The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) unveiled a raft of doles to woo farmers and the youth in its manifesto for the February 4 Punjab assembly polls, released here on Tuesday. It promises to acquire 1 lakh acres of land abroad — including the US and Canada — to settle Punjabi farmers, and also to financially assist students eager to study abroad.
Closer home, it promises waiver of loans for small farmers. It says that if the party again forms the government, it will give Rs 100 per quintal on wheat and paddy as ‘fertiliser input incentive’ in addition to the minimum support price (MSP). This, if implemented, will put an additional burden of Rs 2,700 crore on the state exchequer, calculated as per the most recent procurement — 106 lakh tonnes of wheat and 165 lakh tonnes of paddy. The manifesto adds to the free-power dole too, promising 10-hour supply during the day. Already, the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government is giving a Rs 6,000 crore annual power subsidy to farmers.
From “two-wheelers” to girl students and Rs 10 per kg sugar, to 35 lakh beneficiaries of the subsidised atta-dal scheme, to bringing general-category poor, marginal farmers and farm labour also under the ambit of a Rs 51,000 shagun scheme, the SAD has showered freebies on all key sectors.
The 52-page manifesto that deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal released, comes after the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have already released theirs.
It promises to help 50,000 young persons buy taxis at “zero down payment”, besides incentives to industrialists, women, the elderly, small and medium enterprises, traders, and ex-servicemen.
As there are 29 lakh voters — 17.44 lakh male and 11.56 lakh females — in the 18-25 age bracket, the SAD has promised 20 lakh jobs in the government and private sectors by training 10 lakh youth in 2,500 skill centres.
Further, the manifesto having pictures of the SAD symbol ‘scales’ and Sukhbir behind his father and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, reiterates that “Badal has declared that as long as he is alive, he will not allow SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link) canal to be built”.
As for the land abroad, Sukhbir said, “This will enable Punjabis to secure permanent resident status in those countries.”