The Punjab Congress on Sunday reiterated its demand for central assistance to the drought-hit farmers of the state, adding that the relief money be handed over directly to the farmers and not to the state's SAD-BJP government.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress MPs from Punjab stated that the poor monsoon had made farmers spend extra on diesel pumps to irrigate their paddy fields.
In a statement here, Congress spokesperson and Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari said there should not be any cap on the aid, but the Food Corporation of India (FCI) must directly disburse it among the farmers. The relief should be given at the time of the kharif procurement season and not as a bonus, he added.
"If Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is asking for Rs 2,380 crore, we are saying pay more than that, but pay it directly to the farmers", he said.
Tewari stated that the past experiences showed that whenever the Centre provided aid to the Akali-BJP government, the state government did not pay any money to the affected farmers but diverted it for other things.
Citing the 2009 example, he said the Centre had then released Rs 800 crore to the Punjab government as aid to the farmers but the state did not disburse the sum and instead claimed that it was not for them but for the electricity subsidy.
Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa also reiterated the stand in Ludhiana. He suggested that after the survey for the relief fund, the state should give the list of the affected farmers to the union government "so that relief amount can directly be transferred into farmers' bank accounts". Bajwa also told HT that party MPs would take up the issue with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Delhi when they meet her regarding the upcoming vice-president elections.
Eager for new chief: Bajwa
When asked about the Congress party's strategy as the principal opposition in the state, MP Partap Singh Bajwa said, "We have been waiting eagerly for a final decision on who would be the new Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, so that the party can raise issues of people's interest with adequate force." He said numerous issues had risen in the four months of the new SAD-BJP regime. "While meeting Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, we will also discuss the issue of PPCC president."