Old tricks: Punjab Congress bends rules to make Beant Singh’s grandson DSP
Old habits die hard – clear to see from how Punjab Congress has gone back to its old ways, raking up one controversy after the other.
The latest issue to have cropped up for the party is the decision taken by the Captain Amarinder Singh-led state Cabinet to appoint Guriqbal Singh, the grandson of former Congress chief minister Beant Singh, as a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) against a direct quota post.=
Beant's tenure was one of the most controversial in Punjab's history. He was assassinated on 31 August, 1995 as he left his office in the Punjab secretariat in Chandigarh.
Relaxing the rules
Guriqbal's appointment has been made after relaxing service rules. Sources said he has been granted age relaxation for his appointment against the post of a DSP. Questions are being asked as to what made the Congress government show compassion in appointing Beant's grandson in the police department 23 years after the assassination.
According to a government spokesperson, the appointment has been made 'in recognition of the supreme sacrifice' made by the former chief minister to 'end terrorism and maintain peace and harmony in the state'. He further said the service rules have been relaxed to enable the appointment as a special case.
Criticism from every corner
The move is bound to snowball into a major political controversy and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is already leading the charge. SAD has said the family of the late 'controversial' CM has exploited his death to reap a job. It has asserted that the new Congress government had not learnt any lesson from history and is ready to rake up the wounds of the past with impunity.
Former chief parliamentary secretary and senior Akali leader Virsa Singh Valtoha says that not only is Guriqbal's appointment morally and ethically incorrect, but it is also wrong administratively.
“The government has chosen to reward a grandson of a CM under whose autocratic rein hundreds of youth were killed in false encounters and human rights excesses and state repression was the order of the day. The chief minister has himself admitted recently that 21 youth who had surrendered to the state during Beant Singh’s regime were eliminated. Instead of registering a case in this regard and offering them compensation in the form of state jobs, the government is rewarding the grandson of the leader during whose reign these excesses took place,” Valtoha pointed.
Pointing how thousands of lives were snuffed out during the period of militancy in the state, Valtoha questioned, “Did any of the kin of victims of police excesses get job as DSPs ? Did even the family members of security personnel who died along with Beant during the bomb blast at the Punjab secretariat get jobs as DSPs? The chief minister must explain why this special favour had been shown to Beant Singh’s family only.”
He underlined that the Supreme Court has made it clear that jobs under the compensation category should only be given to families whose sole bread winner has passed away rendering it impossible for the survivors to make ends meet and pointed that this does not apply to Beant’s family. Beant's son and daughter have served as ministers and his wife was given cabinet rank status.
“They continue to live in a large house at the expense of the state. Beant’s grandson Ravneet Singh Bittu is an MP while another one Gurkirat is a legislator. After acquiring so many positions if the family feels it has not been compensated for the death of Beant Singh then the family is engaging in sheer exploitation,” Valtoha says.
He also pointed out that the state departments have also questioned the appointment. The finance department had also said that the appointment is not tenable, but even that was overridden. Guriqbal even overstepped the age limit to be considered for this job.
Claiming that all these facts prove that the Congress government has rewarded Beant’s grandson with a plum job solely to appease the family of the late leader, Valtoha has asked the government to explain if this is its way to give employment to youth?
“Lakhs of youth in Punjab are waiting to be given employment as promised by you. Instead of starting on this task the new Congress government is bent on sharing the spoils of power as this appointment as well as recent auction of sand and gravel mines has proved,” he added.
A senior leader of United Akali Dal (UAD) Gurnam Sidhu pointed that this move by the government does not send across a right message. “This is not a good thing to do when you have so many unemployed qualified people in the state. The jobs should be given to the poor and needy,” he said.
Similarly HS Grewal of Apna Punjab Party (APP) that was floated by Succha Singh Chhotepur, former state convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) pointed that this is a political stunt by Amarinder.
“There are hundreds of other ways to pay respect to a former leader instead of following such traditions. These kind of jobs should be given to sportsmen who win laurels or to the children of soldiers or other security personnel dying for the country to encourage others. The government should think of giving jobs to the wards of the widows of 1971 war who are still fighting for their rights,” pointed Grewal.
There is a point of view that this move by Amarinder is politically motivated keeping in view the forthcoming local body polls particularly for the municipal corporations in Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Bathinda.
“Beant Singh has always been portrayed as a nationalist who put an end to terrorism in the state. Through this act his name has once again been brought into the political discourse to once again woo the urban Hindu voters who voted for the Congress in the recent assembly polls. The Congress wants to prevent them from going back to the BJP fold which they had recently left due to demonetisation and the fear of Sikh hardline politics returning to the state,” said a political observer in Chandigarh.