An uproar erupted in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Monday with Shiromani Akali Dal members accusing Navjot Singh Sidhu of making false promise of government jobs to the kin of Amritsar train tragedy victims and the Local Government Minister retorting that he had made the promise in front of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
The calling attention notice given by Bikram Singh Majithia and Lakhvir Singh Lodhinangal quickly degenerated into accusations and counter accusations on the floor of the House between the SAD and the Congress lawmakers with abundant name calling from both sides.
While Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra gave a detailed reply to the measures taken by the government to provide relief to the victims of the tragedy, which took place on Dussehra on October 19, 2018 which left 62 people dead and more than 70 injured. He said cheques for Rs 5 lakh each had been distributed to the family members of the deceased within a day of the tragedy. He, however, added that no promise of government job had been made.
Majithia, however, launched a direct attack at Sidhu, whose wife had been the chief guest at the Dussehra event where the tragedy took place, and said that four months had passed by but the victims were being cheated. “Sidhu announced a government job to the next of kin of the deceased,” he said.
A livid Sidhu levelled counter allegations against Majithia, which were expunged by the Speaker, Rana KP Singh.
“Eight families are being paid Rs 8,000 per month from my own pocket. The government is not paying them, I am. Ask them (SAD leaders), there have been four accidents involving their buses, have they paid anything out of their pocket. They run hotels, mills etc but they have a small heart. Sidhu has given Rs 8,000 from own pocket. Have they given even Rs 8,” asked Sidhu.
Contradicting Mohindra, Sidhu said he made the promise of the government job in the presence of the CM. Amarinder was present in the House when the exchange between Sidhu and Majithia took place.
Former deputy CM Sukhbir Badal intervened at this stage and demanded to know if a single person had been sent to jail for causing the death of 62 people in the accident. “Has even a single person been sent behind bars. I want the CM to answer,” he asked.
As Congress MLAs got up from their seats and Akali MLAs crowded around Sukhbir, the CM made a brief statement. “Accidents happen and governments have the responsibility to look after the victims and we have done this. He is asking, was anybody arrested. Inquiries are going on. Let me ask you one thing. There were so many incidents of people dying under Orbit buses. Has anybody been sent behind bars for that,” he asked.
Sukhbir said whenever there were deaths due to accident of Orbit buses, the drivers were sent behind bars. This led to further commotion in the House. SAD-BJP MLAs gathered in the well raising slogans against Sidhu and later walked out.
After the walk out, Jails and Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa launched a tirade against Badals and Majithia, levelling personal allegations. “In case of the accidents involving the Orbit buses, compensation was paid out of government exchequer. I would also request the CM to have fast track courts in the state for the drug dealers on the lines of rape cases as envisaged by him,” he said.