Lack of real development in terms of job opportunities, besides shameless use of huge money in elections, came out to be the main concern of Bathinda’s youth in an interaction organised as part of the ‘Young India Votes’ series by Hindustan Times here on Thursday.
However, as Bathinda remains a prestige of the state’s ruling Badals, most expectations and failings listed were those related to the state’s SAD-BJP regime — a reflection of the larger trend of this Lok Sabha election in Punjab.
Listing out the thermal plants in the city and its periphery and the big-ticket oil refinery set up in the recent past, the attendees felt that even as the state’s SAD-BJP dispensation made tall claims, the people of Punjab, Bathinda in particular, had not benefited. “Majority of the jobs in the refinery has gone to non-Punjabis,” rued Veerpal Kaur, 21, a humanities student. Others talked of lack of quality education, and underlined how the products of mushrooming private institutes were “practically unemployable”. “Politicians are happy inaugurating colleges, but never bother to check their standards,” remarked one.
With the political class engaged in wooing voters with claims of work, there is a feeling of people being exploited by a politics of patronage. “Politicians treat people like beggars, and want them to remain beggars, as people then need to approach these leaders for every work,” remarked Priyanka, 19, a BA student.
“Campaign in villages in particular is focused on galiyannaaliyan, cemented streets and sewerage, but no one is doing anything for the youth who need jobs to stay away from drugs and other wasteful, harmful habits.”
Arshdeep Kaur, 21, a commerce student, added: “The multi-crore development is limited to highways, while we encounter stray animals and garbage dumps everywhere.”
Safety of women
Women safety was listed as a priority by several participants. “Women of any age cannot come out of their house after dark. What are leaders doing to ensure their safety?” remarked one. Commerce student Preksha Sachdeva, 21, was more specific: “Being a student, I feel there is scarcity of buses for girls. They have to travel in crowded buses that remain unsafe — thanks to our culture that does not treat women well.”
On candidates, and parties CM Parkash Singh Badal’s daughter- in-law Harsimrat Badal is seeking re-election. And with the CM’s estranged nephew Manpreet Badal fighting as the Congress candidate, the contest is high-profile. Perceptions remain strong — while Harsimrat is seen as an accessible leader who “listens to people’s grievances”, her followup on these issues is questionable.
Manpreet, who quit as the SAD’s finance minister three years ago and formed PPP, got praise for “sacrificing chair for principles”. There are questions on his wisdom in virtually joining the Congress and “wanting to abolish subsidies”.
AAP candidate, singer Jassi Jasraj, is seen as an outsider by some. He belongs to Mohali. But many aver he “behaves like an aam aadmi (common man) in his artistic work even before the Aam Aadmi Party was formed”.
As for AAP, the party was discussed much more than the candidate, and Kejriwal was ter med “an honest man in a hurry”. Others called the AAP convener a “long-term option, not necessarily right now”. “Even the fight for Independence took several years,” said one.
There was no particular mention of Modi, and not many participants saw riots as an issue either. “Politicians actually want us to discuss the hate, and forget real issues,” said one.
With hundreds of crores being spent on campaign — and Bathinda being infamous for it — the attendees felt people need to change their ways too and stop taking money for votes. “There is lack of awareness about the power of every vote,” said at least two participants. “The extravagance is revolting! Why don’t parties spend this money on real work?” questioned Amit, a BA student.