Also promises to look at all aspects before taking any decision on farm debt waiver
Giving a major fillip to the state’s persistent efforts for securing waiver of the Rs. 31,000 crore Food Account, Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, NK Singh said the issue could not be brushed under the carpet, and formed a committee to find ways of settling the matter.
The Commission would do everything in its powers to help the state get rid of this legacy problem, Singh assured Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, while wrapping up discussions with the Punjab government. Singh said the committee under the Finance Commission, with the Centre, the State and FCI, would explore all possibilities, given its terms of reference and constitutional propriety, to settle the festering problem.
The Chairman also assured the Chief Minister of all possible support to revive Punjab’s fiscal health, while promising to look into all aspects of debt waiver to help the state’s distressed farmers. The Commission would take a holistic view of the state’s fiscal situation in taking a decision on farm debt waiver, he said, while also underscoring the Commission’s commitment to ensure balanced socio economic development in the state, which was facing a critical challenge in terms of poor financial health.
The Chairman lauded the Chief Minister for abolishing truck unions, which he termed a Herculean task for any politician. He urged the state to play a leadership role in making food procurement process more efficient and sustainable, to make it a role model to be replicated by other states.
Intervening in the discussion, the Chief Minister lamented that FCI was not pitching in the procurement operations in the state, whose godowns were full, leaving no space for storing the next crop. FCI had not picked up wheat in the state for the past 3-4 years, he pointed out. What will Punjab do with the marketable surplus in this kind of situation, Captain Amarinder Singh asked, seeking the Centre’s support to resolve the issue. Punjab Principal Secretary Food and Supplies KAP Sinha clarified on certain structural issues, including supply of gunny bags.
Responding to a query raised by the Chairman regarding the CCL Term loan, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh highlighted the structural issues being faced by the state government in procurement of paddy and wheat. He also requested the Commission to take a ringside view of the situation to find an enduring solution, which complements the state’s macro and micro level financial position. The Chief Secretary also enunciated the measures being taken by the state government to check the menace of stubble burning, which had led to a perceptible decline in the environmental hazard.
Expressing concern over the depleting ground water, the Commission asked the state to intensify its efforts to motivate farmers to opt for crop diversification.
Exhorting Punjab to become a pacesetter in providing suitable jobs to its youth in the changed scenario, as the jobs of today might not exist in the future, the Commission Chairman stressed the need for the state to reorient its academic curriculum to blend it with skill development and vocational training. Underlining the importance of such a blend in making the youth employable, he said this was particularly important in the current contest as the syllabus being taught today could be absolutely irrelevant due to the radical transformation being witnessed in the human resource development arena at the global level.
Punjab Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi demanded a special grant of Rs 500 Crores for various skill development initiatives including the setting up of a Skill University.
Taking part in the deliberations, Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said the state government was making concerted efforts to make Panchayati Raj Institutions economically viable.
Health Minister Brahm Mohindra said the state government had strengthened the healthcare network by recruiting requisite medical and paramedical staff. Salary of medical officers had been hiked from Rs 15,000 to Rs 40,000 per month and of specialists from Rs 40,000 to 70,000 per month, he said, adding that this had ensured their regular presence in the government hospitals and civil dispensaries, especially in rural areas. He demanded additional funds to further strengthen the government medical set-up in Punjab.
Additional Chief Secretary Health Satish Chandra urged the Commission to grant more PG seats in state government colleges to tide over the shortage of specialists in the government hospitals across the state.
Asks 15th Finance Commission for one-time debt relief for farmers
Urges greater share with centre in devolution, funds for solving water & drugs problems
Underscoring the tight financial situation faced by the state, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh sought from the 15th Finance Commission a Special Debt Relief Package to support his government’s efforts to revive fiscal health, along with a one-time package to enable payment of the entire debt of the distressed farmers of Punjab.
At a meeting of the 15th Finance Commission here, the Chief Minister noted with concern the permanent loss of revenue suffered by the state post GST implementation, whose compensation from the Centre will also end from July 1, 2022, resulting in a drastic fall in revenue in the range of Rs. 10,000-12,000 crore per annum. In view of the loss, the Chief Minister urged the Commission to recommend a graded compensation tapering formula to the Government of India for states like Punjab beyond June 30, 2022, so that they do not simply ‘fall off the cliff’.
Highlighting the special problems of the state, with its highest SC population in percentage terms, its long and thickly populated border with Pakistan, its riverine and sub-mountainous areas and flight of industry due to concessions to neighbouring states, Captain Amarinder Singh shared his government’s wish list with the Commission, underlining the need for a special package for Punjab, citing the various roadblocks to its development despite his government’s numerous programmes and persistent efforts.
The Chief Minister, while submitting a formal memorandum to the Commission, pointed out that Punjab had the highest Interest Payments to Total Revenue Receipts ratio and Outstanding Debt to GSDP ratio amongst the GCS. The package, he said, could be provided under the General Debt Relief Scheme, linking it to the fiscal performance of the states as previously done by successive Finance Commissions.
With a debt of Rs. 2.10 lakh crore, which his government had inherited from the erstwhile SAD-BJP regime, Punjab was a revenue deficit state, the Chief Minister noted, adding that the last Finance Commission had omitted the state from revenue deficit grant states, though it was included by the 12th Finance Commission.
Even as he listed out Punjab’s strengths as a land of the brave and the food bowl of the nation, the Chief Minister said the internal security threat arising out of a hostile neighbour and threat of spillover of J&K militancy, along with the problem of drugs further made the state a fit case for a special package.
On the issue of agricultural debt relief, while his government had already announced a package of Rs. 8000 crores for over 10 lakh small & marginal farming households, there was need for a comprehensive package and assistance from the Centre, said Captain Amarinder Singh, urging for a one-time debt waiver to help out the farming community. Further, to give relief to the farmers, promote agriculture diversification and realize Government of India’s vision of doubling of the farm income, he requested the Commission to provide for deficiency price support in maize and cane production to the extent of Rs. 12,350 crore and Rs. 300 crore, in order to give a boost to the allied activities in the farm sector.
Referring to the Rs. 31,000 crore Food Account which the Akali government had taken over in its last days, the Chief Minister said the Government of India should take over the debt or Punjab should be given matching revenue deficit grant to offset the committed annual interest payment liability of Rs. 3240 crores.
Mooting increase in devolution to states to allow greater flexibility to use devolved funds qua relevant Centrally sponsored schemes, the Chief Minister also sought an increase in Punjab’s share in devolution from 1.5% to 2%, noting that the same had been reduced from 2.45% to 1.57% in the last 40 years. He suggested addition of certain new elements within the existing parameters like SC/ST to facilitate equitable distribution of resources among the states.
The Chief Minister also requested the Commission to consider the contribution of the State to the nation’s economy while distributing the resources amongst the states by giving a weightage of 10% to contribution by the State economy in the aggregate GSDP. In order to encourage and incentivize sustainable development, he also proposed a weightage of 1% to Renewable Energy Source (RES) Power Generation, as a supplement to the already existing parameter of Forest Cover and redefining the composite parameter as ‘Sustainability Index’.
Expressing grave concern about the critical water situation in the state, Captain Amarinder Singh sought a Rs. 12000 crore grant for complete water cycle management in both rural and urban areas. On its part, his government was making considerable efforts to resolve the problem and had recently signed an MoU with Israel’s National Water Agency Mekorot, he pointed out. A pilot project of Direct Benefit Transfer of Electricity (DBTE) for agriculture consumers under the banner of “Paani Bachao Paise Kamao” scheme had been initiated with the intent of saving ground water and motivating farmers to cultivate diversified crops. The Government of Punjab had also initiated a programme to provide piped potable drinking water to every household in rural areas by December, 2019, he informed the Commission.
In line with the commitment of the State for sustainable development, he also asked the Commission to provide a financial assistance of Rs. 500 crore for river cleaning programme, and Rs. 3,682 crore for ground water improvement by river augmentation through afforestation.
Referring to the problem of drug abuse, which he said was directly attributable to the location of the State, the Chief Minister said Punjab shared its borders with Pakistan, which itself was well-connected with one of world’s largest opium-producing regions that enable narcotics to enter Punjab more easily than other parts of India. He brought to the Commission’s notice that the drug epidemic in Punjab also had strong correlation with rising unemployment among the youth. Punjab has a high youth unemployment rate at 16.60% compared to the national average of 10.20% due to slowdown in agricultural productivity, lack of industrialization, mismatch between educational qualifications, etc. He requested the Commission to provide Rs. 300 crore for expansion and strengthening of OOAT clinics to rehabilitate patients of drug abuse,
Captain Amarinder Singh further urged the Commission to provide support of Rs. 5,500 crore and Rs. 6,719 crore to its power infra and road infra, respectively, which the State had created majorly from its own resources, much ahead of the others, and was now neither getting the capital grant nor the maintenance expenditure for same under the various Central Government schemes. He also sought Rs. 100 crore for strengthening the cancer infrastructure and Rs. 505 crore for providing sewerage facilities in the villages on periphery of our towns.
The Chief Minister told the Commission that despite the financial crunch, his government was making the best of efforts to boost development and improve the quality of living on all fronts. Punjab was the second best performing large state in terms of Health as per the Health Index 2018, and had achieved 100% rural electrification way back in 1976 and every town and village stands electrified, with one of the lowest Transmission & Distribution Losses (T&D) in the country, he noted. What is more, the state is ranked 2nd in the country in terms of road connectivity and our rail density is better than the national average. It ranked 2nd in Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) Index, on account of our excellent performance on various parameters, namely, infrastructure, service, timeliness, safety & tracking and competitive pricing.
The State led the country in abolishing the practices of affidavit in citizen services as also shunning the VIP culture by abolishing the red beacon culture, much ahead of others, the Chief Minister noted. His government had, in the last two years, signed 305 MOUs with an investment potential of Rs 42,905 crore and an employment potential of about 1 Lakh in the last 20 months, he further disclosed. To ensure transparency and accountability, his government had also enacted the Punjab Transparency and Accountability in Delivery of Public Services (including electronic service delivery) Act in 2018 with an objective to provide citizen/ centric services to its people in digital mode in next three years.
The Chief Minister said he was saddened by the fact that the necessary development expenditure in Punjab has starved for want of funds against the backdrop of lack of adequate support from the Centre and the already stressed financial position of the State. He requested the Commission to pay special attention to the financial position of the State so that it comes out of the clutches of the vicious debt trap and work with utmost sincerity and integrity towards realizing its vision of a prosperous Punjab and prosperous India.
Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal raised objections to the industrial concessions given to the neighbouring states, asserting that the central government had no right to destabilize industrial set-up in any state by offering concessions to neighbouring states.
The Finance Commission was represented by Chairman N.K. Singh, Chairman, along with members Dr. Anoop Singh, Dr. Ashok Lahiri and Dr. Ramesh Chand, as well as Arvind Mehta, Secretary to the Commission and other officers of the Commission.
The state government was represented, besides the Chief Minister, by Cabinet Ministers Brahm Mohindra, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Charanjit Singh Channi, OP Soni, and senior officers.
Finance Minister speaks at multiple sessions on Global issues
Apprises about conducive business environment in Punjab and investment opportunities
A high level delegation from Punjab led by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal has pushed the investment agenda through high-level meetings with Global industry leaders participating in World Economic Forum at Davos. Notably, the Additional Chief Secretary Industries and Commerce Vini Mahajan and CEO Invest Punjab Rajat Agarwal were also a part of Punjab Government’s delegation.
On third day, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal spoke at multiple sessions on Global issues. He also participated two panel discussions on mobility. As part of session on “Building a Clean Mobility Future”, Badal called upon requirement for collaboration across multiple industries and value chains to secure clean environment for future generations.
As part of the session on “Global Road Safety Initiative and Road Safety Partnership for India”, he explained the correlation between economic condition and road accidents by citing the fact that 90% of road accidents happen in countries with low income levels.
Punjab delegation met several business leaders at sidelines of events. Business leaders were apprised about conducive business environment in Punjab and investment opportunities that exist across IT, automobiles including e-vehicles, renewable energy and food processing sectors.
The delegation had fruitful meetings with Global Business leaders including Chris Johnson from Nestle (Executive VP &CEO Zone Asia, Oceania and Sub Saharan Africa), Dirk Delmartino from Naspers (VP Corporate Affairs and Public Policy), Nishant Arya from JBM Group (Executive Director) and Bhawin Shah (Strategy) & Nitin Mittal (VP- Corporate Finance) from Avaada.
Nestle has strong existing presence in Punjab. Nestle forayed into India in 1961 with manufacturing facility at Moga (Punjab). Meeting with Nestle focused on expansion plans and new opportunities around raw material procurement, dip production plant and manufacturing facility related to pet food segment across the State.
To promote the inherent strength which Punjab offers in mobility and clean energy sector, the delegation met JBM group and Avaada. Discussions with JBM were focused around policy initiatives to provide best ecosystem to e-vehicle and auto component manufacturers across the State. Nishant Arya was also apprised of investment opportunities in Ludhiana and other parts of the Punjab. Considering Avaada has expertise in executing complex Solar &Wind projects, opportunities to collaborate in new and ongoing renewable energy projects was discussed.
Naspers is one of the leading technology investors across the Globe. Brainstorming session with Mr. Dirk was focused on Information technology ecosystem in the State and investment opportunities in upcoming IT City Mohali.
Over the last two remaining days of WEF, the Punjab delegation shall continue to leverage the WEF platform to engage in one-on-one meetings with global business leaders and shall also be sharing its views and thoughts on topics of worldwide relevance.
DELEGATION LED BY FINANCE MINISTER SHOWCASES PUNJAB AS MOST PREFERRED INVESTMENT DESTINATION
A high level delegation from Punjab led by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal participated in the World Economic Forum, DAVOS to showcase Punjab as the most preferred investment destination due to its investor friendly policies coupled with lucrative incentives.
The Finance Minister was accompanied by the Additional Chief Secretary Industries and Commerce Vini Mahajan and CEO Invest Punjab Rajat Agarwal had several rounds of discussions with prospective investors from across the globe to invest in Punjab. Manpreet Badal assured the investors and entrepreneurs, who were keen to make investments of fulsome support and cooperation by the Punjab Government.
As part of the visit, the Finance Minister attended WEF’s welcome reception on 21st January evening at Congress Centre, Davos and met Dubai-based Lulu Group’s Chairman Yusuff Ali on the sidelines. Lulu group had earlier in December expressed keen interest to start its venture in Punjab through an integrated project in Mohali. Finance Minister at Davos assured Yusuff Ali of support and excellent infrastructure from the Punjab Government.
On 22ND January, the delegation participated as part of “Industry 4.0” session organized by CII. This was followed by a roundtable discussion on “Developing an Export Economy for MSMEs in India” co-hosted by Invest India and PayPal, where the Finance Minister opined on creating a strategy and roadmap from industry and government cooperation to increase MSME exports. Secretary, Industrial Policy & Promotion Ramesh Abhishek, Managing Director Invest India Deepak Bagla, CEO PayPal Dan Schulman and leaders from other Global and Indian business houses also participated in the discussion.
The Finance Minister shared dais alongside Lokesh Nara (Andhra Pradesh’s IT Minister) , Amitabh Kant (CEO Niti Aayog) and Ramesh Abhishek (Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) as part of “Country Strategy Dialogue on India” moderated by Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist, International Monetary Fund (IMF). The session saw tremendous interest and was a great platform for sharing Punjab’s views on strategic priorities for India.
As part of session on “Food Systems Action Platform”, the Finance Minister shared his views with the global community on a new vision for Agriculture and Food Safety. At the session, discussions were centered around cross cutting food system action initiatives such as resilience, nutrition, finance etc. required to formulate a consolidated action platform for ensuring food security in the world.
The delegation had fruitful meetings with Global Business and Political leaders including S. Iswaran (Minister of Communications and Information, Government of Singapore), M. Suran Suranjan (President, Procter and Gamble – Asia Pacific, India, Middle East and Africa), Mike Clayville (VP, Commercial Sector at Amazon Web Services) and Rakesh Bharti Mittal (Vice-Chairman, Bharti Enterprises).
The meeting with S. Iswaran was focused around enhancing infrastructure facilities in Punjab. He agreed to help engage Singaporean government-owned infrastructure consultancy company, Surbana Jurong for Urban Planning initiative of Government of Punjab.
Discussions with Procter and Gamble were focused around prioritizing Punjab for their agri-procurement, install manufacturing facility to cater enhancing demand in North India. Options were also explored into creating state-of-the-art R&D center for their recent foray into smart electronic consumer products. Amazon Web Services is looking to train thousands of youth in India in Cloud related technologies. Area of mutual cooperation in technology skill development and Startup incubation Centre were explored. Mr. Rakesh Bharti Mittal along with Punjab delegation discussed collaboration avenues in the area of telecom, agri-business, financial services, retail and communication.
Over the next few days, the Punjab delegation shall continue to leverage the WEF platform to engage in one-on-one meetings with global business leaders and shall also be sharing its views and thoughts on topics of worldwide relevance.
Listed in Limca Book of Records, becomes the most visited museum in country
On average 5262 visitors visit this world class museum daily
In 2018, maximum visitors visit among past three years.
More than 9.7 million visitors visited museum in a short span of 7 years
“The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum built by Punjab Government at the sacred town of Sri Anandpur Sahib continues to hog lime-light and has emerged as the numero uno destination in terms of visitors from all across the globe.” Disclosing this, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister, Punjab, Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu said that as per validation by Limca Book of Records, ‘Virasat-e-Khalsa’, conceived to commemorate the prideful 550 years of history and culture of Punjab, has added another feather in its cap by becoming the top ranked museum in the country. Interestingly, in 2018, maximum visitors visited among past three years, added Mr. Sidhu. Effusive in his praise of the visual-cum-narrative museum, the minister said it was a matter of great pride that Virasat-e-Khalsa has attained a cult status in the museum world welcoming more than five thousands daily visitors. In a celebratory tone, he placed on record that an astounding figure of close to one billion visitors who have visited the museum till date in a short span of 7 years of its opening. Divulging more, the minister said that the validation of these facts about Virasat-e-Khalsa has been confirmed by the department from Limca Book of Records itself, which is going to publish it in its latest edition. The minister congratulated the authorities and the staff for making Virasat-e-Khalsa a top ranked museum in the country. The Secretary, Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Mr. Vikas Pratap eaborated that the Virasat-e-Khalsa has been visited by more than 9.7 million visitors in its 7 years journey, the prominent amongst them being the Canadian Prime Minister, the President of Mauritius, Governors of Indian states, Chief Minster, Cabinet Ministers and Member of Parliaments & Ambassadors of various nations. The Chief Executive Officer, Virasat-e-Khalsa and the Director, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Mr. Malwinder Singh Jaggi said that Virasat-e-Khalsa welcomes around 5262 visitors on an average daily and outnumbers all other museums in terms of popularity and visitor footfall. Visitors have been praiseworthy of the architecture, use of technology, infrastructure and standards of maintenance and upkeep at this marvellous museum. He also highlighted the efforts of staff and authorities of Virasat-e-Khalsa in undertaking Energy Conservation Measures in the museum, as a result of which Virasat-e-Khalsa has been, conferred an award by the Punjab Energy Development Agency for cutting down the electricity consumption in the recent past. The museum carries us all along the riveting journey of thriving culture and tradition of 550 years history of the scenic landscape in its 27 galleries. The museum opens at 10 AM and the visitors are allowed entry passes up to 4:30 pm daily, barring Monday which is a weekly-off day.
Four lane road from Chungi No.04 to traffic lights near Gurdwara Jyoti Sarup Sahib eased traffic problems
Morinda-Chunni road upgradation process on; project cost 34.2 crore
Government is spending more than Rs. 100 crore for the repair, up gradation and reconstruction of the roads in the Fatehgarh Sahib district out of which approximately Rs. 64 crore are being spent on the repair, up gradation and reconstruction of the approximately 360 km long village link roads of the district. 16.67 km Morinda-Chunni road is being widened and upgraded at a cost of about 34.2 crore.
State government has also approved the second phase of the special repair of the village link roads and under this project approx. Rs. 44.5 crore would be spent for the special repair of 330.08 km roads.
Divulging this while giving a brief account of the road infrastructure development in the district, Shivdular Singh Dhillon, Deputy Commissioner, Fatehgarh Sahib said that various road projects costing Rs. 19 crore have been already completed and the underway projects have also crossed the mark of 50 percent completion. He further disclosed that 16.67 km Morinda-Chunni road was being widened and upgraded at a cost of about 34.2 crore.
Deputy Commissioner said that in Sirhind-Fatehgarh Sahib construction of four lane road from Chungi number 4 to traffic lights near Gurdwara Jyoti Sarup Sahib had been completed with the cost of Rs. 2.80 crore, easing the traffic problem. “Rs 5.25 crore were sanctioned for the widening of the 10.70 km long roads leading towards Gurdwara Sri Fatehgarh Sahib and the project would be completed soon”, said Deputy Commissioner while adding, “Besides this, project costing Rs. 19 crore has been approved for the four laning of the road from Diwan Todar Mall Gate to Gurdwara Joti Saroop Sahib to Baba Banda Singh Bahadar Gate to Bhaironpur Bypass.”
Similarly, 6 km of road from Roorki to Charnarthal is also being upgraded at the cost of Rs 5 crore. He disclosed that approx. 8 crore would be spent on the widening of the narrow bridges falling in the district. Moreover, a railway overbridge would be also constructed on 151-C, railway crossing in Mandi Gobindgarh. The cost of the project would be 27 crore.
Hi-tech and sophisticated equipments worth Rs.10 crore has been installed at State Food Safety Laboratory in Kharar, SAS Nagar by the Punjab Government to detect any kind of adulteration in food especially Desi Ghee.
State of the art Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometer (ICPMS) and Gas Chromatograph – Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) have been installed in the Food Safety Laboratory. These equipments will be used to sense the adulteration in food samples especially Desi Ghee. Besides, Liquid Chromatograph – Mass Spectrometer (LCMS) has also been procured and it will detect aflatoxins, mycotoxins etc in food samples.
Disclosing this, Mr. Kahan Singh Pannu, Commissioner Food Safety Punjab said that officials of Food and Drug Commissionerate have been pouncing upon food adulterators since the launch of Mission Tandrust Punjab in June 2018. They have been conducting a large number of inspections of food items on daily basis. The samples seized therein are analyzed in the State Lab at Kharar and requisite action is taken against the adulterators. However, due to absence of high-tech machinery, the desi ghee adulteration was not being successfully curtailed. The clever adulterators evaded scrutiny by mixing vegetable oil with Reichert Meissel (RM) value enhancing chemical to make cheap quality Desi Ghee.
But now, this hi-tech machinery will help in containing the cunning, unscrupulous adulterated ghee makers. He said that all the Desi Ghee manufacturers have been asked to get their Ghee samples tested voluntarily from State Food Safety Lab at the earliest and warned strict action under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 against the desi ghee manufacturers who don’t desist from adulteration.