In what brought to the fore the growing dissonance between Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the deputy CM virtually forced the former to withdraw a bill that aimed at regulating the working of physiotherapists in the state through the creation of a physiotherapy council.
Interestingly, the bill did not invite a negative reaction from the opposition but was taken apart by Joshi’s party colleagues. BJP MLA Manoranjan Kalia said the draft of the bill seemed to have been copied blindly as it had words like “legislative council” that did not exist in the state. Som Prakash said the bill was vague in some of its provisions. Section 9 of the bill, for instance, said a person would be disqualified as member of the council if he had not attained the “age of maturity”. “What is meant by age of maturity?” asked Som Prakash, adding that another provision stated that in case the council created under the act did not work properly it would be replaced by another council. “How can you have one council replacing another?” he asked.
Akali MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha said the bill would adversely affect the livelihood of thousands of “roadside” physiotherapists. A similar concern was raised by Congress MLA Kuljit Nagra. At this point, the deputy CM, who was sitting near Joshi, started gesturing to him to withdraw the bill. Joshi, however, insisted on getting the bill passed arguing that if any changes were needed, they could be brought about later. At one point, the bill was almost declared to have been passed. However, Joshi later was forced to give a statement that he was withdrawing the bill.
Other Bills passed
While the Punjab Development of Trade, Commerce and Industries Validation Bill was not introduced in the house on Tuesday, 13 bills were passed on the last day of the budget session before the house was adjourned sine die.
The Punjab Municipal Amendment Bill was passed with an amendment that the power to buy and sell properties should be with the elected president of the municipality and not the executive officer.
The Punjab Gau Sewa Commission amendment bill invited a host of suggestions with several MLAs agreeing on the need to tackle the problem of stray cattle in towns.
Assembly passes resolution on hike in ex-MLAs’ pension
The Punjab assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution proposing a hike in pension of former MLAs from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000. The resolution moved by Congress leader Lal Singh was endorsed by parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal of the BJP. It was later adopted by the House unanimously. Backing the resolution, the minister said, “It is for the benefit of ex-MLAs...we should also think about former members of the Assembly. We will all become ex one day.”
Phillaur gives explanation
Former minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, who was removed from the cabinet in 2014 after his son’s name figured in an enforcement directorate (ED) investigation into the drug racket, gave an impassioned explanation in the assembly. Phillaur told the house that he and his son were victims of an unfair media trial undertaken at the behest of a vicious lobby bent on spoiling his image and his son’s life. Demanding a probe into who comprised this lobby, Phillaur said that in ED’s latest chargesheet filed in the court in February, his son Damanbir Singh had been cleared of all suspicion.