On a popularity overdrive, Amarinder goes full throttle to fulfill poll promises
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is man who has gone full throttle in his attempt to implement popular promises made in the Congress manifesto.
The widely believed explanation for this over-drive to follow through on promises that formed the narrative of the party campaign for the recently held assembly polls is that the Chief Minister is attempting to buy time to swing the all-important promise of a farm loan waiver – where his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath has taken a lead.
Secondly, it will help contain criticism from the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Removing VIP culture barriers
After ordering that the political leadership not use red beacons any more, Amarinder has now prohibited the inclusion of names of any government functionaries, including ministers and MLAs, on foundation stones and inaugural plaques.
Even the Chief Minister himself is not excluded from these orders, which are aimed at building a stronger connect between the government and the people by removing barriers of VIP culture.
Ironically, these orders came on a day when cabinet minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot created a scene because his name appeared third on the inauguration stone of an academic block of a school. He reportedly threatened the principal of Government Senior Secondary Girls School at Nabha with suspension. The block was raised on the initiative of two former students in memory of their mother Santosh Kumari and the names of these two girls appeared before that of the minister on the inauguration stone.
Amarinder has announced that all projects and programmes, including those inaugurated by the chief minister or any of his cabinet colleagues, MLAs or other officials will from now be dedicated to the people of Punjab.
However, there is no bar on government functionaries and leaders inaugurating or laying the foundation stone of any building or project. “We are in this position today because of the people of the state and it is our duty to treat them with full respect and humility at all times,” Amarinder said.
Probing incidents of sacrilege
Meanwhile, rejecting the report of the Zora Commission formed by the previous SAD-BJP government on incidents of sacrilege as ‘inconclusive’, the Punjab government has constituted a fresh commission of inquiry headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjit Singh.
The commission will also inquire into the detailed facts, circumstances and chronology of events on what actually happened to identify the role played by various persons.
The notification follows the government’s conclusion, after taking into careful consideration various factors including the Punjab advocate general’s advice, that the Justice Zora Singh Commission 'has not answered the very substance of the reference i.e. an inquiry into the incident of sacrilege and the role of the police force'.
“The findings of the commission are broad on such aspects and it has not named or identified precisely the role of the persons involved. Also certain aspects and issues entrusted to it remain unanswered and are not dealt with in depth to enable the government to reach definitive conclusions,” the advocate general had concluded.
The constitution of the new commission is seen as an attempt to counter the allegations made by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal earlier this week saying there has been a significant and worrying increase in the number of ' heinous acts of sacrilege against the sacred Guru Granth Sahib' since the Congress government took over in Punjab.
“I wish to remind those in power now that a vast majority of such cases which took place during SAD-BJP tenure had been quickly traced and dealt with. Only a few incidents proved to be difficult and defied probe. Before demitting office, we handed all leads to the new government to make it easier for them to act quickly. But they seem to be sitting lazily over these as they appear busy in other things like distributing loaves of office and profit. That has emboldened dangerous elements. The government must act fast,” Sukhbir said.
Ending the halqa system
In a third major popular decision, Amarinder has ordered immediate scrapping of the 'halqa in-charge' or the "area in-charge" system while denotifying the 2010 changes in the jurisdiction of police stations and police sub-divisions. The "area in-charge" used to be a political person appointed by the party in power.
A government spokesperson said that with this denotification, the stage has been set for making policing free and fair, as well as more effective.
Following the move, police stations and the sub-divisions will be de-aligned from the assembly constituencies to ensure that there is no political interference in their functioning. The 2010 notifications had made changes in the jurisdictions with the specific purpose of aligning them with that of the assembly constituencies.
This had converted areas under police stations into fiefdoms of the local Akali leaders and led to harassment of common public who did not tow their line.