Punjabis are archetypically portrayed as people who have a penchant for raunak—and revelry. But this assembly election, many feel, is comparatively more like a mechanical exercise—and to some extent, even being perceived as banal as the spark of enthusiasm is missing, especially among the youth. This holds true for Amandeep Singh, 31, a Mohali-based cab driver. Just like almost every young man and woman in Punjab, he too wants to go abroad. But there is one hurdle: He needs Rs 18 lakh to pay the travel agent who would help him get a job in Canada. Disillusioned and restless, young people like him are willing to take any risk regardless of what Canada’s Brampton MP Ruby Sahota advised them during her Punjab visit in 2018, “Punjabi youths should not fall prey to the fraudulent travel agents.”
And Singh explains why: “Here, I barely earn enough to pay the car loan EMI. Whatever remains, I spend on maintenance of the car. There is no reward, no matter how many hours you put into your work.” With a wry smile he reacts to one of the popular slogans which became a rallying point for assertion of regional aspirations— which are still at the heart of the power tussle in the Centre-state relationship, in late 1960s: Khidiya phull gulaab da, Chandigarh Punjab da! (Says the rose in full bloom: Chandigarh belongs to Punjab).