The Tribune – Two communities lock horns over waterlogging

Dalits seek security from administration

Ravi Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur – Panjab – India, 16 July 2019. Even as the district administration is trying to find a solution to the vexed problem of waterlogging in the streets of Khojepur village, the 1,600 odd villagers, a majority of whom belong to Scheduled Castes, are demanding security fearing a backlash by the half a dozen Jat Sikh families.

Today, a JCB machine reached the village but pressure from these families meant drainage work could not commence. The Jat Sikhs are controlling all the water outlets and following their refusal to let the villagers use the water has been stagnating in the narrow alleys for the last several years.

Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujwal held a meeting of more than 25 officers belonging to half a dozen departments two days ago. After that he dispatched ADC (General) Tejinder Pal Singh Sandhu as his trouble-shooter to the area.

Sandhu, after taking a round of the affected areas along with senior officers, said water was accumulating because of an assortment of reasons, including the difference in the level of the streets.

“Since water flows from a higher level to a lower level it tends to accumulate in streets which have been constructed at low-lying areas. We are making arrangements to first clear the pools of stagnant water after which we will ensure the streets are brought to the same level. A plan has been drawn up with the help of the Water Supply and Sanitation Department.

There is no upper caste-lower caste divide as was being made out by certain vested interests. Moreover, in order to arrive at a permanent solution, we have sent a proposal to the Rural Development Ministry asking it to sanction Rs 44 lakh. We will be constructing a proper drainage system once the money is sanctioned,” said ADC Sandhu.

An official revealed that a JCB machine to clear huge heaps of soil would also be pressed into service once the administration gave the green signal. These mounds were acting as an impediment in the free flow of water.

The Jat Sikhs, who owed tracts of agriculture land, were objecting that water should not enter their fields. Jyoti Bala, Congress sarpanch, claimed that she would not let work start till adequate security was provided.

“In February, some influential Jat Sikh families attacked us. Cross FIRs were registered at the Dinanagar police station. We again fear that there may be a backlash. I have moved a resolution in the gram panchayat demanding police protection,” she said.

Officials, however, denied that the Scheduled Castes were threatened by the Jat Sikhs. “Political contours are unnecessarily being given to the issue. The problem is how to drain out the water. I fail to understand why the affected villagers are politicising the issue,” said an officer present in the village to find a solution.

Meanwhile, the administration has promised to commence work tomorrow after providing security.

India Today – Gopal Chawla still on ETP Board’s panel which controls Sikh body

Gopal Singh Chawla was removed as Secretary of PSGPC after India continuously build a pressure on Pakistan to remove Khalistani elements from the Sikh body.

Manjeet Sehgal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 July 2019. Pro Khalistani Sikh leader Gopal Singh Chawla who has been removed as the Secretary of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) continues to be the non-official member of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) which controls PSGPC.

Sources say Chawla as the member of the parent body can still interfere with the working of PSGPC .

The pro-Khalistani leader was also present as ETPB member at Gujaranwala on July 12 when Gurudwara Khara Sahib, dedicated to sixth Sikh guru Guru Hargobind Sahib, was opened first time after a period of 72 years.

Gopal Singh Chawla was removed as Secretary of PSGPC after India continuously build a pressure on Pakistan to remove Khalistani elements from the Sikh body. However, Khalistani elements are still present in the PSGPC.

Most of the new PSGPC office bearers may not be as known as hardliner Khalistan activists but every Sikh in Pakistan favours the demand for a separate homeland under pressure from the hardliners and the ISI.

One of the new PSGPC member Ameer Singh is a known Khalistan supporter who hails from Pakistan’s Punjab province where Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s chief Hafiz Saeed has allegedly been doing terror financing.

Hence, there is no guarantee that Pakistani Sikhs will not chant Khalistan in near future.

Gopal Singh Chawla ‘s removal was decided on July 12.

Gopal Singh Chawla had become a thorn in Pakistan’s flesh which faced anger and resentment from India on a number of occasions. As the date of the second round of bilateral talks on Kartarpur Corridor was nearing, the Pakistan authorities were left with no option but to remove Gopal Chawla from PSGPC panel.

Chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Board, Dr Amir Ahmed, in a board meeting held on July 10 had hinted action against Gopal Singh Chawla. Interestingly enough, two days after the meeting on July 12, while Gopal Singh Chawla was present at Gujranwala to open Gurudwara Khara Sahib, none of the ETPB officials were present.

Chawla was not allowed to take part any in any meeting held between Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) Chief Secretary Dr Roop Singh and PSGPC who along with a delegation was in Pakistan on the eve of the anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Present PSGPC Chief Tara Singh chaired all the meetings and Gopal Singh Chawla was not seen anywhere.

Pakistan out to woo Sikhs

Pakistan is not leaving any stone unturned to woo the Sikh community .

ETPB opened Gurudwara Khara Sahib after a period of 72 years for the Sikh pilgrims. This Gurdwara is located in Gujranwala and is related to Sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib.

According to SGPC chief Secretary Dr Roop Singh, Pakistan had earlier opened Sialkot based Gurdwara Babe ki Ber for the pilgrims.

Interestingly, while at one hand Pakistan is opening all Sikh shrines, it has not opened even a single Hindu Shrine which means Pakistan’s agenda is to woo the Sikhs hardliners in particular.

The News – International Sikh convention in City on 31 August 2019

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 16 July 2019. The Religious Tourism and Heritage Committee headed by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has announced holding International Sikh Convention here on 31 August, while Federal Interior Minister Brigadier (r) Ijaz Shah has been made permanent member of the committee.

This was announced in a meeting of religious tourism and heritage committee chaired by the governor at Governor’s House on Monday.

Federal Minister for Education and Culture Shafqat Mehmood, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Saeed-ul-Hassan Shah, Punjab Minister for Tourism Raja Yasir Humayun, Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman, Lahore Division Commissioner and relevant officers from Kartarpur and Nankana Sahib attended the meeting.

The governor will visit Nankana Sahib after Kartarpur and a strategy has been finalised vis-à-vis arrangements in Nankana and Kartarpur regarding 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak. The meeting was briefed about arrangements made so far for birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak and Kartarpur Corridor.

The committee decided to launch awareness campaign for making the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak memorable and ensuring maximum participation of the Sikh community, including that of India. It was also decided in the meeting that the convention would be held at Governor House, Lahore in which the Sikh yatrees from USA, UK, Canada and India would participate.

The meeting decided that the governor would meet Federal Interior Minister Brigadier (r) Ijaz Shah for ensuring maximum visas for Sikh yatrees coming for celebration of Baba Guru Nanak birth anniversary. Addressing the meeting, the governor expressed hope that the government would be able to generate $4-5 billion from tourism the way they were working on it. He said the steps would be ensured for visa facilitation and other matters of Sikh yatrees.

He expressed pleasure over headway in talks over Kartarpur Corridor and said, “we want that India should also complete its work in a speedy manner on Kartarpur Corridor.”

The Tribune – Ghaggar crosses danger mark in Patiala; flood-like situation in Bathinda

Tribune News Service

Bathinda/Patiala – Panjab – India, 16 July 2019. Incessant rainfall throughout the night on Tuesday flooded adjoining areas of Ghaggar river in Patiala district. The water level of the river crossed the danger mark of 16 feet and is flowing at 16.25 feet.

The water has entered villages in Rajpura, Ghanaur and Sarhala Khurd.

Also, due to continuous rains throughout the night, the water level of another rain rivulet, Badi Nadi, in Patiala, is flowing near the danger mark. The rise in the water level in the Ghaggar has put the administration and villagers, living in the catchment area, on tenterhooks.

In Bathinda, the local administration has shut schools as streets were flooded with water due to heavy rainfall over the night.

Bathinda received maximum rainfall in a day since 2005, which has triggers to flood-like situation. All roads in the city are flooded and water has also entered many residential areas. Three-four feet water is standing on the road at various places, including Power House Road and Sarki bazaar.

Patiala Deputy Commissioner Kumar Amit has urged the people not to panic.

He said: “People can call at 7037900013 and 0173352247 cell phone numbers for help.”

Dawn – Kartarpur Corridor: Activist concerned at ‘massive construction’ on Indian side

Our Staff Reporter

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 16 July 2019. The world Sikh community has expressed its concern at the big ‘airport-like’ constructions by India on its side of border at Kartarpur, dwarfing the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) planned at Darbar Sahib and Pakistan agreeing to a fairly large number of pilgrims that may damage ecology of the sacred fields around the Sikh heritage site.

“Sikh diaspora comprising around 27 million souls is much concerned at reports that India is constructing an ‘airport-like’ terminal worth Rs 5 billion at Dera Baba Nanak.

It includes a 300 feet [high] Indian monumental flag, which will neither represent the spiritual essence of the sacred space nor the heritage architecture from the Guru period or the Sikh architecture [of] post-Guru period,” laments Gurmeet Kaur, who leads a world Sikh campaign for preserving 100-acre fields of Baba Nanak era at Kartarpur.

In a statement released here on Monday, she says the Indian flag, presumably higher than the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) that has been planned at the Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, smacks of supremacy and ego and not of honour and “submission to the feet of the great Guru”.

She adds that the step has created a “catch-22 like” situation for Pakistan as if it decides to put a flag post taller than the Nishan Sahib, it puts itself in an awkward position with the Sikhs, if lower, it gives India the first win in “the Attari-Wagah-like macho contest”.

Apprehends ecological harm to heritage site because of ‘overcrowding’

Ms Kaur also expresses concerns at Islamabad agreeing to visa-free access for 5000 pilgrims daily, fearing such a large number of visitors may hurt the flora and fauna as envisioned by Baba Nanak for Kartarpur.

“While India has been nitpicking over the generous offer of Pakistan to open the corridor for 500-750 Sikh pilgrims a day at the opening, India wants it to allow up to 10,000 tourists per day and more on special occasions, right away. India is also demanding opening of the corridor to people of all faiths (not just Sikhs).

“Ecologists and the well-meaning Sikhs have been screaming about how the fragile terrain and ecosystem of Kartarpur is already under attack with the massive corridor construction. And, five to ten thousand pilgrims a day would put a huge strain requiring enormous and hasty commercial construction on the land where forests, orchards and organic fields of Baba Nanak existed for five and a half centuries.”

She says the Sikh diaspora thinks that haphazard construction at this sacred site means losing all chances of archeologically reviving and rebuilding the historical space, buildings and artifacts as they may have existed in Baba Nanak’s time – Baba Nanak’s Kartarpur.

A social activist, Ms Kaur also points to the exclusion of Sikh representatives from the Kartarpur talks and objects to confining the consultation process on the corridor only to the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee, representing only a small Sikh community of around 27,000 souls.

“From the politics being played to the headlines being made, Kartarpur Corridor seems to have been reduced to another version of Wagah-Attari display in the making, that of the macho control and supremacy over each other, between Modi’s India and Khan’s Pakistan, under the pretext of peace at the cost of Baba Nanak’s legacy, where his Sikhs have no say,” she regrets.

She has called upon Pakistan government to change the “game plan” by bringing together archeological, heritage and ecological experts and rebuilding Kartarpur as Baba Nanak had envisioned and intended it to be.

It would raise Pakistan’s head higher in the eyes of around 100 million Baba Nanak’s lovers from around the world, more so than the 300 feet flag pole India plans to erect at the border, for all times to come, she concludes. – Five sacrilege culprits released on bail by High Court

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 July 2019. On July 13, five sacrilege culprits namely Jatindervir, Rajbir, Sukhwinder, Kuldeep and Baljeet, who were arrested along with Mohinder Pal Bittu in June last year, got released from the Nabha jail after securing bail from the Punjab & Haryana High Court. However, one of their companion Mohinder Kumar is still confined in the new premises of Nabha jail.

It is pertinent to note here that all these sacrilege culprits were arrested by the Special Investigation Team headed by DIG Ranbir Singh Khatra in June last year.

All these sacrilege culprits had approached the Punjab & Haryana High Court for bail while claiming their innocence.

During the court proceedings on bail plea on July 13, the Punjab government’s counsel Gaurav Garg Dhuriwala requested the court for not granting bail to these sacrilege culprits as they were facing charges in an extremely sensitive case. But the Court didn’t agree with his arguments.

Granting bail to all these five sacrilege culprits, the High Court bench headed by Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan said that the Punjab government can request for cancellation of bail given these sacrilege culprits if it finds sufficient evidences proving the involvement of these persons in the concerned sacrilege incidents.

Five sacrilege culprits released on bail by High Court

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.

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.