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Will not compromise with farmers’ interest, says Captain Amarinder Singh

Dismissing the Centre’s suggestion on replacement of free power with DBT, CM says ready to forego portion of fiscal deficit enhancement offered by Union govt
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By HT Correspondent, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON MAY 31, 2020 01:48 AM IST

Rejecting allegations of withdrawal of free power to farmers in Punjab, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday said his government is ready to forego the portion of fiscal deficit enhancement offered by the Centre, but would not compromise with the farmers’ interest at any cost.

Dismissing the Centre’s suggestion on replacement of free power to farmers with direct benefit transfer (DBT) unacceptable and attack on the federal structure of the nation, the CM said he will take up the issue with the Union government for trying to impose such anti-farmer condition on the cash-strapped state in the guise of extending fiscal support amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asserting that the free power facility for farmers will continue till his government is in power, Amarinder said his government will take loans to bridge the fiscal deficit, and the government of India cannot dictate the terms of a sovereign loan being taken by a state government.

The CM also lashed out at Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal for trying to pin the blame for the Central government’s misdemeanours on the state government, which had unwaveringly been providing free power to farmers since taking over in March 2017, despite the massive fiscal crunch it had inherited from the erstwhile Akali-BJP regime.

Amarinder asked Sukhbir to quit the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre and demanded Union minister and Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation from the Union cabinet. He pointed that it was the government at the Centre that took the decision directing the states to withdraw the free power.

Terming their allegations malicious, mischievous and unsubstantiated, Amarinder hit out at the Akali leadership for not fighting for the rights of Punjab and its people, including farmers, at the Centre or in Parliament, and resorting, instead, to petty and shameless politicking even on such a grave issue of national concern.

“If you have even an iota of shame, you should leave the NDA coalition, of which you are a part, immediately, and join my government in working for the people of the state,” the CM said in a statement, criticising Sukhbir and Harsimrat over their pathetic attempts to mislead the people of Punjab with their patent double standards, blatant falsehoods and unfounded allegations.

Amarinder clarified that the state cabinet had, in its last meeting, given an in-principle approval to undertaking certain reforms to become eligible to avail additional borrowing of 1.5% of gross state domestic product (GSDP) amid Covid-19, as mandated by the Centre.

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