The 31st meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) is poised to take place in Amritsar on Tuesday, with Punjab all geared up to host this crucial gathering of leaders from various northern states. Union Home Minister Amit Shah will preside over the meeting, which is expected to address several pressing issues, including those on which the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana are at loggerheads.
The State Government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, has left no stone unturned in making elaborate arrangements for the significant event. The meeting will witness the participation of Chief Ministers from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan, along with the Administrator of UT Chandigarh and Lieutenant Governors from Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, and Delhi.
The brainstorming sessions will delve into various issues concerning these states during the course of the meeting. The primary focus of the meeting will revolve around security matters, with a specific emphasis on combating drug smuggling, a persistent concern in the region.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has held several rounds of meetings with senior State Government officials to meticulously review the arrangements. Emphasizing the importance of a warm welcome to the dignitaries, Mann has directed the officials to showcase Punjab’s rich cultural heritage to the visiting guests and ensure their warm hospitality throughout their stay.
The State Government has left no stone unturned in arranging a comfortable stay for the dignitaries participating in the meeting. In addition to ensuring their cozy accommodation, guests will also be treated to a glimpse of Punjab’s vibrant culture. Senior state government officials have been diligently assigned duties to ensure the smooth organization of the meeting, and stringent security measures have been put in place ahead of the event.
However, the upcoming NZC meeting is not just about protocol and arrangements; it also comes against a backdrop of political and territorial tensions between Punjab and Haryana.
Cong Criticizes AAP Govt for Failing to Safeguard State's Interests
Leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha Partap Singh Bajwa on Monday criticized the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government for what he perceives as its failure to safeguard the state’s interests. Bajwa noted that during his visit to Punjab on September 26 (Tuesday), the Union Home Minister is expected to discuss the provision of land to Punjab for the construction of a separate Vidhan Sabha. He criticized the AAP Government for surrendering Punjab's rights over Chandigarh and cited a tweet by Chief Minister Mann on July 9, 2022, in which AAP leader had requested land in Chandigarh from the Centre for a separate Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
“AAP Government did not adequately present Punjab's case regarding its river water rights, which weakened the State's position. Punjab's quota posts in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) were being filled by employees from Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh under the AAP regime, and the Central Government had replaced Punjab Service Rules with Central Service Rules for Chandigarh employees,” he pointed out.
Additionally, Bajwa criticized the AAP Government for not raising issues such as the diplomatic standoff between India and Canada, which is affecting NRIs from Punjab and Punjabi students in Canada. He questioned why the Punjab Chief Minister had not addressed these concerns with the Central Government and labeled AAP as a ‘B-Team of BJP’.
SAD Demands Firm Stand on Key Issues
Calling upon Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to take a firm stance on crucial issues concerning Punjab during the North Zone Council meeting in Amritsar, SAD on Monday stressed the importance of clarifying Punjab’s inalienable right over Chandigarh. Expressing concerns about Haryana’s attempt to construct a separate Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh, senior SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema called for a strong opposition to this project, which he believes contradicts Punjab’s interests. The SAD leader hoped that the presence of Delhi Chief Minister and AAP Convener Arvind Kejriwal would not hinder the defense of Punjab's case on important issues concerning the state during the North Zone Council meeting.