for the sake of justice but to use it for electoral purposes,” he added while recalling the Muslim carnage of Muslim carried out in Gujarat during Modi’s rule in 2002.

The party leader slammed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for committing to punish guilty of 1984 genocide. “It’s almost 35 years that the Congress has been shielding and patronizing the masterminds and conspirators of 1984 killings and Rahul’s talks were nothing but poll gimmick,” he said while terming Sam Pitroda’s utterance “hua to hua” as highly derogatory.

Kanwar Pal Singh further said that while the Congress government led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was on the fore-front to engineer the killings in Delhi and elsewhere, the “lumpen and frenzied” elements from the RSS and BJP also took part in the carnage.

Questioning the ulterior motives of the saffron leaders, he said it was the BJP that demanded military solution to Punjab’s political problem. “BJP vociferously asked the Indian government led by Indira Gandhi to storm Darbar Sahib to eliminate Sant Jarnail Singh and other Sikh fighters,” he added.

Riding piggyback on Modi’s name and fame, he blamed Badals for shrugging off the sacrilege issue. He said while Congress carries the guilt of 1984 tragic events, SAD carries the burden of 2015 sacrilege and deaths of two protesters at Behbal Kalan.

Congress and BJP are fighting over 1984 Sikh genocide just for votes, says Dal Khalsa

World Sikh News – NIA and India’s Supreme Court spread state terror in Punjab

Jagmohan Singh

10 May 2019. Egged on by the National Investigative Agency, which functions beyond the rule of law, India’s Supreme Court has transferred cases and undertrials to Delhi with­out a proper hearing.

State terror manifested itself when, in less than five minutes, India’s Supreme Court accepted the petition of the National Investigative Agency to transfer British-Scottish national Jagtar Singh Johal, Hardeep Singh Shera and 9 other undertrials from their parent state of Punjab to the notorious Tihar jail in Delhi and also start proceedings against them in the special NIA court in Delhi.

State terror manifested itself when, in less than five minutes, India’s Supreme Court accepted the petition of the National Investigative Agency to transfer British-Scottish national Jagtar Singh Johal, Hardeep Singh Shera and 9 other undertrials from their parent state of Punjab to the notorious Tihar jail in Delhi and also start proceedings against them in the special NIA court in Delhi.

Jagtar Singh, Hardeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Dharmendra Singh, Anil Kumar, Amaninder Singh, Manpreet Singh, Ravipal, Pahad Singh, Pravesh and Malook Tomar were arrested in November 2017 for alleged killings of RSS-BJP leaders and Dera Sirsa follow­ers in 2016 and 2017.

For more than half of these undertrials, the notice of NIA was not served and this has been accepted by the Registry of the Supreme Court of India. The presiding judges barely allowed the defence counsel to present his objections.

The Supreme Court bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Navin Sinha is reported to have said, “This is a decided case. There is no need to hear anything.” The transfer orders were read out leaving the counsels and the accused in the lurch.

The Supreme Court of India, already under strain with its prestige, practice and honour at stake for various reasons, should have been more careful. Ceasar’s wife, even if a little flirtatious, must at least be seen to be above suspicion.

Defence lawyers have already questioned the mistrust of Punjab jails by the NIA as without giving even any reason or even an excuse to transfer the accused and their cases to Delhi. The family and counsels apprehend a threat to life of the accused in the anti-Sikh atmosphere among Tihar prison inmates and administration.

In view of the hate and security threat hype that is being whipped up by the ruling government, the NIA is spreading its terror like that of the Special TADA courts in the eighties of the last century.

Its earlier plea for transfer to Delhi was disallowed by the Special Court of Ms. Anshul Berry in Mohali. The NIA brought the case before another judge and simultaneously got a stay of proceedings from the Supreme Court.

The manner in which the Supreme Court so easily acquiesces with the NIA compromises judicial procedure and a fair trial. It is also a violation of a judicial tradition that an accused or a convict should be trans­ferred to a place where it is easy for his family and relatives to meet him and easier for his counsels to defend him.

The Supreme Court’s one para order is a clear indicator of the haste with which the petition was disposed of in favour of the National Investigative Agency.

The order reads, “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, as several witnesses have been shot dead, and considering the gravity of the charges involved, we deem it appropriate to transfer the cases mentioned at Prayer (a) of the Transfer Petition from the Court of Additional Sessions Judge/​Judge, Special Court, NIA, SAS Nagar, Mohali to the competent court at Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi.

Ordered accordingly. All the cases shall be tried together.” If a ship is sinking, it is the boatman’s duty to save it, but what do travellers do if the boatman sinks the ship!

The Supreme Court of India has reversed this trend for senior leaders and activists of Kashmir long back and now it is the turn of Sikh political prisoners and undertrials.

Undoubtedly, the NIA has been embold­ened by the lackadaisical and grossly partial behaviour of the British government, which has not found time in nearly two years to meet their national Jagtar Singh Jaggi in prison. Clearly, there is more work for the #Free­Jaggi­Now campaign and the dedicated Scottish MP Martin Docherty-Hughes who took the case to the British Parliament.

While the Indian state is never bothered about its image or record regarding human rights violation is pretty well known, but when the Supreme Court and the NIA also show such careless and carefree attitude, knowing well that the case has international ramifications, this is a marker of the enveloping fear climate encircling the rights environment in India.

NIA and India’s Supreme Court spread state terror in Punjab – SGPC warmly welcomes Canadian Sikh bikers in India

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 May 2019. Six Canada based Sikh bikers, who are on pilgrimage to Sultanpur Lodhi in commemoration of the 550th birthday celebrations due this year, received a warm welcome on their entrance into India via Attari-Wagah border station on May 11.

The SGPC officials and the Khadoor Sahib based Kaar Sewa sect head Baba Sewa Singh honored them with Siropaos (robe of honor) and flower bouquets.

Later, all of them went to the holiest Sikh shrine Sri Harmandr Sahib and paid obeisance there. After this, they were honored with ‘Siropaos’ (robe of honor), a portrait of Sri Harmandr Sahib and a set of religious books at the Information Office of Sri Harmandr Sahib.

Sharing their experiences about this pilgrimage, they said that they received warm welcome and honor across different countries of the world during this journey. “Peoples of various nationalities gave a positive response to the valuable teachings taught by Guru Nanak Sahib,” they added.

SGPC’s chief secretary Dr. Roop Singh said that these Sikh youths have made a positive effort to create awareness about the Sikh heritage, Sikh identity and the welfare tasks being carried out by the Sikhs across the world.

In commemoration of the 550th birthday celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, these Sikh bikers had started their pilgrimage from Surrey (Canada) to Gurdwara Sri Ber Sahib (Sultanpur Lodhi) on April 3.

They also stopped at the Gent and Sint-Truiden Gurdwaras in Belgium
Man in Blue

SGPC Warmly Welcomes Canadian Sikh Bikers in India

The Indian Express – Amid reports of shortage, Pakistan government offers to supply Rooh-Afza to India

Rooh Afza, a popular beverage in Pakistan as well as India, has been reportedly in short supply in the Indian market.

New Delhi – India, 09 May 2019. The Pakistan government on Thursday offered to send Rooh-Afza, the staple Iftar drink, to India, following reports of short supply of the popular rose-flavoured beverage in the Indian market.

“If the supply of Rooh-Afza from Pakistan quenches their (Indians) thirst, then we will certainly want to do so,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal told reporters during his weekly media briefing here.

Earlier in the day, Rooh-Afza-maker Hamdard Laboratories India said in New Delhi that its popular drink is now available in the market after a temporary shortage due to short supply of certain herbal ingredients.

On Tuesday, Hamdard Laboratories Pakistan also offered to supply Rooh-Afza to India via Wagah border in Amritsar in view of its shortage for the ongoing Ramzan period.

“We can supply RoohAfza and RoohAfzaGO to India during this Ramzan. We can easily send trucks through Wahga border if permitted by the Indian Government,” Usama Qureshi, MD and CEO of Pakistani Hamdard, tweeted.

The Hamdards in India and Pakistan have common ancestry. In 1906, Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed had laid the foundation of Hamdard Dawakhana in one of the by lanes of Old Delhi and in 1907 launched RoohAfza.

Following partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, his elder son stayed in India, while the younger one migrated to Pakistan and started Hamdard in Karachi and launched RoohAfza there.

Meanwhile, Hamdard Laboratories India in a statement said, “RoohAfza is now available in the market and can be bought from major retail stores and grocery outlets across the country.”

“The organisation urges discerning consumers and the trade not to be misled by incorrect information being circulated online and in print about non-availability of RoohAfza,” it added.

Rooh Afza, a popular beverage in Pakistan as well as India, has been reportedly in short supply in the Indian market. According to reports published in Indian publication, The Print, the staple Iftar drink Rooh Afza is not available for purchase in India for over four months now. And this has prompted the beverage producer in Pakistan to offer help.