Tight Rope Walk Amidst Political Cacophony.......by Pushpinder Singh Gill
April 5, 2022: Mature and vibrant democracies flourish as much by the letter of the law, as they do by the spirit of public interest. The politics of detractors to distract the political party in governance from its focussed agenda is an age-old strategy by which dichotomies are flared up beyond proportions and contentious issues sprayed indiscreetly to catch the public imagination and paint the intentions & actions of government as fuzzy and faint.
Censorial politics of the opposition tends to keep the government tied down and subdued to thwart the influence of well-meaning courageous moves on the voters with their eyes fixed on the next elections.
As the results of the 2022 Punjab assembly elections tricked out, the brut and absolute majority of ninety-two seats seemed to be enough for the smooth running of the new government. But even before the government could be sworn in the media pundits and social media activists (IT cells) of the traditional political parties swung into action and criticism regarding the roadshow organized by the party in Amritsar was all over the place.
These very political analysts and media journalists were those who never questioned the new governments of the past for at least six months in the name of the honeymoon period. At best the discussion would start and end on the announcements made by the government in the first hundred days of its coming to power. But new government attracted criticism even before the swearing-in ceremony.
Even the swearing-in ceremony was termed as a wastage of public money paid to farmers in lieu of crops cleared to make way for the rally. It revealed the bitter disappointment in the ranks of those who were benefitting from the working of the old system and would be at the receiving end of the current dispensation.
The decisions taken by the new government in the first fifteen days of its formation are harbinger of change that is already in the air. Decision to limit the pension of ex MLAs to one was an exemplary decision which no other political party had the courage to implement as it effected their own pockets.
This was also propagated as an attempt to settle scores with political rivals as it would affect mainly congress and Akali MLAs whereas detractors forgot to mention that at least ten of the AAP MLAs were in their second term and this decision would be applicable to them as well.
Similarly, the decision to stop the private schools from raising fees or to ask parents to buy uniform and stationary from a particular shop was timely and benefitted almost entire population of the state.
This was again criticized for being one-sided and taken without consulting the school management which had been struggling for two years due to covid restrictions oblivious of the similar suffering and business losses of parents who still paid the entire fee of their wards even when the children did not go to school.
Chief Minister had categorically stated while announcing this decision that the policy on private schools will be formulated later after discussions with all stakeholders. The admissions were happening now and the uniform and books had to be purchased at the start of the session only, thus making it the most appropriate time for this decision to be implemented. Another landmark decision of this new government was the launching of an anti-corruption helpline where anybody could register their complaint along with audio or video evidence if any.
This was much needed and the response received on this helpline indicated the extent to which the general population of the state is angry and troubled by this menace. Close to one and a half lakh received complaints are under scrutiny and action has been progressed on three four of the genuine complaints.The nay sayers are criticizing it as too little action forgetful of the fact that these large number of complaints are because of the prevelent corrupt system which had been inherited from previous regimes.
This clean up drive has attracted massive response which can be addressed through a fool proof redressal mechanism after due verification of established wrong doing. Any action without proper procedure and evidence will lead to the prevalence of kangaroo court of justice which would harm the society rather than benefitting it. Other decisions such as extending the excise policy for three months or announcement to start delivering ration on your doorstep are welcome decisions which prove that the government is not in a tearing hurry to just undo the existing practices but is taking time to come up with a wellresearched and thought out plan to implement new policies.
Excise policies of states performing better than Punjab in terms of revenue collections are being studied and the best practices of these sates will be implemented in order to boost the revenue flows of the state. The doorstep delivery of ration has brought cheers to the faces of many daily wagers who had to forgo their entire days’ earning to stand in lines for collecting their monthly quota of subsidized rations. The news of the chief minister asking for a financial package for the state from the Prime minister also came under heavy criticism for taking a begging bowl to the prime mister.
Chief Minister has asked for assistance not for loans like many of his predecessors who had taken loans to the tune of 3 lakh crores. When BJP governed states are offered financial packages of lakhs of crores then what is wrong in Punjab getting a financial package, though unlikely. The requests of newly formed government like additional coal allocation needed for the functioning of power plants and the request for additional power required during the paddy sowing season from the central pool are also denied.
Instead many such recent decisions have been taken by the central government which have brought the long pending and emotive issue of Chandigarh back to the forefront of state politics. The BBMB rule changes, the issue of service rules applicable to the workers of Chandigarh cadre, the appointment of other cadre officers and sending back Punjab cadre officers from Chandigarh back to Punjab government are taken in quick succession to raise the temperatures in Punjab. It seems that the central government is creating hurdles in the normal functioning of the state government.
The potential crisis of low power availability in the sowing season is sure to turn volatile as the farmers have just returned from a long struggle and are still organized and more than willing to fight for their rights. The long pending issue of not getting their rightful due in form of Chandigarh as their capital is also bound to fray the emotions of the people. Haryana has also called an assembly session on this issue as well as SYL and Hindi speaking areas is bound to raise political temperatures.
Punjab has lost more than any other state during the eighties due to wrong politics of certain political parties and it is important that we all learn our lessons from those mistakes of the past. If instead of solving the long pending issues, new hurdles are created simply for political gains it is highly likely that we end up returning to the vicious destructive cycle . This will not help the state or the country, definitely not any political party but the losses would be huge for all of us.
It is important for the new government to understand that the old guard will not leave the battlefield so easily. They would try every trick in the trade to defame or dislodge the new entrants from the public minds. So, if they realize this and have the willpower to put their heads down and keep on working for the welfare of the people of the state and not fall into the many traps being set up for them, maybe they can pull it off. It will be beneficial for the society as a whole if new thought process and political ideas succeed.
It will give the old-timers an opportunity to reinvent themselves and come back into the fight but surely it will benefit the common man the most, who has been suffering silently for the past many decades hoping and praying for change. At the end of day success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds while maintaining the progressive path.
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