SAD Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder, who attended the Shaheedi Jor Mela in Fatehgarh Sahib a week ago, is against offering bread pakoras and other fried eatables at langars.
“We should offer paushtik (nutritious) langar to the sangat (gathering), and not fried food,” he suggested to Harcharan Singh, the newly appointed chief secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). While the SGPC chief secretary did not give any response, after he and Bhunder left some of those present were critical of the MP. They were all praise for hot and sumptuous bread pakoras served with tea. Devotion, according to them, matters in offering langar and not whether it is fried or non-fried.
Turban and its colours
Gestures mean much in politics. Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann and other Sikh leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are seen wearing basanti turban (a colour associated with Bhagat Singh) with an eye on the Sikh votes in Punjab. The MP prefers to remain without a turban when not in public.
On many occasions, he removes it after the public meeting is over.
The colour of turban is important in state politics. While Akalis favour blue, Congress leaders used to wear white turbans traditionally. Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh prefers pastel colours, though.
No laughing matter this
AAP MP from Sangrur Bhagwant Mann wants his rivals to take him seriously. “Ask Dhindsa saab (SAD Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa), am I a joker?” Mann told reporters the other day in a counter to the ‘joker’ remark of his political adversaries. In his trademark style, he said, “I have taken away his (Dhindsa’s) laughter and you say people laugh at me.” Mann had trounced Dhindsa in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He didn’t stop there, adding that he was adjudged one of the best parliamentarians of “present times”. “In case such a supreme body of the country honours jokers, then anybody can guess India’s future,” he said to guffaws. No laughing matter, though.
Minister’s limited English
Punjab minister for medical education and research Anil Joshi, the other day, admitted that his knowledge of English is “limited”. The minister was responding to the remarks made by the chief minister’s advisor Maheshinder Singh Grewal, who had come out in support of his brother, Punjab Medical Council president Dr GS Grewal, against whom Joshi initiated an inquiry.
The two Grewals had targeted the minister, saying his knowledge is limited as he doesn’t know English and cannot act against the PMC. “My knowledge of the language is limited. But I know the laws and regulations very well, which Maheshinder saab doesn’t know,” was the minister’s response to the two brothers.
DPC meets through video-conferencing
Call it going hi-tech or going an extra mile for some of their own. The promotion of whistleblower IAS officer Ashok Khemka and five other officers of the 1991 batch made a big splash on television channels and newspapers last week. But it didn’t come easily.
The three-member departmental promotion committee (DPC) headed by chief secretary DS Dhesi was scheduled to meet on Wednesday, but could not as one member was in another meeting and could not make it. The next day, another committee member was in Delhi. Then, the DPC meeting, in probably the first such instance in the state, was held through video-conferencing, paving the way for the promotion of the IAS officers on December 31. While the officers were elated, the staff of the CS office, which had to put in extra hours to ready papers and then issue promotion orders late in the night, was also relieved.
One of the promoted officers celebrated by ordering laddoos and burfi for the staff, another IAS officer visited the chief secretary’s branch to personally thank them.
Different ways to end corruption
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar never misses an opportunity to talk about the need for the state bureaucracy to be honest and transparent in its working.
His chief secretary DS Dhesi also, in one of his first orders after getting the top bureaucratic position a year ago, had stressed on rooting out corruption.
But both have been advocating different ways of going about it. Dhesi, in his instructions, had asked all administrative secretaries and heads of departments to identify “officers of doubtful integrity” (ODIs), undesirable contact men and top five points and places of corruption, circulate the same to other departments and then publish them on the website to eradicate corruption.
The departments were asked to update these every January. While most departments haven’t circulated the lists of middlemen and corrupt officers or put them online even after a year, the CM, who had also asked for lists of corrupt officers, has now reportedly told scribes that he had received some names, but would not make them public. “I know how to make them mend their ways,” he has been quoted as saying.
Media kept waiting
Senior officials of the public relations department and an officer on special duty to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had a tough time pacifying journalists when the CM was late for a press conference by more than an hour subsequent to the Cabinet meeting last week. Initially, the newspersons were sent SMSes -- after several of them had already reached the venue -- that the press conference had been postponed by half an hour.
When Khattar did not arrive for another 30 minutes, some of the newspersons got irked and contemplated leaving in protest. The CM’s aide and officials had to explain that the delay was because the Cabinet proceedings were taking time. Khattar, on his arrival, regretted the delay and inconvenience to reporters.
Online booking problem
Betting big on information technology, the BJP government has opted for biometric attendance, e-services and direct benefit transfer hoping to make a difference.
But its transport department seems to be finding simple things like keeping the portal for online booking of tickets for luxury Volvo buses running a challenging task. Commuters, especially those travelling from Chandigarh and different parts of Punjab to travel to Delhi to catch international flights, had a tough time when the online booking network developed a “snag” on Tuesday and did not work for almost two days last week. The advance booking counter also was of no help. The department officials did not seem to have any clue and kept ducking queries from anxious commuters.
Seeking CM’s blessings
The elections to the panchayati raj institutions (PRI) have added to Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s dilemma. The CM and his son Vikramaditya are being approached by many party men facing each other in the PRI polls for their blessings. During his visit to Rohru, Virbhadra was in a fix when two Congress leaders Surinder Raitka and Sanjay Thakur met him and his wife Pratibha at the helipad. Contesting elections against each other from Arhal ward, Raitka sought the CM’s blessing, whereas Thakur quickly approached his wife.
Circular has little effect
It was festive time in Himachal Pradesh secretariat last week with several babus on leave. Chief secretary (CS) P Mitra had recently issued a circular, directing all additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries to spend more time in office, reminding them that office hours were from 10 am to 5 pm.
But the circular, wherein the CS also limited the number of days the state official could be on tour to not more than four days, appears to have had little effect on the bureaucrats. The ministers are also not known to spend more time in office. Only health minister Kaul Singh Thakur and irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes attend their office regularly.
Expelled leader gets back at party
Former Jammu and Kashmir BJP leader Hari Om, expelled for anti-party activities, is hitting out at the party. In another damning statement, he said the BJP had decided not to publish its manifesto for the 2014 assembly elections to appease voters in Kashmir after Hina Bhat, a party leader from the area, had threatened to pick up gun if Article 370 was abrogated. Hari Om was a member of the team that had framed the manifesto. The expelled leader’s statement has given enough political ammo to the BJP’s rivals to accuse it of being “anti-Jammu”.
The BJP is still to rebuff the claim by Hari Om, who is not only issuing critical statements against it, but has also written a critical piece in a national right-wing magazine.
The article has fuelled speculation that the party may try to revoke his expulsion to stop him from further damaging it.
(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay)