Sunday, January 14, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

‘Govt patronising drug pedlars’
Vedanti, Manjit Singh lash out at coalition
From Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, Jan 13 — The Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and the Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh Sahib, Prof Manjit Singh, today accused the SAD-BJP ruling coalition and the Punjab police of being directly responsible for spreading the drug menace in the state.

The Jathedars also clarified that there could be no change in the “rehat maryada” of Sikhism at any cost and the SGPC would be asked to rectify its November 30 resolution and the two “clerical mistakes” in it about the definition of a Sikh. While defining a Sikh, the resolution had allegedly omitted two of the four “kurehats”.

Both Jathedars alleged that the state government and the police were patronising drug pedlars, harming society and the youth in particular, who were taking to drugs in a big way.

Jathedar Vedanti, however, sought to tone down his allegations by saying that society, too, owed equal responsibility and should play a vital role in the eradication of the menace from the state.

“You see, nearly 60 per cent of the youth of the state are addicted to some drug or the other and we think that no one but the state government and the police are responsible for it. We have observed that certain officers are hand in glove with the drug mafia,” alleged Jathedar Vedanti and Prof Manjit Singh. Lambasting the contemporary political scenario, the Jathedars alleged that drugs had become a part and parcel of the election process and politics and all parties, including the ruling SAD-BJP combine, should fight against it to serve as a role model.

Projecting the drug menace as the biggest challenge for the government and society, the Jathedars did not even spare the teaching fraternity. “In a way, they (teachers), too, encourage alcoholism. If a teacher is promoted, can you imagine him throwing a party without booze? That way, can they set an example for their pupils?”, questioned the Jathedars.

Prof Manjit Singh, who spoke most of the time on behalf of Jathedar Vedanti, said directions had been issued to SAD leaders from time to time to resolve to fight the drug menace in the state. “I had even summoned Mr Parkash Singh Badal before elections and made him promise that the party would create awareness among the people about the ill-effects of drugs and that use of drugs would not be allowed by the party workers,” said Prof Manjit Singh, without specifying whether he was talking about SGPC or the 1997 assembly elections.

He said Jathedar Vedanti and he had plans to wean away the youth from drugs by introducing computer education and indoor games free of cost in all gurdwaras, including the ones run by the SGPC and the Singh Sabhas. He said that the world’s first encyclopaedia on Sikhism on an 160-minute CD-Rom, prepared by Raghibir Singh Bains, would also be introduced in gurdwaras to bring the Sikh youth closer to their religion’s tenets.

Prof Manjit Singh and Jathedar Vedanti, who were not aware about the alleged mission of two “Kurehats” in the definition of a Sikh in an SGPC resolution, assured that “If this was the case, the SGPC will be directed to make a suitable amendment.”

Both Jathedars were evasive on sensitive issues, including the allegations that the Akal Takht authorities were going slow over the participation of a Punjab Minister, Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, in a function organised at Jagraon by Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara, who was ex-communicated by former Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh.

“The Akal Takht Jathedar has sought an explanation from Gurdev Singh Badal. It may be your misconception that the process is slow in case of political figures,” said Prof Manjit Singh. When asked about the alleged meddling in Sikh issues by organisations like the RSS, Jathedar Vedanti said,” Why to touch such issues.” Prof Manjit Singh, however, added that the SGPC has been asked to form an advisory board to look into the controversial issues pertaining to Sikhism.

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