Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to constitute a Committee of the Union Government and some Chief Ministers to formulate a blueprint of a National Debt Waiver Scheme for farmers in consultation with States.While underlining the importance of the Swaminathan Committee report to be accepted in totality, the Chief Minister, who was addressing a meeting of the NITI Aayog here, said the Governing Council should consider the issue of agricultural loan waiver at the national level, on priority.Stressing the need for greater empowerment of the states by the central government, in the spirit of cooperative federalism, the Chief Minister reiterated his government’s request for central assistance to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji and the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar next year, in a befitting manner. Pointing out that the nation was also observing the 150th Birth Anniversary of Gandhi ji, Captain Amarinder said 2019 was a historic year for the entire nation, and called for collective efforts to ensure that the various commemorative events are celebrated in the spirit they deserve.
The Chief Minister pushed for special one-time infrastructure development package for Border Areas for Punjab, which has an active International Border with thickly populated border districts. Lamenting that the criteria for allocation of funds under Border Areas Development Programme remained unfavourable to Punjab, he also called for acquisition of lands that lie beyond the border fence by the Government of India, along with incentives for industry in the border area.Describing the meeting of the NITI Aayog as the ideal platform for allowing States to articulate their areas of concern in a joint forum before the Union Government to ensure that these do not impede the larger process of development and nation-building, Captain Amarinder also sought tax incentives and promotional schemes to 30 kms border belt as is given to the hilly and north-eastern region. He also called for special development and maintenance of Border Roads in Punjab under the National Highway programme.Referring to the serious water crisis towards which Punjab was slowly moving, he urged the Centre to include the rivers of Punjab for capital assistance on the lines of the Ganga Action Plan. The Chief Minister also sought approval for the state’s projects for upgradation of irrigation system and expeditious approval to Shahpur Kandi Dam project on river Ravi.
Underlining Punjab’s important role in the defence and food security of the nation, the Chief Minister made a strong case for debt relief for the farmers, pointing out that his government had already announced a scheme for institutional crop loan waiver in the state to all marginal and small farmers having outstanding crop loans up to Rs.2 lakh, thus providing relief to 10.25 lakh farmers.The Chief Minister also sought procurement of alternate crops such as Maize, Oilseeds and Pulses by central agencies, besides urging the central government to incentivize farmers through a conditional cash transfer by way of non-burning bonus of Rs. 100/ quintal on paddy, in order to check the problem of burning of paddy straw. While farm machinery was being subsidized for farmer groups and cooperative societies by his government, and stubble burning was down in 2017 from 2016, the problem, however, still remained serious, he added.Referring to the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, the Chief Minister said the Government of India should identify certain national transformational programmes across key sectors of Agriculture, Education, Health, Water and Urban Governance. These programmes should be fully funded by the Government of India with clear committed milestones and outcomes, he added.
The Chief Minister underscored the need for greater focus on urban areas, urging the NITI Aayog to work with States towards evolving a new paradigm for better managing the towns. Road connectivity was another area which Captain Amarinder stressed for enhanced focus, calling approval of greenfield Delhi to Katra expressway, which could eventually become the gateway to Central Asia.Expressing concern over the growing unemployment and underemployment of youth, Captain Amarinder cited the various initiatives being taken by the Punjab government to tackle the crisis. The Punjab government was setting up District Enterprise and Employment Bureaus that connect the skilled youth with jobs under the “Ghar Ghar Rozgaar and Karobaar” mission, he informed the meeting.The Chief Minister sought a review of the new system of reimbursement of Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste students, in order to ensure that poor SC students are not put to any disadvantage.The Chief Minister, in his concluding remarks, called for a re-commitment by the states and the central government to “building our Nation together and dedicate ourselves in the service of the poorest and the weakest person, as a tribute to the Father of the Nation.” He expressed the hope that the Government of India would strengthen the States in the true spirit of cooperative federalism.