Bakhtwar launches his second poetic compilations

Known as the promoter of Punjabi culture, folk and one of the most-loved poets of the state, Bakhtwar Singh is lovingly called as Bakhtwar Mian by the literary society and the preservers and lovers of culture of Punjab. With a spiritual touch, he has recently launched his second book consisting of a compilation of his poetry. The book is titled as ‘Jogi Raavi Kinare Rehnda’, it was launched at the Punjab Naatshala.

This poet has a huge fan following, not only in Punjab, but all around the world. It is the kind of ease he has in his poetry that people can relate themselves to the same. Also, his efforts in promoting Punjab around the world are in itself commendable. He has even been giving platforms to various young artists and talented enthusiasts. Yakoob and Nooran Sisters are also one of those who have been selected by Bakhtwar Mian to be given a national-level platform.

The evening of the book launch also included the performances of the immensely talented sufi artists, Yakoob and Nooran Sisters. They performed different versions of the poetry of Bakhtwar, which further became a great attraction and the highlight of the evening for the guests. Bakhtwar is a believer of Sufi, so the 70 poetic verses of this book, which have been inspired by his present as well as the past, are very well put together with a theme of Sufism.

He says that his journey of writing and poetry has changed him in and out. His mystic nature and his love for Sufism has come up with time and his inclination has been increasing manifold since then. He has learnt the art of meditation and with the help of the same he gets closer to his thoughts and inner self but in this process he gets away from his family, friends and everyone around him. His first book with compilations of his poetry was titled as, ‘Paar Chenab De UsdaDera’. The names of both the books tell us very firmly that he tries to keep Punjab a part of his compilations and promote his state, his land. He was given the title, ‘Mian’ by the famous singer Barkat Sidhu, who is an inspiration as well for all his poetic compilations.

He says that the poets and writers should understand that they need to connect with the audience, and that too connect strongly. If they start building the connection of their verse with the audience, people will start picking up Punjabi literature and appreciate the same once again.

With admission charges of Drug Rehabilitation centres slashed, Punjab sets an example!

With admission charges of Drug Rehabilitation centres slashed, Punjab sets an example!Cutting down the Drug Rehabilitation centre admission charge to just Rs. 50 per day Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal sets out a message to cross border drug supplying gangs that the government is ready to battle the drugs and protect its subjects.

Punjab is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, with its growing economy the state has been a major contributor to Indian economy. As it is said though, every coin has two sides the wealthy and prosperous side on Punjab is one and the other is fallen Prey to drug abuse side of Punjab. The drug problem in the state is so large that according to BBC reports 70% of Punjabi youth between the ages of 15 to 25 is addicted to some or the other drug.

Taking note of the serious and growing problem of drug abuse the state did set up Drug Rehabilitation centres that are for helping those who have fallen into the pit of drugs but wish to get out clean. Further the great move by the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP led alliance government has come in the recent days, when the prices of admission to drug rehab centres were slashed.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, took this decision while presiding over the third meeting of the state Drug De-Addiction and rehabilitation Board. Earlier the prices used to be at a staggering Rs. 200 per day, these have now been slashed down to just Rs. 50 per day. This is for the state owned drug rehab centres.

The decision as told by the Chief Minister is to maximise the number of beneficiaries from the rehabilitation centres. State owned Drug Rehabilitation centres have been set up by the government to ensure that those who wish to be taken out of the dens of drug abuse be made available an effective treatment and that too at a price easy to pay by any man.

The decision was taken by the Chief Minister on April 13 of this year. He also directed the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), ADGP (jails), and Director State Narcotics Control Bureau to examine the Central jails and look at criminals who have been arrested under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic substances (NDPS) act and submit a report within a month.

There are currently four fully operational Drug de-addiction centres namely in Bathinda, Faridkot, Jalandhar and Amritsar. Another one of these centres is being made functional in Patiala.

A major reason for Punjab falling into the hands of drugs has been its location, close to Pakistan Border. Afghanistan has been established as a great producer of drugs like heroine which are produced there and then through ways transported to Pakistan from where the very efficient and knowledgeable drug suppliers slip these into India.

73% of the rural youth of Punjab is addicted to drugs, as shown by a report in Guru Nanak Dev University. 65% of families in the Majha and Doaba region of Punjab have at least on Drug addict in their families.

In the wake of such events the cutting down of admission costs by the Government sure gives a message out that the state government is ready to fight the Drug problem.

Nodal officers join hands with various NGOs in Punjab

Punjab’s economy is rolling nicely. Fiscal year 2014 – 2015, notched an impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, outstripping the prior forecasts. The social and economic status of the Punjab state appears to be marching towards reaching its peak, of which the concentrated contribution of the Non – Governmental Organizations (NGOs), cannot be ignored.

Punjab has an evident history of social reforms and voluntary associations which can be witnessed from the commendable contribution of the Non – Governmental Organizations, the voluntary bodies which work towards some specific social cause in the state. The chief secretary of the state, Mr. Sarvesh Kaushal directed the planning department of Punjab towards creating a website which would contain the records of all the NGOs in the state. In contrast to their aims, vision, objectives and activities carried out at the grassroots levels.

The visionary far sight of Mr. Kaushal proposed the website to have a separate portal assigned for the grievances of the public, which would help to provide a platform to these organizations for expressing their problems, grievances and other issues which would be constantly monitored, followed by corrective and stringent actions by various departments in the state.

“A separate cells headed by a Nodal Officer would be set up in public dealing departments like Health, Education, Social Security, Welfare, Finance and Planning so that the interests of NGOs are looked after well and their problems are sorted out in a time bound manner. These separate wings would also monitor and evaluate the functioning of the voluntary organizations and ensure that necessary funds and other requisite support be extended to these bodies for facilitating their functioning in a more effective and smooth manner,”, claimed the chief secretary of the state, Mr. Sarvesh Kaushal.

The initiative of creating separate cells headed by a nodal officer, and the computerization of various departments has helped the state in overcoming from the credibility crisis, which have been charged as embezzlements and scandals. The Health, Education, Social Security, Welfare, Finance and Planning department is being monitored by the Non – governmental Organizations in the state thereby ensuring a prompt, smooth, hassle free and effective functioning of the various departments. The secretary of Planning department, Jaspal Singh expressed his regard towards the Punjab government for initiating such radical projects for the Non – Governmental Organizations.

Needless to say, the success of the Non – Governmental Organizations can be seen in the Punjab state for having helped immensely to penetrate ill will from the grass roots. After all, people in Punjab come forward from all walks of life to contribute their effective participation in the Non – Governmental Organizations.  The fathomless contribution of the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government, in providing moral and economic support to such Non – Governmental Organizations is certainly commendable.

The Non – Governmental Organizations have come a long way to this day owing to their sheer determination and grit to serve, thereupon bridging the wide gap between NGOs and the state government.

Labour Act catering to needs of Labourers Effectively

The Labour department of the state Punjab has been initiating efficient steps in order to maintain industrial peace and coordination between the workers and the employers. Enacting the labour laws by the Government of India, the department looks after precisely ensuring safety, health and welfare of the workers so that the growth trajectory of Punjab witnesses only upward movement in the succeeding years.

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The Punjab contract labour act was initiated by the government in the year 1970 with the objective to regulate the employment of contract labour in certain establishments and provide for its abolition in certain circumstances and for matters connected therewith. The act extends to the entire country, with every establishment which includes the employment of twenty or more workmen or labourers on any day of the preceding twelve months as contract labour. However, the Punjab contract labour act does not applies to situations in which work of any casual nature is being performed.

The person who looks after the operating and supervision of the establishments or, the owner or occupier of an office is the principal employer under the act. All the contractors are supposed to obtain a license on an application in Form IV, made to the licensing officer of the area. In contrast to it, the contractor is also supposed to deposit a security amount of Rs. 270 per worker. The license is to be renewed by the contractor by submitting the application in Form VII in triplicate and also deposit fee for the renewal of the license.

With the view to provide comfort to the labourers, the contractor is supposed to provide and maintain canteens, rest rooms, first aid facilities, drinking water, latrines, washing facilities etc when one hundred or more than one hundred contract labour is being employed. The Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government, has set up certain prescribed rates of minimum wages which shall not be abated by the contractor. In addition to that, the contractor in the presence of the authorized representatives of the principal employer is supposed to look after the well – timed payment of wages and ensure the disbursement of wages.

The records and submissions are to be maintained by the principal employer by the registration of the contractors, in terms of every establishment in Form XII and annual return in Form XXV. And by the contractor, in the form of registering the establishment in Form XIII, muster roll and registration of wages in form XVI and Form XVII when combined, register of wage-cum-muster roll in form XVII in which the wage period is fortnightly or less, register of deductions for damages or loss in Form XX, register of fines in Form XXI, register of advances in Form XXII, register of overtime in Form XXIII, wage slip in Form XIX, and half-yearly return in Form XXIV in duplicate within 30 days from the closing of half year.

Needless to say, the Punjab contract labour act has been successfully catering to the needs of the labourers in the state.

Dalits and poor coming to forefront thanks to welfare schemes of Badal govt

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Punjab Government under the leadership of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been leading in providing benefits to poorest of poor in the state by launching several pro-poor and pro-Dalit schemes in the state.  Recent array of schemes which were announced during the budget of state government in March early this year bear testimony to the fact that the SAD-BJP government is committed to the cause of Dalits and other poor sections in the state.

The announcement of allocation of Rs 100 crore corpus as SC scholarship fund to be given to the universities and institutes on behalf of the SC students and doling out of interest-free study loan of upto Rs 5 lakh for the youth from economically weaker section were some of the new initiatives which will go a long way in benefiting the poor sections in all over the state. Akali Chief Parliamentary Secretary and SC leader Pawan Tinu, says this announcement meant that the Punjab government would now be able to disburse funds to the colleges from the corpus till the time centre releases its grants. After the funds reach colleges, this amount would be withdrawn. According to him, till now the state contribution for Centre’s Post Matric Scholarship Scheme stood at Rs 68 crore for six years even as the number of beneficiaries under the scheme had risen from 35,000 to 3.75 lakh. He mentions that the starting of interest-free loan scheme for poor students would also help aspiring students with limited means and resources in a major way to pursue their dreams.

Biggest every employment scheme

In fact it was during the Parkash Singh Badal led government that Punjab witnessed the launch of the biggest ever employment drive in history and more than 1.14 lakh government jobs are being offered to youth in the state. Besides, Punjab has become the  the first state to launch Atta Dal Scheme, making eldest women of the family as head and by far helping 1.42 crore beneficiaries.

Health schemes

A Health Insurance Card has also been issued to every poor, while Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Beema Yojana offering free treatment up to Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakh compensation for accidental death for incapacitation of head of family is also being given. Already more than  28.05 lakh people have benefitted from the initiative.

Apart from this, Rs 50,000 insurance cover for families of construction workers, regular medical examination of construction workers/families on construction sites toilets for labourers at construction sites and their colonies and is being ensured by the government. It has also been provisioned that the teams of medical experts would visit construction sites with Mobile Van fitted with X-ray machine and medical lab to diagnose diseases.

Special focus on girls

Focussing on the welfare of girls from the poor sections, Shagun scheme has been launched for the girls from SC/BC,Christians and economically weaker sections. The government has also introduced Bebe Nanaki Ladli Beti Kalyan Scheme to provide financial assistance to poor families to bring up girl child and to curb the menace of female foeticide. Free Punjabi Stenography training is provided to SC candidates. Punjab provides free power to farmers and spends approximately Rs 6,000 per year for it.

“We believe in ‘Sarbat da Bhala’ and have launched schemes for every section of Punjab. Various pro-poor welfare programmes – insurance cover, free medical treatment to blue card holders, 200 units of free power, Atta-Dal scheme for BPL card holders besides 5 marla plots for free housing are being implemented by Punjab Government, which are going to help Dalits and poor all over the state.

At present total Dalit population in Punjab 32%. Of the total cultivable land of 168910 acres, land reserved for Dalits about 56303 acres which is about 33%  of the total land.

Dalits realising their dreams in education and business ventures in Punjab

Thanks to a slew of measures by the Punjab government for the welfare of SC and Dalits the number of such students in schools pursuing various courses in colleges and higher studies has witnessed a significant rise in last few years. Backed by their entrepreneurial skills many have uplifted their social, political and economic status by becoming successful businessmen.

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While in 1980, no SC student was enrolled in the universities of Punjab for PhD and only six boys were enrolled in MPhil courses, the trend has changed in higher education over the years.

In the year 2009, as many as 49 students, including 23 girls, had enrolled for PhD courses, while in 2012 the strength rose to 120 of whom 53 were girls. Similarly, for MPhil courses, there were 40 students in 2009 and this figure increased to 56 in 2012. While only 491 Dalit students enrolled in state universities in 1980 for MA, the number rose to 1,658 in 2012. Similar has been the trend in the subsequent years. Apart from this in professional courses, in 2009 there were 583 MBBS students and in 2012 the number rose to 751.

In a positive development towards gender equality, it was seen that the number of Dalit girls surpassed boys in MBBS course and by the year 2012, as many as 447 girls got admission against 304 boys in these courses.In other courses too the number of Dalits increased significantly. The number of enrollment for Dalits in BEd courses increased from 1,618 in 2010 to 3,195 in 2012. In BA, their enrollment increased from 5,823 students in 1980 to 22,908 in 2012. In BSc, as many as 444 got admissions in 1980, which increased to 2,521 in 2012.

Figures for the subsequent years ie in 2013, 2014 and 2015 show a similar trend, indicating the education and professional qualification amongst Dalits has been increasing.

Dalits taking strides in business ventures

In fact not only in education but even on the entreprenueral front the Dalits have taken strides in Punjab and made their presence felt, which could not have been possible without the welfare schemes and encouraging initiatives by the Parkash Singh Badal government. A case study by Gurpreet Bal, from the department of Sociology Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar, “Dalit Empowerment through Entrepreneurship: A Case of Punjab, which is based on an empirical research conducted in the Jalandhar city of Punjab has found that 23.75 % of respondents from amongst those who were spoken to had become entrepreneurs. Yet their process of modernization has not broken the bond of caste–occupation, Significantly, Punjab has the highest proportion of the scheduled castes amongst all the states in country. As per 2001 census they constitute 28.85% with Jalandhar having the second highest concentration of 37.69% in the state.

Though the modernization of their traditional hereditary occupations is taking place.

The study found that the scheduled caste groups have found opportunities of mobility not only in their age old occupations but have also taken up other ventures which earlier were only taken up by the higher castes. A study of their background revealed that they were young, educated and through entrepreneurship have empowered themselves in the political and social spheres.

The Jalandhar city under study had a Dalit Mayor and has been the epicentre for the activities of Bahujan Samaj Party. And the city is aptly called North India’s capital of scheduled castes. The study found that through their entrepreneurial skills, they have empowered themselves socially, politically and economically.

Punjab sees improvement in sex ratio, credit goes to govt

Punjab, for long criticized for its gender inequality has shown market improvement in sex ratio in last few years thanks to a number of steps by the Punjab government and rising awareness amongst people in the state due to several programmes.

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Between the census figures of 2001 and 2011, the sex ratio of Punjab has improved from 876 to 895 and child sex ratio from 798 to 846. The figures are far better than several states in the country including neighbouring state of Haryana. According to Director Census Punjab, Seema Jain, the state has witnessed an increase of 48 points in the 0 to 6 age group.

Officials concede that Punjab has been able to improve its sex ratio ahead of neighbouring Haryana and many other states primarily because of a series of gender sensitive policies and initiaitives by the SAD-BJP government during its almost two decade long tenure. This is noteworthy as Haryana, the neighbouring state of Punjab has witnessed only a marginal increase of 16 points and several other states have witnessed a steep decline in the sex ratio during this period.

What led to positive change

The rise is mainly because of initiatives of the Punjab government and consistent awareness campaigns like Nanhi Chhaan Programme launched by the NGOs that inspired people and made them change their orthodox mindset.

Also strict implementation of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and a mass movement against female foeticide gave a much needed fillip to the “Save girl child       programme” particularly  in the remote rural areas of Punjab.

Experts believe that the improvement in child sex ratio (0-6 years) from 786 girls per 1,000 boys in the 2001 Census to 828 per 1,000 in 2011, is the result of multiple factors. A cross-section of scholars and demography experts observe that till 2001, sex determining tests in foetus were easily available and this could have considerably affected that ratio badly. However in the later years the government became too strict and action was taken against the violators, which curbed the menace to a great extent.

Professor Paramjeet Singh Judge, Dean of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, feels that the improvement in economic conditions has led to rise in literacy and thus helped creating awareness amongst people. “Effect was seen on sex ratio figures, which showed a balancing trend. Social-awareness campaigns and publicity by the government also played a positive role,” he mentions.

According to Professor Harvinder Singh Bhatti, director for Census Studies and Research (CSR) of Punjabi University, Patiala, urban middle class in Punjab had availed new techniques to disturb the process of nature, which had earlier led to an adverse sex ratio. Poor people do not have finances to get the sex-determination tests done, thus sex ratio amongst the below poverty line families (BPL) remained normal, he added. The stringent measures and strict action however has helped improving the gender ratio.

Besides various schemes giving benefits to single girl child and families too helped a great deal in improving the conditions.