Chandigarh, December 19: It was the last desperate move the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine to win February 2017 race and retain power but Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was conspicuous by his absence at the special session of the Assembly today lasting less than half an hour after obituaries. It was a mockery of the legislative system as nine Bills, several of them with far reaching repercussions, were passed within this time without any discussion while putting additional burden of hundreds of crores on the next government to be formed after the February 2017 Assembly elections. The Bills were simply moved and adopted with Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal being on the fast forward mode in the absence of opposition Congress. The Congress MLAs had resigned earlier on the issue of Satluj Yamuna Link Canal. The MLAs are also described as law makers, the business about which they are least serious.
In this do or die battle to continue in power for the third time, Badal government had earlier tried to short-skirt the laid down procedure to regularise the services of 27, 059 temporary employees under various categories like ad hoc and contractual etc in different department by issuing ordinances . However, Governor V P Singh Badnore refused to give consent to the Ordinance. As the Governor put his foot down to give his approval to this last major decision of the Badal government, it was decided to convene special session of the Assembly. However, the ball is now again in the court of the Governor. The Bill would become Act only after he signs the file. The state government has too little time as the Election Commission is going to announce the Assembly elections anytime. Governor has the discretion to keep the files pending. The decision making by the government would come to a stand-still with the code of conduct coming into operation with the announcement of election. Today’s exercise would turn out to be meaningless in that situation. However, the effort is directed more at changing the perception of the agitating ad hoc employees to get their votes.
Elections are all about perception of the people.
The categories that have been covered under this Bill include ad hoc, contractual, daily wage, temporary, work charged and out-sourced employees. Over the last several years, Bathinda has been converted into protest capital of Punjab. Bathinda is Badal bastion with Badal village only a couple of kilometres away. Of late, they have been protesting at Akali rallies and sangat darshan programmes of the Chief Minister. At one level, this Bill is also an effort to buy peace.
As per the financial memorandum of the Bill, the annual financial implication would be approximately Rs 583 core with total financial liability at Rs 1749 crore during the first three years on account of regularising these employees. After three years, these employees would be given regular pay scales that would lead to increase in this liability to Rs 2438 crore per annum by taking into account the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission. In case the recommendations are not implemented, the liability would be around Rs 1900 crore.
The Badal government has exhibited this largesse in case of some higher posts also. The post of senior vice-chairman has been created in several boards and corporations including the Punjab School Education Board, the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board and the Punjab State Commission for Women.
The Badal government has set another milestone in the field of education by de-professionalising the Punjab School Education Board. The post of the chairman, senior vice-chairman and the vice-chairman can now go to bureaucrat from the Indian Administrative Service or Punjab Civil Service cadre with only ten years of service. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill states: “It has been considered appropriate to fill the post of chairman, senior vice-chairman or vice-chairman who has served the central government or state government or both as member of the Indian Administrative Serice or Punjab Civil Service for a period not less than 10 years”. The practice has been to appoint an educationist with at least 15 years of experience in the field or a retired bureaucrat.
There is yet another important legislation. The ruling Akali Dal has been focussing on the Dalit vote bank that constitutes more than 32 per cent of the population in Punjab, the highest in any state. In the process, the Badal government decided to renovate Valmik temple that is known as Ram Tirath near Amritsar and set up a big shrine at Khuralgarh in Hoshiarpur in the memory of Saint Ravidass. Ram Tirath is said to be the place where the Ashram of Rishi Valmik was located and this was the place where Sita took shelter after she was banished by Ram. The Badal government has now set up the board for the management of this shrine with the adoption of The Punjab Bhagwan Valmik Ji Tirath Sthal (Ram Tirath) Shrine Board Bill. For the last several years, there has been dispute about the management of this shrine.
The 15-member board headed by the chief minister would have minister for cultural affairs as vice-chairman, secretary (cultural affairs) as member-secretary, five other official members and seven non-official members to be nominated by the government from the Valmiki community. The term of private member would not exceed two years but would hold office “during the pleasure of the government”.
It may be mentioned that special session of the Assembly had earlier been summoned on November 15 last on the Satluj Yamuna Link Canal issue.
The Badal government has played the last card with this special session. However, the main problem is at another level.