Six months of Aap government in Punjab – Hits, misses and hope for a good path

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The AAP Government of Punjab presents its 180 days in office by proclaiming that its work speaks and will continue to be the hallmark. A few pre-election promises have started to materialize, but the short time is a bit early to assess progress. At best, it shows the government’s intention to implement its flagship program – improving health, education, basic amenities and fighting corruption. Yet he was hit with a setback on the law and order front. These are the early days, but the AAP government will be under intense scrutiny.

“Sada Kaam Bolda”… Aage Bhi Sada Kaam hi Bolega” (Our work speaks for itself and in the future also our work will only speak for us) greeted the readers of most newspapers in the northern region of the country . The central message in the Punjabi language with a picture of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann read ‘Our work speaks’…Our work will also speak in the future”.

A simplistic rendition of the full-page front-page ad marked the completion of six months of Aam Aadmi’s party government in Punjab, a state where the under-10-year-old party was elected to govern.

Each occasion is an opportunity for political parties and their governments to list the achievements of their mandate, however brief, and to highlight the work done to keep the promises made in the run-up to the legislative elections.

After all, in a democracy, executive accountability is a factor that is designed to be tested regularly in the assembly through elected representatives and periodic reiterations to the people to build perception.

With a massive 92 seats in a 117-strong Punjab assembly, the AAP and its chief minister are in an unenviable position. The raw majority provides enormous solace and yet, at the end of 180 days in power, the AAP leaders shouted hoarsely accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of initiating “Operation Lotus”, alleging that lawmakers in the AAP were drawn to defection. Now the BJP has joined the issue and the war of words continues.

Political opponents of the government and the AAP have accused the party and its leadership of diverting attention from its failure to deliver big promises to the people of Punjab, who gave the AAP a chance instead of following the pattern decades-old alternation between the Indian National Congress and the regional Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).

In taking stock of the pledges, AAP has operationalized its flagship offering – 300 watts of free electricity for households – in addition to rolling out the other two pillars, Mohalla clinics and improving public school standards. The additional major assurance of providing subsidy of Rs 1,000 per month to women is expected.

Then there were a few more incremental steps to eliminate the recruitment of 26,000 government jobs, absorb contract staff, give salary scales to the University Grants Commission for those who teach in government and government-funded educational institutions. government.

These are all important foundational measures, while another decision to increase pro bono assistance by 50% for loved ones of soldiers who have died in service represents the gratitude of a grateful society. Punjab is one of the few states to serve as a major recruitment center for defense and security forces in the country.

Agriculture, the main vocation of Punjab, continues to be a sector plagued with multiple problems and a perennial problem is the overreliance of farmers on the cultivation of wheat and paddy. The problem of remunerative minimum support prices comes up every season and problems with growing these two staple food crops include decades-old waterlogging and residue burning.

The AAP government has proposed MSP for Moong Dal, a first of its kind which it says has led to an increase in the area under cultivation. The objective is twofold, one encourages diversification, encourages farmers to get out of the paddy-wheat crop cycle and brings in greater incomes because the country’s pulse needs are high. Next, the government is offering a bonus of Rs 1,500 to farmers for the adoption of a new technique of direct sowing of rice, which will save water and begin to solve the problem of waterlogging. water. These measures will take a long time to show results.

Administratively, the government is burdened with problems inherited from financial distress. The state government issued a white paper in June acknowledging the seriousness of the situation and the expected uptick in the face of rising debt and debt servicing, as well as high incomes and budget deficit. The state’s debt-to-gross domestic product ratio and revenue deficit are the second highest in the list of 17 states in the general category, according to the report by the Reserve Bank of India. Now questions are being raised about fiscal prudence and the threat of a growing revenue shortfall due to free electricity and other subsidies.

In order to reduce recurrent expenses, the AAP government amended the law providing for retirement benefits for former legislators. Called ‘One MLA-One Pension’, this means a legislator cannot draw a pension in excess of entitlement during one term, no matter how small it is a welcome change which the government estimates will help saving an annual outlay of Rs 100 crore.

Yet an area of ​​concern has emerged in law and order. The apprehension expressed by political opponents over security appeared to come to a head in May when the state police intelligence office was attacked in Mohali, a district adjacent to the Union Territory of Chandigarh, seat of state government. Additionally, faced with the challenge of arms and contraband movement across borders, the state police came under pressure after the murder of popular singer Sidhu Moosewala.

What added to the problem was that it occurred in the immediate context of the state government slashing the safety of over 400 protected persons. Police action led to several arrests while the killing of Kabaddi players led to the exposure of syndicate-controlled gangs located overseas.

Now another related area is reducing corruption, one of the pillars of the AAP since it emerged from the Anna Hazare movement. In Punjab, the state government opened a 24-hour hotline and demonstrated its intent by taking action against one of its ministers accused of engaging in bribery.

The AAP knows it needs to show its ability to deliver on both its unique style of governance and its promises that affect the Aam Aadmi. Six months may be a short time to assess, but early signs point the way.

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