Under fire for taking on chief minister Amarinder Singh for his frequent criticism of Pakistan, Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu’s adviser Dr Pyare Lal Garg, the former registrar of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), Faridkot, is a known social and health activist.
Garg, 73, who retired as professor of paediatric surgery in 2002 and is known for his outspoken nature, has worked both with the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) as well as Congress governments in Punjab. A native of Ladha Kothi village in Sangrur district, Garg is said to have been influenced by the Left ideology since his school days.
In 2006, he was appointed the BFUHS registrar by the then Congress government but had to step down from the spot after some varsity employees challenged his appointment in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
But he was asked to continue at the varsity as examination coordinator.
Later, when the SAD-BJP government formed government in 2012 for the second time with Parkash Singh Badal at the helm, he was appointed director of the Punjab State Health System Resource Centre at the CM’s native village Badal in Muktsar district.
Senior officials in the health department say it was when Garg came close to the Sidhu family as Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu was the chief parliamentary secretary (CPS health) at the time. In 2019, he was appointed chairman of the ‘Padho Punjab’ committee set up by the state education department.
While Garg’s detractors say he cleverly used his links to get plum posts in the government, he on the other hand, claims that he has not accepted any payment for all the post-retirement assignments.
Before joining as adviser to the PPCC chief, Garg frequently appeared on TV debates as an expert. He often quotes the Hindu and Sikh scriptures. “People may call me leftist but I follow every positive thinker in the world. I have read Karl Marx but then I have read Gandhi, Madan Lal Dhingra and Abdul Kalam Azad as well,” says Garg, who is often seen taking on the BJP-led NDA government on the issues of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens NRC and agitation against the farm laws.
The controversy over his recent remark, says Garg, it was uncalled for.
“I had only said that defence and foreign affairs are the domains of the Centre. As a chief minister, Amarinder should not give statement with regards to Pakistan. No chief minister has the right to speak on sensitive defence matters,” said Garg.
“I am always there for Navjot Sidhu as I see something different in him,” he adds.
Interestingly, Garg claimed that he never met Sidhu before his appointment as adviser.
“I met Sidhu for the first time in Patiala on Monday. Before appointing as an adviser, Sidhu called up and said he wanted my expert opinions on matters concerning the state. There was no reason to say no,” said Garg.