Punjab CM announces waiver of farm loans, New Lokpal bill, freezes power tariff at Rs.5 for industry

June 19, 2017 09:59 PM

Punjab News Express/Satinder Bains
CHANDIGARH: Despite the state's poor financial condition, the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today made several historic announcements, including waiver of loans for small and marginal farmers, to take forward several of his pre-poll promises to the people.

Based on the interim report of the Experts Group under T Haq, Captain Amarinder announced waiver of crop loans for small, marginal farmers up to 5 acres, with Rs. 2 lakh relief for other marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount. He also announced hike in ex-gratia for families of the farmers who suicide families to Rs. 5 lakh from the existing Rs. 3 lakh. While announcing continuation of free power subsidy for farmers, the Chief Minister appealed to the big farmers to give up the same voluntarily and immediately announced that he was doing so for his own farms.
The Chief Minister said his government had inherited a shocking Rs. 2,08,051.96 crore debt, as per the White Paper tabled in the House, and the crisis was worse than anyone had anticipated or imagined.

Coming down heavily on the erstwhile Akali government for the total mess it had left the state in, the Chief Minister, in his hard-hitting reply to the debate on the Governor’s address in the Vidhan Sabha, said the White Paper clearly brings out the financial mis-management, imprudence and bankruptcy of thoughts and skills of the previous regime, and shows that the Congress government has inherited an empty treasury. The fiscal deficit of the State as on 31st March 2017 stood at Rs. 26,801 crore, which is likely to increase after actual figures of 2016-17 are available, the Chief Minister revealed.

Captain Amarinder also announced a new Lok Pal bill, which would bring not only the ministers and all bureaucrats in its ambit but the Chief Minister as well. He also announced total freedom, sans censorship, for the media.

The Chief Minister, while lashing out at the Opposition for raising unfounded issues out of restlessness, demanded that the they should come clean with the names of those involved in sand mine auctions during their regime. He did not shy away from referring to the opposition charges against his cabinet colleague Rana Gurjit Singh, saying the judicial commission was already inquiring into the matter and truth shall prevail.

Even as he cited facts and figures to show the stupendous success of the government’s war on drugs, the Chief Minister appealed to the opposition to join hands in the effort. He warned all those involved in drugs to quit or face stringent action.

The Chief Minister made it clear that those found guilty of trying to disrupt the state’s harmony through sacrilegious attacks and those involved in the false cases registered under the previous regime would not be spared. Countering the opposition’s attempts to mislead the people on this count, the Chief Minister said only 13 cases had been registered under his government in the past three months and 12 of them had already been solved. He also categorically denied any move to reduce the annual pay of police personnel from 13 to 12 months.

A freeze on power tariff at Rs. 5 per unit for existing and new industries and a new industrial policy by July-end were the initiatives announced by the Chief Minister to revive the state’s industry and trade. He also announced abolition of truck unions to unshackle the transport system of the mafia which had mushroomed under the Akali rule.
The Chief Minister indicated that several of the employment schemes listed in the Congress poll manifesto would be announced in the budget and his government would also give smart phones to eligible youth as promised.

For the education sector, the Chief Minister announced free textbooks, as well as Nursery and LKG classes in government schools from the next academic session. Realizing another poll promise, he announced WiFI for 13000 primary schools and all 48 government colleges. He also announced a pilot project from next month to promote English in government schools. Further, said Captain Amarinder, five new colleges would be set up in the state during this fiscal, notwithstanding the financial crunch faced by the government.

Girls would get free education in government schools and colleges from Nursery to PhD, he announced, fulfilling another key poll promise and taking a major leap towards women empowerment, whose reservation in PRIs and ULBs has already been increased by the government from 33% to 50%.

The Chief Minister, whose government has already unveiled several social welfare programmes and initiatives in the last three months, further announced waiver, in a phased manner of loans up to Rs. 50000 given to the SCs and economically weaker sections by the State Schedule Caste Corporation and the State Backward Classes Corporation. A scheme for free houses to the homeless and low cost housing the economically weaker would also be launched in 2017-18, he added.

While reiterating his government’s commitment to implement GST, the Chief Minister said he industry, trade and business would be given sufficient time to transition and he had already directed that arrests should not be pursued in case of default. The government will also set up a Tax Ombudsman to address GST related public grievances.
All rural households will get water connections and toilets in two years, while 100 villages will be taken up for a solid waste management pilot project in the first year of the government, said the Chief Minister.

Captain Amarinder also unveiled several initiatives for the development of roads, railways and air connectivity in the state, as well as Smart Cities in Amritsar and Jalandhar, in addition to Ludhiana.

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