When it comes to Chandigarh, Punjab won’t give an inchDecember 1st, 2009 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Dec 1 (IANS) Having been promised nearly five decades ago that the union territory (UT) of Chandigarh would ultimately be its state capital, Punjab is now refusing any move that could dilute its claim to the city.
Top Punjab leaders, including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, have opposed a move by the central government to take back the charge of Chandigarh administrator from the Punjab governor and revert to the earlier system of letting a chief commissioner head the city administration.
“We will not allow the central government to take back the charge of UT administrator from the Punjab governor. The centre should not even think of doing so,” Badal said.
The charge of Chandigarh was given to the Punjab governor for the first time in 1988 to enable proper control over the city administration after president’s rule was imposed in the state during the heyday of Sikh terrorism. The 114-sq km city, designed and founded by French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s, is administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) even though it is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.
The move to take back the charge from the Punjab governor started earlier this year after the office of the present incumbent, S.F. Rodrigues, got embroiled in several controversies, including questionable land deals and infighting at the top level of the administration.
Rodrigues, a former Indian Army chief, has been at the centre of these controversies, including his open fight with the city’s topmost bureaucrat, Pradip Mehra, as well as his serious differences with union Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who is also the city’s Lok Sabha MP.
“The charge of UT administrator was given for a particular administrative reason (terrorism in Punjab). This is being reviewed by the union government now,” Bansal said.
As the row over control of Chandigarh’s administrative control continues, leaders from neighbouring Haryana have also jumped in, demanding that the post of UT administrator be rotated between the governors of the two states for a fixed tenure.
“The post of UT administrator should be held rotationally by the governors of the two states,” Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said.
During Punjab’s reorganisation in 1966, when Haryana was created and the hill areas of Himachal Pradesh were also taken out of the state, it was agreed upon by law that Chandigarh would eventually become the capital of Punjab.
The city came close to be handed over to Punjab in January 1986 as part of the Rajiv-Longowal accord but the then central government withdrew from the decision at the last moment. The city administration is now run by bureaucrats, headed by a UT cadre IAS officer as adviser to the Chandigarh administrator. Other officers are taken on deputation from Punjab, Haryana and the centre’s UT cadre.
Punjab had last year also opposed a move by the central government to accord central university status to Panjab University located here. The university is the alma mater of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Punjab government, led by Badal, did a flip-flop on the issue of PU getting central university status. First it agreed with the move but backed out at the last moment saying if that happened, it would dilute Punjab’s claim over Chandigarh.
Currently PU has a unique status of neither being a central nor a state university. It gets funding in the 60:40 ratio from the central and Punjab governments. But in recent years, a debt-ridden Punjab government has stopped annual grants to the university running into millions of rupees, putting it in a financial spot.
PU is seeking central university status to tide over its financial worries since the central government will then fully fund the university.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: administrative control, army chief, badal, bansal, bureaucrat, capital of punjab, chief commissioner, city administration, french architect, indian army, infighting, land deals, le corbusier, Lok Sabha, ministry of home affairs, parliamentary affairs, pawan kumar, sarin, union government, union territory