Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday vowed to ensure punishment for those guilty in the Bargari case, while promising total elimination of all kinds of mafia and monopoly in the state.
Declaring that he will not allow mining, liquor, drug and transport mafias, or goondas, gangsters and terrorists to disturb the state’s peaceful environment, the Chief Minister asserted that "I will be absolutely harsh.” As an ex-fauji, he knew how to deal with them, said Captain Amarinder at a press conference to mark the completion of three years of his government, adding that everyone will get a free chance to make the most of the opportunities in Transport and other sectors.
Vowing to completely eliminate all the mafias from the state, the Chief Minister said his government was working to end all this since taking over Punjab’s reins, "but these things take time.” "We have done our best, and we could not have done any better considering the situation,” he said, complimenting his cabinet colleagues and officers for the excellent job done by them.
Captain Amarinder said he will personally take up with the Union Home Minister the issue of shifting top gangsters out of Punjab prisons, as already proposed by Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.
Promising unprecedented development and fulfilment of all manifesto announcements in the next two years, Captain Amarinder made a slew of announcements that would take the state’s progress to the next level. Describing unemployment as the biggest concern, he announced that one lakh government vacancies would be filled up in the next two years, through up through transparent and merit-based system of selection. The aim was to achieve the target of 20 lakh total employment by 2022, he added.
Vowing a massive crackdown on the Transport mafia, the Chief Minister said his government will implement, in toto, the High Court judgment which was upheld by the Supreme Court and end all permits declared illegal in the state. He also announced reduction in Road Tax + Cess on Ordinary Buses from Rs. 3.08 to Rs. 2.96, as well as special one-time amnesty scheme for settling penal interest on non-payment of government dues by transporters. The Chief Minister reiterated his government’s decisions to issue 5000 new permits for small buses, and 2000 for stage carriages on commercially viable routes.
To a question about monopoly of a single family on buses being operated from Delhi airports to Punjab, the Chief Minister said his government was working to address the issue but the Delhi government also had to be on board with any decision.
Referring to complaints of continued illegal practices in sand mining, Captain Amarinder said he had asked the Water Resources Minister to thoroughly review and make this system fully transparent. The government’s aim is to ensure steady supply of sand at affordable rate at the pithead with proper use of technology to check any illegal activity by the contractors or illegal miners, he said, adding that new mining proposals would be announced by the government 2-3 weeks. However, he added that realisation through auctions of sand mines had seen significant improvement, with Rs. 120 cr accruing this year and sand prices are also low.
Captain Amarinder said his government remained committed to total transparency in governance, and to this end, it will soon bring in the new Lokpal Bill (covering all government functionaries including the Chief Minister), along with Punjab Anti Red Tape legislation and a Land Leasing & Tenancy Act.
On the issue of affordable power for domestic consumers, Captain Amarinder said while the final details will be shared only after the Regulator’s approval, his government had decided to rationalize electricity tariff in a manner that reduces the burden of the common man, making electricity more affordable. The White Paper on the state’s Power Sector will be brought out shortly, he added.
The Chief Minister also announced 750 rural sports stadiums to be set up across Punjab in order promote sports and improve the health & fitness of youth, and the establishment of a world-class Law University in Tarn Taran.
Replying to a question, he said the market committees would soon be constituted across the state, with the district-level workers currently engaged in ground work for the same. To another query, he promised all efforts by his government to promote Punjabi in the state but underscored the need to simultaneously focus on English in the shrinking world of today.
The Chief Minister said, in response to a question, that the elections to be municipal bodies will be held soon, after the process of demarcation is completed. He agreed that indications of the central government ending the MSP regime was a matter of concern and urged the Centre not to consider any such move.
Asked about the protests by unemployed teachers, he said gherao was not the solution and his government was doing it best to address the problem. "We will not give in to any pressure,” he added.
Flanked by his cabinet colleagues, as well as AICC in-charge of Punjab, Asha Kumari, and PPCC president Sunil Jakhar, the Chief Minister earlier expressed satisfaction at his government’s achievements and accomplishments of the past three years. While 225 of the 424 items in the Congress manifesto of Punjab had already been implemented, 96 are partially implemented, he said, expressing the confidence that the remaining 103 would be implemented in the next two years.
Captain Amarinder gave a detailed account of his government’s achievements across all the key sectors, including Law & Order, Drugs, Agriculture, Industry, Health, Education etc.
His government, he said, was fully geared to counter the growing threat of ISI-backed terrorists, with the Special Operations Group (SoG) well equipped to tackle the problem without requiring NSG’s help. The One Village One Police Officer Scheme launched this year was also working well to secure the border areas, he added.
On the issue of drugs, the Chief Minister said the back of the drug mafia had already been broken by his government, which could not have done more in this limited period. Narco terrorists were using new ways to push drugs into the state, using drones and new routes, "but we are prepared to deal with them,” said Captain Amarinder, pointing out that besides the Pakistan border, the sea route from Gujarat port was being used by drug smugglers, along with Nepal, Burma, Uri (Kashmir), Chamba (Himachal Pradesh), and even Delhi.
Punjab had become a market for drug smugglers from all sides, he said, adding that his government would soon bring out a State Drug Legislation to give more teeth to STF and the Punjab Police to tackle the threat. Further, his government would strengthen the coordination with other northern states to collectively fight the drug mafia, said the Chief Minister.
While expressing satisfaction over the six hassle-free procurements, he termed storage as a huge problem, which he said his government was taking up aggressively with the Centre. On debt waiver, he said the scheme for landless labourers, which had to be deferred to the Corona outbreak, will be launched soon.
The Chief Minister further underlined the massive progress made in the field of Investment and said the business-friendly Right to Business Act would be tabled by his government in the next session of the Vidhan Sabha.
Even as he cheered the signs of revival in the state economy, Captain Amarinder termed the takeover of Rs. 31,000 crore in the Food Account as debt by the previous Government a cruel joke on the people as it entails annual payment of Rs. 3240 crore for 20 years.
Captain Amarinder spoke extensively about the landmark initiatives in Health & Medical Education, including the Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana, the new medical colleges, and the Health & Wellness clinics. He underlined the continued importance being given by his government to employment generation, skill development, urban development, school education, infrastructure development, social welfare programmes and legislative reforms.
Meanwhile, Sunil Jakhar, in his address, complimented the Chief Minister for the mega achievements ensured despite the dismal situation in the state and for restoring the rule of law. It would have been easy to put people behind bars in Bargari, Chitta cases but due process is being followed by the Captain Amarinder government, he pointed out.