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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Punjab assembly passes resolutions against Agnipath scheme, centralisation of Panjab University

The resolution against the Agnipath scheme was moved by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. Opposition parties Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supported the resolution.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: July 1, 2022 7:02:36 am
Mann also mocked BJP leaders and asked them to get their sons recruited as Agniveers and later engage them as security guards outside BJP offices across the country.(PTI Photo)

The Punjab Vidhan Sabha Thursday passed two resolutions — one against the Agnipath recruitment scheme and the other against the centralisation of the Panjab University. The BJP opposed both the resolutions.

The resolution against the Agnipath scheme was moved by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. Opposition parties Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supported the resolution. Punjab Vidhan Sabha also became the first state Assembly in the country to pass a resolution against the Agnipath scheme. After moving the resolution, Mann said that he would take up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

He also mocked BJP leaders and asked them to get their sons recruited as Agniveers and later engage them as security guards outside BJP offices across the country. He said the Centre is running away from paying pensions and hence had come up with the scheme. Responding to BJP member Ashwani Kumar Sharma’s contention that Agniveers will also get formal education while getting trained, Mann asked if Agniveers would hold a book in one hand and a gun in another while sitting on a morcha.

“Do not show them false dreams. Just say that you do not have money to pay pensions. We see ex-servicemen in awe in Punjab. But you have snatched loyalty towards their country from them by making them hired soldiers.”

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He said it is better to roll back a scheme and review it after talking to the stakeholders. “Otherwise, there is no point in letting people protest for a year and then withdraw it,” Mann said in an apparent reference to the rolling back of the contentious farm laws.

Sharma said there should not be any politics on the issue of defence and security of the country. “When the chiefs of all the three defence services have supported the scheme, are we wiser than them to condemn it?” he asked.

He said, “It is not a job but training for four years. The Agniveers will be self-reliant at 21. They will get formal education too. The government wants to prepare disciplined, skilled and patriotic youths. The educational degree that they get will be recognised world over. What is the problem then? Why are you making it a political issue?”

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Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa wanted it to be called a joint resolution as he was the one to suggest to the house to bring a resolution against it. “Whenever the Centre takes a decision, there is an upheaval. The Centre is following US and Israel while formatting this scheme but is confronted by two enemies, China and Pakistan, who are neighbours and nuclear-armed. China has taken over our land but we do not confess that. Pakistan is always trying to foment trouble. I ask the Centre not to play with fire.”

He also saw a conspiracy behind the scheme and said, “I doubt if Agniveers, who will be on holiday for 15 months in four years, will be trained enough. Is there a deeper sinister plan?”

Finance minister Harpal Cheema, SAD leader Manpreet Singh Aiyali and BSP leader Nachhattar Singh also supported the resolution. The resolution said, “The unilateral announcement of the Agnipath Scheme by the Government of India has witnessed widespread reactions in all States, including Punjab. The Punjab Vidhan Sabha strongly feels that the scheme where youth will be employed only for a period of four years and only up to 25% will be retained, in the best interests neither of national security nor of the youth of this country. This policy is likely to create dissatisfaction among the youth who wish to serve the armed forces of the nation for a lifetime.”

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The resolution added, “It must be highlighted that more than one lakh soldiers from Punjab serve in the Armed Forces of the nation and many of them give the supreme sacrifice of their life on the borders of the Country every year. The youth of Punjab consider serving in the Indian Armed Forces as a matter of pride and honor and are renowned for their valor and courage. This scheme has crushed the dreams of many youths of Punjab who have been aspiring to join the Armed Forces as regular soldiers. The scheme also has the propensity to weaken the long-standing esprit de corps of the Armed Forces. Through this Resolution, this House recommends to the State Government to take up the matter with the Union Government in order to roll back the Agnipath Scheme immediately.”

Resolution against centralisation of Panjab University

The Vidhan Sabha also passed a resolution condemning the centralisation of the Panjab University in Chandigarh amid opposition by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members. The assembly also asked the state government to take up the matter with the Centre so as not to alter the nature and character of Panjab University in any way keeping in view the sentiments of the people of Punjab.

Education Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer moved the resolution. While speaking on the issue, he said Punjab is associated emotionally with the University. “We are not begging for the university from the Centre. It is our right. Punjab has a right on its water, Chandigarh, Punjabi speaking areas and state’s institutions,” he said.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Budh Ram, while supporting the resolution, said the Centre is enjoying playing with the dreams of the youths. He called it a conspiracy and wanted the Centre to decide against it.

Jangi Lal Mahajan, a BJP member, said, “Has Centre sent any letter to the state? Has any central minister given a statement anywhere? I want to make it clear that the Centre has no such proposal. Why has this become an issue? The High Court has given a direction to Centre, while hearing a petition by a faculty member. The High Court said that the Centre should intervene as the state government was not able to give UGC grade to the faculty. This is a reflection on the Punjab government that it was not able to contest the case in the court. There is no doubt that Punjab has a right to Panjab University. Punjab BJP will protect this right. But is the government performing its duties? It is not. After reorganisation, it was decided that Punjab had to match a financial grant of 40 per cent with the state’s 60 per cent.”

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Sharma said a member of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) would be appointed from Punjab. This has been clarified, he said. While opposing the resolution, he said, “Stop distrusting us on the issue of Punjab. We are as much for Punjab as you are. But the government should not try to cover up its inefficiency to fight the case in the court.”

Speaker Kultar Sandhwan asked him, “Are you supporting the resolution or opposing it?” Sharma said, “You are playing with the words. I am saying this resolution is not needed.” Hayer replied by saying the BJP member is misleading the house. “We are contributing Rs 140 crore every year,” Hayer said.

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Mahajan said he does not blame the Chief Minister. Previous governments are also responsible. It is for the last 22 years that the state has not contributed its share. It has been paying only 10 per cent of the share. He said why should the professors go to courts to get UGC scales. There is no question of centralisation of Panjab University. This resolution is not needed.

Congress member Pargat Singh said that centralisation of Panjab University is a conspiracy against Punjab. He said, “They want to cut Punjab to size. We are discriminated against. We have sacrificed our lives for the country. Yet they are scared of Punjab. We should take it up. It should not just be a resolution.”

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While supporting the resolution, Congress member Sukhpal Khaira said that Chandigarh belongs to Punjab and one day Punjab will make its claim a reality. He wanted an amendment in resolution. “Panjab University is our university, our children study here. The Panjab University gets the lion’s share of its income from the 175 colleges of Punjab. Neither Haryana nor Himachal contributes to its finances.”

SAD member Manpreet Singh Aiyali said that Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was committed to stand for Punjab’s rights and supported the resolution.

AAP member Amritpal Singh Sukhanand demanded an amendment in the resolution stating that the Vice Chancellor of Panjab University should also be consulted and his advice taken. BSP member Nacchattar Pal said that he too supports the resolution.

The resolution

The resolution read, “This House is concerned about the attempt being made by some vested interests to push the matter for change of status of Panjab University into a Central University on one pretext or the other.”

“The House acknowledges and recognises that the Panjab University was re-commenced with an Act of the Punjab State namely the Panjab University Act 1947 after Independence, and subsequently with the reorganisation of the State of Punjab in 1966, it was declared as an Inter-State Body Corporate under Section 72(1) of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 enacted by the Parliament. Since its inception, the Panjab University has been continuously and uninterruptedly functioning in the state of Punjab. It was shifted from Lahore, the then capital of Punjab, to Hoshiarpur and then to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. More than 175 colleges of Punjab, which are situated in the districts of Fazilka, Ferozepur, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Moga, Muktsar and Nawanshahar, are affiliated with the Panjab University at present. The entire territorial jurisdiction and the populace, which the Panjab University is catering to, falls majorly in the state of Punjab, in addition to the area under Union Territory of Chandigarh, which despite many resolutions of this august house has not been restored as the capital of Punjab state only and continues to be a Union Territory,” it said.

The resolution added, “Historically, the people of Punjab have been very intimately associated and have identified themselves with this university right from its inception. The Panjab University occupies an emotional place in the minds of Punjabis on account of historical, regional and cultural reasons. The University has emerged as an educational and cultural symbol of Punjab’s legacy and inheritance to the extent that it has almost become synonymous with the State of Punjab.”

“espite the fact that the states of Haryana and Himachal stopped contributing their share of the maintenance deficit grants to the University, the State of Punjab has increased its share from 20 percent to 40 percent and has continuously been paying it since 1976. The Government of Haryana unilaterally withdrew the affiliation of its colleges from the University and transferred the same to the other Universities within Haryana State, which has reduced the revenue of the university. The Government of India vide its notification dated 27-10-1997 ceased the representation of Haryana in various governing bodies of the University. This House has observed that the University has been managing and conducting its financial affairs unilaterally. The state of Punjab has however increased the Grant-in-Aid from Rs 20 crores to Rs 45.30 crores during the financial year 2020-21, which amounts to an increase of more than 75 per cent. Besides, nearly Rs 100 crore is collected annually by the University from the affiliated Colleges located in Punjab. This substantial increase may not be commensurate with the needs of the Panjab University, but this is due to the reason that there is no bilateral consultative process in place,” the resolution read.

“This House strongly and unanimously feels that any decision to change the character of the Panjab University won’t be acceptable to the people of Punjab and therefore, strongly recommends that no change in the nature and character of this University should be considered by the Government of India. Any proposal in case it is being considered should be dropped with immediate effect. Therefore, this House strongly recommends to the State Government to take up the matter with the Central Government so as not to alter the nature and character of the Panjab University in any way keeping in view the sentiments of the people of Punjab,” it added.

Bajwa also questioned the government for not bringing in a resolution on the ban of singer Sidhu Moosewala’s SYL Song on YouTube following a complaint by the Centre. A resolution against pulling down Moosewala’s song and one against the Agnipath scheme were recommended by the Congress and Mann had said he would oppose any move aimed at muffling voices.

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First published on: 30-06-2022 at 07:01:52 pm

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