iconimg Monday, August 31, 2015

Hillary Victor, Hindustan Times
SAS Nagar, September 06, 2013
It's been a year and two months since singer-turned-politician Harbhajan Mann last held a meeting of the SAS Nagar district planning committee, of which he happens to be the chairman. He does, however, have time to go on a promotion spree for his latest Punjabi movie, 'Haani'. Mann, it is learnt has not even visited the committee office after October last year. In monetary terms, this negligence has cost the district Rs. 28 lakh, so far.

That was the first grant handed to the panel, but it has lapsed as there's been no planning. On the planning, policy-making and public intervention fronts, the loss is being seen as even bigger. Mann was appointed by the SAD-BJP regime in May last year, and last held a meeting of the panel on July 24 last year.

Around a fortnight ago, he returned after shooting his movie - Haani is being seen a comeback project for the singer who once ruled the new wave of Punjabi cinema - and has since been promoting his movie across Punjab. Last week, he was in a Bathinda, on September 4 he was at MCM DAV College in Sector 36 of Chandigarh, while on Thursday he promoted his movie at a private college in Dera Bassi.

Mann told HT, "I was busy with the movie, which is releasing on September 6. I will be visiting my (planning committee) office after September 8."

When deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal had selected Mann, the son-in-law of SAD leader Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, he had termed Mann "a man of ability, vision and international exposure… (who can) take the development of SAS Nagar to a higher orbit".

On the condition of anonymity, a staff member of his office said, "It was on July 12 last year, when some resident welfare associations met him in his office, while members of the Improvement Protection Society, SAS Nagar, met him on June 19. Also the state government had allotted a first installment of Rs. 28 lakh for development of the district, but the money has lapsed and no new grant has thus arrived for use by the panel."

Mann had proposed to come up with an "international-level" exhibition centre, besides a convention centre to give a "promotional platform to IT companies". He also proposed a "world-class" auditorium to promote SAS Nagar as a "cultural hub". But these projects have remained on paper.

Mann had got the post in place of NK Sharma, who was elected MLA from Dera Bassi.

It was seen as reward to Mann for his role in bringing together the local Akali leadership despite simmering discontent after Ramoowalia, who had returned to the SAD after many years of running his own Lok Bhalai Party, was announced as the

Akali candidate from SAS Nagar. Ramoowalia had lost, though, as Congress nominee Balbir Singh Sidhu wrested the seat.