Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal Thursday flagged off the state’s Punjabi Suba 50th anniversary celebrations with a Vidyarthi Divas extravaganza here, using the event to make a strident demand for Chandigarh as the state capital.
With months to go for the Assembly elections in the state, Badal reiterated his party’s commitment to not rest till Chandigarh was handed over to Punjab.
The event was held at Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, kicking off a one-month long programme to mark the golden jubilee of the 1966 formation of present day Punjab.
Education minister Daljit Singh Cheema said the “aim of the event was to tell schoolchildren about heritage and cultural values of Punjab”, while Badal in his speech spoke of “grave injustice done with Punjabis at the time of partition with Haryana by denying Chandigarh as Punjab’s capital”.
“It is the firm commitment of Akali Dal to get Chandigarh as capital of Punjab. This sangharsh (struggle) to get Chandigarh is on even after fifty years of Punjab’s statehood and will continue till we don’t get it,” announced Badal to an audience of more than 20,000 schoolchildren.
“It has been fifty years that Punjab was created but the struggle for Chandigarh, our own capital city, continues even today. Punjab Suba movement was successful after many sacrifices but even then injustice was done with Punjab. Despite that injustice we marched towards success in every field. Even some Punjabi speaking areas went to Haryana for which we will continue our fight because it is our right,” said Sukhbir.
He heaped praised on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and said that “it is because of his progressive approach that poor students are getting free education in meritorious schools”.
“We are ready to help in every way and provide quality education but I also need a promise from you that you will work hard,” said Sukhbir addressing students. “Children are future of this state and if we can’t nurture them, we can’t progress,” he said.
Asking Cheema to include a course on Punjabi culture and heritage in syllabus, Sukhbir also asked him to include educational tours to Virasat-e-Khalsa and other Sikh memorials as part of curriculum.
The deputy chief minister released a book ‘Dhart Punjab’ on culture and heritage of Punjab.
Cheema, too, credited CM Badal for opening meritorious schools and said that the “problem of shortage of teachers has been solved due to CM’s efforts only”.
“It is only after CM gave nod to recruit 84,000 teachers this year that it has come as a major relief for us,” he said, quoting an unidentified report to claim that Punjab is “number one” on education infrastructure in the country. He praised Sukhbir for raising the status of kabbadi as a sport.
Other MLAs present on stage included Tota Singh, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Manpreet Ayali as children performed Punjabi traditional dances, martial art gatka among others.
Give legal affidavits: Sukhbir to Capt
Later, during a press interaction, Sukhbir asked PPCC chief Captain Amarinder Singh and his MLAs to “give legal affidavits to farmers and not fake paper forms promising debt waiver”. Sukhbir said “it is a bundle of lies that Captain is carrying in his Kisan Yatra bus throughout the state”.
“Amarinder should have some shame. He is spreading lies and lies throughout. Can he give a legal affidavit to each farmer, saying that in case he fails to get debts waived off, he will sell his own property and compensate the farmers? What legal value does these forms hold which he is using to fool the farmers,” questioned Sukhbir. “Who is answerable if he fails to get debt waiver?”
The budget for the inaugural function Thursday was around Rs 1 crore. Education minister Daljit Singh Cheema said “total budget for the month-long celebrations is estimated at Rs 4 crore but they are yet to calculate final figure”.
However, sources confirmed to The Indian Express that various departments organising the functions have already sent a demand of Rs 8 crore of which Rs 1 crore has been released in advance.
Parents complained that children were not given adequate food and water. Scheduled to come at 11.30 am, Sukhbir finally arrived at 12.30 pm but the students were seated at Guru Nanak Stadium since 9 am and they were asked to report by their respective schools at 8 am.