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    Today UFESM PTK  AND SANJHA MORCHA   organised  ESM meeting  at pathankot to support and show solidarity with Congress candidates
    1.Shri Amit Mantu,—-nominee from SUJANPUR
    2. Shri Amit Vij——-nominee from PATHANKOT
    3. Shri Joginderpal––NOMINEE FROM BHOA
                          All were present
    2.Approx 1000 ESM along with Brig Prahlad Singh,President Punjab Unit Sanjha Morcha ,Col Sunit Pathania,Col G Salaria and Col Prem Singh participated. 
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    Grievance Redressal Systems In Defence Forces Need Fixing, And Urgently

    Navdeep Singh – Jan 17, 2017, 6:04 am


    Perhaps this is an uneasy era, and like all sections of society, the uniformed forces shall also self-adjust with these times.

    All stakeholders of the Army must show flexibility and balance to tide over this temporary disquiet.

    In my opinion, no organisation, the uniformed services included, is beyond scrutiny.

    And with that disclaimer, I would like to emphasise, that the recent events in public gaze concerning our armed forces, triggered by a video posted on social media by a trooper of the Border Security Force (BSF), must not be viewed in black or white, and till the full facts are made known, neither the organisation nor the individual should be the target of preconceived notions or bias.

    There is no denying that like other large organisations, the security forces also face certain issues at various levels, but that reality must not become a tool for spreading discontentment, frustration or disaffection or an opportunity to create fissures between the leaders and the led. Scandalising of the subject must cease, but at the same time, such instances, even if assumed as emanating from disgruntled personalities, should lead to all stakeholders trying to ensure resolution and improvement. As I have stated many times in the past, while there is too much focus on anomalies related to pay and pension and other financial matters, real issues which affect the very heart and soul of our organisations comprising brave men and women, are ignored.

    Though the incident primarily revolved around bad rations, it has encompassed many facets of life in the uniformed services. Let me comment on certain highlights of various aspects that are being played out in the media and social media. I must warn though that this is going to be a long read.

    Us And Them syndrome

    All security forces serve the same flag and are expected to work shoulder to shoulder for the same ultimate aim. The episode, however, again brought to fore statements such as “this is the BSF and not the Army” or “this never happens in the Army” or “there is a problem of leadership in the Police Forces” and so on.

    That is no consolation. It was the BSF this time, tomorrow it could be the Army.

    Irrespective of the veracity of this incident, complaints on quality of ration are not rare in the Army and we must not pretend to be surprised. Further, the Army has had its share of ration (and other) scams too, and the Army is also not a holy entity removed from the society. The quality of roti, kapda and makaan is talked of in hushed tones and we should have the moral courage to admit that and make amends.

    While there is no reason for the voices of superiority from military veterans, there is also no reason for former and current members of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to play out how they are discriminated against in pay and allowances time and again, especially with regard to the additional Military Service Pay (MSP) granted to defence personnel (Army, Navy and Air Force) but not to those in other uniformed services. It is pertinent to note that there is one inherent difference between the Defence Services and the CAPFs, and that is, while personnel of the former start retiring in their 30s, troopers of the latter retire in their 50s, serving two decades more than the former and in the bargain enjoying not only certainty and protection of livelihood during productive lifetime but also higher lifetime earnings and multiple pay revisions. Similarly, while it is true that the military gets higher allowances in certain field areas, the reverse is also correct wherein CAPFs have an edge. It is a fact that on one hand, over the years, while some of the better military specific allowances stand extended to the other services, the same courtesy or reciprocity has not been allowed to the military. Today, payouts such as the detachment allowance, special duty allowance, tribal area allowance and double house rent allowance are not available to defence services.

    Of course, bullets of the enemy do not distinguish between the colour of the uniform and the CAPFs operating in the same area as members of the defence services deserve the same risk-related allowances, but vice versa should also be made applicable. Hence apart from the basic pay, which is broadly the same for all services including the military, there is no comparison of service conditions- you win some, you lose some, and which is absolutely clear at the time of joining service, whether it is the military or the CAPFs.

    Yes, discriminatory practices such as inequitable allowances must be ironed out. I am anyway not a believer of superiority or inferiority of any service or organisation. All play a role and all are equal.

    Excellent System Of Redressal Of Grievances In The Uniformed Forces?

    I tend not to fully agree. The number of representations, petitions, non-statutory complaints, statutory complaints and litigation cannot be termed as low by any stretch of imagination. The redressal of grievances theoretically is apt in the forces, but practically speaking there are many rough edges which need to be smoothened out since handling of grievances is personality oriented and there is no thumb rule. It is argued that the Commanding Officer (CO) is a father figure and if a person does not get redressal from his Commanding Officer, he can always approach the next senior in hierarchy. Easier said than done. Can a prudent person expect a soldier, who has complained against his CO, to have a smooth time thereafter in the unit under that very CO? Are all complaints made to superiors in the hierarchy even promptly forwarded to them? Both answers are in the negative.

    Moreover, the CO can only deal with local issues within his control, nothing beyond it, and again, the resolution would be dependent upon personality traits. It is also well known that the formal system of statutory and non-statutory complaints for issues such as confidential reports, disciplinary matters and promotions is a slow grind. While such complaints are supposed to be finalised within six months (against the three months prescribed by civil departments), despite emphasis by successive defence ministers on promptness, complaints are rarely decided in time, unless, let us face it, strings are pulled. What does it lead to? Nothing but frustration and discontentment and lack of closure- aspects that can be easily handled in-house with a well-oiled responsive grievances redressal machinery.

    To add to the woes, complaints are rejected on points such as ‘incorrect format’ and what not, leading to more disgruntlement. Should soldiers who are cut-off from the world sitting in tough posts on the border be expected to adhere to formats and red-tape and then wait forever to get their issues resolved? Should soldiers remain preoccupied with their pending grievances or perform their duties? Should a few disgruntled ones then be allowed to disproportionately flag these problems and hurt the image of the entire force? There is hence hollowness on display when we hear phrases of praise for the grievance redressal system. The reality is that one has to be well connected or street-smart to get himself or herself heard and those stating otherwise obviously do not have the courage to admit the follies of the existing system.

    Think if you must that we are ‘the best’, but let us strive for making the system even better and ensure objectivity and decisions that are not influenced by any other aspect but the merits of the grievance.

    What Can Be Done?

    To improve the system of redressal of grievances, some simple steps can be initiated, of course within the four corners of discipline and military efficiency. Steps that would be easy to implement but may not undermine the authority that is needed to command troops into battle.

    Going Up The Hierarchy

    In case of a grievance related to an individual’s unit or an officer under whom he is serving, rather than jumping the hierarchy, the person must be allowed to write to the higher formations or commanders through proper channel, as is permissible under the existing system, but with an additional concept of a direct ‘advance copy’ to the senior officer as a matter of right. Further, it should be reemphasised strictly that officers in the channel would not hold back any complaint or representation for more than the prescribed days and any such delay would entail a notice to the lower unit, officer or formation from where it was supposed to move up. The authority to who the advance copy is addressed must interact with the affected person and hear him out before reaching a conclusion. Officers should be encouraged not to consider ‘recommendations’ or ‘comments’ from down below as binding and must not shy away from forming own objective opinions by overruling such recommendations, if required.

    Opportunity of hearing or interaction:

    In case of statutory complaints, which are not routine representations as above, but usually involve career aspects, an opportunity of hearing or interaction must be provided to the complainant by the competent decision-making authority or the authority closest to the decision-making authority. This procedure, recommended recently by a Committee of Experts, of which this author was also a member, already stands accepted by the Defence Minister in principle but the implementation instructions are yet to be issued. Explaining the benefits of such an approach, the following was stated by the Committee:

    “…Opportunity of personal hearing or personal interaction has many advantages. It is what is known as sunwai in vernacular. Not only does it lead to satisfaction of the Complainant that he/she has been heard objectively by the decision making authority but at times it may also lead to the competent authority getting convinced that what the Complainant is stating is correct and the picture painted by the authorities on noting sheets lower in the chain could be incorrect. It may be pointed out that in almost all civil organizations and even in the Indian Air Force, opportunity of hearing is freely provided which leads to a higher degree of satisfaction level and also harmony within the system. Though the informal system of ‘interview’ is available in the defence services, it is discretionary and not institutionalized and not at the ‘competent authority level’ especially while dealing with statutory complaints. The system of opportunity of hearing also provides a catharsis to individuals who may feel stifled at times and hence would provide an outlet to at least open up before the competent authority. It becomes all the more important in defence services where there is no trade unionism or associations, and rightly so. It becomes even more important in the stratified rank structure environment and physically long distances of location.

    Under the current system, complaints of aggrieved personnel are being dealt with by way of a one-way file noting system on which, after a complaint is submitted, the complainant is neither heard nor is given an opportunity to rebut what is put up against his Complaint by the dealing official chain. At times, decisions are taken based on the comments of those very officers/officials who have been complained against giving rise to a question of bias, which could be simply a perception, or even real, and which may not result in closure of the issue with rampant dissatisfaction due to the very reason that a person has not been heard and only a one-sided decision has been taken. There is also a challenge to address the perception that there remains an element of subjectivity in the processing of the Complaints since the system would perceivably remain favourably inclined towards the organisation. It also so happens that on many occasions, especially at ranks other than Commissioned Officers, personnel are apprehensive in approaching the institutional redressal system for the fear of reprisal from superiors. All this would change with the system of institutionalizing ‘opportunity of hearing’ which would not only be in tune with the best practices of the current times, but also in line with decisions of Constitutional Courts, the views of the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri and also DoPT instructions issued from time to time. In fact, it has been emphasized time and again even by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances that employees’ frustration rises from the perception of inaccessibility and lack of concern of superior officers, failure to acknowledge and act upon grievances and non-involvement in organizational activities…”

    Faster And Time-Bound Redressal

    Timelines on grievances must be strictly adhered to and non-processing in time should provide a right of audience for the soldier to the competent authority. Though there must be a balance between individual and organisational rights, the precious personal rights cannot be held hostage to administrative lethargy. Again, in such cases, when grievances are not decided within a particular time limit, to obliterate any negative usage of other unauthorised channels, soldiers must have a system of informing the competent authority directly or through electronic means, and the designated authority should be obliged to provide an audience or interaction. It is well known that many complaints are rendered infructuous, including in career related issues, due to the fact that they are not decided in time.

    I would mince no words in stating that it is truly unfortunate that seven decades after independence we have not been able to even ensure decisions on complaints within laid down time limits, and time limits which, ironically, are themselves needlessly generous- six months in most cases. It should not be forgotten that timely, objective and fair disposal of a grievance is like a legally provided pressure valve which can provide quietus to an issue and bring closure for a person, but if that vent or outlet is not provided, the built-up pressure is bound to escape through routes that would not be palatable.

    Social Engineering And Flattening Of Hierarchy Through Technology

    The Army Chief’s idea for grievance boxes is a welcome step but it may prove to be ungainly since he alone would not be able to monitor grievances from such a large manpower, and some of such complaints would be frivolous and personal rants which would have to be filtered out. Since interaction with senior officers is not feasible at all times due to the nature of duties, there must be an established system for more interaction in real time with seniors without being put up through staff officers with a hackneyed approach, and for designated grievance officers in all formations who must remain insulated from influence and subjectivity.

    This actually is nothing new. The Army’s Western Command under the aegis of the then Army Commander, Lt Gen KJ Singh, had initiated a blog wherein all ranks were free to float suggestions, recommendations and grievances. In fact, it could be loosely termed as an electronic and more feasible version of a grievance box advocated by the Chief of the Army Staff. It provided real-time outlet for such issues thereby eliminating simmering undercurrents. Further, this was not done as a mere formality but grievances and recommendations were acted upon and star recommendations were also publically awarded. At the same time, the same Army Commander had also done away with an eatery in a market within the cantonment which had separate sitting spaces for families based on ranks. While hierarchy within official spaces and establishments cannot be avoided, and in fact may be desirable, public spaces for families in cantonments need to be rendered totally rank-neutral.

    The sahayak system is also in news. Though the uniformed services often emphasise the ‘buddy system’ and ‘breaking bread together’ and the ‘camaraderie’, it is still felt in certain quarters that there is a clash of societal dynamics which has resulted in personnel resisting work outside their charter of duties. The system, by whichever name it may be called, is an integral part of operational environment and apart from relieving Commissioned Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers from the rigmarole of mundane day to day issues, sahayaks act as a bridge between the troops and their leaders. Just as support staff is provided to officers to enable them to perform duties efficiently in peace and staff appointments, sahayaks are entitled in units and formations on war establishment. If an officer cannot be expected to type all his letters without assistance of a clerk in a staff appointment, he cannot also be expected to perform routine administrative tasks and run around without assistance in a field appointment.

    Rules anyway prohibit combatants from being used for domestic chores, but it does seem that the concept has faltered and has become hazy due to unfortunate aberrations. If there is so much hue and cry on this subject, obviously there must be things that require to be fixed. With some very senior officers and veterans brushing aside the voices raised against the exploitation of the system, we should simply ask ourselves whether the system is being misused or not. Even if the answer is uncomfortable, it should not be ignored, and with changing social dynamics, the effort should be to provide a practical alternative without compromising the dignity of combatants.

    Due to frequent movements, military families have to struggle for survival in new places every now and then, they even have to live most of the service life without the breadwinner. It is a nightmare, to say the least. There is hence requirement of support but the answer to that must be brainstormed by the establishment itself. Whether it is staff specially recruited for the purpose, whether it is manpower arranged out of contributory funds at each station centrally after due verification or whether it is a trained and organised system of housekeepers and maids with background checks at military stations paid by those who employ them – it is for the stakeholders to devise and find a solution to. In fact, the few cases of transgression cannot be blamed upon the uniformed organisations per se or even on officers, we have simply failed to provide an alternative, and in other cases, it might be a sense of entitlement at play and being miserly with a tendency to live on the house, crudely put. Yes, the issue is blown out of proportion every now and then with extreme stands on both sides, yet, a long lasting solution needs to be found.

    Stress And Strain Of Military Service And Its Effect On Mental Health

    At times, there is a thin line between misdemeanour and a psychiatric condition, a line which is not discernable to an untrained eye. Stress and strain is the hallmark of military service, which is recognised universally, all over the world. The fact that a person is away from his family most of the year and cannot hence fulfil domestic commitments results in added pressure which at times becomes unbearable. It is not a sign of weakness, we’re all different and the body reacts differently to varied stimuli. Under such pressures, certain individuals tend to develop conditions which need care and sensitivity and not disdain. For example, a person may wander out of the lines due to his mental condition and while a mature leader of troops may rightly refer him to a psychiatrist, another may simply declare him absent without leave. Similarly, mature leaders would understand that while intoxication on duty could be an offence, alcoholism could well be a psychiatric condition. While I do not mean to defend the BSF trooper we all saw on TV, I found it a little odd for him to be summarily branded as a ‘bad hat’ or an ‘alcoholic’. If so, he required psychiatric care and not entrustment with a weapon in an operational area! Officers should not forget that stress and strain of service and effect on mental health is much higher on lower ranks than on higher ranks.

    A great contributor is the inability to cope up with requirements back home, seemingly small little matters- education of children, property disputes, registration of house, municipal work and so on, and an insensitive administration does not help. While officers are still able to get a grip by speaking to their civilian counterparts and are blessed with better education and wherewithal, personnel of lower ranks are at sea, the result of which is stress which is then also wrongly blamed on ‘domestic reasons’ while the actual cause is military service and its exigencies which keep troops away from efficient and timely resolution of the multitude of issues back home, but that is another story for another time.

    The times we live in are complicated and there are no easy solutions. The answers, or even the questions, cannot be so simplistic as many of us seem to believe. There is no wrong and no perfect right, there is no black and there is no white. The only truth in this is the fact that this perhaps is an uneasy era, but just like the society, the uniformed forces shall also self-adjust with these times. The churning is not comfortable but all stakeholders must show flexibility and balance to tide over this temporary disquiet.

    Navdeep Singh

    Major Navdeep Singh is a practising High Court lawyer, author and the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association. He is Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels.

    Army chief says military must prepare for Cold Start

    New Delhi  January 14, 2017 Last Updated at 01:23 IST

    Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who this month became the first senior official to publicly confirm the existence of India’s so-called Cold Start doctrine, explained on Friday why he acknowledged this controversial term publicly.

    Cold Start is the Indian operational plan for rapidly mobilising infantry and armour to launch lightning strikes across the plains and deserts of Pakistan. The aim is to break into Pakistani before its defensive formations can prepare and occupy defensive positions along the border.

    Indian policymakers and officials have always downplayed Cold Start, partly because it scared Pakistan’s army into relocated defensive formations close to the Indian border, and into developing highly destabilising “tactical nuclear weapons” (TNWs) — small-yield, nuclear bombs, delivered by short-range ballistic missiles like the Nasr (Hatf-IX) — to halt a Cold Start strike.
    Previous Indian chiefs said there was no Cold Start plan. Instead, they pointed to a “proactive strategy”.
    Rawat’s acknowledgment of Cold Start on January 6, in an interview to India Today, was a radical departure. It was sharply criticised by strategic analysts like Vipin Narang and Walter C Ladwig III, who claimed the “[Indian] army simply lacks the material and organisation to implement the more aggressive versions of Cold Start.” They argued that India has too few troops and tanks, it faces critical equipment shortages, and the army and air force do not coordinate air support. “This has put India in the worst possible strategic position: claiming a capability that it does not have, but which provides justification for Pakistan’s aggressive expansion of its conventional and nuclear forces”, Narang and Ladwig wrote in The Hindu.
    Today, Rawat, at a press conference in New Delhi, initially downplayed his acknowledgment of Cold Start, arguing that offensive plans are a part of India’s overall defensive strategy, aimed at safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity.
    “[We] know that the future wars will be short and intense and, when short and intense wars are the future forms of combat, you have to be prepared to move fast. Now this is something which you can term in whatever way you want”, said Rawat.
    But Rawat also clarified that publicly acknowledging Cold Start was a signal to the army to be prepared for that eventuality. “The other reason for coming out with this was, to communicate to the rank and file and field commanders the kind of preparations they have to carry out for future combat. That is the messaging that was meant to that statement that I made,” said Rawat.
    Asked by Business Standard about operational shortcomings that might prevent the success of Cold Start, Rawat stated: “Weaknesses have to be overcome. And these weaknesses can only be overcome if you accept the strategy (Cold Start). If you don’t accept the strategy, then you will let your weaknesses [limit you]. But when you enunciate a strategy you say: these are the weaknesses which I need to overcome to adopt success.”
    It is ironic that Rawat, an infantry officer who the government chose because of his expertise in counter-insurgency, has made his first bold statement in the realm of warfighting and mechanised operations.
    Cold Start was born of the failure of Operation Parakram in 2001-02, when the military moved into battle stations after Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001. However, by the time the army’s three mechanised strike corps (which are stationed deep inside India in places like Mathura and Bhopal) were transported to the border and were ready to launch their tanks and infantry combat vehicles (ICVs), Pakistan’s defensive formations were deployed and ready to beat them back.
    Thus was Cold Start conceived, a plan to attack Pakistan within 48 hours of any dire provocation traced back to Pakistan — like a particularly damaging terrorist attack, or the assassination of a top Indian leader. Instead of waiting for the mechanised strike corps to make their long journey to the border, the attack would be launched by 8-10 “integrated battle groups” (IBGs), cobbled together from the large number of tanks and reserve infantry in the defensive corps, already located along the border.
    Benefiting from surprise, and with Pakistan’s armoured reserves divided, Cold Start estimates that many of the IBGs would pierce through Pakistan’s forward defences. That would allow the strike corps, as it reaches the border, to stream through those breaches and penetrate towards the large towns and cities in Pakistan’s heartland. This would allow New Delhi to call off the war quickly, in a victorious position.
    Western policymakers have been critical of Cold Start, since it alarmed Pakistan into developing TNWs, which are seen as highly insecure and destabilising weapons. Given the Nasr missile’s range of just 60 kilometres, TNWs would per force be physically located with forward commanders, and control over them decentralised early in any conflict.
    This “de-centralisation” would render TNWs vulnerable to theft by jihadi groups, or unauthorised use by renegade Pakistani commanders. It is unclear whether Pakistan has fool-proof security protocols for TNWs, like preferential access links (PALs). Nor is it known how early, with a battlefield debacle imminent, would control over nukes be handed over to local commanders — probably at the level of corps commanders — who would be presumably more prone to use the weapons.

    Time to grasp the nettle

    A chief of defence staff must be superior in the chain of command to the service chiefs for him to be effective and empowered

    The expert committee led by Lieutenant General (retd.) D.B. Shekatkar has recently submitted its report to the defence minister. The panel, composed mostly of retired senior military officers, was appointed in May 2016 and was tasked with looking at “Enhancing Combat Capability and Rebalancing Defence Expenditure”. Among its many recommendations is the appointment of a single-point adviser to the Defence Minister. Since Manohar Parrikar has already spoken of his desire to move in this direction, the recommendations of the Shekatkar panel assume greater importance.

    PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar has already expressed his desire to move in the direction of a single­point military adviser

    The panel has reportedly recommended the new post should be a four-star appointment – equivalent to those of the service chiefs. This top four-star officer is envisaged as a coordinator, who won’t impinge on the operation or administrative functions of military chiefs. The creation of such a post should be accompanied by the integration of the service headquarters with the Ministry of Defence. However, the panel has apparently recommended against integrating the three services into joint commands. This is seen as an American model tailored for expeditionary role rather than homeland defence and hence unsuitable for the Indian context.

    While the committee’s recommendations are well-intentioned and such reforms long overdue, the proposed institutional design is deeply problematic.

    The idea itself is hardly new. The Group of Ministers (GoM) following the Kargil Review Committee called for the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a singlepoint military adviser to the Defence Minister. This stemmed from the lack of integrated planning and operations between the services during the Kargil War. In fact, this is a problem that has plagued the armed forces in every conflict since 1947. The appointment of a CDS was expected to usher in top-down integration among the services and better coordination between the services and the government.

    The Vajpayee government created a new joint headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS). But it baulked at appointing a CDS and instead appointed a Chief of Integrated Defence Staff who would run the HQ IDS until the CDS was appointed. This half-baked solution persists to date. In fairness, HQ IDS has managed to bring a degree of coherence to issues like procurement and joint doctrine. But this is hardly adequate. More importantly, it has allowed the political leadership to perpetuate an illusion of reforms while continuing to resist the appointment of the CDS.

    Then again, in the early years after the GoM report, the services themselves were a divided house on this. The air force resisted the creation of a CDS – apparently on grounds that it would pave the way for institutional domination by the army. This came handy to political leaders and bureaucrats in deflecting questions about their own unwillingness to institutionalise the system. Towards the end of the UPA-II government, the three service chiefs jointly wrote to the prime minister expressing support for the creation of a CDS.

    Meanwhile, the government had appointed another panel led by Naresh Chandra to examine why the GoM’s recommendations of were not fully implemented and to suggest a new road map for security reforms. This panel suggested that instead of a full-fledged CDS, the government appoint a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee with a fixed tenure. By giving the chairman a fixed term of, say, twoyears, it was hoped that he would have enough time to work on key issues of integration between the services. Now the Shekatkar panel has come up with another halfway house.

    Any institutional solution along these lines is unlikely to deliver the necessary levels of integration. If the CDS does not outrank the service chiefs, then his ability to function as the single-point military adviser to the government will be undoubtedly circumscribed. At best, it will amount to an incremental improvement on the existing HQ IDS. Worse still, it will yet again create the illusion of progress and delay real reforms . The idea that such reforms should be imposed gradually or piecemeal is seriously mistaken. In most countries that have achieved institutional integration, the process has been driven politically from on high.

    The CDS must be empowered fully. There should be no doubt about his being superior in the chain of command to the service chiefs. The appointment should be followed by the setting up of integrated theatre commands. The supply and logistics commands could be integrated. It is an indispensable prerequisite for ensuring “jointness” in war fighting. Simultaneously, the service chiefs should prepare to relinquish operational control over the services and become what their titles suggest: chiefs of staff, responsible for raising, equipping and training of the forces. The chain of operational command should run from the Defence Minister through the CDS to the integrated theatre commanders.

    Something is not always better than nothing. As the case of HQ IDS shows the half-life of such institutional short-cuts tends to be very long. More worryingly, it helps anaesthetise the system and masks need for real reform. Enhancing the combat capability and effectiveness requires full-blooded measures. It would be sad if the government perpetuates or aggravates the problem by using palliatives. It would sadder still, if the government were forced to consider real reform by another external crisis.


    PUNJAB POLITICS CONTI…….After 32 years, nominations near 2,000-mark in Punjab

    Amaninder Pal

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, January 18

    Call it an enthusiasm to contest or just a fallout of the entry of a new political party, but it is after a long gap of 32 years that the number of nominations filed by candidates for the 117 Punjab Assembly seats has almost touched the 2,000-mark.Also, the number of nominations filed for the 2017 Assembly elections has increased by 200 compared to 2012, when 1,731 candidates had filed nominations.A total of 1,941 candidates have filed papers this time. Today was the last day to file nominations.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)It was way back in 1985 that 2,175 candidates had filed nominations despite the fact that militancy was at its peak and the state had gone to hustings after President’s rule. But only 875 were left in fray after withdrawal of candidature and scrutiny of papers then.The number of candidates who will remain in the contest will drop after the scrutiny of nominations on Thursday and withdrawal of candidature by Saturday (January 21). “An increase in the number of nominations was expected due to entry of AAP. The new party has not only fielded candidates in all segments, its entry has also persuaded a lot many small and splinter groups to jump into elections,” said a senior electoral officer.

    In ‘brush’, AAP sees ‘danger’ to broom

    • Chandigarh: After “torch” and “ladyfinger”, it’s now “toothbrush” in which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sees a threat to its “broom”. In a request to the Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab, the party has sought that the “toothbrush” be removed from the list of election symbols meant for Independent candidates as it was “deceptive” and too similar to its own party symbol. Senior AAP leader Raghav Chadha pleaded, “The symbol is similar to AAP’s broom and may create confusion in the minds of innocent voters.” During the Delhi Assembly elections in January last year, AAP had demanded that the symbol of “torch” be delisted. The EC retained the “torch” but without the beam. TNS

    Which way the wind is blowing in the Malwa region

    The Tribune correspondent hops on to a bus and traverses the Malwa to feel the pulse of the common man as election is just three weeks away

    Which way the wind is blowing in the Malwa region
    CM Parkash Singh Badal addresses a gathering at Bodiwal village in Lambi. Tribune photo: Vishav Bharti

    Vishav Bharti

    Tribune News Service

    As the private bus moves at 70 km an hour on a chilly morning on National Highway-95, flex boards carrying political posters are the only reminder that the Punjab Assembly poll is just three weeks away. Inside the bus, hardly anyone discusses politics.As the conductor blows the whistle and the bus is about to leave Samrala, a man sporting an Akali-blue turban boards the bus and takes the seat behind me. He is carrying a sheaf of papers. We soon strike a conversation and the topic changes to election. He says for four generations they have voted only for “babe di takdi”.

    Mohan Singh, a small farmer from Sherpur Bet in Samrala, says but this time it will be different. He shuffles his papers saying he is on his way to Ludhiana to see a lawyer. “My relatives, in connivance with local Akali leaders, have taken away my land,” he says, adding that like many others in his village he will support the Aam Aadmi Party. “Ehna (Akalis) ne jo gundagardi keeti hai, ehna nu taan kise dargah te vi maafi ni milni.”At Ludhiana, as the conductor looks for passengers for Barnala, a plump man, who seems in his 30s, takes the seat beside me. He says he is not interested in election. “I won’t vote this time. Earlier, I had hope from jharuwalas, but their candidates are no different,” he says as he puts his earplugs on.Meanwhile, a few vendors move in the aisle shouting their wares as the bus heads towards the sandy dunes of the Malwa.Located right on the Bathinda-Fazilka highway, a gathering—outnumbered by policemen—is waiting for Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at Bodiwala village in Lambi constituency. “Ki-ki siftan kariye Badal sarkaar diyan,” a dhadi jatha is trying to hold the gathering.Before moving on to another village, Badal says, “I am not interested in becoming CM. Mera path-pooja karan da time hai. Bande nu agge ja ke vi hisab dena hunda hai. I had told my party to relieve me, but they refused. When a cart gets stuck, it needs a strong ox to pull it out. The party said the cart could not move without me.”On National Highway-64, just before the roadways bus leaves Barnala for Sangrur, a posse of policemen boards it. The young conductor does not ask them for tickets, nor do they care to tell him their destination. A young constable from Sunam, who joined police six years back, says they are returning from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal’s security duty at Barnala. “We started at 4 am,” he says, adding, “I want the Congress to return to power for then we would be less frequently deployed on the road as the ‘maharaja’ doesn’t travel much.” With a wry smile, he says police personnel generally favour the Congress.From Sangrur, as the ‘AC’ bus of Punjab Roadways starts for Chandigarh, a man unhappy with its dilapidated condition takes a jibe at the driver asking him to close the door or the ‘AC’ would be ineffective, leaving the passengers within earshot in splits.The second-last seat in the bus is occupied by one Parminder Singh, the son of a labourer and a fresh graduate from Faridkot’s Government Brijindra College, who is visiting a relative in Patiala. A bit shy, he says he has so far voted only once–in the 2014 election. He wants the new government to provide jobs and health care.Despite it being in bad shape, the bus runs smoothly on the newly laid-out road, the very road which Sukhbir Badal had once referred to as “bomb-proof”. When pointed out that the new road means development, the youth says the roads have been laid out for the Badals’ buses to ply on.The continuous din of conductors’ whistles and shouts besides sundry other noises at the Patiala bus stand once again remind you of the noisy election scene in the days to come.At the Chandigarh counter, a Punjab Roadways bus full of passengers is flanked by two brand new white Mercedes Benz luxury buses of Taj Travels, a company owned by the Badals. The conductor of the luxury bus is looking for passengers to Chandigarh. With a half-empty bus, it seems he is groping in the dark.

    Poll effect: Akalis lose security cover

    1,200 gunmen, 28 escort vehicles withdrawn

    Poll effect: Akalis lose security cover

    Jupinderjit Singh

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, January 18

    On the directions of the Election Commission, the Punjab Police have withdrawn the alleged unauthorised security cover given to Punjab ministers, Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, former SAD MLAs, several “VIP” halqa in-charges, district presidents besides youth Akali leaders. A reality check of over 300 VVIPs, mainly political leaders and their supporters by the Election Commission, found that improper security had been given to many of them.The commission found that the security cover, which had over the years become a status symbol, was beyond the entitlement but the VVIPs had been getting it for several years. The police had not withdrawn it despite the demands by the Opposition.Around 1,200 police guards given to the VVIPs have been withdrawn. Along with it, 28 escort vehicles have been taken back.Among those affected are 24 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, who had security cover of 18 security guards equivalent to the status of a minister. The EC has authorised them to have four guards only, as per the limit fixed for a member of the Legislative Assembly. Also, a number of youth Akali leaders, some of whom even had up to 20 gunmen, have lost the special cover.Dyal Singh Kolianwali, Muktsar SAD president, had 20 gunmen out of which 10 have been withdrawn now.Former MLAs Sucha Singh Langah, Sewa Singh Sekhwan and some others too have lost their security cover. SOI leaders, too, have to shed their excess cover.However, police sources said no change had been made in the security cover of CM Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal. Both leaders fall in the ‘Z-plus’ security and have faced attacks in last few days.The EC has also reviewed the security of AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, who is the party’s top campaigner in the state. Apart from the security given to him as the CM, he will have a dedicated escort vehicle of the Punjab Police or a paramilitary force.ADGP VK Bhawra, who is Nodal Officer of the Election Commission, said the security was withdrawn after a proper review.

    Badals untouched

    • Police sources said no change had been made in the security cover of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal. The two leaders fall in the ‘Z-plus’ security and have faced attacks in last few days.

    Cong puts up united face, Bittu files papers

    Cong puts up united face, Bittu files papers
    Congress’ Jalalabad candidate and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu submits papers on Wednesday. Tribune photo

    Praful Chander Nagpal

    Fazilka, January 18

    Ludhiana Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu filed nomination papers from the Jalalabad constituency here today. The Congress has pitted the grandson of late Chief Minister Beant Singh against SAD president Sukhbir Badal and AAP MP Bhagwant Mann.The Congress put up a united face at the time of filing of papers as several ticket aspirants were also present.Bittu said the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib was a slur on the Punjab government. He alleged that SAD-BJP combine had plunged Punjab’s youth into the well of drugs and the Congress would eradicate the menace in four weeks if its government came to power.Bittu is worth Rs 4.5 croreAccording to the affidavit filed by Bittu, he owns moveable and immoveable property worth Rs4.5 crore. An agriculturist, Bittu is the owner of 17 acres of agriculture land and residential plots in Mohali and Ludhiana. He also possesses a pistol.

    Capt says contesting Lambi to rout Badals

    Capt says contesting Lambi to rout Badals
    Capt Amarinder Singh files his nomination from the Lambi segment in Malout on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Pawan sharma

    Archit Watts

    Tribune News Service

    Lambi, January 18

    Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh today filed his nomination from Lambi. Termed it as father of all battles, he said: “I will defeat Badal for sure, I am here to beat him.” When asked which seat he would retain if wins both Patiala and Lambi, he said: “I will announce it after the results.”He later held a roadshow from Malout to Lambi. During his halts on the way, he said: “I will teach Badal a lesson for all atrocities unleashed on the people of the state during the last 10 years and set an example for all future CMs.”Amarinder yesterday filed his nomination from Patiala and exhorted the people there to take care of his home town while he took on Badal.At a rally at Lambi village, Amarinder announced that neither Badal nor his kin would be spared for their “wrongdoings” and for bringing the state to such a “pathetic” situation.He also held the Badals responsible for the sacrilege incidents. “We will probe all sacrilege cases and send Badals to jail. Even the ‘Akal Purkh’ will not forgive them for these incidents and his whole family will be wiped out from the state’s political scene,” he claimed.Taking a dig at AAP, Amarinder asked the public that would comedians like Bhagwant Mann and Gurpreet Ghuggi and shoe-thrower Jarnail be able to run the government. “Are they going to run the government by cracking jokes and by throwing shoes at their opponents,” he asked.

    Sidhu meets ’04 rival before nomination

    Sidhu meets ’04 rival before nomination
    Congress’ Amritsar East nominee Navjot Sidhu with veteran leader RL Bhatia, whom he had defeated in 2004 LS poll. Photo: Vishal Kumar

    GS Paul

    Tribune News Service

    Amritsar, January 18

    Former cricketer and BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu today filed his nomination papers for the Amritsar East Assembly seat. Prior to the filing of nomination, Sidhu went to see veteran Congress leader and five-time Amritsar MP Raghunandan Lal Bhatia to seek his blessings. Sidhu had opened his political innings by defeating Bhatia in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of around 1 lakh votes. Sidhu said, “Bhatia Saheb is like a father figure. I am here to seek his blessings,” he said. While showering his best wishes on Sidhu, Bhatia said, “Sidhu’s entry will strengthen the Congress. He deserves ‘due honour’ in the party. He will play a vital role in the Punjab politics,” he said. On “anticipated” friction between PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh and Sidhu, he said, “All differences between them would be buried at the party level.” Later, Sidhu reached the office of the Returning Officer along with his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu and other supporters. He also declared his assets while submitting papers. Sidhu has a total income of Rs 9.66 crore as per his 2015-2016 income tax return. His wife’s income was shown as Rs 24.71 lakh during the same period. His immovable and movable assets are valued at Rs 40 crore. He owns immovable properties worth Rs 34.75 crore, including his palatial house in the holy city having a market value of Rs 28.5 crore, besides commercial and residential property in Patiala. 

    Manpreet challenge looms, MP pitches in for Singla

    Manpreet challenge looms, MP pitches in for Singla
    SAD candidate and sitting MLA from Bathinda (Urban) Sarup Chand Singla during his door-to-door campaign on Wednesday. A TRIBUNE PHOTOGRAPH

    Sukhmeet Bhasin

    Tribune News Service

    Bathinda, January 18

    Old memories of bitter family feuds getting ever more intense during the elections have come alive with Union Minister of Food Processing and Member of Parliament Harsimrat Kaur Badal taking command of fighting election at the Bathinda (Urban) seat against her brother in-law and Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal.She has held many poll gatherings with SAD candidate Sarup Chand Singla and instructed party workers about the election strategy.Harsimrat Badal held a meeting with Sarup Chand Singla yesterday and instructed the latter to bring back party rebels who have joined the Congress.She said if rebels were not ready to return then, at least, they could be pursued not to seek votes for the Congress candidate.In the last 15 days, many SAD-BJP leaders have left the party and joined the Congress.These leaders include senior SAD leader Pirthipal Singh Jalal, former Municipal Council president Bhupinder Singh Bhullar, SAD district vice-president Chamkaur Mann, SAD circle president Ashwanu Bunty, SAD councillor Sukhwinder Kaur, BJP councillor Priyanka Goyal and former councillor Darshan Garg.A close aide of Singla, Beopar Mandal president Rajinder Raju, Artiya Association president Satish Babbu, contractor Harish Garg and Mohinder Narula have also joined the Congress.Recently, Harsimrat Badal held a meeting with SAD-BJP cocunillors and listened to their grievances.Councillors raised various issues plaguing the party and alliance, including the issue of leaders being ignored.

    Former AAP leader to prop up Congress campaign

    Former AAP leader to prop up Congress campaign
    Women’s wing vice-president of the Congress and former AAP leader Simrat Kaur Dhaliwal addresses the media in Bathinda on Wednesday. Photo: Vijay Kumar

    Tribune News Service

    Bathinda, January 18

    Former AAP leader Simrat Kaur Dhaliwal today claimed that she would help the Congress to win Assembly elections at all seats.She joined the Congress as women’s wing vice-president on January 13 in the presence of Captain Amarinder Singh.She has levelled allegations against AAP over deviating from its basic principles on ticket distribution and giving tickets to people with criminal record.She said tickets were sold by AAP to many candidates and she herself was asked by some senior-most leaders to pay Rs 50 lakh to get the ticket.She threatened to reveal the names of such people, along with proofs, soon.“The wrong distribution of tickets by the party that could not remain firm on its principles and selling of tickets to people proved corruption within the party. Due to this, I have joined congress for the better future of the state,” said Simrat Kaur.“I was the vice-president of the party’s women’s wing. I spent a large amount on serving the party and forming its structure in Punjab. Sucha Singh Chhotepur was thrown out without any fault following a deep-rooted conspiracy by Arvind Kejriwal. I submitted my resign to AAP Punjab convener Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi on January 12 and joined the Congress on January 13,” she added.

    Kharar constituency: Issues that matter



    SAD leaders join Congress at Jagraon

    Our Correspondent

    Jagraon, January 18

    The election campaign of Congress candidate from Jagraon constituency Malkiat Singh Dhaka gained a momentum today when several SAD leaders, including two municipal councillors of the Jagraon MC, and members of five panchayats joined the Congress.The leaders who joined the Congress included municipal councillor from Ward No. 1 Gurpreet Kaur Tatla, councillor from Ward No. 11 Dr Iqbal Singh, and Block Samiti member Davinder Singh. Besides, the panchayats members of Galib Kalan, Galib Khurd, Galib Ran Singh, Kothe Baggu and Kothe Jeeva also joined the Congress.Congress leader Karan Singh Galib played a key role in their joining. Malkiat Singh Dhaka thanked Galib and welcomed those joining the party. Galib also inaugurated the election office of Malkiat Singh Dhaka on the Raikot Road, Jagraon.Billa files papers as independentAvtar Singh Billa, Congress ticket aspirant from Jagraon, on Wednesday filed nomination papers as an independent candidate. Billa was accompanied by his close aides, Vicky Rana and Thekedar Pappu, on the occasion. Billa was aspiring for Congress ticket from Jagraon constituency but after the party decided to field former minister Malkiat Singh Dhaka from Jagraon, Billa decided to contest the poll as an independent. “The Congress has awarded the party ticket to an outsider and people of Jagraon would never accept an outsider as their leader. I decided to contest as independent after consulting my supporters,” said Billa after filing his papers.

    Will cook Badal’s goose in his backyard: Capt


    LAMBI (MUKTSAR): Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh on Wednesday filed his nomination papers from Lambi constituency, challenging chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in his bastion.

    SANJEEV KUMAR/HTPunjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh filing his papers in Lambi in Muktsar on Wednesday.

    Amarinder, who is also contesting his traditional Patiala seat, filed papers at Malout. Muktsar district Congress president Gurmeet Singh Khudian, who was a strong contender for the Lambi ticket, filed the papers as Capt’s covering candidate. The Congress chief later led his cavalcade of more than 100 vehicles to Lambi for a ‘show of strength’ rally, where he vowed to “cook Parkash Singh Badal’s goose in his own backyard” and “wipe him out” from Punjab’s political scene. He termed the contest as ‘grandfather of all battles’.

    He also dubbed Badal as a “conspirator” behind the incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib last year. “Ae saara kujh hi isne aap karaya hai. (He got it all done himself),” he added, promising arrest of the culprits. He also assured people that the Behbal Kalan police firing case would be taken to its logical end and the guilty cops would be prosecuted. Two young protesters had died in the firing during the public protests against sacrilege incidents.

    AAP candidate in Lambi Jarnail Singh has been making similar accusations against Badal. The CM has so far skipped the sacrilege issue in his campaign, while blaming the Congress for Operation Bluestar and the 1984 riots. Capt also said he will put Badal’s associate and SGPC members Dyal Singh Kolianwali behind the bars after coming to power. In the past, Kolianwali has been accused of being involved in election violence and corrupt practices.

    Capt my leader, will be his soldier: Sidhu

    Amritsar: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who filed his nomination papers as a Congress candidate from the Amritsar (East) assembly segment on Wednesday, said he would work as a soldier of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Captain Amarinder Singh.

    GURPREET SINGH/HTAmritsar East Congress candidate Navjot Singh Sidhu filing his nomination papers on Wednesday.

    Terming Amarinder Singh as his leader, Sidhu said, “We want that this time Congress forms a Government in Punjab and Captain Saab leads us. I will work as soldier of Capt. Amarinder Singh.”

    He said he was not here for personal battles but to revive the state that was in a shambles. He said things have come to such a pass in Punjab that the government of people has become a onefamily regime.

    Addressing mediapersons after filing his nomination papers, Sidhu said, “To change things, one has to come into the system. In Punjab, only one family is having 23 ministerial portfolios in the government and this has to be changed.”

    He said he will announce his agenda for Punjab on January 20.

    A GLANCE AT PUNJAB POLITICS::::JJ Singh WAS “an average cadet and a bogus man”

    SC rejects Jagir Kaur’s petition to contest poll

    SC rejects Jagir Kaur's petition to contest poll
    Jagir Kaur, former SGPC chief

    Legal Correspondent

    New Delhi, January 17

    The Supreme Court today rejected former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur’s plea for suspension of her conviction in the 2000 murder case of her daughter Harpreet Kaur.A Bench comprising Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit refused to entertain the plea even as senior counsel Shyam Divan contended that this was necessary to enable his client to contest the February 4 Punjab Assembly poll as a SAD candidate.

    Divan pleaded that she had been sentenced to five years by the trial court only on the charge of criminal conspiracy, not for the substantial offence of murder.The Punjab and Haryana High Court had already stayed the sentence, but a stay on the conviction was necessary for contesting the poll. Divan pleaded that his client had a long public life and had a good chance of getting acquitted by the HC. The nomination would close tomorrow and she should be allowed to contest the poll.“Sorry,” the Bench said while dismissing her appeal against the HC verdict declining to stay her conviction.Harpreet had allegedly married a person against the wishes of her mother. Prior to the murder, she was subjected to abortion.

    Polls predict a change

    Yogendra Yadav
    But would it be what the people of Punjab really wanted?


    WILL Punjab get the change that it has long waited and prepared for? This is the big question that we should be asking in the forthcoming Assembly elections. This is no ordinary election. Punjabis within and outside Punjab have looked forward to this election for nearly three years, if not more. They have pinned big hopes on this election, not just hopes of change in government, but also change in the nature of politics itself. As we wait till the February 4 for Punjabis to answer this question, and another excruciating month for the answer to be revealed, the picture is beginning to reveal itself.With Navjot Singh Sidhu finally entering the Congress and all lists of candidates being released, we do not have many imponderables left in the field. This was preceded by the release of two polls, one by CSDS-Lokniti for ABP News and the other by Axis for Aak Tak/India Today TV. Both these are well-known agencies and credible news organisations. But then how does one make sense of the two very different pictures that emerge from these two polls?While both polls agree that it is a three-horse race, there is a sharp difference in how the three are placed: the CSDS puts the ruling Akali Dal-BJP coalition at the top, while Axis puts them at the bottom. While both polls say that the Congress is clearly ahead of the AAP, CSDS says the lead is 10 percentage points, while the Axis poll puts it at six points. Both polls project a hung Assembly. The CSDS poll expected the ruling party to secure a near majority of seats, between 50 to 58, followed by the Congress with 41-49 and the AAP way behind at 12-18. The Axis poll puts the Congress just below majority at 49-55, followed closely by the AAP at 42-46 and the Akali Dal-BJP a poor third with 17-21 seats. (See accompanying table).The difference is irreconcilable, or so it would seem. But actually, the two polls are doing two different things and are therefore compatible with each other. The CSDS did plain reporting while Axis offered an interpretation of data. Specifically, the Axis-India Today poll used the December data to project the likely outcome in February while CSDS-ABP merely reported the voting intention as it stood in the month of December.I guess both surveys got more or less the same data from their fieldwork. When they asked their respondents about who they would vote for, if elections are held tomorrow, the answers were something like this: Akali Dal-BJP: 36-40 per cent, Congress: 33-37 per cent, AAP: 20-24 per cent and the rest about 5 per cent. The CSDS made one routine adjustment and revised ‘others’ to 14 per cent. Everyone else was shrunk proportionately and they presented this data to the public. These figures may contain a lot of over-reporting (by respondents, not by CSDS) for the Akali Dal-BJP, partly due to fear, and partly, the usual bias for the incumbent.The Axis poll appears to have made an additional adjustment for ‘recall’ of the respondents. They adjusted the raw data by how their respondents’ reporting of who they voted for in 2014 matched with the actual outcome. Presumably, they found massive over-reporting for the Akali Dal and thus something like 38 per cent for the Akali-BJP combine was thus reduced to 24 per cent and so on. Now, this is not cheating; this is legitimate data adjustment. But the reader needs to know about it.Besides their differing projections, both polls offer a good deal of valuable information on the public mood in Punjab. The CSDS team should be complimented for their transparency and for putting most of the data in the public domain. (Full disclosure: I was on CSDS faculty for two decades, but have resigned now and have no connection with their survey team). Both of them agree that the people of Punjab are in no mood to give the ruling alliance a third chance — according to CSDS, the division is 5:2 against another chance to the Akali Dal. Both polls put Capt Amarinder Singh as the front-runner in the CM’s race. The CSDS poll also gives a glimpse of why people are unhappy with the ruling coalition: their unhappiness is not so much on account of lack of development as it is about lack of employment, rule of law and prevalence of corruption.At this stage, it is safe to draw the following conclusions: One, there is a massive anti-incumbency wave against the Akali Dal-BJP. They are headed for their electoral Waterloo. Two, the AAP, which appeared as the front-runner against the ruling coalition about six months ago, has slipped from that position. The CSDS poll says that its support is concentrated in the central districts of Malwa, not in eastern and western Malwa, nor in Majha and Doaba. Three, outside these districts, the Congress is poised as the front-runner. According to the Axis poll, in the last few months, the Congress has increased its lead over the AAP. Navjot Sidhu’s entry could give the Congress the final push it needed. Four, while the rebellion of Dr Dharamvir Gandhi against the AAP leadership and the exit of Sucha Singh Chhotepur from the party have seriously dented the image of the party and its poll prospects, they do not seem to be making it a four-cornered contest. We should be careful though as opinion polls tend to under-estimate new parties.The fieldwork for both these polls was done between the second and third weeks of December. So, it seems Punjab will have a political change. The question is: will it have the change that it had looked forward to? Sadly, no matter what the final outcome, the answer to this question is negative. None of the big issues Punjab faces today have been addressed in this campaign. Punjab  has seen some reckless, populist promises, but the blueprint on any of these critical areas — unemployment, indebtedness, agrarian crisis, exodus of industries, and drug menace, to name a few. While the problem of drugs has been talked about, there is not even a half-hearted attempt to work out a solution. There is a new entrant in this election, but it has ended up recycling the same set of discredited political actors, and has relayed the standard script so familiar to Punjab. Those who want a real change in Punjab may have to look beyond, and work towards politics beyond this

    Amarinder rules out alliance, calls JJ Singh ‘average cadet’

    Tribune News Service

    Patiala, January 17

    Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh today ruled out any pre/post-poll alliance, saying that his party would win the Assembly elections with two-thirds majority.Amarinder, who filed his nomination papers from the Patiala Urban seat, dismissed his rival – SAD candidate and former Army Chief Gen JJ Singh (retd) – as “an average cadet and a bogus man.”He said, “JJ Singh became the Chief of Army Staff due to his seniority, not calibre.”Ridiculing AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal’s allegation that he was contesting from Lambi — which was part of the Patiala royal estate till 1930 — to help CM Parkash Singh Badal, Amarinder said his decision was motivated by the desire to save the people of Punjab from the Badals.Later, he took out a roadshow. “You take care of Patiala and I will take care of Badal,” he told the crowd from the open-roof vehicle in which he was accompanied by wife and former Union Minister Preneet Kaur.

    Capt in Lambi today, to file nomination papersLambi: PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh will start his election campaign here on Wednesday. He will file his nomination in Malout town and hold a roadshow from Malout to Lambi before addressing a rally at Lambi village. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will conclude his six-day election campaign here on Wednesday by visiting all 72 villages once. AAP nominee Jarnail Singh, too, has once covered all villages by addressing public meetings. AAP convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is scheduled to hold five public meetings in Lambi on January 20. TNSTo be named CM candidate soonChandigarh: The Congress is set to announce Capt Amarinder Singh as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. Party insiders said decks had been cleared for the move with the launch of cricketer-turned-politician Navot Singh Sidhu’s campaign from Amritsar. “The Congress will use the outsider-versus-insider card against Arvind Kejriwal on the CM issue,” said sources in the party. TNS

    Roadshow with Sidhu on Jan 19

    • Amarinder clarified that he wasn’t present in New Delhi for Navjot Singh Sidhu’s induction into the Congress on Monday as he was busy campaigning in Punjab. He cited his strong Patiala connection with Sidhu, whom he had known since he was a kid. “Sidhu has joined the Congress unconditionally,” the ex-CM said, adding that he and the former cricketer would hold a joint roadshow in Amritsar on January 19.

    LS poll: Preneet in contention

    • On speculation that Congress leader Lal Singh could be fielded from Patiala in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll as he had missed out under the ‘one family, one ticket’ rule, Amarinder said his wife, sitting MLA Preneet Kaur, would contest the parliamentary elections.

    Sukhbir blames AAP for spurt in sacrilege cases

    Sukhbir blames AAP for spurt in sacrilege cases
    Sukhbir Singh Badal

    Ravi Dhaliwal

    Tribune News Service

    Gurdaspur, January 17

    SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal today claimed that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had assured Sikh hardliners that the control of gurdwaras would be handed over to them once the party came to power.Addressing gatherings at Sri Hargobindpur and Kahnuwan in favour of SAD candidates, Sukhbir said AAP’s rise as a party in Punjab had coincided with an increase in the number of incidents of sacrilege. “It happened because Kejriwal made an assurance to the hardliners. This, in turn, vitiated the atmosphere in the state,” he said.Stating that only the SAD could preserve the heritage of the ‘qaum’, he added, “We have transformed the precincts around Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar. In contrast, the Congress ordered an attack on the shrine, while AAP hurt Sikh sentiments by disrespecting the Golden Temple.”

    On poll pitch, high-decibel battles set rhythm

    Badals, Amarinder have been challenged on their turf | With 69 seats, Malwa to witness most of the thrilling contests

    Sarbjit Dhaliwal

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, January 17

    With the Congress following an AAP’s strategy of pitting heavyweights against strong candidates of rival parties, the Punjab Assembly elections are all set for an edge-of-the-seat contest.The battle between “political gladiators” may become one of the finest points in the careers of some of them, while others may have to hang their boots in the face of defeat.The Malwa region with 69 seats out of 117 will witness most of the thrilling contests. The interesting part is tha Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh have been challenged on their turf.It is perhaps for the first time in the history of re-organised Punjab that a former Chief Minister (Amarinder) will be pitted against the incumbent Chief Minister (Badal). There have been big political battles in the past, but not at the scale of a Chief Minister versus a former Chief Minister to be witnessed in Lambi.There have been a few electoral battles between the family of late Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar and Badal. The Akali leader has lost elections only once. That was in 1967 when Brar defeated Badal by just 57 votes from Gidderbaha.The contest in Lambi has another ingredient to become a thriller. It is in the form of AAP’s nominee Jarnail Singh. He has resigned from the Delhi Assembly to take on Badal on his turf. Jarnail, a former journalist, had shot into limelight when he threw a shoe at then Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram.Amarinder is also locked in another high-decibel battle on his home turf. The Akalis have put up former Army chief JJ Singh against him from Patiala Urban. The Captain versus General contest is already being talked about as the toast of the elections. Amarinder, known for acerbic and dismissive barbs against his opponents, finds himself at the receiving end of some of them from the General.Equally interesting will be a battle in Jalalabad, where SAD president Sukhbir is pitted against AAP’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann and Congress’ Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.Mann, who belongs to a small farmer family, has emerged as a popular campaigner because of his satirical and stinging political attacks. His two opponents belong to the families of Chief Ministers. With Mann, AAP started to field its top leaders against rival parties.Another thrilling electoral battle will be in Sangrur’s Lehra constituency, where former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is pitted against Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa. Stakes are high for the two families that are into politics for more than four decades.In Majha, the big battle is in Majitha. AAP, which has been targeting SAD nominee and Sukhbir’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia for “patronising” drug trade, has fielded Himmat Singh Shergill against him. As for the Congress, it has fielded Lali Shergill.Another interesting battle will be in Sanaur, where a member of the Tohra family is pitted against a Tohra loyalist’s son. AAP has fielded Tohra’s daughter Kuldeep Kaur against SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra’s one Harinder Pal.The contest in Amritsar East, where cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is in fray, and in Bathinda City, where Manpreet Singh Badal is in contention, will also be keenly watched. But compared to other contests, the two Congress nominees are facing lighter adversaries.


    Lambi: Incumbent Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal vs former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh vs former journalist Jarnail Singh

    Patiala Urban: Captain Amarinder Singh vs General JJ Singh

    Jalalabad: Sukhbir Badal vs Ravneet Singh Bittu vs AAP  MP Bhagwant Mann

    Majitha: SAD chief Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia vs AAP’s Himmat Singh Shergill

    884 nominations have been filed in the state so far 









    Chaunda hai Punjab Captain di sarkar (What Punjab wants is Capt’s government), the campaign song of Congress that hums a very filmi paean to state president Capt Amarinder Singh, is slowly getting a life of its own on the social media with over 3 lakh hits on YouTube. The song has Shahid Mallya and Richaa Sharma crooning “Pind pind te shehar shehar bas iko chale lehar lehar khushiyan mudke aun gaayeean, Khetan which bhangre paan gayiaan (There is just one wave in Punjab, which is all set to bring back happiness to the state)”. From farmers and youth to women, the song touches every section of the voters. It also makes an oblique reference to “baharwale”, clearly an indication toward AAP. Capt’s hand and watch come in for special attention as do his cutouts. Mallya had sung the “Chitta Ve” song in ‘Udta Punjab’, while Sharma had won an award for “Sajda” in ‘My Name is Khan’ (2010). The longwinded lyrics’ tune is catchy enough. And as long as you remember “Capt di Sarkar”, it meets its goal.

    In battleground Patiala, it’s load, lock and shoot

    Captain­General contest turns murkier as the two rivals launch frontal attacks on each other over Operation Bluestar, army careers

    PATIALA: The electoral battle between the two former army officers on the Patiala assembly seat turned murkier on Tuesday with Punjab Pradesh Congress President (PPCC) Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday asking Gen JJ Singh (retd), who is Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate, why he did not resign from the army after Operation Bluestar, if he is so concerned with Punjab and Sikhism.

    Hitting back, the General said, “Who is Amarinder to judge me? Be it in the army or politics, Amarinder is an absentee and thus he has no right to do any type of assessment of mine.”

    While it is the first election of Gen JJ Singh, Amarinder has declared that it would be his last electoral battle. Reacting to the General’s remarks that the Congress was responsible for Operation Bluestar and that SAD defends rights of Sikhs, Amarinder lashed out on the latter and termed him a thankless person.

    “General is a thankless person. JJ Singh was an average cadet and a bogus man who became chief of army staff due to his seniority, not because of any caliber. Having been made the army chief and then a governor by the UPA, he is now claiming to have been upset by Operation Bluestar, exposing himself to be the fraud he is,” said Amarinder.

    “General must answer why he had not resigned from the army, if he is so critical of Operation Bluestar, which he is citing as the reason to join SAD?” he asked.

    In response, Gen Singh said, “Amarinder has spent only two years in the army, that too without facing any bullet or fighting in the field. He never went to a battalion, but remained attached with senior officials.” He added, “I have faced battles of 1971, Kargil and other operations. Amarinder has no right to judge me. Whatever I have achieved came due to my hard work, honesty and extraordinary services… Amarinder has no role to comment on my service.”

    Gen Singh said Amarinder was misleading the public by claiming that he had fought in the 1965 battle. “He had never gone on any front. He has neither fired nor faced a single bullet whereas I have fought from the front. Before questioning my credentials, Amarinder should come clean on his track record in the army. He was an absentee army man, absentee CM, MLA and MP as he never met public in his entire life. He has no right to judge me,” he said.

    political punch of the day

    Gen JJ Singh was a year junior to me and, I know, he was a lacklustre and an average general… He was a bogus man who became the chief of army staff just because of his seniority. AMARINDER SINGH, Cong candidate in Patiala Amarinder has no authority to judge me. I’ve been decorated in every rank. A Capt is Capt and Gen is Gen. How can he compete, compare with me?… He’s a big fraud, never fought on any front. GEN JJ SINGH, SAD candidate in Patiala

    Captain, General, Jarnail among 573 file nominations; last day today

    CHANDIGARH: Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh and former army chief Gen J J Singh (SAD) were among 573 candidates who filed their nominations on Tuesday, the penultimate day for filing of papers for assembly polls in the state. With this nominations, the total number of candidates for next month’s polls has risen to 884.

    BHARAT BHUSHAN /HTPunjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Captain Amarinder Singh along with his wife Preneet Kaur addressing supporters at a road show in Patiala on Tuesday.

    Former chief minister Amarinder filed his nomination papers from the Patiala assembly constituency to launch the countdown to his last electoral battle. He was accompanied by wife and Patiala MLA Preneet Kaur and other family members. Amarinder will file his papers from Lambi, the other seat from which he is contesting the assembly polls, on Wednesday. At Lambi, he is taking on CM Parkash Singh Badal.


    General JJ Singh (retd), who is taking on former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh in Patiala, loves to show the ‘V’ (victory) sign. The Akali candidate went to the election office on Tuesday to file his nomination along with his wife Anupama Singh who also submitted her papers as his ‘covering candidate’. On their way out, she took out her camera to click him to capture another moment from the “battle of ballots”. The former army chief promptly posed for the photograph, flashing the ‘V’ sign. The fight, though a difficult one, has made the polls more interesting.

    BHARAT BHUSHAN/HTGeneral JJ Singh (retd) posing to his wife Anupama Singh in Patiala on Tuesday.

    Sidhu hits campaign trail in Amritsar: ‘Here for Punjab’

    Navjot Singh Sidhu will make no difference in the elections. He’s over. ARVIND KEJRIWAL , AAP chief on Sidhu joining Congress

    AMRITSAR: Returning to home city to begin his new political innings, Congress’ Amritsar East candidate Navjot Singh Sidhu has said he is not here to fight “personal battles” but with a mission to change Punjab.

    GURPREET SINGH//HTNavjot Singh Sidhu with other Congress leaders during a road show in Amritsar on Tuesday.

    Earlier, Sidhu was given a rousing welcome by Congress leaders and workers, who lined up along the roads as he took a round in an open vehicle.

    “I have no personal enmity with anyone. Punjab has been pushed into a mess and we all need to get together to make this state prosperous again,” Sidhu said.

    “I will reveal my agenda on January 20 and aim is to change Punjab and bring out a plan to rid Punjab of ‘chitta’. A state known for the Green Revolution is now known for ‘chitta’. Those responsible for this will be taught a lesson.”

    Upping the ante against deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, the Congress candidate and the star campaigner for the party said, “Some people constructed ‘Sukhvlas’ on the ‘dukh’ (sorrows) of the people of Punjab.” “I will expose everyone and open their ‘pol’. I am here to fight for Punjab and not to settle personal scores. I want to tell that it is time to stay united to change the face of Punjab. I am here to turn Punjab from ‘behaal to khushaal’.”

    Sidhu paid obeisance at the Golden Temple. On a question how many seats he predicts for the Congress party, he said people will decide that. The threetime MP from Amritsar said he was thankful to the people of Amritsar for all their love and support. “I can leave anything but not Amritsar,” he said.

    Many conspiracies were hatched to throw me out of Amritsar and people are aware who feels insecure from me.

    Manpreet’s campaign gets a shot in the arm

    3 SAD-BJP leaders, Apna Punjab Party city president join Congress

    Sukhmeet Bhasin

    Tribune News Service

    Bathinda, January 16

    Congress candidate from Bathinda (Urban) Manpreet Singh Badal’s campaign today got a shot in the arm when Apna Punjab Party (APP) Bathinda city president Ashok Singla today joined the Congress in the presence of Manpreet’s father Gurdas Badal in a function held in the area near the Canal Colony police station.In another development and major setback to the SAD-BJP alliance, two sitting councillors, along with the SAD circle president, have joined the Congress.The SAD circle president, Ashwani Bunty, had quit the party and had joined the Congress and his wife Sukhwinder Kaur, who is a sitting councillor from Ward No. 45, is also set to join the Congress on January 19.Ashwani Bunty said he had joined the Congress and his wife would join the party on January 19 during a function in his area.He said the reason behind his joining the Congress was that two swords could not be contained in one sheath as the SAD leadership honoured Vijay Kumar, who contested against the SAD in the MCB elections, with a party position.BJP councillor from Ward No. 24 Priyanka Goyal has joined the Congress. While talking to Bathinda Tribune, Priyanka said: “She had joined the Congress as a few months ago she had some family problems. However, SAD candidate Sarup Chand Singla failed to help us during that period, which we did not like. Hence, now we have decided to support Manpreet Badal.”Even another sitting Independent-turned-SAD councillor from Ward No. 42 Pardeep Kumar Gola is expected to leave the party. However, a final decision regarding the same had yet to be taken.While talking to Bathinda Tribune, Pardeep said the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had approached him to join their parties. But he had not taken any decision regarding it yet as he had called a meeting of his supporters on January 18 in his area and a final decision would be taken after consulting them.

    Another SAD councillor to leave party

    • Even another sitting Independent-turned-SAD councillor from Ward No. 42 Pardeep Kumar Gola is expected toleave the party. However, a final decision regarding the same had yet to be taken. While talking to Bathinda Tribune, Pardeep said the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had approached him to join their parties. But he had not taken any decision regarding it yet as he had called a meeting of his supporters on January 18 in his area anda final decision would be taken after consulting them

    Realtor Makkar has properties worth Rs 57 cr

    Realtor Makkar has properties worth Rs 57 cr
    SAD candidate Sarbjeet Makkar, along with his wife and suppoters, filing his nomination papers from the Jalandhar Cant constituency on Tuesday. Photo: Sarabjit Singh

    Tribune News Service

    Jalandhar, January 17

    The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate from Jalandhar Cantonment Sarbjeet Makkar today sprung a surprise as he came to file his nomination papers along with the SAD district president Gurcharan Singh Channi.Channi had been cut off from him and had not joined his campaign earlier, terming Makkar as a “land grabber”. But the district president showed exceptional bonhomie today as he came along in his cavalcade and joined him in the office of Returning Officer-cum-RTA RP Singh.SGPC member Paramjit Singh Raipur and AAP Lok Sabha 2014 candidate Jyoti Mann, who joined SAD yesterday in Ludhiana, also accompanied him during the filing of his papers.

    From Makkar’s affidavit

    Qualification: Under matric

    Age: 57 years

    Immovable assets: Rs 47.33 croreMovable assets: Rs 1.9 crore

    Vehicles: Audi, BMW, Fortuner

    Cash in hand: Rs 3.5 lakh

    Liabilities: Rs 2.16 crore

    List of properties:

    61 kanal 16 marla land in Dhogri worth Rs 2.47 crore

    119 kanal 15 marla land in Raipur Rasoolpur worth Rs 4.15 crore

    71 kanal 18 marla land in Raowali village worth Rs 4.93 crore

    3 kanal 10 marla land in Dolo Nanga village, Amritsar, worth Rs 35 lakh

    2 kanal 5 marla land in Makhdoompura for Rs 2.25 crore

    13 marla land in Makhdoompura worth Rs 65 lakh

    36 marla land in Lajpat Nagar worth Rs 1.8 crore

    1 kanal 9 marla land in Lajpat Nagar for Rs 1.47 crore

    1 kanal 2 marla land in SUS Nagar worth Rs 1.96 crore

    14 marla land in PUDA complex worth Rs 2.1 crore

    57 marla plot near Khalsa College worth Rs 2.85 crore

    1 kanal 2 marla building at SUS Nagar worth Rs 1.54 crore

    3 kanal and 3 marla land in New Jawahar Nagar worth Rs 9.45 crore

    31 marla land on Cool Road worth Rs 1.55 crore


    Immovable assets: Rs 10.34 crore

    Movable assets: Rs 40.47 lakh

    Vehicles: Car, Scorpio jeep

    Cash in hand: Rs 1.25 lakh

    Liabilities: Rs 70.97 lakh

    List of properties:

    9 marla building on Mithapur Road worth Rs 80 lakh16 kanal land in Amritsar woth Rs 1.35 crore

    47 marla land in Civil Lines worth Rs 3 crore24 marla land in Lajpat Nagar worth Rs 1.2 crore

    18 kanal 19 marla land in Lesriwal worth Rs 35 lakh


    A first: Telangana sets up Army Welfare Fund

    Suresh Dharur

    Tribune News Service

    Hyderabad, January 17

    Billed as a first of its kind initiative in the country for the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, the Telangana government on Tuesday announced setting up of an Army Welfare Fund for the benefit of families of serving, retired and martyred soldiers.Making a statement in the Assembly, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao unveiled a slew of measures, including constitution of the Rs 80 crore Army Welfare Fund, massive increase in cash rewards to Army personnel from the state winning gallantry medals and a host of other concessions.The Chief Minister said that he and his Cabinet colleagues would make an annual contribution of Rs 25,000 each towards the fund while legislators from the state would contribute Rs 10,000 each.Army personnel from the state winning Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra will get Rs 2.25 crore (Punjab pays the highest at Rs 2 crore), Mahavir Chakra and Kirti Chakra Rs 1.25 crore (Punjab Rs 1 crore).

    Food for jawans: Delhi HC notice to Home Ministry over poor quality

    Food for jawans: Delhi HC notice to Home Ministry over poor quality
    BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav had posted a video on social media alleging poor quality of food.

    Legal Correspondent

    New Delhi, January 17

    The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Union Home Ministry and security forces seeking their response to a PIL alleging insufficient and bad quality of food being provided to jawans.A Bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangeeta Dhingra Sehgal asked the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seem Bal and Assam Rifles to file status reports on the food quality.The petition has been filed by former central government employee Puran Chand Arya, citing a Facebook post by BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav on alleged poor working condition, including bad and inadequate food.The BSF, however, told the Bench that it had already verified and found that there was no substance in Yadav’s allegations. Nevertheless, a further probe was on.The petitioner has pleaded that action is needed on the issue to keep the morale of the security forces high. Clarity should be brought on ration-procurement and food preparation, he said.


    ‘Gumshuda’ Captain Amarinder has no right to judge me, says Gen JJ Singh

    ‘Gumshuda’ Captain Amarinder has no right to judge me, says Gen JJ Singh
    Former army chief Gen JJ Singh (retd). ANI

    Patiala, January 17

    Former army chief Gen JJ Singh (retd) on Tuesday hit back at Capt Amarinder Singh saying the Punjab Congress chief had no right to judge a person who had been decorated in every rank.“He has no authority to judge me. I’ve been decorated in every rank. I think he has no idea, he should read my autobiography. And then he will know what I am talking about,” he said.Gen Singh, who is the SAD-BJP candidate for the Punjab Assembly polls, dubbed Capt Amarinder as a ‘gumshuda’ leader, saying his political career would end soon.

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    “A Captain is a Captain and a General a General, how can he compete and compare with me? I am using the strategy which he cannot match. If he can match, let him come on the ground. l challenge him to come and walk with me,” he added.He said the Congress leader would lose from both Patiala and Lambi assembly seats.“He will get tired. I am working 18 hours a day; he cannot work even six hours a day. He needs rest. My roots are here and he says I have nothing to do with Patiala. I think he knows nothing,” he said.The former army chief’s outburst against the Congress leader came after he described him as an average general.“He was a year junior to me and I know he was a lacklustre and an average general,” he said.The Assembly elections in the state will be held on February 4. ANI