Ahead of the assembly elections, the Parkash Singh Badal government is rushing to fill posts in state’s commissions. The government has shortlisted women contenders for the two vacancies in the Punjab Right to Information Commission. The 10-member commission presently has eight commissioners in addition to chief information commissioner SS Channy.
Of the two women contenders, Viney Kapoor is a professor in the department of laws at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, and Preeti Chawla is working at the Gian Sagar Medical College and Hospital near Chandigarh as a dietician and professor.
Both the appointments are being seen to have the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an ally in the government. Kapoor had been an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing student organisation, while Chawla is daughter of former Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh, who was appointed as the chairman of the National Minorities Commission by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
Punjab leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi has objected to the names terming them “political appointees, ignoring merit”. Channi, who had refused to give his consent on a letter sent to him, said a meeting of the four-member panel was held to shortlist the names. The panel included chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal and assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal. “I gave a dissent note on both the names but the majority writ prevailed,” Channi said, adding that he had also raised the objection that none of the commissioners in the RTI panel belonged to SC, OBC or minority communities, which comprise more than 50% of the state’s population.
“Many people had applied for the positions. Why has the government picked only those who hail from political families or have a political background? Be it the Punjab Public Service Commission or the Information Commission, no due representation is being given to SCs, OBCs or minorities,” he said.
However, Tarlochan Singh, a former Rajya Sabha member from Haryana, said it was not a political appointment. “My daughter was earlier vice-chairman in the Haryana Women Rights Commission. I was close to Vajpayee, Chautalas and Akalis, but I was an independent MP and never joined any party. I was appointed the minorities’ commission chairman as a popular Sikh face,” he said. Tarlochan had defeated Kiran Choudhry of the Congress with one vote in 2004 with help of BJP, Chautalas and the Bahajun Samaj Party.
Secretary, department of governance reforms RK Verma said the appointment letters would be issued after the Punjab governor’s consent. Earlier, the ruling SAD had appointed three former Akali leaders — Ravinder Singh Nagi, Nirdharak Singh Brar and Harinder Pal Singh Mann — as information commissioners. Mann had later jumped the ship and joined the Congress and is eyeing the Samana assembly seat.