Chandigarh, October 24 : Punjab Congress President Captain Amarinder Singh has come down heavily on the Badal government for treating the state’s ex-servicemen as pawns on its political chessboard.
Reacting to reports that the ex-servicemen had been misled into going to the Ranjit Avenue rally ground in Amrtisar on Sunday under false pretext, Captain Amarinder lambasted the Badals for their shabby treatment of the former soldiers of India.
“The Badals have a history of ill-treating ex-servicemen and the families of martyrs,” he said, lashing out at the political gimmickry behind the inauguration of the war memorial at Amritsar by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal a few months before the Assembly elections.
The ex-servicemen had been told that they were being escorted to the inauguration venue but discovered, to their shock and distress, that they had been actually taken to the venue of the Badal rally.
With more than 50% of the ex-servicemen choosing to leave the rally ground by the time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had started speaking, it was clear that these loyal ex-soldiers had no faith in the Akali government, which had completely ignored their interests all these years, said the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president.
Terming the war memorial, inaugurated with much hype, as a useless waste of public money, Captain Amarinder said Punjab did not need more memorials. Rather, it needed upkeep and maintenance of the existing memorials, as well as urgent measures to address the long-pending woes of the ex-servicemen and war widows, he added.
Captain Amarinder took a jibe at Badal for his directions to the DCs and SSPs to “stand from their chair whenever an ex-service personnel enters their office”. Considering the step-motherly treatment meted out to these personnel by the Akali government, such a move is clearly nothing more than a publicity stunt with an eye on the forthcoming elections, said the Punjab Congress chief.
Ex-servicemen, along with war widows, constitute a substantial vote-bank in Punjab, which explains the Badals’ sudden interest in appeasing them, said Captain Amaridner. However, despite their importance in the Punjab pollscape, they continue to be sidelined by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government.
War widows and family members of the 1962, 1965 and 1971 war martyrs have been up in arms against the Badal government over the delay in providing them financial compensation. They have already rejected the Rs. 50 lakh special grant-in-aid announced by the state government, which Badal had on Sunday listed out as part of his government’s “role in the welfare of former service personnel.”
Captain Amarinder further pointed out that former Army Chief General JJ Singh had, while speaking at the war memorial inaugural function, minced no words in stating that Punjab’s place in the country was on a decline. The fact that General JJ Singh used the platform shared with the Badals to convey his anguish at this state of affairs, the falling standards with consequent poor recruitment, was a major embarrassment for the Akalis, he pointed out.