|Tuesday, March 7, 2000,
to get priority
CHANDIGARH, March 6 The Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob ( retd.), in his first address to the Vidhan Sabha here today while reiterating the old demands pertaining to the sharing of river waters and territory restoration to the state also assured the people of his governments total administrative transparency and accountability.
Though law and order was an administrative function creating an environment in which peace was natural, self-sustaining social condition would be the aim of the government, which would build a new society in this new millennium based on the values of love, equality, justice and fairness. For this the Governor listed three key steps for good governance, namely, peace, amity and prosperity.
General Jacob said there were certain issues which demanded the attention of the entire country for long-lasting peace and stability in the region. Rather than calling them demands the Governor referred to those as grievances and identified them as inclusion of Punjabi-speaking areas and Chandigarh into Punjab and solving the sharing of waters on the internationally accepted riparian principles. Punjab seeks no favours. It only demands justice, he stressed.
Earlier, on arrival at the Vidhan Sabha complex, the Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, received the Governor and escorted him to the podium. No sooner did he begin his customary Address, than the Leader of the Opposition, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh (Congress) started reading from a statement. At the same time Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, who has been expelled from the ruling SAD party also stood up to read a parallel Address. The Governor occasionally raised his voice to drown that of one of the two members of the House.
While the Congress members walked out of the House shouting slogans, Mr Zira continued till the Governor ended his formal Address. It took General Jacob about 25 minutes to read the 72-page Address. He spoke in English.
In fact, almost the entire Opposition was absent from the House. The CPI leader, Mr Hardev Arshi had made it clear on Sunday itself that his party would boycott the Governors Address.
If on the one hand the Address gave an overview of the performance of the SAD-BJP government in the past three years, particularly in the current year, it also gave a birds eye-view of what the next budget would be like. There was ample indication that the priority would be agriculture. Punjab being a predominantly agricultural state, the Governor said a scheme had been framed and named Mission for a second push in agriculture. There would be thrust even on agro-processing.
The Governor made a pointed reference to the difficult financial situation of the state, which he said was to be viewed in totality. He went on to list seven steps the government proposed to take to bring about fiscal management. These seven were, namely, compress non-productive expenditure, better utilisation of the staff for productive functioning, eliminate losses in the state transport sector, streamline tax regime to increase tax revenue as percentage of the gross state domestic product, a review of all explicit and implicit subsidies, encourage private investment in infrastructure, and revamp public sector undertakings.
The Governor referred to the concept of cooperative federalism and supported the review of the Constitution, which Akalis have been demanding. The states must have greater fiscal autonomy and a say in the appointment and role of the Governors, besides, that of Article 356 of the Constitution. The government fully supported the setting up of the Constitution Review Panel, he added.
The Address also made a pointed reference to the Kargil conflict in the summer of 1999.While eulogising the government efforts to identify itself with the families of the martyrs, the Governor said the Chief Minister had written to the Centre that the Punjabis viewed the breakdown of the democratic structure in the neighbouring country Pakistan as a matter of deep concern for the civilised world, especially for the border states. The issues needed to be addressed with high seriousness by the entire country, he added. The Governor while greeting the people on the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa, which will conclude on this Baisakhi, referred to the promise made by the Chief Minister in April 1999 of setting up a new city in the neighbourhood of Chandigarh. This would be called Anandgarh and for which 15,000 acres would be acquired. The beginning had been made and the project would be launched on Baisakhi. The city would attract NRI Punjabis and help in the overall development of the region.
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