Monthly Archives: DECEMBER 2017


ORDERS URGENT COMPLETION OF ALL PENDING DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
Amarinder orders release of 23 crore for decongesting Landra Junction
18.12.17 - TEAM PT
Amarinder orders release of 23 crore for decongesting Landra Junction



Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered the Finance Department to immediately release Rs. 23 Crores for expansion of the Sohana-Landran-Chunni road, while directing his Chief Principal Secretary to issue instructions for urgent completion of all pending development projects in the state.

Chairing a meeting to review the functioning and ongoing projects of Public Works Department (PWD) Building and Road, the Chief Minister assured that all required funds would be provided for development works. He ordered the Finance Department to make available the necessary funds for decongestion of Landran junction.

Underscoring the importance of strengthening the quality control mechanisms in order to rejuvenate the engineering department, Amarinder accepted a proposal by the department to undertake a study to ascertain the feasibility of a World Bank Concept report on capacity building enhancement in procurement, engineering and integration of all engineering processes in the state.
 
He also agreed to re look the state notification on felling of trees along state highways, causing road projects to be stalled. The government will take up the matter with NGT, he said. Earlier, Secretary PWD Hussan Lal informed the Chief Minister about the pending 4 laineing of Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur due to ban imposed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) on cutting of trees on both sides of the highways.

Underlining the need to urgently upgrade the existing road infrastructure in the state, the CM directed the officials to focus on sustainable improvement in the overall road travel experience of commuters. He also ordered his Finance Secretary to ensure streamlining of all engineering processes to prevent any duplicity in projects.

Captain Amarinder ordered stringent compliance to all engineering guidelines for ensuring earthquake resistant design structures in all government buildings projects. 

On the issue of linking of major cities of Punjab with Ring Roads, Captain asked officials to come up with a plan and submit a proposal. Such connectivity would act as great impetus for the overall development of business and industry, he added.

He also reviewed the progress of other ongoing projects, including 4-laineing of Zirakpur-Patiala, Patiala-Sangrur-Bhatinda, Sangrur-Patran, Amritsar-Harike-Faridkot-Bhatinda.

Secretary PWD also informed the Chief Minister about the completion of more than 92% of repair works of 1838 Kms of Link Roads at a cost of Rs.219 Crores and special repair of 86 works of 840 kms of Plan Roads.

Prominent among others who attended the meeting were State Minister PWD B & R Razia Sultana, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Technical Advisor to CM Lt. Gen. (Retd.) B S Dhaliwal, Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tewari, Special Secretary PWD Madhvi Kataria, Secretary PWD Hussan Lal, Chief Architect Punjab Mrs. Sapna, besides Ashok Singla, Arvinder Singh, Vijay Chopra, Jaswinder Singh Maan, all Chief Engineers.




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RELIGION, POLITICS & LAW
Sukhbir is right – Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Even man who has been dragging the Akali Dal in courts says so
15.12.17 - S Pal
Sukhbir is right – Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Even man who has been dragging the Akali Dal in courts says so



THIS TIME, THE PANTH IS REALLY IN DANGER. Shiromani Akali Dal is out of power, and by most accounts, the Congress regime is divesting it of any real chance to cling on to the minor spoils that local bodies’ elections may offer. Pushed to the margins, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal had his first real brush with people’s politics when he sat for a night-long dharna at Harike-Pattan.
 
Snuggled in a blanket, the turban a little out of shape, mingling with the Akali workers, a chapatti on his hands, this is how leaders are made. Ironically, Akali Dal workers across Punjab felt they were in a resurgence mode when the regime was really running ramrod against the party.

Such are the moments when epiphanies strike great men. 

In any people’s history of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the night at Harike Pattan will be recorded as the moment when Sukhbir Singh Badal decided to return to the Panth, always a source of power. Nimaniya Da Maan, Nitaniya Da Taan, Nioatiyan Di Aut.

If schemes such as the Adarsh Schools or Meritorious Schools had really taken Punjab by a storm and a great reading culture had revolutionised the reading habits of village folk and Akali workers, Sukhbir Singh Badal’s job would have become easier, because Akali workers would have honed their skills on Rowling’s Harry Puttar and mauled Amarinder Singh’s marauders with secular spells like Alarte Ascendare, Alohomora, Anteoculatia, Aparecium, Arania Exumai and Arresto Momentum. In anger, even Avada Kedavra.

But alas, even special schools for meritorious students have not produced too many panthic varieties of Hermione Granger or Harry Puttar. But does not mean that the Akali Dal, a party of history, does not have some time-tested spells. 

Most students of politics in Punjab know that when the blue turbaned hordes find themselves stuck against a wall, they utter a magic Khul Ja Sim Sim kind of mantra which opens the doors to resurgence, confidence, rejuvenation and eventually, power. What do you think Harry Puttar was fighting for?

At the Diwan Hall of Sri Manji Sahib in Amritsar, Sukhbir Singh Badal finally uttered that mantra: Panth is in danger; it is time to go back to the panth. Now, that’s some Avada Kedavra, frankly.
 
Only, there is one minor problem. The Shiromani Akali Dal has submitted it in writing to the Election Commission of India that it is a secular party. It did so at the pain of facing de-recognition. Right now, it is fighting cases in Indian courts to defend its position that it is a secular political party. In one case, it is up against a lawyer called Prashant Bhushan – not an opponent you would wish for in any court.

As the SAD convened its 97th anniversary function at a religious shrine, it stepped into another pitfall. Social and political activist Balwant Khera, an old man with hardly any resources, sworn socialist leanings and tons of enthusiasm, has been breathing down its neck, dragging the Akali Dal to the courts, adamant at exposing the two faces of the party — one meant for the panth, the other for the Election Commission. 

A day before the Akali Dal announced its return to the panthic turf, Khera went to town, holding a press conference in Jalandhar on December 13 and claiming vindication. With the Badals’ not so secret plan of returning to the panthic issues, the problematic issue of the Akali Dal virtually having two Constitutions is also back on the scene.

On its 97th anniversary, Sukhbir Singh Badal, responding to a question about whether Akali Dal was a panthic party or a secular one, snapped, "What kind of a question is this? The SAD is a party of both Punjabis and the Sikh community.”
 

Sadly, this is not what his party has been stating on oath in courts and to the Election Commission of India.
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On its 97th anniversary, Sukhbir Singh Badal, responding to a question about whether Akali Dal was a panthic party or a secular one, snapped, "What kind of a question is this? The SAD is a party of both Punjabis and the Sikh community.” Sadly, this is not what his party has been stating on oath in courts and to the Election Commission of India.
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The party is actually facing a scenario in which the panth could be in danger, at least that version of the panth which the Akali Dal claims virtual ownership of. And the threat looms from the law of the land.

Here’s how the story goes:

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) wanted to be recognised as a legitimate political party by the Election Commission of India, and therefore it was mandatory for it to declare itself a secular party. But it also did not want to let go of its right to contest the elections to the cash-rich gurdwara management body, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). The problem was that only a Sikh body could contest elections to the SGPC. 

How did the Shiromani Akali Dal solve this problem?

Well, by sheer ingenuity.

When it became mandatory to submit to the Election Commission of India the Constitution of the Party, required under sub-section (5) of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, that must clearly state that the Akali Dal "shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy”, and when it was mandatory that the copy of the party Constitution be duly authenticated on each page by the President of the party along with the party seal, the Shiromani Akali Dal wrote a Constitution, a brand new secular Constitution, did not tell a single soul about it, and merrily submitted it to the Election Commission of India, thus declaring itself to be a secular party.

But it still had to resolve the problem of remaining a Sikh party in order to fight the elections to the SGPC. So, what it did was to submit its older Constitution, duly signed and stamped by the party president, to the Gurdwara Election Commission.

Since it had a problem, the Shiromani Akali Dal thought it can solve it by conveniently having two Constitutions!

But then, the party landed in a soup. A high-profile challenge to this fraudulent ingenuity came to stare it in the face in the form of a Civil Writ Petition in the Delhi High Court, argued by none other than the high-profile Constitutional lawyer, Prashant Bhushan.

The petition, filed by the public spirited activist, Balwant Singh Khera, demanded that the Election Commission de-recognize and de-register the Shiromani Akali Dal as a political party, quash the party’s right to fight the SGPC elections and end Akali Dal’s "public alignment with the Sikh gurdwaras”. 

Apart from this challenge in the Delhi High Court, the Shiromani Akali Dal also faces a criminal case in the district courts in Hoshiarpur for fraudulently submitting to the Election Commission a Constitution different than the one it submitted to the Gurdwara Election Commission. Summons were issued to Secretary of the Akali Dal, and at one stage even warrants went out for Daljeet Singh Cheema, the secretary of the party.
 

But what is the issue about?

The Akali Dal is the second oldest political party in the country with a glorious history of standing up to the British, leading the gurdwara reform movement, participating in the freedom struggle, fighting for the Punjabi Suba, resisting the repression of Emergency era, and consistently proclaiming itself to stand for the interests of Sikhs and Punjab.
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The SAD’s problems arose when the Representatives of People Act, 1951 made specific provisions under Part IVA-Section 29A for Registration of Political Parties.
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Till 1989, the SAD had no problem in hogging the two pedestals: it claimed a secular pedestal when it came to appeasing the broadspectrum of the people in Punjab or the country, but projected itself as the "Sole Spokesman” of the Sikhs (Sorry, Ayesha Jalal – Ed.) when fighting elections to the SGPC.

The SAD’s problems arose when the Representatives of People Act, 1951 made specific provisions under Part IVA-Section 29A for Registration of Political Parties. These provisions required that a political party must give an undertaking that it would bear allegiance to the Constitution of India and to the principles of, among others, Secularism. No registration of any political party is permissible without this compliance of S29A of RPA, 1951. This section was inserted on June 15, 1989 in the Representation of People Act, 1951. Promptly, the SAD sent an application on October 14, 1989 providing the required undertaking.

In 1994 came further underlining of the importance of adherence to the principle of secularism when the Supreme Court upheld the S 29A of the RP Act, 1951 in a nine-judge Constitution Bench in SR Bommai v. Union of India case, holding it the mandatory duty of every political party to uphold secularism. The judgement also detailed how a political party is positively enjoined to maintain neutrality in religious beliefs. It said that the introduction of religion into politics is not merely in negation of Constitutional mandate but also a positive violation of the constitutional obligation and positive prescription or prohibition specifically enjoined by the RP Act, 1951.

When the Akali Dal decided to become a Punjabi party and much political commentary about the momentous change at the Moga Convention of the party went on in the media, there was little attention paid to the fact that the Akali Dal was making a virtue out of a legal necessity. 

It had to become a Punjabi party from a Sikh party after the 1989 change in the RP Act, 1951, and had no other choice after the Constitutional Bench’s pronouncement in the Bommai case.

Thus, the SAD remained on the right side of the law, at least on paper, by re-submitting a secular Constitution, but it had to remain a Sikh outfit to contest the SGPC elections. It is here that the Akali Dal tried to be clever by half, submitting the older 1974 Constitution of the party, and submitting it once again in 2003.

The two Constitutions of the SAD are as different as chalk and cheese, though the party preferred at the time to call the latter one as "new, amended” document. A simple reading of the two statutes gives away the game.

In the Shiromani Akali Dal’s 1974 Constitution, the copy of which was signed in Punjabi by none other than "Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal” (See facsimile) and in possession of Punjab Today, the "Mukh Mantav” (Main Objectives) for the existence of the party have been listed right at the beginning. How secular are these objectives will be clear from a cursory reading. While the first objective is to make efforts to spread "Gurmat and Rehat Maryada” and reform Gurdwara management and "sewa sambhal”, the second is even more interesting. A verbatim reproduction will be apt:

"Sikhan vich addri panthak hasti da ehsaas qayam rakhna ate ajeha desh-kaal gharrna, jis vich Sikh panth de qaumi jazbe te Quomiyat da pragtao pooran taur te moortimaan ho sake.” While authorised translation was not available from documents or Akali Dal’s office, any of the party’s district offices either, here is a rough translation:
"To sustain the feeling among ‘Singhs’ of a separate panthic existence and to set up such a desh-kaal (nation-time, space-time, roughly nation state) in which Sikh panth’s national feelings and nationality be fully realised.” 

As for who can become members of such a political party called Shiromani Akali Dal, the 1974 Constitution is explicit in the matter. Under the title "Bharti” (Recruitment), it says, "Shiromani Akali Dal Sikh panth di samuchi marzi da ikko-ik pragtao hai ate Khalsa panth di pratinidhta karan da pooran adhikar rakhda hai.” Translation: "Shiromani Akali Dal is the only expression of the entire collective will of the Sikh Panth and has the complete right of representation of the Khalsa Panth.”

The 1974 Constitution then answers clearly about who can be its members: "Har ikk balag Singh and Singhni”. Translation: Every adult Singh (he) and Singhni (she), meaning baptised Sikhs. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. 

In any case, the Akali Dal also has some kind of a self-proclaimed right to brand any organisation as anti-panthic. This is a right it officially claimed in its 1974 Constitution, that stands submitted to the Gurdwara Election Commission even now, and is the only Constitution that the GEC can refer to and consider in any matter whatsoever. This Constitution of the Shiromani Akali Dal states that no one can become a member of the SAD who is a member of any party which has been declared by the Shiromani Akali Dal as "Panth Virodhi Jamaat”. So, when Sukhbir Singh Badal termed the Congress an anti-panthic party, it is not just political rhetoric or a polemical stance; it is a Constitutional averment as per a right the Akali Dal has proclaimed under a legally submitted Constitution.

But since this could not have passed mustered the slightly more finicky Election Commission of India which may have found the membership being open to only "Singh and Singhni” a little bit less than any secular principle, the Akali Dal sent in a brand new Constitution.

All was well till Balwant Singh Khera came along and threatened to spoil the game. The danger was initially perceived to be a lesser one since Khera had limited resources and except for his doggedness and determination, lacked everything else, including  funds, manpower, party machinery, media savvyness, computer literacy, and, given his age and ailments, even physical strength. "Mera phone zara halka hai, agle saal shayad main smart phone lavan,” he told Punjab Today on the day Badals turned towards the panth at Diwan Hall of Sri Manji Sahib.

But with Prashant Bhushan as his lawyer in the Delhi High Court, Balwant Singh Khera is an army to reckon with, and has been making Akali Dal’s legal eagles run helter skelter.
 
When the matter was still not much in the public eye, the Akali Dal’s paper work was pretty shoddy. For example, the Shiromani Akali Dal, while at pains to prove its secular credentials, was merrily informing the Election Commission of India, that too in writing, that its meetings and elections were held at Teja Singh Samundari Hall, Amritsar, the headquarters of the SGPC. No wonder, Prashant Bhushan quoted this as one more example of party’s lack of secular credentials even as Akalis squirmed.

The fact that the Shiromani Akali Dal contests Assembly elections in Punjab as well as the last SGPC elections only helped those challenging its secular character. If the SAD does not use its symbol of "Scales” allocated by the EC in the SGPC elections, it is only because it cannot do so under the law. The Akali Dal is granted the symbol of "tractor” by the Gurdwara Election Commission as a party. 

Balwant Singh Khera’s petition in the Delhi High Court termed the functioning of the SAD as "an obvious and gross illegality, unconstitutionality and violation of fundamental rights” of the citizenry.

As Khera’s lawyer, Prashant Bhushan contended in the petition that the Shiromani Akali Dal "has always been regarded as a religio-political party.”

"The very meaning of the word ‘Akali’ is Nihang or devotee Sikh, while ‘Shiromani’ means apex and ‘Dal’ means Sikh army,” Bhushan argued, and annexed with the petition notes on Shiromani Akali Dal from a source no other than the SAD’s own website. 

"By ... participating in the management and functioning of the apex religious body of the Sikhs, a political party is inextricably mixing religion in politics. Instead of refraining from non-secular activities, the SAD (Badal) openly favours one religion, the Sikh religion,” the petition stated.

Bhushan’s contention was that "the SGPC is a religious body constituted under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, subsequently reconstituted after partition, under the provisions of India (Adaptation of Existing Indian Laws) Order 1947. It is the apex religious committee of the Sikhs that has been specially constituted to manage Sikh gurudwaras under Sikh control in consistence with the religious views of that community.”

Before knocking at the doors of the Delhi High Court, Balwant Singh Khera relentlessly pursued the Election Commission of India. In 2005, he wrote a series of letters and even sent a petition to the Election Commission of India, pointing out "the illegality, unconstitutionality and violation of fundamental rights” by the Akali Dal and sought its de-recognition by the EC as a political party. 


Prashant Bhushan’s arguments heavily depended upon the well-established Bommai judgment. Arguing that "Political manifesto & methods of influencing electorate should be constitutional,” Bhushan narrated para 126 of the Bommai judgment that holds: "For a political party or an organization that seeks to influence the electorate to promote or accomplish success of an election for governance of Parliamentary form of Government, the principles are those embedded in the Directive Principles of the Constitution vis-â-vis the fundamental rights and the fundamental duties in Part IV(A) and should abide by the Constitution and promote tolerance, harmony and the spirit of commonness amongst all the people of lndia, transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities and to preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture, to develop humanism, spirit of reformation and to abstain violence. Therefore, the manifesto of a political party should be consistent with these fundamental and basic features of the Constitution, secularism, socio-economic and political justice, fraternity, unity and national integrity.” The exclusive membership to the "Singh and Singhnis” may not qualify, neither may a self-arrogated right to represent the "entire collective will of the Sikh panth” for SGPC elections.

By holding the Akali Dal’s meetings at Teja Singh Samundari Hall, the headquarters of the SGPC, a purely religious body, and by constantly using the gurdwaras, as exemplified by the recent party conclave at Sri Manji Sahib Diwan Hall, the Shiromani Akali Dal, that certified itself to be a secular party through a brand new Constitution signed by its president Parkash Singh Badal, may have fallen somewhat short of the Para 128 of Bommai judgment that is now the law of the land. Bhushan quoted this paragraph while representing Khera in his petition, and with deadly effect:

"Para 128 from Bommai holds (that) Article 25 inhibits the Government to patronize a particular religion as State religion overtly or covertly. A political party is therefore positively enjoined to maintain neutrality in religious beliefs and prohibit practices derogatory to the Constitution and the laws. Introduction of religion into politics is not merely in negation of the Constitutional mandates but also positive violation of the Constitutional obligation, duty, responsibility and positive prescription or prohibition specifically enjoined in the Constitution and R.P. Act....Appeal on grounds of religion offends Secular Democracy.”

But even more pertinent are the words in Para 243 of the 1994 Bommai judgment that lit up the path for the country’s politics. 

A political party that is non-secular has no right to function as such. 

Para 243 holds that ‘...Political parties are formed and exist to capture or share State power. That is their aim. They may be associations of individuals but one cannot ignore their functional relevance. An association of individuals may be devoted to propagation of religion; it would be a religious body. Another may be devoted to promotion of cultures; it would be a cultural organization. They are not aimed at acquiring State power, whereas a political party does. That is one of its main objectives. This is what we mean by saying ‘functional relevance’. One cannot conceive of a democratic form of government without the political parties. They are part of the political system and the constitutional scheme. Nay, they are integral to the governance of a democratic society. If the Constitution requires the State to be secular in thought and action, the same requirement attaches to political parties as well.
 
The Constitution does not recognize, it does not permit mixing religion and state power. Both must be kept apart. That is the constitutional injunction. None can say otherwise, so long as this Constitution governs the country. Introducing religion into politics is to in introduce an impermissible element into body politic and an imbalance in our constitutional system. If a political party espousing a particular religion comes to power, that religion tends to become, in practice, the official religion. All other religions come to acquire a secondary status, at any rate, a less favourable position. That would be plainly antithetical to Arts. 14-16, 25 and the entire Constitutional scheme adumbrated hereinabove. Under our Constitution, no party can simultaneously be a political and religious party. It has to be either. Same would be the position, if a party or organization acts and / or behaves by word of mouth, print or in any other manner to bring about the said effect, it would equally be guilty of an act of unconstitutionality. lt would have no right to function as a political party...(Emphasis added).
 
Thus, it is clear, and Prashant Bhushan rightly argued on behalf of Balwant Singh Khera that while a Secular State does not reject the reality or relevance of religion, it also cannot identify itself with or be controlled by any religion. No religion can be accorded special privileges in national life. Bommai judgment’s para 25 makes it clear that no person should suffer any form of disability or discrimination because of his religion but all should be free to share to the fullest degree in common life. No political party or state can patronize or endow any particular religion in preference to others. (Bommai, Para 28). Programmes or principles evolved by political parties based on religions amounts to recognizing religion as part of the political governance, which the Constitution expressly prohibits. (Bommai, para 187).

Balwant Singh Khera has thus sought to prove that the Shiromani Akali Dal has not just inextricably mingled its political agenda with religious affairs, has not just violated the constitutional provisions of secularism, has not just violated an undertaking given to the Election Commission of India but has sought to defraud the Election Commission by submitting to it a Constitution different than the one it has submitted to the Gurdwara Election Commission.

Arguing Khera’s petition, Prashant Bhushan went so far as to even contend that no political party in India can have the word ‘Akali’ in its name "since it has strong religious connotations and violates the above-mentioned mandate” as the word ‘Akali’ is Nihang or devotee Sikh.

The proceedings in the court pushed the SAD to make public the record of proceedings of such meetings of the office bearers of the party, the record of minutes of the meeting of office bearers, the ratification of those minutes by the general house of the Akali Dal or the passage of the new Constitution of the Akali Dal by the General House and the minutes of the proceedings of such a General House, the publication of the new Constitution, and the attempts to make the party men aware of the provisions of the new Constitution if it indeed changed its Constitution in 1989. 

Also, it was forced to explain how it can then continue to fight the SGPC elections under the old Constitution. It must also explain why it submitted its old Constitution to the Gurdwara Election Commission, and also when it plans to submit its new Constitution to the Gurdwara Election Commission and how will it remain eligible for contesting the SGPC elections under the new Constitution as per which the membership of the party is not open to only those who are "Singh and Singhni”.

The Congress in Punjab sees little political advantage in taking up the cudgels on this one as the Akalis can turn it around to paint it as an anti-Sikh party. 

That the change of its Constitution was surreptitious was confirmed by even Manjit Singh Calcutta, who was a key functionary in the Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC before parting ways with Parkash Singh Badal’s party. He confirmed that the SAD indeed submitted separate constitutions to the Gurdwara Election Commission and the Election Commission of India, and even sent a missive to the Chief Gurdwara Election Commissioner in this regard.

Calcutta at one stage asked the GEC that "It must be cleared now whether Akali Dal (led by Parkash Singh Badal-Sukhbir Singh Badal) is a religious/panthic party or a secular party because the latter, which includes people of different denominations, cannot be allowed to contest election of a particular religious group.” 

A similar complaint about the SAD was submitted to the Gurdwara Commission by Dal Khalsa president H.S. Dhami.

Meanwhile, in the Delhi High Court, a Division Bench led by the Chief Justice, has now asked Prashant Bhushan to file a revised petition since the earlier petition had become too bulky, and has assured that the bench will ensure that all the time spent earlier in hearing the matter does not go waste. Khera is now ready with this new petition to be filed in the Delhi High Court.
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With Prashant Bhushan as his lawyer in the Delhi High Court, Balwant Singh Khera is an army to reckon with, and has been making Akali Dal’s legal eagles run helter skelter.
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On December 6 this year, just a week before Akali Dal held its 97th Foundation Day Celebrations at Manji Sahib Diwan Hall in the Golden Temple Complex, Balwant Singh Khera was back at the Hoshiarpur court, recording his statement in the ongoing case. A day before the Manji Sahib function of the SAD, Khera was holding a press conference at the Jalandhar Press Club.
 

Everytime, he has an anecdote to tell, which he does with a chuckle and a toothless laughter. "You know Sukhbir Singh Badal wrote to the Under Secretary of the Election Commission of India on January 19, 2008 that they have indeed amended the Constitution, but also submitted documents that showed that the ijlaas in which these amendments were carried out was convened at Teja Singh Samundri Hall on January 31, 2008,” he said, and then laughed with a loud guffaw.

"Who helps you with so much documentation?” I asked Khera. "The Shiromani Akali Dal,” he said, matter of fact. And then laughed. "Most of our facts and pieces of evidence and documents have come from the documents submitted by the Akali Dal’s lawyers and representatives to the courts,” he said.

"Ikk gall dasan main tuhanu?” he asks me, conspiratorially. Excited, I turn my ear towards him, forgetting momentarily that he is hard of hearing, not me, when he says loudly into my ear, "Panth khatre vich hai!” As we both laugh, the irony of his words escapes me but for a moment — that both Khera and Sukhbir Singh Badal are saying the same thing on the same day, unlike the two Constitutions of the party.
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 Click https://goo.gl/NJza8Y to read The Akali Dal's Defence 

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 For a profile of Balwant Singh Khera, click https://goo.gl/ZNeqZb


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AYE BHAI, BINA DEKHE CHALO –  Walking with the blind in Chandigarh
BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah
MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame
OPEN SALE AT GNDU – Have Rs 25,000? Get your compartment cleared. Rs 50,000 for two subjects
SUCHA SINGH LANGAH : KAMAAL JAARI HAI... Sucha Singh Langah wins, even in his darkest moments
ABEY TU BAHAR NIKAL, CHOWK MEIN AA   The 10-yard-radius protest
PATIALA, VIA PANCHKULA. HAIL DEMOCRACY!
 Halaat kharaab nahi hone chahiye!
PEHLU KHAN CASE   Will Govt Now Compensate The Magnificent Six? The Nation Needs to Know
MR HOME MINISTER, WILL YOU BE VISITING FAROOQ AHMAD DAR'S HOUSE? 
THE RYAN DEBATE: HOW INDIA MISSED THE GREAT CCTV ANGLE?  Not covered by cctv, so not covered by tv either
POLITICAL ECONOMY OF RETIREMENT AGE ROW   What’s wrong with retirement age policy?
THE GORAKHPUR DEAD SPEAK TO PUNJAB  From Patiala to Gorakhpur, the tale of the dead
WE WILL KILL 40-50 – Haryana BJP, Govt calculated death toll before firing first bullet
RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience
LET'S KILL PAASH – Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu on the importance of Paash
A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace.

SURGICAL STRIKE YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT: When Indian jawans killed everyone at Pak post

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


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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GOVT HAS PLAYED FRAUD WITH INDUSTRIAL CONSUMERS
Cong govt betrays industry, power tariff enhanced instead of being reduced: Sukhbir Badal
15.12.17 - TEAM PT
Cong govt betrays industry, power tariff enhanced instead of being reduced: Sukhbir Badal



Chandigarh: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal today said the Congress government had betrayed industrialists by sending them enhanced power bills with a tariff increase of around ten per cent on old rates, even while it announced to reduce power tariff to Rs five per unit in the current bill cycle.

In a statement here, the SAD president said it was shocking that chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had announced that power tariff for industry would be lowered to Rs five per unit with effect from last month but had in fact increased it manifold. "Besides the earlier tariff rate of around Rs 8 per unit, a further increase of ten per cent has been imposed in the two month power bill being received by consumers currently", he added.

Terming this conduct on the part of an elected government as deceit, Badal said the government had passed the proposal to reduce bills for the industrial sector to Rs five per unit in its budget and also took a cabinet decision to this effect. "The chief minister also made this announcement and he was also thanked for the same by representative associations of industry with full page advertisements. However the bitter truth which has been revealed with the distribution of power bills is that power tariff has in fact been increased substantially", he added.

The former Deputy CM said urbanites were also paying a heavy price for the government's inability to manage the power sector. He said the power tariff in urban areas had been increased by 12 per cent. He said earlier a municipal tax had also been imposed on power bills in municipal areas.

Stating that this was not all, Sukhbir said water rates had also been hiked in all municipalities. He said external development charges had also been increased and the fee for regularising illegal colonies had been doubled. "All this has put an unbearable burden on urbanites who had unsuspectingly believed the Congress party's promise to give them power at Rs five per unit besides reducing other taxes, he added.




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VOTE, PAR ZARA DEKH KE
ELECTION IN PUNJAB: Here’s How Congress, SAD, AAP have framed issues
13.12.17 - S PAL
ELECTION IN PUNJAB: Here’s How Congress, SAD, AAP have framed issues



And also, how you should frame issues in these local body polls, and be ready to click a selfie
 
CHANDIGARH, DECEMBER 13: Punjab is in the throes of an election campaign again, this time for urban civic bodies. Municipal affairs affect our lives every day. Of course, we should be worried about United States going after North Korea and India’s position in the WTO Ministerial Conference at Buenos Aires since these affect our lives, but tomorrow morning, it is going to be affected more directly by municipal affairs in your town.

From the choked sewerage outside your house to the safety of your child as she walks to her school; from the availability of oxygen at your nearest civil hospital to the proper road markings that may save you on a foggy morning from being crushed underneath a truck; from a fire brigade responding to your distress call to a proper burial service and upkeep of cremation grounds, municipal affairs is the stuff of life as it is lived every day in a city or a town.
---------
Since the skeletal outline of municipal issues framed by the Congress, Akali Dal or AAP hardly seems connected to the life of Punjab's ordinary citizens, rich or poor, it is time for you to frame these issues.
---------
Punjab's three Municipal Corporations of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala, and 32 Municipal Councils, are going to elections in this foggy cold month of December. Here's how Punjab's politicians have framed the local bodies' elections issues in excruciatingly crystal clear detail:

Congress & Amarinder Singh: Akali Dal should not block the roads as a form of protest, even if our henchmen and a partisan bureaucracy do not even allow the opposition candidates to file their nomination papers. Blocking roads creates problem for the army, so any such democratic protest should be seen as an anti-national activity. The CMO will put all its might behind issuing press releases condemning such anti-national acts and elections will be fought in whether or not roads should be blocked. Tools such as Section 307 (attempt to murder) can be legitimately used as bargaining chips in getting dharnas lifted – all in the name of service delivery to the citizenry.

Shiromani Akali Dal & Sukhbir Singh Badal: Out of practice when it comes to people's movements, it believes throwing life out of gear to ensure that its candidates can file nomination papers is par for the course. Outsmarted by the Congress in getting their bridge-dharnas lifted, it now plans to bring a new culture of political parties forming fighting armies to Punjab. Recruitment to Akali Dal's own sena has been announced with a minimum of 10 men from every village. The 1,20,000 strong force of vigilantes will rival any Ranvir Sena or Kurmis' Bhoomi Sena, thus establishing new Punjab-Bihar cultural similarity linkages.

Aam Aadmi Party & Sukhpal Singh Khaira: With Khaira determined to keep his Leader of the Opposition bully pulpit reserved for mounting attacks against SAD's Bibi Jagir Kaur and Congress' Rana Gurjit Singh, the sole AAP activity in civic elections is to either remain missing from the field, or pose as underdogs, with a fixed target of remaining underdogs. The party seems miles away from launching any people's movement and is dependent on tweeting or facebooking its way to oblivion. If only rulers could be upstaged through press releases, Sukhpal Khaira has written too many of them, each in the revolutionary 'What is to be done' tone and eventually providing the answer: "Nothing." 

SINCE THE skeletal outline of municipal issues framed in the Congress-Akali Dal-AAP matrix seemed hardly connected to the life of Punjab's ordinary citizens, rich or poor, it is time for you to frame these issues. Neither Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, nor Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal or for that matter Aam Aadmi Party's Sukhpal Khaira/Bhagwant Mann will ever utter the word: Seventy-fourth. And yet 74th is what Municipal affairs are hinged upon.

The 74th Constitutional Amendment.

After decades of struggle, India's urban citizens won the Constitutional battle and a State Finance Commission had to be set up. Punjab's local bodies – the Municipal Corporations and Municipal Councils – should have been given funds as per the recommendations of this States Finance Commission. Instead, your representatives are often seen begging for funds from state level politicians. We all saw Navjot Sidhu doing that in his earlier avatar when he and his politician wife would forever complain, and rightly so, that the Akali Dal government was not releasing funds for their areas' development.
 

The Centre has prepared a State Action Scheme under AMRUT, the Atal Mission of Urban Rejuvenation and Transformation, that includes 16 cities in Punjab. In these 16 cities, access to water supply varies between 28 (Khanna) and 93 (Mohali) per cent. In between are Patiala at 57%, Amritsar at 65% and Jalandhar at 67%. Sewerage coverage is so far stuck at 63% in Punjab's urban areas. (In rural areas, underground sewerage is a rumour).
----------
India's Constitution, as it stands now, mandates that the state governments hand over 17 departments to local bodies, but no state government, Akali or Congress, has any interest in doing so. If this is done, your Municipal councillor or Corporators will wield real power. So who will listen to the chief minister or ministers?
----------
Now, as per the directive of State Finance Commission, mandated by the 74th Constitutional Amendment, state governments must give at least 4 per cent of taxes to local bodies. That is a directive observed more in breach than compliance. This is why the road outside your house has potholes, and no one bothers to fix the overflowing drain.

India's Constitution, as it stands now, mandates that the state governments hand over 17 departments to local bodies, but no state government, Akali or Congress, has any interest in doing so. If this is done, your Municipal councillor or Corporators will wield real power. So who will listen to the chief minister or ministers? To ensure that your next door grassroot level politician stands with folded hands in the darbar of a Maharaja or a Pardhan ji, the 74th is being flouted with impunity.

No one is rushing to block the roads on the issue of 74th. And no one is going to invoke the love of the country and the army on the issue of 74th. The series of Vision Papers released recently in city after city remain lip-zip silent on this.

The fact that Punjab has missed all urban mission milestones, and now bears the shame of having been included in the country's worst laggards by the Centre is not even being mentioned by either the Akali Dal or the Congress. If AAP ever found out, Sukhpal Khaira will issue a press release, and that will be the end of it. 
 
TO SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL: Speaking truth to power, and asking some tough questions

So much for Punjab's urban development. Our state was the first to get its development plan approved from the Centre. Now, we are among the laggards, having for our company confirmed backbenchers like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has now certified our position on the backbench in its latest status report.

Result? The Centre is not releasing any money for the next State Annual Action Plan (SAAP-III). Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have already crossed that hurdle, bagging Rs 2,500 crore as the first instalment of the central assistance this fiscal.

Neither the Badal government nor the incumbent Amarinder regime was ever in any hurry to release its share of funds under the AMRUT. These are the funds that make sure that water supply, sewerage, urban transport and parks are run and maintained properly.
----------
Here is a factual picture of Punjab's urban development: We are among the official laggards in India. Punjab is now in the company of confirmed backbenchers like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, a fact confirmed by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in its latest status report.
----------
So, either the residents of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, Batala, Bathinda, Malerkotla, Muktsar, Mohali, Moga, Khanna, Pathankot and other places decide that they will cast their votes on the basis of whether Akalis should block the roads, whether Section 307 should be used as a bargaining chip, or whether blocking roads was an anti-national activity at par with cow smuggling and not standing up for national anthem in a cinema hall, or they can vote on the basis of issues they see outside their home, in the next street, on the highway, in their children's school.
 
 DECONSTRUCTING NAVJOT SINGH SIDHUThis is a duel -- pistols drawn, hands on hip, 20 steps across, aim taken

On your decision will depend whether the ambulance reaches you in time, whether the civil hospital has a doctor if your loved ones meet with an accident on the road in the middle of the night, and whether the fire brigade arrives in time. The sewerage workers cleaning the chocked drain outside your house will live or die, depending upon how you frame the issues. 

If you hear a politician saying the word 74th in his election speech, act quickly and click a selfie with him or her. As per our information, the tribe is now extinct.
 

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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NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

ELECTION COMMISSION - YOU FAILED TO CONVINCE. TRY AGAIN.

THIS IS WHY ELECTION COMMISSION DID NOT ANNOUNCE GUJARAT POLL DATES – Decoding the mystery 

BJP TO EDUCATE FARMERS ABOUT AGRI & RELIGION LINK – Will tell them Modi did so much 

AYE BHAI, BINA DEKHE CHALO –  Walking with the blind in Chandigarh

BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

OPEN SALE AT GNDU – Have Rs 25,000? Get your compartment cleared. Rs 50,000 for two subjects

SUCHA SINGH LANGAH : KAMAAL JAARI HAI... Sucha Singh Langah wins, even in his darkest moments

ABEY TU BAHAR NIKAL, CHOWK MEIN AA   The 10-yard-radius protest

PATIALA, VIA PANCHKULA. SOON REACHING YOUR CITY. HAIL DEMOCRACY! Halaat kharaab nahi hone chahiye!

PEHLU KHAN CASE   Will Govt Now Compensate The Magnificent Six? The Nation Needs to Know

MR HOME MINISTER, WILL YOU BE VISITING FAROOQ AHMAD DAR'S HOUSE? Deconstructing Modi's narrative

THE RYAN DEBATE: HOW INDIA MISSED THE GREAT CCTV ANGLE?  Not covered by cctv, so not covered by tv either

POLITICAL ECONOMY OF EXTENSION IN AGE OF RETIREMENT  What’s wrong with retirement age policy?

THE GORAKHPUR DEAD SPEAK TO PUNJAB  From Patiala to Gorakhpur, the tale of the dead

WE WILL KILL 40-50  Haryana BJP, Govt calculated death toll before firing first bullet

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS  Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

LET'S KILL PAASH  Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu on the importance of Paash

A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace.

SURGICAL STRIKE YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT: Indian jawans killed everyone at this forward post of Pakistan

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

 _______________________________________________________________


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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FULL SUPPORT TO VETERANS IF CONGRESS COMES TO POWER AT CENTRE
If you can't, we will fund martyrs' education: Amarinder to Defence Minister
09.12.17 - TEAM PT
If you can't, we will fund martyrs' education: Amarinder to Defence Minister



Chandigarh: Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday offered to foot the Bill for the educational expenses of children of martyrs and those disabled in action, while promising that the Congress would do everything in its power for the defence veterans if it came to power at the Centre.

If he was in a position to do so, he would definitely reverse the current trend, whereby veterans felt the government was not doing enough for them, said the Chief Minister, pointing out that what they were asking for was a small price to pay for their sacrifice.

Amarinder, who had earlier this month written to Defence Minister Nirmala Nirmala Sitharaman seeking reversal of the ministry’s decision to cap the educational expenses of such kids, flayed the stepmotherly treatment being meted out to war veterans and defence personnel. Perturbed by the decision, which would reportedly impact around 32000 students in various institutions while saving the central government a mere Rs 3 crore odd per annum, he had called for an immediate review and revocation of the decision, which he said was "immoral” and "unprincipled”.

It was the government’s responsibility to ensure the welfare of the soldiers and veterans, as well as their families, he said during a panel discussion at the Military Literature Festival here on Saturday. A man dies for his country in peace knowing his children would be taken care of, but that is not happening today, lamented Captain Amarinder.

If the Centre can’t pay such a meagre amount for the education of the soldiers’ and martyrs’ children, the Punjab government was ready to do it, he said, adding that he had conveyed as much to the defence minister but she had not so far responded to the offer. The fee being paid to the children of martyrs and disabled soldiers was a small price in exchange for what they had given, and continued to give, to the nation, said the CM.

Pointing out that war veterans had been sitting on dharna for years now in New Delhi for `one rank one pension’, Amarinder said it was a small demand, which the nation was obliged to fulfill. It was important to look after the interests of the defence personnel and their families in order to keep their morale high, he added. These little things may not matter to the government but they mean a lot to the soldiers, said Captain.

Quite apart from the humanitarian aspect involved, it was also in national interest to ensure that the defence personnel and their families are provided with all the necessary facilities and support to enable them to discharge their duty without any anxiety or stress, he added.




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