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High time: After being in denial mode for so long, Akali manifesto promises war on drugs in Punjab

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 24 January 2017, 17:34 IST

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been denying for so long that drugs were a problem in Punjab. But now, the party has come out with a promise of launching a war against drugs in its poll manifesto released on Tuesday in Ludhiana.

Party President Sukhbir Badal, while highlighting the Akali manifesto, said that controlling crime and continuing the fight against drugs was top priority for the Akali-BJP alliance.

Sukhbir said CCTV cameras would be installed at all entry and exit points of villages and cities to check crime and added that a special border area force would be constituted to form a second line of defence and check infiltration.

He underlined that rehabilitation centres would be upgraded and a new policy of giving incentives to encourage addicts to leave drugs would also be initiated.

Ironically, this is the same Sukhbir who has been denying that the problem of drugs exists in Punjab. It is his party that has been disputing reports on the extent of the menace. And it is the same party that was opposed to the release of Bollywood flick Udta Punjab.

Instead, it has carried out a campaign saying that there have been attempts to defame Punjab by those who said that drug menace was rampant in the state.

New promises...

The Akalis, in an attempt to justify their image of being a party of farmers, unveiled their manifesto promising to make agriculture a sustainable profession and revolutionise rural infrastructure. They have also promised to create 20 lakh jobs for the youth, establish mega complexes for industry and provide succour to the poorest of the poor.

The Akalis have claimed ­- 'jo keha so kar vikhaya (We delivered what we promised earlier)'.

"We have delivered what we promised earlier, be it making the state power surplus, introducing unique welfare schemes like aata-daal and Shagun, providing 100 water and sewerage facilities in 165 towns across the state. We are similarly committed to delivering on the promises made today," the manifesto said.

Taking a leaf out of the promises made by Akali rivals, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Sukhbir announced that the SAD- BJP alliance is committed to waiving off farm debts of all small farmers while promising a state fertiliser input incentive of Rs 100 per quintal on both wheat and paddy as an additional support over and above the minimum support price (MSP).

He said all small farmers will be eligible for a Rs 2 lakh interest-free agriculture crop loan besides the government providing tube wells to all farmers irrespective of the land holding and free and regular ten-hour day time power supply for farm operations.

Sukhbir also said that farm labourers will be compensated in case of damage to crops due to natural calamities.

...of revolutions...

Promising that the next five years would be a period when rural infrastructure is going to be revolutionised, Sukhbir said, "We have provided clean drinking water and sewerage facilities in 165 towns. Now we will do the same in all 12,000 villages besides making cemented streets and putting up solar lights."

He said besides this a one-stop shop which will dispense aata, daal, medical clinics and sewa kendras will be opened in villages. In addition, all link roads will be made 18-feet wide.

The Akalis have come up with a proposal of opening 25,000 skill development centres, with one centre catering to five villages. Those undertaking the skill development courses will be eligible for Rs 10 lakh interest-free loan. The alliance government will also facilitate 50,000 youth to acquire taxis without down payment through soft loans.

"We will give government employment and also create jobs in tourism and industrial sectors to reach the 20 lakh job promise," Sukhbir said.

...of industries...

Addressing the concerns of the industry, he said, "We have laid down all needed infrastructure. All major towns and cities will be connected with four and six-lane highways. We need mega industry centres. Accordingly, we have planned to make the Malwa region a textile hub. An industrial park will be created over 2,500 acres in Rajpura. Trade fair centres will come up in Mohali, Ludhiana and Amritsar. Similarly world class IT hubs will be created in Mohali and Amritsar. A manufacturing hub will be created in Ludhiana by way of the Cycle Valley. A pharmaceutical hub will be created in Rajpura and medicity at Mullanpur."

With an aim to woo the trader class, the Akalis have assured that traders having a turnover of Rs 2 crore per annum would not have to maintain books and can self certify and pay a lump sum tax. Currently this facility is available for traders with a turnover of Rs 1 crore.

Targeting the weaker sections of the society, the party has promised that all kuttcha houses will be made pucca and the homeless would be given jobs.

Sukhbir said that the economically backward among general category citizens will also be eligible for all social welfare schemes meant for Scheduled Castes and backward caste categories.

Money matters & more

He said it has been decided t:

- Increase all welfare pensions from the present Rs 500/month to Rs 2,000/month.

- Shagun scheme remuneration will be raised from Rs 15,000 to Rs 51,000.

- A new initiative to give 5 kg sugar at the rate of Rs 10/kg and 2 kg ghee for Rs 25/kg would also be implemented.

- The party is also talking about free gas connections to the poor among the small farmers, traders and construction workers along with medical treatment up to Rs 1 lakh/annum.

Playing the religious card, Sukhbir said the SAD- BJP government has done a lot to improve infrastructure as well as beautify the precincts around the Darbar Sahib. He said in the next five years, the entire walled city of Amritsar would be given a world-class heritage look.

He also added that the party has promised regularisation of unauthorised colonies at a nominal price.

The Akalis have also proposed said big infrastructure projects including a super expressway linking Jalandhar and Ajmer Sharif along with new express alignment between Amritsar and Delhi.

Water woes

Coming to the emotive issues of Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and sharing of Punjab waters, the Akalis have reiterated that Punjab does not have land or water for construction of the SYL canal.

Sukhbir went on to say, "We have returned the land on which the canal stood back to the farmers from whom it was acquired. The SYL canal cannot be constructed under any circumstances now. We are also committed to continue a peaceful democratic struggle to secure inclusion of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas in Haryana back into Punjab. We will also work devotedly to ensure the criminals who massacred innocent Sikhs are brought to book and the victims are fully rehabilitated. We also stand for a genuine federal structure, protection of minorities and peace and communal harmony."

The Akalis are seeking a vote on performance - both on the development of Punjab as well as the people friendly policies, programmes and decisions of the SAD- BJP government.

Play safe

Through the manifesto, the Akali Dal, which is the oldest regional political force in the country, has tried to address the voters on the issues on which it is facing heavy anti-incumbency.

It has tried to woo the rural voter, particularly the farmers, that has always formed the backbone of its support base. This the community under distress at present.

Similarly, Sukhbir has tried to play up the infrastructural development that has taken place in the last one decade of Akali rule. The party has tried to stop the industry from fleeing the state.

However, it has failed to touch upon the issues of rampant corruption, police high-handedness in the form of registration of false cases and above all the emotive issue of religious violence and incidents of desecration of holy books that have been rocking the state over the last two years.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 24 January 2017, 17:34 IST