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Late last week, the state government – run by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party – managed to fix the state’s much-discussed drug problem. Not by exposing the mafia which brings and sells drugs to its people but by cracking down on a Mumbai film about the state’s drugs problem. Acting on what appear to be instructions from the top, the Central Board of Film Certification, which runs a wildly successful employment guarantee programme for the country’s most regressive minds, told producers of Udta Punjab to remove any references to Punjab, its towns and cities, and elections to be in their film, in a list of 89 cuts.
In the process, the Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party – both of which look increasingly nervous as elections draw near – appear to have found an answer to the state’s drugs problem that Goebbels would have been proud of. If no one talks about drugs, they seem to think, maybe the people of Punjab will vote them back in.
When Scroll.in moved to Punjab, it was late October. The state was simmering. Farmers were angry and upset. The cotton crop had been hammered by a whitefly attack. The other kharif mainstay – basmati – was fetching lower rates than the grains sold to the Food Corporation of India. Over preceding weeks, torn pages from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Saheb, had surfaced in some villages. There was much anger against the state government for not preventing this desecration. Protesters had blocked roads and railway tracks. In response, the state police had opened fired, killing some protesters.
Following up on yesterday’s story, part 3 of our series on Punjab under the Akali Dal.
In Punjab, the domination of the government machinery by the Badal clan is near complete. It starts right from the top, the cabinet of ministers, and trickles down to the ground, to the level of the police station.
Here is how.
out today, our sequel to the previous story on why healthcare is underfunded in punjab.
Industry is fleeing Punjab – an investigation by Scroll.in found a growing number of companies have shut down or are planning to set up newer units outside the state. Among the reasons cited by businessmen for the exodus were the bribes they claim they are compelled to pay to politicians belonging to the ruling Akali Dal.
Over the past decade, Punjab has seen a handful of players come to dominate what earlier were fragmented industries composed of hundreds of small companies. This consolidation happened in a bewilderingly diverse set of industries, including stone crushing, sand mining, cable distribution, liquor distribution and bus transport. Most of these new, big players are alleged to have links to the Akali Dal.
Shonky, 55 years old and in poor health, is in the ghoda gaadi business. He and his sons rent out their horses and carriage during the wedding season. In a good year, they make about Rs 1.5 lakh between January and March. But this season, given the poor cotton and paddy harvests in Punjab, he expects no more than Rs 1 lakh. This, along with his sons’ earnings as labourers – will have to support them through the year.
late last year, during my early days in punjab, i was nonplussed to find the state is charging a cow cess on electricity. and then, i found the state also charges octroi on power. which nonplussed me some more. and then, i learnt the state is going to start porting its water and sewerage charges onto its power bills as well. which pretty much formatted my brain. the outcome is this story, which seeks to understand why unconnected charges are being added to power bills.
as expected, there is rationality — albeit a demented one — here.