Old rivals meet, Maharaja tells Mantri Punjab needs help
- TEAM PT
Old rivals meet, Maharaja tells Mantri Punjab needs help



NEW DELHI: Two Punjabis, both bitter old rivals, met today in Lutyen's Delhi, with one, a Maharaja and a CM, beseeching the other, a powerful Mantri with control of the treasury, to help him adjust the books a little. Were they able to put aside their past skirmishes and cooperate with each other?

Punjab government's official press note revealed little, and only time will tell if the Centre will let Amarinder Singh breathe a little easier.

On Thursday, CM Amarinder Singh urged Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely to allow a one-time settlement of Rs. 6000 crore worth of loans that Punjab's farmers owe to national and private banks. It's a power that technically lies with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Amarinder, currently under opposition fire and facing farmers' anger over half-way loan waiver, has blamed the banks for unethical banking practices. The Amarinder regime's line is that banks forced loans down farmers' throats, pushing them into a vicious cycle of debt.
 

Of the total debt of small and marginal farmers waived by the state, loans from cooperatives amounted to Rs. 3,600 crore while the remaining Rs. 6,000 crore came from banks. 

The issue of settlement of Cash Credit Limit related debt of a whopping Rs. 31,000 crore also figured in the CM's meeting with Jaitley. Punjab has sought a panel to resolve the imbroglio. This is the second time Amarinder has taken up the issue at such high level. Earlier, he had broached the subject with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The CM termed the Rs. 18,500 crore worth of interest accrued on the Rs 12,500 crore CCL -- termed a legacy gap by the state government -- as "exorbitant". "It would mean that the state will end up paying Rs 270 crore every month for the next 20 years at the cost of welfare schemes of the state," the official press release noted.

The CM also raised the issue of losses incurred by the state on procurement, underscoring that the Rs. 40,000 crore worth of procurement undertaken every year pushes Punjab into Rs 5,500 crore worth of losses, including about Rs. 3,500 crore on payment of instalments and interest on the outstanding CCL debt.

Amarinder also requested the Union Finance Minister "to reconsider the state’s proposal for pre-payment of the high interest bearing NSSF loan of Rs.22,110 crore and market loans of Rs.33,938 crore to swap these with low interest bearing loans."

"Such a swap...would help save an interest burden of over Rs. 3,363 crore for the cash-crunched state," the statement said.
 
Interestingly, the long-winded official press release described Jaitley's response in a most perfunctory manner, saying in a single sentence that the Union Finance Minister "directed department officials to look into all the issues and coordinate with officials from Punjab government to resolve them."

Punjab's Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and MP Gurjit Singh Aujla, alongwith some officials, accompanied Amarinder during the meeting.
 

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged. 
— Team PT






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