NEW DELHI: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to constitute a committee with representatives of the Centre and states to formulate a blueprint of a national debt waiver scheme for farmers.
Underlining the importance of the Swaminathan Committee report being accepted in totality, the Chief Minister, while 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, he reiterated his government's request for central assistance to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev and the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar next year in a befitting manner.
Noting that the nation was also observing the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Singh said 2019 was a historic year for the entire nation and called for collective efforts to ensure that the various commemorative events were celebrated in the spirit they deserve.
The Chief Minister pushed for a special one-time infrastructure development package for border areas of Punjab.
Lamenting that the criteria for allocation of funds under the 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, Singh 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.
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 the irrigation system and expeditious approval to Shahpur Kandi Dam project on the 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.
He also sought procurement of crops such as maize, oilseeds and pulses by central agencies, besides urging the central government to incentivise farmers through a conditional cash transfer by way of the non-burning bonus of Rs 100 per quintal quintal on paddy, in order to check the problem of burning of paddy straw.
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 Centre would strengthen the states in the true spirit of cooperative federalism.