Punjab cabinet reveals ambitious roadmap in its first sitting
The first cabinet meeting of the newly formed Punjab government declared Congress' election manifesto as its work programme for the next 5 years. Reiterating its manifesto promises, including curbing the drug menace and waiver of farmers' debt, it also directed concerned departments to take fast steps for implementation through enactment of ordinance. Capt. Singh promised immediate steps in eliminating the state's "VIP culture."
Punjab's drug problem
Punjab consistently appears at the top within many parameters measuring drug abuse. As revealed by the Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey (2015), 2,30,000 people in the state used drugs. This means that 836/100,000 people in Punjab are drug users, compared to the all India figure, 250/100,000.
Congress makes big promises in Punjab
The Congress Party unveiled its highly ambitious manifesto targeting various sections of population including women, dalits and the youth. The manifesto was released by Dr. Manmohan Singh, along with Capt. Amarinder Singh in Chandigarh. With a strong theme of reclaiming Punjab's lost honour, Manmohan Singh called the Manifesto, "a forward-looking visionary document".
Back with a bang!
The Congress Party emerged victorious after a decade in Punjab state polls winning 77 out of 117 seats in the assembly. The Aam Aadmi Party secured 20 seats. The SAD and BJP secured 15 and 3 seats respectively. Capt. Amarinder Singh, contesting from Patiala, secured the highest margin of 52,407 votes. Capt. Singh noted that the people of Punjab have voted for development.
Captain officially back!
Amarinder Singh was sworn in as CM as the 26th CM of Punjab at the ceremony held at Raj Bhavan, Chandigarh. The oath of office was administered by the governor, V. P. Singh Badnore. Among those who attended the ceremony were Dr. Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi. Seven Cabinet ministers including Navjot Singh Sidhu and two ministers of state were also sworn in.
15 years since last taking oath
Captain Singh became CM of Punjab in 2002 and completed a five year term. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he defeated BJP's Arun Jaitley in Amritsar. He resigned from that seat in 2016 protesting against the Supreme Court judgement on Sutlej Yamuna Link canal.
Getting priorities right
The government has earmarked cracking down on the drug issue as top priority. Among the steps that could be taken, priority would be given to setting up a Special Task Force (STF) under the CM's office and enactment of the Drug Dealers' Confiscation of Property Act. Striving to end the "VIP Culture", the government has proposed steps such as declaration of assets by MLAs.
Miles to go before the Captain sleeps
The Punjab government faces formidable challenges going ahead with its ambitious roadmap. Strong measures against the drug issue can be seen as a positive move. However, the resolve and capability to tackle the same needs to be seen. Action taken on time bound delivery of promises is likely to stay stagnant, until review and rectification of legal and administrative stipulations of the previous government.