Making a strong plea for early resolution of long pending territorial issues facing the state, the Punjab Governor Prof. Kaptan Singh Solanki today expressed hope that these issues would be addressed in right earnest and the longstanding injustice and discrimination against the state would end in the near future.
Addressing the members of Punjab Vidhan Sabha in his inaugural address of the fourth budget session of the 14th state assembly, the Governor shared the concerns of the people of the state over some long-standing issues facing the state. He mentioned that the first of these was the continued denial of the state’s capital city, Chandigarh, and many other Punjabi speaking areas to the state. Prof. Solanki noted, “Governments at the centre and even the parliament have unanimously recognized the legitimacy of Punjab’s demands in this regard but years have dragged on and Punjab still awaits justice”. On the issue of river waters, the Governor stated that Punjab has been denied its right through a continued refusal to apply the nationally and internationally accepted Riparian principle. He said that as it was, Punjab, which was the food bowl of the country meeting 45% to 50% of the country’s total food requirements, was facing an alarming problem of declining water table. Prof. Solanki said that this was because vast cultivable land in Punjab has to depend on tube-well irrigation in the face of denial of the state’s natural right over its river waters. “We are not against the interests of any of our neighbouring states and are always willing to help with good neighbourly gestures. But Punjab’s inalienable right over river waters under the Riparian principle must be recognized and protected” he added.
Seeking a fair deal for the state’s industry, the Governor opined that the liberal tax concessions given to some of Punjab’s neighbouring states have hit state’s industry grievously, depriving the Punjab entrepreneurs of a fair, competitive and level playing field. He said that because of these concessions, industrial units in Punjab find it almost impossible to compete with their counterparts in the neighbouring states because the latter enjoy an unfair advantage. Prof. Solanki said that this has not only stopped fresh investments in the state in this sector but there has been an alarming flight of even the existing capital from Punjab to other states. Referring, Punjab as a critically landlocked state, with a live and hostile international border, which has a much better claim on these concessions than any other state, the Governor said that they were not against any state being given concessions but this must not be done by dealing a body blow to Punjab’s economy. He exhorted the Government of India (GoI) to give these same concessions to Punjab as were extended to some of its neighbouring states adding he said that Punjab should also be compensated liberally for the massive loss which its economy had already suffered because of this discrimination.
Showing deep concern over the long denial of justice and relief to the victims of the worst carnage in the history of independent India, the massacre of thousands of innocent people in Delhi and other parts of the country in October-November 1984, the Governor bemoaned that despite detailed documentation of events and clear evidence pointing to the direct involvement and role of the high and mighty of those days in this inhuman massacre, no action has been taken against the guilty so far. He said that infact, the guilty have not only been protected but they have even been rewarded with high political and official positions, including cabinet berths in the Union Government. On the contrary, Prof. Solanki said that, the victims have continued to suffer in the absence of adequate compensation, relief and rehabilitation from the GoI.
Welcoming the setting up the Special Investigation Team (SIT) by the new government at the centre, the Governor urged the GoI to expedite the process of delivery of justice. He said that the guilty of the massacre of 1984 must be given exemplary punishment and meanwhile, the victims must be given liberal relief and compensation to restore their faith. “In this regard, My government welcomes the gesture of the new central government in encouraging the compensation amount to victims to Rs.5 lakhs” added Prof. Solanki.Welcoming the change of guard at centre during the past year, the Governor said that the brave new vision of the new government at the centre and its commitment to play a pro-active role in the furtherance of agenda, centre-piece of which was its emphasis on the states and on the recovery of economy and development process in the country. He said that new government has wasted no time in spelling out and acting on this agenda.
Extremely pleased over a momentous development that has taken place in the political climate of the country, signaling a decisive and constructive shift in polity, the Governor said that this was indeed a historic hour for the country. He said that the state government feels vindicated that finally, after 68 long years, fresh winds have begun to blow in the country which promises to carry it towards the goal of genuine federalism. Prof. Solanki stated that the NDA government was the first since Independence to openly declare the need for empowering the states in the larger interests of national integration, growth and development adding that the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had declared federalism as one of his key commitments to the people even before the last elections to the Lok Sabha. Expressing gratitude to the Prime Minister for declaring that states have its peculiar problems and that the state governments were in the best position to understand and address the problems unique to its people, the Governor said that this commitment was not confined to just a pious expression of good intentions but has been promptly backed with concrete action. He said that the abolition of the Planning Commission and replacing it with Niti Ayog was the first signal that the country was about to get rid of the excessive Unitarism which previous governments had saddled the country with. Prof. Solanki said that the same federal impulse runs through the first full-fledged budget presented by Union Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley, who has not only talked of the new government’s commitment to strengthen the states in addressing the problems of the people but has backed this commitment with concrete action plan by transferring an additional 10% to the states as their share in central taxes.
The Governor strongly viewed that that this process of decentralization of development process needs to be taken further towards the goal of complete and genuine federal structure in the country. Felicitating the Union Government and in particular the Union Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley for sanctioning various crucial projects to Punjab, he mentioned that Sri Amritsar Sahib has been selected as Heritage City under the HRIDAY scheme (Heritage City Development Scheme). Rs, 69.31 Crore has already been received from Government of India. Likewise, he said that Jallianwala Bagh at Sri Amritsar Sahib has been included among Cultural World Heritage Site to receive special assistance for improving the infrastructure. Also a Post Graduate Horticulture Research and Educational Centre would be set up at Sri Amritsar Sahib. In addition to all these, the setting up of IIM would put the State on a new trajectory of awareness and development in the field of business management. “An All India Institute of Medical Science will be set up in Punjab, which will cater to the ever growing needs of the people for better healthcare and advance medical treatment in the State” he added.
Highlighting the significance of a democracy, the Governor said that the citizen was the King and has a right to expect the government to be accessible round the clock, accountable, clean, humble and transparent. But unfortunately, people in India have had to battle against a long and ugly colonial legacy in which rulers treated themselves as masters and citizens as slaves. Prof. Solanki said that since inception the state government has been deeply committed to ending this process and ensuring that every citizen leads a life of dignity and self respect. Lauding the Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal, who accorded the people a divine status, when he declared in 1997 that his government would live and function from the hearts and hearths of the people adding the Governor said that the pioneering Sangat Darshan programme truly symbolizes the supremacy of the common man to whom the government goes as a servant to solve his problems.
Prof. Solanki said that the state government accorded the highest priority on peace and communal harmony in the state adding that in the past few years, there were challenges to this cherished goal but the Punjab government successfully steered the state out of those challenges with a commendable mix of statesmanship, political far-sightedness and administrative tact and firmness. The Governor reiterated in strongest words possible that peace and communal harmony in Punjab would continue to remain the number one priority of the state government in the years to come.Congratulating the people of Punjab for again reinforcing their faith in democracy through the conduct of smooth, peaceful and free and fair elections in the state to the civic bodies, Prof. Solanki said that the state Government received positive expression of people’s faith in its policies and programmes.The Governor said that the same vision underlies the series of ground-breaking governance reforms undertaken by state government. He said that these reforms were aimed at ensuring that people must get their solutions sitting at home, hassle free and as a matter of right. It was a matter of pride that many other states and even the GoI have expressed keen interest in studying these reforms for adoption. “In fact, this vision of state Government defines the new political climate in the entire country today” added Prof. Solanki.
Meanwhile, the Governor briefly highlighted the significant achievements of the state government in the fields of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development and Fisheries, Power, Industries and Commerce, Education, Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education and Research, Home Affairs, Jail and Justice, Local Government, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Welfare of Schedule Castes and Backward Classes, Social Security, Women and Child Development, Finance, Irrigation and Drainage, Public Works (B&R), Water Supply and Sanitation, Rural Development and Panchyats, Revenue, Excise and Taxation, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Cooperation, Housing and Urban Development, Civil Aviation, Information and Technology, Forest, Labour, Employment Generation and Training, Science Technology and Environment, Technical Education and Industrial Training, NRI Affairs, Personnel, Renewable energy, Planning, Border and Kandi Areas, Sports and Youth Services, Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Vigilance, Information and Public Relations and Governance Reforms, Elections, Food Processing besides initiatives on war against cancer and drugs.In concluding remarks, the Governor wished all the Members of state assembly a very happy period ahead and looked forward to a most healthy and constructive discussion over the issues facing the state and its people. He expressed hope that discussions in the House would be marked by genuine democratic spirit of exchange and accommodation of different points of view. Finally he said, "As the Chief Minister has always maintained Punjab belongs to all of us; so does the Punjab Government".