Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said that the agriculture sector be given top priority in formulation of national plans, farming being most crucial for the development of India. He was sharing his views at the first meeting of the governing council of the newly constituted NITI Aayog, in New Delhi.
Badal advocated continuation of procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP) by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) until a viable alternative was provided to farmers otherwise it could lead to unrest among the farmers. He also touched the issues of depleting groundwater and degradation of soil health.
According to a press release issued by the Punjab government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chaired the meeting, assured Badal that the Aayog, a replacement for the Planning Commission, would come up with a sustainable growth model to transform the lives of the peasantry.
Agenda-wise, the Punjab CM demanded special allocation for restoration of the century-old canal network in the state, whose decay has resulted in 20%reduced capacity.
He also demanded compensation for losses suffered due to incentives given to the neighbouring hill states that had resulted in flight of industry from Punjab. He sought support for the food-processing industry.
On the lines of Sagar Mala project for development of coastal areas, Badal asked for introduction of a 'Border Mala' project for border areas of Punjab. He reiterated that trade to Pakistan from the Attari-Wagah border be brought on a par with the Mumbai-Karachi port, and new routes be opened through Hussainiwala and Fazilka. Besides, Badal demanded that the industrial corridor and dedicated freight corridor be extended up to the Attari border in Amritsar.
Showing concern over the drug menace, the CM sought help from the Centre saying it was not a state-level problem but rather an international one. He said no drug was manufactured in the state and that heroin was smuggled from the international border, whereas poppy husk and synthetic drugs were produced and manufactured in other states. He urged that the vigil on the international border be heightened.
On the structure of the Aayog, Badal said recommendations of CMs be sought for appointment of experts, specialists and practitioners, and officers from states be also taken in its secretariat. Putting forth the proposal that the PM should chair the meetings of the regional council as well, he asked that the Aayog and the council should meet at least once in six months.
He also demanded a regional centre of the Aayog at Chandigarh, further suggesting that states should be at liberty to prepare their annual plans in the spirit of federalism. He called for termination of the 12th plan to make it co-terminus with the Finance Commission period.