M A I N   N E W S

Graft issue rocks Punjab House
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 17
“Blatant corruption” in the state Social Security Department had the Badal government running for cover in the House today with the legislators, including those from the ruling SAD and BJP, alleging that each post of anganwadi worker was being sold at anything above Rs 60,000.

The matter initially raised through a starred question by Capt Balbir Singh Bath of SAD, soon legislators from the BJP and the Congress, too, echoed their concern over the government “failure in checking corruption”.

As Minister concerned Chaudhary Swarna Ram offered a probe into the matter, Bath intervened to say that “you cannot have the guilty officials probe the doings in the same department”. Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, following suggestion from MLAs, asked the Minister to get a probe done by a department other than his own.

Initially, Bath raised the question whether any recruitment of anganwadi workers or helpers was done post-2007; and if yes, were the Supreme Court guidelines followed. He wanted to know the status of recruitment in his constituency.

As Chaudhary Swarna Ram started revealing the recruitment facts, Bath pointed out that the “selection procedure had been most unfair”. “Corruption is so rampant that there is haggling over the price one has to pay for the job. I was myself involved in the bargaining process by my supporters to show Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000 was being demanded by middlemen,” he said.

Rising to Bath’s support, Anil Joshi of BJP said “there were several instances in his constituency (Amritsar North) too where money was demanded, and paid, for these jobs. Next to join them was Congress legislator Sunil Jakhar, who said similar instances allegedly occurred in his segment (Abohar) as well.

All these legislators wanted an assurance from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal of a fair probe. They even suggested that a House committee be formed to probe the issue. To this, Chaudhary Swarna Ram said: “I have no objection to a probe by any agency or department other than mine.”

Kahlon, however, settled the issue by ruling out formation of a House committee on the issue. But, he directed the Minister to get a probe done by a department other than his own and to update the House about the findings.

In reply to another query by Congress legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Agriculture Minister Sucha Singh Langah gave an assurance that the policy to repair link roads every six years would be reviewed soon and the time period would be lowered, if need be.

Separately, Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla appealed to the legislators to help the government find doctors willing to work under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and also during night hours. “Government employs female doctors for its dispensaries and health centres to take care of delivery facilities, but they soon leave after they are deputed on night shifts”, she added.

After the zero hour, the House brought two calling attention notices and debated resolutions on global warming and its impact on Punjab, rising prices and how to save people from epidemics like swine flu, H1N1 and cancer.



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