Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh today came down heavily on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, alleging that they were treating the state’s ex-servicemen “as pawns on their political chessboard”.
“The Badals have a history of ill-treating ex-servicemen and the families of martyrs… They treat them as pawns on their political chessboard,” he said.
He said the inauguration of a war memorial in Amritsar by the chief minister yesterday was a “political gimmickry” ahead of the Assembly polls.
“The ex-servicemen (who attended the function) had been told that they would be escorted to the inauguration venue but they later discovered to their shock and distress that they had been actually taken to the venue of a Badal rally,” he claimed.
“With more than 50 per cent of the ex-servicemen choosing to leave the rally ground by the time the chief minister started speaking, it was clear that these loyal ex-soldiers had no faith in the Akali government, which had completely ignored their interests all these years,” the former chief minister said in a statement here.
Terming the war memorial, inaugurated with much hype, as a “useless waste of public money”, Amarinder said Punjab did not need more memorials.
“Rather, it needed upkeep and maintenance of the existing memorials as well as urgent measures to address long-pending woes of the ex-servicemen and war widows,” he said.
Amarinder, who represents Amritsar in the Lok Sabha, took a jibe at the chief minister over his “directions” to the DCs and SSPs to “stand up from their chair whenever an ex-service personnel enters their office”.
“Considering the step-motherly treatment meted out to these personnel by the Akali government, such a move is clearly nothing more than a publicity stunt with an eye on the forthcoming election,” he said.
Ex-servicemen, along with war widows, constitute a substantial vote bank in Punjab, which explains the Badals’ sudden interest in appeasing them, he claimed.
“However, despite their importance in the Punjab pollscape, they continue to be sidelined by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government,” he alleged.
“War widows and family members of the 1962, 1965 and 1971 war martyrs have been up in arms against the Badal government over the delay in providing them financial compensation. They have already rejected the Rs 50 lakh special grant-in-aid announced by the state government, which (CM) Badal had on Sunday listed out as part of his government’s role in the welfare of former service personnel,” he said.
Amarinder said “former army chief General (retd.) J J Singh had, while speaking at the war memorial inaugural function yesterday, minced no words in stating that Punjab’s place in the country was on a decline”.
“The fact that General J J Singh used the platform to convey his anguish at this state of affairs, the falling standards with consequent poor recruitment, was a major embarrassment for the Akalis,” he said.
Badal had yesterday inaugurated the Rs 130 crore Punjab State War Heroes Memorial and Museum in Amritsar and said “it was our onerous duty to mitigate the hardships faced by the ex-servicemen and defence personnel forthwith as gratitude towards their outstanding services to defend the security and sovereignty of the country.”