WITH ITS leaders having faced serious opposition from Punjabi diaspora during their visits abroad, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-led Punjab government is likely to scrap its annual NRI sammelan this year.
While the dates for the event are usually decided two months in advance, the sammelan does not appear to be on the list of the government’s priorities this time around. With the year about to end, there is still no word from the government on the meet, which was whittled down to an ‘NRI Sangat Darshan’ last year. The government has also not held any meeting pertaining to the sammelan nor has it contacted any NRI organisations like in previous years.
Sources in the NRI affairs department said the government was in no mood to host the event due to the embarassment faced by SAD leaders during their visits to the US, UK and Canada. “The government has neither discussed nor is interested in discussing the sammelan this year on the pretext that NRIs may create a scene in such programmes due to recent happenings in the state,” said a senior government officer in the NRI affairs department.
SAD leaders, in different teams, had gone to meet Punjabi diaspora living across the world for the first time in its 95-year history but they faced large-scale opposition from the NRIs. A shoe was also hurled at NRI’s Affairs Minister Tota Singh during one such gathering in New York.
Tota Singh, however, said the government has not yet decided on the event. “The programme can be organised only after a meeting with the Punjab CM,” he added. On the delay in deciding about the event, Tota Singh said they were waiting for the CM to provide time for the meeting.
The delay has not gone down well with NRIs. “The government had earlier reduced it from a sammelan to a sangat darshan and now it is on the path of scrapping it,” said Parkash Singh, an NRI from the UK, adding that property disputes and alleged false matrimonial cases are still unsolved. “In such conditions how can they expect NRIs to invest here,” he added.
Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of the US-based North American Punjabi Association (NAPA), said the annual meet was the need of the hour which will help redress issues and concerns of the Punjabi diaspora. Chahal suggested that the state government hold two state-level sangat darshans for the Punjabi Diaspora: one for listening to their grievances and the second to collect the response about the action taken by the state on their grievances.