CHANDIGARH: The Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore today said that the state Government was mulling to bring out a ‘White Paper’ on development, governance reforms and the financial position of the State, clearly apprising the common man of the present situation inherited by the incumbent Government.
In his address during the first session of the 15th Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the Governor said that the state Government has inherited an empty treasury, with a revenue deficit of Rs. 13484 crore and the fiscal deficit of Rs. 26801 crore. Large borrowings coupled with lack of any concerted efforts to increase the revenue and control the expenditure has aggravated the financial stress. During the last five years, 2012-2017, the projections/ targets of State Excise and VAT revenue collections were never achieved.
The Governor further said that during the last 10 years, the total debt of the State has increased from 48,344 crore in 2006-2007 to Rs.1,82,537 crore at the end of 2016-2017.
The State Government during the years 2015-16 and 2016-17 borrowed Rs.15,632 crore on behalf of the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. (PSPCL) alone. In order to settle the gap in Cash Credit Limit (CCL) for food, the Government had agreed to a term loan of Rs.31,000 crore which has further burdened the State. Even the Atta Dal Scheme and the Urban and Rural Missions were undertaken by borrowing huge amount of money from commercial banks, mortgaging a large number of properties of the State.
The Governor said that the state government will forcefully take up the issue of term loan of Rs.31,000 crore with the Union Government to help the State. In addition, it shall establish an Expenditure Reforms Commission to examine all government expenditures to ensure prudence and efficiency in spending by various departments and other organizations funded by the government. Financial crisis faced by the State has already taken its toll on the growth of the State’s economy. The state once occupied a place of pride as one of the fastest growing States in the country. It is a matter of concern that in the last decade, its position is relegated amongst the slowest growing states.
Badnore said that the state Government is fully committed to restore the financial position of the State and to once again put it on a high growth trajectory by vastly improving the quality of services being provided, by accelerating the rate of growth and by affording quality employment opportunities, specially for the youth of the state. While doing so, it would be ensured that the weaker and deprived sections of society are not subjected to any additional burden.
The Governor said that the state government has been voted to power on the promise of providing the Punjabis freedom from VVIP culture in the administration, corruption and financial bankruptcy and to restore the Rule of Law in the State to regain the place of pride it once occupied as one of the fastest growing States in the country. It is to the achievement of this objective that the entire efforts of his government would remain focused and appealed to all Punjabis to join hands with the Government towards the fulfillment of this goal. "Despite political differences, my Government will always solicit active support and cooperation from the opposition members for the achievement of these objectives" reiterated Badnore.
Showing concern over the deterioration in the quality of governance with increased political interference in administration through Halqa Incharges, forcible occupation of Government and private businesses, both in transport and mining sectors in the recent past, the Governor referred to discernible increase in deplorable cases of be- adbi of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the law and order issues emerging as a result thereof and also from the operations of gangsters in the State have not been fully resolved. The claims of governance reforms have also not been fully borne out of the plight of the common man, who has aspired and voted for a change in Government to achieve better quality of living.
Expressing his firm commitment to provide genuine quality governance through long cherished reforms moving away from the pseudo reforms, the Governor said that it aimed at re-engineering and simplifying the processes to deliver services to the citizens in a rather easy and effective way with a greater focus on professionalism in governance. The Government shall revisit the Unified Service Delivery Centers, which are observed to be non-starters, to make amends and improve their quality and efficacy.
In consonance with objectives and the assurances given during the elections to vastly improve Governance, the Governor pointed out that the state government has decided to establish a new Governance Reforms and Ethics Commission (GREC) in the State comprising experienced professionals. Likewise, to lend a degree of probity to the conduct of Persons in public life, the state government has decided that all MLAs and MPs would declare the details of their immoveable properties on 1st January every year and for the year 2017- 18, they would do so by 1 July 2017. The existing Punjab Lokpal Act shall be repealed and in its place, a new more comprehensive legislation, which would be applicable to all persons occupying high public offices including the Chief Minister, Ministers, non-officials and the officials / employees shall be enacted, the Governor asserted.
Reassuring his government's commitment to fulfill the promises to the people of the state to provide employment opportunities to the unemployed youth, the Governor said that it would be the government's endeavor to provide 'Ghar Ghar Mein Naukri', a job per household in the State, in a time-bound manner. Employment Bureaus (EBs) shall be established in all districts of the State. These would be manned by qualified professionals and specialists including Employment Counsellors.
The Governor further said that a Comprehensive job creation scheme, namely "Shaheed Bhagat Singh Employment Generation scheme” under which schemes like ‘Apni Gaddi Apna Rozgar’, ‘Harra’ (Green) Tractor Scheme (35 to 50 HP) and Yaari’ Enterprises will create employment for the youth. The government shall give free Smart Mobile Phones to eligible youth in order to encourage and incentivize them to use digital technology in their day-to-day life.
The Governor further said that the state Government is committed to promote the spirit of brotherhood among the Punjabis and put down with a heavy hand, elements which pose any danger to public peace and order. He said that the state Government would provide effective policing for safeguarding the life, property and liberties of the citizens of the State through this restructuring and reorientation.
Likewise, the Governor said that in order to restore and strengthen the regimen of Rule of Law in the State, the state Government has decided to enact NRI Property Safeguards Act – for safeguarding the property of NRIs, Cable Authority Act – No monopolization or cartelization would be allowed in cable TV networks and a statewide statutory Cable Authority would be constituted and the Conflict of Interest Act- to ensure that MLAs / Ministers are unseated if found to have business/financial interests that conflict with their official capacity.
Asserting that Agriculture, the mainstay of the State's economy, needs immediate attention, the Governor said that the state Government is committed to bring prosperity back to farmers. For this, it has already been decided to set-up a Group of Experts to assess and analyze agriculture debt of farmers and propose ways and means to waive the debt in a time bound manner. The government shall enact a new legislation to prohibit Kurki and Sale of farmers' land by the 17 lending agencies. It has already decided to delete sections 67(a) of the Punjab State Cooperative Societies Act, 1948. A Punjab State Agricultural Insurance Corporation shall be set up to promote agriculture sector insurance schemes with seed capital from the Government.
The Governor said that government would continue supply of free power to the farmers and will rigorously pursue an Agricultural Sustainability Programme with a focus on; free Regular Soil Health Testing, intelligent Irrigation System including Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation, farmers' Education and Skill Development through digital technology, precision farming for small holdings, greater incentives on alternative crops including seeds, interest subvention and marketing support by establishing a Price Stabilization Fund and adopting deficiency pricing support systems, promotion of Next Generation Agriculture Extension Reforms; and use of solar energy for agriculture. The multi- product juicing facilities created at Hoshiarpur and Abohar shall be modernized and strengthened to encourage processing of fruits and thereby enable the fruit growers to realize a better market price for their produce.
The Punjab Farmers Commission shall be reorganized and strengthened as a statutory body to provide for farmers rights and frame the State Agriculture Policy. The Commission would also be empowered for planning agriculture production. The state government shall establish an Agriculture Production Board (APB). The Board would be responsible for contract farming and would supervise and guide production process from seeding to post harvesting operations in tandem with Agriculture Production plans.
To ensure zero tolerance to youth falling prey to drugs, my government shall launch a vigorous campaign to educate young people and to treat and rehabilitate drug users with compassion. A new legislation "The Confiscation of Drug Dealers Property Act” shall be enacted. The State Police would take stringent action against drug dealers / peddlers to ensure that the use of drugs is obliterated from the state forthwith. My Government has decided to set up a Special Task Force in the office of the Chief Minister for day-to-day monitoring of the measures taken to check supply and consumption of drugs in the state. The Task Force would prepare and implement a comprehensive programme to eliminate drugs from Punjab.
The previous Government failed to protect the interest of Punjab in the distribution of river waters by not properly defending the legal cases. The state Government remains fully committed to spare no efforts to get justice to the state of Punjab. It shall take all possible administrative and legal measures to defend the rights of the State. The Government has also decided to formulate and pursue a proposal for Canalization of major rivers of the state, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej and construction of high speed economic corridors on bunds (Dhusis) not only to secure livelihood of a large number of farmers but also to secure new possibilities of jobs and businesses for the local population.
The Government proposes to initiate radical reforms in the education and health sectors and is committed to provide quality and affordable health and education services to the people. It has been decided to launch a Comprehensive Digital Education Programme in the State to improve access to quality School and Higher Education. The state government has decided to establish Regulatory Authorities both for School Education and Higher Education in the State to supervise and regulate the functioning of the Private Schools, Private Colleges and Universities, respectively.
Three academies on the lines of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Armed Forces Preparatory Academy shall be established in Malwa, Majha and Doaba regions. In addition, two more Sainik Schools (One each in Malwa and Majha) shall be set up. At least one degree college at each sub-division shall be set up in the State. The state Government shall establish a National Institute for Promotion and Development of Punjabi Language at Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda.
The Government shall establish referral mohalla clinics for every 1000 population, both in rural and urban areas. Annual preventive health check-up for those above the age of 55 years would be conducted across the State so as to screen them for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancers etc., thus ensuring a disease-free population of the elderly and also to reduce their financial burden for the future.
The government shall formulate a new Industrial Policy of the State. The Policy would among other things aim to revive the existing Industrial units by resolving their problems besides encouraging Information Technology, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals and other sunrise industries and services to enhance economic growth and employment in the State.
The Government shall pursue all legal and administrative measures for decartelizing the mining of sand and stone / gravel in the State. To repay a small debt of gratitude to our soldiers and ex-servicemen, my Government shall establish an ex-servicemen Cell in Chief Minister's office for immediate direct attention to complaints and welfare of ex-servicemen in the state.
My Government shall further make all out efforts to commission Shahpur Kandi Hydel Project and Mukerian-II Hydel Project to augment the generating capacity. The Government has decided to provide one house to every freedom fighter at the village or town where he/ she resides ordinarily. 300 units of Electricity would be made available free of cost every month to the freedom fighters. One out of turn tube well connection would be sanctioned for the families of Freedom Fighters. They would also be exempted from payment of toll tax on the State highways. A special portal would be designed for NRIs to give their feedback. An Ombudsman would be appointed for NRIs to monitor the actions on their complaints. A special section would be set up in the Department of NRIs to deal with emigration and related issues, thus preventing the activities of Unauthorized Travel Agents.
The Government would set up Special Courts to clear the backlog and ensure speedier justice in the cases pertaining to; Drug peddling and narcotics, Corruption in public life, NRIs and Serving soldiers. The Government proposes to launch a massive programme for urban renewal, which will mainly focus on providing essential infrastructure and cleaning up the cities and towns. The Government proposes to revive and update the Rural Development Schemes for providing essential amenities to the rural populace. The Government proposes to assign increased role to the private sector in providing transport facilities to its citizens, with a view to increase self-employment of youth in this sector.
The previous Government only did lip service to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes. Most of the programmes launched in this behalf were either non-starters or inadequately funded. The provisions made under long standing schemes like construction and repair of Dharamshalas, scholarships and books to students and housing for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes were not actually released. The state Government proposes to reverse this trend and rededicate itself to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and weaker Classes and other poverty-stricken sections of the state.
The Government is also committed to ensure adequate representation to the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes in the services through strict enforcement of the national policy in this behalf. In addition, such facilities would be extended to ensure inclusion of the poor families belonging to Christians and Muslims. The Reservation Policy of the State for SCs would also be made applicable to the contractual / outsourced appointments.
The state Government would ensure 30 percent reservation for SCs in allotment of houses, residential plots and commercial plots by the State Government or any of its agencies/department. 30 per cent reservation would be made for SCs in leasing of land both residential, commercial or agriculture by the State Government or any agency or organization set up under any of the State Laws. Free built-up houses (living accommodation) or 5 Marla plots would be provided to all homeless SC/OBC families with an annual income of less than Rs. 5 lacs.
The Government would also launch a new scheme ‘Mukhmantri Awas Yojana’ to provide free residential houses to houseless rural and urban poor. The reservation for OBCs in government jobs would be increased from the present 12 percent to 15 percent.The reservation for OBCs in educational institutions would be increased from the present 5 percent to 10 percent.
It has been decided to provide 30% reservation for women in government jobs. Further, the reservation of seats for women in the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) would be enhanced from 30% to 50%. The government shall make concerted efforts to promote sports culture in the State. Sports Awards and incentives would be 38 enhanced and disbursed to the beneficiaries annually.