Tuesday March 31, 2020
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11 months and no full time governor for Punjab

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Photo: Wikipedia

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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PM Narendra Modi Launches Plan to Tackle Water Shortage in India

Modi Unveils Plan to Tackle Water Shortages in India's Heartland States

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PM Modi
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the winter session in New Delhi, India. VOA

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched a 60-billion-rupee ($842 million) plan to tackle water shortages in the country’s seven heartland states where agriculture is a mainstay.

India, the world’s second-most populous country, faces the worst long-term water crisis in its history as demand outstrips supply, threatening farm output and overall economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Almost every sector of the $2.6 trillion economy is dependent on water, especially agriculture, which sustains two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people.

“Water shortages in the country not only affect individuals and families; the crisis also has an effect on India’s development,” Modi said. “We need to prepare the new India to deal with every single aspect of the crisis.”

The plan launched by Modi would help replenish ground water and boost overall availability in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat states, which produce staples such as rice, wheat, sugar and oilseeds.

PM Narendra Modi
The plan launched by Modi would help replenish ground water. Wikimedia Commons

India is the world’s leading producer of an array of farm goods, and nearly 60% of the irrigation for agriculture comes from ground water, mainly through electric water pumps. Subsidised electricity gives farmers an incentive to pump out more water, a key reason behind fast-depleting water tables in the vast country.

Supplying clean drinking water to millions of poor people and reviving moribund irrigation projects were a key part of Modi’s policies for India, where the monsoon accounts for nearly 70% of the annual rains needed to water farms and recharge aquifers and reservoirs.

Nearly half of India’s farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow a number of crops.

Drinking water is also an issue, as about 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water and 600 million face high to extreme water stress, according to the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, a think tank chaired by Modi.

According to UK-based charity WaterAid, about 163 million people in India — roughly 12% of the population — do not have access to clean water close to home.

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Every summer water shortages tend to be more acute in large cities such as the capital New Delhi, Chennai — a car-making center dubbed “India’s Detroit”, and Bengaluru, the country’s software capital.

Modi also exhorted farmers to increasingly adopt drip and sprinkler irrigation and use water-management techniques as well as eschewing water-guzzling crops such as rice and sugar cane. (VOA)