Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday called for the setting up of a genuinely federal structure in the country to ensure that the Centre and the states work in tandem for development of the country and progress and prosperity of its people.
Winding up the discussions on the motion of thanks of Governor’s address moved by MLA Bibi Jagir Kaur in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the chief minister also made a vehement plea for “vacating injustice meted out to Punjab in economic, political, territorial and religious spheres”. He called for the transfer to Punjab of Chandigarh and other Punjabi speaking areas left out of the state at the time of linguistic reorganisation of the state in 1966.
Badal also demanded that injustice done to the state on river water issue be ended as per “the nationally and internationally accepted Riparian Principle”. He declared that Punjab has no water to spare from its river waters. In fact, the state faces the alarming specter of falling water table “Experts are unanimous that if Punjab’s right on river water is not safeguarded as per the Riparian Principle, the state would turn into a desert in the next decade or so,” said Badal.
The chief minister said a national consensus on the transfer of Chandigarh and the Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab and on resolution of river waters issue in accordance with the Riparian Principle already existed. “As far back as 1985, the then Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi and the entire Union government announced an immediate acceptance of all the legitimate demands of Punjab within an agreed and declared dead line. Even both houses of the Parliament unanimously endorsed the decision and yet, this decision were never implemented as the Prime Minister and the Union government went back on what they had described as “Sacred commitments of the nation to Punjab”, said Badal.
The chief minister also said Punjab had suffered incalculable losses because of the industrial concessions given to some neighboring states of Punjab. “Not only have fresh investments in the state dried up but there has been an alarming flight even of the existing capital from the state. This has severely hit the employment sector for our youth.”
The chief minister also decried “the brutal injustice and repression meted out to the tragic victims of the 1984 holocaust”. The ghastly and inhuman massacre of thousands of innocent Sikh men, women, children and the aged alike remains a dark blot on the nation’s forehead. Instead of punishment, the guilty have shamelessly been given high honors and positions of power, including Cabinet berths, by successive Congress governments at the center. Similarly, innocent Sikh victims of this massacre were never given adequate relief and compensation.
Badal said tragic events like 1984 massacre could never be forgotten. “Should we forget about Chandigarh, river waters, 1984 Sikh carnage and other instances of brutal injustice to Punjab and Punjabis ?” he asked the opposition benches amidst thumping of desks.
The chief minister took potshots at the Congress and said, “You put the hangman’s noose around Punjab’s neck. Now you are accusing us of not saving your victims? Who organized the anti-Sikh carnage? Who killed thousands of innocent Sikhs? Who led the crowds? And now you want the victims of this tragedy to forget it.”
He welcomed the setting up of Special Investigation Team (SIT) by the NDA government to probe into the brutal killings of innocent Sikhs during the 1984 anti Sikh riots with a sole objective to put the real perpetrators of this heinous crime behind the bars on one hand and to give justice to the victims of this grave tragedy on the other after a period over three decades. Badal also hailed, what he called “the noble gesture of the new NDA government headed by Narendra Modi” in raising the relief amount to Rs.5 lakh to the next of the kin of the victims.
The chief minister said Peace and Communal harmony would continue to be the top priority of his government. “Peace and communal harmony are the most sacred goals and achievement of my life. We will never allow the sacred goals to be lost sight of. No one will ever be allowed to disturb peace and communal harmony in the state,” he added.
Badal talked about dangers to peace from both external and internal sectors, “Efforts to disturb peace continue from across the border. At the same time the policy of divide and rule followed by the Congress has also posed a major threat to peace”.
The chief minister also lauded the Government of India’s (GoI) unique initiative for having chosen Sri Amritsar Sahib as heritage city under the HRIDAY scheme. He said that under the scheme Rs 69.31 crore have been received as first installment from GoI. Badal also mentioned that Jallianwala Bagh has been included among Cultural World Heritage Site to receive special assistance for improving the infrastructure.
He also lauded the NDA government for allocating prestigious projects like All India Institute of Medical Science, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and Post Graduate Horticulture Research and Educational Institute besides declaring Guru Gobind Singh Marg to link Sri Anandpur Sahib with Sri Hazur Sahib Nanded via Talwandi Sabo under National Highways project. He also recalled that the prestigious Bathinda Refinery was sanctioned by then NDA Govt. under Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “This is the first time ever since independence that a Central government has demonstrated a special concern for the patriotic people of Punjab,” he added.
Badal said federal structure was the only legitimate and viable answer to the problems of a country which is proud of its rich territorial, cultural, economic, political and linguistic diversity. “The top down approach in which Centre applied the one-cap-fits-all” solutions to problems of vast multiplicity of shades.
The chief minister said for the first time, the Centre has undertaken a historic initiative to federalize of the Indian polity and empower the states. “The Planning Commission, which was a symbol of Centre’s autocratic and arbitrary unitarism has been abolished. It has been replaced by NITI Ayog in which Chief Ministers of states would have a significant say in defining development goals and determining national policies and programs. He also appreciated centre’s positive approach towards the welfare of state by enhancing state’s shares in central taxes from 32% to 42%.”