Thursday, July 29, 2021


Knowing working style of former PM Dr.Manmohan Singh-an unique experience

July 17, 2018 05:07 PM

By Harjap Singh Aujla
I cannot become a biographer of Dr. Manmohan Singh. My knowledge about him is quite recent. Mainly pertaining to his period as the PM. I knew his wife Gursharan Kaur a little bit. However, I tried to study the functioning of this extraordinary financial expert, bureaucratic style prime minister. My only contact with him was regarding Punjab’s well being. He knows Punjab very well and his solutions to Punjab’s problems are right on target. He became prime minister in May of 2004. His elevation to the prime minister’s title was totally unexpected.

In 2005, I wrote to the Member of Lok Sabha Navjot Singh Sidhu to seek a radio station of Akashvani for his parliamentary riding of Amritsar. Most other cities in Punjab, already had FM stations of All India Radio. Navjot Singh Sidhu, true to his combative approach to the problems he pursues, did publicly, what I wanted him to achieve privately, sitting across the table. I have observed he is effective. On the floor of the house he made a forceful demand. He criticized the PM for not building All India Radio in Amritsar. Neighboring Lahore has a huge set up. The out of the ordinary prime minister kept listening to Navjot Singh Sidhu’s admonitions very calmly and coolly. But the PM had made up his mind. In the following year 2006, the design of a nearly 1000 foot tall steel frame structure was ready and actually the construction work was started in May of 2007, at village Gharinda on the Amritsar – Lahore Section of Grand Trunk Road.

True to the nature of Dr. Manmohan Singh, no elaborate function was held and no foundation stone was laid. A few years ago, perhaps Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, the then union information and broadcasting minister, had laid the foundation stone of a 300 meter high Doordarshan Tower. The work on the 1000 foot tall tower started in 2007, continued at a snail’s pace and finished in 2014, a few months before the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed the office. After that there is no clue of a studio complex. One 20 kilowatt FM Stereo transmitter has reached the transmitter site, which was tried at the height of 123 meters, something like 400 feet. It was tested and the range was decent. From 123 meters the range was certainly not enough to cover the entire old Lahore Division, comprising of the districts of Gujjranwala, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Sialkot, Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Amritsar (including Tarntaran). But it was enough to cover the mega-city of Lahore. For no rhyme or reason, just whimsically, the transmitting antenna was dismantled from 123 meters height and reinstalled on a temporary tower barely 100 meters tall. People are agitating against it, but since things are not in his hands, he is calm.

Dr. Manmohan Singh understands that Punjab is a land locked state, so is Bihar. He gave both these states all the facilities of a sea harbor. Punjab on the Lahore border and Bihar on the Nepal border. Of course Bombay harbour is too big. But the Attari/Wagha port is of the size of a smaller harbour. It was built at a total cost of close to 300 crores. Its architecture is traditional European and it is fully air-conditioned. There is a provision for rail freight linkage too. Full body trucks can be screened in one operation. More than half of the cost was recovered in the very first year. There is a clear scope for India’s ground trade with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union through this integrated port. The only serious impediment is the attitude of Pakistan Government. So far it is importing the badly needed food items like fresh perishable fruits and vegetables. Medicines, which are the cheapest in the world in India are not deliberately imported by Pakistan. Pakistan also does not permit India to send her trucks to Afghanistan and Central Asian nations. All present day politicians are taking advantage of what was the brain child of Dr. Manmohan Singh. But Dr. Manmohan Singh is not interested in any publicity. He did what he could and now sits back.

When Punjab Agricultural University Ludhiana was in dire straights, it could not afford even to pay salaries to its staff. Pensions of the retired employees were held up too. Dr. Manmohan Singh released maximum money to ward of a fiscal crisis. He did not seek an iota of credit.  

At one time even with 650 feet visibility, no plane could land at Amritsar International Airport. Things were so bad that this airport had become the laughing stock of the world. Manmohan Singh was quietly observing all that. He gave a 12000 feet long runway to this airport, which is the second longest runway other than 14500 foot Delhi Runway Number 1. Manmohan Singh also gave 15 night parking slots to Amritsar Airport. The flight arrival and departure terminals were built at par with the modern airports of the world. Money, approximately one hundred thousand crores was sanctioned by Manmohan Singh for strengthening of the runway, its shoulders, improvement of taxiways and installation of latest instrument landing system CAT-3 was sanctioned under his administration. Now planes can land with barely 50 foot visibility. This airport is now operational day and night (24X7). This airport has now been designated as the alternative to Delhi Airport. During bad weather in Delhi, this airport has come to its rescue.

Manmohan Singh never denied central assistance for the Galiara Scheme of the Golden Temple. Today the Heritage Street and the Galiara look great. The elevated road to the Golden Temple and Bhandari Bridge are his gifts to Amritsar.

It was Dr. Manmohan Singh, who gave a world class university to Amritsar, but the then Punjab Government could not give land for it. This project is still in limbo.

Dr. Manmohan Singh sanctioned through the then Rail Minister Pawan Bansal the construction of Mohali – Rajpura railway missing line to link Kalka, Chandigarh, Mohali, Patiala, Bathinda, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat and Mumbai by-passing Delhi. Punjab failed to provide land for it.

PM Manmohan Singh sanctioned the missing link between Patti and Ferozepur. It would link Udhampur, Jammu, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Batala (entire Gurdaspur Parliamentary Segment), Amritsar, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Abohar (entire Ferozepur Parliamentary Constituency), Sri Ganganagar, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat and Mumbai. This will bypass the Delhi (NCR) busy corridor. The previous Punjab Government failed to provide cost of the land.

Dr. Manmohan Singh never complained about Punjab defying his scheme. This is how our previous prime minister is. Cool, composed and peaceful.  

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