Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Sunil Jakhar on Friday targeted the ruling Akali-BJP coalition over the Punjabi language. He also didn't spare Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, stating that though it was Punjab Day (November 1), the CM was attending a political rally in Haryana rather than being present in the House.
Jakhar pointed out that the state government had missed the celebration of Punjabi Week (November 1 to 7), which was being celebrated since the re-organisation of Punjab in 1966.
"This is the respect the government has for the 'maa boli' (mother tongue)," Jakhar said mockingly, even as the MLAs on the opposition benches shouted "shame, shame". Subsequently, opposition MLAs staged a walkout over the CM's absence from the House on Punjab Day.
The issue was raised during question hour by Congress MLA Charanjeet Singh Channi, who asked education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka about any plans of the state government to start English as a medium of instruction in government-run primary, high and higher secondary schools. Maluka replied that being the mother tongue (first language), Punjabi would continue to be the medium of instruction in state-run schools.
"Why does the government suppress the poor population of the state in the name of Punjabi, as children of the rich study in private schools which has English as the medium of instruction," asked Channi, taking the plea that students must be taught in English to enable them to be competitive, to which the treasury benches objected, with some MLAs called Channi "anti-Punjabi".
"Do you endorse that the poor can't study in the English medium," Jakhar asked deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. The Opposition also claimed that Punjabi was not being used in government offices. Maluka offered that the Opposition bring a resolution that government-run schools shifts to English as the medium of instruction.
Speaking on the issue, Tota Singh told the House that during his tenure as education minister in the SAD-BJP government (1997-2002), he had introduced English from Class 1, but the move had then been opposed by the Congress.
Resolution on rights of Quebec Sikhs
The House passed a resolution to protect rights of Sikhs living in Quebec province of Canada. The resolution was proposed by Akali MLA Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, who said the provincial government of Quebec had proposed to impose a ban on wearing of symbols of faith; after the law is implemented, rights of Sikhs would be curtailed.
"To protect the rights of Sikhs, the government of India should take up the matter with the Quebec government," demanded Cheema. When the resolution was approved by speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, the Opposition was out of the House due to the walkout.
Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition demanded a resolution from the ruling coalition for protecting rights of Sikh farmers settled in Kutch area of Gujarat and releasing land frozen by the Gujarat government. The speaker refused permission to approve any such resolution against another state government.
Clarifying on the issue, BJP MLA and industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal said the Gujarat government had acted on a government notification of 1973, when the Congress was in power in that state.
Warring seeks Sukhbir's blessings
First-time Congress MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring may have been taking on the ruling coalition in the House over various issues, but he was seen seeking blessings from deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal when the House was adjourned for 15 minutes after pandemonium by the Opposition on Friday. Sukhbir reciprocated by hugging Warring.
The latter had 'stormed' Parkash Singh Badal's sangat darshan programme at Gidderbaha (Muktsar) in August.
Rates of cancer drugs
During question hour, SAD MLA Maheshinder Singh asked health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani to clarify on parity in rates of drugs for cancer treatment in all districts. Jyani replied that parity had been brought, and for this purpose, the rate contract for 118 cancer treatment drugs had been finalised. On an average, rates of all medicines are 4-50% less than the maximum retail price (MRP), the minister said.