The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Monday requested Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to call an all-party meeting with the objective of unitedly approaching the Centre to stop its efforts to make Chandigarh a permanent union territory in violation of the Punjab Reorganization Act.
Reacting strongly to the announcement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to bring Chandigarh union territory employees under Central civil services rules, the SAD said, “It is incumbent on the AAP government to make the Centre understand that Chandigarh is a union territory as per an ad-hoc arrangement only.
“We have nothing against the employees of Chandigarh whose interests can be protected by the Punjab government also. But we strongly protest against this latest move to pitch the employees against civil society and use them to snatch Punjab’s rights over Chandigarh.”
SAD senior leaders, including Prem Singh Chandumajra, Charanjit Singh Atwal, Maheshinder Singh Grewal, Gulzar Singh Ranike, Daljit Singh Cheema and Hira Singh Gabria, called upon the Chief Minister to fulfill his responsibility towards the state.
They noted that the Chief Minister did not take up the issue of dilution of Punjab’s stakes in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) during his recent meeting with the Prime Minister.
They said, had the Chief Minister registered a strong protest on this issue, the Centre would have desisted from going ahead with the move to extend Central rules on Chandigarh employees. The leaders said it was even more galling that even as Mann did not take up this issue with the Prime Minister fearing a reprimand from AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, the Haryana Chief Minister had already demanded release of Punjab river waters to Haryana.
“The Chief Minister has even chosen to remain silent on Manohar Lal Khattar’s statement,” he said, adding all these issues should be taken up at an all-party meeting.
SAD leader Cheema highlighted how extending Central rules over Chandigarh employees would marginalize Punjabi language even further. He said the issue was one of sentiment also, with Punjab having an inextricable bond with Chandigarh which should not be severed.
In reply to a query, the SAD leaders also demanded that the Punjab government should lower VAT on petroleum products immediately to give much needed relief to the common man.