PUNJAB NEWS: January 27

Kartarpur Corridor: Punjab villagers apprehensive over being uprooted

A part of Dera Baba Nanak town leading to the international border with Pakistan.

Dera Baba Nanak (Punjab) (IANS): While the central and Punjab governments have been blaming each other for the delay in executing the work related to the Katarpur Corridror project on the Indian side, residents of villages whose land will be acquired for the religiously significant project are apprehensive about their fate at being uprooted from the land where they have lived for decades.

While the villagers clearly welcome the Kartarpur Corridor project and are quite willing to offer their land for the project, their apprehension is about the compensation they will receive and whether it be adequate to rehabilitate themselves in another area.

The villagers have formed a committee of four villages in which the land is proposed to be acquired, as per the land acquisition notice issued by the government in the past one week, to put forward their common demand on compensation and rehabilitation.

At meeting of the committee, in which local farmers, residents and even functionaries of farmers’ organisations participated earlier this week in the presence of a visiting IANS correspondent, it was pointed out that over 200 families will be uprooted in the next three months as the government goes ahead with land acquisition and implementation of the corridor project.

The international border (IB) is just a new hundred metres from the area where the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has proposed the highway for the corridor project right up to the IB. Red flags have been put up in the agricultural fields by NHAI officials to mark the proposed highway.

“As per the rough estimates, nearly 300 acres of land will be acquired for the corridor project. Out of this, 54 acres will be required for the highway alone,” Gurpreet Singh, a farmer and resident of Pakhoke village on the outskirts of Dera Baba Nanak (DBN) town, told IANS.

The most-affected villages are Pakhoke, Chandu Nangal, Dera Baba Nanak (DBN) and Jodiyan Khurd.

Farmers say that the DBN belt is well-known for cauliflower farming and the land acquisition will leave farmers without their basic livelihood.

“The farmers welcome the Kartarpur Corridor project. This is a very big thing happening and has matured after a very long time and lot of efforts. We don’t want to stop the acquisition process. Our concern is how will the government compensate and rehabilitate us,” another farmer, Suba Singh, pointed out.

The committee of farmers is scheduled to meet the Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner on Monday (Jan 28) on the land acquisition.

“Each farmer makes around Rs 2 lakh per year from growing cauliflower. This income will go once the land is acquired. The government should compensate the farmers not only for the market price of the land but also for the loss of income from agriculture,” farmer Joginder Singh said.

Most farmers in the area have small land holdings of two to five acres and survive on growing different crops, including cauliflower.

With the central and Punjab governments under pressure to complete the corridor project in Punjab before November, when the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak Dev take place, the whole DBN area is all set for a major transformation.

The first batch of pilgrims from India for the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life and is his final resting place, is likely to cross the IB into Pakistan in November this year as both countries work out the travel modalities.

The gurdwara, which is significant for Sikh religious history and is visible from the India side on a clear day, is located around 4.5 km from the IB.


Ex-Punjab Police officer arrested over 2015 firing case


Chandigarh (IANS): A former Punjab Police officer was arrested on Sunday in connection with the 2015 Behbal Kalan police firing in Faridkot which claimed the lives of two people.

Charanjit Singh Sharma was arrested by a special investigation team (SIT) of the Punjab Police from his residence in Hoshiarpur, around 150 km from here.

SIT sources said that Sharma resisted the arrest briefly but the team managed to take him to Amritsar where he is being questioned.

“I can confirm the arrest. He was arrested early today from his residence in Hoshiarpur. We are questioning him. We cannot share more details at this stage,” Inspector General (IG) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, in-charge of the SIT, said.

He said Sharma will be produced in a court later on Sunday.

“We had reports that Sharma was planning to flee from the country,” the IG added.

The arrest comes after the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday dismissed a plea by Sharma and three other police officers seeking protection from prosecution in the case.

Sharma was Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Moga district when the firing incident took place during a protest by Sikh activists against repeated incidents of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib.

He and the other police officers – Bikramjit Singh (then SSP Fazilka), Inspector Pardip Singh and sub-inspector Amarjit Singh – were booked for murder and attempt to murder following recommendations by the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission of Inquiry.

Sharma was suspended and later compulsorily retired.

Punjab was brought to a standstill in October 2015 with radical Sikhs and others blocking highways and roads for days.

Radical Sikh leader Dhian Singh Mand, who led the protests, said on Sunday that the arrest was the first step towards taking action against those who tried to cover-up the sacrilege incidents during the tenure of the SAD-BJP government in Punjab at that time.

Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly and senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Harpal Singh Cheema said that the arrest was a good step but the process had been delayed by the Congress government in the state.


Vote judiciously to rid country of anti-democratic forces: Amarinder


Patiala: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh witnesses the 2019 Republic Day Parade in Patiala, on Jan 26, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Chandigarh (IANS): Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday urged the people to vote judiciously to rid the nation of the “anti-democratic forces” which, he said, “were mercilessly destroying the constitutional fabric of India”.

The Chief Minister said that Lok Sabha elections due in a few weeks from now would give people the “chance to save ourselves from these anti-people forces that were ruling the country”.

“The Constitution, which forms the bedrock of our systems and ideologies, itself has been endangered through brazen violation of its rules by the incumbent BJP-led government at the Centre. The very fibre of our democratic ethos has been stretched to a breaking point,” Amarinder told media in Patiala city, 80 km from here, on Saturday after the 70th Republic Day celebrations.

“It is up to the people to save themselves and the country from the divisive and destructive policies of the Central government by bringing in the much-needed political change in the system,” he said.

Earlier, addressing the people at the Republic Day event, the Chief Minister vowed to restore Punjab to its Number 1 position in the country.


BSF offers sweets to Rangers; thousands converge for Retreat ceremony at Attari


Attari : Border Security Force (BSF) commandant Mukund Kumar Jha exchanges sweets with Pakistan Border Wing Commander Usman Khalid during India’s 70th Republic Day celebrations at the Attari-Wagah border in Punjab, on Jan 26, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Attari (Punjab) (IANS): The Border Security Force (BSF) on Saturday offered sweets to the Pakistan Rangers to mark the 70th Republic Day.

At a brief ceremony at the international border gates of both countries at the Attari-Wagah joint check post, BSF officers and troopers offered sweets to their counterparts from the Pakistan Rangers.

Sweets were also exchanged at the international border in Hussainiwala in Ferozepur and in Fazilka districts.

The BSF had refused to offer sweets to the Rangers on the occasion of Republic Day last year in view of tension between both countries due to unprovoked border firing by the Pakistan side along the international border and the LoC (Line of Control) in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the afternoon, thousands of people gathered at Attari to witness the Retreat Ceremony which is held every evening at the Attari-Wagah joint check post to mark the closure of the gates for the night.

Bhangra and Gidda dancers enthralled the audience as patriotic songs built up the atmosphere on the occasion.

Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan and director-choreographer Remo D’Souza, who are in Amritsar for the shooting of dance-movie ‘ABCD-3’, also arrived at the venue to witness the ceremony.