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    PUNJAB NEWS ::::22 MAY 2017

    Despite Capt’s assurance, ‘halqa system’ prevalent,Unsuccessful Cong candidates Sekhri, Mantu calling the shots in Gurdaspur

    Ravi Dhaliwal

    Tribune News Service

    Gurdaspur, May 21

    Ahead of the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection, the ruling Congress has sought to strengthen its position by allowing two of its defeated candidates to act as “halqa chiefs” in Batala and Sujanpur Assembly constituencies.Of the nine Assembly seats in the parliamentary constituency, the Congress has won seven in the recently held elections. Now with Ashwani Sekhri, a three-time MLA, being given the charge of Batala and Amit Mantu, a debutant in the last elections, being asked to control the administrative affairs in Sujanpur, the Congress virtually rules the roost in all nine segments.Notwithstanding Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s assurance that the unconstitutional halqa incharge system has been dispensed with, it is clear that the mechanism to give power to losing candidates is very much in vogue.Mantu, who has lost to Dinesh Singh Babbu of the BJP, admits that he is looking after all transfers. “It is on my recommendations that employees are transferred, particularly in the education, police and health departments and the Ranjit Sagar Dam. If an employee goes directly to any minister, he or she is asked to get my recommendation,” he claimed.Sekhri, too, has been given unbridled powers. The public statement by Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on a recent visit to the city that “in Batala, Sekhri will be handling all affairs pertaining to the local bodies” had his followers clapping with joy.Sekhri, who lost to LS Lodhinangal of the SAD, said: “Being a loyal soldier, I will abide by my party’s orders.”The former MLA is an aspirant for the party ticket from this parliamentary seat. His new found “status” has his opponents fuming. “I have won the election fair and square. But my voice is not being heard in the corridors of power and it is Sekhri who holds the reigns,” a livid Lodhinangal retorted.

    Govt to hike mining capacity

    Move aimed at filling demand-supply gap to check sand prices

    Govt to hike mining capacity

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, May 21

    The state government has decided to release another 70 lakh tonnes of mining capacity to meet the demand for sand and bring its price under control.With the generation of a total capacity of 3 crore tonnes, the government is looking to fill the demand-supply gap, thus effectively decartelising the mining business and stabilising the price of sand.An official spokesperson said the mining policy was aimed at providing sand at reasonable price to the people and revenue generation for the state.With 70 lakh tonnes of additional capacity set to be released soon, the total quantity of sand in the market will go up to 3 crore tonnes, including 1 lakh tonne already available,. This would be more than sufficient to meet the current estimated demand of 2 crore tonnes.The spokesperson said the conditions of mine allotment under the new policy had built-in checks against hoarding and speculation by contractors, who were required to deposit security and advance payment by May 23. In case of failure, the earnest money deposited would be forfeited and the mine would be re-auctioned immediately, with the said contractor being blacklisted for future contracts.

    Review policy: AAP

    Chandigarh: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday asked the government to review its mining policy, adding that the just-concluded auction of mining sites would have disastrous consequences for the environment and cause the prices of sand and gravel to go through the roof. In a press release, AAP leader Dinesh Chadha said going by the data provided by the government, a tipper of sand and gravel would cost at least Rs 40,000 to the end consumer. He said the contractors, in a bid to avoid losses, might conduct large-scale illegal mining in the vicinity of the auctioned areas. Chadha said the common man would have to pay much more for sand and gravel under the new policy, while natural resources would be depleted due to the non-scientific methods used in illegal mining. He asked the Union Environment Ministry to intervene in the matter.

    ..Approaches Yogi over UP gurdwara loot

    Tribune News Service

    Amritsar, May 21

    Taking cognisance of the incident in which a group of armed persons barged into a gurdwara and looted the ‘golak’ and other articles in Saharanpur (UP), SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar has approached the UP Chief Minister.“If the spiritual places are not safe, the plight of the common man can be well gauged. This instance has raised a question mark on the law and order situation over there. The culprits should have been arrested. I have asked for the intervention of CM Yogi Adityanath to take action against the accused,” he said.The SGPC has formed a committee which will visit the gurdwara and gather information about the incident. The committee comprises SGPC senior vice-president Baldev Singh Kaimpur, member Manjit Kaur and Gurdwara Kapal Mochan manager Harwinder Singh.

    Of Rs 91 crore for fire services, SAD-BJP spent Rs 17 cr: Sidhu

    Of Rs 91 crore for fire services, SAD-BJP spent Rs 17 cr: Sidhu
    Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu interacts with the media in Ludhiana on Sunday. Tribune Photo: Himanshu Mahajan

    Tribune News Service

    Ludhiana, May 21

    Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has accused the previous SAD-BJP government of not utilising the grants sanctioned by the Centre for upgrading the fire-fighting system.“Punjab was the only state in the country that failed to upgrade its fire-fighting system. All other states spent crores of rupees to strengthen their fire stations,” he told the media at Christian Medical College and Hospital here today.He visited the hospital to enquire about the health of four firefighters injured in a fire that broke out in a local textile factory on May 11.“Had they (firefighters) been provided with proper equipment and safety kits, they would have escaped unhurt,” Sidhu said. He termed firefighters “bahadur” (brave) and “jaanbaaz” (daredevil).“The Centre had issued Rs 91 crore to Punjab to upgrade its fire services. Of the first instalment of Rs 45 crore, the Department of Local Government spent only Rs 17 crore. The balance amount lapsed after March 31, 2017,” the minister said, adding that “forget about the second instalment. The previous government failed to utilise the first instalment. As a result, the fire-fighting system is ailing”.As the state government failed to produce the “utilisation certificate” regarding the usage of grant, Punjab was put in a “red zone” by the Centre, Sidhu said.“The previous government did tremendous damage to the state. The Congress government is in a damage-control mode. Give us a few months and it will produce results,” he added.Meanwhile, Sidhu said four firefighters, who were hurt in the May 11 fire incident in Ludhiana, would be honoured during the Annual Fire Service Week in April next year.“These brave firefighters will be awarded with medals for showing exemplary courage to save others’ lives. I will make sure that the Fire Department becomes one of the best in the country,” he said.

    Sidhu blames it on SAD-BJP

    Says failure to use Central grant has led to poor state of fire service in Punjab

    Sidhu blames it on SAD-BJP
    Minister for Local Bodies Navjot Singh Sidhu address the media. Tribune Photo: Himanshu Mahajan

    Shivani Bhakoo

    Tribune News Service

    Ludhiana, May 21

    Four firefighters suffered severe burns while they were dousing flames at a factory in the city recently. Had they been provided with proper gear, they would not have been injured. The previous SAD-BJP government did not bother about utilising the grants sanctioned by the Central Government for improving the Fire Department.Punjab is the only state in the country which has failed to update its firefighting system while all other states have spent several crores to strengthen their fire stations. As the state government has failed to produce “utilisation certificate” against the grant given by the Centre, Punjab has been put in the “red zone” by the the Central Government, which is shameful.These views were expressed by Minister for Local Bodies Navjot Singh Sidhu while speaking to the media after enquiring about the health of the firefighters at Christian Medical College and Hospital here today.Terming the firefighters as “bahadurs and jaanbaaz”, Sidhu said it was unfortunate to know that Rs 90.91 crore was sanctioned by the Central Government from the disaster management head to update the fire services in Punjab, of which Rs 45 crore was released as the first instalment. But the Department of Local Government, Punjab, could not spend more than Rs 17 crore. The balance amount of Rs 27 crore lapsed after March 31, 2017.“Forget about the next instalment of Rs 45 crore, the previous government failed to utilise the already released grant. They just had to order for equipment, that is it. But they even failed to do so and today our fire service is ailing, crying for revival,” said Sidhu.Sidhu said the Badals had done irreparable damage to the state. “I am ready to expose them wherever they want me to. If they call me to Badal village, I will go there but they should have courage to face me. They have done severe damage to the state and our Congress government is still in the damage-control mode. At least, give us a few months’ time and we will produce results as per your expectations,” he said.He also said erring officials in the Local Bodies Department would not be spared and punishment as per law will be given to them.Smart City: Just trying to understand thingsThe Central Government, which was too eager to spend Rs 3,000 crore on three cities of Punjab, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar, under the Smart City project, today is reluctant to provide even 5 paise to the state for the simple reason that the previous government miserably failed to put the matching grant in Ludhiana Smart City Project, said Sidhu.When asked about the fate of Ludhiana Smart City, Sidhu said he felt bad as the previous government had “shattered” the dreams of the residents by diverting Smart City funds to other projects. “We are just trying to understand things and streamlining the things first,” he said.At the same time, he said under the leadership of Capt Amarinder Singh in Punjab, he would make sure that the dream of Smart Ludhiana became a reality.On being asked how the government with empty coffers will make Ludhiana a Smart City, the minister said: “There is no dearth of funds. One needs to have the will to generate funds and do something practically. Today, illegal buildings stand tall in Punjab. The violators have constructed 20-25 storeys, all in an illegal manner. We will do one-time settlement (as per the guidelines) with the violators and generate huge revenue.”

    Fire Service Week

    • Sidhu, in an attempt to pay respect to firefighters, said from now onwards, Annual Fire Services Week would be celebrated from April 17 to 21. “These brave firefighters will be awarded with medals for showing exemplary courage while saving others’ lives. I will make sure that in times to come, the Fire Department becomes one of the best in the country,” said Sidhu.

    Mandi Board has no funds to repair roads in rural areas

    Mandi Board has no funds to repair roads in rural areas

    Sarbjit Dhaliwal

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, May 21

    With no funds in its kitty, the Punjab Mandi Board is worried over the repair of rural roads. As per rules, a rural road is to be repaired every six years. But most stretches of the rural road network have not been repaired for the past eight to nine years.“At some places, the road network has ceased to exist. It has become difficult for people to commute on such roads,” said Lal Singh, chairman of the Mandi Board.“I am flooded with requests for the repair of roads in the countryside,” he said, blaming the previous government for creating a mess on this front.The task of laying roads and repairing the existing ones is divided between the Mandi Board and the PWD (Buildings and Roads). But the Mandi Board funds the entire exercise.About Rs2,900 crore is required to repair 23,000-km-long road network in villages. However, almost the entire income of the board is pledged with several banks, from which a loan of Rs550 crore has been raised for five years to complete projects.There are three types of rural roads. One, that connect a town with another via villages. Two, that connect a village with another. And third, that lead to villages from the outskirts of rural areas.Lal Singh said there was a 9,276-km network of roads which linked a town or a city with others through villages. “The first priority is to repair roads used the most by villages,” the board chairman said.Then, there is an 8,600-km road network that links two villages. “The repair of this road network will be next on the priority list,” he said.About the funds, Lal Singh said it was the most difficult question. “I will discuss the matter with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. One way out is to raise a loan for the repair of roads,” he said.“The board will also approach the Centre that has some funds at its command for the rural road network,” he added.

    16 private varsities told to close study centres

    Many pvt universities in the state have opened their study centres outside their campus without approval from UGC

    Tribune News Service

    Faridkot, May 21

    The Higher Education Department, Punjab, has directed 16 private universities in the state to close all education programmes that they are providing through distance mode without approval from the University Grants Commission (UGC).It is alleged that many private universities in the state have opened their study centres outside their campus without approval from the UGC.In a letter to all Deputy Commissioners, the Joint Secretary, Higher Education, on Friday directed the DCs to check such illegal centres in their district and report the matter to the department.The department has named 16 private universities —

    Shri Guru Granth Sahib University,

    Fatehgarh Sahib,

    Lovely Professional University,

    Chitkara University,

    Guru Kanshi University,

    Chandigarh University,

    Adesh University,

    DAV University,

    Desh Bhagat University,

    Rayat Bahra University,

    GNA University,

    Sant Baba Bhag Singh University,

    Akal University,

    Surya World University,

    RIMT University,

    Shri Guru Ram Das University of Health Sciences and CT University.

    A copy of the letter has been sent to the chancellors of these private universities.After the state Education Department declared degrees obtained by candidates from universities outside Punjab under distance education mode illegal three years ago, some private universities in the state started setting up such study centres, offering correspondence education.Any such centre opened by any university must be immediately closed. Universities/institutions are also requested to close down any study centre opened in violation of the UGC guidelines, reads the letter.Last year, the School Education Department had denied promotion to over 1,000 teachers, terming their postgraduate degrees invalid. The department had claimed that these degrees were non-recognised on the ground that the examinations for these degrees were conducted at centres outside the territorial jurisdiction of their universities. These teachers had acquired their degrees in different streams through distance education mode from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla; Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu and Madurai Kamraj University, Tamil Nadu.

    SDMs to register vehicles, issue driver’s licences

    ajmeet Singh

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, May 21

    To revamp the Transport Department, the state government has decided to authorise 78 Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) in Punjab to handle the work of registration of private vehicles and issuance of driver’s licence.There are 32 automatic driving test tracks in the state. These will now come under the direct supervision of the SDM concerned.The new procedure, aimed at ending corruption, is expected to start from next month after a formal approval to “restructure” the Transport Department by the Council of Ministers in the forthcoming Cabinet meeting. Under the plan, a decision has already been taken to scrap 22 posts of District Transport Officer (DTO), four posts of Regional Transport Authority (RTA) and eight of Motor Vehicle Inspector (MVI).So far as commercial vehicles are concerned, the entire work related to the registration, paying of taxes, issuing permits for trucks and buses and fitness testing of all type of commercial vehicles will be handled by 10 offices of Regional Transport Officer (RTO). Additional staff is being sought by the department to implement the restructuring.To adjust the officers working against sanctioned posts, the higher authorities have decided that five of the RTOs will be headed by PCS officers and the remaining by departmental officers working in the rank of DTO or RTA.At present, PCS officers are posted on 19 of the 22 posts of DTO. Of the four posts of RTA in Patiala, Jalandhar, Feorzepur and Bathinda, three are with PCS officers.10 RTOs to come upThe offices of the RTO will be set up in Bathinda, Ferozepur, Patiala, Sangrur, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Mohali, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur. The RTOs will replace four RTAs in the state (Patiala, Jalandhar, Ferozepur and Bathinda).Navdeep Asija, Traffic Adviser, Punjab, said: “The scrapping of the posts of DTO is a good step. Apart from replacing one set of people with another, the government should go for e-governance to reduce the official-public contact to end corruption. Most of the works should be done online.


    RSS, BJP support Capt’s demand

    ALANDHAR: The RSS and the BJP have supported Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s demand to let the blacklisted Sikhs visit the country and join mainstream, saying it would be a welcome step.

    “There are people who have been blacklisted (for being involved in Khalistan movement) and living abroad. If they want to return and join the mainstream, it would be a good and welcome step,” Punjab RSS chief Brij Bhushan Singh Bedi told PTI.

    He said such people have lost connection with their roots. “Some people are still active in Khalistan movement but they do not have any connection at the ground level,” he added.

    Asked whether such people pose a risk of spreading of instablity in the state if allowed to return, Bedi said: “In fact, those active in Khalistan movement are not even aware of it. If they come back, no one will be there to listen to their subversive views.”

    State BJP chief Vijay Sampla said that there are only a few in the blacklisted category. “The Centre is considering this matter and the issue had also surfaced during the SAD-BJP regime,” he said.

    He said those who had left the country after getting influenced by the movement have now realised that it was futile effort.

    “Those who have realised that nothing can be achieved through terrorism, are most welcome in the mainstream,” he said.


    Stone-throwers get Rs 500 each: Deputy CM

    Stone-throwers get Rs 500 each: Deputy CM
    Youths throw stone at security forces in Srinagar. File photo

    Srinagar, May 21

    Following the National Investigation Agency’s probe into allegations of Pakistan funding Kashmir separatists, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh has asserted that youth are paid Rs 500 each for throwing stones in the Valley.“As Pakistan has failed four times in direct wars, they are investing in such means, whether it’s money through hawala or fake money through these leaders who claim to be representatives of Kashmiris. Actually, they are traitors using Kashmiri people. The young boys are given Rs 500 to throw stones,” said the Deputy Chief Minister here on Sunday.However, he asserted that the government was maintaining a watch on the situation and would take strict action as per law. — ANI

    25 of 60 bunkers funded by Centre yet to be constructed

    25 of 60 bunkers funded by Centre yet to be constructed
    A bunker near the Line of Control in the Akhnoor subdivision of Jammu. Tribune Photo

    Dinesh Manhotra

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, May 21

    The recent displacement of border inhabitants from the Nowshera sector of Rajouri district has once again exposed the casual approach being adopted by the PDP-BJP government in constructing concrete community bunkers for which the amount has been sanctioned by the Central government.Official sources said that in December 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had sanctioned Rs 3 crore for 60 bunkers on the borders for civilians as a pilot project.“Out of the 60 sanctioned bunkers, only 35 have been constructed so far. Each bunker can accommodate 20 persons during emergency. The state government, however, has failed to utilise the funds sanctioned for 60 bunkers,” a source said, adding that the work on the remaining 25 is yet to be started or is going on at a snail’s pace.Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had admitted on the floor of the Assembly on January 23 this year that just 35 bunkers had been constructed under the Border Action Development Programme (BADP) in the border areas of Jammu district.The sources said that in 2015, the state government had made a proposal to the MHA for constructing 20,125 community-type bunkers along the Line of Control and International Border for the safety of residents living in border areas of J&K. Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri and Kupwara districts were selected for these bunkers. The total cost of the project was Rs 1,000 crore.The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its 203rd report, which was laid before the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on April 11 this year, has also flayed the state government for adopting delay tactics in constructing bunkers. The committee is headed by former Home Minister P Chidambaram.Though Minister for Rural Development Department (RDD) Abdul Haq Khan did not respond to repeated phone calls, Minister of State for RDD Sunil Sharma, who belongs to the BJP, said he would look into the matter. “I will check who is responsible for adopting a casual approach towards constructing bunkers in border areas,” Sharma told The Tribune.House panel slams sluggish approachThe Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in a report presented before the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha in April 11 this year stated: “The committee is anguished to note the sluggish progress of the project to construct bunds, metalled roads and bunkers along the fence in the Jammu sector. The committee feels that lack of adequate all-weather connectivity in border areas will keep the border in Jammu region vulnerable to external threats like infiltration. The committee, therefore, recommends that the ministry should fast-track the project to construct roads, bunds and bunkers along the fence and start the construction work at the earliest”.

    Do reconsider, my Lords…by..Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd)

    Judicial overreach in some cases puzzling

    Do reconsider, my Lords...
    ON GUARD: The Indian Army is responsible and acts only when it absolutely must.

    WE in the military and,  indeed, the bulk of the citizens of the country, have always looked upon the higher judiciary with great respect. Despite a few ‘bad apples’ in its midst, which were recently found to be infested with the proverbial worms, the sagacity of the higher judiciary continues to be admired. Lately, however, the overreach of the judiciary is puzzling to say the least. I feel it a duty to draw the attention of the honourable Lordships to some jarring judgments that have upset a large number of citizens, particularly the men and women who belong to the uniformed fraternity. My Lords, let me start by your recent judgment on lodging FIRs against Army personnel who kill a terrorist, insurgent, militant, or any person breaking the law of the land while carrying out assigned tasks of neutralising any and everyone who is spreading mayhem, panic, attacking the military or other uniformed personnel and civilians too; or destroying government or private property.My Lords, being highly learned, I am sure you are aware that the Army, personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces, state armed police and other police personnel deployed in J&K are waging a new and extremely difficult kind of war against insurgents of all kinds, in areas that are highly disturbed, at the express behest and full support of a dastardly neighbour, well-known for its hatred for all things Indian. Your Lordships must be aware that this is a war against an unseen enemy, who sticks to no rules of war or high-grade conflict; who is religiously motivated by self-serving religious heads, even to the extent of committing suicide because that is what their motivators, trainers and leaders have drilled in their heads over and over, till they have shifted from thinking men and women to zombies of the worst kind.I am certain your Lordships are also aware that the Indian Army is fighting this vicious war under the rubric of ‘Aid to Civil Authority’, a well-known and formalised doctrine for the Army’s secondary role. The important tenets of this doctrine are ‘use of minimum force’; ‘all actions in good faith’; ‘adhering to the law of the land’; and always keeping in mind that they are dealing with misguided (a highly inadequate word for these ‘violent’ people) country men and women. All ranks of the Army are fully aware and act under these tenets while conducting operations, but when their own life and the task assigned to them have reached the highest and thinnest point of the needle, they act, and even in doing so ensure that there is no or least collateral damage.Even when there was ample scope for a de novo look at the entire issue, when a curative petition had been filed by the government, you chose to uphold your earlier directions of July 8, 2016, wherein the registration of an FIR against armed forces personnel has been made mandatory for every encounter death. My Lords, is it then not a judgment that completely ignores ground realities?My Lords, you are no doubt aware of the well-known saying ‘the law is an ass’. This proverbial expression of English origin (from a play published by English dramatist George Chapman in 1654, Revenge for Honour), calls into question the rigid application of the law and by no means casts any aspersions on the grasp of the law by person(s) pronouncing judgment. Hence, the present issue does not fall into this category either.However, a point relative to this is that the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) continues to be in force in J&K; and Section 7 of the Act stipulating that no legal proceedings shall be instituted against armed forces personnel acting in good faith, except with the previous sanction of the Central government, continues to be operative. So, the young men and women laying their lives on the line cannot understand two diametrically opposite judgments! No officer or soldier wants to kill wantonly, but if there is a threat to the country’s sovereignty, he will either kill or get killed. Surely, My Lords, these could not have been your intentions.My Lords, the next issue relates to a landmark judgment by your august court, delivered on December 10,  2014, relating to the issue of broad-banding or rounding off of disability pension of all military personnel. In this judgment, you had forthrightly dismissed all appeals of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made over a number of years and had given full relief to over 800 affected military personnel that forced the ministry to remove all impediments and give all dues to the affected personnel, with arrears.While this was a historic judgment hailed by all, no one perhaps has pointed it out to your Lordships that the MoD, instead of cancelling their policy letter of January 31, 2001, chose to wrongly interpret your wise decision and insisted that this judgment was only applicable to those who had filed cases in the higher courts, which you had so wisely clubbed together. Resultantly, it has refused to give benefits of your judgment to thousands of others, who were directed to approach AFTs or High Courts for their cases to be eligible for the benefits of broadbanding! My Lords, is this not a travesty of justice when the highest court in the land has dismissed all excuses and submissions made by the MoD?My Lords, I ask you in all humility whether our disabled jawans can file such suits or need to, when your sage judgment prevails.My third issue has little to do with the military but has affected businesses and jobs at a large scale. I am referring to your recent judgment, My Lords, on imposing a ban on the sale of liquor within 500 metres of a national highway. In an era when the numbers of unemployed are increasing because of the inability of the government to create sufficient jobs, your judgment has resulted in additional large-scale laying off; brought down drastically the price of property along highways and exponentially increased property prices artificially away from highways. I am sure you were clearly focused on reducing fatalities on account of drunk driving. My view as a layman has always been that the government has no business in trying to change how the polity dresses, eats, drinks and carries out its day-to-day functions. Unfortunately, our political leaders have not learnt this basic issue of governance. Now, the judiciary, as the highest and most important watchdog of the nation, has meddled with this aspect, when other options are available to reduce fatalities. May I request your Lordships to revisit this judgment too and bring succour to the affected people?





    The writer is a former Vice-Chief of Army Staff

    Start talks in Kashmir now or there will be no one to talk to

    islamism is on the rise in the Valley and the separatists are fast losing control of the street


    If you watched the captions that scream out at you from your TV screens every night, their flaming orange hues designed to add to the heat, you would think that complex truths of the turmoil in Kashmir can be squeezed into 140 characters — just perfect for the Twitter age. But, like Akira Kuroswa’s Rashomon (Four people give different accounts of a rape and a murder) taught us, there can be multiple truths. Here are eight truths about Kashmir, seemingly paradoxical; simultaneously truthful.

    APA Kashmiri student uses his necktie as a sling to throw stones at policemen as they clash in Srinagar, May 15

    Things in the Valley have not been this bad in two decades. I don’t measure this by violence, terrorism and fatalities — we have seen much worse years on that count. I say this because battling Pakistan’s armed proxies is much more straightforward than taking on your own people on the street. And cloaking militancy with a protective sheet of civilian agitations, women and teenagers among them, means many of the old conflict zone formulas won’t work.

    Pakistan’s presence as instigator is at once more visible and more covert. Travel through villages of south Kashmir and you will see many more Pakistani flags than ever before. Quiz Kashmiris about why and some will laugh and say, “It’s just to irritate you people; it’s the one thing that always works.” But, if earlier Pakistan’s role was easier to track, through infiltration, exfiltration and training camps across the border — now it is insidious, engineered through sophisticated social media videos and hawala transactions. Terrorism has not stopped targeting security personnel but propaganda has become a more critical weapon than earlier.

    Unlike the hashtag nationalism of venom spewing anchors, the Army definitely wants political outreach. Soldiers do not want to be used as a substitute for either politicians or policemen. In fact the Army is not in favour of being deployed in situations that pit it against the locals. In the past several high ranking officers have refused to be drawn into managing violent street protests. Lt General DS Hooda, the erudite and neverfrazzled officer who oversaw the surgical strikes across the Line of Control, told me that it was a ‘missed opportunity’ to not build on the strikes with a simultaneous domestic effort in the Valley. He points out that in addition to putting pressure on Pakistan it was as important to “address the internal situation in Kashmir which had started calming down by this time.”

    Elections in the state have been absolutely free and fair since 2002 but while poll participation signals an institutional improvement it does not mitigate the separatist sentiment. The fatal flaw in conflating voter-turnout with ‘normalcy’ has returned to haunt us with the dismal showing in the Srinagar bypolls. We are trapped by the obvious corollary; if high voter numbers mean a rejection of secessionism what does the lowest voting statistic in 30 years (down to 2% in some parts of Srinagar, under 7% overall) tell us about how Kashmiris feel?

    Yes, the Hurriyat gets from money and other support from Pakistan to instigate trouble in the state. But several of its members have also been courted on the backchannel by our intelligence agencies for years, obviously with different intents than Islamabad. Former R&AW chief AS Dulat outed the worst-kept secret when he revealed that not just separatists, but even militants had been engaged by Indian sleuths, both politically and financially. “So what’s wrong; it’s done the world over,” Dulat told me. “Corrupting someone with money is more ethical and smarter than killing him.”

    Every separatist or militant who has attempted dialogue with New Delhi has been assassinated by Pakistan. The Vajpayee government succeeded in bringing a faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen, led by Abdul Majid Dar, to the table for talks. He was killed soon after. As was Hurriyat representative, Abdul Gani Lone, whose son Sajad is a minister in the present coalition government. A mechanism that provides security and relevance to men willing to give up the gun has not yet taken root in Kashmir even 28 years after the insurgency began.

    The problem remains political but radicalisation and a growing Islamism is real.

    I met a teenage boy strapped to a hospital bed who marched for slain militant Burhan Wani because he “protects Islam.” The Internet has made many angry young Kashmiris part of a global ‘ummah,’ exposing them to more fundamental strains of Islam. Both Wani and his successor Zakir Bhat released videos calling for a Caliphate. One officer argues, “Earlier Islam was a subset of azaadi; now azaadi is a subset of Islam.”

    If New Delhi does not start a dialogue process soon, there will be no one to talk to. Separatists have only pocket boroughs of influence and they are fast losing control of the street.

    Pak firing triggers fresh migration along LoC Truce violation in Balakote, 500 more villagers take refuge in relief camps

    Arteev Sharma

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, May 17

    The constant fear of mortar shelling and firing from the Pakistan side has triggered fresh migration from villages close to the Line of Control in Rajouri district, with nearly 500 more border villagers reaching relief camps till Wednesday evening.The fresh migration has been reported from Pukharni, Lam and Jahangar areas close to the LoC. The administration is expecting more migration from border belts in view of the growing apprehension of fresh firing and shelling from the other side of the border.The Pakistan army, meanwhile, continued to target the Indian forward posts, though intermittently, in violation of the truce pact. According to official sources, the Pakistan army resorted to heavy firing at forward posts along the LoC in the Balakote sector of Poonch district early Wednesday morning. “They (Pakistan) violated the ceasefire again by firing at Indian forward posts and civilians areas, located in the 12-km range of Tarkundi-Lohar Gali belt on the LoC. First, they targeted two forward posts Lanjote and Dadot around 5 am for a few minutes and later resumed firing around 7.30 am on the entire Tarkundi-Lohar Gali belt till 9 am,” a source said.A defence spokesperson, however, said: “Pakistan resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation in the Balakote sector from 12.50 am to 1.30 am on the intervening night of May 16 and May 17. Our troops retaliated strongly and gave a befitting reply to Pakistan firing”.“Fresh migration of border people has taken place from Pukharni, Lam and Jahangar areas as 435 more villagers shifted to relief camps today. Till now, a total of 2,180 people of 540 families are staying in five relief camps set up by the administration,” said Rajouri Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary. On May 13, Pakistani troops had pounded civilian areas and forward posts in the Nowshera area with mortars, killing two civilians and injuring three. The firing from the other side of the LoC triggered migration in the area besides closure of educational institutions.

    1,000 evacuated as Pakistani troops shell border villages in Rajouri

    1,000 evacuated as Pakistani troops shell border villages in Rajouri
    Border residents take shelter at a government school in Rajouri district. PTI

    Jammu, May 14

    Pakistani troops heavily shelled areas along the LoC in Rajouri district for the second consecutive day on Sunday, causing heavy damage to buildings and forcing evacuation of 1,000 border residents.

    The Indian Army effectively retaliated.

    The Pakistan Army had on Saturday pounded civilian areas and forward posts along the LoC in Nowshera area with mortars, killing two civilians and injuring three. “The Pakistani Army has resorted to indiscriminate firing of small arms, 82 mm and 120 mm mortars from 0645 hours along the Line of Control in Rajouri sector,” a defence spokesman said.


    “The Indian Army posts are retaliating strongly and effectively. The firing is presently on,” he said.

    Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, said fresh ceasefire violation has been reported in ‘chitibakri’ area of Chingus in Rajouri today.

    “Heavy shelling started in Manjakote area of Rajouri at O620 hours. More than seven villages have been affected”, the Deputy Commissioner said.

    Choudhary said there was massive damage to buildings. He said the number of migrants at relief camps swelled to 978 overnight. Till now 259 families have been evacuated from three villages, he added.

    Fifty-one schools in Nowshera sector have been closed for an indefinite period, while 36 in Manjakote and Doongi zones have been shut for three days. Nearly 4,600 students study in 87 schools, he added.

    After the Pakistani shelling, 1,000 people were evacuated from various areas along the LoC in Rajouri district to safer places.

    “Risking their lives officials and the police evacuated 996 people from various shelling-hit villages and shifted them to various camps established by district administration where facilities of ration, cooking, drinking water, sanitation, first aid and proper accommodation have been provided,” Choudhary said.

    So far, three camps have been made operational and 28 others notified in wake of expected migration from affected villages, Choudhary said.

    “Six ambulances have been pressed into action for shifting of injured and treatment. One mobile medical unit was stationed at Nowshera and another deputed to forward areas,” he added.

    Around 120 officers from various departments have been deployed to organise facilities at relief camp.

    The district administration has provided immediate relief and financial assistance to the next of kin of the deceased and to the injured, he said.

    A control room has been established in the office of Nowshera SDM for coordination.

    The government had last month said that Pakistani security forces had violated the ceasefire 268 times in the last one year.

    The ceasefire between India and Pakistan came into force in November 2003. — PTI


    As a mark of solidarity with the bereaved family of martyr
    IMG-20170513-WA0044 IMG-20170513-WA0045
    Lt Ummer Fayaz, who was treacherously killed by  the terrorists on 10 May 17 while on leave,  Victor Force Commander Maj Gen B S Raju alongwith DC and SP Kulgam and other officials from Army, Police and Civil Administration visited his house to attend the ‘Chahrrum’. The family was assured of all assistance from the Army and that the perpetrators of this dastardly act would be brought to justice.
                Maj Gen Raju met the family members and presented a cheque of Rs 75 Lakhs on behalf of the Army. To honour the martyr it has been decided to rename the Army Goodwill School Behibagh as ‘Shaheed Lt Ummer Fayaz Goodwill School’. The DC also presented a cheque of exgratia amount from J & K Govt, and announced that Govt job would be provided to the family members of the martyred hero. Cheques from Central AWWA Ex – Gratia Grant and National Defence Fund were also presented to the family by an officer of 2 RAJPUTANA Rifles, the unit in which Lt Ummer Fayaz was commissioned.
                The General Officer while condemning this dastardly act called upon all sections of the society to join hands in putting an end to the bloodshed in Kashmir. He also urged the elders to sensitise the misguided youth to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream and contribute towards nation building.

    HEADLINES “”12 MAY 2017





    Army officer’s killing raises fear of more violence













    How Punjab can pack in a power punch
    AAP’s Punjab predicament
    Soon, Rs7-cr subsidy for border belt
    HC: Behoves a minister?



    How Punjab can pack in a power punch

    Bhupinder Singh

    The government should immediately initiate a process for acquiring a thermal plant of super-critical technology by infusing equity. Money can be arranged by disposing of unviable generation assets. A revamp will bring long-term benefits to the state.

    THE supply of electricity at affordable rates has assumed utmost importance for the government as well as consumers The average rate of electricity in Punjab, with the projected expenditure of Rs 3,2718 crore for the year 2017-18, shall be Rs 6.82 per unit. This comprises of Rs 3.74 towards power purchase, Rs1.11 towards employee expenses, 38 paise as fuel charges, 77 paise as interest burden, 25 paise as transmission charges,  and 57 paise towards operations and maintenance charges,  return on equity and depreciation cost. After adding government levies, the rate shall be around Rs 8 per unit.Therefore, the reduction of tariff so as to attract industrial investment in the state is a challenging task.

    Comparison of rates

    Last year, the per unit rate charged from the consumers is Rs 5.65 in UP, Rs 7.52 in Haryana, Rs 6.83 in Rajasthan, Rs 7.31 in Delhi and Rs 5.79 in Punjab. However, Punjab collects nearly Rs1.15 for each unit of electricity as the government levies against only 15 paise per unit in Haryana, 8 paise per unit in U.P and 60 paise per unit in Rajasthan. The final average cost of electricity to the consumers which is sum of government levies and tariff cost is around Rs 6.94 per unit in Punjab compared to Rs 7.67 for Haryana, Rs 5.73 for UP, Rs 7.49 for Rajasthan and Rs 7.68 for Delhi.The Centre has launched Ujjawal DISCOM Assurance Yojna scheme to enable state goverments to take over the outstanding debt of the distribution companies which stands at Rs 26,000 crore for Haryana, Rs 39,908 crore for UP, Rs 60,397 crore for Rajasthan and Rs 15,628 crore for Punjab — as on September 30, 2015. Haryana, U.P and Rajasthan have committed to take over debt in first three years of operation of the scheme. On the contrary, Punjab shall takeover debt only in the fifth year of the operation of the scheme, that is in 2020-21.The scheme also mandates tariff  hike of  5 per cent in 2016-17 and 9 per cent in 2017-18 to ensure financial sustainability of PSPCL. Contrary to this, tariff in Punjab was reduced by (-) 0.65 per cent last year.

    Technical & commercial losses

    Punjab is the only state in North India which has been able to control the theft of power and has achieved reduction of aggregate technical and commercial losses below 15 per cent. The pillar-box scheme, initiated by PSPCL engineers, worked as a game changer in bringing down the aggregate technical and commercial losses from around 22 per cent in 2010 to 14.63 per cent in 2016.However, there are many divisions where these losses are still high such as Bhikhiwind (40.54 per cent), Patti (35.10 per cent), Malout (37.90 per cent), Badal (29.67 per cent), Jalalabad (28.12 per cent), Amritsar (28.17 per cent) and Abohar (28 per cent). Punjab can achieve further reduction of losses by 3-4 per cent if pillar boxes are installed in these areas. This is possible only with strong government support.In comparison, the aggregate technical and commercial losses of Haryana are 28.05 per cent, Rajasthan 25 per cent and UP  32.36 per cent which indicate higher power theft levels in these states. Interestingly, the south distribution company of Gujarat with a similar agricultural base as Punjab has losses of more than 25 per cent. Punjab shall be paying the subsidy bill of Rs 8,000 crore this year. This includes Rs 5,807 crore for agricultural power (AP). Last year, Haryana paid  Rs 6,434 crore as AP subsidy for supplying  9,094 MUs of agriculture power at the rate of Rs 6.64 per unit. In contrast, Punjab  paid Rs 5,187 crore for supplying 1,1327 MUs of agricultural power at the rate of Rs 4.58 per unit. If Punjab pays subsidy on the Haryana pattern, then the tariff rate of other consumers can be reduced by 37 p/unit.Punjab has three thermal plants under the state sector — 460 MW at Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP), Bathinda, 1260 MW at Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP), Ropar and 920 MW at Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant (GHTP,), Lehra Mohabbat and three thermal plants — 1400 MW at Rajpura, 1980 MW at Talwandi Sabo and 540 MW at Goindwal Sahib — have been added in the private sector. The share of state thermal plants in the energy availability has gone down from 38 per cent to 8 per cent in the last five years and share of hydel power hasreduced from 19 per cent to 12 per cent.New private sector plants built on super-critical technology are more efficient than the ageing state plants. The generation cost is lower in the case of these plants. However, it has resulted in non-utilisation of cheap and good quality coal available from the state-owned Pachhwara coal mine. If this is used, it can reduce generation cost by around 30 p/unit. The primary reason for this has been that Punjab does not own a thermal plant operating on super-critical technology. Surplus power and fixed chargesPower utilities arrange power from various sources to supply uninterrupted power to the consumers. The power is then supplied as per the demand of the system which has seasonal and daily variations. This results in the payment of some amount of fixed charges even for unutilised power to the central sector plants, state plants and private sector plants. Punjab has 25000 MU i.e. 30 per cent surplus power and even Delhi with 9745 MU has 30 per cent surplus power. The consumers have to bear fixed charges to avoid power cuts.There are no power cuts in Punjab even for the rural consumers and no regulatory measures for the industry.The government can ensure financial sustainability of the power companies as well as reduce the electricity tariff  by 40 p/unit if it takes over debt as per UDAY scheme, by Re1/unit by rationalising  govt levies and by 25 p/unit by installing pillar boxes in high theft areas. In this way, tariff can be reduced immediately by Rs 1.65 per unit. The government should immediately initiate process for acquiring a thermal plant of super-critical technology by infusing equity which can be arranged by disposing off unviable generation assets. Besides huge tangible and intangible long-term benefits to the state, it shall reduce generation cost by 65p/unit by saving of fixed and variable charges. Electricity is the driving force for all other sectors of economy. Its cost reduction can reap in huge dividends elsewhere. The writer is President, Punjab Power Engineers Association

    AAP’s Punjab predicament

    Need to carve out a distinctive personality

    AAP’s Punjab predicament

    FOR a party predicated on a limited but please-all agenda of cracking down on corruption and drugs, AAP’s denouement in Punjab was not hard to predict once it fell well short of the half-way mark in the assembly polls. After its near-total eclipse in the Delhi municipal corporation polls, it was natural for its Punjab leaders to snipe at each other in the scramble to bag the limited number of posts up for grabs or desert the party for better vistas. There are also indications that many state-level leaders who still remain, either because they are legislators or they have burnt their bridges with alternative political choices, are chafing with AAP’s Delhi durbar continuing to hold the reins.The churning within AAP in Punjab is not unique to it. Many political parties have experienced a loss of faith following a debilitating electoral loss. The departure of leaders like Gurpreet Ghuggi is to be expected where the spoils of office aren’t forthcoming. India’s first-past-the-post electoral system hardly gives any solace to the runner-up but AAP remains a beacon of hope in the believers of alternative politics. Its internal squabbles, too many to recount, have prevented it from reshaping itself as the principal opposition party in the state. One reason is that AAP leaders are largely reposing their faith in social media to send their messages across.The need of the hour for AAP is to put the electoral loss behind it. When it comes to introspection, AAP’s cause will be better served if it carves out a more consensual mechanism for stock-taking and charting out the future course of action. This was supposed to be a party which listened to the people. Given that Punjab’s society is multi-layered, AAP has to build a collegiate approach and pick and choose its target electorate and issues. The Punjab Government is currently riding its honeymoon phase. Space will soon open up for an issue-based Opposition. AAP should ready itself for that eventuality. The desertions will affect the top deck and the quarter of the electorate that opted for its candidates should not be let down.

    Soon, Rs7-cr subsidy for border belt

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, May 11

    Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today directed his Principal Secretary to expedite the release of pending subsidy to the tune of Rs 7 crore for the development of industry in the border areas of Tarn Taran and Amritsar.The directive followed a request for the release of the subsidy by a delegation of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), which called on him to discuss steps to revive the state’s ailing industry.The Chief Minister assured the delegation of full infrastructural support by his government along with uninterrupted power at affordable rates for the industry.Amarinder said he had personally received stupendous response from the country’s top industry leaders during his visit to Mumbai to promote Punjab as an attractive investment destination recently.Observing that the state has surplus power, the CM said his government was studying options to sell surplus power to neighbouring countr

    ies such as Pakistan and Nepal, and he had urged the PM to formulate a policy for the same.He informed the delegation that the Ambanis were ready to supply power to the state at Rs 5 per unit, which was much cheaper than the actual cost of generation in the state.

    HC: Behoves a minister?

    Rejects AG’s plea against PIL on Sidhu in ‘spicy comedy’

    HC: Behoves a minister?
    Navjot Singh Sidhu

    Sanjeev Singh Bariana

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, May 11

    The Punjab and Haryana High Court today did not accept the plea of the Punjab Advocate General who questioned the “maintainability” of a public interest litigation (PIL) against propriety of Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu appearing in a popular “spicy comedy” television series, “The Kapil Sharma Show”.“Lakhs follow the example set by ministers, and their public conduct is watched. In such a situation, can a minister resort to a conduct that is not in consonance with dignity and status of a Cabinet Minister?” a Division Bench of Justices SS Saron and Darshan Singh asked the AG.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)The observation came in response to a PIL by advocate HC Sharma, asking the Punjab Government “if it was appropriate for Tourism, Cultural Affairs and Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to appear in a TV show?”The court heard arguments for two hours before adjourning proceedings till August 2.AG Atul Nanda said the PIL was not maintainable under the 2010 HC  guidelines. The AG said the code of conduct for ministers was not enforceable through courts.Unimpressed, the Bench observed that an issue of public importance had been raised.Petitioner Sharma said Sidhu was not only participating in “Kapil Sharma Show” but also appearing in an advertisement promoting a “magic machine” for learning spoken English. He quoted the 2004 judgment of the Supreme Court in Jayalalithaa’s case, wherein referring to enforceability of the code of conduct, the SC had observed that “morally speaking, can there be one law for small officials and another law for the CM?Is the code of conduct meant only to be kept as an ornamental relic in a museum, but not to be practised?”