Monday 26 October 2020

Governance crisis seems to be unfolding in Punjab

- Posted on 28 June 2019

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, May 28: Deterioration in law and order situation, violence in jails, continuing suicides by farmers and deaths due to overdose of drugs, administration that stinks with corruption at every level-that means every level, potholed roads and dirty cities, collapse in health services and so on.

This in brief is Punjab today that years back was amongst the best regions on every index in the country.

The problem is that no end is visible to this perpetual degeneration.

These are the signs of governance crisis unfolding in this sensitive border state.

This is not for what the people in Punjab had given unprecedented mandate to the Congress in February 2017 under the command of Capt Amarinder Singh.

And here is also a contradiction.

Despite such continuing degeneration, the same people in Punjab defied the Narendra Modi wave to  reinforce the 2017 mandate. The results could have still been better.

But then Punjab is unlike other states. Of course, the electoral dynamics in 2019 Lok Sabha polls had its own logic even at the national level but that was an exception.

This downfall  in Punjab started years back with only change that it is now turning into governance crisis.

It would be news to people outside Punjab that the chief minister in this sensitive border state does not function from his high security and several times renovated office in the civil secretariat, the imposing 10-storey building in the north of Chandigarh that houses the governments of Punjab and Haryana. This office remains deserted but for an odd officer present in his office. That is not the case in Haryana. The Haryana CMO on 4th floor is above the Punjab CMO and it is the same lift that is earmarked for the two chief ministers.

The Punjab chief minister functions from his official residence that too is near the secretariat.

This has been so since the second consecutive term of Parkash Singh Badal as the chief minister beginning 2012.

Some of the ministers, of course,  regularly attend office in the secretariat when in Chandigarh.

This style of governance of the chief minister has the cascading effect on bureaucracy.

Here is yet another unprecedented situation. The office of the chief secretary stands reduced to ceremonial office or at best, a post office. The decision making is concentrated elsewhere.

It is often said it is government on contract. This at least was not the case with Badal government. This system too has impacted governance.

The Akali government had become unpopular for several reasons that include illegal sand mining, drug menace and distress in farm sector, besides corruption. The only change since 2017 is that the Congress has replaced the Akali Dal.

One only has to move out to listen to the people. If a minister or MLA is not painted as corrupt, his\her relatives might be.

However, it is the corruption at the tehsil and police station level that concerns the people directly.

The basic issue is can a Congress government in a state afford governance crisis and that too when the party has been marginalised for the second time by the BJP in the Lok Sabha election?

The Congress seems to have refused to learn the lesson.

Taking refuge in the argument that several of these issues are legacy of the Akali rule is illogical as that party has been punished by the people.

It may be mentioned that refusal of Navjot Singh Sidhu to take charge of his new Power department too is rooted in governance-cum-political crisis.

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