Protests in Punjab: A tool for reformation or defamation?.......by Pushpinder Singh Gill
As the new government in Punjab completed its seven months in office, the public discourse has shifted many times but the overall theme of the narrative that the opposition has pushed centers around the collective inexperience of the regime.
The people of the state are told that they have committed a grave error of judgment in giving new people a chance to change the fortunes of the state; The state had reached its nadir under the governance of the most experienced politicians. The people who in their respective five-year times did much less than desired to fulfil poll promises for the first four and a half years and then tried to sugar-coat everything in the last six months, began seeking implementation reports from the new government in the first month itself.
The report card of the new government does not fall short of the poll promises made to the people of Punjab. In the first six months 100 new Mohalla clinics have been made available to the public, free units of electricity have already been implemented, a corruption helpline has been launched and hundreds of corrupt officials including some ministers in the previous governments are behind bars awaiting legal action.
Anti-gangster task force is working diligently conducting raids and lodging FIRs against antisocial elements. A weekly report card on seized narcotics and pedlars arrested is given by senior police officials via press conference.
Yes, instances of violence and gang shootings have happened but unlike in the past the perpetrators of these crimes have been arrested within a reasonable time. The opposition whose governance tenure witnessed bomb blasts of Maur and Ludhiana courts remain unsolved; Even other incidents like shooting of rival gangster during movement in police custody in broad daylight, high security jailbreaks, shooting of prominent RSS leaders and dera followers occurred during the tenure of opposition who is busy hyping worsened law and order situation in the state.
As the usual political bickering and activity in the social media continues, the farmer unions have ticked up their activities. After the successful agitation against the central government which was supported by large number of the public as well the unions, now stands split again over participation in elections.
Earlier the unions were seen trying to increase their ranks when they started organizing protests on local issues to ride on a popular wave of support but as every new month brought a new protest by a different organization the inconvenience began pinching the residents.
The government on their part has held talks with various factions and every protest culminated with joint announcement that “ all of the demands have been met by the government”. But last week again the farmer unions blocked the highways at six places in the state causing the patience of the general public to reach a boiling point.
The questions of the motive of the unions have also hit the minds of public which are highlighted by the media and public alike. Can the people suffer in perpetual chaos caused by these protests and hinderance to their daily routine? The aggrieved should be seen protesting at the doorsteps of government representatives, not obstructing flow of the ordinary residents.
The sheer number of protests and the thinning participation of people indicate that the protests are motivated by political agenda instead of the spontaneous public uprising.The farmer unions are not alone in this dharna politics, certain government employees & people seeking permanent employment are also active participants in vitiating the atmosphere.
The transfer of a conductor, action against a corrupt colleague or even transfer of some employee are a pretext for the entire department to stop work and go on a strike. Is this increasing trend a result of an accommodative government that seems to rely on dialogue instead of water cannon & lathi charge to disperse the protesters?
This trend apparently stems from certain scheming political parties to keep the government on tenterhooks and make an impression that the government is unable to handle the daily administration.
It is also a fact that whenever someone tries to change an established system that functions for long time benefitting its perpetrators, the system is bound to resist and retaliate against the change.The daily instances of dharna and protests against the government on petty issues are the system’s reaction to change. The people in control have also ostensibly anticipated such reactions and are prepared to ride out the storm.
The most worrisome is the sinister attempt to vitiate the atmosphere of the state on communal lines . The attempts to spread fear psychosis through colouring of incidents of violence as targeted communal acts is a very dangerous game which will have disastrous results.
We should learn a lesson from consequences of our past such incidents and not repeat it. The trend to flare up every petty incident as an international conspiracy of Pakistan may be convenient but is not desirable. There are a number of states in India who share an international border with other nations or even Pakistan but it is not highlighted daily to impact them adversely.
On the contrary in Punjab there are some people who are receptive to ideas of creating trouble to gain personal benefits by fermenting hate through inflammatory speeches.The government machinery should stand extra vigil to nip such sinister effort in the bud. If these are allowed to go on unchecked the results would be far more disastrous compared to previous years.
The political stakes may be high for some parties or politicians but it is the state which should be kept paramount in our minds. The loss of business and industries due to the last bout of violence along with the loss of life has dealt us such a crippling blow that it is impacting us even today.
The politicians should realize that if there is no prosperous state left to govern what would they gain out of this slugfest? To rule on the ruins of a glorious state is not even consolation to being a cog in the wheel of a developing and harmonious society where our children can flourish. This should be the driving force to set our objective to govern and live our lives instead of petty short-term gains and political one up man ship that we are indulging in now.
Pushpinder Singh Gill, Professor, School of Management Studies Punjabi University Patiala
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