Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday criticised the union government's decision to continue with the industrial tax concessions to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, keeping Punjab out of the ambit of the package in spite of the state's repeated pleas for inclusion.
"The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government (at the Centre) is working clearly to a plan to inflict economic devastation on the sensitive border state of Punjab. It does not require a great economist to understand that Punjab, a landlocked state along a hostile international border (with Pakistan), has a more rightful claim to the tax concessions," Badal said in a statement here.
Badal said he was not against concessions to any state but opposed only the denial of similar benefit to Punjab, which was in proximity to disturbed conditions along the internal border with Jammu and Kashmir. Badal asked Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa to "speak against injustice to his state by his own party (the Congress)". "Or is your politics limited to giving verbal cover fire to the Centre's assault to destroy the economy of your state, root, branch and fruit?" Badal asked Bajwa.
The CM said whenever Punjab had raised its voice against such this injustice, the state Congress leaders had accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of having a persecution fear. "What do they expect Punjabis to feel under persistent and cold-blooded persecution by the Centre?" he asked. Badal said he would take up the issue at the highest level again after his return from the flooded areas of Muktsar district.
Punjab industry and commerce minister Anil Joshi also expressed anguish over the union government's not fulfilling Punjab's demand for tax concessions. He said he was shocked that union commerce minister Anand Sharma had denied him appointment to register the protest of Punjab's industry.
"Punjab has been the worst sufferer of regional economic disparity arising out of preferential treatment to the hill states in its vicinity and has seen the shifting of industry and investment to these neighbouring states," said Joshi.
The industry minister added that the capital investment and freight subsidy concessions to the adjoining states had been restored at the cost of Punjab. "The state was losing its economic leadership in the region in absence of similar packages," he said.