Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has sought financial assistance from the NITI Aayog to mitigate the financial distress of farmers through a one-time debt waiver, while seeking a special package from the Centre to promote major industrial hubs in the state.
The CM’s strong pitch for central assistance came through his speech, which was circulated and taken on record at the third governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog here on Sunday. He could not attend the meeting due to unavoidable reasons. The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was attended by Union ministers, chief ministers, and vice-chairmen and members of the NITI Aayog.
MOOTS FOR SMART VILLAGES
Praising the central government’s Smart City initiative, the Punjab CM mooted the establishment of smart villages on the same lines for the development of Punjab’s rural infrastructure. He urged the central government to launch a mission for this purpose, with adequate funding to upgrade rural infrastructure and bring the benefits of technology and markets to the state’s rural areas.
In his speech, Amarinder listed the crucial challenges confronting the people and his newly constituted government, which had been left with the humongous task of bringing the state out of its present fiscal distress, stagnating agriculture and industry, rising unemployment, collapsing urban infrastructure, declining agricultural income and consequent rural distress.
Citing the massive ₹1,82,000 crore financial debt inherited by his government, the CM requested the central government to consider a one-time debt waiver and debt swap as a special dispensation for the state to enable it to come out of financial difficulties. Referring to the state government’s plan to promote employment and micro-enterprises in its endeavour to fulfil its promise of “Ghar-Ghar Mein Naukari”, he urged the Modi government to provide direct subsidy of ₹1 lakh to all youth seeking to engage themselves in self-employment after skill development.
INCLUDE PUNJAB AS ‘A’ CATEGORY STATE
He also called for inclusion of Punjab as a category ‘A’ state for financial assistance on the pattern of Jammu and Kashmir and eight north-east states under the ‘Modernization of State Police Forces Scheme’, with central funding on 90:10 basis. This, he said, was necessary for the upgrade of the police in the border-sensitive state of Punjab.
DEFICIENCY PRICE PAYMENT SUPPORT SYSTEM
Stressing the need for comprehensive policy initiatives for the development of agriculture in the state, Amarinder sought the NITI Aayog’s support in setting up a ‘deficiency price payment support system’ to provide farmers with crop remuneration on a par with the MSP for all other crops in addition to wheat and paddy. This, he observed, would encourage the farmers to shift to cultivation of alternate crops like maize, soybean, oilseeds and pulses, helping make agriculture more sustainable and leading to better earnings for the beleaguered farmers of the state.
Recalling the Prime Minister’s promise to double farmers’ incomes, the CM sought technical support from NITI Aayog in preparing a roadmap for ensuring the same in Punjab, and also urged it to consider a special dispensation for original Green Revolution states, which face a gigantic task in this direction. He also stressed the importance of promoting micro, small and medium enterprises in Punjab, with special incentives to the border areas and the sub-mountainous area, along the hilly tracts, to promote employment and bring buoyancy in the tax revenue of the state. This, he said, was necessary to ensure balanced regional development.