PUNJAB IS POISED FOR ECONOMIC RESURGENCE
CHANDIGARH , Sanjay Pahwa :
Winding up the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor's address in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the Chief Minister also demanded that the word “federal” be added to the preamble of the Constitution to ensure this, adding ”Centre is eating up all resources and the states have been reduced the level of dignified municipalities”. Mr. Badal said that state governments were in the best position to understand and address the problems of the people at the grass root level. “We are for a federal India. Strong states mean a strong India and therefore, it is in the interest of the country to grant autonomy to the states. He said that the top-down approach to development has failed miserably and it is time to turn to the grass root approach.
Demanding the transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas, left out of the state to Punjab, Mr. Badal also raised the issue of river waters and asked the Centre to settle this long pending dispute as per the national and internationally accepted Riparian Principle without any further delay.
Lashing at the Centre for its apathetic and discriminatory attitude towards Punjab, Mr. Badal said that it had always betrayed Punjab on every front, be it agriculture, industry and even on the infrastructure development. He said that Central policies were inimical for the interests of Punjab and they deliberately devised stringent parameters for the eligibility of the centrally sponsored schemes and grants. He however, said that the Centre merely showed lip sympathy towards our hard working Punjabi farmers for their contribution in the national food pool but never bothered to make a substantial hike in Minimum Support Price (MSP) in view of ever increasing costs of agricultural inputs including diesel, fertilizers and pesticides.
Mr. Badal also declared that Punjab economy has turned a decisive corner and the “state is poised firmly for an unprecedented economic resurgence.” The Chief Minister said; "The development seen in the state over the past four years has no parallel in the history of the state and its economic position is looking far healthier than what we inherited it. Things which were not even dreamt of by anyone four years ago have been made possible. The debt-GSDP ratio has been decisively brought down from 46% during the Congress regime to just 30.5% now. The state has moved many, many steps up the national ladder in key areas like power, infrastructure development, agriculture, education, health, employment generation, transport and environment“. The bold initiatives taken by the government has resulted in considerably improving the financial health of the state in the four years. Prudent economic polices and management has resulted in whopping increase in VAT collection, almost 100% from Rs. 5136 crore to Rs. 11000 crore during the current fiscal which is likely to cross the mark of Rs. 13000 crore by March 2012. Likewise, there has been an impressive hike in the Excise revenue from Rs. 1363 crore during the previous Congress government to Rs. 2500 crore in 2010-11 which is likely to touch the target of Rs.3200 crore during the year 2011-12.
“The revenue generation has seen revolutionary improvement. We had inherited a Punjab that stood on the brink of a fiscal emergency and we have not only pulled it out of that hole but brought it to a level where it looks forward to its future with renewed confidence and optimism,” said the Chief Minister. He said that while the Opposition kept talking about financial constraints of the state, we not only stepped up the pace of development many, many times but did so while unfailingly implementing unprecedented social welfare schemes.
Showing satisfaction over the tremendous increase in the states' own Tax Revenue, Gross Domestic Product and Capital expenditure, Mr. Badal mentioned that tax revenue has increased from Rs.9017 crore during the Congress government in 2006-07 to Rs.16,308 crore in the SAD-BJP government during the current fiscal. The states' own tax revenue was likely to increase to approximately Rs.21000 crore during the year 2011-12. Likewise, the GSDP at current price has increased from Rs.1,26,791 crore in the Congress regime to Rs.2,54,931 crore, almost doubled in the five years. Yearly average Capital expenditure during the Congress rule was Rs.1189 crore which has been more than the double i.e. Rs.2569 crore in the SAD-BJP government.
For the first time ever, the issue of central debt and loan waiver was also placed on the record of the House. “There never was and there still is not any offer of a waiver– Rs. 35000 crore or any figure from the Government of India to Punjab. I fail to understand what all this tall talk is about. If anyone has any shred of any evidence on the central offer in this regard, I invite him or her to place it before the House so that it could be discussed on the basis of something more than thin air“, declared the Chief Minister.
Quoting from the government of India documents, Mr. Badal ridiculed the impression that the debt was the result of the policies of the Punjab government. “How illiterate can you get, I had left Punjab as a surplus state in 1980. When I came back in 1997, I found the state reeling under a central debt. All this loan had been accumulated when I was not even in government. For nearly two decades when the debt mounted, the state was ruled either by the Congress or directly by the Center. Not a single penny of this loan had been taken by us for pushing our own development or social welfare schemes. Records will show that this debt mounted during central regime here and the subsequent Congress governments did nothing to get it waived. The only debt waiver that Punjab has seen so far is that of Special term Loan of Rs. 8300 crore waived by the then Prime Minister Mr. I K Gujral during my previous tenure as Chief Minister.
Dwelling on the major initiatives taken in the power sector to make Punjab as a power surplus state in the near future, Mr. Badal said that to fulfill this commitment, work had already commenced at Thermal Plants at Talwandi Sabo (2640 MW), Goindwal Sahib (540 MW) and Rajpura Thermal Project (2100 MW). Under the Power Generation Policy 2010 of the Punjab Government, MoUs for 5850 MW capacity addition have been signed with various developers. This includes 700 MW expansion at Rajpura, 660 MW expansion at Talwandi Sabo, 1350 MW Thermal Power Plant at Village Gobindpura under District Mansa, 1320 MW Thermal Power Plant at Kot Shamir in District Bathinda, 1320 MW Thermal Power Plant at Goindwal Sahib & 500 MW Gas based Power Plant near Rajpura. In addition to these projects, the execution of 2640 MW Gidderbaha Thermal Power Plant would be carried out by NTPC. Total investment in generation sector in the State by private developers and NTPC would be to the tune of Rs.75,000 crore. Execution of 206 MW Shahpur Kandi and 18 MW Mukerian Phase-II Hydel Projects was also in full swing.
The Chief Minister said that another ambitious programme of Rs.2111 crore for the cleaning of river Satluj (Rs.1376 crore), river Beas (Rs.222 crore) and river Ghaggar (Rs. 513 crore) to provide water supply, sewerage and sewage treatment plants in 45 towns was under execution and would be completed by November 2011.
Mr. Badal said that an amount of Rs. 800 crore had been released for integrated development of rural infrastructure in the villages across the state during the last four years. He pointed out that a sum of Rs.224 crore was being spent to provide latrines to the people in the state.
The Chief Minister said that strenuous efforts have been made to revamp the education infrastructure at all levels be it school, college and university. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Ropar, Indian School of Business (ISB) at Mohali, Central University at Bathinda besides had already been established and classes were on. He said that World Class University at Amritsar was being also set up besides two private universities one DAV University at Jalandhar and another Chitkara University at Banur had been established. Besides, Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University at Sir Fatehgarh Sahib would be made functional soon. As many as 17 degree colleges, 7 hi- tech govt. polytechnic colleges, 21 model schools, 21 girl hostels and 118 Adarsh Schools were being set up in the state to provide quality education to the students. Record recruitment of 51376 school teachers in all cadres have been undertaken in a transparent and fair manner. Even the technical, medical education & research have been restructured and modernized according to the felt needs of the society. The Chief Minister also mentioned that a sum of Rs.400 crore was being spent on the upgradation of infrastructure in the medical colleges of Amritsar, Patiala, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences Faridkot and its constituent Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital. A plan of Rs 346 crore for upgradation of infrastructure and equipment in the hospitals to provide the best medical and health care facilities to the people was under implementation. Apart from this Sri Guru Ravi Dass Ayurveda University was being set up at Hoshiarpur.
To ensure comprehensive development of all the cities and towns, Mr. Badal said that the SAD-BJP government has spent Rs. 4326.43 crore to provide basic civic amenities in four years where as the previous Congress government (2002-07) merely spent Rs. 1207 crore in five years. He said that funds to the tune of Rs.442 crore have been tied up to provide these civic amenities in these 83 towns out of 141 towns in the first phase and the remaining 58 towns would be taken up in the subsequent phase.
Reiterating his commitment to maintain peace and law and order in the State at every cost, Mr. Badal equivocally declared that "Punjab Government was fully alive to its responsibility to maintain peace and amity in the state and no one would be allowed to disturb peace in the state”.
On the major initiative of employment generation, Mr. Badal said that the state government had so far recruited 68000 persons in various departments and the process for the recruitment to fill up 17,380 vacant posts was under way and 85,485 posts would be soon filled through a special recruitment drive. It may be recalled that the previous Congress government recruited only 23,366 persons during its tenure of five years.
Referring to the initiatives taken in the filed of skill development, Mr. Badal said that it was another priority sector of the government to generate employment potential for our unemployed youth. We have tied up with Bharti Wal Mart to impart training in retailing, logistics and supply chain management, L&T for construction skills and Tata Motors for driving and automotive skill. Maharaja Ranjit Singh Preparatory Institute for Military Training at Mohali at cost of Rs.10 crore, besides two NCC academies at Ropar & Malout were being set up to secure the placement of our youth in the deference services. A Naval academy is also being set up at Ropar to impart training in merchant navy.
To perpetuate the rich legacy of our cultural heritage amongst our younger generations, the state government has already made and endeavour to construct three historic memorials at a cost of Rs. 95 crore at Chappar Chiri in SAS Nagar, Chak Abdalwari in Gurdaspur and Kup Rohira in Sangrur district to commemorate the victory of Sirhind by the legendary Sikh warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and in the memory of Wadda and Chhota Ghallughara martyrs respectively. Work on these memorials was in full swing. Mr. Badal also mentioned that Rs.180 crore had already been spent on the upgradation & development of various projects in Sri Anandpur Sahib & Talwandi Sabo as a part of the tercentenary celebrations of Gurta Gaddi Diwas. A sum of Rs. 18 crore has been spent on the holy Ram Tirath Temple of Bhagwan Valmiki ji in Amritsar for its beautification and connectivity. The government has decided to construct a world-class memorial at a cost of Rs. 10 crore at village Khuralgarh in Hoshiarpur district to pay tributes to Sri Guru Ravi Dass ji. Besides, the Government has also undertaken a comprehensive plan to develop village Ghuman in Gurdaspur district associated with Bhagat Naamdev ji. Likewise, Bhagwan Parshuram Taposthali is also being developed at village Khatti in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar to pay respect to Bhagwan Parshuram ji. A Rs. 90 crore project of Golden Temple Entrance Plaza is in the advanced stage of implementation and rapid transport system was also being introduced in Amritsar shortly to enable the devotees to pay obeisance at Golden Temple in a hassle free manner. Naina Devi temple is being connected with Sri Anandpur Sahib through ropeway to facilitate the pilgrims to visit the holy temple.
In the concluding remarks, Mr. Badal said that the SAD-BJP government during the past four years have turned a new leaf in revenue generation, infrastructure development, employment & skill development, power generation, governance reforms international air connectivity, education, health care, rural and urban development. "We have declared 2011 – as the year of Transformation for Punjab in which the state would enter the decisive phase of the era of new age-development. The path breaking initiatives undertaken by the state government would be taken to their logical climax in this year. However, the last four years proved to be the most satisfied period of my political career in terms of service to the state. We have been successfully able to create excellent environment for good governance, responsive administration and efficient service delivery system", said Mr. Badal.The Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal today called for setting up of a genuinely federal structure in the country and demanded that the constitution be amended to grant fiscal autonomy to the states.