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Akali Dal should stage dharna in front of PM office to seek help for farmers: Manpreet Badal

The finance minister’s remark came after the Akali Dal alleged that the ruling Congress was making “excuses” for not waiving the entire farm debt in the state.

punjab Updated: Jan 22, 2018 18:36 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, Chandigarh
Manpreet Badal,Manpreet Singh Badal,Shiromani Akali Dal
Punjab minister Manpreet Singh Badal.

Punjab minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Monday accused the previous Shiromani Akali Dal dispensation of leaving the state with a “massive debt” and asked them to stage a sit-in in front of the Prime Minister’s Office to bring some relief for debt-ridden farmers.

The finance minister’s remark came after the Akali Dal alleged that the ruling Congress was making “excuses” for not waiving the entire farm debt in the state. “We were not aware of the grave financial position of the state (when the SAD left office).

A day before counting of poll results last year, the Akalis (who were then in power) converted Rs 31,000 crore of cash credit limit (CCL) into term loan,” Manpreet claimed.

“How was I to know that state was left with unpaid liabilities of Rs 13,000 crore and they (SAD) issued Rs 17,000 crore of UDAY bonds,” the finance minister said.

The SAD had on Sunday asked Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh for allegedly reneging on his promise of extending entire debt relief to farmers.

“I want to ask the SAD and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is part of BJP government at the Centre, to hold a dharna in front of PM Narendra Modi’s office to demand waiving of Rs 31,000 crore CCL-related debt and then (if the demand is accepted), we will release the entire Rs 31,000 crore to farmers,” Manpreet said.

The opposition had also questioned whether the Congress was not aware of Punjab’s fiscal health before making the promise of waiving entire farm debt.

The chief minister had said his government could not extend the debt waiver scheme to more farmers and waive loans of over Rs 2 lakh because of “lack of support” from the Centre and the financial problems inherited from the previous SAD-BJP dispensation.

Manpreet claimed that Punjab was saddled with Rs 31,000 crore of CCL-related debt. “We are paying Rs 3,240 crore per annum as interest on this debt and it has to be paid for 20 years,” he said.

The state government had taken up the matter with Centre to resolve this issue, the finance minister said.

Manpreet said that of the Rs 50,000 crore procurement undertaken every year, the state was suffering a loss of Rs 5,500 crore, including about Rs 3,200 crore on payment of instalments and interest on outstanding CCL debt.

On GST rates, he sought the abolition of the 28 per cent tax under it, claiming such a slab did not exist in any country.

“There should be no slab of 28 in GST. There is no country where such a slab exists. Except for some sin goods, there should be no slab of 28 per cent. We can have tax slabs of five and 15 per cent under GST for the benefit of tax payers,” he said.

He also alleged that the implementation of GST was “flawed” and that the central tax had failed to push the GDP, increase revenue mobilisation and control inflation.

“Nothing has happened with the GST,” he said.

The finance minister said that Punjab was also facing cash problems because of disbursement of compensation by the Centre after every two months instead of every month.

“Now the release of states’ share in taxes is also being made after 15 days of the month which is posing problems for the state. Then we have to borrow money. The government of India can make a provision to release some portion of money to states which is lying idle with it,” he said.

Manpreet said Punjab took a maximum hit because of GST as it had led to loss of 40 per cent in the state’s revenue.

First Published: Jan 22, 2018 18:34 IST