Jalandhar: Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday told Congress MPs from the state to fight in Parliament to ensure that the SC/ST Act is not diluted, while asserting his government’s commitment to implementing the 85th amendment to the Constitution for the benefit of the Dalit community.
Expressing concern about the dilution of the SC/ST Act, the chief minister said the Congress would strive to restore powers given to the Dalits under it. Recalling that he had implemented the 85th amendment during his previous term in office, he pointed out that his government had enacted the Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006, providing for reservation in promotions in government jobs.
Amarinder Singh announced a grant of Rs20 crore for establishing Sri Guru Ravidass Memorial at Khuralgarh Sahib in Hoshiarpur, besides Rs6 crore for completion of Ambedkar Bhawan in Ludhiana. He lashed out at the Akalis for putting the legislation in cold storage during their regime, and asserted that he would ensure its implementation while fulfilling the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which had struck down the provisions providing for accelerated reservations in promotions due to certain administrative shortcomings.
Asserting his government’s commitment to safeguarding the interests of the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, Singh assured that his government would take all necessary steps to restore the legal position in the matter. Addressing a state-level function here to mark B.R. Ambedkar’s 127th birth anniversary, the chief minister paid glowing tributes to the social reformer, describing him as a far-sighted man who could visualise the future and who drafted the Constitution accordingly.
Lauding Ambedkar’s role in promoting the welfare of Dalits, Singh said he was hand-picked by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for his extensive knowledge. The chief minister also announced a new degree college in Buta Mandi, Jalandhar and establishment of B.R. Ambedkar Chair in Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
In his address, technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi said that had the Akalis accepted the request of Ambedkar back in 1936 to allow the conversion of Dalits into Sikhs, the entire community would have been holding the reins of powers today in the country. Lambasting the Akalis for their “anti-Dalit" policies, he claimed the Congress and Singh were the only hope to rescue the Dalit samaj from their miseries.
Social welfare minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot also blasted the Akalis over their “failure" to do anything for the welfare of the community. Punjab Congress president and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar appreciated Singh’s efforts to uplift the Dalit community, saying the chief minister had announced the waiver of their loans up to Rs50,000 for this reason. He lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre for allegedly dividing the country on communal and caste lines, pointing out that under their rule, Ambedkar’s statues were being desecrated and defiled around the country.
The BJP was “destroying" India’s social fabric, alleged. He also flayed what the Centre had done to undermine the Dalits by diluting the SC/ST Act. “What was more, the Centre owed ₹ 1,100 crore to Punjab in connection with the post-matric scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students," he claimed.