M A I N   N E W S

A Tribune Special
Uneven Growth II
Biased state, biased Centre
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
Politicians, especially those who wielded power since reorganisation of the state in 1966, may have an explanation for the imbalanced development in the state. Unmistakably, it is only Patiala, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Bathinda ( PALJAB) that have benefited from “strategic development policies” of successive governments.

The neglected areas of the Majha, Doab and Malwa cannot boast of a single new project that could rid them of social, economic and industrial backwardness. Human resource development is an unknown commodity in this part of Punjab where even falling ill can be a curse.

Construction of administrative complexes for newly carved out districts is perhaps the only activity taking place here. Since the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, the number of districts has gone up from 13 to 20. Of these five - Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Moga, Mohali and Muktsar - are in the Malwa belt while the Doab (Nawanshahr) and Majha (Taran Tarn) regions have had to content with one each.

The other day when former PWD minister Partap Singh Bajwa talked of Bathinda versus the rest of Punjab, he raised a pertinent issue, the location of thermal plants. Bathinda, Lehra Mohabbat, Talwandi Sabo and Gidderbaha - all within a 50 km radius - will form a necklace of coal-based power generation centres in Malwa. Rajpura and Nabha are the other proposed sites for thermal plants also in the Malwa area while Majha may get one at Goindwal Sahib.

One thermal plant is capable of generating over a thousand direct jobs and twice as much indirect jobs.

The proposed defence university at Anandpur Sahib, as promised during the tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa, puts a question mark on the central government’s sincerity to keep its word. There have been promises galore but no delivery.

The development of the border belt, especially Goindwal Sahib, fell through primarily because the Centre did not honour its commitments. Some of the central organisations were supposed to locate their new production lines in this historic town. The country’s biggest newsprint plant was to come up at Goindwal Sahib.

At the ground level, nothing moved beyond announcements. Packages got a quick pack-up, leaving the people bewildered. Now that people have lost faith in polticians, unkept promises have ceased to bother them.

Not only the state governments but even the Centre must take blame for the neglect of at least 14 of the 20 districts of the state. At the time of allocation of IITs or institutes of science or a new university, the Centre should have insisted that these be located in areas hitherto bereft of development.

Why could not knowledge city be located in Mansa or the IIT in Gurdaspur and the new central university in Hoshiarpur or Ferozepur? When SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal insists on taking students from rural schools to watch a Test match in Mohali, why can’t the SAD-BJP government decide to build a new hockey or athletics stadium in Gurdaspur, a district that has made matchless contribution to both Indian hockey and athletics? Talk of a new hockey stadium in Bathinda leaves one with a feeling of discrimination. The state government should attract MNCs by proposing new sports centres, health cities, education cities and SEZs in the neglected Punjab and not in PALJAB.

(To be concluded)



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