NakodarWith an eye on Shahkot assembly by-election, necessitated after the passing away of its MLA, former Shiromani Akali Dal minister Ajit Singh Kohar in February, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh announced a grant of ₹113 crore for the development of the constituency, on Wednesday. He also announced Rs 49 crore for Nakodar. The CM was in town to launch the second phase of farm debt waiver scheme. Under this phase, debt waiver certificates of Rs 162 crore would be handed over to 30,000 farmers of six districts — Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Moga, Ferozepur and Fazilka. At the state-level function on Wednesday, he handed over these certificates to 15 beneficiaries. Amarinder had launched the scheme from Mansa on January 7 by symbolically handing over loan waiver certificates to 10 farmers from Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar and Moga districts. The Congress government had initially announced to cover 10.25 lakh farmers by waiving off loans totalling Rs 9,500 crore. The lists of beneficiaries led to resentment as a large number of small farmers found their names missing and some got meagre loan waiver. Now, a watered-down scheme has been introduced and the number of beneficiaries pruned.At the event, Amarinder added that the debt of marginal farmers would also be waived soon. “The delay in waiving off farmers’ loans is not because of the paucity of funds. We have funds, but the thing is that SDMs have been preparing reports of authentic beneficiaries which could take some time,” he added.‘Free power to continue; meters are to save water’The CM also told the gathering that farmers must not worry about free power for tubewells. “Under a pilot project, we are installing meters on 900 tubewells to save water as the ground water has been falling alarmingly. In Patiala, the level has receded to 70 feet from 700 ft over 30 years,” he added.Explaining how this will work, the CM said, “Let us say, for instance that the government pays Rs 10,000 directly to a beneficiary of free power; if he consumes power of Rs 7,000, he will save Rs 3,000. This will also contribute towards saving the scarce natural resource of water.” Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal lauded the CM for ensuring smooth crop procurement and starting the process of implementation of election promises. “This is not easy, considering the fiscal situation of the state,” he claimed. Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar challenged the SAD to end ties with the BJP for failure to give any package to Punjab. SAD protests, demands complete debt waiverFarm Cell workers of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) led by former minister Sikander Singh Maluka on Wednesday, held a protest in Nakodar, near the venue of the CM’s event. Seeking complete debt waiver, hundreds of farmers under the banner of SAD Kisan Cell raised slogans against the Congress government for its failure to fulfil promises. The police did not allow them to enter the venue. They, later, submitted a memorandum to district administration officials.