CHANDIGARH: Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu are divided over what’s to be done with the cable mafia operating in Punjab?
Sidhu has declared an all-out war against the cable mafia. His department has slapped notices on Fastway Transmissions Ltd, a company that, he claims, has the patronage of the Badal regime. He also says the company has evaded taxes to the tune of Rs 684 crore.
Meanwhile, Amarinder, on the other hand, has ruled out brining in any regulatory framework to rein in the cable guys. More entrants in the business would mean more competition and better quality of news, he says.
This is a bit of a u-turn for the Amarinder Singh government. It came in with the promise to de-politicize news channels and de-monopolize cable TV networks, which are still controlled by groups owing allegiance to the Akali Dal. In its very first cabinet meeting on March 18, the Amarinder Singh government had vowed to bring in a Cable Authority Act to constitute a statutory cable regulator.
Tuesday saw the completion of 100 days of the Amarinder regime, and the cable business was not the only U-turn performed. Singh also ruled out extending the loan waiver to farm commission agents, quite contrary to the 360-degree writeoff his party had promised. That benefit was farmers and no others, the government has now said.
Questioned, the chief minister said the limit was justified. A two-hectare farm is not likely to require a loan of more than Rs 1 lakh and he was surprised how farmers manage to accumulate huger debts, Amarinder said.
Some 20.22 lakh bank accounts in Punjab had an outstanding debt of Rs. 59,621 crore as on March 31, 2017. There are about 18.5 lakh farm families in the state, 65 per cent of them small and marginal farmers. Of them, about 70 per cent have access to institutional finance.
The chief minister said it was on the basis of the interim report of the Haq Committee that the government decided to waive the crop loans of all small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres) having loans up to Rs 2 lakh.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) and seven allied farm unions have rejected the state government’s partial debt waiver and decided to launch a statewide agitation demanding a full waiver.
The union’s general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said a state-level convention of farmer and farm labour unions would be held on July 7 in Jalandhar.