Punjab goes to the polls early next year. The date is yet to be announced but political parties are on an overdrive, announcing populist promises.
If Captain Amarinder Singh promised free smartphones with Wi Fi connections for 50 lakh Punjab youth the other day, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party announced jobs for 25 lakh youth of the state. As if on cue, the Congress promised one job per family and jobless allowance if voted to power.
Where these parties plan to get funds for implementing their tall promises is anybody’s guess. Neither party has offered an action plan to generate jobs. Instead, both parties vying to succeed the Parkash Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government accuse it of leaving the state with empty coffers.
The Congress is keen to clarify that its Captain Smart Connect scheme, which was aimed at 50-lakh applicants and got 30 lakh interested after a 10-day extension, is still on. It says it plans to launch the scheme again in the run-up to the elections.
The Shiromani Akali Dal is also wooing first-time voters and branding all things Badal these days. So after Brand Badal on ambulances, the populist ‘atta-dal’ scheme, and bicycles for girl students, this time the ruling party is distributing sport kits among young players with the chief minister and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal’s photos printed on them. It’s another matter that even after two years, the SAD-BJP government is yet to keep its word on giving 125 jobs in Punjab Police to outstanding sportspersons. The announcement is expected on the eve of the 2017 elections.
The government’s focus has been short-term. It built sports infrastructure, including the Punjab Institute of Sports in Mohali, but didn’t invest in coaching sportspersons and maintaining the stadiums. One-time investment was made but there was no plan to reach out to talent at the grassroots and groom it to reach these stadiums.
Cash awards to players have been erratic with functions ending up as a political show. The highest sports award of the state, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award, has not been given for the past six years.
It’s not surprising that Punjab’s youth are not taken in by rosy promises. Most already have smartphones so a smarter idea would be to connect with them and empower them with access to quality education and job opportunities.
With farming not a preferred option with Punjab’s youth anymore, the political leaders would do well to come up with a long-term line of action.