Speaking at The Idea Exchange,Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal says the Centre has not been fair to Punjab and blames it for the problems facing the state,including drugs and lack of funds. The session was moderated by Editor (Punjab) Vipin Pubby
Khushboo Sandhu: You are the oldest serving chief minister and are holding the post for the fifth time. How do you view the state of the nation?
The current state of the nation is not good. Whether we look at external security when we talk of China or Pakistan,or internal security with threats like riots,Naxalism and militancy,the Centre has failed on all fronts. Look at the economy. The value of the rupee is decreasing by the day. The growth rate of industry has decreased. The government is taking no action to tackle poverty. It is a bad indicator of the development of the country when the government feels that 80 per cent of the people in the country cannot even buy flour or pulses. I am not against the (food security) scheme. I feel such schemes should be made that people become self-sufficient. The focus,unfortunately,is on vote bank politics.
Farmers are in a pitiable state. Earlier,they had 60 per cent share in the national income. Now,the share of farmers has come down to 13 per cent. Farming is no longer a remunerative business. The reason is policymakers not understanding the problems of the people. The recommendations of M S Swaminathan should be implemented.
When the Constitution was made,it was felt that a federal system of governance should be there. Now this federal system has given way to a unitary form of government. Powers of the state have been taken away by the Centre. They are taking over functions in the state list as well as the concurrent list. Punjab is an agricultural state. Even in this field,we have no powers. In agriculture there are two components,income and expenditure. Income includes the MSP,while expenditure is on diesel,fertilisers,insecticides. All these are controlled by the Centre. Responsibility is ours. No Central minister came to see the floods (of 2013).
Several concessions have been extended to the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh to attract industry,while we get the blame for not getting industry here. The RBI has named Punjab third among the best states for industry destination. It states we have progressed from being 14 to No. 1.
Punjab has been through a very difficult period,including Partition,militancy,and now policies are being made that are not conducive to us. Despite this,Punjab is progressing very fast in development. This year we will have surplus power.
Vipin Pubby: Have the concessions given to industry in Himachal Pradesh had an adverse effect on Punjab?
The whole industry has shifted to Himachal Pradesh. Industry cannot survive here if all concessions are being given to the neighbouring state. Industrialists from here have set up units in Himachal.
Raghvendra Rao: Why has Haryana not been adversely affected due to this?
Haryana has proximity to Delhi. Most of the revenue earned by the state is from Gurgaon. They are near Delhi,we are near Lahore.
Swadesh Talwar: You had sought a state on linguistic lines…
At the time of Independence,when the decision was taken for Partition,did Punjab ask for it? That was the first setback. All the fertile land in Punjab remained on the other side of the border. What we got was neglected area that we have now developed with much difficulty. We are suffering due to circumstances. We did not ask for a linguistic state. The Centre had stated that after Independence they would make states that have a common culture and language so that they could progress.
Chitleen Sethi: While there has been progress in Punjab on the infrastructure front,on social indicators like health,education,female foeticide,it is lagging behind.
We are at the top in education. Central government reports show that we have progressed. The same way,health infrastructure has been termed excellent. On female foeticide,we are making attempts. When we took over,there were three universities in the state. We started nine universities and 17-18 colleges. Teachers have been recruited. Efforts are required to take care of the backlog. We are installing power plants. For the repair of rural roads,Rs 1,700 crore has been earmarked. Within the next three years,there will be no town in Punjab that will not have proper water supply,sewage treatment plant and roads. Rivers are so polluted,so we have made a scheme that no untreated water will be released into them. For the education of poor,we are starting a new scheme. For the bright children from economically weaker sections,we are constructing a special school. The site has been selected. Students would be provided free hostel facility and food so that they get a chance to study further. We will show good results.
Chitleen Sethi: How big a challenge is it to send teachers and doctors to rural areas?
Our society has three components the government,the bureaucracy and the public. Till the public does not cooperate with us nothing can be done. There is a communication gap between the government,bureaucracy and people.
Raghvendra Rao: In which areas is the Centre taking over functions in the state list?
There are several areas,like agriculture. We can only appoint a district agriculture officer or a director. The agricultural economy is dependent on the Centre (though it is a state subject). Now the Centre does not even ask us before taking decisions. Apart from that,there is industry. Earlier freight equalisation was there. Now our youth has few openings even in the armed forces. They have changed the rules,and recruitment in military is on the basis of the population of the state. How can it be justified when this is not the case in other national services?
Varinder Bhatia: The Army has a contradictory view. They say the youth in Punjab are not fit. Even at police recruitments in Chandigarh,Punjab is nowhere near Haryana.
If they are not fit,dont recruit them. But let there be open competition. The recruitment of constables and conductors was cancelled as it was biased.
Chitleen Sethi: How much role do drugs have in the condition of the youth of Punjab?
Why are there drugs in Punjab? Putting blame is very easy. Punjab is a border state. Smuggling is done through Afghanistan and then drugs come to Pakistan. At the border,the Central government is responsible for the arrangements. There is a need to seal the border.
Plus,Rajasthan is at our border. There poppy husk is grown freely and is as readily available as sugar. From there it is smuggled. Can the Centre not ask Rajasthan to stop growing poppy husk?
Varinder Bhatia: What measures have you tried to stop smuggling?
The Government of India has not been able to stop militancy. They need to seal the border with Pakistan… Drugs are not manufactured in India. These drugs are being smuggled throughout the country. I have approached the Prime Minister and the Home Minister that drugs are destroying our state. Heroin is caught in the state. But at times these people escape.
Shishir Tripathi: Former DGP Shashi Kant has moved a petition in the court alleging that leaders of political parties are involved in the drug trade.
Shashi Kant himself had the charge (of prisons). He did nothing. Now after he retired and we did not give him any post,he is making allegations. These days,this is another problem. When they retire,they go against us. Its easy blaming politicians for everything.
Ishfaq Naseem: Why has Punjab not been able to generate sufficient revenue to meet its expenses?
The Centre does not have its own funds. Of every Rs 100 collected by states,they take Rs 70 and give us the remaining,then put conditions on how to spend it. A link road has to be made in a village. Why should the plans be made in Delhi? What will austerity do? Around 95 per cent of our budget goes in giving salaries. If these conditions had not been there,we would have been at some other place.
Varinder Bhatia: On the one hand you say there is no money,on the other you have refused to remove your photos from ambulances (which has led to the Centre stopping funds under a scheme).
The Centre has all sorts of schemes named after Rajiv Gandhi,Indira Gandhi. We don’t say we will not accept money under these. These are small issues. It shows their small heart that they are not giving us funds as we have put photos on ambulances. Sonia Gandhi is going to lay foundation stones of projects. What right does she have? Can the president of the Congress lay foundation stones of big government projects and put their own names on these? We have just put our picture on a small vehicle and they are threatening to stop grants. Power is in their hands but they have small hearts. There is so much corruption at the Centre. Even in sports they have siphoned off funds. Several ministers have embezzled funds that equal the budget of a state.
Vipin Pubby: The Prime Minister is a Punjabi and so are a number of Union ministers. Has this reflected in Punjab?
Two of them (Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Bansal) have already come back home. They had gone with tall promises. I have great respect for Sardar Manmohan Singh,but he does not look after us. When the PM is not powerful,what do we say?
Sanjiv Sharma: What steps have you initiated for stopping illegal mining in the state?
For two years,the Central government did not give permission to us for mining. When work starts,someone moves court and work is stayed. No state government wants this to happen. I have met the ministers at the Centre several times and written letters. The government is most affected by this. States should have the power for this.
Raghav Ohri: What change has come in Punjab politics over the years when we still talk of vendetta or dissidents?
We have not indulged in any vendetta. I do not want to get into the details,but we have supported them when they were in need. The vendetta happened towards us. For three-four years,(former Congress CM) Amarinder Singh harassed us. An FIR was lodged even against my wife. The politician who indulges in vendetta is sure to go. Indira Gandhi had stated after Emergency that she would leave the country. However,some people said she should be imprisoned. Due to the vendetta,she again became prime minister. Even officers who harmed me have faced no retribution from me.
Chitleen Sethi: Is there a change in the Panthic agenda of the Akali Dal?
Our agenda is human agenda. All gurus talked of secularism. Should we listen to the gurus or someone else? The foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid by a Muslim. Our path is shown by the gurus. It includes secularism,communal harmony and peace.
I did not say that. I said that the Gujarat state had given great leaders like Gandhi and Sardar Patel. Delhi is the heart of the country. A survey shows that most people want Modi elected. Whatever the BJP decides we will agree with it.
Raghvendra Rao: You are one of the tallest leaders of the NDA. What went on when Bihar CM Nitish Kumar split from the alliance? You were tasked with talking to him.
I am great friends with everyone. Why will Nitish Kumar change his ideas because of me? Or if PM asks me something,why will I change my opinion? No one changes at someones asking.
Gagandeep Singh Dhillon: Why are private transporters favoured in the state? Why is there less tax on luxury buses and more on the others?
Public transport has always been in loss. It is not our policy that the government should do everything; any private business is always better off. Our good buses go full. We need to provide facilities to people,public does not mind paying if there is comfort. Government cannot do business. I am not a partner in any transport business. And anyone can do business,its not that a political person cannot do business. There are Central ministers who have aeroplanes.
Khushboo Sandhu: What steps are being taken regarding Adarsh schools (for rural areas) as many of them have failed?
We tried making attempts. We said that we will give land free,make 70 per cent contribution to the construction of the building. With great care,a selection of the private partners was made. However,they started wrong practices. We said,do not take fees from students. If a teacher was to be paid
Rs 15,000,they paid just Rs 5,000 and kept the rest. Slowly the scheme failed. Now we are planning to appoint a reputed director and restart the scheme.
Ifrah Mufti: What do you have to say about honour killings?
I am against them. These have not happened in Punjab. We are going away from nature and values. When we fight against nature it causes destruction.
Srishti Chaudhary: Why are there no student elections in Punjab?
No one has asked me for them. I feel less the elections,the happier people will be. If someone demands so,we will conduct elections,we have no objection to that. Vice-chancellors are independent,they can go ahead if they want to.
Chitleen Sethi: Are you happy with son Sukhbir Badals performance?
He has shown results in elections.
Varinder Bhatia: Are you unhappy with Bikram Singh Majithias attitude?
I am not unhappy with anybody. Even Bajwa sahib (Punjab PCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa) is very close to me. I have good relations with everyone.
Raghvendra Rao: Since the last elections,the Akali Dals numbers have increased and the BJPs have declined in Punjab. The BJP does not seem to be getting the same importance.
We agree to whatever they say,we respect them a lot. It is not due to political ties,there are personal relations. We are satisfied with the BJP and they are satisfied with us.
Transcribed by Khushboo Sandhu