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Thursday, 31 December 2020

Tumultuous year

Sushil Manav

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 30

In the backdrop of the pandemic that has impacted countries all over the world, 2020 proved to be a tumultuous year for the state.

The year saw farmers from neighbouring Punjab marching on its roads, clashing with the police on the way and finally camping at Delhi borders from Sonepat, Bahadurgarh and Palwal sides.

Though farmers in Haryana didn't show as much interest in the agitation initially, protests over the three farm laws kept politics on the boil in the state. Eventually, farmers from Haryana, too, are seen camping at the borders, forcing toll plazas to allow free passage to vehicles, boycotting ruling party leaders and arranging milk, vegetables, food items and other wherewithal for the protesters.

The year also saw the ruling BJP — which made a clean sweep in the 2019 LS poll, managed to retain power in the Assembly elections albeit in alliance with the JJP, and won the lone Assembly bypoll in Jind close on the heels of the victory on five mayoral seats — lost the Baroda bypoll necessitated by the death of a Congress legislator. It also lost two of the three mayoral seats in December. The year also saw the state Assembly passing a Bill ensuring 75 per cent jobs in the private sector to Haryanavis and talks of legislation on "love jihad."

A Bill passed by the state Assembly proposed to empower rural voters the right to recall sarpanchs and other panchayat members if they don't perform as per their aspirations. The new law would fix a 50 per cent quota for women in the panchayat bodies.

Ironically, Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala — the man behind the law for 75 per cent jobs in the private sector to Haryana youths — had to face the heat of protests against the farm laws.

Not only that about half of his 10 JJP MLAs have been openly flouting coalition discipline and supporting the farmers' protests against the Modi government, the Deputy CM had to face the wrath of his own constituents, who dug up the makeshift helipad for the landing of his chopper in his Assembly constituency, Uchana Kalan.

The protesters also stopped Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's cavalcade at Ambala, leading to the slapping of attempt to murder charges against 13 farmers.

The murder of 21-year-old college student Nikita by a Muslim youth triggered talks within the BJP on the need for law on "love jihad" to check such incidents in the future.

State Home Minister Anil Vij has set up a three-member committee to draft legislation against religious conversion through coercion or fraud.

Earlier, in the beginning of the year, Vij was embroiled in a tussle with the Chief Minister over the state Crime Investigation Department (CID).

On the other hand, Covid infected many powerful politicians of the ruling BJP-JJP combine in the state. Towards the end of 2020, Vij, who had volunteered for Bharat Biotech's vaccine, Covaxin, also tested positive within 14 days of getting the shot. Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya also contracted the infection.

A 29-year-old woman from Gurgaon was the first person in the state to test positive for the virus.

Amid the lockdown, the year saw a large number of migrant workers walking on the state highways towards their native villages in Bihar and UP.

Liquor scams continued to surface during the year ndash; the biggest being the unearthing of a huge cache of illicit liquor from warehouses at Kharkhoda in Sonepat and Samalkha in Panipat. This led to the setting up of the Special Enquiry Team (SET) under senior IAS officer TC Gupta, which indicted an IAS officer and an IPS officer and found several discrepancies in the functioning of the police and the Excise Department while dealing with liquor smugglers.

The Panipat police arrested Ashok Jain, chairman of NV Distilleries, which has units in Punjab, Haryana and several other states, in connection with one such case.

The Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue also surfaced in 2020. BJP activists across the state sat on dharnas to highlight the issue, but farmer bodies termed this a tactic to divert attention from their protests. In August, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had discussed the matter with Khattar sitting by his side and Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh participating through videoconferencing.

The discussion, however, yielded little, as the meeting remained inconclusive and no further talks were held.

The good, bad and ugly

  • The year saw farmers from Punjab marching on its roads, clashing with the police and finally camping at Delhi borders
  • The state Assembly passed a Bill ensuring 75 per cent jobs in the private sector to Haryanavis
  • Covid did not spare even top leaders. The CM, state Home Minister and the Governor, too, contracted the infection
  • Liquor scams continued to surface — the biggest being the unearthing of a huge cache at Kharkhoda and Samalkha

from The Tribune

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