Group of Experts for Punjab
Is Montek heading a group made up of arm-chair theorists?
- Bir Devinder Singh
Is Montek heading a group made up of arm-chair theorists?




There are reports that Captain Amarinder Singh has constituted a Group of Experts, headed by illustrious economist and former deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, to come out with the post-Covid revival strategy for the state of Punjab .
 
There could be no disagreement with regard to the competence of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, He is certainly represents a rare galaxy of  Indian economists. Mr. Ahluwalia is much-admired World over for his exalted eminence in the field of economy with reference to fiscal management and planning.

While I have no fundamental objection to the constitution of the expert group consisting a variety of wizard from all over the spectrum, representing different areas of specializations. But I am of the opinion that the mandate to the Group, itself is ill-conceived and erroneous.
 
As we all know that Capt. Amarinder Singh Chief Minister of Punjab has already made a categorical statement very recently that the Covid-19 positive cases would reach its peak in Punjab in the month of October and very frighteningly he has also predicted that the Corona Virus could have an effect on the 87 % of the total population of Punjab till October, then why the 20-member expert group is being asked to submit its first preliminary report by July 31, followed by two more reports by September 30 and December 31.
 
In the milieu stated above the mandate of the expert study group cannot be called as   ‘Post-Covid-19’ scenario. The panel of experts is expected to formulate a comprehensive strategy to revive the State’s economy and industry. Ironically there is no mention of Agriculture sector and catastrophic unemployment of the employable youth. To call it a post-Covid scenario is a mere presumption, based on illusionary inferences. How the State Government or for that matter the expert group would ascertain and visualize the post-Covid scenario period when you have no idea when Punjab  would finally be free from the virus , if the pandemic would be on its peak in October as per the brilliant calculation of the Chief Minister?

Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his wife Isher Judge Ahluwalia
 
I wonder how Montek Singh Ahluwalia and other experts have agreed to meditate on the revival of the wreckage of the Punjab’s economy in view of the unprecedented debt and unbridgeable gap between the receipt and expenditure.
 
No post Covid -19 inclusive strategy or plan could be possible to resurrect the sagging economy of Punjab, without an enthusiastically agreeable support and participation of the central Government.
 
We have seen the fate of the Johal committee report headed by Dr. Sardara Singh Johal (A renowned Agriculture Economist), which was constituted when the present Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh was Agriculture Minister of Punjab in the Government headed by late Surjit Singh Barnala, to recommend the Crop diversification in Punjab, way back in 1985. Unfortunately since then not even a ripple moved and the report is rusting and gathering dust in the dustbin of the Chief Minister’s office since its submission.
 
Montek Singh Ahluwalia with Dr Sardara Singh Johal
 
Ironically the incumbent Chief Minister has become so twice since then. And what could be more atrocious and funny for the State that he is the Agriculture Minister again at the helms with no gain to Punjab. Therefore the consequential casualty of the hard work done by Dr. Johal is before us to grieve for Punjab with its zero result courtesy apathy and callousness of the politicians of the State and also at the Center.
 
Johal committee report is before us as a reference and the reports of this high profile experts group would also meet the same fate, as the present Chief Minister has outrightly failed to do any justice to the Johal committee recommendations, even at a time when Montek Singh Ahluwalia was the Deputy Chairman of the all powerful planning commission of India. So I keep my fingers crossed if this unwieldy group of experts would ever be able to meet with its desired quorum to deliberate upon the most sensitive and excruciating agenda as mandated to them.

It would have been a better option if the Punjab Chief Minister would have first constituted a shadow group of experts from Punjab, to study the Covid-19 impact at micro levels to undertake a preliminary exercise.
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There is no dearth of experts in Punjab who are already toiling and working very hard in the same areas, with clinical precision. And the best talent from among the Punjab bureaucracy must be tested and utilized for the purpose. 
 
Some talented ministers from the Punjab council of Ministers should also be engaged in this exercise. In fact all Punjab Ministers should be asked to make their own presentation to the Chief Minister in his office along with their administrative Secretaries, on the post Covid-19 scenario, based on their first hand ground level information and experience.
 
As a matter of fact the overwhelming majority of the members of experts group are from outside Punjab and even from abroad. The expert group is more or less overstuffed with theoretician, having no practical knowledge of Punjab problems, hence I am afraid that the deliberations of the expert group would merely be a futile exercise of optics without any cogent objectivity and meaningful delivery for the purpose it has been constituted.
 
Well despite all odd, I wish Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia all success in his current endeavor to salvage Punjab while examining the rot in the critical areas of sagging Punjab.

 

(The author is a former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, and a politician celebrated for his grasp on legislative affairs.)

 

 

 

 


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