Navjot Singh Sidhu writes to Sonia Gandhi, seeks meeting to discuss 13-point agenda

'This is Punjab's last chance for resurrection and redemption', says PPCC chief

Navjot Singh Sidhu writes to Sonia Gandhi, seeks meeting to discuss 13-point agenda

PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had recently met senior Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat, in Delhi to sort out differences. Tribune photo

Aman Sood

Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 17

Hinting that he is still not satisfied with the Charanjit Singh Channi-led government and its handling of key issues raised by him in recent past, PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has written a letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, seeking a meeting with her to discuss a 13-point agenda.

In a letter dated October 15 and made public today, Sidhu said: “Request you to kindly give me a personal audience to present to you the Punjab Model with a 13-Point Agenda to be part of the Congress Manifesto for the 2022 Assembly elections, which is separate from this by means of its long-term vision to be implemented over a longer period of time, have crafted it through years of consultations with academics, civil society, party workers and feedback from the People of Punjab”.

"I express with a lot of pain in my heart that this is Punjab's last chance for resurrection and redemption. The issues at Punjab's heart as understood very well by you, and signified by the 18-Point agenda given to the last Chief Minister are equally relevant today. I stood for each point in that agenda through the responsibility vested in me of the organisation, keeping the executive under check, to be guardian of Punjab's rights," wrote Sidhu.

The letter comes days after Sidhu met senior Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat, in Delhi to sort out differences. The PPCC chief was told by party high command to work for the betterment of Punjab and the state government.

Full contents of the letter have been reproduced below.

October 15, 2021

Smt. Sonia Gandhi

Hon’ble Congress President

Indian National Congress

Respected Madam,

 Under your esteemed leadership, Congress Party won a 2/3rd majority in 2017 Assembly Elections, campaigning upon a Pro-People Agenda to give democratic and economic powers of the People back to the People. I personally campaigned in 55 Assembly Constituencies, among which we won 53, arguing for a Punjab Model of Development, according to which the rightful resources of the State should come back to the State, instead of going to private pockets. I have tirelessly worked on the same agenda as an MLA, Minister in Punjab Cabinet & now as PCC President. After multiple deliberations and consultations with party workers from across Punjab and with deep understanding of the public sentiment over 17 years of public life, I express with a lot of pain in my heart that this is Punjab’s last chance for resurrection and redemption. The issues at Punjab’s heart as understood very well by you, and signified by the 18-Point agenda given to the last Chief Minister are equally relevant today. I stood for each point in that agenda through the responsibility vested in me of the organization, keeping the executive under check, to be guardian of Punjab’s rights.

Punjab for decades was the richest state of the country and today it is the most indebted state of India. Punjab is submerged under Lakhs of crores of Debt due to gross financial mismanagement over last 25 years and diversion of public resources making a few powerful people rich and having left the state Debt-distressed. It has been supplemented by 7 years of BJP rule discriminating against Punjab while paying its financial dues such as GST payments, Rural Development Fund payments, Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes payments etc. Subsequently, the increasing debt overhead Punjab has led to our financial resources being used for merely paying-off the old debt and interest upon it. While, every year have to take new debt to support basic development works, to invest in 60:40 shared Central development schemes, providing healthcare, education and infrastructure needs of the State. Punjab has nearly one lakh of Government posts vacant, due to lack of resources government hiring’s are at lowest wages and contractual, school teachers have to work on probation for 4 years on minimum wages, delays in implementation of 6th pay commission by 5 years are all due to State not having enough resources.

I always strive to follow the values of our party to empower the poorest of the poor, to give opportunities to the last man in the que, but these have been hard solutions and one of the main reason for dislike against me by powerful people associated with Mafias ruining the State. Today, I further write to your esteemed self with priority areas among the 18-Point Agenda, 2017 Campaign and Manifesto promises that the State Government must deliver upon. Beginning with the Issues for Justice of the Soul of Punjab, whose torch-bearer was our leader Shri. Rahul Gandhi Ji, having left no stone unturned in fight for Justice to Punjab in these issues: -

1. Justice for Sacrilege: - People of Punjab demand Justice for Punjab’s soul by punishing the main culprits behind sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan.

2. Drugs: - Drug menace has plagued almost an entire generation of Punjab. Solution to such problem requires a stern action, as i always reiterate all corruption flows from the top, thus heads must roll from the top. The Big-Fish behind drug trafficking in Punjab as mentioned in the STF report must be immediately arrested and given exemplary punishment.

3. Agriculture: - Agriculture is the backbone of Punjab, and as we all protest against Centre’s three Black laws, Govt. of Punjab must reject them completely by announcing that they will not be implemented in Punjab at any cost. As we did in case of SYL, such stern resolve is needed today. This resolve must be supported on ground by bringing in structural changes. Creation of infrastructure such as cold storages & agro-processing industry through State funds, under control of Farmers; Bring changes into cooperative law to give farmers control and autonomy over agriculture-based cooperatives, expand network of cooperatives from farm to fork giving marginalised and small farmers access to storage, agro-processing and trading; State-owned Corporations to procure crops at MSP beyond Wheat & Rice, such as Oil-seeds & Dals; Bring in policy for MSP & procurement for fruits and vegetables.

4. Electricity: - Giving Cheap and 24 hour supply of power to all domestic consumers, especially urban domestic consumers who suffer the most due to cross-subsidy burden upon them, as we decrease power tariff for industrial and commercial use, and give free power for agriculture. We must give fixed power subsidy to all Domestic consumers, be it decreasing price of power to 3 Rs per unit or 300 Units of free power to all.

5. PPAs: - Release White-Paper on PPAs and Cancellation of all faulty PPAs as promised by us along with considering the present Coal-shortage in the Country, Punjab must move towards Smart, Cheap and efficient PPAs to meet state’s power demands, with a special focus on cheap solar power and aggressively pursuing grid connected roof-top & institutional solar.

6. Scheduled Caste & Backward Caste welfare: - Even after High Command’s progressive decision of appointing a Dalit Chief Minister to give the under-privileged more voice in the Government, it has not been supported in the State in equal measure, we should have at least one Mazbhi Sikh in Cabinet, representation to Dalits from Doaba, at least two representatives from Backward Caste Community in the Cabinet. Special package of 25 Crore for development of reserved constituencies. We must fulfil our promise of 5 Marla plots to SCs, money for pakka ceiling for every Dalit household, agricultural lands to landless poor, fixing responsibility and initiating inquiry into Post-Matric scholarship scam, while clearing dues to the Dalits students for pursuing their education further.

7. Employment: - Filling up thousands of vacant Government posts on regular basis along with addressing grievances of Employees Unions. More than 20 Unions (Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, Line-men, Safai-karamchari etc.) are protesting across the State. We must take there demands under compassionate consideration, I am forwarding each application and memorandum received by Pradesh Congress to relevant ministry for taking steps for inclusive development. Govt. must open doors for discussion, consultation and deliver what it can, considering its fiscal means.

8. Single Window System & Comparative Advantage: - Industry and businesses are biggest growth and development accelerators. But sadly, in the past Punjab has seen rapid de-industrialisation, with companies fleeing to other states due to unfriendly & corrupt government policies and mafia raj created by Badals. Akali’s during their regime destroyed competitive markets and created controlled monopolies (such as liquor, transport, cable etc.) Thus, more emphasis should be to increase the Ease of doing metric and bringing those industries to Punjab, wherein Punjab’s youth have skills, knowledge and interconnected ecosystem for acceleration such as agro-processing industry, knitting & hosiery etc. Although the Government of Punjab has made tremendous progress in setting a statutory framework for ensuring the ease of doing business, administrative data & research studies indicate that the officials across departments are not enforcing key legislative provisions properly. Thus, immediate focus should be on implementing more reforms to promote EODB, enabling time bound single window clearances, supporting MSME’s with specific focus on employment generating industries.

9. Women & Youth Empowerment: - Empowering Youth and Women is key to social change, economic growth and technological innovation, concrete steps should be taken to increase participation and to empower young people & women of Punjab.

Punjab must bring in a Youth Policy to increase participation of youth in governance to empower them. Emphasis should be on enhancing and enabling infrastructure on sports, skill development and startup culture. As per your directions Hon’ble Congress President, as Local Government Minister Punjab, I was privileged to introduce 50% reservation for women in all Local Bodies elections. More such concrete measures should be taken to increase the participation of women in politics, governance and opportunities for employment.

10. Liquor: - I have been fighting for this cause since the first Cabinet meeting of our Government in 2017, Punjab must monopolise liquor trade in the State, by bringing it under a State-run Corporation, as in case of Tamil Nadu, Punjab should own distilleries and liquor vends, giving at least 20,000 crore more revenue to the state along with thousands of Jobs.

11. Sand Mining: - Sand is a natural common property resource belonging to the People, not to a few powerful, its mining must be done for welfare of the People, to earn revenue for the State in a sustainable manner, while protecting the environment. Punjab has potential of earning minimum of 2000 crores from Sand Mining, while providing cheap sand at fixed rates to the consumers, but during Badal regime Punjab earned only 40 Crore per year, which increased to few hundred crores during our rule. We must not fall into trap of free sand, and make it free for the mafia, as the common people will still be charged for transport and labour. State must fix a reasonable price of sand for the end consumer and setup an online portal for its sale. In the long-run building Sand Mining Corporation with stock yards and state-owned transport network for supply of sand.

12.          Transport: - Punjab has potential to earn thousands of crores from a well-managed public transport along with boosting employment by creating most number of Jobs from any Public investment. Our present minister for transport is already working efficiently and we must strengthen his hands by removing 13,000 illegal or without permit buses plying on the roads of Punjab, issue permits to youth of Punjab, bring profitable routes under PRTC, luxury buses of PRTC should replace Badal-owned transporters. Road taxes on non-luxury buses is higher than luxury buses, though Private luxury buses should be taxed more than ordinary buses.

13.Cable Mafia: - Implementation of “the Punjab entertainments & amusement taxes (levy & collection by local bodies) Bill 2017”, to break the back-bone of Cable Mafia run by Badals in the State, while increasing revenue of the State and creating avenue for thousands of jobs.

 It might be the last damage control exercise or else, Mafia-Raj ruling the State patronized by the Badals will take the state to the extend of financial emergency, joblessness, corruption and agrarian crisis, from which, there will be no return. Thus, I request you please kindly consider these points and give your august direction to the State Government to act in the best interests of the People of Punjab immediately.

I further request you to kindly give me a personal audience to present to you the Punjab Model with a 13-Point Agenda to be part of the Congress Manifesto for the 2022 Assembly Elections, which is separate from this by means of its long-term vision to be implemented over a longer period of time, have crafted it through years of consultations with academics, civil society, party workers and feedback from the People of Punjab.

Thanking you,

Sincerely

Navjot Singh Sidhu

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