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Vigilance probe ordered into Punjab pesticide scam

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Chandigarh: Punjab on Thursday ordered a vigilance probe into the multi-crore rupee pesticide scam in the state which has led to losses running into millions of rupees to cotton-growing farmers in the state.

The move came after the state government defended the issue for the past few days.

“Taking cognizance of the news report regarding another pesticide scam in the Phillaur region of Jalandhar district, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today ordered an enquiry to get at the bottom of the case,” a spokesman of the Chief Minister’s Office said on Thursday.

Badal asked the DGP (Vigilance) to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit its report within a month.

The Punjab government has been under fire from various quarters over the pesticide purchase mess which led to loss of hundreds of crore of rupees for the state’s cotton farmers, mostly in the Malwa belt of south-west Punjab.

Badal on Monday announced a compensation of Rs 600 crore to the farmers affected by ‘white fly’ attack which has destroyed cotton crop in almost 60 percent area under cotton cultivation.

Farmers are up in arms against the state government for its failure to help them and for providing poor quality pesticides. The opposition has demanded a judicial probe into the pesticide purchase scam.

A war of words over the pesticide scam in Punjab escalated on Monday as Agriculture Minister Tota Singh blamed a senior agriculture department official for the procurement of spurious pesticide to deal with white fly pest attack on the cotton crop in the state.

After agriculture department director Mangal Singh Sandhu’s statement in a section of the media that put the blame on Tota Singh and even pointed to Chief Minister Badal’s involvement in decision-making on purchase of the pesticide, the minister on Monday said the officer was muddling the facts to save his own skin.

The state government removed Sandhu as agriculture director on September 17. Sandhu’s shifting was, however, put on hold by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday.

The opposition Congress on Monday demanded a judicial probe into the pesticide scam and sought an immediate resignation of the agriculture minister.

(IANS)

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Be a farmer on weekends at Citrus County Hoshiarpur

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Hoshiarpur
Wheat field in Phagwara Punjab India. Wikimedia

Hoshiarpur, Oct 2, 2017: Punjab is better known for India’s “green revolution” in agriculture and for contributing the maximum foodgrain to the national kitty. And now a progressive horticulturist and entrepreneur is offering hands-on experience to visitors to try their hand at how farming is actually done.

“Be a farmer on weekends at Citrus County — Hoshiarpur. Get your kids to the farm to give them a unique experience in a typical farm in Punjab. Let then come and indulge in plucking fruit and sowing vegetable seeds in the fields on their own.” This is how Harkirat Ahluwalia, owner of the Citrus County farm resort, puts it.

“We are offering guests, especially children, first-hand experience of doing farming. This is something that people have never tried before. The experience gives them the satisfaction of doing hard work and experiencing what life is like in the countryside,” Harkirat, who along with his wife Jasveen runs the resort, about 140 km from Chandigarh, told IANS.

The guests at the farm can sow seeds, pluck citrus fruit, plough the fields, milk cows, drive a tractor and take a ride to a nearby forest and rivulet in a tractor-trolley.

Fresh home-cooked food, which is prepared on earthen stoves at the ground level, home-grown organic vegetables and warm hospitality add up in equal measure to make the experience a refreshing one.

“Glamping”, or luxury tenting, as Harkirat puts it, is also part of the farm experience.

The nine air-conditioned tents at Citrus County, with attached bathrooms, offer luxury stay with king-sized beds in the midst of the sprawling orchards of kinnow (a citrus fruit) and tall poplar trees.

Also Read: Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy 

The farm resort is located in Chaunni Kalan village, five km short of Hoshiarpur on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh highway.

“Cycling enthusiasts are welcome to get their wheels along and we will provide them the best possible tracks,” said Harkirat, who is a post-graduate in Mass Communication from Panjab University and himself a cycling and biking enthusiast.

In the past, the resort has seen couples from other countries going through wedding rituals the Indian way to give them a real-time feel of the country’s culture and marriage ceremonies.

The unique thing in couples opting for the Indian-style wedding is that they are already married and are middle-aged or even older. The couples are accompanied by their friends, relatives and even children and grandchildren for this unique experience. (IANS)

 

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Anti-Punjab Conspiracy: Apologise to Punjabis for Branding them as Drug Addicts, Demands Akali Dal to Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal

A survey by PGIMER had revealed that drugs abuse in Punjab was just around one per cent of the 2.8 crore population in the state

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Punjab
Sukhbir Singh Badal, President of Akali Dal in Punjab. Wikimedia

Chandigarh, Sep 11, 2017: Punjab’s opposition Akali Dal on Sunday said that latest findings of PGIMER survey listing drug addiction in the state at less than a per cent had yet again nailed the “anti-Punjab conspiracy” of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and demanded they apologise to the people.

“The latest comprehensive survey which was carried out in all 22 districts as well as 22 villages in each district, had exposed the anti-Punjab conspiracy of Rahul Gandhi and his team as well as that of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal,” SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a statement here.

“Both leaders and their parties should now tell Punjabis why they branded them as drug addicts and tender an unconditional apology to the people of the state.”

Claiming that the “entire conspiracy was hatched to counter the development narrative of the previous SAD-BJP government”, Badal said though the Congress had succeeded in its goal of achieving power in Punjab, it had caused incalculable damage to its people and its economy.

“Both Congress and AAP played with the lives of the youth and made them virtually unhireable. The image distortion also dented the image of Punjab and Punjabis worldwide,” he said.

Highlighting Rahul Gandhi’s “nefarious role in this sordid chapter of Punjab politics”, Badal said he was “definitely the villain-in-chief”.

“Rahul uttered an utter lie to reap political mileage for his flagging party by claiming in October 2012 at a NSUI function in Chandigarh that 70 per cent of the state’s youth were drug addicts.

“This despite the fact that he knew well that he was reading out a sample survey of drug addicts of which youth formed a big share,” he said.

“During the Punjab assembly campaign this year, he insisted he was speaking the truth and even had the gall to ask Punjabis to admit they were drug addicts. Such behaviour coming from the chosen scion of the Gandhi dynasty is shameful,” he added.

A survey done by a team of doctors and researchers of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research had revealed that drugs abuse in Punjab was just around one per cent of the 2.8 crore population in the state.

Badal said that Aam Aadmi Party leader Kejriwal and “his gang of outsiders had also tried to doom the future of the youth by claiming 40 lakh youth were drug addicts”.

“The PGIMER report puts the entire number of addicts in the state at 2.7 lakh. Other reports, included that conducted by AIIMS, had come out with even lower figures than this,” he added.

A detailed survey by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi had put the drug addiction at 0.84 per cent.

“The Punjab government also got a dope test conducted on 3.76 lakh youth who presented themselves for police recruitment. The test, which was conducted by the Baba Farid Health Sciences University, saw only 1.27 per cent candidates testing positive,” Badal said, citing a survey done during the Akali government last year. (IANS)

 

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69 Years a Slave? Balochistan’s Struggle for Freedom : A Detailed Report

Baloch nationalists assert that theirs is a freedom struggle; they were occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and have been fighting since to free themselves.

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Balochistan
Baloch people address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Wikimedia
  • Even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, Balochistan refuses to associate itself as a part of the country
  • Pakistan’s military occupation of Balochistan began in 1948 before which the province had existed as an independent state
  • The insurgency in Balochistan traces its roots in ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion

Balochistan, August 31, 2017 : Located in the South West of Pakistan, the Balochistan province of Pakistan constitutes nearly 45 per cent of the country’s territory. However, even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, the people of the province refuse to associate themselves with Pakistan or its framework of a nation state. They believe they have been Balochis for over three thousand years, who have now been invaded.

“It is freedom struggle,” believes activist Naela Quadri Baloch like many other Baloch nationalists. According to her, Balochistan had been occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and “ever since we have been fighting against Pakistan to free ourselves”, she believes.

In 2016 during an interview with The Times of India, the women’s leader and activist Naela Quadri Baloch had asserted that Pakistan is not interested in Kashmiris but specifically in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir for its desire to control the Indus river system. Similarly, it is also not interested in the Balochis, but the land of the state for its strategic location and mineral reserves.

Baloch nationalists assert that Pakistan’s economy is dependent on loans from the IMF, World Bank and the Western countries that are allegedly taken on the pretext of Balochistan’s rich mineral resources. They further claim that Pakistan’s strategic importance is also due to Balochistan coast. Pakistan would not be able to survive, which is why it does not want Balochistan to emerge as an independent state.

Balochistan
Balochistan comprises of about 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory. Wikimedia

While the world views it as an insurgency movement, Balochis address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

They maintain that Balochistan was never a part of India or Pakistan and it had always been an independent country.

Balochistan At The Time Of Partition

Balochistan comprises of four erstwhile princely states – Kalat, Kharan, Lasbela and Makran, that had been unified by Naseer Khan, the Khan of Kalat.

During the British rule, the province was divided into British Balochistan (25 per cent) and Native Balochistan, occupying 75 per cent of the total territory with people pledging adherence to Naseer Khan.

Immediately following partition and the creation of Pakistan, Khan’s descendant, Mir Ahmed Yaar Khan was faced with three options – independence, or accession to either India or Pakistan. He decided upon independence, following which a communiqué was released on August 11, 1947 giving independent sovereign status to Kalat.

However, by October 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah mooted Kalat to formally join the state of Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat did not agree to the accession which was followed by a standstill between the two leaders upon the status of present-day Balochistan.

Becoming A Part Of Pakistan

By April 1948, the Pakistan army moved into the province and captured Kalat. The Khans’ attempts of an armed campaign against the Pakistan army went futile and the province was merged with Pakistan by June 1948.

At the center of Balochistan’s forced accession was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had previously been hired by the Khans for his legal services to negotiate Kalat’s independent status with the Britishers.

Before partition, Jinnah had successfully mooted an ‘Independent Status’ of Kalat for which he was graciously awarded with gold. But, Balochistan breathed as a free country only from August 1947 to March 1948, after which Jinnah breached trust and betrayed the Khan, forcing the Pakistani invasion and eventual accession of Kalat.

ALSO READ Violence surges yet again in Balochistan

Surprisingly, during the struggle and annexation of present-day Balochistan, the Indian Congressmen, Mahatma Gandhi or the then-Governor General Lord Mountbatten made no attempts to hinder in the remonstration. This indifference can be attributed to the Indian leaders’ failure to realize the strategic implication of a sovereign Balochistan at the time.

A Growing Ethnic Nationalism

Following the formation of Pakistan, distorted power relations existed among different Muslim ethnicities. Additionally, unchallenged power was exercised by Punjabis who comprised of about 56 per cent population of the state.

In 1954, the One Unit scheme was launched by the federal government of Pakistan to merge the four existing provinces of West Pakistan (Khyber-Pakhtunkawa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab) to form a homogeneous, united political entity in an attempt to,

  • Forge national unity on basis of Islam and geography
  • Reduce gross expenditure
  • Help eliminate ethnic prejudices.

The move triggered violence throughout the country and especially in Balochistan, wherein this was interpreted as a strategy to establish Punjabi domination.

Balochistan rose against the move, which came to an end in 1970 with the overthrow of the One Unit scheme.

However, following the rebellion, a strong sense of nationalism, propounding larger political autonomy and a separate state for Balochistan broke a full-fledged insurgency from 1973 to 1977; over 80,000 personnel were deployed to quell the rebellion.    

Armed struggle to achieve separation from Pakistan lasted throughout the 1970s, in which 3,300 army personnel and 5,300 Balochis were killed. However, the Pakistani government successfully compressed the movement.

Economic Alienation

Baloch nationalists have repeatedly argued that they are yet to receive any benefit from the development projects that have been initiated by the government in Balochistan.

  1. Reportedly, the Sui Gas Field in Balochistan caters to most urban households in the country. Despite producing about 45 per cent of gas for Pakistan, the province gets to consume a mere 17 per cent. Additionally, the Balochis get a nominal amount of Pakistani Rupees 6 for a 24-hour supply.
  2. The Pakistani government, in collaboration with China, initiated the development of the Gwadar port in the province, with an aim to better trade ties with Asia, Europe, and US. However, a large number of Punjabis and non-Baloch people were hired for the project, leaving an increasing population of Baloch engineers and technicians unemployed.
  3. Balochistan has one of the world’s richest reserves of copper and gold. However, as much as 16 kgs of gold is seized everyday by the Chinese under an arrangement with the government, which robs the Balochis of major economic benefits.
  4. Despite being one of the country’s key providing areas,
    • 80 per cent population of Balochistan continue to live in the absence of safe drinking water
    • 80 per cent people do not have access to electricity
    • 70 per cent children have never been to school
    • 63 per cent of Balochis live below the poverty line

While ethnic nationalist interests continue to worry Balochistan, a primary demand has also been about better control over the economic resources of the region.

However, the Pakistani government blames the nationalist struggle in the region for impeding the developmental process.

Political Subjugation By Islamabad

Balochistan makes up nearly 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory but the Balochs comprise only 5 per cent of the total population, making them a minority in Pakistan.

Their representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan is also negligible (17 out of 342) which reveals that the Balochis have lost their say in policy formulations and are forced to adhere to laws that have been put in place for them by power honchos sitting in Islamabad.

Additionally, the Pakistan government centered in Islamabad has eradicated most of the Baloch activists and nationalists, calling them ‘foreign agents against the state’. This can be supplemented with the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was an ex chief minister of Balochistan.

ALSO READ Akbar Bugti: Remembering the Balochistan Hero on his 11th Martyrdom Anniversary

Pakistan And Its inherent Demand of Balochistan

Ever since the creation of Pakistan, it has been evident that the Pakistan government is more concerned with occupying the physical territory of Balochistan, with meager interest in its indigenous population.

The Pakistan army, on command of the government has employed every possible armory against its own people of Balochistan, in an attempt to contain the province within its seizure. Furthermore, army cantonments have been established at Dera, Gwadar, Bugti and Kohlu to gauge activity and movement of the Baloch people.

Additionally, despite occupying 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory, the budget allocated to Balochistan is minuscule in comparison to its vast landmass.

In 2002, General Pervez Musharraf had striked a deal with China over the Gwadar port development as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Baloch people condemned the allocation of land to the rich businessmen of Punjab and Karachi and further lamented the unemployment stemming from the project. The move also instigated further violence in the region.

Balochistan
Gwadar port in Balochistan. Wikimedia

As of now, according to report, all 22 districts of Balochistan continue to suffer at the hands of the enduring insurgency with the tally of displaced people now crossing over 2 lacs.

In more recent times, the Pakistan army took aid of suicide bombers to tackle the ongoing insurgency. On August 8, 2017, as many as 54 lawyers became victims of a suicide attack, which is being touted as a State-funded action as the group included several Baloch activists who had been vocal about Pakistan army’s interference in state affairs.

ALSO READ Balochistan Suicide Bombing: Provincial Government Falsely blames India for the Attack

According to a report published in Dawn,prince of the now redundant Kalat state, Prince Mohyuddin Baloch who is now the  Baloch Rabita Ittefaq Tehreek chief,  had said that Balochis are not looking to wage wars. Until now, Balochis have not once attacked Pakistan, but only defended themselves.

He said the objective of their protests has been to draw the government’s attention. However, regretfully, no one is paying any heed to their cries.

Dr. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar had rightly quoted in an article in the Economic and Political Weekly that the “ethnic difference remains the single biggest fault line in Pakistani politics.”

The Balochistan insurgency thus, traces its roots in a ripe ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion. This animosity among the country will continue unless Pakistan accepts its non-Muslim history.


 

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