A Sikh man comes home from work to commotion on the TV set. His wife informs him that there’s nothing to worry about since it’s a Delhi problem. On the news channel people on the streets protesting against the government owing to shortage of water. Meanwhile, the couple goes about its day, water flowing freely from its taps, not to mention uninterrupted electricity supply.
“Thank god we live in Punjab,” the couple finally concludes.
While there is no dearth of state governments singing their own praises through ads – with Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party setting new benchmarks – the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in Punjab is pulling out all stops to polish the state’s image through a series of YouTube videos such as the one above.
These ads are clearly designed to ward off the possibility of an anti-incumbency wave in the run-up to the 1917 Assembly elections. But that's not enough. Because one big problem, as always before state elections, is the drugs situation. So far, the government’s response to it has largely been denial and whataboutery.
A state minister recently rejected a government commissioned study on drug abuse carried out by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, saying that the numbers in other states are much higher. Now, the government has released a series of videos with local hockey players exhorting people not to “defame Punjab”, and questioning the existence of a drug problem.
In the video, hockey star Jugraj Singh can be seen denying there's a drug-abuse issue. “There’s nothing like it,” he says, referring to news reports discussing the problem. “I fold my hands and request people to stop maligning the youth of Punjab.”
A similar video features former hockey player Rajpal Singh asking how the state can have a drug problem if it's producing players like him.
However, in sharp contrast, the same channel ran a video a few months ago in which actor Sunny Deol asks people not to be "losers" and keep away from drugs.
Meanwhile, another set of videos appeal to the business community by claiming that Punjab is the best investment destination in the country, even though Scroll’s own reportage has shown that the industry is fleeing the state.
This is not all. The state government has gone after neighbouring states like Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan – and even Pakistan – for demanding water from the rivers of the state. In the following video, a young man explains the water sharing pacts to an old man, using a water bottle as an example.
Subsequently, the old man becomes angry with a shopkeeper who is presumably not from the state, and proclaims that the current government is absolutely right in “protecting” the state’s water.