Punjab Congress MLAs on Monday held a protest demonstration outside chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s residence, demanding immediate abolition of property tax, and payment of social welfare scheme funds to the deprived sections besides payment to sugarcane farmers.
The Congress legislators led by state party president Partap Singh Bajwa and Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar sat outside the official residence of Badal in the state capital and raised slogans against the SAD-BJP government for not abolishing the property tax despite the promise made by the chief minister before the Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress MLAs said more than seven years of the SAD-BJP rule had brought Punjab to the brink of collapse in almost all socio-economic spheres.
The rising unemployment, widespread drug addiction, closure of industries and unsympathetic business environment, mis-governance and corruption in every government department, and the rising burden of taxes on the common man without a cut in government’s extravagant expenses had forced them to agitate on the streets of Punjab to highlight the urgent issues that needed to be addressed by the Punjab government on priority, said the Congress legislators.
The Congress legislators assembled at Jakhar’s residence at about 10 am and held a meeting to devise a strategy for the agitation. At about 11 am, they walked towards Badal’s residence. Though the police had put up barricades preventing the agitators from coming near the chief minister’s house, the Congress legislators forced their way forward.
After the Congressmen started raising slogans against the SAD-BJP government, Badal came out and asked the Congress legislators to send the MLAs’ delegation to his house so that he could give them a patient hearing.
However, when the Congress refused Badal himself came out to take the memorandum of demands from the agitating leaders.
Bajwa said that despite paying hefty taxes, urban dwellers were being denied basic amenities. Towns had become garbage dumps, sewage was flowing on to the streets, water supply was either in short supply or was unhygienic due to mixing of sewage waste in it, streets were in a dilapidated condition, and streetlights either did not exist or they were non-functional, he added.
Jakhar said the state government had been making tall claims of crop diversification initiative, but nothing was being done on the ground to ameliorate the plight of Punjab farmers. The state government had yet to disburse pending dues of Rs 183 crore to sugarcane farmers, owed them by the government-owned sugar mills. The Punjab government was yet to account for the Rs 224 crore allocated by the UPA government during 2013-14 for crop diversification programme. The Punjab Congress demanded immediate release of outstanding Rs 183 crore to sugarcane farmers and an impartial inquiry into misappropriation of diversification fund received from the central government in 2013-14, he added.
In Punjab, more than one fourth of the population belonged to the scheduled castes, who were economically poor and need the government’s support in everyday life. The SAD-BJP government had put all central schemes for the aid of scheduled castes in a state of limbo and hibernation. The Congress demanded immediate release of funds for the scheduled castes as it was not only causing undue hardships to them but also denying them their rightful share, said Jakhar.
The Congress MLAs also demanded action against revenue minister Bikram Majithia after his name cropped up in the multi-crore drug smuggling racket.
Jakhar also sought Badal’s reaction to the 14% hike in the railway fares which, he said, was a huge burden on the common man.
Badal assured the delegation that the state government would seriously take a call on all the issues raised by them after due deliberations with the quarters concerned for their early resolution.
Disclosing this here, a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said Badal personally reached the main gate of his residence to receive the memorandum from Jakhar. The chief minister assured them that he would soon convene a detailed meeting with the officers concerned of various departments in light of the memorandum submitted by them before taking a final decision.