The Tribune – Dalit women break shackles, seek share in reserved land

Sangrur – Panjab – India, 02 June 2020. Having stayed behind the veil for many years, local Dalit women have finally begun to stand up for their rights.

They have been leading protests against upper castes and the Panchayat Department, demanding 33 per cent reserved village common land on annual lease.

“It’s a fight for our self-respect. Five to six years back, in a majority of villages, upper castes, who had taken the land in the name of their Dalit servants, would cultivate the reserved land.

The Dalits would have to face humiliation whenever they went even to a roadside to get fodder for animals. But now we do not wish to remain landless,” said Nikki Kaur from Kulara village.

Parmjit Kaur, zonal secretary, Zameen Prapti Sangharash Committee, said they had been fighting for the reserved land for Dalits in about 50 villages of the district.

“This year, women have come in large numbers and with their support, we have succeeded in getting the reserved land for Dalits in 33 villages,” she said.

“In many villages, we have proved through joint farming that reserved land can help Dalits,” said a protester.

Bimal Kaur, district cashier, Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, Punjab, said they were working in 40 villages of the district and had got the land allotted to Dalits in 33 villages.

The Tribune – Sikh doctor dies due to coronavirus in northwest Pakistan

Dr Phag Chand Singh retired as deputy medical superintendent four years ago

Peshawar – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 01 June 2020. A Sikh doctor, who was tested positive for the novel coronavirus, died at a hospital in northwest Pakistan on Monday, officials said.

Dr Phag Chand Singh was on ventilator at a private hospital in the provincial capital Peshawar since last four days, they said. He was cremated on Monday.

Dr Singh had obtained the MBBS degree from the Khyber Medical College in 1980 and was decorated with a gold medal by former president Zia-ul Haq.

He started his career as a medical officer in the Nowshera district hospital in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and stayed in the district for three decades. He retired as a deputy medical superintendent four years ago.

His ancestral village was Pirbaba Badshah Kalay in Buner district.

Dr Singh was famous for his honesty and he used to provide free treatment to poor patients. He is survived by his wife, two sons, Dr Gurmeet Kumar and Dr Jaitan Kumar, and daughter Dr Sweety.

Deputy Commissioner Nowshera Shahid Ali Khan said Singh’s son Dr Jaitan Kumar was the head of the district corona cubic response team.

Dr Kumar was tested positive for coronavirus and officials believe Dr Singh might have contracted the disease from his son or during interaction with patients at his private clinic.

Leaders of the minority Sikh community, Suresh Kumar and Ashok Kumar, paid rich tributes to Dr Singh and praised his services to society.

The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients rose to 73,868 with 10,027 cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The Tribune – Punjab’s move to withdraw free power may trigger political storm

Jupinderjit Singh – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 28 May 2020. The Punjab Government’s decision to withdraw free power facility from the farmers in a phased manner is set to trigger a political clash with the Shiromani Akali Dal saying it will launch an agitation to “save farmers.”

In response to the threat, the Congress said the SAD should first quit the coalition government at the Centre as the state government was being forced to follow the diktats of the Narendra government on the issue.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the party had been playing the role of a responsible Opposition by restricting protests to the virtual world only, but on the issue of farmers, the party will hit the streets.

Party insiders said the leaders might seek the “blessings” of Akal Takht, if needed, on the issue.

The party has called a meeting of its core committee on 30 May to chalk out the strategy on the matter. Notably, the farming community forms a major chunk of the Akali vote bank. The move to withdraw free power might give political fodder to it to reclaim much-needed support in the state.

“The Akalis should first resign from the coalition government at the Centre which is forcing the states to withdraw free power from farmers to get loans or funds from the Centre.

They should leave the coalition government and then talk about farmers,” said Sunil Jakhar, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

The Cabinet had on Wednesday decided that free power from farmers will be withdrawn in phases. The Cabinet said this was being done as the Centre had refused to help the state economically, arguing it had enough money to bail out the farmers.

The government said it would not burden the farmers and reimburse the power bills.

Free power leads to deeper and deeper bore-wells and further depletion of the goundwater level.
This will have catastrophic effect on Panjab, but neither SAD nor Congress have the guts to speak out for the long term interest of the state.

The Tribune – Labour crunch may push farmers to diversification

Ruchika M Khanna – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 24 May 2020. For three decades, Punjab has been talking about diversification in agriculture, but to no avail. With specialised labour for paddy transplantation unavailable, the situation seems ripe for a change in the crop cycle.

The area under the water-guzzling non-basmati paddy is set to be reduced by almost 3 lakh hectares, as farmers will find it difficult to either buy new machinery for direct seeding or labour to transplant the crop. This clearly means that more and more farmers will opt for basmati or other cash crops like cotton and maize.

Official data shows that area under paddy, including basmati, is expected to be reduced from 29.30 lakh hectares in the last kharif marketing season to 26.30 lakh hectares now. Of 26.30 lakh hectares under paddy, 7 lakh hectares will be under basmati varieties. “With Vietnam stopping the export of basmati, a huge opportunity lies ahead for Indian farmers and exporters,” says M S Sidhu, an agro-economist.

“The area under basmati will increase from 6 lakh hectares last year to 7 lakh hectares this year, especially as exports look promising after we banned nine pesticides to make it export-compliant,” says Vishwajit Khanna, Additional Chief Secretary, Development.

Other than basmati, it is cotton which is expected to get a major push with an expected increase of 1 lakh hectares, from 4 lakh hectares last year to 5 lakh hectares this year. Khanna says a lot of mechanised interventions (vacuum pluckers for cotton and drilling of maize seeds) are being made in the cultivation of alternative crops, which is expected to help farmers wean away from paddy.

“The largest shift, however, will be in area under maize. Traditionally, maize was grown in Doaba and the kandi belt, but last year, we made concerted efforts to bring 8,000 hectares under maize in Malwa. This year, the target is to increase the area from 1.6 lakh hectares last year to 3 lakh hectares, mainly in the Malwa belt,” says Sutantar Kumar Airi, Director, Agriculture.

Many farmers, however, feel that they will grow maize only if its MSP is assured. Last year, the cotton growers had suffered losses as they were forced to sell their produce at prices below the MSP.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, president, BKU (Rajewal), says the price of last year’s maize crop has dropped drastically and the farmers are resorting to distress sale. “In such a scenario, the government will have to assure the farmers a good return for the programme to be successful,” he says.

The Tribune – Reveal ‘truth’ about lunch diplomacy outcome: MLA

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 22 May 2020. Qadian MLA Fateh Jang Bajwa today dared senior party leaders to reveal the truth about the outcome of their luncheon meeting with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh at latter’s residence on Wednesday.

Four party leaders, PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar, Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, Gidderbaha MLA Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and MLA Pargat Singh, had been invited for the luncheon by the Chief Minister amid face-off between the ministers and Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh.

“The leaders had been asking for the removal of the Chief Secretary. If the leaders had put their strong point of view before the Chief Minister, the latter must have given his reply to them and must have convinced them that the Chief Secretary was a good officer who is about to retire. They should tell the truth to the people,” Bajwa said.

Stating that one can understand CM’s point of view that removing the top bureaucrat will give a wrong message to the bureaucracy, he said the political class also had to show its face to the public.

The Tribune – Deported from the USA – 167 illegal immigrants reach Amritsar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2020. The US has deported 167 illegal Indian immigrants through a special flight that landed at the airport here around 4 pm on Tuesday.

On their arrival, they were shifted to a high-security area where medical teams screened each one of them. They had reports of rapid diagnostic test (Covid-19) conducted before boarding the plane in the US. As the protocol demands, all will be placed under the 14-day quarantine in their home districts.

Ajnala SDM Deepak Bhatia said, “The medical examination of the returnees is underway. So far, no suspected case of Covid-19 has surfaced.”

Of the 167 illegal immigrants, 79 are from Haryana, 67 from Punjab, eight from Gujarat, three each from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, two each from Kerala and Telangana, and one each from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Goa.

The SDM said, “Of the 67 returnees from Punjab, five each belong to Amritsar and Tarn Taran. Besides, 21 others will stay in Amritsar temporarily before they will be sent to their native states. We are working on the modalities in this connection.”

Sources say the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 1,793 illegal Indian immigrants.

Most of them sneaked in to Texas, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta illegally through Mexico border illegally and sought asylum on the pretext of “atrocities and persecution” in India. They were, however, nabbed and lodged in 95 detention centres in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco.

The Tribune – Labourers shuttled back to Punjab from UP border, feel they ‘don’t belong to this country’

Karam Prakash – Tribune News Service

Patiala – Panjab – India, 18 May 2020. Over 150 Uttar Pradesh bound migrant labourers held a protest on National Highway near Punjab and Haryana border on Sunday.

The migrant labourers protested at the Shambhu border after they were dropped back from Haryana-UP border. In fact, labourers had reached the Haryana-UP border and about to cross into UP when Haryana authorities picked them and dropped them back to Punjab.

The migrant labourers reportedly walked over 200 kilometres from Ludhiana to UP-Haryana border. Unfortunately, when the migrant labourers tried to enter Uttar Pradesh, they were stopped by Haryana Police.

The labourers were huddled into three roadways buses and dropped at Haryana-Punjab border near Shambu village. Anguished over this, the labourers staged a sit-in protest at the highway for an hour.

Heart-wrenching scenes were witnessed when the labourers broke down into tears and pleaded the authorities to drop them to their native places in Uttar Pradesh. In the meantime, the officials from Patiala reached the spot and pacified them.

Mahesh Kumar, a migrant labourer, who walked from Ludhiana, said that they were dropped back into Punjab by Haryana Police.

He said, “We walked over 200 kilometres along with our children to reach home. However, I was stopped by Haryana Police.”

Another labourer, Vineeta of Lucknow, said, “We are stuck in the city and running out of money without jobs. We feel as if we don’t belong to this country. We don’t have any other option but to walk down to our homes. Sadly, they are not even letting us go to our home. We don’t want to die on the road. Please, let us go to our home.”

Manpreet Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Ghanaur, who reached the spot, said, “We are asking the migrant labourers to stay in Punjab as the government is providing food and shelter to them. Today, we provided them food and asked to return to their cities in Punjab and register themselves for the train journey.”

The Tribune – Attacked with rod, 70-year-old man killed in Punjab, wife injured

The body has been sent to the civil hospital for a post-mortem examination

Phagwara – Panjab – India, 15 May 2020. An elderly man was killed and his wife injured when some unidentified men stormed into their home and attacked them with a rod, a police official said on Friday.

Sadar SHO Amarjit Singh identified the deceased as Kashmir Singh, 70, a resident of Guru Nanak Nagar along the Mehtan-Mehli Phagwara bypass road.

The assailants attacked the old man with a rod, hitting him on his head on Thursday night, and he died on the spot. His wife Supita, 60, suffered minor injuries, the SHO said.

The motive behind the killing was not known, he said.

The body has been sent to the civil hospital for a post-mortem examination.

A case under relevant IPC sections, including 302 (punishment for murder) was registered against the assailants, who numbered “three to four”, added the SHO.

The Tribune – Mafias thriving in Punjab: Bhagwant Mann

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 May 2020. Expressing concern over the government functioning, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) state president Bhagwant Mann today said: “The Congress government is running like a ‘mohalla’ cricket team with no ‘captain’.

The one who holds the bat holds sway over the rest of the team, finally slipping away surreptitiously with the bat when he finds himself cornered. It cannot be said for sure who among the ministers and bureaucrats holds the bat.”

In a statement, Mann alleged like the Badals, under Captain Amarinder Singh government, all kinds of mafias were indulging in “open loot” of the people and state’s resources. He said being the principal Opposition party, AAP had been raising its voice against different mafias thriving in the state.

The Tribune – Villagers to aid of migrants on way to Rajasthan

Serve food, arrange shelter at government school in Faridkot village

Faridkot – Panjab – India, 09 May 2020. Walking from Amritsar to Chittorgarh in Rajasthan, more than 900 km away, a joint family of 26 members, including two pregnant women and 12 children, got help from residents of Chahal village, situated on the National Highway 53, here on Saturday.

Villagers served them food and arranged their stay in a government school in the village. After the panchayat of Chahal village brought the things to the notice of Faridkot DC Kumar Saurav Raj, he also rushed to the village to help the migrants who mainly work as labourers in the construction of roads.

“When the lockdown was announced, we were stuck in Amritsar. Hoping for the lockdown to end, we waited for over one month.

But now when all our savings have been spent, we set out on foot to Chittorgarh, hoping to get some transportation on the way,” said Jai Singh, a member of the family. “We reached Faridkot from Amritsar in three days. We still have more than 700 km to go,” said Jai Singh.

Iqbal Singh, a former panchayat member of Chahal, said after some youths in the village noticed the migrants walking on the road with their children and two pregnant women, they informed the villagers and the residents joined hands to help them.