AAP writes to Speaker demanding extension of Budget session

March 13, 2018 05:28 PM

Punjab News Express
CHANDIGARH: The Aam Aadmi Party has written to the Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha to extend the forthcoming Budget Session starting from March 20 to at least 15 sittings. As of now since the Session is slated till March 28, it is expected to have 6 or 7 sittings only due to a holiday and the week-end between the duration of Session.

In a letter, AAP leader, Mr. Kanwar Sandhu has pointed out that usually the budget sessions in Punjab have been having between 9 and 15 sittings. Instead of having a longer session, the one which has been called, falls woefully short of even the earlier sessions. Leader of Opposition, Mr. Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who has endorsed the letter, has demanded extending the Session to the second week of April.

Sandhu has further said that clearly the duration of the Session has been dictated by the Government’s listing of business. "As Speaker of the August House, you are its custodian and the duration of the Session is your and not government’s prerogative. The Government could give you a list of the business that it seeks to bring forward. As Speaker, you could ask each of the Opposition parties for their list of the business before taking the final call on the number of sittings the House would have." he has added.

The AAP MLA has said that Punjab was today facing a severe crisis forcing the people to head for foreign countries. "Future generations would not forgive us for neglecting the vital issues plaguing the state. These can be addressed only through discussion and debate and not by pushing them under the carpet. By following the agenda set by the Government, you have opened the August office of the Speaker to the charge of being grossly and blatantly partisan," Sandhu alleged.

On behalf of AAP, Kanwar Sandhu has listed out 11 issues as Business of the Party which it would want discussed in the Budget Session. "Punjab has not only been let down by its bureaucracy but also looted by its political masters. Besides the Judiciary has failed to live up to peoples' expectations. The only hope lies in the parliamentary institutions like the Vidhan Sabha, which needs to debate the vital issues plaguing the state," he said in the detailed letter. The matters listed include:

1. Sanctity of Manifesto(s): The Congress Party’s 2017 Vidhan Sabha Election Manifesto, seems to be falling apart. How is the Congress Government of Captain Amarinder Singh planning to implement it and if it feels that its implementation is not possible, whether the Government would like to present through the Vidhan Sabha, a fresh document for the next four years? The Election Manifesto of the Opposition Parties, including that of AAP, should also be discussed and these parties given a chance to explain how they would have implemented these. A Manifesto is of paramount importance for it has the capacity to swing votes either way. "Unless we debate the issue, people of Punjab will continue to be defrauded by the plethora of poll promises," Sandhu has stated.

2. The state of the Punjab’s finances. The Congress Government says that it has inherited empty coffers from the SAD-BJP Government; the SAD-BJP claims that if they are given two months they can swing matters; while the AAP is critical of both. Let each one explain their respective stand. Vital questions arise, which need to be debated: Is the Punjab Treasury empty because of embezzlement or mismanagement? Is the present situation because of lack of Central Government support? Is Punjab getting the short-shrift in the Centre-State allocations? Was our naïve Finance Minister taken for a ride by the Centre on the complex issue of the GST? Is due diligence being done by government functionaries, including ministers, MLAs and officers while spending government funds? "Does the situation call for an inquiry(ies) by a Committee of the house or the CAG," AAP MLA asked?

3. Waiving off the farm debt. This has become, to use a phrase, “an albatross round the neck” of the Government. Instead of providing relief, it is exacerbating matters as farmers and farm labour continue to commit suicides. Some are ending their lives on not finding their names in the list of those whose debts are being waived off. How can we deal with this crucial and burning issue? Sandhu said that the Vidhan Sabha should consider passing a Resolution urging Central Government's help to Punjab?

4. Joblessness in Punjab. This is pushing people to foreign shores. Can we deal with this issue internally or should we officially take steps to send people abroad? Should we seek a higher quota for Punjabis in the Army? "We will need to debate this issue, including the cut in salaries of the existing staff," he added.

5. Eradication of “Mafia Raj”. The eradication of “Mafia Raj”, especially relating to sand and mining, transport, cable, and liquor are challenges facing us. Even the panchayat lands reserved for Dalits are being usurped for cultivation by the powerful. What steps is the Government taking and what steps do the Opposition parties suggest? Do we need to have an inquiry into the mafias that existed during the past 10-15 years? The MLA said that the House should discuss how each mafia should be tackled.

6. Education & Health systems. Our government education and health systems in Punjab is an embarrassment. What can be done to reverse this collapse? Given the state of our economy, how do we deal with these issues? The point of discussion, he said, is: "Do we nationalize these completely, involve NRIs, or seek Central help?

7. Alienation of NRIs. The Punjabis settled abroad ought to be our strength. However, their continuous alienation because of the policies of the successive governments at home has raised the spectre of Punjabi NRIs threatening India’s unity and integrity. This issue got propelled to the forefront during the recent visit of the Canadian Prime Minister to India and Punjab. Because of this we failed to reap any benefit from the visit. "Unless we discuss how we have come to this sorry state of affairs, we can’t move forward," the Kharar MLA said.

8. Protecting Punjab’s natural resources. Every now and then the inter-state river waters issue hits the headlines. Most often Punjab is made to appear as the villain of the piece. The issue needs to be debated threadbare and a common strategy chalked out so that our rights are protected. This ought to be done before the issue hits centre-stage again, he added.

9. Housing. Lack of affordable housing is driving the common man to illegal colonies, which is a huge burden on the government. This has wrecked our urban areas. How do we tackle this? "Let us discuss and debate this," AAP leader said.

10. Misc. issues: Then of course there are other life-threatening issues which need to be debated - drug abuse, road accidents, and safety of women. The increasing problem of village ponds, menace of stray cattle, and wild animals have people at their wits end. These appear to defy a solution. How to deal with them?

11. Correspondents at grassroots: I can’t but help also talk about one of the most important issues concerning the freedom of the press. This relates to the working conditions of the correspondents working at the district, tehsil, block and village levels. Even though, they report on the burning issues at the grassroot level, they are grossly under paid – in many cases they are charged money to work! Can the Government help to provide them job security so that they do their job honourably? Sandhu said that the issue is not of the vast multitude of stringers but of the freedom of expression guaranteed by our Constitution.


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