One year of Capt Amarinder-led Congress govt in Punjab: The glass is half full
The Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government will complete one year in power on March 16. In a five-part series, Hindustan Times looks back at how it has fared on good governance, economy and other promises.punjab Updated: Mar 11, 2018 18:51 IST
Captain Amarinder Singh proved naysayers wrong when he returned to power in Punjab with almost two-thirds majority in the first ever three-cornered contest around this time last year. He has not looked back since with the Congress notching victories in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection and municipal corporation polls in the four cities of Ludhiana, Patiala, Amritsar and Jalandhar.
But that’s half the story. While the ruling party has consolidated its position politically in the first year, the same cannot be said about its showing on governance. The government has not only been dogged by charges of illegal sand mining, goonda tax and irregularities in sand mine auctions for most of the year, but also found wanting in prompt action.
The controversies, including bickering in the chief minister’s core team, overshadowed the raft of measures taken to curb VIP culture, end free run of gangsters and fight the drug problem.
Caught in sandstorm
The blame lies at the doorstep of Congressmen, including ministers, whose names have been doing the rounds in connection with mining and ‘goonda tax’ collection. In the sand mine auction row, the Congress was left red-faced after allegations surfaced of power and irrigation minister Rana Gurjit Singh’s front men bagging mining contracts worth crores.
Though a government-appointed commission gave him a clean chit, Rana resigned from the council of ministers in January as the demand for his ouster grew louder. If this was not enough, several MLAs, particularly those from the ruling party, are said to have direct or indirect interests in sand mining.
As the double-barrelled opposition, led by Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira, stepped up its attack, the government started a crackdown. On a flying visit to Kartarpur last week, Amarinder spotted unauthorised activity, particularly use of heavy machinery, at a legally allotted quarry on the banks of the Sutlej and instructed the authorities in Nawanshahr to act. Powerful lobbies were at work to blame mining business dynamics and flaws in policy for heavy violations.
Over-promised and under-delivered
The Congress government has been under fire from the opposition over the non-implementation of most of its promises. The party, in its manifesto, promised virtually the moon to everyone – debt waiver, free smart phones, unemployment allowance, free bus travel, hike in pensions, subsidies and one job per family to list a few.
Barring a few announcements such as farm loan waiver and power to industry at Rs 5 per unit, the cash-strapped government is still to take steps to start implementing its promises. The watered-down debt write-off scheme has also benefited only a fraction of the loanee farmers. The scheme that is being implemented in phases was deferred due to administrative difficulties and favouritism charges.
Though the state government has time and again blamed empty coffers that it inherited for not being able to fulfil its poll promises, not many hard steps have been taken to raise additional resources to lay the foundation for better showing in the remaining four years.