Updated: August 4, 2021 12:20:13 pm
Sounding the poll bugle ahead of 2022 elections in Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal Tuesday announced a 13-point pre-poll promises charter, declaring that if SAD-BSP alliance is voted to power it would give 400 units of free electricity to residential consumers, will reduce price of diesel by Rs 10 for every litre of fuel purchased for the agricultural purposes and would give Rs 2,000 every month to all women heads of blue card holder families. Sukhbir also promised 75 per cent quota for the state youth in private sector jobs if voted to power.
Punjab BSP chief Jasvir Singh Garhi was not present when Sukhbir Badal announced the 13-point promise charter.
Garhi on Tuesday led a protest march by BSP in Sardulgarh in Mansa district against alleged derogatory remarks against Dalit community by members of opposition parties. Speaking over phone, Garhi said that the protest march was planned around five days ago. Meanwhile, the display boards at the venue had photos of BSP supremo Mayawati and Akali along with Sukhbir Badal.
About the promise to give Rs 2,000 per month to blue card holders, a government functionary said that there are around 40 lakh beneficiaries having blue cards under the below poverty line (BPL) category in Punjab and majority of cards were in the name of men. The functionary added that if all blue card holders were to be benefactors under the promise, it would have huge financial implication on the state exchequer.
Harcharan Bains, the principal advisor to SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, however, said that women member of each blue card holder family who was supposed to manage the house will get the benefit under the scheme which has been named as Mata Khivi Ji Rasoi Sewa Scheme.
Addressing a press conference here, Sukhbir said that despite Covid, Centre and Congress government in Punjab did not reduce tax on fuel. He added that if SAD-BSP formed government in the state, it would reduce value added tax on fuel, affecting reduction of Rs 10 for every litre of diesel purchased for agricultural purposes.
While announcing 400 units of free power to households, Sukhbir said disconnected power connections of BPL families will be restored after waiving off their bills.
The announcement on 400 free power units by Akali Dal comes more than a month after AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal on June 29 dashed to Chandigarh to announce 300 units of free power to all domestic consumers in Punjab if the party was voted to power in 2022.
Sukhbir also announced a ‘Student Education Card’ with an interest free loan up to Rs 10 lakh for the purpose of college fees, coaching fees like IELTS. He said the education loan could be availed both for domestic and international institutions and the government will pay interest till students land a job and can pay back only the principle amount in period up to ten years.
“Many (students) want to become doctor and clear IELTS (to go abroad). Many students don’t have the money…Some sell land, other house..I want to tell Punjabis, no Punjabi would have to sell land or house..We will tie up with banks (for the Student Education Card),” he said.
The SAD president also promised health insurance of up to Rs 10 lakh every year for Punjab residents which will cover treatment, medicines, diagnostic tests, surgeries & medical equipment in all public and private hospitals.
He also assured minimum support price for vegetables, fruits and milk in the state.
Sukhbir promised one lakh new jobs in government sector in five years and another ten lakh in private sector, while underlining that if SAD-BSP formed government, it will encourage industrial growth and clusters.
Taking exception to highest fatality rate due to Covid in Punjab as compared to the other states, Sukhbir announced to set up 500-bedded Government Medical Colleges with super specialties in all districts of the state.
He also assured minimum 50 per cent reservation for women in all government jobs and promised that 75 per cent jobs will be reserved for Punjabi youth “even in private sector and public private partnership (PPP) companies”.
He said 33 per cent of seats in medical colleges, professional colleges and professional universities, would be reserved for students coming from government schools.
Sukhbir also promised Rs 5 per unit power rate to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and added that large industry would be encouraged to switch to solar energy.
He also promised that all contractual employees, including the safai karamcharis would be regularized if SAD-BSP came to power in Punjab.
Promising 100 per cent computerisation of office work to check corruption and ensure harassment free Punjab, Sukhbir said, “I make a promise to Punjabis that within one year after SAD-BSP formed government, Punjabis would not need to go to any office as everything will be computerized.”
He said Akali Dal had “a history of fulfilling all the promises it made”. Sukhbir said his father, Akali patriarch and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, always advised him to “make only those promises which can be fulfilled”.
Sukhbir lashed out at Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for “taking oath on Gukta Sahib” merely to “become the Chief Minister” and subsequently “not fulfilling those”.
With banners reading “Jo keha oh keeta, jo kahaange, oh karaange (We did what we promised, We will do what we will promise) in the press conference venue, Sukhbir while taking a jibe at Amarinder Singh said time had come for the Punjabis to decide between one who made “false promises” and who “did not come from his farmhouses on one side and “those who dared to speak the truth and proved the mettle by doing works”.
He flayed Kejriwal for divergent stances when it came to Delhi and Punjab.
“Punjab needs a leader and the party who thinks, lives and dies for the sake of Punjab,” said Sukhbir, invoking the pre-independence and post-independence history of Akali Dal.
Speaking about the initiatives which would be taken up in the agriculture sector, Sukhbir said a legislation will be brought in the state assembly to ensure that the Centre’s three agriculture laws are not implemented in Punjab.