PUNJAB: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to constitute a committee of the Union Government and some chief ministers to draw up a blueprint of a national debt waiver scheme for farmers in consultation with states.
Underlining the importance of the Swaminathan Committee’s report being accepted in totality, Amarinder, who was addressing a meeting of the NITI Aayog in Delhi, said the Governing Council should consider on priority the issue of agricultural loan waiver at the national level.
Stressing the need for greater empowerment of 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 Guru Nanak Dev and the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar next year.
He pushed for a special one-time infrastructure development package for border areas in Punjab, which has an active international border with thickly populated border districts. Lamenting that the criteria for allocation of funds under the Border Areas Development Programme remained unfavourable to Punjab, he called for acquisition of land that lay beyond the border fence by the Government of India, along with incentives for industry in border areas.
Amarinder also sought tax incentives and promotional schemes for areas within 30 km of the border, as offered to hilly areas and the north-eastern region. He also called for special development and maintenance of border roads in Punjab under the National Highway programme.
Referring to a 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 upgrading the irrigation system, and expeditious approval to the Shahpur Kandi Dam project on river Ravi.
Underlining Punjab’s important role in defence and the food security of the nation, he made a strong case for gdebt relief for farmers, pointing out that his government had 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.
Amarinder also sought procurement of 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 a 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.