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11 months and no full time governor for Punjab

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Chandigarh: It’s been nearly 11 months, but the Narendra Modi government has not been able to find a regular governor for Punjab.

Punjab’s last full-time governor, Shivraj Patil, had relinquished charge on January 21 and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki assumed additional charge the next day. Solanki, a hardcore RSS man, was appointed the Haryana governor in July 2014 after the Modi government took over. His appointment came just over two months before the crucial assembly polls in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) triumphed in the October 2014 polls and formed its first government in the state. The Modi government, which had appointed several new governors after coming to power, has not been able to find a suitable person for Punjab governor. The post is important not only because Punjab is a frontier state but also because the governor is also the administrator of the union territory (UT) of Chandigarh, a post in which the incumbent enjoys vast powers. Chandigarh enjoys the unique status of being a UT and also the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

“It is strange that the Modi government has not been able to find a regular governor for the state. Punjab and Haryana have several disputes over river waters, territory and other issues. Both states also have issues regarding Chandigarh. Having the same man as constitutional head of both states for a longer time can lead to odd situations in governance,” a senior Punjab bureaucrat, who once served with a Punjab governor, told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.

After Patil’s tenure ended, names of senior BJP leaders like Vijay Kumar Malhotra, union minister Najma Heptulla and others were doing rounds for the post.

Punjab has a Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance government since 2007. The alliance is in its second term (2012 onwards) in the state.

Assembly elections in Punjab are likely in February-March 2017 and political activity has already picked up in the run-up to that. The two major political forces, the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress, are getting a tough challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab in the April-May 2014 general elections.

Patil, a former union home minister, was not asked to resign nor was he sacked by the Modi government after it came to power. Several other governors, who had been appointed by the previous Congress-led UPA government at the centre, were either asked to quit or were dismissed.

Patil, whose tenure remained largely non-controversial but lacklustre, especially in the context of Chandigarh, was allowed to complete his five-year tenure. He had assumed office on January 22, 2010.(Jaideep Sarin, IANS)

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‘Concept of equality’ pervades world’s biggest community kitchen

The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually

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Bangla Sahib is one of the most famous place of worship of Sikhs in Delhi. Wikimedia Commons
Equality is important for the biggest community. Wikimedia Commons

If there is one big leveller for people, irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, social status or riches, it is the “langar”, or community kitchen, at the Golden Temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Harmandir Sahib, is located, in this city considered holy by Sikhs.

Referred to as the world’s largest community kitchen, the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee Langar Hall of the Golden Temple complex is unique in several aspects. On an average, it feeds over 100,000 people daily — from children to old people — from all religions, castes, regions, countries; and people from varied social, economic and political backgrounds.

“It is a 24×7 operation that carries on day and night all 365 days of the year. This has been going on for centuries, since the concept of langar was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev (the first Guru of the Sikh religion and its founder; born 1469) and propagated by other Gurus,” Wazir Singh, senior in-charge of the langar preparation, told IANS here.

Unlike other government organisations and institutions in India, there are no provisions for reservations based on caste or religion. Wikimedia commons
The Golden Temple complex provides food for many. Wikimedia Commons

At any given point of the day or night, the place is not only swarmed by devotees wanting to partake what is considered as blessed by service but by hundreds of volunteers who are ever-so-ready to be part of the voluntary cooking and serving process. The langar food is even sent thrice daily to the two Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run hospitals in Amritsar, especially to a ward where treatment of mentally-ill patients and drug-addicts is being carried out. The SGPC is tasked with the management all Sikh shrines.

“We have over 500 volunteer employees. The sangat (community) also pitches in with great enthusiasm daily. People come from across Punjab on trucks and tractor-trolleys — even other states, different countries — to help in this massive exercise of making and serving food. Several local residents, including women, have been coming here for years. People take time out of their government and private jobs to serve here, irrespective of their religion or caste. We welcome everyone with love,” Wazir Singh, speaking in Punjabi, pointed out, even as he continued to issue instructions to staffers involved in cooking the langar.

The langar is all vegetarian — comprising mainly of dal (maa-chole ki dal), rice (slightly salted for taste), chapattis, achar (pickle) and a vegetable, along with something sweet (kheer or prasad). In the morning, the “chai langar” comprises of tea and rusk.

The devotees sit down on the matted floor inside the langar hall in rows. To manage the huge rush, the SGPC volunteers allow only a few hundred to enter the hall at one time. The whole operation is carried out in a meticulous manner as a daily routine.

Also Read: ‘Government chalked out 1984 anti-Sikh genocide’

“The whole exercise is quite enormous but it goes on, with the blessings of the almighty, seamlessly. The daily expense is around Rs 15 lakh. We use 100 quintals (100 kg) rice and up to 30 kg (each) of dal and vegetables daily. Over 100 LPG cylinders (domestic size) are used daily for the cooking along with hundreds of kilograms of firewood for the traditional cooking. Nearly 250 kg of ‘desi ghee’ (clarified butter) is used in the cooking. We have over three lakh steel plates. We can serve 10 lakh (one million) people in a day,” Gurpreet Singh, in-charge of the kitchen, told IANS. SGPC functionaries pointed out that 30,000-35,000 people from Amritsar and nearby areas are daily visitors to the shrine and partake langar thrice. Many of these are migrants from other states and poor people who cannot afford meals.

“Our doors are open for everyone without discrimination. We follow the concept of equality here,” said Amrit Pal Singh, a SGPC official at the Information Office. The chapattis, in the thousands, are made on eight chapatti-making machines and even by hand by women and men volunteers. The steel utensils (plates, glasses and spoons), used by devotees, also numbering in lakhs, are washed voluntarily by the devotees themselves or by volunteers.

“The shrine complex has such a spiritual attraction about it. The langar served here leaves you satisfied in many aspects. The whole experience touches your soul,” Ramesh Goyal, a devotee from Bathinda, said.

“I had always heard about this shrine. Today, what I experienced was heavenly. The langar service is unparalleled in any religion. They do it with so much devotion and humility despite such huge crowds. It is unimaginable,” Tariq Ahmed, who had come here with his family from Patna in Bihar, told IANS. Anup Singh, a young Sikh devotee from Amritsar, often accompanies his grandparents and parents to the shrine.

Sikh Community, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh
Children belonging to Sikh Community, Wikimedia Commons 

“I love to serve chapattis to the people having langar. It is a very satisfying and fulfilling experience,” he said. “The whole exercise is carried out selflessly. It is a big task but everything is carried out smoothly. We keep introducing changes depending on the needs of the devotees,” Roop Singh, Chief Secretary of the SGPC, told IANS.

The SGPC, known as the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, manages the Golden Temple complex and gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It has an annual budget of over Rs 1,100 crore, mostly from donations at the gurdwaras.

The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually. The strong Sikh diaspora in other countries like United States, Britain and Canada actively contributes to the shrine and visits it whenever they can. IANS