Lack of any specific solutions to long-standing problems came out as the primary grouse at a youth panel discussion organised by Hindustan Times as part of the Young India Votes series, at Bhai Gurdas Institute of Engineering and Technology here on Friday.
The list of problems was significantly long in what is considered a backward region of Punjab. It has been grappling with farmer suicides and drug abuse for years. The presence of comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann as the AAP candidate has made the contest three-cornered and quite charged here, while veteran SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa is challenging Congress sitting MP Vijay Inder Singla.
LINK TALENT WITH JOBS
Many of t he participants listed general problems of corruption and lack of awareness of the power of the vote. “To be honest, even we end up paying bribe to get work done faster. The red tape and the slow pace of work otherwise are frustrating,” said IT student Ameet Kumar.
Several youngsters demanded that caste-based quota be replaced by need-based reservation for raising the standards overall.
Lack of industrial training besides theoretical syllabus was listed as a bigger problem.
Management student Gurpreet Kaur remarked, “Even when we have qualified and well-trained professionals, there are hardly any industries here in which we get jobs. We have to go to other cities.”
The retail sector was seen as another possibility. Two participants suggested, “Why not open malls here? That will create all kinds of jobs at all levels.”
Some demanded better, government-determined prices for vegetables and other farm produce that breaks the wheat-paddy cycle.
“Also, we need industry that can process those products,” said Ameet, and was seconded by the entire gathering. “The gover nment should write off small loans and take long-term measures to ensure that farming becomes remunerative again,” said several participants.
‘LEGALISE IF YOU CAN’T CONTROL’
The drug abuse was particularly mentioned by almost all participants, and some desperate solutions were offered. “Some of these politicians are addicts and suppliers themselves. What can you expect?” said Saurav Garg. “There are more liquor vends than medical facilities in our area,” added Gursewak Singh.
At least three participants suggested that drugs be legalised so that there is some control over consumption limits. “If we cannot curb the smuggling, make the trade legal and then regulate it, on the lines of some foreign countries!” remarked Jyoti Laur.
Dhindsa of the state’s ruling SAD-BJP was seen as an oldstyle, hypocritical politician by most participants. “He is just banking on the popularity and credibility of BJP’s PM nominee Narendra Modi, rather than talking about Punjab.
Yes, Modi has done work in Gujarat. But Dhindsa should also talk of his agenda,” said Ankit Srivastava, electronics engineering student.
“Gujarat is a lot safer for women than our state,” said MBA student Gurpreet Kaur. But Saurav countered, “These are propagated tidbits. We have to examine the claims more carefully.”
“Anyway, votes are bought over night. And that’s a trait that has been there across our political spectrum,” remarked Shubham Mayur, another engineering student.
On Congress’ incumbent MP Singla, there were suggestions that he has done some work and remains accessible. “But his dream project of a PGI hospital (satellite centre) remains limited to the foundation stone; it’s been months since [Congress vice-president] Rahul Gandhi came and made tall claims about it,” noted Ameet and Saurav. His party and leadership were also criticised over corruption.
As for Bhagwant Mann, many gave him credit for being a social crusader through his satire work for years, but there were voices that criticised his leaving the PPP for the AAP.
“He has for long not even visited Lehragaga, from where he contested the assembly election two years ago,” remarked Preetinder Kaur, IT engineering student. But he was seen as cleaner than the other two candidates.
A radical suggestion was made in half-jest by engineering student Jashanpreet Kaur: “Development and elections are closely linked. So, elections should be held, say, every two years, so that roads are built and grouses addressed more frequently!”