Expressing concern over the poor financial health of the state, People's Party of Punjab (PPP) chief Manpreet Singh Badal said here on Monday that Punjab's overall debt was set to reach Rs 1 lakh crore by the year-end.
On the opening day of the two-day "chintan shivir" (brainstorming session) at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall here, the former finance minister called Punjab's mounting debt a time bomb and alleged that the state government was hiding this fact.
He said the government's inability to tackle the gigantic issue amounted to criminal negligence, adding that the SAD-BJP combine's "vichar manthan" in Goa had remained tightlipped on the matter.
The session also identified the "breakdown" of law and order in the state, coupled with rampant corruption, as other major failures of the state government.
"Corruption is being used as a tool by the government to exercise money power so that the poor and the marginalised cannot even dream of contesting the elections," Manpreet said.
The PPP also identified the poor state of the industry and the shifting of manufacturing and service sector from Punjab to other states as areas of concern. "Corruption, poor infrastructure, lack of regular and affordable power, and bureaucratic shackles have led to this situation," the PPP chief said.
He added that the SAD-BJP government had failed to come up with a policy on agriculture and taken no steps to bail out farmers.
The "chintan shivir" also expressed concern over Punjab emerging as a corridor for drug trade, while accusing vested interests in the ruling party of supporting the drug mafia.
The party regretted that the dismal financial situation had led to the withdrawal of tuition fee waiver for girl students and contributed to a decline in investment in education and health sectors.
While the first day of the session concentrated on the ills plaguing Punjab, the second day would focus on solutions.
'We are against death sentence'
On the demand for commuting the death sentence of terrorist Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, Manpreet said his party was against capital punishment.
"The verdict against Bhullar was fractured as there was lack of unanimity among judges of the Supreme Court bench," he said.
Manpreet Badal preferred to sit among the workers; no chairs were kept on the dais.
PPP leaders targeted Akali leaders, but didn't speak against the Congress.
Referring to Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu's resentment against his party (BJP), Manpreet said the PPP was best suited for such disgruntled leaders.
Manpreet equated deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal with a student who is unable to clear matriculation but talks about completing postgraduation.
Manpreet said only Goa's hoteliers had benefited from the SAD-BJP "vichar manthan", where Punjab's problems had not even been discussed.