CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday announced his government’s decision to set aside Rs 128 crore every month for disbursement of old age pension, while assuring that distribution of free mobile phones to youth would commence this year.
Reiterating his government’s commitment to the implementation of every single manifesto promise of the Congress, the Chief Minister said as many as 150 promises had been fulfilled in the first year itself and the remaining were also in the process of execution.
Amarinder was addressing the Congress MPs and MLAs during pre-budget discussions, the first of its kind, here. Before the meeting commenced, the MPs and MLAs observed a minute’s silence in memory of former cabinet minister Sardool Singh Bandala, father of sitting MLA Sukhwinder Singh Danny, as well as the wife of Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh.
The Chief Minister reiterated that loans for 10.25 lakh of the total 17.5 lakh farmers in the state would be settled by November this year, with 1 lakh farmers set to be provided debt relief certificates at a state level function this month itself. He further disclosed that the March 11 job mela will see employment being provided to 40,000 youth.
He also shared with the members some details of his government’s plans to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji, disclosing that he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for grants for the programme. He had also requested former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to chair the organising committee for the event.
The pre-budget discussions, spread through the day, saw various significant ideas emerge for the revival of the state’s shattered economy, which the incumbent government had inherited from the previous SAD-BJP regime.
In response to a request for sanctioning of Rs 5 crores for the completion of Beant Singh Memorial in Chandigarh, the Chief Minister said he will take up the matter with the Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator, since the project was located in the UT.
Earlier, initiating the discussions, Health Minister Brahm Mahindra welcomed the initiative by the Chief Minister, while lashing out at the Akalis for criminal wastage of the hard-earned money of the people of Punjab, pointing out that Rs 4500 crores were wasted on Sangat Darshans. He was supported by the other members, who also hailed the Chief Minister’s democratic step in convening the meeting.
Finance Minister Manpreet Badal lamented the pitiable financial state of Punjab, which the government was trying to improve through various steps to generate revenue. The state government, he said, was also negotiating with the Government of India on the Rs 31,000 cr loan agreed by the Akalis, to the detriment of the state.
The Finance Minister disclosed that the PIDB had released Rs 550 Crores for pending ongoing development works. Money will also be released for the completion of all pending works in villages and cities in this budget, he assured the members.
PPCC president Sunil Jakhar said the budget should be a low-investment but high-impact one, and should present the vision of the government and its roadmap for manifesto implementation.
Amid various suggestions from the MPs and MLAs for the development of their respective constituencies, Partap Singh Bajwa called for a white paper to be released by every department on the misdeeds of the previous government.
The MLAs and MPs were unanimous in favour of greater coordination between the elected representatives and the bureaucracy to bring in more connect between the government and the people.
Suggestions from the elected representatives ranged from waiver of debts of SCs/STs to expediting the implementation of the Shagun scheme, as well as clearance of pending free Atta Dal supplies.
A proposal for creation of MLA LAD Fund was also mooted, while some members wanted regular discussions with their respective DCs and SSPs.
Members also sought higher allocation of funds for the vital education and health sectors, railway links, water conservation projects, crop diversification, installation of tubewells, clearance of pending cane dues, drainage and canal clearing ahead of the monsoons, and development of border areas.
Investments were also sought to boost the transport segment to facilitate the citizens of Punjab, with a suggestion to launch more deluxe buses to earn revenue for the state exchequer. Suggestions for administrative changes to streamline development work in various regions also came up from some members.
There were also suggestions related to formulation of a time-bound policy for the reclamation of government property, as well as for regularisation of illegal colonies.
Besides, 72 party MLAs, the meeting was also attended by Cabinet Ministers Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Aruna Chaudhary, Razia Sultana (both State Ministers)
Others present during the discussions included Members of Parliament Sunil Jakhar and Chaudhary Santokh Singh besides Rajya Sabha Members Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo.
Apart from these, Senior Advisor to CM Lt. General (Retd.) TS Shergill, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, ACS Home NS Kalsi, ACS Housing & Urban Development Vini Mahajan, ACS Cooperation DP Reddy, ACS Agriculture Viswajit Khanna, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Special Principal Secretary to CM Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tiwari and Principal Secretary Rural Development & Panchayats Anurag Verma.