Punjab hardly found any mention in the budget speech of union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday, and there was no word on crop diversification, which is Punjab’s biggest need of the hour. Besides, the state lost the horticultural university to Haryana. Though Bathinda member of Parliament (MP) Harsimrat Kaur Badal has attempted to put up a brave face, yet there is not much she can boast of.
Last year, Harsimrat had urged then UPA-led union government to provide a special package of 3,500 crore to Punjab in view of the deteriorating agriculture scenario in the state. However, today she was more satisfied with 200 crore for Amritsar city.
“Punjab today got what six UPA ministers could not get during the last 10 years from the union budget. An IIM coming to Punjab and 200 crore for Amritsar city alone are laudable,” said Harsimrat on her Facebook page. One out of the five comments on her status, asked her, “What about AIIMS in Jalandhar? It was requested by the CM personally.”
The state has been aspiring for money to get out of the wheat-paddy cycle. However, there was no word on crop diversification in the finance minister’s speech. Jaitley focused on the second green revolution to promote productivity of wheat and paddy in eastern states with the help of new technology.
Punjab agriculture department had great hopes rom the budget to support its diversification
programmes launched by the state government last year. All the diversification projects of the state government have been lagging behind due to shortage of money.
The state also did not get any new agricultural institute to promote diversification.
Interestingly, Congress-ruled Haryana, where assembly elections are due in some months, got a horticulture university, along with Telangana. Agriculture universities have been announced for Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan also.
Punjab badly needed an institution like a horticulture university to speed up the process of getting out of the wheat-paddy cycle. Also, there is no word on the waterlogging problem in Punjab. The previous government had promised nearly 2,200 crore to tackle waterlogging in the state. Jaitley has only expressed interest in providing 1,000 crore for irrigation to those areas which are facing water shortage across the country.
The finance minister has announced service tax exemption on loading, unloading, storage, warehousing and transportation charges of cotton. However, in Punjab, the rural development tax on cotton unloading and uploading is only 4%, which is incurred by the state government. Hence, this announcement will hardly bring cheers to farmers and industrialists in Punjab.
The budget is also silent on recommendations of the Swaminathan commission, which Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal flaunts very often to ensure remunerative prices of crops to farmers.
Punjab has big potential to sell agricultural equipment to Pakistan, however there is no mention of any such proposal to promote cross-border trade via road link.
Punjab was mentioned only once in the entire speech of Jaitely, yet Harsimrat could not keep herself from saying, “The man, who was not elected by Amritsar voters, has given crores to the city, whereas the man elected did not even bother to attend the budget session and find out what was being done for his constituency,” read Harsimrat’s Facebook status.