Opinion

In Punjab, its newly elected government is battling security spectres and an agrarian crisis. It must not let its focus waver

Punjab has been in the eye of a storm since the killing of popular singer Sidhu Moosewala last Sunday. Coming as it did days after the withdrawal of his security along with that of 423 others in the run-up to the Operation Bluestar anniversary on June 6, it spotlighted one of the two monumental challenges facing the Aam Aadmi Party government in the state. The newly-elected Bhagwant Singh Mann government has inherited spectres and problems in the security and agricultural sectors. They can’t be wished away or resolved with a magic bullet, for they have been building up for years — one that is in large part due to the geography of the state that makes it vulnerable to the machinations of an inimical neighbour, and the other due to the criminal lack of foresight by successive governments that let the gains of the Green Revolution plateau and peter out. So deep is the agrarian crisis that farmers and farm workers continue to take their own lives even as CM Bhagwant Mann has made a commendable start with steps such as monetary incentives for promoting direct seeding of rice to save water, and announcement of a minimum support price for moong (green gram).

The new government has been hamstrung by in deteriorating law and order. The Patiala violence between a rogue fact of the Shiv Sena and some outfits partial to a separatist agenda was the first big test for the Mann government. That it acted swiftly and did not let it spill over goes to its credit. Then came the rocket attack on the intelligence headquarters in Mohali, which gave more heft to the Opposition charge that the state was back on the precipice. The daylight killing of Moosewala and the tsunami of anger that followed has been unprecedented.

The Union home ministry has now decided to give Z plus security to Akal Takht head priest Harpreet Singh who had rebuffed Punjab police security after it withdrew and restored it in a day. The state government should draw a lesson from this incident and dedicate its energies to governing the state, instead of playing to the gallery. The state which gave the AAP a sweeping mandate has had its share of gimmicks and rhetoric. What it needs is sustained sober and serious governance.

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