Apart from traders and farmers, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s whirlwind tour of Punjab Doaba region saw him reach out to Dalits, a dominant force in the area. Stressing on political neeyat (will) during his public interactions, he vowed to end “goonda tax” on industry within 24 hours and put drug suppliers, even the big fish, behind bars within three months if AAP was voted to power.
Kejriwal visited more than half a dozen places in Jalandhar and Kapurthala district Sunday, Dhilwan in Kapurthala district being his first stop. At Dhilwan, he met the family of Som Nath (83), who reportedly immolated himself due to several months’ delay in getting his old age pension — a sum of Rs 250 per month.
Kejriwal told Som Nath’s son, Subhash Kumar, that AAP will introduce direct money transfer to the pensioners’ accounts if voted to power.
The AAP chief also met Dalit families of accident victims from Bajaja and Fatehpuri villages. Twenty people had died in a road accident near Hoshiarpur in 2013 on their way back from ‘Mata Chintpurni’ shrine. The families told him how they were denied compensation despite government’s announcement. “I had to leave my five-year-old granddaughter in an orphanage because there was no one to look after her for some time,” said Jagbir Singh, whose son was incapacitated in the accident. Accompanied by AAP leaders Sucha Singh Chhotepur, Sukpal Singh Khaira and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, Kejriwal assured them help. He met a Dalit teacher, Rajni, who reportedly suffered a miscarriage due to alleged police atrocities last year, in Jalandhar, and promised her a government job if AAP comes to power.
Reaching out to industrialists in the state, the Delhi CM said he was surprised to see them working in an environment of rampant “extortion and corruption”.
“Businessmen here are giving ‘goonda tax’ and we will stop it 24 hours after coming to power,” he said, asking them to prepare a blue print of their problems and suggestions to bring back the industry that had moved out of Punjab.
Kejriwal addressed traders from the Vaishya (Baniya) community and later industrialists in Jalandhar.
“We had almost finished corruption in Delhi in 49 days and that is why people gave us a historic mandate the second time… Now, we have stopped raids on the traders and businessman as we trust them, and VAT is online and transparent now…Before us traders and industry people were seen like thieves by previous governments, but we respect them…we want to replicate that in Punjab,” he said.
At the end of his Doaba tour, Kejriwal met some NRIs — representatives of the Indo-Canadian NRI society — in Phagwara’s Chaheru village.
During the course of the day, he lashed out at Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal and Agriculture minister Tota Singh for not helping farmers in distress. “I have visited so many Punjab villages in these four days that I can challenge the Badals and Captain Amarinder Singh that I know more about Punjab than them,” said Kejriwal.