PUNJAB CM URGES PM TO ENSURE URGENT RESOLUTION OF FARMERS’ STIR ‘TO SATISFACTION OF PROTESTING FARMERS’

EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER THREAT TO STATE’S AGRICULTURE BY 3 FARM LAWS

REQUESTS GoI TO INSTIL CONFIDENCE IN PUNJAB FARMERS ON MSP CONTINUATION

CHANDIGARH, FEBRUARY 20:Expressing serious concern over the threat to the state’s agriculture as a result of the ‘disruption caused by the three new Farm Laws’, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure urgent resolution of the ongoing farm unrest by the Centre “to the satisfaction of the protesting farmers by addressing all their grievances.”

Calling for the fullest respect for the `Annadaata, the Chief Minister, through his speech, submitted for the virtual meeting of the Niti Aayog, reiterated his government’s stand that Agriculture is a State subject and law-making on it should be left to the States in the true spirit of “cooperative federalism” enshrined in the Constitution. In this context, he pointed to the state amendments already passed to the central legislations by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in October 2020.

Captain Amarinder could not attend the meeting as he was indisposed.The Chief Minister asserted, in his speech, that any reform that is sought to be introduced in a sector subsuming almost 60% of the country’s workforce must be done only through a process of extensive consultation with all the stakeholders, of which Punjab is a key stakeholder, being at the forefront of ensuring food security for the country.

Citing strong apprehension among farmers of the State that the Minimum Support Price based procurement regime through Food Corporation of India (or agencies on its behalf), introduced as part of food security measures in the 1960s, may be discontinued in view of the Shanta Kumar Committee Report of 2015, the Chief Minister also stressed the need for the Government if India to decisively dispel any such impression “to instill proper confidence in the farmers of the State.”

The Chief Minister also used the forum to once again reiterated the state government’s demand for bonus of Rs 100/quintal of paddy procured as “Paddy Straw Management Compensation”, which can be used for purchase or rental of new equipment, attaining the skills for efficient use, and to reduce cost of operation and maintenance. He requested the GoI to provide Rs 5 crore per MW financial support for Biomass Power Projects and Rs. 3.5 cr per MW for Biomass Solar Hybrid Projects to the state as Viability Gap Fund (VGF) to help alleviate the effects of paddy straw burning through ex-situ utilization of available paddy straw with good returns to the farmers.

Underlining the importance of aligning the cropping system to agro-climatic conditions at the district level for optimum use of resources, Captain Amarinder called upon the Government of India to designate agencies to procure and provide MSP matching the returns of wheat and paddy in order to incentivize the farmers to take up cultivation of alternate crops and thereby achieve diversification and save precious water. He also sought Central Government’s support and liberal financial assistance to facilitate the state’s programmes and schemes for diversification towards nutri-cereals, pulses, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry.

The importance of water conservation was also highlighted by the Chief Minister, who requested the Government of India to consider Punjab’s pilot project – ‘Pani Bachao Paisa Kamao (PBPK)’ – as a national project, for which a feasibility report amounting to Rs 433.00 crore has already been submitted by the state to the Central Water Commission. He further sought from the Central Government a Deficiency Price Support for alternative crops like Maize, in order to encourage farmers to diversify out of the water-intensive Paddy crop.

The Chief Minister also urged the central government to devise a cluster development scheme, on the lines of the MSME sector, for the Food Processing Sector for creating ‘Common Facilities’ in every Agri Cluster which will supplement the 3 Mega Food Parks established in the State.

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'CONSULT STATE IN FIXING COVID VACCINE PRIORITIES’, CAPT AMARINDER REQUESTS CENTRE

Chandigarh, February 20:Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday urged the Central Government to consult with the state before fixing priorities for Covid vaccination, as it is a matter involving the entire population.

With the portal created by Government of India for registration of health care and frontline workers frozen, several such workers of the state willing for vaccination registration have been left behind, he pointed out, calling upon the Centre to allow entry of such workers to improve the status of vaccination drive.

In his circulated speech at Niti Aayog meeting, the Chief Minister also requested the GoI to allow 100% use of available SDRF towards expenditure for COVID Management, instead of the present ceiling of 50%. Further, in the event of SDRF yearly budget being exceeded due to enhanced expenditure on COVID related matters, the State may also be allowed to utilize previous years available funds, he suggested.

Captain Amarinder also urged the Central Government to provide immediate financial assistance of at least Rs. 300 Cr to upgrade Health Infrastructure, equipment and other healthcare needs (medicines and consumables etc.) in view of the pandemic.

For effective service delivery at Health and Wellness Centres, liberal grants for strengthening of infrastructure, drugs and diagnostic may be provided by the Centre to strengthen the state’s efforts to provide comprehensive primary health care services through Sub Centres, Primary Health Centres with a linkage to secondary health care services, especially during the Covid period, said the Chief Minister. He also sought creation of a `Water Quality Kosh’ in every state to enable Punjab to achieve the vision of providing potable water to each rural household on a sustainable basis even in the water quality affected habitations.

Captain Amarinder further requested the GoI to consider the Gurdaspur Medical College project on priority to provide better healthcare in the border district.

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PUNJAB CM REQUESTS CENTRE TO RELEASE PENDING GST COMPENSATION, EXTEND PERIOD BEYOND 5 YEARS

CHANDIGARH, FEBRUARY 20:Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday requested the central government to release the pending amount of GST Compensation to the State, amounting to Rs. 8253 Crore for the period April 2020 to January 2021.

The Chief Minister further reiterated the state’s demand for releasing the GST Compensation on monthly basis in the coming fiscal year, and sought extension in the period of GST Compensation beyond the current 5 years for States like Punjab, which have permanently lost a significant portion of their revenue especially on account of subsuming of Purchase Tax on food grains and are staring at a huge revenue shortfall after the end of compensation period.

In his speech submitted at the Niti Aayog meeting, the Chief Minister said the practice of direct transfer of funds under certain Central Schemes to the implementing agencies by-passing the Consolidated Fund of the State not only violates the provisions of the Constitution but is also against the spirit of Cooperative Federalism. The Government of India is, hence, requested to route all funds pursuant to Central Schemes only through the Consolidated Fund of the State, thereby allowing States to monitor the effective implementation of these projects with greater financial accountability and transparency, he said.

Pointing out that the 15th Finance Commission in the final report for the FY 2021-22 to 2025-26, has recommended certain Sector-specific and State-specific Grants for the State of Punjab, amounting to Rs. 3442 Crore and Rs. 1545 Crore respectively. However, these have still not been cleared by the Government of India, he regretted, urging the Centre to provide these specific grants to the state creation of necessary infrastructure and provide the much-needed impetus to its economy.

To further enhance the ease of doing business, which has led to Rs 70000 crore fresh investment in Punjab in the last 4 years, the Chief Minister suggested that periodic assessment of reducing compliance burden with Ministries and agencies of Government of India, such as MoEF, NHAI, AAI, may also be done. He further sought steps to improve logistics/transportation for the land-locked state of Punjab, which is unable to reach its full potential due to distance from the ports in terms of freight movement. He urged the central government to draw up a scheme to facilitate the industrialization in inaccessible areas and States that are more than 1,000 km away from the ports on both western and eastern coastline, by subsidizing the industrial units for transportation of their finished product and procurement of raw material to and from the nearest port.

The Chief Minister also sought incentivization by the GoI for sending cargo directly from Punjab airports (Mohali, Amritsar & Ludhiana [upcoming] International Airports) to both Middle Eastern & CIS countries instead of Delhi Air Cargo Terminal for the major export commodities, including perishable agri-commodities. Further, states like Punjab, which share international border with other countries, may also be allowed to engage in cross-border trade through road, he urged.

Captain Amarinder reiterated his government’s demand for according Special Category Status to Punjab, as it is strategically located along a live international border. Allocation of funds as per Special Category Status should be provided to the State to promote its industries, along with capital subsidy, insurance subsidy and reimbursement of GST to the industries coming up in Border and Kandi districts of the State similar to the Industrial Development Scheme for Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, he added.

On the infrastructure front, the Chief Minister urged the Government of India to get the Ministry of Railways to kickstart, without delay, and put on fast track the strategically important project of construction of new Railway Line from Beas to Qadian. He also urged the Railway Ministry to sanction and take up a special Railway project for a new railway line from Mohali to Rajpura, and to expedite construction of new rail link of 25 km length between Khemkaran-Patti to Ferozepur-Makhu.

The Chief Minister further sought separate allocation for “Efficiency Measures and Innovations” in every central infrastructure scheme, which should be a 100% central grant. He urged the Prime Minister to approve the proposal sent by the State to the Ministry of Jal Shakti on revised sharing pattern of rural water supply schemes in hilly/sub-montane areas of the State at par with the neighbouring districts of Himachal Pradesh.

Noting that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had agreed in-principle to declare 7 State Highways and major district roads as National Highways in the State and detailed project reports had been submitted to Government of India, the Chief Minister sought early notification to declare these roads as National Highways.

Taking cognizance of the increased focus on online education amid the Covid pandemic, the Chief Minister urged the GoI to provide liberal funding for states to implement digital infrastructure, online teaching platform/tools etc and addressing of digital divide in a bigger way.