• HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
  • Updated: Apr 23, 2014 18:52 IST

Taking to HT during an event SAD candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali said that his major focus would be on connectivity. “Industrialists should not have to go to the metro cities for meetings. Clients should be able to come here.”

His priorities also included cleaning the Buddha Nullah by having treatment plants at the source of industrial waste and also more water from the Sutlej for dilution. He promised five, 200 beds, government hospitals and a large “central hospital”, and sought a Kendriya Vidyalaya for better education facilities.

Lawyer- activist HS Phoolka, known for fighting cases of 1984 riots’ victims, said, “I have three main areas of focus in politics: Education, health and community farming.” Citing his past as a government school student, he said, “In our time, generally good students used to get admissions in professional courses.

Now entrance exams are based on specifics that require particular training… it’s a racket! Our (Gian Sewa) Trust has centres in government schools in Punjab where we have teachers from Delhi holding classes. The idea is to uplift the standard of government-sector education, and fortunately that is a top agenda of our party too.”

Drug abuse was his next concern. “During the SGPC ( Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) elections, candidates distributed drugs; it cannot get worse than that!” He also cited his campaign during the 2012 assembly elections when he was not with any party.

“Our survey in deaddiction centres showed most youngsters got their first taste of drugs through free distribution during the elections.”

Explaining community farming, citing examples of his work in Ferozepur and Moga, Phoolka said, “We have constituted committees of farmers, mostly vegetable growers, who then manage to get seeds and other means on concessional rates. Then they process their produce into pickles, murabba and squashes. I will replicate that here.”

In Ludhiana, “Closure of large units is a problem, while small traders have their own set of problems. But lack of development is a common issue. The labour class lives in deplorable conditions. The most unfortunate part is that our political leadership believes that elections can be won by money and drugs.”

Anandpur Sahib MP Ravneet Bittu, who is contesting in his native district after sitting MP Manish Tewari opted out, listed health as a priority and cited his work in his constituency where he has got a cancer hospital project started.

On drugs, he took a cue from his AAP opponent: “What’s the point of talking about development when we are doing very little to save our future generations from drug abuse?” He said that in 2011 he had succeeded in convincing chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to constitute a board to curb drug use, but that had not got going. Ayali interjected with: “Boards alone cannot help.

We need to rehabilitate addicts.” Bittu said, “I want long-term rehab centres that have skill development training.”

He also cited the recent “two hour shootout” at Sarabha Nagar between two groups, reported to be Youth Akali Dal factions, as a shameful incident showing the state of law and order in Punjab.

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