The AAP government in Punjab has created a furore by demanding transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab. While Chandigarh has been the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana since Punjab’s Re-organisation in 1966, Himachal Pradesh has also flagged its share, writes Rajesh Moudgil
While Punjab and Haryana’s differences over their respective rights and territories since Punjab’s Re-organisation in 1966 are oft-reported, the recent move of the newest Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab to demand Chandigarh’s immediate transfer to it has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
The Punjab assembly had on April 1, 2022 unanimously passed a resolution at a specially called assembly session, seeking immediate transfer of Chandigarh to the state subsequent to which all the political parties of the neighbouring state Haryana have torn into Punjab’s stance and highlighted various issues associated with the subject since the Re-organisation of Punjab in 1966.
The said resolution was moved by Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann in the one-day assembly session which saw a walkout by both the BJP legislators from the House. However, members of all the other political parties, namely the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which has a whopping majority of 92-members in the House of 117, Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) members and others supported the resolution.
The special session was hurriedly convened on April 1 subsequent to a political row whipped up by Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement made on March 27 that Central service rules would apply to the employees of Chandigarh.
Under the rules, the retirement age of the Chandigarh employees increases from 58 to 60 and the women employees would get child care leave of two years instead of the current one year. The Centre has notified the rules. Under the Central Civil Service Rules, all employees would not only get the Central pay-scale but also an enhanced retirement age from 58 to 60 and the maternity leave for women employees for two years from the existing one.
Speaking on the resolution, the Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann accused the Centre of trying to upset the balance in the administration of the UT and other common assets. Later while interacting with the media, Mann said that in the coming days, the Punjab MLAs would seek time from the President, the prime minister and the Union home minister over this issue and put up the Punjab’s stance on the same before them.
Mann took to Twitter to say that the Central government had been step-wise imposing officers and personnel from other states and services in the Chandigarh administration. This goes against the letter and spirit of the Punjab Reorganisation Act 1966. Punjab will fight strongly for its rightful claim over Chandigarh, he said.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supremo and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said that when the states were re-organised on the basis of language, the parent states were given the existing capitals. While several of the Congress MLAs including Partap Singh Bajwa and Sukhpal Singh Khaira flayed the Shah’s decision, the AAP MP Sanjay Singh raised the issue in Rajya Sabha urging the Union government not to override the rights of the elected government of Punjab.
HARYANA FLAYS PUNJAB MOVE
Countering Punjab’s move, the Haryana assembly also hurriedly convened a special session on April 5 and passed a resolution flagging its stakes over Chandigarh.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar who moved the resolution in the specially called one-day session said Haryana came into existence as per the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 which also provided for several measures to give effect to the Reorganisation of Punjab into Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and union territory Chandigarh.
Highlighting Haryana’s right to share waters of the Ravi and Beas rivers by the construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, Khattar said while the House had unanimously passed resolutions on at least seven occasions urging the early completion of the SYL canal, Punjab, contrary to several agreements, accords, Tribunal’s findings and judgments of the highest judiciary had enacted legislation to deny the claims of Haryana in the past.
Khattar said that the transfer of Hindi speaking villages from Punjab to Haryana had also not been completed either, and added that the state also noted that the recent amendment in the rules of the Bhakra Beas Management Board by the Central government for the appointment of whole-time members were against the spirit of the Act, which treats the river projects as common assets of Punjab and Haryana.
The House resolved to urge the Central government not to take any steps that would disturb the existing balance and maintain harmony till all the issues emanating from the reorganisation of Punjab were settled.
Meanwhile, the former two-time Chandigarh MP Satya Pal Jain, who is also currently additional solicitor general of India, said the charges of infringement of the rights of Punjab over Chandigarh were baseless.
He held that while the Punjab government was not able to accept the recommendations of various pay commissions for its employees, the Centre had in one go accepted a long-pending demand of UT employees. Earlier the UT employees got salary and allowances etc on the Punjab pattern, they would now get the same on the pattern of the Central government, which were more beneficial to them, he said clarifying that the same was applicable to UT employees only and not on the ones coming on deputation from Punjab (60%) and Haryana (40%). About 24,000 employees of all the departments under the Chandigarh administration are set to benefit from the decision.
POLITICAL JUMLA OF AAP GOVT: HOODA
The Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is also the Leader of the Opposition also questioned the AAP’s intention to pass such a resolution and termed it as a “political Jumla” as it held no meaning. He said that Punjab should not disrupt communal harmony between the two states by taking such undemocratic steps and added that all political parties in Haryana would unitedly fight the neighbouring state in this matter. Punjab is Haryana’s elder brother but the former should not try to act like a “big brother’’, he said.
CHANDIGARH MC FOR UT STATUS
Meanwhile, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation too passed a resolution on April 7, 2022, demanding that the city should remain a union territory and that it should also have its own legislative assembly.
However, while only the BJP councillors were present when the resolution was passed, the Congress, AAP and the SAD councillors staged a walkout. The House also passed a resolution that the Centre ask Punjab and Haryana to have their own capital cities.
The Chandigarh Mayor Sarabjit Kaur Dhillon, a BJP councillor said that the two states had called their respective special sessions to stake their claims over Chandigarh while the city residents were not heard on what they wanted.
The House also thanked Union Home minister Amit Shah for allotting projects worth around Rs 600 crore to the UT and for announcing Central service rules for the UT employees.
Prof Ronki Ram, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chair Professor of political science, Panjab University, Chandigarh, however, held that the political reaction of the Punjab government was in the wake of fear that the Centre is trying to directly control Chandigarh. Stating that the fear among the two states of losing their respective stakes in the UT triggered the discussions and reactions. He nonetheless welcomed the Centre’s decision to introduce the Central Civil service rules for Chandigarh employees which he held was long due.