Having played as a defender for a large part of his life as a professional hockey player, Pargat Singh, the former India hockey captain, has now gone on the offensive in his last year as an MLA from Jalandhar Cantonment. In keeping with his role as a master of modern ‘total hockey’ in India, Pargat is now scoring for his constituents – and ‘against’ his party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), as some would see it.
His move to turn down the government’s offer to make him the Chief Parliamentary Secretary (CPS) in Punjab earlier this week forced Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to shelve the state’s much-touted solid waste management project in Jalandhar. Pargat has been opposed to the project, which was to be located in Jamsher village in his constituency, from the moment it was proposed.
The decision to shelve the project was seen as a desperate means to placate Pargat. But it did not help – he did not accept the post even then. Both sides say there are no differences besides, and beyond, the waste management project – which the government sees as essential for Jalandhar to grow as a city, and one that the MLA sees as a health hazard for the locality.
“There are no differences…Chief Minister [Badal] had yesterday made it clear there was no plan to set up the solid waste management plant [at the proposed site],” SAD spokesperson and Punjab Education Minister Daljit Singh Cheema said. “Local people are always opposed to such plants, but now there is advanced technology where comparatively lesser area is required to set up the plant.”
Pargat would have none of that contention. For him, this ‘revolt’ was neither a sudden decision nor, he says, did it have any political motivation. “Officials have no idea about the ground reality…they make plans sitting in air-conditioned offices in Jalandhar and Chandigarh,” he said. “I will not allow this project at the proposed site. Such plants must be installed at a distance of (at least) 500 meters from [inhabited] area. But the demarcated site of this plant is between the Jamsher dairy complex, where there are 16,000 cattle; and 7,000 people live on the doorstep of this plant.
“Besides, 850 quintal milk is supplied from there to Jalandhar city every day.”The government, he said, is yet to set up a biogas plant, as it had promised, to manage the huge amounts of cow dung generated in the area. “There is a sewer water treatment plant, and now this plant (if it comes up) will make life hell for people…hundreds of trucks would come and dump garbage in this village every day.”
As for the decision to not take up the prestigious CPS post, Pargat indicated that if the government did not think it fit to make him CPS (Sports) in these four years, there’s little to be achieved in the few months before the elections next year. “Although sports is my area of interest and expertise, I could not do much in this direction in the last more than four years since being elected as MLA. I ended up only being an adviser,” Pargat told The Indian Express.
He said had he got responsibility when the government was formed, he would have “certainly done something positive” in sports for the state. But now, with elections round the corner, the post of CPS would not only be a drain on the state exchequer but also will not give him any time to work on the details. But despite this rebellion, Pargat assured that he will “still be with SAD”.