New Delhi: Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Thursday sought an all India farm debt waiver scheme on the pattern of Punjab, while calling for restoration of the 90:10 funding pattern under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) to provide more avenues to the states to determine priorities in Agriculture sector, besides inclusion of Punjab under the special category for Border Area Development Programme.
Badal made these submissions while taking part in the deliberations during Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's pre-budget 2018-19 meeting with state finance ministers here. Badal stressed on the need for close coordination between the Centre and the states.
To celebrate the 550th Prakash Utsav of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the finance minister requested the Union Government to provide a special grant of Rs. 500 crores to the State Government. In addition, another Rs. 100 crore should be provided for academic, research and museum projects for observing the 550th Year celebrations in a most befitting manner, he said.
Noting that the nation will observe the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh sacrifice, that took place on April 13, 1919 (on Baisakhi Day), in 2019, he requested that a special grant of Rs. 100 crore may be sanctioned to the State Government for improvement of the monument, its surrounding environs and observance of the event in a befitting manner.
Raising concerns over the state’s natural boundaries with Pakistan, the Minister urged that GoI should provide a special grant to line by studs and spurs in the rivers forming natural countries. To combat terror activities, the Minister demanded a special package for purchase of equipment to modernize the police to counter anti-terrorism operations efficaciously.
Advocating the need to make states financially more strong, Manpreet Badal said that GoI should release the share of Central Taxes on account of tax devolution of corporate tax and income tax on a monthly basis instead of 4 quarterly installments in 2018-19, to avert severe impact on development works in states, besides increasing fiscal stress.
Badal said increasing the RKVY ratio back to 90:10 from 60:40 would not only help in boosting Agriculture infrastructure, farm extension activities and diversification but also in achieving Government of India's (GoI) vision of doubling farm income by 2022. A special cess of 0.5 percent can be levied on payees having more than Rs. 5 lakh annual income with a view to creating a corpus for bailing out beleaguered farmers/farm suicides besides soil rejuvenation and tackling the issue of ground water depletion, he suggested.
On the issue of farm debt waiver, the finance minister told the meeting that the Punjab government had taken the initiative to announce a loan waiver scheme to the extent of Rs. 2 lacs for all the marginal and small debt-stressed farmers of the State. This covers more than 60% of the State's farming community and will benefit almost 10 lac farmers with a financial outlay of approximately Rs. 9,500 crore.
Badal further suggested the inclusion of all aspects of rural economy like farmer incomes and farm productivity by the 15th Finance Commission in its recommendations. He informed the meeting that the state government was keen to embark on a comprehensive Agriculture Transformation Project in Punjab at an estimated cost of Rs. 1750 crore. He urged the Government of India to provide assistance over a period of 3 years for providing a special push to agriculture in Punjab.
Pointing out that there were different versions of agriculture insurance schemes, the Minister suggested introduction of a New Agriculture Insurance Scheme with GIS at field numbers level. He also suggested that to encourage Agriculture Diversification, a separate Sub-Mission for Livestock and Dairy Farm Mechanization should be established to facilitate transfer of technology and acquisition of machinery and equipment by the livestock and dairy farmers.
Raising the demand to cover Border Area Development Programme (BADP) under special category, the Minister informed that since 2016-17, this programme had been converted to 60:40 between the Centre and the non-special category states. For the special category states, the ratio was 90:10. With the changed funding pattern, Punjab, which was a non-special category state, had to bear an additional amount of Rs. 25 crore approximately annually, on account of meeting 40% of the state share. The state has also requested the Central Government to consider institutionalizing a grant/ economic package for development of Border Areas of Punjab, which it deserves on account of National Security.
Seeking grant to establish a National Horticulture University at Abohar, the Finance Minister said that a one-time special grant should be given in this regard besides one-time grant to support Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
With the initiation of GST and introduction of debt waiver scheme, the state’s cash flows had been affected, said Badal, adding that the Centre should increase the state's net borrowing ceiling from 3 percent to 4 percent of GSDP to enable the government to meet its committed liability during the current and next fiscal year. He also urged that consent under Article 293 (3) of the Constitution should be given to Punjab for swapping of National Social Security Fund (NSSF) loans with low cost market borrowing, as the rate of interest on NSSF loans was on higher side, besides seeking monthly release of GST compensation in place of bi-monthly basis…
Seeking increase in bank loan limit from Rs. 1 lac to Rs. 2 lac, the finance minister said that livestock rearing and milk production was the source of livelihood for majority of the landless and poor people. The Minister also sought special focus on animal husbandry sector by tripling the funding for small ruminants like Piggery, Goat, Sheep and Buffalo meat with backyard poultry, fisheries and beekeeping. Govt. of India should also pay 100% insurance premium for small ruminants for landless & small farmers, he suggested.
Urging the GoI to launch a scheme to provide financial assistance to States to appropriately put in place the pre-school system, the Finance Minister said that to prefix the pre-school system to primary education as per the vision of the National Policy, there is need of recruiting staff and creating physical infrastructure, and, more importantly, of developing age-appropriate learning material which has financial implications. Further, Right to Education Act should also be extended to cover pre-primary classes, said Badal.
To undertake research on emerging challenges for climate variability on agricultural production, Manpreet Singh Badal said a sum of Rs. 125 crore should be provided to establish a state-of-the-art Climate Control Chamber at PAU Ludhiana.
On the proposal to set up National Horticulture University at Abohar, the finance minister said this initiative will provide a major fillip to horticultural development in the region and would also help increase farmers’ incomes in line with Prime Minister’s announcement of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022.
Seeking renaming of National Highway from Patiala to Paniyali (near Ropar) via Fatehgarh Sahib after Mata Gujri ji, Manpreet Badal said the State has already requested for naming the National Highway project being taken up for four-laning in the memory of Mata Gujri Ji, the mother of Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji to commemorate the 350th year of the Prakash Utsav of Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji.
Demanding a Shaheed Bhagat Singh Employment Guarantee Scheme (SBSEGS) for Urban Areas on the lines of MNERGA, the Finance Minister proposed that an Employment Guarantee Scheme, titled SBSEGS, should be introduced for the urban areas under which Urban Local Bodies can also provide 100 days of gainful employment as labour component for their various development/infrastructure projects.
In the Health and Family welfare sector, the Minister urged that the GoI should also evolve a system of maintaining national patient records, which should be linked to Aadhar and the National Health Register.
Requesting the GoI to set up of a Light Combat Vehicles (LCV) Manufacturing Unit in the State, the Minister informed that the "Industrial and Business Development Policy 2017” had recently been launched by the Govt. of Punjab offering various incentives to the industry but there was no major unit manufacturing items for defence or of the Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India. The State Government requested the Ministry of Defence to consider setting up of a unit for the manufacturing LCV at an appropriate place in the State of Punjab, as this would not only help in setting up of ancillary units but would also help in providing jobs to the unemployed youth of the State. In order to attract investments in Punjab, the Govt. of Punjab had initiated the Invest Punjab Campaign, which had been a huge success, he said, urging the GoI to take steps to set-up Make in India Centre in every district like ‘INVEST PUNJAB’.
The Govt. of India should take the initiative to set-up Enterprise Skills Club in every district with the target to enroll 1000 new enterprises in every district, and which will lead to assisting 4 million startups (non- tech) every year in next five years, Badal further suggested.
Requesting the Union Government for extension of EDFC upto Attari in Amritsar for cross border trade with Pakistan and central Asia, the finance minister said the GoI had already announced a Amritsar Kolkata Industrial Corridor (AKIC) from Amritsar (Punjab) to Kolkata (West Bengal). Several manufacturing clusters are being planned along AKIC and the Govt. of Punjab is going to set up Integrated Manufacturing Cluster (IMC) at Rajpura district Patiala for which concept plan was under finalization. The AKIC will be aligned with the EDFC and, as such, the EDFC needs to be extended up to Amritsar, so that the industrial development of Punjab and other north Indian states get a big boost.
To strengthen the rail network in the state, the Finance Minister demanded to expedite the Bhanupali-Bilaspur-Beri New Railway Line project falls in District Rupnagar, Punjab and District Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. The cost of the project for the Punjab portion is approximately Rs 1700 crores. Allocation of 300 crores has been made for the year 2017-18 for the project. Likewise, there is a long-standing demand to connect the Majha region (Amritsar) with Malwa (southern Punjab) by providing railway linkage between Patti and Makhu. This will also lead to improved connectivity with northern Punjab with Rajasthan and Gujarat and also improve business linkages.
He also highlighted the much needed demand of state for rail link between Rajpura to state capital Chandigarh. The Finance Minister said that this issue has been taken up with the GoI. He requested that railways should immediately initiate the work on this section of around 25 kms. He also requested that the Ministry of Railways should be asked to bear the cost of land acquisition as the State Government is severely debt stressed.
The minister also urged the Centre to announce a National Highway from New Delhi to Katra via Amritsar in the coming Budget 2018. Seeking resumption of Shahpurkandi Dam Project Administration, the Minister requested the Union Government to approve the Revised Cost Estimate of the Project at the earliest in view of its national importance.
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