Opposition on Thursday targeted the SAD-BJP government in the on-going budget session of Punjab Assembly over the issue of education, inter-linking of rivers and high tuition fees being charged from students belonging to schedule castes.
During the Question Hour, Opposition Congress member Tarlochan Singh said, "the standard of education is falling in view of present law as per which students get promoted till eighth class despite their poor academic performance."
He sought to enact a separate law to replace the existing one. However, education minister Daljeet Singh Cheema said first it was important to know whether education is a state subject or falls in the Concurrent list.
Many members of the treasury benches too seconded the Congress MLA on re-introducing the system in order to have board examinations for fifth and eighth standard.
They opined that such a system would not promote students performing poorly in these classes to higher standard.
Cabinet minister Tota Singh, who had also served as the education minister earlier, told the House that "education is a state subject and the assembly should re-introduce the system of conducting board examinations for students in fifth and eighth standard." However, Congress members, including Tarlochan Singh, Charanjeet Singh Channi and Gurkirat Singh Kotli demanded that the House should pass a resolution on the issue and sent it to the Centre.
But, Tota Singh intervened saying there was no need to do so as education is a state subject. He found support in another cabinet minister Sikander Singh Maluka.
With his own flock taking divergent stands on the issue, Cheema said, "it appears the members here are making mockery of the Constitution."
"Each and every member present here is trying to become a judge by expressing his independent opinion on the issue of education," he said.
With the speaker finding no concrete reply from the minister, he asked Cheema to come prepared on Friday.
The House also witnessed heated arguments between cabinet minister Tota Singh and SAD MLA Jagir Kaur on the issue of setting up of a grain market in her Begowal constituency in Kapurthala.
She sought to know that by what time the work for the grain market would be completed as concerned officers have cleared all formalities in this connection. However, Tota Singh told the House that the grain market can not be constructed on low lying area as it is eight feet deep than the existing earth level at the site.
As the Question Hour ended, Congress MLA Raj Kumar Verka, who is also the vice-chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Caste, attacked the SAD-BJP combine on the issue of "higher fee" being charged from SC students in schools, colleges and other institutions in the state.
He alleged that the state government was not providing rightful benefits to the SC students in the state.
Verka claimed that at least five Lakh students want to abandon education due to unfair fee structure. Parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal of BJP intervened and said to the Speaker that what Verka was raising could not be the part of the Zero Hour and the issue be raised during debate on budget proposals.
The speaker asked Mittal to not "encroach his right", saying the issue could be raised during the Zero Hour. Thereafter, the Congress members stood up and started raising slogans against the government.
Leader of Opposition Sunil Kumar Jakhar supported Verka's contention saying that the MLA was presenting the background and compliance of money meant for welfare schemes for SCs.
Finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa told the House that the government is implementing the 'sub plan' for SCs in the state. "There is 70 per cent compliance of sub plan for SCs," he said.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal intervened and said that he would get the matter examined and revert in the Assembly. Meanwhile, independent MLAs Simarjeet Singh Bains and his
brother Balwinder Singh Bains sought a CBI probe into alleged "adulteration" of milk being done in "connivance" of government officials.
Sukhbir told the House that the government had already ordered a probe into the alleged matter and government would take a stern action against guilty.
Opposition leader Jakhar also sought the government's stand on inter linking of rivers as was proposed in BJP's manifesto. "There is water shortage in Punjab...recently Haryana has again raked up the issue of Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in the assembly," he said.
The Congress leader said that Rs 100 Crore had been sanctioned for the SYL and the Punjab government was silent on the issue.
Sukhbir told the House that Punjab has no surplus water. "We will not allow Punjab's water to flow in SYL. We will fight the case in the Supreme Court. SYL was constructed during the Congress regime and now the party is blaming us," Sukhbir said.