Conflict of interest law will only cover CM, ministers: Interview with Amarinder Singh
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who led the Congress back to power in Punjab, has hit the ground running. While he has straightaway taken steps to fulfil the promises made in the poll manifesto and initiated corrective actions on several fronts, there are challenges and issues that require his immediate attention. In an interview with HT, Captain talks about his action plan and administrative moves.punjab Updated: Apr 05, 2017 18:09 IST
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who led the Congress back to power in Punjab, has hit the ground running. While he has straightaway taken steps to fulfil the promises made in the poll manifesto and initiated corrective actions on several fronts, there are challenges and issues that require his immediate attention. In an interview with HT, Captain talks about his action plan and administrative moves.
Why are you opposed to Khalsa University?
Khasla College came up 125 years ago. People gave their land and various states, including Nabha, Patiala, Jind and Kapurthala, made contributions for setting up the college. My grandfather and father remained its chancellor. It was running very well, but was converted into a university. The college alumni were opposed to this move. Also Guru Nanak Dev University was built on its land. When you already have a university, why do you want another one? This was done with an ulterior motive. I had promised that if I get a chance, I will restore the status of this heritage college.
How do you intend to restore its status?
We have already said we will bring a bill to nullify the Khalsa University legislation. People have been contacting me, and agree with what I want to do. The institution is run by a governing council, an elected body headed by (Satyajit) Majithia. In its next elections, someone else may take over.
The university management has decided to go ahead with admissions. Won’t it affect the future of students?
I have told the department to look into it. We don’t want the children to suffer. The university should not enrol new students till its own future is known. They know my stand.
How do you plan to fulfil your promise of dealing with drug menace in four weeks?
We have set up a special task force under a capable officer. It can’t work in isolation. It will carry out its operations in conjunction with the state police. Now, STF chief Harpreet Sidhu has to produce results.
Don’t you think the time frame is a bit impractical?
I don’t think so. Everyone in the police knows who all are involved (in drug trade) and how to find them. Earlier, they (drug lords) were not allowed to be touched. When we raised the issue during the previous regime, cops caught hold of all these youngsters (addicts). I have said, ‘Do not touch those who consume drugs.’ They should just be handed over to the health authorities for de-addiction. We want to catch the big fish.
When do you plan to enact the Conflict of Interest Act to unseat ministers and MLAs if they are found having business interests in their official capacity?
We will try to bring the bill on conflict of interest in the next assembly session. But it will not be for MLAs. It is only for the CM and ministers. When I was an MLA, I was not covered. When I became the CM in 2002, I had to quit the boards of some institutions, where I was a member. The MLAs have no role. A long time ago, there was a case in the Madras high court in which someone had filed a case against then CM MGR (MG Ramachandran) for acting in a film. The three-member bench gave the verdict that he is very much within his right to earn his livelihood.
Punjab finances have been a concern. How do you plan to improve the situation?
The finances are in a very bad shape. Punjab has a colossal debt of Rs 1.83 lakh crore and budgetary deficit of Rs 14,000 crore. We have to cut our costs, tighten our belts and work on increasing our revenues. No matter what Akalis say; they squandered money on ‘sangat darshans’ and finished off everything — land sold, building sold and earnings of undertakings like the Mandi Board mortgaged for seven years. All revenues of earning establishments have been mortgaged. We have started normalising the situation. The treasury is open. In five years of my previous tenure, the treasury was never shut for one day. In their 10 years, it rarely opened.