Asserting that he is a "live example" of what an aam aadmi (common man) is going through, Tejpal Singh Gill (32) says he "feels ashamed while telling people" that despite being an MPhil and Ph.D. degree holder, he gets Rs 15,600 a month as an ad-hoc assistant professor at a college in Punjab.
Gill is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Ludhiana Lok Sabha constituency. "Even a mistri (mason) can make up to Rs 1,000 a day but people like me, despite holding a doctoral degree do not get more than Rs 500 a day. This shows what is lacking in our system and how we are failing the youths who do not get jobs or wages justifying their qualification. I feel ashamed and humiliated when someone asks me about my salary," says Gill.
He is an M.Phil in police administration and did his Ph.D. in jails administration from Panjab University, Chandigarh. If elected, his top priority will be to raise issues of ad-hoc (contractual) teachers and harassment that they face.
Gill, who was associated with Students Organization of Panjab University (SOPU), says, "I started as a contractual assistant professor six years ago earning Rs 10,000 a month and it is now that my salary has touched Rs 15,000-mark. It is difficult to run a household in that money. I understand what a common man goes through every day".
Working as an assistant professor at Govind National College (Narangwal) in Ludhiana he is state’s vice-president of AAP youth wing. He is pitted against seasoned and experienced politicians. But Gill says being experienced hardly matters as problems of people of Ludhiana haven't been solved in so many years.
"SAD's Maheshinder Singh Grewal might be an experienced politician but he hasn't worked to solve problems of Ludhiana. Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu is a young but failed to work and only enjoyed the legacy of his late grandfather (former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh). Simarjeet Singh Bains of Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) wears a mask of simplicity, of being a commoner and a crusader against corruption but the reality is something else. While he performs sting operations to catch small fry taking meager bribes, he never speaks against politicians such as cabinet minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who is allegedly involved in the CLU scam," he says.
Gill also says that industrialists in Ludhiana are "not responsible" for pollution in Buddha Nullah stream. "They pay taxes. It is the government, which has failed to provide facilities to treat effluents and recycle water. If elected, I will open an office in the Focal Point area to address grievances of industrialists. Their long pending demand of an exhibition center will also be fulfilled," he promises.
Gill whose father is an agriculturist, mother a retired government school teacher, and wife a contractual assistant professor also accepts that AAP in Punjab is going through a bad phase. "I joined AAP as a volunteer in 2014 when people of Punjab saw in its hope and came out of their homes to bring a change. What is happening with AAP currently happens will all new parties. There is nothing to get disappointed," he says.
Shoes of a senior leader and Supreme Court advocate HS Phoolka who contested as AAP candidate from Ludhiana in 2014 and stood second,: are too big to fill-in" for a first-timer, he says, and adds, "He is like my father. He might have left AAP and politics but his blessings are with me and he is guiding me."