The SAD-BJP government came under sharp attack not only from Congress MLAs but also one of their own from the treasury benches for its "failure" to ensure adequate employment for Punjabis on priority in Guru Gobind Singh oil refinery in Bathinda.
The issue cropped up during the Question Hour when Congress MLA from Bhucho Mandi, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, asked Punjab industry minister Anil Joshi to disclose how much direct or indirect employment the mega project in Bathinda had provided to technical and non-technical persons of Punjab.
Bhatti also wanted to know if the government had provided jobs to members of families who had given land for the refinery.
Joshi told the House that the refinery had generated direct jobs for nearly 1,000 people, of which 800 got it on the basis of their technical qualifications. The minister said nearly 12,000 people would be dependent indirectly on the refinery for their livelihood.
However, when Bhatti asked Joshi if there was provision in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the refinery and governments of India and Punjab to provide jobs to Punjabis on priority, Joshi replied in the negative.
On one hand, the Punjab government planned to provide employment to lakhs of youth in the state and on the other if such mega projects cannot absorb youths in jobs which other agency could, Bhatti wondered.
Joshi said that for seeking placements in the refinery, the youth in Punjab would have to upgrade their technical qualification.
This made former Punjab agricultural minister and senior Akali MLA from Dharamkot, Tota Singh, to stand up and say that there was no use of such mega projects if they cannot provide employment to the youth of Punjab.
"In fact such projects bring a lot of migrants from outside the state and along with this a number of criminal elements also come in. In order to check the criminal elements, it is better to have people from our own state," said Tota Singh.
Tota Singh also gave the example of Nestle company in Moga which was established in the early eighties. "We negotiated with the owners of the company and also with the government of Punjab to hire people of Punjab on priority and today, 95% of those working in the company are from Punjab," the Akali leader said.
The Opposition benches thumped their tables to appreciate Tota Singh for taking on his own government on the issue of employment.
Later Joshi too lauded Tota Singh for his concern for the youth of Punjab and said that he would take up the issue with the refinery and the government of India.