Punjab scraps free pilgrimage scheme, announces free education for women

 

Doles, subsidies are a politician’s favourites; however, the way they are offered makes the difference. At least this is what the Punjab CM Amarinder Singh intended to convey through steps taken in this week.

Manprit Singh Badal, the Punjab finance minister, informed the Assembly that the government has scrapped Rs 187-crore “Mukhyamantri Tirath Darshan Yojana”, which was launched by the former Akali Dal government to appease Sikh voters in the run-up to state elections.

Revealing the breakup, the Minister informed that the Badal government spent Rs 139.38 crores on arranging free pilgrimage, while reputed educational institutes of Punjab suffered owing to funds scarcity.

A major clash had taken place between students and the police in April after the Punjab University decided to increase its fees. Responding to the Punjab Assembly, the finance minister informed that the university officials had to increase the fees since they need more funds to operate.

“Sainik School, such a great institute with so much repute, has not received grants since past 10 years…They sought Rs 10 crore. Baba Farid University, they come to me saying that they are really short of funds and demanded Rs 40 crore,” Manprit said.

“Just for Rs 50-60 crore, these educational institutions are suffering…Had the previous government used Rs 139 crore for these institutes, they would not have suffered,” Minister said, as per the Daily Pioneer.

As many as 13 religious places were covered under the pet project of the former CM Prakash Singh Badal. Special efforts were taken to arrange 8000 bus trips and more than 100 train trips for the pilgrimage. Punjab road agencies are still to be paid more than Rs 13 crores for these tours.

Besides scrapping the free-pilgrimage programme, the government also declared to provide free education to girls from nursery to PhD in the government institutions, starting from the next academic session. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh assured to give “highest priority” to education despite the limited resources at his disposal.

Given how quality governance has remained secondary to populist measures, this particular step taken by the Punjab government is commendable.