The Tribune – Lahore police grant security for Bhagat Singh’s function

Sanjiv Kumar Bakshi

Hoshiarpur, 21 March 2017. The Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) of Lahore has assured Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation (Pakistan) of security for their function to mark the martyrdom day Bhagat Singh at Fawara Chowk (Shadman) in Lahore on 23 March.

Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Qureshi, chairman of the foundation, told this correspondent on the phone from Lahore that Lahore High Court had directed the CCPO to decide our application for the function. The officer today has assured us that security would be provided.”

Pakistan’s Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation had filed a petition in the HC on this count.

Qureshi said they had moved the court after the provincial government and senior police officers did not respond to their request for security.

“We met the CCPO with a copy of the HC order and requested him to decide our application for the function which would start at 4 pm on 23 March. Deciding our application, he has assured us of foolproof security,” said Qureshi.

The Tribune – Captain orders clean-up operation

VIP culture ‘to end’ – Legislation on ‘conflict of interest’ – Cartels to face action

Rajmeet Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 18 March 2017. Proposing an overhaul of the political, administrative and police setup in Punjab, the Captain Amarinder Singh government, in its first Cabinet meeting, today decided to end the VIP culture and bring in a legislation on “conflict of interest”, wherein the ministers or MLAs could be unseated on being found to have business interest in their official capacity.

No beacons will be used by ministers, MLAs and officers on vehicles, except on emergency vehicles, the vehicles of the CM, the Chief Justice and High Court Judges.

To cut expenditure and minimise public harassment, the functioning of the district administration would not be disturbed during visits by the CM and ministers. No banquets and dinners at government expense will be allowed.

With an aim to end the sand mining, transport, cable and liquor “cartels” active during the previous Prakash Singh Badal government, the Cabinet decided to introduce a slew of steps and legislations.

Apart from bringing a White Paper on various omissions and commissions by the SAD-BJP government, it was decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry to review “false” political cases and fix accountability.

Further, a third party audit of all the government expenditure (above Rs 10 crore) during the last three years would be done. In future, third party audit of government spending will be an annual feature.

The Cabinet also decided to recall unutilised pre-election funds from all departments to generate revenue and stayed all decisions of the last six months pending for review.

For transparency and accountability, all the MLAs and MPs will have to declare their immovable properties on January 1 every year and asset details of all IAS, IPS, PCS and Class-1 officers would be tabled every year in the Vidhan Sabha.

33% Jobs for women

Cabinet decided to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in all government jobs and increase their representation in PRIs and Urban Local Bodies from 33 to 50 per cent.

No foreign travel

The Cabinet banned foreign travel by ministers, MLAs and officials for two years.

Halqa system goes

The system of halqa incharge and use of political clout by staff in seeking transfers and favours has been ended.

Drug task force

A Special Task Force headed by ADGP Harpreet Sidhu, leading anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, will implement a programme to eliminate drugs. In next meeting, Home Department will submit a proposal for enactment of Confiscation of Drug Dealers Property Act.

No sale of farmers’ land

A new legislation will be brought to prohibit sale/auction of farmers’ land by lending agencies.

The Tribune – AAP does a U-turn on security, vehicles

Vishav Bharti, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 17 March 2017. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have taken a U-turn on its pre-poll promise of “ending the VIP culture”.

When some of the Congress leaders have refused to accept the official car or security, most of the 20 AAP MLAs have accepted the two facilities.

Sources said the matter was discussed in the party’s legislature meeting on Thursday evening. It was decided that the decision of accepting or refusing the official vehicle and security should be left to the MLA.

The AAP legislators’ choice contradicts party’s promise made in its election manifesto. “No AAP MLA, minister, MP or any other senior leader will use vehicles with hooters and red beacon lights,” it read.

The manifesto also said the “VIP culture will be ended by cutting down personal security by 95 per cent”.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira, AAP chief whip, confirmed that most of the party MLAs had accepted security as well as the vehicle. He justified the decision by saying that in light of the law and order situation in Punjab, an MLA could not survive without security.

On official vehicle, he said most of the legislators were economically weaker and did not own cars. “Everybody can’t be like Manpreet Badal,” he said.

Going against the spirit of “aam aadmi” most of the AAP MLAs are reluctant to accept ordinary cars. Instead, they have asked for better ones.

Barnala MLA Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer said he was given a Maruti Gypsy, which he refused to accept. “Gypsy is of no use to me, so I have asked for Toyota Innova,” he said, adding that he received a call from the police for security, but he refused.

The others who refused to accept security include Bhadaur MLA Pirmal Singh and Mehal Kalan MLA Kulwant Singh Pandori. The two, however, have accepted the official vehicle. Pirmal Singh said that since he did not own a car, he had requested for the official vehicle. “I will accept whichever car the government offers,” he said.

Most MLAs accept official car, gunmen

With most of AAP’s 20 MLAs opting for official vehicle and security, their choice contradicts party’s promise made in its election manifesto. Sukhpal Singh Khaira, AAP chief whip, justified the move, citing law and order situation in Punjab. On official vehicle, he says most legislators do not own cars.

Shun VIP culture, Phoolka tells government

Senior AAP leader and Leader of Opposition HS Phoolka on Friday reminded Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress’ pre-poll promise of ending the “VIP culture”. “He and his ministers should avoid the use of red beacon atop their official vehicles,” he said.

“People of Punjab suffered because of the ‘VIP culture’ adopted by high-headed SAD-BJP leaders. Now, the time is ripe for the Congress to fulfil its promise,” Phoolka said. The Dakha MLA said no party leader and MLA would have red beacon atop their vehicles and would claim perks necessary to perform their duty.

The Tribune – RSS to spread Guru’s teachings in South

Ravi S Singh, Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 15 March 2017. Following RSS’ call to its cadre to spread the message and teachings of Guru Gobind Singh across the country, its affiliate Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has planned events to perpetuate his memory in Southern states as part of the ongoing celebrations of his 350th birth anniversary.

Sangat’s national general secretary Avinash Jaiswal said events, such as “Guru kirtan”, had been lined up in Kerala.

Mata Amritanandamayi (known as “Amma”), a Hindu spiritual leader, would hold an event at her Amritapuri Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram in May. “Sangat is in touch with leaders of other socio-religious groups to organise events in the memory of the 10th Sikh Guru,” he added.

The RSS has made it known that it considers the Guru as one of the country’s greatest heroes who has inspired every one by his nationalism, supreme sacrifice, universal brotherhood, humanism, self-respect and courage.

Speaking at a function celebrating the Guru’s birth anniversary in Surat (Gujarat) on March 5, RSS’ key national functionary Suresh Josh said, “His mere name infuses energy and courage.”

Sangat’s another national functionary Avtar Singh Shastri said events had also been lined up in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa and Tamil Nadu.

The ten Guru’s all had the same message, they were not nationalists, they were spritual leaders who spoke out against oppression, and indeed did believe in universal brotherhood.
Man in Blue

The Tribune – Day after, AAP tries to regroup

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 12 March 2017. Three AAP MLAs, H S Phoolka, Sukhpal Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu, are in the forefront for the post of the Leader of Opposition even as the party is trying to regroup itself following its dismal performance in the Assembly elections.

By winning 22 seats, including two of its alliance partner, Lok Insaaf Party, the AAP is the second largest party in the Assembly by virtue of which one of its members will be the Leader of Opposition. This post holds significance as the government has to include the leader in various committees that recommends major decisions to the Chief Minister.

Amid reports that murmurs have started in the state unit against the dominance of the Delhi lobby, the party leadership led by political affairs incharge Sanjay Singh started the process of motivating the volunteers by holding various meetings today.

Sanjay Singh, who evaded meeting mediapersons, reportedly met some leaders asking them to get over the loss and plan ahead.

In another setback, the party failed to organise a rally at the Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib with only five of the 20 MLAs reaching the venue. Some MLAs said the rally was cancelled as there was no prior plan to organise the rally today.

Phoolka and Sandhu also met leaders and volunteers today and discussed the party’s responsibilities. Sources say a formal meeting to review the results and choose a leader of the party in the Assembly will be held within a week.

Sandhu in a video message to the volunteers asked them to regroup fast. He said the party might have suffered the defeat due to overconfidence.

Sources say some leaders have sought the end of interference by the Delhi lobby in the state affairs of the party. A group of leaders said they wanted a “true” AAP MLA as the Leader of Opposition. Elaborating, they said the leader should be one who was not associated with any party earlier or had no interest in Delhi.

The Tribune – Congress bags clear majority in Panjab

Panjab Vidhan Sabha Total seats: 117
SAD+BJP 18 / Congress 77 / AAP+LIP 22

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 11 March 2017. Winning 77 of the 117 state Assembly seats, the Amarinder Singh-led Congress on Saturday stormed to power in Punjab riding a strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling SAD-BJP combine and warding off a spirited challenge by newcomer AAP.

The Aam Aadmi Party and its ally LIP won 22 seats and the SAD-BJP combine was relegated to third spot with 18 seats.

The Congress put up its second best performance in the state. In the 1992 state elections, it had won 87 seats.
In addition, Congress today also won the bypoll to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

The SAD-BJP alliance finished at number three spot in the state polls, behind AAP, which contesting its first Punjab Assembly elections. AAP emerged as the largest opposition party with 20 seats.

However, the number fell way short of Arvind Kejriwal’s claim of winning 100 seats.

The Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD won 15 seats, down from its earlier tally of 56 seats while ally BJP bagged three seats against the 12 it had won in 2012.

A pre-poll ally of AAP, the Lok Insaaf Party, contested five seats and won two of them.

At a packed press conference here, a beaming Amarinder Singh, who was the Congress’ chief ministerial face, declared that tackling drug menace would be a top priority for his government.

The issue of drug abuse, especially by the youth in the state, was repeatedly raked up by the opposition parties to attack the ruling SAD-BJP.

Not known for sparing opponents, Singh who turned 75 today, hit out at the SAD claiming it had brought the state “down to its knees” and mocked Kejriwal saying he was like a “summer storm that had come and gone”.

Singh lost the Lambi seat where he contested against Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal but won from the Patiala assembly seat where he defeated former Army chief General J J Singh.

Improving its tally from 46 in 2012 to 77 now, the Congress also proved wrong the exit polls and predictions which had suggested a close fight between it and AAP.

AAP had pinned great hopes on Punjab polls, a state where it got four seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The party was hoping for major gains in the Malwa belt, which has bulk 69 seats, but it did not materialise.

“We accept the people’s mandate. All volunteers worked hard. Our struggle will continue,” Kejriwal tweeted.

Accepting the humbling verdict, five-time Chief Minister and Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal (89) said he would be submitting his resignation to the Governor here tomorrow.

For the Congress, the icing on the cake was victory in the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat bypoll where its candidate G S Aujla defeated nearest rival R S Chhina of BJP by 1,99,189 votes.

Badal said he would ask his son and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal to form a committee to introspect the party’s defeat.

Congress will hold a meeting of its elected MLAs here tomorrow to elect the Congress Legislative Party leader.

How the 3 regions voted

The Congress won 40 seats in Malwa belt while AAP had to stay content with 18. The SAD-BJP won 9 seats in the region.

The Congress won 22 (of 25) seats in Majha belt and 15 (of 23) in the Doaba region.

Immediately after the win, upbeat Congress workers celebrated at Captain Amarinder Singh’s residence here while there were celebrations at his main residence and hometown in Patiala.

In other towns, including Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, Congress workers celebrated, even applying ‘gulal (colour)’ to each other with Holi festival being round-the-corner and distributed ‘ladoos’ and broke into ‘bhangra’ dancing to the beats of traditional ‘dhol’.

Singh thanked the people for the overwhelming support and also expressed gratitude to the Congress’ central leadership and party workers.

“Committed to good governance, tackling drug menace, besides health and education will be priority,” he said, spelling out his priorities.

Among key candidates of the Congress who won included Singh from Patiala, where with a huge margin of 52,407 votes as he defeated his nearest rival AAP candidate Balbir Singh, while former army chief J J Singh came third position by securing 11,677 votes.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had switched over to the Congress recently from BJP, also registered a huge win from his Amritsar-East seat, which was earlier held by his wife Navjot Kaur.

Other prominent Congress candidates who won include Manpreet Singh Badal (Bathinda Urban), former captain of Indian hockey team Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt), O P Soni (Amritsar Central) and Charanjit Singh Channi (Chamkaur Sahib).

However, senior leaders of the Congress who lost included former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who failed to win from her traditional seat Lehra losing to Cabinet Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, and Sunil Jakhar who lost from Abohar to BJP candidate Arun Narang.

Meanwhile, prominent among the Akali candidates who won included Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who retained his traditional Lambi seat defeating Singh by 22,770 votes polling 66,375 votes against the latter’s 43,605 votes.

Deputy Chief Minister and SAD President Sukhbir Badal, Cabinet Ministers Bikram Singh Majithia and Parminder Singh Dhindsa also won their seats–Jalalabad, Majitha and Lehra, respectively.

AAP’s prominent winners included H S Phoolka, who won from Dakha, Kanwar Sandhu from Kharar and Sukhpal Khaira from Bolath while the party’s prominent losers included Bhagwant Mann (Jalalabad), Jarnail Singh (Lambi), Himmat Singh Shergill (Majitha) and Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi (Batala). (PTI)

The Tribune – Hola Mohalla kicks off at Kiratpur Sahib

Kiratpur Sahib-Panjab, 8 March 2017. The first phase of the six-day Holla Mohalla started with “Akhand Path” at Gurdwara Patalpuri Kiratpur Sahib this morning. The festival was ushered in at midnight amid the beats of drums at Anandgarh Fort in Anandpur Sahib.

Thousands of devotees paid obeisance at gurdwaras. The bhog of the path will be performed on March 10. Following this, the venue of the festival will be shifted to Anandpur Sahib on March 11 where SAD, SAD (A) and Aam Adami Party would hold conferences next day before the annual festival concludes on March 13, with a procession of Nihang Sikhs in the town.

The Congress, however, has once again decided to give a miss to the conference like last year.

Meanwhile, the district administration has made strict security arrangements on the occasion. (TNS)

The Tribune – Gurmehar Kaur row rocks Delhi Assembly

Ananya Panda, Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 7 March 2017. The Ramjas College violence and rape threats to Lady Shri Ram College student Gurmehar Kaur rocked the Delhi Assembly today. The ruling AAP played Gurmehar’s video clip in the House in its bid to target the ABVP and the BJP-led Central government.

AAP MLA Alka Lamba said the case was yet another example of how students were being targeted for speaking their mind. “Her fault was that she raised her voice against the RSS goondaism,” she said.

Leader of the Opposition Vijender Gupta’s objection to the playing of the video were overruled by Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel.

When asked, a senior official of the Assembly said, “The Speaker had watched the clip in advance and found nothing objectionable.” Last year, AAP minister Kapil Mishra had played an audio recording on his phone in the House about an alleged case of snooping.

The Tribune – Akal Takht Jathedar meets Balwant Singh Rajoana

Tribune News Service

Patiala, 5 March 2017. Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh met former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassin Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is lodged at Central Jail, Patiala, on Saturday.

The meeting was held following reports that Rajoana was not keeping well for the past couple of weeks.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has filed a mercy petition on behalf of Rajoana and his clemency plea is pending with the President.

The Jathedar discussed the issue of those languishing in jails “despite completing their sentence”.

Later, Gurbachan Singh said, “Rajoana wants a decision on his sentence. I have assured him that the SGPC has already taken up the matter at the right channels and will soon take further decision on it.”

The Tribune – Anil Vij has hurt Sikh sentiments: SGPC

Badungar backs Gurmehar Kaur

Sarbjit Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 3 March 2017. Taking on Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij for his remarks on DU student Gurmehar Kaur, daughter of a Kargil martyr, a visibly upset SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar today said, “Ours is a diverse country and Vij should recognise this fact”.

He said Vij had hurt Sikh sentiments with his comment that those who supported Gurmehar were pro-Pakistan and should be “thrown out of the country”.

Gurmehar has faced rape and death threats after she launched “I am not afraid of ABVP” campaign.

Badungar asked the Haryana minister what he had to say about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan some months ago, the jawans and officers on the border exchanging sweets with their counterparts in Pakistan during festivals and cultural groups on official tours to Pakistan?

Stoutly backing Gurmehar, Badungar said wars had indeed killed millions across the globe over the centuries and that there was nothing wrong in what Gurmehar had stated. “There should be peace between India and Pakistan as wars in the past have proved detrimental to the growth of both,” he added.