Saturday, May 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

What a fall! rue lawmakers
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 3
Veteran and new legislators today expressed concern over the diminishing respect for politicians, falling standards of political debates and rising political corruption that had become a way of life in the country.

The occasion was the celebrations of the golden jubilee of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. It was on this day, 50 years ago, that the first session of the Assembly was held in the Central Legislature Chamber, Simla.

Past and present elected representatives, who had come from Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and within the state, were meeting after a gap of nearly 36 years. Punjab was trifurcated in 1966.

For most of them it was a nostalgic journey as they recognised their old friends and colleagues with hugs and handshakes. Several could barely walk and were seen being helped by younger legislators and Vidhan Sabha staff members. Some had hearing aids, others used walking-sticks.

Those who did some plain speaking expressed their anguish over the direction and course of present-day politics and called for self-introspection to first clean their own public image and life before serving the people. Sharing their experiences with the new generation, stalwarts appreciated the drive against corruption launched by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. They hoped Punjab would once again show the way to the rest of the country what clean politics meant.

Among the delegates who spoke were Chaudhary Ranbir Singh, Mrs Sarla Sharma, Mrs Chanderawati, Capt Rattan Singh of the INA, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Mr Suchha Singh Chottepur, Mr Hans Raj Sharma, Chaudhary Darshan Singh, Mr Balramji Das Tandon, Mr Umrao Singh, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal and Mr Chand Ram.

The refrain was that corruption must be fought in all its manifestations, 65 years should be the retiring age for politicians (who, thereafter, should enjoy life), the Assemblies must meet more frequently, legislators must come prepared for high-quality debates and take decisions that were legally correct, socially acceptable, politically valid and economically viable.

Reminiscing about the good old days, most of them felt that unless the elected representatives themselves learnt to respect and maintain the decorum and dignity of the House and engaged in healthy criticism and the Treasury Benches took the Opposition into their confidence, not much would be achieved.

Mr Bhundar set the tone. While appreciating the drive against corruption started by the Chief Minister, he went on to stress that corruption had become a way of life. All legislators must put their heads together to find an answer to problems like poverty, unemployment, corruption and illiteracy. The Treasury and Opposition Benches had to act in tandem in a responsible manner and involve people, whom they claimed to serve, if Punjab was to be saved.

Mrs Sarla Sharma, who spoke in a spirited vein, said: ‘’All of us are responsible for corruption’’. She also suggested that legislators of the once joint Punjab should meet more often and draw up a common minimum programme to enable each state to develop as also the region.

Mrs Chaderawati said that Assembly sessions were held just to fulfil constitutional obligations; otherwise ruling parties were least interested in the sittings of the House.

Mr Umrao Singh’s advice to young legislators was to take pains to study laws and rules and actively participate in the House debates, making a meaningful contribution to society that had elected them.

Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal’s suggestion to form an association of old and new legislators was accepted.

Mr Tandon created quite a furore when he said that like women’s clothes, sittings of the Assemblies, too, had shrunk. This infuriated women legislators, who objected, making Mr Tandon apologise.

The same political point was later made in a poetic manner by Mr Chhottepur: ‘’Libaas te ijlaas, doven hi ghat de jande han’’. He also said that the gathering must pass a resolution to thank the Supreme Court for yesterday’s orders showing a new path to legislators.

Mr Chand Ram said he came from a poor family living in a kutcha house in a village and went on to win nine elections, including one to Parliament.

Chaudhary Ranbir Singh narrated his experiences and proudly said he was the Power and Irrigation Minister when Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the Bhakra Dam.

Earlier, the Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen. J.F.R. Jacob (retd), lighted a lamp and inaugurated the celebrations. Also present was the Uttaranchal Governor, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh made a brief welcome speech. Later, summing up the views expressed by senior members of the public, he said his government believed in giving enough opportunity to the Opposition to participate in House debates.

Among those honoured were veteran legislators and Speakers and former Chief Ministers, Mr Barnala, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. Mr Parkash Singh Badal did not attend the celebrations due to his injury. Each participant was presented with a commemorative plaque. A souvenir, ‘’Glimpses: the journey of 50 years of the Punjab Legislative Assembly’’, was also released.


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