On 18 June, the Punjab cabinet, led by the chief minister Amarinder Singh, decided to give government jobs to Arjun Pratap Singh Bajwa and Bhisham Pandey, sons of two wealthy Congress MLAs. The appointments come amid a period of turmoil within Punjab Congress, ahead of the 2022 state elections. A government press release said that the appointments were made because militants had killed their grandfathers—both Congress leaders—more than 33 years earlier. But according to a January 2014 Hindustan Times report, Amarinder had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi stating that Arjun’s grandfather “was not killed by terrorists but in an inter-gang rivalry of smugglers in 1987.” Amarinder and Arjun’s uncle, Partap Singh Bajwa—a Congress MP—both refused to confirm the letter’s details, the report said.
Amarinder has received widespread backlash, even from his own cabinet, for the appointments for several other reasons. Grandchildren of thousands of other people who militants had killed in the 1980s and 1990s have not received such jobs. Compensation on compassionate grounds is typically given to direct dependents, not grandchildren of the deceased. Even widows often struggle to access meagre pensions. According to Rajvinder Singh Bains, a lawyer, these appointments “simply cannot be defended in any court of law.”
Amarinder faced similar criticism in 2017, when he appointed Gur Iqbal Singh the grandson of Beant Singh—a former chief minister from the Congress who was killed by militants in 1995—as a deputy superintendent of Punjab Police. Gur Iqbal is also the brother of Ravneet Singh Bittu, an MP from the Congress. His persistence to continue with these appointments despite all these reasons, all of which are well known, raises questions about his motivations.
The government press release dated 18 June mentioned that the cabinet approved Bhisham’s appointment as a Naib Tehsildar (Group-B) in the revenue department and Arjun’s as an Inspector (Group B) in the Punjab Police. The press release said that the appointments were made with a one-time relaxation in the relevant policies. The move did not appear to be in line with Umesh Kumar Nagpal vs the State Of Haryana, a landmark Supreme Court judgment about appointments given on a compassionate basis. The 1994 judgment said,
The whole object of granting compassionate employment is thus to enable the family to tide over the sudden crisis. The object is not to give a member of such family a post much less a post for post held by the deceased. What is further, mere death of an employee in harness does not entitle his family to such source of livelihood. The Government or the public authority concerned has to examine the financial condition of the family of the deceased, and it is only if it is satisfied, that but for the provision of employment, the family will not be able to meet the crisis that a job is to be offered to the eligible member of the family.