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June, 2008




Dera Baba Nanak, June 28, 2008

Desk has been cleared for providing a direct express link between the holy city of Sri Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak in India. An indication to this effect was available this afternoon when the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Parnab Mukherjee assured the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr. Parkash Singh Badal that the Governments of the two countries were closing in on a mutually agreeable outcome to the oft raised Sikh demand for a direct corridor between the two historically and religiously significant towns divided by the International Border between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Mukherjee infact went on a step further and told the media persons that a high powered group of Indian experts and officials would conduct a feasibility study for the construction of barbed corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. The feasibility study followed by the strategic clearance from Government of Pakistan would form the basis of locational alignment of the express link, said he. Mr. Mukherjee was here today at the special invitation of Mr. Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister Punjab..
Talking to media persons Mr. Mukherjee said that Government of India is fully aware and alive to the sanctity and significance of the issue and the Government of India, he said has already taken up the matter in full detail with its Pakistani counterpart. He said that he had personally conveyed Mr Badal's feelings on the subject to the visiting Pakistani Minister for External Affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi during the meeting in New Delhi. He assured the Chief Minster that Government would speed up its efforts through diplomatic channels for an early and expeditious realization of the dream of the Sikh community for a free access to the holy city in Pakistan, made immortal by its association with the first Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Mr. Parkash Singh Badal thanked the Union Minister of External Affairs for his favorable response to the request forwarded by the entire Sikh Community and was unspeakably gleaming with the contentment and happiness of a true Sikh whose earnest prayers for an opportunity to pay obeisance at the holy place that he has been deprived of has bore fruit. He was accompanied by Mr. Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Speaker Punjab Vidan Sabha, Mr. Rattan Singh Ajnala, MP, Mr. Harcharan Bains, Media Advisor and Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala, Ex-MLA.

With a green signal from the Union Minister, the proposed corridor from Indo Border to the historic and holy town of Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, now seems to be a virtual reality, said Mr. Badal. He informed that he had been repeatedly urging the centre especially Prime Minster Dr. Manmohan Singh and Minister of External Affairs to actively pursue the matter with their counterparts across the border. In his two letters to the Prime Minster early last year, Mr. Badal had emphasized the importance of the corridor both as an important artery for religio-cultural tourism as well as economic prosperity and development of the region.

Mr Badal said that the Punjab Government would go out of its way to modernize strategic infrastructure in and around Dera Baba Nanak area. He said that this border segment would be provided with the State of art super expressway connection with the International Airport at Amritsar and with the rest of the State. He said that in view of the expected boost in business and trade activity consequent upon the realization of the proposed corridor the State Government would upgrade not only all the vital linkages to the area but also key services like education and health facilities

Mr. Badal said that he personally regarded the successful resolution of the people's demand in this regard as his Government's humble tribute to the everlasting message of the great Gurus. Mr. Badal disclosed that he had requested the Prime Minister for integrating this project with the nation wide Guruta Gaddi Divas Celebrations. He said that subsequently the media had also taken up this issue.

Chief Minister Punjab said that the corridor would be a means of hassle free pilgrimage for the Sikh devotees as a compared to the long, strenuous journey through circuitous route via Wagha, Lahore and Narowal. This, he said, in the long run would help foster better relations between the two countries and would further give a push to the on going Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan. "The corridor to the holy shrine would in time to come turn out to be the corridor for peace and prosperity", claimed Mr. Badal.


Chandigarh June 28, 2008

The Municipal polls in the state would be held in 95 Municipal Councils / Nagar Councils including 8 Nagar Panchayats in the State on June 30 from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. For the first time the electronic voting machines (EVMs) would be used in these polls.

Disclosing this here today a spokesman of the State Election Commission Punjab said that total 2950 polling booths have been set up and 28 observers have been deputed for free, fair and smooth conduct of these polls. Around 12000 polling staff have been assigned duties at the polling centers.

He further added that more than one crore electorates would exercise their franchise to elect their Councilors from 1527 wards in 87 Municipal Councils / Nagar Councils and 8 Nagar Panchayats. Out of this, 251 wards have been reserved for Scheduled Castes candidates, 132 for Scheduled Castes women, 352 for women and 97 wards for Backward Classes candidates. General category candidates were contesting in 699 wards.

He added that the counting of votes would be held at the polling centers on the same day in the evening after the voting was over. The State Election Commission had already directed all the District Electoral Officers to personally supervise and monitor the poll process and keep strict vigil to maintain harmony and peace.


Chandigarh June 28, 2008

Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal today mourned the sad demise of a renowned freedom fighter and celebrated columnist of his times Mr Satyapal Baghi who died of massive heart attack in a private hospital at Ferozepur this afternoon. In a condolence message, the Chief Minister described Mr. Baghi as a true patriot, noble soul and above all a great freedom fighter. His crucial role in the Indian freedom struggle would be ever remembered by one and all.

Badal also expressed his hear felt sympathies with the members of the bereaved family and prayed to Almighty to give strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss and grant peace to the departed soul.

Meanwhile Member Parliament and SAD president Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal also condole the death of Mr. Baghi and said; "he was an eminent social activist and an educationist who tersely worked for the uplift of the downtrodden and spread of education in every nook and corner of the state".

Information & Public Relations Minister Mr. Bikram Singh Majithia also shared his condolences on the passing away of Mr. Satyapal Baghi and said the real tribute to him would be to follow his footsteps as he was a man of rare interact with the qualities of head and heart. Besides a fine Journalist who could feel the pulse of the people.

Union Minister for External Affairs, Mr Parnab Mukherjee inaugurates
the passport office in AMRITSAR


Punjab's dream of having a full fledged passport office in this holy city became a reality with the Union Minister for External Affairs, Mr Parnab Mukherjee inaugurating the facility here this afternoon.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal who had been pressing for a Regional Passport Office, along with a visa centre here was also present on the occasion. Later, talking to media persons, Mr. Badal expressed the hope that the Centre would take up with its counterparts in other countries especially Pakistan, Afganistan, Iran, The Middle East and West Asian Countries, Europe, The USA, Australia and New Zealand the issue of opening visa centres here. This he said, has become necessary in view of the high volume of traffic to these countries from the belt which Amritsar Passport Office will cater to. He said that the opening of the new Passport Office at Amritsar would fulfill the aspiration of the people in the districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Muktsar in having an exclusive passport facility of their own. The Amritsar Passport Office is equipped with the latest IT technology including the facility to issue a computer-generated receipt to the applicants on submission of an application. The receipt will facilitate tracking of the status of the application on the internet. The Office is fully air-conditioned to ensure comfort of the passport seeking public. The Office will start functioning from Monday. Mr. Amar Jit Singh will be the first Passport Officer here.

During 2007, the Regional Passport Office in Chandigarh and the Passport Office in Jalandhar together issued over 3,50,000 passports to applicants from Punjab. In the first five months of this year, about 35000 passports have already been issued to the people of the six districts that will be covered by the Amritsar Passport Office. By the end of 2008, the number of applications received by the Amritsar Office is likely to reach around 1, 00,000. To cope with the annual demand of nearly 1.5 to 2 lac passsports, the Amritsar Office will also have, attached to it, six District Passport Cells and nine Speed Post Centres that collect passport applications.

Addressing the gathering at the function, Mr.Pranab Mukherjee said that about 50 lakh passports were issued last year all over India by the Central Passport Organization, compared to 22 lakhs, seven years ago. The total demand for passport is expected to grow to over 80 lakhs in 2010. The Minister explained the various steps taken by the Ministry of External Affairs to simplify the passport issuance system and make it applicant-friendly. The simplified system seeks to balance the needs of security with those of citizens' comfort.

The Minister of External Affairs said that while the Amritsar Passport Office will greatly facilitate employment opportunities abroad for people in the region, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that there are a number of unscrupulous agents who exploit innocent people by giving false hopes of lucrative employment abroad. He assured the Chief Minister of his full cooperation to the efforts of the Government of Punjab in taking action against such activities.

The Minister of External Affairs said that his Ministry has already initiated the Passport Seva Project for introducing better and latest IT solutions, further simplification of procedures and reducing paper work to the barest minimum, with a view to maximizing the comfort levels of passport applicants and achieving the best international standards. The project, which is expected to be implemented in a time frame of 19 months, will result in the issue of passports within three days and in cases which require police verification, within three days after the completion of the verification process. Tatkal passports will be issued on the day of submission of the application. The Passport Seva Project envisages opening of 68 Passport Facilitation Centres all over the country, where the non-sovereign functions, involved in the passport issuance process, will be performed by a service provider to be selected through an open bidding process. Police verification will be expedited through electronic linkage of the Passport Facilitation Centres with the police authorities in State Capitals. This centre would also start issuing e-passports, also known as biometric passports, in the diplomatic category, said he. Issue of e-passports in the official passport category will also commence soon. The Ministry of External Affairs has drawn up a programme for the full roll out of e-passports in the ordinary passport category by September, 2009. The e-passports will be much safer against forgeries and will facilitate their movement through the border points equipped with e-passport reading facilities. With the National Launch of e-passports in New Delhi on June 25 by the President of India, India has become the first major developing country to issue such passports.

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