Punjab CM aims to familiarise young boys and girls of Punjabi origin with their heritage and history.

 

An imaginative programme, “Connect with your Roots”, was launched by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh in London on 13 September 2017. The then High Commissioner of India to the UK, Y.K. Sinha also joined the launch function.

What is the objective of the programme? I asked Rahul Bhandhari, Secretary of the Non Resident Indian Affairs Ministry of the Government of Punjab. The primary aim was to foster emotional and cultural links between young boys and girls, aged between 16-23, of Punjabi origin and to familiarise them with their heritage, history and traditions, both secular and religious. Also to wean them away from individuals, groups and organisations which are keen to feed these impressible young boys and girls with political, religious and economic falsehood, about Punjab.

The selection process is through website and through Indian diplomatic establishments abroad. Co-ordinators are appointed for this undertaking. They visit local high schools and colleges. Also through access to universities, Sikh societies and gurudwaras who support the programme.

The programme has aroused considerable interest in the UK.

I was present when the Chief Minister spoke to the 2019 group in his office.

He did not lecture them or talk down to them. He asked them what they had seen and what impression they had formed. In the 2019 batch were 17 students, ten boys and seven girls, spending ten days in Punjab visiting more than a dozen places and institutions, historic monuments, Harmandir Sahib, Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah border, Anandpur Sahib, War Memorial, Amritsar, Bhagat Singh Memorial at Bangra. Short trips to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Punjab Civil Secretariat and the Punjab and Haryana High Court were also scheduled.

Several students asked about the suicides of farmers, the drug menace and joblessness. They had obviously been fed false facts to prejudice their young and innocent minds. They had been much impressed by the peace and tranquillity that they witnessed. Before embarking on their trip their awareness of the ground realities was quite different, i.e. that law and order was an enduring and out of control problem and so on.

The Chief Minister’s disarming candour and avuncular responses to their questions deeply impressed his youthful audience.

What gladdened my heart was their not being overawed by the Chief Minister. Each question was well phrased, well thought through. Light heartedness was not absent.

The Chief Minister and the Government of Punjab are to be congratulated for introducing so constructive and original a programme. The students return better informed, emotionally affected. The government too learns a thing or two from these youngsters and becomes aware of their ambitions, urges and nostalgia for the Punjab.

I wish other states would follow the example of the Punjab by starting similar programmes.

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Earlier this week one of the world’s most well-known architectural marvels, Notre Dame De Paris, Our Lady of Paris was massively damaged by a horrific fire which took 13 hours to put out. The Gothic cathedral is over 800 years old. It is one of the most visible religious monuments in the western world. The Arc de Triomphe was erected by Napoleon in the first decade of the 19th century. The Eiffel Tower in 1888.

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the Cathedral sitting on a small island on the Seine would be restored in five years. This may be confusing hope with reality.

I first learnt of the existence of Notre Dame on seeing the film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame based on Victor Hugo’s novel. The lead role was played Charles Laughton.

I have been to Paris several times and walked passed Notre Dame on each visit. Only once I have been inside it. I accompanied Indira Gandhi to Paris on 10 December 1970. She was to attend the memorial service for President Charles de Gaulle on 12 December at the Cathedral. Many Heads of State and Government attended the service as they did Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965. I was dazzled by the splendour of the interior, as I had been awed by the exterior. That the Cathedral suffered such damage during, what the Christians call the Holy Week is a strange and melancholy irony.

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