Need to fix Rs 31,000 crore missing food stocks before seeking relief from Centre: Manpreet Badal
At a meeting with Jaitley, Amarinder and Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal only took up the cash-credit limit (CCL) issue in view of the upcoming wheat procurement season. Later, in a one-to-one meeting with Modi, the CM sought a debt waiver for Punjab’s farmers, citing spate in farmer suicides in the recent years.punjab Updated: Mar 23, 2017 09:27 IST
Relief from the staggering Rs 1.75 lakh crore outstanding liabilities of the state was not even on the agenda of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh at his maiden meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi on Wednesday.
At a meeting with Jaitley, Amarinder and Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal only took up the cash-credit limit (CCL) issue in view of the upcoming wheat procurement season. Later, in a one-to-one meeting with Modi, the CM sought a debt waiver for Punjab’s farmers, citing spate in farmer suicides in the recent years.
“The food security is as important as national security. The army does not fight everyday but it has to be maintained. The Centre needs to bail out Punjab’s beleaguered peasantry from stress of debt. The wheat harvesting may start early owing to weather conditions and securing the CCL was the priority,” Manpreet later told HT.
He said Punjab can only put up its demand for a debt swap or reducing interest liability only after finding where did the Rs 31,000 crore missing food stocks go. “The Rs 31,000 crore is part of the Rs 1.75 lakh crore outstanding liabilities of the state. Before we own up the Rs 31,000 crore as our debt, we need to know where was the money diverted. The Food Corporation of India pays for food stocks that rot due to delay in moving them out of godowns. The diversion has to be probed before we go to the Centre for seeking any relief on that account,” Manpreet said.
Though Amarinder sought Modi’s help in meeting party’s poll promise of farm loan waiver, it might not be possible for the Centre to come to his rescue. There has been a growing clamour for it in many states from Tamil Nadu to BJP-ruled Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh — where it was a part of BJP’s poll manifesto. Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh has clarified that the farm debt waiver was promise of the party and the UP government would meet it out of its own kitty.
The state cabinet, in its first meeting last week, has formed a group of experts to assess farm loans and suggest ways and means to waive it. The Congress had registered nearly 28 lakh farmer families under the “Karza kurki khatam, fasal ki poori rakam” campaign launched in October in the run-up to Punjab polls.