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Serious flaws in the 'Sangat Darshan' programme of the Chief Minister

Sukhpal Singh Khaira
Oct. 29, 2008

According to the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the year 2003, there are serious flaws in the 'Sangat Darshan' programme of the Chief Minister. The CAG in its report has concluded that "Use of the 'Sangat Darshan' programme as a mode for disbursement of funds was not only unauthorized , it was an act of excess as it vitiated the settled norms of public accountability by compromising the limits of procedural safeguards accompanying the withdrawal and disbursement procedure. Thus, funds were irregularly distributed without any guidelines." This in my view are very serious and alarming observations by an important watch dog of our financial system. Hence it calls for an immediate review of the 'Sangat Darshan' programme. These glaring defects highlighted by the CAG have come to my notice as member of the Public Accounts Committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. The Public Accounts Committee in its last meeting held on 27-10-08 has summoned the Chief Secretary Punjab in person to explain the inordinate delay in replying to the CAG report.

The CAG in its report has stated that during the period of June 2000 to December 2001 of the previous regime of Mr. Badal, 308.90 crores were distributed across 17 districts of the state in an irregular manner. The CAG observed that no separate budget/funds were provided by the state govt. for the programme. Money was mainly withdrawn from four funds operating in the state and seven schemes being implemented by the Deputy Commissioners. The then Chief Minister misutilized the Rural Development Fund , Punjab Infrastructure Fund, Chief Minister's flood relief fund, Employment Assurance Scheme, Community Development funds etc. The CAG also pointed out favoritism while allocating 46.20 lac to a village in his home District of Mukatsar compared to other parts of the state. The CAG said "This was indicative of unequal distribution of funds and favour to a particular area." Besides this the CAG has pointed out gross irregularities of disbursement of govt. money to non govt. organizations not authorized to execute works such as societies, sabhas, clubs, institutions, associations etc. Funds were distributed for unauthorized purposes not covered under the guidelines.

To sum up the whole exercise of 'Sangat Darshan', I would call it grossly illegal, unconstitutional, whimsical and violative of laid down norms of Govt. working. Listening to the grievances of the people is appreciable but violating financial accountability is a matter of concern. If the Chief Minister considers 'Sangat Darshan' so dear to his heart why does he not have an allocation of this programme in the budget? If the programme was so popular why only the Chief Minister holds it, why not his ministers, beauracrats, district administration? Or is it that his colleagues and subordinates have no faith in the programme. Does not the work of the entire district administration come to a grinding halt when the Chief Minister holds this programme in a district? Why elected members of the opposition are not invited by the Govt. for the 'Sangat Darshan' programmes?

The CM has announced to hold 'Sangat Darshan' in my constituency of Bholath on 5th November 2008, but I have neither been invited nor informed. What purpose would it solve if the local elected representative is not involved? Infact according to me, this whole exercise of Mr. Badal reflects an old mind set with outdated and obsolete ideas in a modern era as today. If one carefully analyses this programme the results would be negligible, it is for mere public consumption and cheap political popularity.

Therefore, keeping in view serious lapses and malfunctioning of the 'Sangat Darshan' programme, I would request the Chief Minister to immediately discontinue spending funds of the state in an illegitimate manner. I also urge the vigilance department to probe financial irregularities being committed by the Chief Minister at the cost of the public exchequer. In case, the State Govt. fails to amend financial misappropriation and probe the whole illegal affair, I would be left with no option but to move the Hon'ble High Court for justice in the interest of public accountability.

Paddy announced by the central Govt.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira
Oct. 29, 2008

I Welcome the Rs. 50 per quintal bonus for paddy announced by the central Govt. The farmers throughout India are facing grave financial crisis particularly the farmers of Punjab are reeling under heavy debts that have accumulated to over Rs. 25,000 crores. The prices of inputs of agriculture particularly diesel, labour, seeds, pesticides etc have gone up manifold during the last couple of decades. Although the Govt. of India lead by Dr. Manmohan Singh during its present tenure has raised the MSP of wheat by Rs. 360 per quintal and paddy by Rs. 370 per quintal, yet it has not been able to mitigate the sufferings of the agrarian community. I on behalf of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee demand that another Rs 50 per quintal be added to the bonus announced yesterday.

As far criticism by Sh. Badal is concerned it is one of shedding crocodile tears, I want to remind Mr. Badal that during the tenure of NDA rule to which the Akali's were partners, the increase of MSP of both wheat and paddy was negligible. When the NDA came to power in 1999 the MSP of wheat was Rs 610 per quintal and that of paddy was Rs 510 per quintal. On the completion of their term in 2004, the MSP of wheat was Rs 640 per quintal a meagre increase of Rs. 30 per quintal in 5 years. Similarly the MSP of paddy was Rs. 510 per quintal in 1999 and at the end of NDA rule it was Rs 560, an increase of Rs 50 per quintal. As stated earlier the UPA has increased MSP of both wheat and paddy with more magnanimity, yet we feel that more needs to be done for the farmers of our country.

I take to task Mr. Badal as to why the Akali's did not 'Gherao' or demonstrate for such meagre increases during the NDA rule while being their partners? In the year 1978 while S. Surjit Singh Barnala was the Agriculture Minister of India as a representative of the Akali's in the Union Cabinet, the then Janta Party had increased the MSP of wheat by Rs 1 per quintal, was it not a joke? Yet the Akali's call themselves champions of the farmers. Mr. Badal must immediately take care of the procurement and lifting of the paddy stock in Punjab and prevent distress sale by farmers. I at the same time urge Mr. Badal that if he is really concerned about the plight of the farmers of Punjab, he must announce a bonus of Rs. 100 by the Punjab Govt.

A deputation led by Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal

Sukhpal Singh Khaira
Oct. 22, 2008

A deputation led by Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, CLP leader, consisting of S. Sukhpal Singh Khaira MLA, S. Harminder Singh Jassi MLA, Sh. Luv Kumar Goldy MLA and Sh. A.C Kaushik Office Secy. CLP (Photographs attached alongwith) today met the Hon'ble Speaker S. Nirmal Singh Kahlon in his office chamber at the Vidhan Sabha. Following is the text of a petition signed by 16 Congress MLAs (List attached alongwith) seeking the interference of the Speaker towards illegalities being committed by the ruling SAD-BJP Govt.

To, 22-10-2008

S. Nirmal Singh Kahlon

Hon'ble Speaker

Vidhan Sabha

Subject: Petition for appropriate action against breach of privilege and infringements of the rights of elected members of the Vidhan Sabha

Dear Sir,

Through this petition, we wish to bring to your notice an important issue of continuous breach of privilege and infringements of rights of the elected members of this August House by the defeated candidates so called Halqa –in-charges in the constituencies of opposition members with the active support of government machinery by ignoring the elected representatives of the people. This is not the case of ruling party MLA's and they are fully associated with the developmental works, disbursement of grants etc.

The present SAD-BJP Govt. has adopted an unprincipled methodology of bypassing and ignoring the elected members of the opposition in their respective constituencies. The ruling party has nominated as 'Halqa' or constituency incharges those SAD-BJP candidates who were defeated in the assembly elections and through these persons the Govt. has preferred to get all developmental works done. These 'Halqa' incharges have taken upon themselves the duties of elected representatives. All foundation stones, inauguration of important projects, distribution of cheques for development works, recommendations for transfers of Govt. employees etc. is being undertaken by these SAD-BJP defeated candidates or 'Halqa' incharges as they have come to be known. By doing so the present Govt. is violating all laid down norms of legal and constitutional working.

The Chief Minister has abdicated his authority to his son Sh. Sukhbir Singh Badal MP Faridkot, who has being laying foundation stones throughout the state, of those important projects which are supposed to be the constitutional authority of the Chief Minister. Ministers of various departments have become mute and meek spectators of these gross violations indulged in by Sh. Sukhbir Singh Badal. By doing so Sh. Sukhbir Singh Badal is acting like a de-facto Chief Minister, reminding us of the days of the medieval India when dynasties ruled the country.

Acting on the lines of Sh. Sukhbir Singh Badal these so called 'Halqa' incharges are also infringing on the rights of elected members of the house, thereby causing breach of privilege of the members. To quote one specific example, we are attaching as annexure-P1 the press clipping and photograph of a foundation stone of a 'Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna' (PMGSY) at village Nadala, part of Bholath Assembly constituency. The defeated candidate of SAD-BJP Bibi Jagir Kaur not only inaugurated the road project, her name is inscribed even above the name of Hon'ble Deputy Speaker Sh. Charanjit Singh Atwal, the sitting MP of the constituency. It is known that Bibi Jagir Kaur holds no official authority or position, yet she inaugurated a road project of central Govt. and none less than the Prime Minister's Scheme, by doing so the rights of our elected Bholath MLA S. Sukhpal Singh Khaira have been infringed causing breach of privilege of the member. More details of the unconstitutional and illegal working by the said defeated candidate in Bholath constituency are also attached alongwith as annexures-P1-P10. The entire district administration including the Deputy Commissioner are a party to the new illegal and unconstitutional mechanism of the present Govt. Many more glaring instances of such violations being committed by various 'Halqa' incharges can be given throughout the state.

Since you are the custodian of the August House of Vidhan Sabha, we elected members of the opposition, request your honour to take serious note of these unconstitutional methods being adopted and refer this issue to the Privilege Committee of Punjab Vidhan Sabha to summon the Chief Secretary to the Government of Punjab. That the Govt. must involve all elected representatives in the day to day functioning of the Govt. and that nomenclature such as 'Halqa' incharges be done away with immediately.

We hope you would ensure justice to the members of the 13th Vidhan Sabha, being the protector of their rights.

Thanking you

With Regards

1) Sukhpal Singh Khaira MLA Bholath

2) Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu MLA Talwandi Sabo

3) Ajitinder Singh Mofar MLA Sardoolgarh

4) Avtar Singh Brar MLA Faridkot

5) Darshan Singh Brar MLA Bagha Purana

6) Balbir Singh Sidhu MLA Kharar

7) Makhan Singh MLA Pacca Kalan

8) Ishar Singh MLA Koomkalan

9) Ajit Singh Shant MLA Nihalsingh Wala

10) Harmohinder Singh Pradhan MLA Raikot

11) Mangat Rai Bansal MLA Budhlada

12) Brahm Mohindra MLA Samana

13) Sadhu Singh Dharamsot MLA Amloh

14) Lal Singh MLA Dakala

15) Harminder Singh Jassi MLA Bathinda

16) Luv Kumar Goldy MLA Garh Shankar

And all other members of the CLP.



With no government support, farmers resort to distress sale of paddy

Jeetmohinder singh
Oct. 14, 2008

Former Chief Minister and the Chairman of the Campaign Committee of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt Amarinder Singh today lambasted the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bhartiya Janata Party government in the state for its failure in ensuring minimum support price to the farmers for their paddy.

In a statement the former Chief Minister said, he had got reports from across the state that the farmers had been forced to sell their paddy much below the MSP of Rs 850 per quintal. He revealed that in absence of the government support the farmers have been forced to sell their paddy for as low as Rs 750 per quintal and that too not with so many hassles.

Besides, Capt Amarinder said, the farmers were not also being given the direct payment and it was being paid to the arthiyas (the commission agents). He said, the farmers have been facing a lot of problems in selling their paddy in the mandis.

He pointed out, during his regime the farmers did not face any difficulty and they would invariably sell their paddy and also wheat more than the MSP. Moreover, the procurement was hassle free. He observed, since the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal had not taken the issue seriously the farmers had been left at the mercy of the officials and arthiyas who were raising petty objections and forcing the farmers to sell off their paddy for much less the price than the MSP.

Capt AmarinderSingh through Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu

This is to inform all in the print and the electronic media that Capt Amarinder Singh, former Chief Minister Punjab, will be holding a press conference at the Press Club, Chandigarh on the 7th October 2008, at 4.00pm.You are requested to stay on for tea and snacks.

Best wishes

Jeetmohinder Singh Sidhu MLA