It may send surprise bells ringing, but help is just 11 digits away for the victims of vendetta politics in Punjab. Claiming to be flooded with pleas for aid from party workers, alleging victimization and implication by the ruling party, Congress on Wednesday made it clear to them that they were just a call away and launched first of its kind toll-free helpline service for the “victims”.
The helpline would be made fully functional from Thursday at 10 am. Both in English and Punjabi, the toll-free number — 1800-137-37-37 — has been initially launched for Amritsar district as a “pilot project”, which will later be extended first to one district each in Malwa and Doaba region, and then to entire Punjab.
“We have started this toll-free helpline to provide free legal aid to our workers who are facing false cases owing to political vendetta. The helpline will deal with fresh cases of vendetta, and whoever call in, will be provided lawyer to contest the case on the expenses of the Punjab Pradesh Congress,” said State Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa.
“This is the first thing I promised to the party workers when I took over as PPCC president, and I am fulfilling it to restore their morale…demoralised after losing the series of elections. Also, the ruling regime is trying to browbeat them by unleashing a reign of political vendetta,” Bajwa told The Pioneer.
A brainchild of one of the youngest co-chairman appointed to head the PPCC legal cell, Jaiveer Shergill, the helpline would bring the victims of political vendetta in contact with the “empanelled” lawyers through the district congress committee (DCC) presidents.
“We have thought of coming up with a helpline in the previous term, before Assembly elections, to arrest the political vendetta as the ruling combine has been slapping false cases against Congress workers to harass them as many of my friends have been going through this,” Shergill, also a Supreme Court lawyer, said while talking to The Pioneer. Shergill informed that the real purpose of starting the toll-free service is taking teh first step towards the documentation of such cases.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, during the previous Budget session, had categorically refuted the charges of ruling regime’s involvement in the politics of vendetta.
He mentioned that against a total of 20,000 cases of vendetta as alleged by the former Chief Minister and the then Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh over the past five years, there were only three cases, and that too were registered against the Congress workers on frivolous grounds like elopement, family disputes, property disputes, among others.
“This will help in compiling such cases in order to come out with data of vendetta politics,” said Shergill.
Giving detail about the functioning of the helpline, Shergill said that person calling will be attended by the automatic system, and the conversation is recorded, and the information will be sent to the concerned DCC president who will then verify the credentials, and eventually provide lawyer to contest the case.”
Adding, Bajwa said: “The district presidents will verify whether the person complaining is a Congressman, and the case against him is of vendetta politics, and not any personal matter. After that, district president endorse that a false case has been slapped against the person, and lawyer will be provided to the person.”
Bajwa added that a panel of 25 lawyers from Amritsar has already been formed, and they will not charge money from the Congress workers to contest their case.