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Drugs, SAD leaders' brushes with law dent Punjab image in 2013

Friday, 20 December 2013 - 10:43am IST | Agency: PTI

The year 2013 saw ruling SAD-BJP in Punjab winning civic polls convincingly and fissures in Congress while Akali leaders' repeated brushes with law and unearthing of a multi-crore drug racket brought disrepute to the state.

The year began with Akali Dal securing a landslide victory in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) polls, which analysts attributed to SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal's micro-management.

Congress continued to struggle to hold political ground in the state against the Badal clan, especially Sukhbir, his brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's political acumen. It replaced its party head -- former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with Majha leader Partap Singh Bajwa.

But that did not seem to help the party much as senior leaders Joginderpal Jain and Avtar Singh Brar switched loyalties and joined SAD.

Fissures in the party came out in the open after Amarinder challenged Bajwa's authority in announcing possible Lok Sabha candidates. Later Bajwa admitted his mistake. And as if this was not enough, both Bajwa and Amarinder indulged in an ugly spat in front of none other than Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Sangrur towards the year end.

SAD-BJP combine candidate Jain drubbed Congress nominee Vijay Sathi in the Moga by-poll in March.

Stamping its supremacy, the SAD-BJP combine swept the zila parishad and panchayat samiti polls in May.

The menace of drug addiction continued to haunt the government. The busting of Bhola-Kahlon gang towards the end of the year exposed new aspects of mass production of narcotics in the state and involvement of drug money in politics.

In March, police arrested NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon and seized drugs valued at Rs 130 core. His questioning revealed that kingpin was Jagdish Singh Bhola, a dismissed DSP of Punjab Police, who procured drugs from across the border and smuggled these to other parts of the country.

Kahlon's grilling led police to arrest boxer Ram Singh, a roommate of Olympic medalist Vijender Singh.

Investigations then led to arrest of SAD leader Maninder Singh Aulakh and one Jagjit Singh Chahal. Aulakh was close to MP Rattan Singh Ajnala and his MLA son Amarpal Singh Bony.

Sukhbir gave clean chit to his party MP and his son and Congress, crying foul over the development, sought CBI probe.

Punjab's precarious financial position continued with ever rising debt close to Rs 80,000 crore even as the government went overboard in mortgaging its properties to raise funds to bring the state out of the financial mess.

Akali leaders had several brushes with law this year.

In February, Patiala Mayor and Akali leader Jaspal Pardhan had to resign from his post after a case of murder was registered against him.

Senior Dalit leader from Majha region Gulzar Singh Ranike, who was forced to resign following involvement of his Personal Assistant (PA) in the border development scam last year, made a comeback in the cabinet after the Vigilance Bureau gave him a clean chit in March.

Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka faced charges of irregularities in procurement of school books for government schools.

Imposition of house and property tax for citizens and advance taxes on trade and business by the state government to mop up resources drew flak from several quarters, including traders. BJP also strongly opposed the state government's move bringing out in open differences between the allies.

Veteran Communist leader Satyapal Dang, who had been on the forefront of the fight against terrorism and secessionism in Punjab, died at an age of 86 in June.

The month of August put the Punjab government in a peculiar situation as Sikhs settled in Gujarat faced eviction from land in Kutch region. The Punjab government assured all possible measures to safeguard their interests.

The first statewide survey of cancer victims in Punjab revealed high incidence of the disease in the Malwa belt. As many as 33,318 cancer deaths have occurred in the state in the last five years, the survey pointed.

Families of 17 youths from the state who were on death row in the UAE for murdering a Pakistani national heaved a sigh of relief when they were freed and returned home.

In February, British Prime Minister David Cameron termed 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre as a "deeply shameful" event in the British history during his visit to Amritsar.

Dreaded terrorist and Akal Federation founder Narain Singh Chaura was arrested in May from Tarn Taran.

However, in a setback for police, a court gave six police officers life terms in an 18-year-old case of abduction of Sangrur man who went missing under mysterious circumstances. Among the sentenced included Amritsar SSP (rural) Preetpal Singh Virk.

In an unprecedented development during the assembly session in March, nine Congress MLAs were suspended from the budget session after they threw books, papers and other material towards the Speaker's chair besides occupying it forcibly.

In an embarrassment for the ruling alliance, BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu and his MLA wife Navjot Kaur took on Badal for "discriminating" their Amritsar constituency on the issue of release of development grants.

Another issue which hogged the limelight during the year was the mercy plea of death row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar. In April, the Supreme Court rejected his clemency plea. However, the Akal Takhat - the top temporal seat of Sikhs - threw its weight behind Bhullar directing politico- religious body Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) to consult legal experts and take every possible measure to save Bhullar.

Differences emerged within SAD and BJP over the Supreme Court verdict on Bhullar with BJP maintaining that court's orders should be respected by all and SAD terming it "unfortunate" development.

Taking note of ever increasing crime against women, Punjab Police deployed security squads of armed policewomen in each district.

In another embarrassment to Akalis, a court gave Mansa District Planning Committee Chairman Mangat Ram Bansal along with 21 others a seven year term in a 14-year-old case of paddy embezzlement.

Thousands bade a tearful farewell to Sarabjit Singh, who was cremated with state honours at his native village in Bikhiwind in Tarn Taran district in May. He was granted the status of martyr by the state government.

Sukhbir's announcement to develop Mullanpur on the outskirts of Chandigarh as 'New Chandigarh' created a controversy with Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda telling Punjab to vacate Chandigarh as it is 'asli city' (real city).

Some positives for the state government included commissioning of Talwandi Sabo thermal plant, business giants Tata evincing interest in investing in Punjab and holding of Kabaddi World Cup for the fourth time in a row.


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