I share a good equation with PM Narendra Modi, as I did with Vajpayee: Amarinder Singh
Having completed a year in the Punjab hot seat, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh speaks to Harpreet Bajwa about his government’s achievements and targets, the state’s financial situation and how he shar
Having completed a year in the Punjab hot seat, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh speaks to Harpreet Bajwa about his government’s achievements and targets, the state’s financial situation and how he shares a good relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
What are your government’s achievements in the last one year?
A whole lot of work has been done in this one year, despite the financial constraints faced by the government. For one, we have been able to achieve significant revival of investor confidence and industrial development. On the agriculture front, we have ensured smooth procurement with timely payment across all crop seasons.
Then, of course, our promise of farm loan waiver… Law and order has improved. We have virtually eliminated the mafia and gangs, heinous crimes have declined… Another area of progress is social welfare, as pensions are being streamlined, ambit of the atta-dal scheme is being broadened, housing for the underprivileged, women’s empowerment, higher compensation for acid victims… it’s a long list.
What are your targets for the next four years?
There is a lot more to be done, if we are to stabilise Punjab completely. Economic recovery, backed by industrial development, is a key priority. On the agriculture front, too, we need to go beyond debt waiver. I want to bring farmers out of the vicious cycle of debt, for which crop diversification is a must. Employment is another challenge.
Your government implemented the farm debt waiver scheme but farmers allege it is not in toto…
When did we claim it would be in toto? We have started the process… we will cover 10.25 lakh farmers by November. As there are about 17.5 lakh farmers, the bulk will be taken care of before 2018-end. I am not saying the others will not be covered. But our financial situation needs to improve before that.
What is your take on the financial situation of Punjab?
My government inherited a debt of `2,08,051.96 crore, which constitutes 49 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product. Whether it’s infrastructure or agriculture, industry or economic growth, Punjab fell behind on every index during the SAD-BJP tenure. And this is not a mere claim, it is backed by hard numbers… But we are trying to bring the state out of this fiscal mess. It’s a long and difficult road, but we have made a good beginning.
Congress leaders say you have a cosy relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that it has not gone well in party circles...
Undoubtedly, I have a good relationship with him, just as I had with Vajpayeeji during my previous stint as Chief Minister. I have not received any negative feedback on this. As a Chief Minister… it is important to have a positive relationship with the Prime Minister in the interests of both the state and the Centre. I am happy to say that the feeling has been reciprocated not just by the Prime Minister but also his cabinet ministers.
Is Khalistan still an issue in Punjab?
Khalistan stopped being an issue in Punjab years ago. Today it is nothing more than the creation of certain hardliners operating from foreign soil to promote their vested interests.