Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday urged the Centre to allow Punjab to export wheat to bail the farmers from huge debt. He had taken up the issue with Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar several times, he told mediapersons in Patiala.
The CM pointed out that whenever there was a shortage of foodgrain in the country, Punjab was reminded of its obligation towards the national pool. "On the contrary, in case of surplus food production, the Centre pays no heed to our requests, which points towards its sheer discrimination," Badal added.
Responding to a query on state's debt, the CM said it was obligatory on Centre's part to relieve Punjab of the huge debt as the state had passed through tough times fighting militancy. On the concerted efforts of West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee for debt waiver, Badal said her ultimatum was only a coercive tactic aimed at forcing the UPA government to accept her demand.
"If Centre succumbs to her pressure, Punjab will benefit because West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab have been categorised as debt-ridden states by the 13th Finance Commission. Centre won't be able to apply different yardsticks," the CM said.
Replying to another query on the alleged misuse of Central funds by the state government, the CM denied the charges vehemently and said it was another of Centre's tactics to deprive them of their right.
Making a scathing attack on the state Congress leadership, Badal said it was left with no alternative but to criticise the SAD-BJP alliance government on petty issues "which speaks volumes of their growing frustration". Advising the Congress leadership to be wary of blatant criticism, the chief minister said in a lighter vein: "Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi recently said that criticism had become fashion of the day."
The chief minister was in Patiala to attend the fourth death anniversary of Jaswant Kaur, mother of Cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra.