Harjap Singh Aujla
Navjot Kaur Sidhu is a medical doctor by profession and is married to her namesake Navjot Singh Sidhu, a former test cricketer of India and presently a member of the Indian Parliament from the holy city of Amritsar. Hailing from a respectable and well to do family of Punjab, it was never the intention of Navjot Kaur Sidhu to amass tons of wealth through her professional qualifications and to make a vulgar display of it, just as many other flamboyant Punjabis do.
In April of 2004, her husband Navjot Singh Sidhu was returning to India via Wagha land border, after completing a cricket commentator’s assignment in Pakistan. At the border he was greeted with a verbal message from the then Prime Minister of India Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he (Mr. Sidhu) has been picked up as the ruling Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) nominee for the Amritsar Parliamentary Constituency. Away from the cricket field, he was chosen to play his new inning on the political field. Thus all of a sudden Navjot Singh Sidhu was made to jump in to the rough and tumble of the just underway parliamentary election, which he snatched with a wide margin from a Congress big wig and a former central minister Raghunandan Lal Bhatia.
While Navjot Singh Sidhu shifted his base from his ancestral home in Patiala to his newly adopted home, the holy city of Amritsar, his better half Dr. Navjot Kaur Sidhu stayed put in Patiala. But a couple of years after the 2009 parliamentary election, which once again her husband won, even Navjot Kaur Sidhu decided to shift base to Amritsar and serve the people of the border city. As is prevalent in Indian politics, an influential person like Navjot Singh Sidhu could easily manage to get a state assembly seat for his wife too. For the 2012 state assembly election, Navjot Kaur Sidhu got the nomination for Amritsar East assembly constituency. She campaigned like a no nonsense honest politician and won the seat. During her campaign, she brought the President of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal to her constituency. During one of his campaign speeches, Mr. Sukhbir Badal promised to earmark one hundred crore rupees for the improvement of civic amenities in Amritsar East Constituency. Navjot Kaur Sidhu won the seat and became a chief parliamentary secretary in Punjab Government. A year and half has elapsed since her election, but the promised grant of one hundred crores of rupees has never reached Amritsar.
Just like the American elected officials, who, leave no stone unturned to fight vehemently for every dollar for their constituents, even by defying their party discipline, Mrs. Navjot Kaur Sidhu also started publically asking for the promised one hundred crores of rupees. Her demand appeared in the electronic media and the press too. This has put the cash starved Punjab Government in a very tight spot. The politicians in India are known to make lofty poll promises, but when it comes to their implementation, they try to drag their feet. But Mrs. Navjot Kaur Sidhu is a not a run of the mill politician, she sincerely means to serve her constituents and for achieving her purpose, she does not mind offending the chief minister and his son the deputy chief minister, from whom the others like her dread. The Punjab Government asked the municipalities to raise financial resources for their development, by selling or mortgaging their properties, but there is no guarantee of these resources being spent in the cities that raise these finances. This has happened in the case of Amritsar too. Such developments irk Navjot Kaur Sidhu further. Now she is fighting for the rights of Amritsar. The politicians don’t like this.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu knows the treatment meted out to her husband. Navjot Singh Sidhu wanted to make Amritsar city both clean and green. By spending some money from his pocket, he got thousands of trees planted in all parts of Amritsar. But some anti-social elements burnt most of the trees. Some trees wilted due to lack of care and some were destroyed by land hungry folks. The Punjab Government has not been able to punish any of the arsonists. Navjot Singh Sidhu obtained a share of central funds sanctioned to hire a reputed Anthony Waste Management Company from Mumbai for cleaning and removing the garbage from the city. The municipal corporation currently has no resources to pay such expenses. Their main source of income, the octroi duty, was abolished by the same government long ago. So the municipal corporations are dependent on the state government for releasing the funds for cleanup and improvements in the cities. Those funds, needed for paying Anthony Waste Management Company never came from the state government. After being denied the legitimate payment for their already done work, the Anthony Waste Management Company withdrew from Amritsar. Navjot Singh Sidhu felt betrayed and left in the lurch. None of his pet projects saw the light of the day.
Navjot Singh Sidhu was a little lucky with his pleas before the central government. By fighting inside the parliament and pleadings elsewhere, he got sanctioned nearly twenty crores of rupees in 2007 for high powered state of the art All India Radio and Doordarshan facilities in suburban Amritsar. This project is nearing completion at this point in time. He has been fighting for flights to London, Birmingham, Toronto, Melbourne and Vancouver from Amritsar International Airport. Out of these five high profile routes, Navjot Singh Sidhu has so far succeeded in getting indirect flights for Birmingham, Melbourne and Sydney. This is not a mean achievement. Navjot Sidhu also got one hundred and twenty five crores of rupees from the central government for the rehabilitation and renovation of the buildings and equipment in the Amritsar Medical College and the allied hospital. Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad inaugurated the new facilities on August 28, 2013. By fighting tooth and nail in the parliament, Navjot Singh Sidhu got the one hundred and fifty crore rupee worth of Integrated Check Post and Road Port Facilities at Attari/Wagha in Amritsar. This is the most modern facility of its kind in India. The PM may publically keep a low profile, but I know for certain that he was personally involved in all these projects. Navjot Singh Sidhu has been fighting in the parliament for obtaining the coveted heritage city status for Amritsar. But due to over a million population size of this tourist city, the central government has not been able to accord such a status to Amritsar.
From the Punjab Government Navjot Sidhu could get much less. There are leaders in Amritsar, who get what they ask for from the Punjab Government, but the member of the parliament from the city and most of the district does not get anything. Such frustrations compelled Navjot Singh Sidhu to leave Amritsar and earn some money in the maximum city of Mumbai. On some important occasions, like inauguration of important central government projects in Amritsar, Navjot Singh Sidhu has not been accorded the status he deserved as a member of parliament.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu, before moving to Amritsar, knew the immense economic potential of this city. Founded by the Fourth Guru Ramdas ji around 1577A.D., this city became a prime trading centre of Punjab. Sitting next door to the capital city of Lahore, Amritsar had tremendous potential to provide goods and services to Lahore. During the time of the Sixth Guru Hargobind Sahib ji, Amritsar became the leading manufacturing centre of blunt and sharp edged weapons including the swords, sheathes, daggers, shields, sickles, knifes and “Chakkars”. Later on during the reign of Emperor Ranjit Singh, Amritsar became the leading centre of providing uniforms to his soldiers. Half of the geographical area of the Sikh Empire was extremely frigid. The soldiers in those areas needed woolens all year round. In order to meet their requirements, Amritsar became the leading centre of manufacture of woolen cloth. When the British took over, they made three cities as the leading centres of textile manufacturing. These cities were Bombay, Ahmedabad and Amritsar. Whereas Bombay and Ahmedabad excelled in cotton and sikh textiles, Amritsar became famous for woolen and cotton textiles. After the creation of Pakistan, Amritsar became a border city and the two wars in 1965 and 1971 hurt its economy badly. The worst time, however, was during the 1980 to 1995 militancy, when its industry and trade both suffered grievously. The industry shifted to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. Wholesale trade of the city also lost ground to Delhi and Ambala. But between 1998 and the present, Amritsar Airport made rapid strides and the road and rail trade with Pakistan flourished from 2005 onwards. Now, riding on the wings of tourism and external trade, Amritsar’s economy has become the second fastest expanding economy in Punjab, next only to Mohali. Navjot Kaur Sidhu wanted to become the catalyst in the development of Amritsar. Although she has been bestowed with the title of a Chief Parliamentary Secretary in Punjab, but hardly any file comes to her desk. She sincerely wants to serve her constituents, but her serious efforts are being frustrated. That is why she is going openly against the Punjab Government, in which her own party is the junior partner. It appears that she does not know the rigidly enforced party Dharma of India. If her “Karambhoomi” is America, all that she is doing is totally justified. We salute her courage. The state unit of her party is fiercely against her. If someone can save her, it is the central leadership of the party. The central leadership did not let any harm come to another rebel Lakshmi Kanta Chawla. Let us see if the central leadership of the BJP can rescue Navjot Kaur Sidhu or not.