Capt Amarinder Singh-led Punjab govt flip-flops over sending debt waiver scheme for EC’s nod
Fig leaf? Chief secretary says no notification till banks prepare lists of beneficiaries; does a U-turn after 25 minutes to say ‘it will be sent to EC’punjab Updated: Sep 27, 2017 09:34 IST
Confusion rules the Captain Amarinder Singh government on sending the notification for debt waiver scheme for farmers to the Election Commission.
Six days after the Punjab cabinet passed the much-awaited debt waiver scheme for farmers on September 20, it has yet to send the draft notification to the Election Commission of India for its approval. The poll code of conduct is in place in the state in view of the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll slated for October 11.
“We have not received any notification on debt waiver for farmers from the state government,” Punjab additional chief electoral officer Manpreet Singh told HT on Tuesday evening.
Chief principal secretary to CM Suresh Kumar said the cabinet had already approved the notification and that it will be sent to the EC for approval.
Chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh, when contacted, first messaged the reporter to call later saying he was at a meeting. When HT called him up again at 5.46 pm and asked him about the delay in sending the notification to the EC, he said: “There is no notification (for debt waiver) as yet. We have to first talk to banks and get the list of beneficiaries. The list will then be verified. It will take a month’s time to do this.”
On being asked specifically if the scheme will be notified before the Gurdaspur bypoll, he said: “We can’t do it. We have already said in a press statement that the banks have to prepare lists of beneficiaries first and only then we can provide some debt relief,” he added.
But chief principal secretary to CM, Suresh Kumar, when contacted, said the cabinet has already approved the notification and it will be sent to the EC for approval. When told about the chief secretary’s statement, he said: “I will speak to him and get back.” Karan Avatar Singh called up the reporter at 6.13 pm and said: “The notification will be sent to the EC. If you write anything else, I will get you sacked.” And he hung up the phone.
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal had told reporters after last week’s cabinet meeting that the chief secretary has been asked by the cabinet to send the notification on debt waiver to the EC. According to sources in the government, a meeting under the chief secretary was held on Friday on issues on which the EC’s approval is needed, including debt waiver.
“The minutes of this meeting will be approved by the CM on Tuesday night and the notification will be sent to the EC on Wednesday,” Kumar later told HT.
The cabinet nod to the scheme after the announcement of the bypoll is being seen as a proverbial fig leaf to help the government cover up its failure to notify the waiver earlier owing to no funds in its kitty. “But it is a political requirement now to send the notification to the EC after the cabinet has approved it. Not doing so will put the government’s very intent under question before the crucial bypoll,” a senior government official said, requesting anonymity.