Ground Zero: Governor rule in Chandigarh must go

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Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, August 20: As the Narendra Modi government initiated the move earlier this week to end the present colonial system of governance of the Union Territory of Chandigarh by divesting the Punjab Governor of this charge, it seemed that a long pending demand of the people residing in this city as articulated through the political parties  had finally been accepted. That was not to be. Punjab stepped in to oppose it.

The political parties in the Union territory of Chandigarh for years have been pressing for ending Governor’s Rule that has been continuing since June 2, 1984. It was on that day that Punjab and Chandigarh were declared disturbed. Army had already taken positions in Amritsar to attack the Golden Temple complex. As part of the administrative convenience and coordination, Chandigarh too was handed over to the Punjab Governor. That arrangement continues.

The Narendra Modi government took the right step when it decided to bring about a change and introduce Lt. Governor. Chandigarh administration used to be headed by the Chief Commissioner till June 2,1984 and this was the arrangement not since 1966 when Chandigarh was taken out of Punjab and declared union territory but from the beginning in view of its being capital project-capital of Punjab. However, the move to divest Punjab Governor of this charge was stalled as Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and all other political parties in Punjab protested on the logic that it would dilute its claim over the city that was conceptualized as its capital.

Punjab has the ‘distinction’ of having the longest spell of Governor’s rule for about five and a half years during militancy after the Akali Dal government headed by Surjit Singh Barnala was dismissed in May, 1987.

Transfer of Chandigarh  to Punjab has been the demand of the Akali Dal and other political parties for years. However, it was only the Akali Dal that launched agitations on this issue. The Akali Dal slogans used to be: Khidia Phull Gulaab Daa, Chandigarh Punjab Daa.

The capital city was to be transferred to Punjab on January 26, 1986 as part of the settlement signed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Akali Dal President Harchand Singh Longowal that came to be known as the Punjab Accord, never to be implemented except for starting the construction of the jinxed Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal. Rajiv Gandhi government backtracked and Chandigarh continues to be union territory.

The city  has been the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

The problem is that there is the third party now and that is the people of Chandigarh. The administrative set up in India is not pro-people  as the system is the legacy of the colonial past that suits both bureaucracy as well as the political classes. The common citizen is not to be trusted under the colonial mentality. It is the Governor who heads the UT administration but he is the most inaccessible person. The posting in Chandigarh is considered to be prized one by the bureaucrats from Punjab and Haryana who come to the city on deputation. However, that system is also being changed over the years with bureaucrats from the central cadre  being posted here. The city used to have employees in 60:40 ratio from Punjab and Haryana. Not anymore.

Here is an example  as to how the administrative machinery here responds.

A complaint was filed with the Punjab Governor who is the Chandigarh Administrator and with the the next bureaucrat in the hierarchy designated as the Adviser to the Governor to repair the  pathway in a park in Sector 48A. Several morning walkers have fell and the municipal councilor from the BJP who represents the area is totally unresponsive. This complaint was accompanied by the picture. The woman who fell had bled profusely as her head struck the pathway.

Interestingly, the office of the Governor marked the complaint to the Senior Superintendent of Police. After all, the picture was of blood having spilled after her fall. Some lose interlocking tile might have been the culprit. The SSP marked it to police station Sector 49. The police station sent it back  with the comments that it should be forwarded to the municipal corporation. That was not to be. It returned from the SSP office  to the police station with the noting that an investigator should be sent to the complainant to get written statement. The police station complied with the instructions. One does not know what happened after that.

It is too well known to everybody that the present arrangement would not be disturbed. People in Chandigarh know the conditions in Mohali that was developed by Punjab as a satellite town of Chandigarh. They won’t like the city to be transferred to Punjab.

Badal himself is a resident of Chandigarh and so are many others from the political class in Punjab unlike that of Haryana. Ask any of them in private as to how they feel as residents of this city and the answer would be the same. They would not like Chandigarh to be part of Punjab. Public posturing dictated by politics is different.

The Governor Rule must end in Chandigarh.

But then the will of the people has never counted anywhere in the country on such issues.


Jagtar Singh


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