Ousted director of Punjab agriculture department Mangal Singh Sandhu, a native of Pakka village in chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s assembly constituency of Lambi, was known for flaunting his closeness to the ruling clan. But the officer got the shock of his life when he was abruptly removed from the post barely an hour after he attended a meeting of agriculture ministers of Punjab and Haryana. In the habit of bypassing the agriculture minister and his administrative boss, who is an additional chief secretary-rank officer, Sandhu used to be privy to all important decisions related to the department. But when he was shunted he had no inkling of this.
Washing dirty linen in public
Akali leader Balwant Singh Ramoowalia and his younger Brampton (Canada) NRI brother Iqbal Singh appear to have forgotten the writings of their father, famous kavishar Karnail Singh Paras, who had written a lot on family ties, saying no one can save the dignity of a family if its members have no faith in one another. The two Ramoowalia brothers are fighting for property in public, blaming each other. About 10 days ago, Iqbal Singh wrote to Punjab Police about the threat to his wife Sukh Sagar Kaur, who is visiting India, from Balwant Singh. The long-drawn “battle” is not reaching any conclusion, but it is certainly a matter of discussion in political and literary circles in Punjab and Canada.
Girls having a field day
More and more girls are taking up agriculture courses and topping the exams in Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). While it is a positive trend, not everyone appears to be happy. For PAU vice-chancellor BS Dhillon, it is a matter of concern. “Why are boys not studying agriculture?” he wondered while addressing a seminar at Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) in Chandigarh a week ago. Quoting figures, Dhillon, who has been in the eye of a storm in recent weeks owing to his statements, said girls had continuously topped in a majority of university examinations from 1996 to 2010. “Girls cannot go to the fields and interact with farmers the way boys can. No controversy should be created out of this statement. The issue should be pondered seriously,” he said. The current agrarian crisis, according to him, was a result of reluctance of extension workers and officers to go to the fields and interact with farmers.
Rumours highly exaggerated
Former Punjab chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala, who also remained governor of three states, has not been well for some time. He was in the news during the past week not because of his illness or treatment at the PGI, Chandigarh, but because of rumours of his demise. The rumours allegedly floated by those close to him, who wanted more and more people to come and enquire about his health, continued even after the veteran leader was discharged from the hospital.
Bapu and his antics
The district administration’s decision to shift fasting Sikh activist Surat Singh Khalsa to the hospital on Saturday once again gave goose bumps to the doctors and staff at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Ludhiana. The administration bigwigs and government doctors were on the edge till the time Khalsa was shifted to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh. A doctor, who is posted in a rural area and had witnessed Khalsa’s tantrums the last time the fasting activist was moved to the Ludhiana hospital, called up a scribe late in the night, asking, “Don’t tell me that Bapuji is being hospitalised at DMCH. I am keeping my fingers crossed.”
No more prized posting
AB Agrawal, outgoing chairman of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), was removed from the post last week after a five-and-a-half-year stint. After completing his three-year term, he continued on extension, but could not manage to prolong his stay further. Agrawal, according to board officials, had managed to extend his stay by winning a large number of awards from being best organisation in using Hindi language to managing best power generation benchmarks. But all the awards did not help him when the Union ministry of power made a recommendation to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to remove Agrawal and give the charge to member irrigation SK Sharma.
When CM couldn’t care less
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership in the assembly constituency of Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar does not seem happy. After the government announcement that Karnal would be developed as ‘Smart City’, Khattar was felicitated by a group of 52 social organisations. It was a gala event, but the BJP functionaries were conspicuous by their absence. They vent their frustration before mediapersons privately instead, saying they had been totally marginalised by the CM. “Looks like a political design. The same faces used to be visible while inviting the Congress leadership. But the CM chose to ignore this and agreed to attend the function without his party leaders. We cannot even raise our voice at any party platform,” said a couple of them.
Trip Down Under
Haryana finance minister Capt Abhimanyu set off on a week-long trip to Australia last week as part of the Government of India delegation led by Kerala finance minister KM Mani, chairman of empowered committee of state finance ministers. The delegation will study the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system of Australia. The buzz is that the FM has been abroad four times, including two private visits, since the formation of the BJP government in the state last year. Besides Sydney, Abhimanyu will go to Canberra and Melbourne. He will stay back and return only on October 10. From October 3-10, the finance minister will be on personal visit to Australia and Singapore.
Hill town for smart city
Himachal Pradesh urban development minister Sudhir Sharma has been under attack for including Dharamsala in the smart city project. Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan and deputy mayor Tikender Panwar have already filed a petition in the high court challenging the move. When Sudhir Sharma and Chauhan met at a function the other day, they greeted each other before discussing the matter. While the minister asked about the court dates, Chauhan wanted to know about the smart city project. At the same time, the Shimla mayor sarcastically told Sudhir Sharma that his fight against the selection would continue. “Sudhir ji, don’t worry, I will not let the project go easily,” he said. The minister responded by saying that only Dharamsala qualified for the project and had also been notified as municipal corporation now. “One should not envy us,” he added.
An unruffled CM
When the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team raided Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s house, he was unruffled. The six-time CM asked the raiding officials to go ahead with their work. “The entire house and toilets are open for you all. You can check whatever you want. I have nothing to hide,” he told them before leaving for her daughter’s wedding at Sankat Mochan temple. When the family returned at 11.15am, the CBI team was there. The raid continued till late night. While the CM put up a brave face, son Vikramaditya Singh, who heads the state Youth Congress, looked perturbed.
Closed-door parleys over SUV
The closed-door meetings in Himachal Pradesh chief secretary P Mitra’s office in recent days triggered speculations of all kinds. Besides Mitra, additional director general of police Prithvi Raj Singh and the chief minister’s private principal secretary Subhash Ahluwalia were present at these meetings. However, they were not willing to share what was cooking. When they met again recently, it emerged that the state cabinet had shown its benevolence in sanctioning Toyota Innova for Prithvi Raj Singh.
CONTRIBUTED BY GURPREET SINGH NIBBER, ANSHU SETH, VISHAL JOSHI, RAJESH MOUDGIL AND GAURAV BISHT