Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday welcomed the Niti Aayog’s proposal to reduce the list of centrally sponsored schemes and favoured giving a free hand to states to prepare their own “need-based plans”.
Talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of the last leg of his three-day thanksgiving-cum-sangat darshan visit to the Dhuri constituency, Badal said the Centre must enhance the share of flexi funds and transfer funds directly to the states, as untied funds and direct grants enable them formulate localised schemes.
Fewer centrally sponsored schemes is one of the broad recommendations of the sub-group of the Niti Aayog whose chairperson, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has prepared the report and discussed it during an Aayog meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.
After obtaining the consent of other chief ministers, the report is likely to be submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the first week of July.
“Devolution of funds to the states in right earnest could be a step forward towards true federal system for which the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been striving for decades. This step will go a long way in empowering the states and ensure better welfare of the people,” he added.
Expressing concern over the declining share of the Union government in the existing centrally sponsored schemes, the chief minister batted for enhancement in the share of the Centre in these schemes. He said it was unfortunate that the share of central taxes was continuously being curtailed whereas the state’s share was ever mounting.
“This would put extra burden on the states, which are already having limited funds at their disposal to carry out development works. This trend needs to be reversed by enhancing the share of Union government in all such schemes for ensuring holistic development in the states,” the CM said.
He batted for enhancement in the central share without “burdening the states which are already in dire financial straits”.
Addressing public meetings at sangat darshan venues at Dugni, Jaatimajra, Daulatpura and 11 wards in Dhuri town, Badal urged people to maintain communal harmony and brotherhood in the larger interest of the country.
Spotting presence of a large number of Muslims in the audience, he greeted the people with ‘walekum salam’ besides ‘sat sri akal’. He emphasised that each one must follow the teachings of their faith and remain true to it. “This will help in strengthening brotherhood and make Punjab a developed state,” he added.
To make a point, he referred to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, saying, “Sixth Guru Arjan Dev set an example of brotherhood by asking Mian Mir to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple.”
During the sangat darshan, the CM directed the officials accompanying him to take advice and involve the panchayats and villagers in drawing up development project in villages.
Commenting on Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh’s statement that the Punjab government was pursuing ‘panthic agenda’, the chief minister said that the sole agenda of the state government was to “strengthen the national unity and integrity” by promoting the ethos of communal harmony, brotherhood and peace in the state.
“Our agenda is of universal brotherhood and peace and no one can ever deter us from doing this pious work,” he added.
Replying to a question on Manpreet Badal’s statement that the SAD-BJP alliance was a 'facade', given the daily humiliation to the SAD faced at the hands of the BJP leaders on one or the other issues, he said, “Manpreet has no moral right to point finger at us, as he formed the Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) and contested parliamentary election on Congress symbol. He has lost his credibility and is a turncoat.”
Before rounding off his visit, Badal said he would visit Dhuri one more time. He was accompanied by the finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Farzaana Aalam, MLAs Gobind Singh Longowal and Iqbal Singh Jhunda and deputy commissioner AS Thind.