‘Punjab Will Reclaim Its Glory Under AAP Leadership’

Anu Mann, an AAP supporter in Chandigarh, says the party leaders are grounded and have a connect with the people, unlike its erstwhile rulers

At 54 years of age, my generation has grown up with Punjab. I have witnessed Punjab at its peak during the Green Revolution and then at its lowest during the turbulent 80s. Things started looking somewhat bright during the 1990s but by mid-2000s they took a turn for the worse again.

From being the breadbasket of the country, we the Punjabis gradually began losing our identity as a prosperous state to ‘Udta Punjab’. Drug abuse began taking hold in almost every family. Villages after village lost their youth and men to the drug menace with women left behind to pick up the pieces, industries slowed down, corruption rose up, education took a hit, and Punjabis began leaving for greener pastures like Canada.

With Aam Aadmi Party’s electoral sweep, a hope has been rekindled that we have turned the corner. Punjab will reclaim its glory; we shall flourish again.

Personally, I feel liberated. I have travelled and lived around the country, but one always wants to come back to the roots. I used to feel sad at the sheer level of corruption, lack of jobs and good education, the lazy leadership, especially that of Captain Amarinder Singh who never mingled much with people. Sidhu has been and remains a crass leader.

Mann says she has grown up with Punjab and seen both its low point and high point

I had given up all hopes of a good leadership taking root in Punjab until AAP brought in its refreshing governance style. Of course the road for the Bhagwant Mann-led government is going to be long and difficult but given how they have managed Delhi, I have high hopes for Punjab in the coming years. I have myself worked at a summer teaching programme of AAP in Delhi government schools and I was impressed how AAP involves ordinary people in their governance apparatus.

ALSO READ: Now, Punjab Has A Future

This election result saw seasoned political personalities humiliated by common, first-time contestants (like mobile shop owner Labh Singh who defeated Channi). I feel the happiest about the victory of Jeevan Jyot Kaur who defeated Majithia and Navjot Sidhu because women’s issues will now get the spotlight. There are 13 doctors who have been elected as MLAs; they will definitely feel the pulse of the people, both literally and metaphorically.

Bhagwant Mann’s passionate involvement, unlike Amarinder Singh’s ivory tower life, in everyday matters of the state is a refreshing change. AAP ke sare candidates dharti se jude hue log hain, samaj se jude hue log hain (AAP leaders have an ear to the ground, they have a connect with the masses).

All in all, the victory of AAP in Punjab is truly the victory of ordinary people. AAP’s campaigning was also totally fuss-free, they neither disturbed nor bribed voters, maybe other parties would do well to learn from them.

Mann in a celebratory mood after AAP victory

I was so happy and excited on the day of election results that I distributed mithais, made a celebratory dance video and sent it to my loved ones. And I couldn’t stop talking to my friends about how happy I was. Mann needs a lot of cooperation from people and I hope the janta will give it to him.

Weekly Update: Corporate-Civil Service Divide; Captain Deserts, Cong At Sea

Grit and determination are what helped Shubham Kumar, this year’s topper in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination, realise his ambitions. It was his third attempt this year. Last year, when Kumar took the exam, he was selected but his rank was 268. Kumar wanted to realise his ambition to do much better. So he took the exam again. This time, he topped.

Kumar, 24, comes from Kumhari village in the Kadwa block of Katihar district in Bihar. It is in a zone that is chronically ravaged by floods. The son of a rural bank’s branch manager, Kumar, a graduate of IIT-Mumbai, has always been determined about pursuing success single-mindedly. And, from a very young age, he wanted to become an IAS officer, a dream that has now come true.

The examinations conducted by the UPSC are for aspiring candidates who want to join the elite bureaucratic cadres in India–including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS), among others. Every year, as many as a million candidates register for the examination and of them,about half actually complete the exams. But the number of positions that they compete for is less than 1,000. So the percentage of candidates selected from all of those who take the tests is 0.2%. There are very few competitive exams in the world that are as difficult to crack as the UPSC examination.

Kumar is emblematic of the drive that UPSC toppers demonstrate. Last year’s topper, Pradeep Singh, son of a village sarpanch from Tewari village in Haryana’s Sonipat district, made it to the top rank in his second attempt. Kumar and Singh are also examples of how, increasingly, aiming high in the UPSC exams has become more an objective of, often less privileged, rural Indian youth rather than their more well-heeled urban counterparts.

Although accurate statistics are not easy to come by, it is estimated that the majority of the candidates that get selected for UPSC’s elite cadres each year come from the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Of course, these two states are among India’s most populous ones–UP has over 200 million people, of which 77% live in villages; and Bihar has a population of 104 million, of which 88% live in villages. In UP, there is a tiny village named Madhopatti in the Sirkoni block of Jaunpur district, where just 75 households live and, it is believed, that each of these households has at least one member of the family in one of the elite UPSC services. It is even known as the Officer’s Village of India.

Why do rural youths seem to aspire more to join the UPSC cadres more than urban youths do? Is it because the cachet attached to those services appears to be valued more highly in India’s villages and small towns than in its cities? Is it a truism that India’s urban youths eye careers in the corporate world, and aspire more for an MBA tag than that of an IAS, IFS, or IAS? Questions such as those require sociological probes.

Is there a divide between India’s youth? Are India’s urban youngsters more westernised, corporatised and lured by wealth and material acquisitions? An MBA from even a low-tier business school could expect a starting salary of Rs 1lakh plus a month, which is roughly double of what a freshly-minted IAS officer makes. But a job in the corporate sector has none of the responsibility, commitment and dedication to nation building or administration that comes with the job of being a civil servant. Half of India’s 1.36 billion people are below the age of 25. With such a huge proportion of youth among its population, questions such as the ones just posited require to be addressed.

Captain Ejects

One month is a long time in politics. The latest example of this truism is the Punjab unit of the Grand Old Party. At the beginning of September, it seemed Captain Amarinder Singh was firmly in the saddle, despite a bitter faceoff with newly-appointed Pradesh Congress head Navjot Singh Sidhu. The party seemed to be in pole position for the next Assembly election due early next year. Captain had made the right noises amid raging protests against central farm laws and this was not lost on the state electorate. The second week of September saw Sidhu garnering support of state legislators who were miffed with the Chief Minister, and there were quite a few of them.

Interestingly, Captain had more support from Congress leaders active in Delhi than in Punjab. However, Gandhis seemed tilted in favour of Navjot Sidhu who paraded about three dozen MLAs to buttress his claims in public view. Before the end of third week, Amarinder Singh put in a one-line resignation to the state governor. The wounded tiger minced no words in raising questions on Sidhu leadership. The acrimony did its damage to the Congress party.

The Congress went into a huddle to pick up the next chief minister, months ahead of elections. When they picked up Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit Sikh, for a state which has about 30% Dalit voters, some viewed it as a masterstroke to resurrect the turbulent jet. Barely had it gained balance, just a week after the Captain had deserted the ship, when the mercurial Sidhu rocked the boat once again. Citing some ‘unexplained’ principles, Sidhu quit as the PCC chief, making himself as the shortest PCC chief in the party’s recent history. Captain was grinning from ear to ear, with a told-you-so look on his face. His exit from the party, with a vow to defeat Sidhu in next election, brought the unwashed linen in public.

Central leaders like Manish Tiwari and Kapil Sibal, dubbed as members of G-23 band of party ‘rebels’, found an apt opportunity to question the party leadership in handling the matter. From the numero uno status in the beginning of month, the state Congress unit had egg on its face just before the flip of the calendar leaf. The electorate must also be thinking: if a party cannot manage its domestic affairs, how will it rule a border state effectively?

‘Dalit Representation In Politics Will Bring Social Change’

Swarn Singh, 47, a Ramdasia Sikh farmer in Ropar, Punjab, says the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi as Chief Minister will help alleviate discrimination faced by lower castes in the state

Punjab has the highest Dalit population among all the states in the country. Therefore, the fact that Charanjit Singh Channi was chosen as the Chief Minister means so much more than a symbolic appointment. Even though it came as a surprise, I feel Channi’s appointment will bring about major changes to the mindscape of Punjab.

It was a Dalit, Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar, who gave us the Constitution, and it is sad that Dalits have remained at the bottom of the pyramid, because they have little political representation. We are Ramdasia Sikhs and wanted to share that one of the biggest Dalit leaders Kanshi Ram Ji was a clean-shaven Ramdasia Sikh and he gave a strong voice to the Dalit identity.

Over the years Dalits have also begun to understand the importance of being interested in politics. We keep an eye on the news and ensure that we are not caught unawares. When the SC/ST Atrocities Act was amended in 2018, it felt like a watering down, a dilution of the overt and covert discriminations against Dalits.

However, later it was reversed the same year, and again in 2020 some changes were made. In a 2020 judgement, a three-judge bench observed that all insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

Swarn Singh says appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi (right) as Punjab CM brings hope to Dalits in the state

Channi Ji is a very educated man and I believe his ways will be different than many other leaders. And I believe his appointment will make Dalits more assertive over issues such as laws or directives that concern us. I would call it a strategic step in these times, as farmers everywhere and particularly in Punjab are restless and hopeful for their voices to be heard. You must realise that one’s caste matters when it comes to how much land one holds. Thus, the current CM’s appointment might bring major changes into people’s lives. I hope he will uphold the values and principles laid down by Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

Even though Gurudwaras are considered open to all, because the Gurus talked about everyone being equal in Sikhism, there is a subtle discrimination which prevails at the holy places too. One doesn’t feel fully accepted when a devotee is seen through the lens of caste. I myself haven’t faced overt discrimination, but I have seen others face it. Sikhism says: Sab Manas ek jaat, but people still discriminate because of deep-rooted, subconscious social prejudices. I hope that will change too.

ALSO READ: ‘Dalits Face Caste Bigotry Early In Life’

I am a farmer and live in a joint family of 25 members. So far we have been holding out fine with the land we own and the business my brother runs. But with the new farm laws we don’t know what the future holds for us. At such a time we are hopeful that Channi Ji’s appointment will safeguard our social and financial interests.

The pandemic has done a lot to remove discrimination, I would say. People have begun seeing other people as humans and not just as someone belonging to a particular caste or religion. It is a good change that has happened, the coming together of people’s hearts and the falling away of prejudices, even if only a little. However, it is sad that many people lost their lives to the virus. But I hope Channi Ji will ensure that love and brotherhood gets strengthened in these times and will work hard towards social equality.