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. – 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

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. – Indian government’s refusal to scrap sedition law is a blot on democracy, says Dal Khalsa

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 05 July 2019. Terming the sedition law as anachronistic, the Dal Khalsa has strongly criticized the Indian Government for refusing to scrap it despite its widespread misuse and abuse.

Notably, the minister of state for Home Nityanand Rai in an answer to Parliament on July 4 has stated that section 124-A (sedition law) won’t be scrapped as it is still needed to combat secessionist elements.

The former Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also during the electioneering campaign whipped up this point and had said that, “the new BJP government will make the sedition laws more stringent.”

Describing it as highly objectionable and obnoxious, party head Advocate H S Cheema said it’s a tool in the hands of authorities for harassment and to stifle dissenting voices.

It’s a matter of shame that India has failed to scrap the colonial-era law so far whereas Britain and many other countries have abolished their sedition laws long back.

He said all pleas to do away with this archaic law by human rights organizations, civil rights groups and Amnesty International, have fallen on deaf ears. Instead of joining ranks with those countries who have abolished this draconian law, the Modi dispensation has shown its adamant attitude to retain it.

He said in the recent past, provincial Government in J&K, Punjab, Meghalaya, Assam, Haryana, Delhi, MP, Karnataka and many other states have misused and abused the provisions of this anti-people law to silence voices of dissenters and political adversaries.

Indian government’s refusal to scrap sedition law is a blot on democracy, says Dal Khalsa – Names of 274 Sikhs excluded from the black list, reveals Sukhbir Badal

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 02 July 2019. Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh today, the SAD president Sukhbir Badal informed that the Union government of India has removed the names of 274 Sikhs from the black list. He informed that now names of only 40 Sikhs have been left in this black list of India.

Beside it, the Indian government has also scrapped all the black lists prepared by the Indian embassies in various countries on their own.

Pretending to be a sympathizer of the Sikhs who have been blacklisted by the Indian government, Sukhbir Badal said that the black listed Sikhs had to face problems due to this black list but now all their problems have been sorted out.

Sukhbir Badal informed that the restrictions on the families of these Sikhs have been also lifted and they can now come to India without any problem.

He further said that the Union government of India is thoroughly deliberating upon the issue of political Sikh prisoners who have been languishing in the Indian jails despite completing quantum of sentences granted to them. He expressed hope that positive results will come out in this concern.

Names of 274 Sikhs excluded from the black list, reveals Sukhbir Badal – Fake Encounters: Sukhbir Badal meets Punjab Governor seeking revocation of pardon granted to four killer cops

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 03 July 2019. A delegation of Shiromani Akali Dal headed by its president Sukhbir Badal today met the Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore seeking revocation of the pardon granted to four police cops guilty of murdering an innocent Sikh youth named Harjit Singh during the intervening night of October 12 and 13 in 1993.

Father and sister of the victim Sikh youth Harjit Singh were also accompanying the SAD delegation on this occasion.

Briefing the Governor, Sukhbir Badal said the four cops were awarded life imprisonment in December 2014 by the Special Judge of the Central Bureau of Investigation court 18 years after the Punjab and Haryana High Court referred the case to the CBI for investigation.

Interacting with media after meeting the Governor, Sukhbir Badal said that the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh has committed a grave sin by recommending the pardon of four killer cops. “We have requested the Governor VP Singh Badnore to recall his decision,” he informed.

Shedding light on the poor financial condition of victim youth’s father Mohinder Singh, Sukhbir Badal said that Mohinder Singh is now living with his daughter as he spent all his earnings to fight a legal battle for justice. “The Punjab government should immediately give a compensation of Rupees 10 million to the victim youth’s father,” he added.

Mohinder Singh, the father of victim Sikh youth Harjit Singh, also explained the tragic story of his son’s fake encounter and then a two decade long legal battle fought by him for justice.

It may be recalled here that the Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore had pardoned four police cops namely Rajiv Kumar Singh (SP), Brij Lal Verma (Inspector) and Onkar Singh (Constable) and Harinder Singh (Inspector) on June 20.

All these Police cops were held guilty and sentenced to life by the Special CBI Court of Patiala on 01-12-2014.

Fake Encounters: Sukhbir Badal meets Punjab Governor seeking revocation of pardon granted to four killer cops – Mohinder Pal Bittu’s murder is a setback to sacrilege probe, says IG Kunwar Vijay Partap

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 25 June 2019. Although there is a widespread delightedness among the common Sikh masses over the punishment given to sacrilege culprit Mohinder Pal Bittu by two Sikh youths but still there is a section who sees the murder as a high level conspiracy to torpedo probe into the sacrilege cases.

It is learnt that the Special Investigation Team had to examine Mohinder Pal Bittu this week.

Confirming the fact, the SIT head IG Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh said that Bittu’s murder is surely a major setback to the sacrilege probe as his presence could have unearthed those behind the sacrilege incidents. He quashed the speculations about the involvement of gangsters in this murder.

Similarly, the Jail minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa has also said that the murder of Mohinder Pal Bittu has sledgehammered the sacrilege probe.

It is pertinent to note here that the SIT had described the sacrilege incidents as a high-profile conspiracy in its two chargesheets filed with the Faridkot court.

As Bittu was receiving direct instructions from the Sirsa cult, his presence could have helped in exposing those who orchestrated the sacrilege incidents.

Mohinder Pal Bittu’s murder is a setback to sacrilege probe, says IG Kunwar Vijay Partap

Chandigarh – Panjab – India

Special Correspondent

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 13 June 2019. In a bid to alleviate the woes of the State’s distressed farmers, the Punjab government has sought a hike in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) on various crops for Rabi 2019-20, from the Central government.

The Punjab Agriculture Department has come out with a detailed proposal for a hike in the MSP of wheat crop from Rs 1,840 per quintal in 2018-19 to Rs 2,710 in 2019-20, and barley from Rs 1,440 to Rs 1,974 per quintal.

“The proposal, submitted to the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP), also seeks hike in the MSP of gram from the earlier Rs 4,620 to Rs 5,631 per quintal, and of rapeseed and mustard from Rs 4,200 to Rs 5,384 per quintal,” an official statement said on Wednesday.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, said the hike was necessary for promoting crops like barley, gram, rapeseed and mustard in the State, to give a much needed push for crop diversification that would help arrest the depleting groundwater table in Punjab.

“While the State government had taken all possible steps to ease the problems of the farmers, including farm debt waiver, the Centre’s intervention was needed to support these measures, especially in the matter of MSP which was under its control,” he said.

The Chief Minister also reiterated his demand for in toto implementation of the M S Swaminathan Commission report, to ensure the much-needed improvement in the agriculture system and better remuneration for the farmers. – Row Over Missing Saroops: Anyone found guilty won’t be spared, says Longowal

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 June 2019. Amid serious allegations of selling saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji being leveled on SGPC, the SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal went to the Sikh Reference Library to understand its working on June 14. He also took a glimpse of the historic handwritten saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji placed inside the Sikh Reference Library.

Reiterating his commitment of thorough probe into this issue, Longowal said that the probe committee would be constituted soon in which prominent rational Sikh personalities will be appointed.

Commenting on the charges of selling the historic saroops returned by the Indian army, Longowal said that anyone found guilty in this concern won’t be spared at any cost, but if the charges proved wrong then the SGPC will also sue the concerned media section in Court.

“However, we have confirmed that a large portion of the treasure of Sikh Reference Library has not been returned by the Indian army till date,” he added.

Longowal clarified that the literature wealth of the Sikh Reference Library is a safe deposit of Sikh community with SGPC and the SGPC is liable for returning it to the Sikh community in an intact position.

SGPC’s Chief Secretary Dr. Roop Singh, Secretary Mohinder Singh Aahli, Secretary Manjit Singh Bath, Secretary Balwinder Singh Jaura Singha, Personal Secretary Er. Sukhminder Singh, Dr. Amarjit Kaur (Incharge of Sikh History Research Board), Bagicha Singh (Librarian, Sikh Reference Library), P.A. Darshan Singh etc. were also present on this occasion.

Row Over Missing Saroops: Anyone found guilty won’t be spared, says Longowal

The Hindu – Sidhu’s meet with Rahul sends ‘wrong’ signals

Audience with high command hints at Congress’s culture of keeping alive dissidence not being dead, says analyst

Vikas Vasudeva

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 June 2019. Navjot Singh Sidhu’s visit to New Delhi to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi even as the former cricketer remains a minister without portfolio after having been divested of his originally assigned ministries, and given that he is yet to take charge of the newly allotted responsibility, has sparked speculation that he has sought the “high command’s” intervention in his tussle with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

As part of a post-poll cabinet reshuffle last week, Captain Amarinder had divested Mr Sidhu of the key Local Government portfolio and allocated him Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources.

Mr Sidhu, who met Mr Gandhi, general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and veteran leader Ahmed Patel on Monday, is learnt to have apprised the “high command” about being singled out “unfairly” in the cabinet rejig on the pretext of party’s “poor performance” in the urban areas of the State in the general elections.

That Mr Gandhi, who had avoided meeting most senior party leaders including Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States since the poll debacle and the Congress Working Committee meeting last month, agreed to meet Mr Sidhu has drawn criticism from political analysts.

“Cabinet reshuffle is prerogative of the Chief Minister and after the reshuffle has been done, if now the old portfolio of Mr Sidhu is reinstated it would be a bad move for the party,” said Ashutosh Kumar, professor of Political Science at Panjab University. “Mr. Sidhu’s audience with the high command also hints that Congress’s culture of keeping alive dissidence at the State level against the State leadership is not dead,” he remarked.

“Captain Amarinder is a mass leader who has in the past threatened the high command to break the party in case he was not declared as chief ministerial candidate in 2017,” Professor Kumar observed.

“Captain Amarinder, after the Assembly polls and Lok Sabha polls, has emerged as a strong leader and on the other hand Congress’s high command looks weak after its performance in the Lok Sabha polls,” he asserted.

Any effort to push for the reinstatement of Mr Sidhu as the Local Government minister in an attempt to resolve the ongoing tussle in the State unit risked undermining the Chief Minister’s authority and further worsening the rift within the party in Punjab, Mr Kumar opined.

The party, however, downplayed the significance of Mr Sidhu’s meeting, with Asha Kumari, the AICC incharge of Punjab affairs, asserting that every Congressman was ‘entitled’ to meet the Congress president. “As far as his taking charge of the new portfolio is concerned, if Mr Sidhu does not desire it’s entirely his wish. He is a minister of Captain Amarinder’s cabinet and it’s for the Chief Minister to decide who will hold which portfolio,” Ms Kumari added.

Ronki Ram, Dean at the Department of Social Science at Panjab University, said Mr Sidhu’s meeting with the party’s central leadership appeared like an attempt at capturing a “power stronghold”. “If the Chief Minister has to take decision on the dictation of party high command, it’s not in good taste,” asserted Professor Ram. “This shows party is highly centralised,” he added.

The two Punjab leaders have been openly at loggerheads in recent months with Mr Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu accusing Captain Amarinder of blocking her Lok Sabha candidacy from Chandigarh. Later, the chief minister had asserted that “Sidhu’s remarks ahead of polling” had affected the party’s performance.

He had also blamed Mr Sidhu’s poor handling of the key local bodies portfolio as another factor for the Congress’s “poor performance” in urban areas. Mr Sidhu had retorted by asserting that he was being “singled out publicly” even though urban areas had played a critical role in the party’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress won 8 of the 13 seats it contested, improving on its 2014 tally of just 3.