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Criminal squandering of government resources from birthday bash to helicopter rides

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, February 11: It was December 8 of 1997 and this was the third term of Parkash Singh Badal as the Chief Minister after the Akali Dal heaped a humiliating defeat on the Congress in February 1997 election despite the party having provided respite to the people from more than a decade long of militancy.

Badal had just presided over a meeting in the committee room on the second floor of the Punjab civil secretariat when four or five journalists called on him to greet him on his birthday. He was seemingly embarrassed saying he had never even remembered it. Even the journalists were slightly uncomfortable at his reaction. He was speaking the truth that day.

Not so on December 8, 2016. His birthday bash cost the state exchequer whopping Rs 5 crore.

The Parkash Singh Badal led Akali Dal-BJP government during its two terms has achieved the distinction of criminal misuse of scare government resources that also includes providing security to the people who are not even residents of Punjab but live in Delhi but have enjoyed the largesse showered upon selective people. It is a different matter that Punjab is among the three most stressed states in the country.

So far as the use of helicopter is concerned, even Capt Amarinder Singh would fly to the destinations not more than 40 km away by road from Chandigarh as the Chief Minister.

The data available of the helicopter rides is in public domain only upto January 31, 2016. The state government paid Rs 112 crore for hiring helicopters from 2007 to January 31, 2016. One can safely add Rs 20 crore more. Most of the flights have been to Badal village and Balasar farm house of the family in Sirsa district in Haryana.

One would also have to take into account the money spent by the Badal family members from state exchequer on regular flights, again mostly to Delhi. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been known to function on weekends from his Delhi residence. Senior officers would rush to Delhi for the meetings.

Yet another area where the Badal government crossed all limits was that of providing security cover of the state police not just in Punjab but also in Delhi.

This aspect of criminal wastage of state resources by way of providing police security was first exposed when liquor baron Ponty Chadha was gunned down at his farm house hear Delhi. He had been provided security cover by the Punjab police. Most of the prominent Akali leaders in Delhi including the DSGMC chief Manjit Singh GK, its general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa and executive committee member Avtar Singh Hit have been enjoying this privilege.

Everybody who is anybody in the political hierarchy under the present dispensation has been provided security cover.  Perhaps Dayal Singh Kolianwali, the party leader from Lambi and Badal favourite, had the maximum security cover till it was scaled down by the Election Commission. There has to be some accountability.

The manifestos of both the Congress and AAP now promise to end this VIP and VVIP culture and the state should rather evolve consensus on this issue. It was the People’s Party of Punjab floated by Manpreet Singh Badal after coming out of the Badal government that had originally given the slogan to end VIP culture in the state.

Badal’s birthday was otherwise supposed to be a party rally at Moga on December 8 last and the Akali Dal had already announced it. Suddenly, this birthday bash was converted into protest against the Satluj Yamuna Canal on the slogan of ‘Paani Bachao, Punjab Bachao’ at the government cost. One does not know as to what Punjab gained from this rally that was a birthday bash at government cost.

This criminal squandering of government resources by insensitive leaders must be put to an end.

It seems the people in the state have lost even the will to protest.

About Jagtar Singh

Senior journalist and author Jagtar Singh is rooted in vast professional experience spanning more than 35 years, starting his career with The Indian Express in Chandigarh, the paper he worked with for about quarter of a century beginning 1978 covering religio-political dynamics of Punjab.

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