Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi on Friday termed the state budget for financial year 2016-17 as “directionless, hollow, and not more than an election speech in which the actual figures and facts have been hidden”.
He began his speech on the budget-debate by telling the House that he in his Chamkaur Sahib constituency important to the Sikh faith, the previous Congress government had started a theme park project dedicated to Sahibzadas (sons of Guru Gobind Singh), which the Panthic Akalis after coming to power in 2007 had stalled.
Only six of his party colleagues were in the House to listen to Channi’s speech, for which the treasury benches ridiculed him, requiring party colleague Kuljit Singh Nagra to come to his support. The state CLP leader told the House that analysing the budget with a chartered accountant on Thursday night, he had found out that the government’s advertisement about its financial health and achievements was a “very expensive lie”.
“Fudging figures has helped the state government postpone its major expenditure on salaries and pension to the next year,” Channi alleged. “Punjab has added only 20 megawatts to its electricity-generation capacity, and the rest is all from private thermal-energy plants. In 2010, the state’s capacity was 4,929 MW and now it is 4,949 MW, which belies the official claims that the state is power surplus,” he told the House.
Refuting the claims of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal that that state government was taking productive loans to fund infrastructure development, Channi said only 8% of the amount raised was being spent for productive purposes. “The rest all goes into paying salaries and debt, and managing the day-to-day expenditure. Even the state’s revenue is funded by debt,” he claimed. The Congress leader said let the government hide its bankruptcy from outsiders but there was no harm in discussing the situation within the House to find a solution. He accused the state government of selling its property to meet daily expenses. “The government is custodian of public property and not its owner,” said Channi.
In his reply to the debate on budget, Channi said the state’s debt was Rs 2.25 lakh crore instead of the projected Rs 1.38 lakh crore. “The government is hiding Rs 70,000-crore debt against different boards and corporations,” he said. The Punjab investment summit organised last year was futile exercise, he said, and waving documents at the treasury benches, added that some of the companies that had signed deals with the state government didn’t even exist.
Speaking on the budget, Congress legislator Kuljit Singh Nagra said the government was exploiting women in the name of empowerment. “The finance minister has announced to open 638 new anganwadi centres but Rs 5,000 pay ever month to each woman worker of the programme was least in Punjab,” said the MLA, adding: “Of this Rs 5000, Rs 3000 comes from the Centre. Even the proposal open 638 more centres had come from the Centre in 2014, which the state government has taken up two years later.”