OPINION : Punjab Elections 2022 – Who will form the GOVERNMENT?

It has happened for the first time in the political history of Punjab that seven strong contending political parties (some in alliance with each other), with strong leading faces – have come down in the battleground creating an unprecedented fluid situation. All the political parties had equally impactful cards and represented themselves throughout on these lines – the ‘panthak’ and  cultural image of Akali Dal, the secular image of Congress, the Hindutva and powerful omniscient stance of BJP, re- alliance of the Dalit vote bank of BSP, the ‘Delhi development model’ agenda based AAP, stalwart leader Amarinder Singh led Punjab Lok Congress, BJP alliance Akali Dal (Democratic) led by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa,  hard liner Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Simranjit Singh Mann, the farmer centered SSM (Sanuykt Samaj Morcha) which is a new entrant with a successful farm law agitation in its kitty.

This has made Punjab Elections 2022 a high pitched poll fray where vote banks got divided or should I say morphed like never before. Here is my take on who will get the mandate to form the government:

Past Trends & New Waves

The current Punjab was formed in 1966 and ever since it has had a strong Jat Sikh culture. With the exception of Giani Zail Singh there have always been Jat Sikh Chief Ministers in the state. The Scheduled caste and OBC vote bank too which constitutes 62% Punjab population has mainly been loyal to either Congress or Akali Dal. There has also been a single generation of leadership at the top for all the political parties – be it Prakash Singh Badal or Capt. Amarinder Singh.

It has happened for the first time in Punjab elections 2022 that political parties in Punjab are scourging for credible Dalit leaders for top shot positions. It has happened for the first time that the consolidated Dalit vote bank of parties has scattered due to multiple choices they have now. And it has happened for the first time that the Punjab politics is seeing a generational shift with younger leaders being declared as Chief Ministerial candidates.

Shifts & U- turns

As much hopeful the shift to the next generation of leadership, like that of Sukhbir Badal, Bhagwant Mann, Charanjit Singh Channi might look, it has in the run created a disruptive furor. While Akali Dal and AAP went through this shift with internal oppositions and saw many senior leaders exit the party, yet there was always a strong hold that weaved and kept the party men together in a much better way than Congress could. The internal furor of Congress has been a public debacle which has badly hurt its innings in the state.

Congress made two grave mistakes which led to u-turns and change in number game impacting all parties and will impact the results of the current polling.

First, the disrespectful pushing out of senior leader Amarinder Singh – the only leader of Congress party who had pan Punjab appeal, apart from Navjot Singh Sidhu who too have had a credible report card and strength to hold the party together. Congress did not choose him either. Clearly paving way to an ugly show where everyone wanted the biggest piece of cake.

Straight away Congress lost a share of vote bank here that wanted a strong leader to lead but did not get one! Second, when Sunil Jakkar was elected by its own party MLA’s, rather democratically as the party claims; again another very credible face was not declared as the CM candidate. Since all this was in public eye, Congress again lost a percentage of secular and Hindu voters here. Had any of the above leaders were given a chance then the situation for Congress would have been different.

However, with declaring Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM candidate, Congress aimed at strongly tapping into that big chunk of 62 % Dalit vote bank and compensate for the damage. It was an applaudable historic move too. But the ground to earth and ‘gareeb ghar ka beta’ political and emotional wave got backfired right before the elections with ED conducting raid on Channi’s relative.

This made the party slide to the third position from its top position in winning the Punjab elections 2022, especially when it had an edge over an already ducked in Akali Dal which was trying its best to keep itself afloat and AAP which was not able to make enough substantial ripples all this while to give a big fight.

Akali Dal was on backfoot with sacrilege and Bargari issue and was also sinking in the ire of its loyal panthak voters since it allowed the pardoning of rape accused Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda. However, it got back into the battleground due to the disillusionment that had set in the voters by the mess of Congress. Another factor that played in their favour was the vendetta politics with Bikram Singh Majithia, which was made personal by the changed leadership of Congress in the state. The hype that the party received in the Navjot Singh Sidhu vs. Bikram Singh Majithia battle in Amritsar East brought back Akali Dal in focus once again. While all this was happening, AAP despite the allegations against it was doing relatively well in its door to door campaign.

Number Game & My Take

Although an increased voter turnout was expected this time because of the silent wave for AAP and anti incumbency factor, yet the voters were disillusioned like never before with so many options before them which were all equally stained. This disillusionment is also one of the reasons behind 5.45 % drop in polling this time.

According to my observation, analysis and general conversation with people from lower income or marginal strata to upper income strata, I predict 54 to 60 seats for AAP, 25-30 seats for Akali Dal alliance, 27 – 33 seats for Congress and 4 -5 seats for BJP alliance.

AAP is likely to get majority but it would be won on a cusp. And if by chance it is a hung assembly then Kejriwal is most likely to get into an alliance with Akali Dal even though they are ideologically different. Many would consider it impossible for AAP to take this step. But I have three interesting arguments for my reader to think about. First, AAP does not have a Dalit vote bank to tap into. Second, the rural vote bank or image they want to attain in Punjab through SSM depends on how SSM performs, which looks bleak. AAP’s effort to have any other inner alliances with Sikh hard liners will not be good for them in the long run either. Third, AAP is projecting itself as a national party across India and will prefer to go in alliance with a regional party.

On the other hand, Akali Dal is in a do or die situation and needs to come back in power in one way or the other. Even if Akali Dal risks the shift of its traditional vote bank to AAP, it will still go ahead into an alliance with them.

Albeit, in politics nothing can be carved in the stone till the judgment day or even after. Let’s see what Punjab has voted for.

OPINION: PUNJAB ELECTIONS AND ISSUES THAT NO ONE WILL TALK ABOUT

Election time in every state is the time when the populist issues take center stage – whether relevant or irrelevant. Sadly, deep social and political problems are overlooked and public fails to bring it to the table with their leaders. However, people of Punjab should not ignore it further. The key uncertainties lying ahead have been aggravated by the consequences of pandemic, climate change, demography, economics, political climate, artificial intelligence and can spiral out of control if unaddressed in the coming times.

Here is my analysis:

Agrarian Crisis and Cultural Crisis

While Green revolution might have sustained the country, it has drained Punjab. It has depleted the soil of its nutrients, increased dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The traditional crop diversification has disappeared from the state, leaving rice-wheat monoculture which is now an extremely dangerous practice for the state with rising air pollution and depleting aquifers. Post green revolution, the cropped area for pulses had reduced from 19% to 0.4% and for oilseeds from 3.9% to 0.5% from 1960-61. This needs immediate attention because these crops are important for fertility of the soil. Today, 50% of Punjab’s soil is carbon, with only 0.3% of organic carbon. Soils with less than 1% organic matter are found in desert. The farm laws that were needed with MSP to woo the farmer out of this rice-wheat monoculture have now altogether left the farmers helpless. The public and legislators need to come together with models and strategies to face this foreseeable crisis which no one wants to talk about.

The wealth that ushered in the state due to green revolution has eventually led to a cultural crisis too. Where once every farmer began his sowing season with utter respect and regard, throwing five fists full of seed up in the air in gratitude and love of god, nature and all good things; now the next generation of farmers has loud screeching music on their tractors, forgotten traditional practices and have lost the muscle for farming. The good old Punjabi culture is slowly dying.

Hollow Economy

The state of Punjab needs a solid engine working for it to survive. It is principally an agricultural economy which is on the brink of crisis. With state having water depletion issues, electricity deficit status, skilled workforce shortage – the future looks dismal until a major booster model is put in place to flesh its hollow economy. With Union government’s new policies the economy of the state will further weaken. It is importing pulses and oil seeds to maintain the demand supply difference in the domestic market, but not ready to tap into Punjab’s potential in catering the increased domestic demand of oilseeds and pulses in India by offering better incentives in form of MSP for these crops.

On the other hand, the process of de-industrialization across Punjab that took place was not stopped in its nascent stage. Not much effort had been made to retain the small or large scale industry which could have generated employment in the state. According to Annual Report of Periodic Labour Force (2017-18) Punjab has an unemployment rate of 7.8% which is higher than all India unemployment. One of the major reasons for loss of competitive industry and deep in debt economy is the cross-subsidization of farming, farm loan waivers and power subsidies. And yet, every election season is fought on which party will provide maximumn FREE power units. For how long is this viable? It is indeed a sad situation.

Misplaced Priorities

Every election season the blame ball starts to roll from one party to another. The incumbent Congress ministers in an effort to save their own faces before beginning the election campaign, have brought up the Bargari issue blaming it on the Chief Minister. The CM is so embroiled in this infighting that the state seems to be going to utter neglect. On the other hand, Akali Dal is milking the situation by blaming the shortage of electricity on the policies of Congress government in the state. Not staying behind, AAP makes tall claims of providing free electricity upto 300 units which is highly unlikely in the current scenario without overburdening the already burdened financial exchequer of the state. One should be mindful of the fact that Punjab and Delhi’s electricity situations are very different due to its pre – purchase agreements.

Everything from farm bills, farm loans, electricity shortage to Kotakpura Bargari sacrilege has become the hot election issue. However, topics like Buddha Nala, environmental costs, effluent treatment plants, sustainability of farm loans and solar panel subsidies – that really matter to the future of Punjab have still not found a voice. The politics of vote bank always takes over serious issues that all political parties willfully ignore – not understanding that if these issues aren’t looked into they are responsible for the onset of catastrophic times.

However, are politicians solely responsible for not talking about it when the public – the people – are not ready to raise these issues and seriously take measures for it?  The truth is the day people of the state put the right issues on the table with their elected leaders, all political parties will be at their service to do the right thing.

NUGGETS of LIFE: Balance, another name of life

The art of balance

Things come and go! There is day and there is night! Change is inevitable. In life you go through many phases and there is nothing static. There are moments that you want to hold on to and then there are others which you want to let go. One has to learn walking the thin line of balance with élan and ease. For this you need to know the act of balancing and then there you are – ready to go those miles with a sunshine attitude!

Every culture – be it Indian, American, Balinese, Arabian or any other, strikes a chord at one common but fundamental element called balance, because without this it wouldn’t have thrived. The theory of karma is also based on this. To describe it in a very short way, it can be said that when a person is born, his life cycle is based around the famous proverb – ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’! His ultimate effort should be to achieve balance in his life, only then can he attain salvation. For this you need to learn about certain factors which have a profound role in achieving this state of bliss. These are as follow:

• Flexibility – Without flexibility or adjustment in other words, neither are you successful in your personal life nor in professional. All the fingers of our hand are not equal and without either of them, you loose your strength to perform any function. You should be content with yourself and your surroundings. If you do not like something, accept the fact that you do not like it but then move on. Do not expect everything to be perfect! One should not crib or think much about the past that is gone, neither think of the future that he certainly knows not. Life is about living the present (the very moment that you live!)

• Faith – Things do not always work out the way you want. There are many hardships and obstacles in life. Face them with a brave heart and you will survive! Never loose faith in yourself. Similarly, never loose hope. It is only then that the whole universe binds itself to achieve what you want. The law of attraction that Rhonde Bryne has pointed out in her book ‘The Secret’ actually works!

• Respect – All of us have two eyes, two hands, two legs and a heart but we may differ in our genes, habits, emotional bonding. What I want to point out here is that although we might not be able to love everyone but we can surely respect everyone because at some point we all are same. This not only brings balance in your life but also peace and harmony in the world.

• Yoga – This 5ooo years old form of meditation is truly a wonder. It balances mind, body and soul. Yoga inculcates positive energy in life. Not only does it make you physically fit but also a more calm and happy person. Serenity gets reflected on your face. It is a proven fact that an hour spent practicing yoga can teach you the deeper intricacies of life.

If you understand these key factors, then you understand the act of balancing life. Excess of everything is bad. Therefore, learn to balance! We have one life so make it worth living.

Published on EzineArticles.com on 30.7.2012

OPINION: Are the new Farm Laws solely Punjab’s Problem?

Covid-19 hinterland digest: Lockdown gives Punjab respite from drug menace  | Business Standard News
New farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem,
only the wind began from Punjab.

The new farm laws have created a major stir and have escalated the farmer protest to a historic pan India People’s Movement. The government claims that the three farm laws are an attempt to invite private players to generate healthy competition along with the mandi system (APMC), and is not a takeover by any corporate house. The centre government’s think tank has been opining vociferously in media that the socio-economic backdrop for MSP has changed with better times in the country and so the policies need a change. Punjab and Haryana has been pin pointed for being complacent to the comfort of MSP and for not reinventing its agriculture in spite of its depleting water table. A new narrative is being fabricated that it is solely Punjab’s problem.

What is Punjab’s problem?

Punjab is certainly aware of water table depletion for a long time now. When India was deficit in grain and foreign exchange to buy from foreign markets Punjab and Haryana were used for the Green Revolution and guaranteed a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice to usher the country into an era of food abundance. It is because of this that higher fertilizers and pesticides manufactured by private companies made inroads. No alternative agrarian model was provided. The constant rise in input costs have now led Punjab into an economic cul de sac. For a long time the farming community was looking for a bail out of this predicament with the help of centre, by way of MSP on other high value crops ‘in a meaningful manner’ or by subsidies that could help them diversify to food processing. But that never happened. Punjab was already trying to sustain itself and deal with the repercussions of the economic policies of Green Revolution when Modi government chose to bring in these Farm laws. Reinventing agriculture at this point in time is out of question. This raises yet another crucial question: Why did Modi government choose to bring about such drastic changes exactly now? With no new solid alternative model and no transitional phase, the Farm Laws have been bulldozed on the states and certainly Punjab is worst affected since it is a state that primarily depends on agriculture for its revenue.

But then how did one state’s agricultural issue gain pan India momentum? Clearly because the new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Here is a deeper analysis:

Liberty vs. Security

Indian farmers clearly understand that individual liberty that the centre government is promising them with the enforcement of farm laws comes by jeopardizing security of farming community. In fact, do the farmers really have the liberty of choosing which private company they want to sell their crop to? Or will the private player choose which farmers crop it wants? The fact is there is no choice but only a façade of choice. It is for this reason the farmers have been asking for the safety net of MSP as a legal provision and not because they are addicted to the ‘allure of MSP’. According to an analysis by ‘The Wire’, farmers across 11 major agricultural states have been denied Rs. 1,900 Crore due to sales below MSP in last two months alone. Moreover, if Indian agriculture is not subsidized it will never be able to compete in the international market.

Powerful tool of Crony Capitalism

The three laws serve as a dangerous tool of crony capitalism which can give rise to heavy hand and monopolistic behavior. Section 13 of The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act (2020) clearly states: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Central Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the State Government or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder.” This is simply outrageous. There is no legal recourse for Indian farmers. In fact, these farm laws together snatch away the basic constitutional rights of Indian citizens empowering the clout of government and big business houses to flourish. Certainly, the Indian farmers have understood the intentions of the current regime. Therefore, these new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem.

Crisis of Confidence

There has been a crisis of confidence in the government and its intentions. Never before did India view autonomous and independent agencies like CBI with skepticism. There was already a simmering distrust in all segments of society because of Modi government’s disastrous decision of demonetization, past rhetoric in Kashmir, CAA protests, frenzy of changing city and institution names, love jihad laws, mob lynching, extreme dip in economy – all of which has now been brought to a boil with these three Farm Laws being framed in a rush, behind the façade of a pandemic. Hence, a pan India movement where the farmers have been joined by various labour, trade and transport unions as well because the sense of fairness has been lost.

To encapsulate, these farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Only the wind began from Punjab.

OPINION: The Global Environment Fiasco

Global Environment Fiasco

“Earth provides ENOUGH to satisfy every mans need but, NOT every mans greed!”

The warm and majestic green landscapes, the glory of the snow crowned mountains, the pristine maiden rivers and lakes… (wait let’s fast forward)… is a matter of history.

Does that not give you goose bumps?

The clarion bells keep ringing over the degradation of various flora and fauna, and now the scenario is only graver. The very topography of our land has been altered, or rather plundered!

Being an adventure seeker, I have been visiting various places especially across the Himalayas but it is a sad sight now. The beautiful pockets of nature are being replaced by plastic bottles, litter, dams, rapid construction, luxurious hotels and resorts – making these areas dull and grey! The irony of the situation is that the luxury and modernization that we are trying to achieve from such rampant dissection of these ecologically sensitive areas, is absolutely menacing.

There is an increase in the occurrence of natural calamities and higher likelihood of pandemics. Man has been reckless in the past decade – ignoring guidelines, exploiting natural resources and taking full advantage of the political bureaucratic nexus! It has aggravated the conjectured dire consequences. Development is taking place at the price of the destruction of nature. The spoilage of the Dal Lake causing the locals to abandon their means of livelihood, the soil erosion due to flooding of the Brahmaputra, loss of life and property due to floods almost every few years across various states!

Not only within the country but all across the globe, there is a drastic change in the climate due to devious human activity, thereby altering ecosystems callously. The tsunami in Thailand, the hurricane Katrina and the Sandy Storm in the United States are some examples. There is increase in population and decrease in natural resources. Today deforestation and global warming have reached to such a level that there is a constant environment alarm beeping, via natural disasters.

The World Bank report on climate change warns that a warmer world will trap millions in poverty. Underdeveloped nations will majorly bear the brunt. A scientific report commissioned by the World Bank named “Turn down the Heat”, looks at the possible impact of global warming on the most vulnerable regions of the world. According to it there will be unusual summer heat extremes and water availability in Pakistan and Nepal will be too low for self sufficiency in food production by 2050. Most coastal reefs are projected to be extinct, with the loss of associated fisheries and coastal protection. There would be loss of 41-51% of unique plant species in South Africa and Namibia. The report also projects that 33% of the Kolkata metropolitan area is projected to be exposed to flooding of more than 25 cm in the event of extreme rainfall pattern by 2050.

It is high time to protect our environment.  The power and beauty of the natural world cannot be tamed – man is a fool to do so! There is much said and written about environment catastrophe but it is time to pull up the socks. Little things of common sense can go a long way in making a difference. For instance, using buckets and pails for bathing is better than using showers, turn off your vehicle’s engine at red light, reducing red meat consumption or vegan dietary habits, reusing and recycling, using eco-friendly products or reducing the flow of water when washing something can help in restoring the lost environmental balance. Another interesting concept to save our environment is using creativity as a tool to fix the problem. Great creativity can make something out of nothing, a monotonous idea into a great novelty!  We need to think differently and out of the box, thereby attracting and involving the human mind to do various things to save our environment.

 Apart from this, green societies should be given impetus. These are an association of persons, business and organizations that create local and global support systems developing sustainable resource based communities. Grooming green societies is grooming culture of optimum utilization. Last but not the least, both our central and state governments should not merely provide financial help but also devise an adequate plan and policy. A workable solution is the need of the hour because – TO MOULD THE HISTORY OF OUR FUTURE, WE NEED TO MOULD THE ENVIRONMENT OF OUR PRESENT HARMONIOUSLY!

OPINION: Are We a Generation of Uneducated Literates?

A generation of uneducated literates who are now in a crisis of confidence

Human education opens the mind. If humankind has ever unanimously agreed on something then it is the power of education (no wonder when White supremacist, Nazi’s or any authoritarian regime wanted to come to power they first hacked and altered the education systems!).

The scenario today is that the world in 21st century has the most educated population and hence the most comfortable lifestyles that our predecessors could never imagine. Thanks, to the technological revolution and evolution, advanced degrees, deeper understanding of psychology and biotechnology. Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years, from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015. In spite of this, we have a parallel degradation at a new level in our society. Every day brutal rape cases, sophisticated artificial intelligence attacks, ecological disruption (with fires and floods breaking out too often) clearly point in that direction.

To generalize the entire world population as uneducated literates would not be right. But the deluge of disinformation and the growing instability around the world – be it politics, economics, environment, physical and mental health, makes it imperative to address this turbulence by tracing it back to its root cause which is the human education system.  

So, where are we going wrong? How are we a generation of uneducated literates?

Education vs. Literacy

Did you know Osama Bin Laden was a qualified civil engineer? And the famous American murderer Gary Gilmore had an IQ test score of 133? Yes that is true, but the more disturbing truth is that we as a generation fail to distinguish between education and literacy. Literacy is our ability to read and write. On the other hand education encompasses thinking, rationality, wisdom, ethics, sensibility and formation of good character. A degree in any field today is nothing more than the human mental faculties being engineered to read and write in a certain way. However, education is connoted with formal education more often than not. This blurs the line between the two which should have been kept distinct. Therefore, one can graduate as an ‘evil- genius’ but not ‘illiterate-moralist’. It is because the basis for having good grades is literacy and not education in its right sense, or even in accordance with its etymological meaning. And this has precisely become one of the founding reasons for the chaos in the 21st century world, as A.R. Upadhya puts, all literates are not educated and all illiterates are not uneducated.

Educated Literate or Prejudiced Literate

A literate person without a degree today is considered ‘uneducated’ even if the individual is an ethical, cultured, sophisticated, self reliant, well read and dignified being. While, a doctor who creates a ruckus by breaking traffic rules, a public officer who doesn’t mind a little pee on the roadside, or a professor who has no sense of basic etiquettes is considered ‘educated’. Are they educated literates in any way? Majority are not educated literates but prejudiced literates. Our notion of education has reduced its scope to mere literacy and learnedness, completely doing away with the concept of ethics and morality. It is all about flashing your degrees and universities. In fact, it is worth mentioning here that the glory that an educational institute gains because of the learning or brave achievement of some of the individuals (because of their own independent efforts) is trivialized because of the commercial mandates of these institutes that distribute a slice of that glory to all the lesser ones who have enough money to enter these institutes. This prejudiced behavior is highly problematic now than ever before because the 21st century educational institutes have produced too many individuals with shallow character and views that are now equipped with advanced knowledge. This approach becomes cradle to terrorism, red tapism and many other organized crimes. We need to redefine not just the education structure but more importantly our behavior and attitude to curb it.

Disoriented Literates

One out of five sex offenders are university graduates amounting to 34.4%, and there are only 6% of them who have no academic background according to a recent survey. Who is really disoriented then – the uneducated or the educated? Education as we have come to use it now cannot be related to sanity. Never before did any generation so easily believe in conspiracy theories and was disillusioned to this extent (despite the fact that 89% of world population is literate now). Even today, a well educated refined army man or magistrate would have a mindset of having a line of daughters before a son pops out. We say women are at power with men but the number of female infanticide cases still has not reduced. What to do with such refinement and education then?

An alternate prism for why we still prefer to be uneducated literates is that it is easy to sit on a mountain than a needle, and morality is like a needle, it pricks you every time you go wrong. Hence our generation found it easier to ignore it. But where has it led us now. Behold the circus of the world then – where peaceful protests are ended with automatic gun fires in Nigeria, where American president Trump tells its citizens to drink disinfectant, when any political disagreement is considered anti national in India, when the royal house of Thailand thinks it is good time to regain authority by crushing democracy, thousands of Muslims are slaughtered in China, massive protests take over Brazil, a feminist artist is imprisoned for six years on trivial charges in Russia –  highlighting only a few.

We are certainly a generation of uneducated literates who are in a crisis of confidence now. Good luck!