Monthly Archives: NOVEMBER 2017


PUNJAB VIDHAN SABHA
They are publishing a new book, so please go read an old one
30.11.17 - S Pal
They are publishing a new book, so please go read an old one



Noisy? Tantrums? Falling level of debate? Critique of Punjab Vidhan Sabha sessions needs to be more informed
 
JOURNALISM IN OUR times is of tick-a-box variety. So, a day after newspapers carried headlines describing scenes inside and outside the Punjab Assembly, expect lament-dripping analysis bemoaning the falling level of debate, use of unparliamentary language and scant discussion on most relevant issues. There will be cursory mentions of the few bills passed but the focus will remain on the ruling Congress' surprise Resolution against some opposition legislators who seemingly dragged higher judiciary into the mud of corruption allegations.

This is how Vidhan Sabha sessions are covered: A broadspectrum criticism of Assembly sitting for too few days, routine demands by opposition that the session's duration be enhanced, a couple of walkouts, a few on-the-spot tantrums, impromptu press conferences over famed pakoras of Punjab Vidhan Sabha's tea-pakora-dispensing press room, and journos looking out for something worthy of a news headline.
 
 Also Read: THE LOOT THAT RAJASTHAN COMMITTED – An insult bigger than Bollywood’s Padmawati!

Anything more serious, and a sense of ennui sets in. An MLA studying the draft of a bill for days, referencing and marshalling arguments in support or opposition of a particular sub-clause and making a long winded extremely intelligent speech in the Assembly is likely to find his name mentioned among "those who also spoke."

As a result, legislators also seem to have given up. A brave soul now and then makes an effort, but is frustrated by our notion of how to judge and assess the functioning of this law making body. Gradually, even a Kanwar Sandhu will realise that it is easier to make it to the headlines by sitting next to a loudmouth, than by bringing the weight of his intelligence to bear on a debate.
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No matter in which state of India you are, no matter whether it is an Assembly or Parliament, and no matter in which decade of India's Independence did you raise this question about the diminishing quality of debate in legislatures, you will receive the same discouraging answer: that legislators in the past used to make brilliant speeches, that debates used to be of much better quality, that MPs or MLAs were less inclined to jump into the well, that Assembly's or Parliament's proceedings used to receive wider media display and that an MP or MLA used to command more respect.
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What can be more exalted than a representative assembly deliberating on matters of common concern? 

Lamenting the decline of Assembly's functioning is nothing new, but I am tempted to quote Michael Oakeshott (the English philosopher and political theorist who impacted our understanding of philosophy of history, religion, aesthetics, education and law as perhaps few others did) that whenever a new book is published, one should go and read an old one. 

No matter in which state of India you are, no matter whether it is an Assembly or Parliament, and no matter in which decade of India's Independence did you raise this question about the diminishing quality of debate in legislatures, you will receive the same discouraging answer: that legislators in the past used to make brilliant speeches, that debates used to be of much better quality, that MPs or MLAs were less inclined to jump into the well, that Assembly's or Parliament's proceedings used to receive wider media display and that an MP or MLA used to command more respect.

As I said, you will do yourself little favour by reading such analysis. No point buying a new book that says only what you could read in the old one.

Few people understand that an Assembly does not function only when it is in session, just as the Parliament's functioning extends over an arc much larger than the duration when the two houses meet. Legislative bodies in India — Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and State Assemblies — do their work through standing committees which have become the principal instrument to ensure executive accountability.
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Given the diverse nature of the electorate, the politician has developed a grammar of political language that is outside the grasp of English media which sees walkouts and noisy interruptions as negation of serious debate. 
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The lamenting hordes in journalism, politics and the larger civil society must understand that the days of elitism have long passed, and democratic spaces today are likely to witness heated contests and fights for legitimacy. Thus, it was natural for Parliament and Assembly sessions to become arenas for public posturing, point scoring and legitimacy-garnering tantrums.

Given the diverse nature of the electorate, the politician has developed a grammar of political language that is outside the grasp of English media which sees walkouts and noisy interruptions as negation of serious debate. It cannot wrap its head around Ludhiana's Bains brothers MLA duo's choice of timing to reveal a controversial audio recording, nor can it understand the stratagem of the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra springing a surprise with a resolution condemning the audio clip's release.

The elitist lamenting tribe needs to understand that democratic functioning cannot proceed in a single language. The din-raising debate in the Assembly was one variety, the serious work undertaken by the legislators in Standing Committees is another.

Much of the real lawmaking happens in Standing Committees where MLAs of both ruling and opposition sides sit together in a more convivial atmosphere, without the pressure of performing for the media, and come up with legislation that is much tempered with concerns of various sections of society.
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The shenanigans of politicians across the treasury-opposition divide is not why legislative functioning is on a decline; in fact, the shenanigans are merely a symptom of the decline. More important is the near total effacement of the individual legislator.
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Our media focusses far too little on the structure of committees set up by the House, their mandate, the rules and directions governing these and the conventions these follow. Also, the effectiveness of the overall control of the speaker and the chairman on these committees are factors that warrant serious examination. 

Also, any criticism of the three-day session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha that dwells upon the Assembly session being too short, or why the ruling Congress or the opposition Akali Dal have a vested interest in silencing a Sukhpal Khaira, or why sections of the ruling Congress would actually feel happy about Khaira directly taking on CM Amarinder Singh or Minister Rana Gurjit must contend with other concomitant factors if it has to make any sense.

The shenanigans of politicians across the treasury-opposition divide is not why legislative functioning is on a decline; in fact, the shenanigans are merely a symptom of the decline.

More important is the near total effacement of the individual legislator. Individual MLAs are now almost completely dependent upon the party leadership.

The noise that you see emanating from the House is indicative of the fact that some MLAs have still not been effaced completely. Too few have a social or political base that gives them a sense of being secure. A Sukhpal Khaira, the Bains brothers, a Brahm Mohindra, a Navjot Sidhu can stand their own ground against a party hierarchy. 

Also, our legislators are not free to speak their mind (so at times the electorate cannot even judge if they have one). All that the anti-defection law does is to prohibit them for crossing the floor when it comes to voting on a bill. In practice, the party whips have become ubiquitous and any MLA speaking against a bill or line of the government finds herself/himself becoming a persona non grata in the eyes of the party leader. It is time we reassess the impact of the anti-defection act on the quality of the legislative debate.

Imagine a Donald Trump having the power of anti-defection act! Obamacare would have been shredded long back, and Republicans would have been required to refer to many fellow Congress and Senate members, listed by POTUS, as Pocahontas. 
 

Clearly, there is a need to restrict whips to only certain classes of issues so that the democratic space for individuality remains protected and MLAs can be judged on their record rather than a party whip. Is it too much to hope from the elitist media to make a case for a performing MLA? Should she or he remain at the mercy of the Party Machine?

Why must MLAs or seekers of a party ticket remain solely dependent on the whims of one super boss? If the fate of a large number of MLAs rests on one boss or a very small coterie that hardly functions in a democratic manner, then how can the will of the people prevail? How can an MLA or a wanna be MLA feel that she or he is responsible to her or his constituency more than to the leader?

The first point of any progressive news analysis of the Assembly session must be on how to prevent it from becoming a tug of war between Amarinder and Sukhbir, and at least to make it Congress versus Akali Dal. A more progressive approach towards making the Assembly an arena for incremental advances in democracy will follow as the natural corollary.
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The fact is that most of our MLAs are simply not equipped to deal with the complexities of modern legislation and representation. The path is lined with temptations. Policy formulation has become much more complex while class strife has become much sharper. 
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The moment you engage with this aspect, you are likely to run into another wall - the internal democracy of political parties.

To hope that our Assembly session-reviewing media hacks will wax eloquent about the composition of the House, the breakdown of social hierarchies as evidenced in the election of some of the AAP MLAs and a few of other parties, the ignorant social contempt among many social elites for elected representatives, the asymmetry between politics and the media, will be a little too much.

And the public knows as much. The bandwidth of messaging has increased manifold with the expansion of platforms - newspapers, television channels, social media. Naturally, debates have been simply rendered less important. But when even sober politicians find that their ability to control the message and be self-possessed is gone, citizens make enough room to negate media's elitism.
 

"MLA Sahib, yeh sarrak mein gadda kyon hai?" kind of brigade is the darling of the media which feeds upon schizophrenic constituent expectations. It signifies a paradoxical attitude towards the elected legislators. People shriek that the elected man or woman must serve their particular interest, and are then contemptuous of them precisely for this reason.

The fact is that most of our MLAs are simply not equipped to deal with the complexities of modern legislation and representation. The path is lined with temptations. Policy formulation has become much more complex while class strife has become much sharper. 

As Pratap Bhanu Mehta once said, "Never was it clearer than it is today that Nature shows no disposition to produce men with a greatness proportioned to the scale of the problems they have to solve." In such a situation, we need to ensure that our elected representatives have the right kind of institutional support. Instead, they are subjected to an analysis of the Assembly session that could have been written five years back, or ten.
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In the last few years, MLAs have proved that blocking an Assembly forces government to respond on an issue. It is time they prove that making an Assembly work will ensure that the government remains responsive.
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We are not just failing the readers with such an approach; we are failing even the MLAs. The fact is that most state legislatures are in tatters and the situation suits party honchos the most who find it easier to govern.
 
However, this will benefit the ruler in the short run but will have serious consequences for democracy in the long run. The demand for more extensive debates, less ubiquitous party whips, more time to read the draft bills, more discussions with experts, broader consultations with various interest groups, mechanisms for extensive briefings etc must come from the MLAs themselves.

A Vidhan Sabha will be taken as seriously as its members take it seriously. Also, how seriously is a Vidhan Sabha taken must be made a test for its Chief Minister, its Parliamentary Affairs Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the ranking members. 

In the last few years, MLAs have proved that blocking an Assembly forces government to respond on an issue. It is time they prove that making an Assembly work will ensure that the government remains responsive.

Otherwise they can keep publishing new books, and you can keep reading an old one.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT

 




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CODE OF CONDUCT COMES INTO FORCE IMMEDIATELY
Dates for polls in 3 muncipal corporations & 32 nagar panchyats announced
30.11.17 - TEAM PT
Dates for polls in 3 muncipal corporations & 32 nagar panchyats announced



Chandigarh: The State Election Commissioner, Punjab, Jagpal Singh Sandhu here today announced the schedule for the elections to the 3 Municipal Corporations of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala and 32 Nagar Councils/Nagar Panchayats.
 
With the announcement of the schedule, the model of conduct has come into force immediately in the areas falling within the jurisdiction of concerned corporations and nagar councils/nagar panchayats. The code of conduct would be in force till the completion of the electoral process.
 
Elaborating more during the press conference, Sandhu said that the process for filing the nominations would commence on 2nd December, 2017 at 11 AM and would continue till 3 PM on 6th December which would be the last date for the filing of nominations. The nominations would be scrutinized on 7th December while the date for withdrawal of the nominations would be 8th December which is also the date for allotting the election symbols to the candidates. The voting would be held on 17th December 2017 from 8 AM till 4 PM. The results would be declared on the same day. A total of 26 observers have been appointed for the purpose of looking into the grievances of the people and ensuring the peaceful conduct of the polls. He said that 50% seats will be reserved for the women in corporations  and municipal Council & nagar panchayat.
 
The State Election Commissioner further said that the expenditure limit for a candidate contesting from a ward of the corporations has been fixed at Rs. 2,50,000 lakhs where as the limit for those contesting from a ward of the nagar councils coming under class-1 has been fixed at Rs. 2,25,000. The nagar councils coming under class-2 would have the expenditure limit of Rs. 1,40,000 for a candidate contesting from any of its ward while the candidates contesting from any of the wards of nagar councils falling under class-3 would have to adhere to the expenditure limit of Rs. 1,20,000. Similarly, the candidates contesting from any ward of the nagar panchayats would have to observe the expenditure limit of Rs. 80,000. He further said that this time EVM machines would be used and the voters would have the option of pressing the NOTA button for the first time.
 
Sandhu also said that the voter lists of the 3 municipal corporations and 32 nagar councils as well as the nagar panchayats have been updated till 1st January, 2017 but still if anybody has been left out of the process then he/she can apply for registration as voter till 6th December i.e. the last day of filing the nominations. He appealed to all the voters to participate in the voting process with full zeal.
 
The Election Commissioner also elaborated that for ensuring the appropriate conduct of the polls, 756 polling stations have been set up in Amritsar Municipal Corporation, 563 in Jalandhar and 254 in Patiala. In Barnala 13, in Bathinda 15, in Ferozepur 19, in Fatehgarh Sahib 13, in Hoshiarpur 13, in Kapurthala 37, in Ludhiana 70, in Moga 35, in Mansa 13, in Muktsar Sahib 11, in Pathankot 11, in Sangrur 52, in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar and in Tarntaran 13 polling stations have been set up.
 
The nagar councils/nagar panchayats in which the voting would be held, are:- Rajasansi (Amritsar), Handiaya (Barnala), Amloh (Fatehgarh Sahib), Mallanwala Khas and Makhu (Ferozepur), Bhogpur, Shahkot, Goraya and Bilga (Jalandhar), Dhilwan, Begowal and Bhulath (Kapurthala), Machhiwara, Mullanpur Dakha, Maloud and Sahnewal (Ludhiana), Baghapurana, Dharamkot and Panjtoor (Moga), Bariwala (Muktsar), Ghagga and Ghanour (Patiala), Narot Jaimal Singh (Pathankot), Dirba, Cheema, Ghanouri and Moonak (Sangrur), Khemkaran (Tarntaran), Bhikhi (Mansa), Balachaur (S.B.S. Nagar), Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda) and Mahilpur (Hoshiarpur).




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CENTRAL AGENCY BETTER EQUIPPED TO UNDERTAKE FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS
Punjab hands over targeted killing cases to NIA
30.11.17 - TEAM PT
Punjab hands over targeted killing cases to NIA



Chandigarh: Given the possible national and international ramifications of the conspiracy behind the targeted killings in the state, the Punjab Government has decided to hand over the investigations of seven cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Disclosing this here on Thursday, an official spokesperson said it had been decided to transfer the cases to NIA under Section 6 of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008, since the modus operandi in all the cases was the same.

It had also been found that the interstate as well as international perpetrators/handlers/actors and terrorist/militant angle involved in the criminal conspiracy, to disturb peace and communal harmony in the border state of Punjab by selectively targeting leaders of certain groups, were the same.

The decision to transfer the cases was taken after a NIA team, led by its Director YC Modi, held discussions with officials of Punjab Police on Monday. The two teams mutually felt that the central agency was better equipped to undertake further investigations into the cases. With handlers, conspirators and financiers in all these targeted killing cases operating from foreign soil, in countries such as UK, Canada, Italy etc, the investigations needed to be more broad-based, they both agreed.

Following the decision, CM Captain Amarinder Singh has directed the Punjab Police to hand over all the material in the cases to the NIA for further investigation into the cases, in which the police had recently arrested UK citizen Jagtar Singh Johal and some others to solve the cases of targeted killing of RSS/Shiv Sena/DSS leaders in the state between January 2016 and October 2017. The Chief Minister has directed that complete support be extended to NIA to uncover the full extent of the conspiracy to disturb Punjab’s peace and harmony.

The spokesperson said the move was aimed at ensuring that the foreign based networks conspiring against Punjab are dismantled and action taken against foreign handlers (both organizations and individuals) through cooperation with the Ministry of External Affairs, Interpol, Europol, foreign governments etc. It was vital to crack down on such elements that are carrying out murder and mayhem, and revive terrorism in Punjab.

The decision would also help dispel false, slanderous and orchestrated social media campaign launched by interested governments, organisations and elements to raise funds, and to deter the police and prosecuting agencies from doing their duty, it was felt.

The seven cases being handed over to NIA include killing of RSS leader Ravinder Gosain, in which the investigation had already been handed over to NIA before the terror module was busted by the Punjab Police. Gosain was killed in Ludhiana on October 17 this year.

The government has proposed that the case of the murder of Brig. Jagdish Gagneja, State Vice President RSS, which was being probed by CBI, be also transferred to NIA. Gagneja was killed in Jalandhar in August 2016.

Other cases to be handed over to NIA include January 2016 firing on RSS Shakha at Kidwai Nagar and February 2016 firing on Amit Arora, Local Hindu Leader – both in Ludhiana. The list includes April 2016 Khanna killing of Durga Das Gupta, President, Labour Service Wing, Shiv Sena, Punjab; January 2017 killing of Amit Sharma, Zila Pracharak Hindu Takht IN Ludhiana; February 2017 killing of Dera Sacha Sauda followers Satpal Kumar and his son Ramesh Kumar in Khanna; July 2017 Ludhiana murder of Christian Pastor Sultan Masih.




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SAD MAINTAINS ITS CONTROL
Former SAD MLA elected as new SGPC President
29.11.17 - TEAM PT
Former SAD MLA elected as new SGPC President



Amritsar: Former Punjab minister Gobind Singh Longowal was elected as the 42nd chief of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of the Sikhs, during its annual general house meeting here today.

Longowal, who is the former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA from Dhuri constituency, was elected after he defeated his nearest rival Amrik Singh Shahpur of Dera Baba Nanak by securing 154 votes out of total 169 votes.
 
However, Shahpur was later included in the 11-member executive body after some members of the body insisted. SGPC, which had already announced its 11-member executive body, had to remove one member —Jarnail Singh Kartarpur — from its list.
 
SGPC also elected Gurbachan Singh Karmowala its general secretary, while Raghujit Singh and Harpal Singh were elected as its senior vice-president and junior vice-president respectively.
 
Earlier, SGPC member Bibi Jagir Kaur proposed the name of Gobind Singh Longowal as the next SGPC president. Election for SGPC chief's post were necessitated when a group led by SGPC member Sukhdev Singh Bhaur proposed the name of Amrik Singh Shahpur for the president's post.

Soon after Longowal's election, the SGPC General House also passed a resolution condemning the move to rename Dyal Singh (Evening) College in Delhi as Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya.

Longowal has remained an MLA in 1985, 1997 and 2002. He had also won a by-election from Dhuri in 2015.

A day before the annual elections of the SGPC, its members owing allegiance to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), on Tuesday gave all rights to the party president Sukhbir Singh Badal to choose the next president. The Akali Dal controls the apex gurdwara body owing to its majority in its general house.




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American Sikhs support Panthik Front in SGPC Elections
27.11.17 - PT Bureau
American Sikhs support Panthik Front in SGPC Elections



California: Prominent Sikhs in America are watching the SGPC elections with a keen eye.  Many are pleased that there is now a credible opposition to the domination of the Badal family in the SGPC power structure. Panthik Front led by Sukhdev Singh Bhaur is fielding their own candidate to run for the position of SGPC. Bhaur had resigned from the executive of SGPC following the incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 and due to failure of Badal government to handle the sensitive matters.

Amritpal Singh, Founder of the Visalia Gurdwara in Fresno area, stated "We would appeal to all the SGPC members to really vote with their conscience. They must take a stand in supporting Panthik Front and not support Akali Dal Badal which did not do anything even after the beadbi (desecration) of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargadi."

Also Read: DYAL SINGH COLLEGE TO VANDE MATARAM MAHAVIDYALAYA - A DESIGN NEFARIOUS?
 
Malkiat Singh Bassi, Founder of the Dundalk Gurdwara in Baltimore, said, "We are now hopeful that there are some honest people who are ready to take stand for Guru Granth Sahib and stop the corrupt people controlling our institutions. It is shameful how Akali Dal Badal manipulated SGPC and Akal Takht to give clean chit to Ram Rahim."

Sarabjit Singh, member of the Khalsa Care Foundation Gurdwara in Los Angeles, said, "SGPC is such an important institution and so much good can be done but unfortunately in the last two decades it has been converted into a private enterprise for Badal family and their cohorts. They have let Sikh youth go astray and crores of budget has been used for their own benefit or for their own political campaigns. Sikhi needs to be saved from these anti-panthic people. So we appeal to all the current members to think about Guru Ramdas ji before voting."
 
Also Read: THE LOOT THAT RAJASTHAN COMMITTED – An insult bigger than Bollywood’s Padmawati! 

Dr. Avtar Singh Tinna, a prominent Dentist and well-respected Sikh leader in New York, said, "We are always upset with the way Akal Takht's institution has been weakened and used by Badal and his puppet SGPC presidents. It is about time that we restore the glory and respect to this highest institution. Only way that can be achieved is if we have SGPC in the hands of the people who think about Sikhi rather than themselves."

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Secretary of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and Founder of the National Sikh Campaign, said, "SGPC is so critical for the survival of the Sikhi in Punjab. All its resources have not been used for the betterment of the Sikhs in Punjab especially those who are from the poor and weaker sections. It is so critical that this institution is run efficiently by people who have a vision rather than by the people who are a rubber stamp in the hands of corrupt politicians."

Inder Paul Singh Gadh, Chairman of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Washington, said, "Current Akali leaders have ruined Punjab economically and they have done enormous damage to the respect of Sikh institutions. SGPC has been reduced to a doormat by Sukhbir Badal and his family. They have no record to show how have they used crores of funds to help common Sikhs. or have strengthened Sikhi in villages. Sikhi spirit is down among the youth and they have no role models. All the jathedars and religious leaders have a tarnished image. It is about time we ask our SGPC members to vote for the right people. So we urgently appeal to all SGPC members to vote for the Panthik Front candidate."
 

Harpreet Kaur, Managment member of the Sikh Gurdwara in Washington, DC, said, "In the past, SGPC was run by people who had high moral character and who were inspirational through their own personal examples. Unfortunately, the credibility of the Sikh institution has been reduced nowadays due to the manner the SGPC has been functioning. It is high time that we stand up for the values taught by our Gurus. Sikh women and common people ought to be involved in the functioning of the our institutions and our Panthic affairs. I would support honest people to run SGPC."
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT






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