The contrast between Prakash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh could not be more pronounced- but the state of Punjab could not care less! All that Punjabis, wherever in this world they might be situated, care for is that the pride and joy of their hearts- their precious verdant homeland retain the glory it has lamentably lost these past years. Captain Amarinder Singh has begun this process well and the prospects look good. In the first 100 days of office, the new government, has begun well. Punjabi’s are now praying that the old adage ‘well begun is half done’ holds true in this case and the premises of a drug and crime-free Punjab come speedily true.
Politics is only one of the extensive arenas where the Patiala patriarchs have made their immense, everlasting and striking contributions. Always subjecting the ‘self’ to ‘service of the many’, even brief overviews of the achievements of Captain Amrinder Singh leave one awestruck at the sheer scope and scale of his truly meritorious political, social, cultural, literally, sporting, religious and educational achievements. The word Dynasty might have negative connotations in the present context when political dynasties rule the roost by hook or by crook in many Indian states. However, a rare dynastic legacy of public service is epitomised by the Patiala Shahis, which is built not on the foundation of superficial bravado and recently seized entitlement but a lasting sense of responsibility and capable self assurance, born of years of eminence.
In each sphere of human activity, Capt Amarinder Singh (Amar literally means eternal or immortal ) has lived up to the expectations of his forefathers by meritoriously carrying forward the legacy of centuries of public service and personal achievement. In an age when politics has become the domain of the demagogue, his is the voice of reason and responsibility. Coming from a long line of leaders of men, petty one upmanship, short sighted gains and financial feathering of nests is as far from his range as winter clouds that block out the light of the sun. This worthy son of a remarkable father and magnificent grandfather has a destiny of distinction and legacy of service that was defined for him centuries before his birth. This is then the secret that sets him so apart from shrill contemporaries that seem like imposters before the rightful heir to a glorious mantle of merit.
A quick look at the Captain and his performance in the first 100 days:
1. Drug- Free Punjab
When the Captain vowed at historic Talwandi Sabo with a Gutka ( holy book) in his hand that he would eliminate drugs from Punjab in four weeks, his honest intentions were plain for the world to see. Now that the time has come to redeem his pledge, war on drugs has been declared. Formation of a STF (Special Task Force) with an experienced IPS officer Harpreet Sidhu in charge has made 1468 drug related arrests at top speed. However, the 4-week deadline is tough to meet, although the new drug helpline has seen 214 tip-offs in just two days. The STF’s deadline begins from March 31, 2017, when the STF was formed. Several schemes such as free treatment of drug addicts at state run de-addiction centers and free rein to police and other law enforcement agencies to stop drug dealers have given an impetus to the vision of a drug-free Punjab.
2. Farm loan waiver
The second issue that the Captain faces is the deplorable condition of farmers in the state. Once hailed as India’s bread basket, Punjab has not been able to escape the scourge of debt and falling incomes that has beset Indian agriculture sector as a whole. With news of daily farmer suicides, the image of the Punjabi farmer as a gung-ho, happy and prosperous agriculturist with golden fields waving in the backgrounds has perhaps been blurred forever. It is an uphill task to reestablish farmer’s prosperity and steer the farming community towards a bright future, but if one man has the will and wisdom to do so, then it is the Captain. Hailing from a Jat background, he has an astute understanding of what ails the sector. In order to put the debt besieged farmers back on their feet and provide a welcome respite from the blistering heat of impending bank payments, the Punjab Government will waive off farm debts, with or without, center’s help. The Modi Government announced loan waivers for UP farmers in the run up to UP elections, and Captain will be meeting the Prime Minister to extend this assistance to Punjab as well, but is prepared to go the distance on his own, if the center declines. Captain has also enjoined officials to create job opportunities through the ‘Apni Gaddi, Apna Rozgar’, ‘Hara Tractor Scheme’ and YAARI Enterprises.
3. Scraping of Khalsa University Act
To a historian, the past is too precious to be monetized. So when a clandestine attempt is made to undermine a historic college with a unique identity, CM Amarinder Singh who specializes in Punjab history, with a keen respect of the past, cannot remain immune. With strong family ties to Khalsa College, Amritsar, one of the oldest colleges in the country, the Captain has intervened to save a great legacy. The new Punjab government scraped the Khalsa University Act, passed by the earlier government that would have subverted the character of the college, enabled greater monetisation, with larger number of admissions and also deprived the college of its land endowments.
4. Red Beacon blackout
To a man born into royalty, and relying on his actions to speak more loudly than blaring sirens, the visible trappings of power and authority are of little consequence. Punjabi public has long been harassed by the rampant VIP culture which reigned supreme under the previous regime. Captain had vowed to end this and began with disallowing the red beacons on official cars that proclaimed the car occupant to be a powerful man. With this move, he has swiped off elitism and rampant power flashing by officials and reassured the public that he means business when he talks of returning Punjab to former times, when the upstanding and confident Punjabi considered himself equal to the best and refused to bow down before anyone but God.
5. Promoting Punjab as a power-plus haven to big Business
With agriculture, that was once the mainstay of the Punjabi economy, in the doldrums, the new government is on the lookout for new opportunities to generate employment. Continuing the initiative of the former government, the new CM is also wooing big business houses from all over the country to come to Punjab and set up their units. He has promised to provide power at Rs 5 a unit to industry. Here is hoping this move will bring in more industry and help generate badly needed employment.
The newly harnessed Punjab Government, with its majority of young, dynamic, well educated and robust cabinet members, such as Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Badal, Rana Gurjit Singh etc have begun firing from all cylinders from the word Go. Every true Punjabi, regardless of party affiliations or political ideology, will be praying that these initiatives yield fruit and bring back the glory days when Punjab was the jewel in India’s crown.