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Punjab Assembly: AAP accuses Ashu of making foul remarks against Valmiki community, walks out

Leader of Opposition (LoP) Harpal Singh Cheema raised the issue, demanding stern action against Ashu, including the registration of an FIR. The minister was not present in the House as the accusations were made against him.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh |
Updated: March 2, 2020 10:06:39 pm
Punjab Assembly: AAP accuses Ashu of making foul remarks against Valmiki community, walks out Food and Civil Supply minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu in Ludhiana. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators Monday walked out of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha during Zero Hour accusing Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu of having made derogatory remarks against the Valmiki community.

The Valmiki community has accused Ashu of insulting them by using the phrase ‘Valmiki mafia’ during a meeting held a few days ago in Ludhiana on door-to-door garbage collection. The minister allegedly said the project wasn’t materialising because of the obstructions being created by ‘Valmiki mafia’. A video, purportedly, of the meeting has since been shared multiple times on social media. The minister, however, had Sunday said his statement had been portrayed wrongly.

Immediately after the zero Hour began in the Vidhan Sabha, Leader of Opposition (LoP) Harpal Singh Cheema raised the issue demanding stern action against Ashu, including the registration of an FIR. The Minister, was not present in the House as the accusations were made against him.

Cheema said the incident exposed the “anti-Dalit” face of Ashu. He also sought Speaker’s permission to play the video in the House, which was denied.

LoP said that Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had protected the minister on numerous occasions, including in the multi-crore Ludhiana CLU scam, brow-beating a DSP rank officer, the Gur Mandi bomb blast and now for passing nasty comments against the Valmiki community.

“Why is the CM protecting him? These remarks show the minister’s mentality. His action should be condemned across party lines and such people should be boycotted,” said Cheema.

The LoP had a verbal spat with Congress member Amrinder Singh Raja Warring over the issue with the latter angrily gesticulating towards the AAP leader and shouting. However, later when Speaker Rana KP Singh asked Warring if he had anything to say on the matter, the Congress leader appeared non-plussed and said “about what”.

The AAP MLAs later gathered in the well of the House, raised slogans against the government and walked out.

Ashu walked in as as AAP members were walking out. He denied having made any derogatory statement against Valmiki community. “This is a baseless accusation. There is a safai-mafia in Ludhiana, which is involved in the collection and disposal of garbage. They are linking it to something else,” he said.

Zira takes on own govt over delay in transport policy

Congress MLA Kuldip Singh Zira hit out at his own party’s government for failing to bring in a transport policy, which would regulate the private sector bus operators who were “looting” passengers.

Zira gave the example of a journey that he undertook in bus run by the Indo-Canadian Bus Service, owned by the Badal family. “A ticket in a Volvo bus of PUNBUS from Delhi airport to Rajpura costs Rs 1200. If you get down at Karnal, the fare is Rs 280. However, in an Indo-Canadian bus, the fare for Rajpura is Rs 2600. Even if you get down at Karnal it is Rs 2600,” he said.

Zira questioned why the government was not bringing out a transport policy. “The transport policy is in cold storage for last three years. The Advocate General’s office should be asked if there is a court stay on bringing out the policy. If there is no stay then the policy should be implemented,” he said.

Among the private transporters operating in Punjab, the majority of buses are owned by the Badal family.

Questions raised on law and order in Punjab

SAD MLA Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) member Simarjeet Singh Bains raised the issue of the custodial death of a youth in Ludhiana from whom the Punjab Police was allegedly trying to extort money.

Both MLAs pointed out that the deceased had bought a car from online platform-OLX and that it turned out to be stolen. “Despite the deceased, Deepak Shukla, having taken the police to the person who had sold him the car, an FIR was registered against him and his wife was also illegally detained at the police station. She was released after police took a bribe of Rs 25,0000. Shukla himself was remanded to judicial custody by a court but the police illegally kept him in their custody to extort Rs 1.25 lakh from him and he died in their custody,” alleged Bains.

“His body has been lying in the hospital for the past five days,” claimed Dhillon.

Bains alleged that no FIR had been registered against errant policemen. He also recounted several other cases in Ludhiana where police has not acted.

AAP MLA flags fear of fee hike in medical, dental colleges

Suspended AAP MLA Kanwar Sandhu demanded an answer from Health Minisgter Balbir Singh Sidhu on the reports that the government medical and dental colleges in Amritsar and Patiala, respectively will be made autonomous. “There is a fear in the minds of the students that there will be a fee hike as a result of this move and that the cost of treatment of patients will also be higher. The minister should inform why there was a pressing need to go ahead with this move,” he asked.

Cong MLA highlights poor quality of roads

Congress MLA, Rajinder Singh, pointed out that there had been several deaths of a stretch of road connecting the towns of Patran and Samana due to the poor shape that the road was in. “How many deaths will it take for us to do something about the road,” he asked.

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