Monday, September 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

MSP hike too little, too late: Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Capt Amarinder Singh.
Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president, addresses a Press conference at Amritsar on Sunday. — photo by Rajiv Sharma 

Amritsar, September 9
Capt Amarinder Singh, addressing the Press here today, said the PPCC had rejected the meagre hike of Rs 20 in the minimum support price of paddy and a deputation of the PPCC led by him, would meet the Punjab Governor for getting the same increased.

He said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had no say at the Centre as he had failed to get remunerative MSP for the farmers, who had resorted to distress sale of their produce. He said Punjab Agricultural University had calculated the input prices of agriculture, which were much more than the output ones.

He alleged that the posts of various categories were being “auctioned” by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) and the Punjab State Subordinate Services Board, leading to unemployment in weaker sections of society. He said after coming to power, the Congress would replace the chairpersons and members of the PPSC and the PSSS Board so that needy persons could get employment.

Capt Amarinder Singh alleged that the cases of suicide by farmers had increased manifold during the regime of the Badal government. He said cases of suicide by farmers were reported to be 323 during the first year of the tenure of the Badal government but now these had reached 600.

Capt Amarinder Singh alleged that the ruling SAD-BJP combine had hijacked the election agenda of the PPCC. He said when the Congress announced that it would abolish octroi if voted to power, Mr Badal had reacted by saying that a decision in this regard would be taken within a week. The Badal government had accepted the demands of the people when these were highlighted by the PPCC, he claimed.

The PPCC chief said the “vision paper”, which would be the gist of party’s manifesto, would be released well before the elections. He said the manifesto was being prepared by the various sub-committees comprising experts on economic issues.

Capt Amarinder Singh said he had recommended to the party high command that the sitting MLAs should not be ignored while allocating tickets for the forthcoming Assembly elections. He, however, made it clear that his party would give tickets to the winning candidates and not indulge in nepotism.

The PPCC chief said he had met Ms Sonia Gandhi, Congress, President, two days ago and she had agreed to his suggestion that the list of aspirants should be finalised at the earliest.

In a significant statement, Capt Amarinder Singh said his party might finalise a poll alliance with the CPI in the near future. He said the CPM too wanted to defeat communal forces like the SAD and the BJP. He denied having a secret understanding with the leadership of the newly formed Panthic Morcha, led by Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi.


Badal to meet Vajpayee, Sinha 
MSP, pending projects
P. P. S. Gill

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 9
Has the last word been said on the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy (kharif crop 2001-02)? There is, perhaps, some hope that farmers may yet get a little more.

This hope stems from the paddy-related discussions the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, will have in New Delhi tomorrow before meeting the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to reiterate better remuneration for farmers. The two have expressed diametrically opposite views on the MSP.

The former has hailed it. The latter says it is ‘’meagre’’. And today, four senior Akalis, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Mr Zora Singh Mann, MPs, Mr Gurdev Singh Badal and Mr Natha Singh Dalam, in a joint statement, have welcomed the Rs 20 per quintal increase in the MSP.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh told TNS today that all aspects would be discussed with the Chief Minister. Punjab farmers were facing economic depression. Their carry-home profits had dwindled. There was escalation in the cost of production. The calculations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices do not add up to profitable returns. It considered only the input costs. How about the overall rise in the cost of living? Why not link the MSP to the wholesale price index? he asked.

Will Punjab consider the giving of ‘’bonus’’ to make up for the ‘’meagre’’ hike and impress upon the Centre to give financial assistance? Capt Kanwaljit Singh said: ‘’All aspects will be discussed’’.

The two are also meeting the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, in regard to several pending projects requiring immediate financial intervention by the Centre.

These are the Shahpur Kandi hydroelectric project and its extension, the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex at Anandpur Sahib, the Bathinda oil refinery and infrastructure development (roads, river and railway overbridges etc). Also on the agenda is seeking parity in the price of coal supplied to state electricity boards and independent power producers (private companies) contracted for electricity generation.

Punjab wants Central assistance under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme for the Shahpur Kandi project, the Dasmesh canal, the Hithar canal and the remodelling of the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) system. The Dasmesh canal project cost is Rs 450 crore. The Hithar canal project cost is Rs 53.02 crore and that of the UBDC Rs 188.80 crore. Only the expeditious completion of all these projects can enable Punjab to realise the full potential of the Thein Dam.

To complete the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, Punjab is demanding an additional Rs 50 crore. This project was taken up during the tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa in 1999. Punjab wants the oil refinery speeded up.

The state has made some progress in infrastructure development but requires greater financial indulgence by the Centre. The Secretary, PWD, Mr Mohinder Singh, told TNS that already the Punjab Roads and Bridges Development Board had been constituted. The Chief Minister had succeeded in securing money from new sources, including New Delhi. Now a website for inviting tenders was on the anvil.

Mr Mohinder Singh said funds were secured under the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojna (Rs 50 crore), the Central road fund for the states (Rs 85 crore) and the Ministries of Defence and Railways. Money had also been procured from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Rs 217 crore) for river bridges, Machhiwara, Nakodar and Mukerian.

Out of 15 proposed railway overbridges, four were under construction (Sirhind, Rajpura, Sunam and Bathinda) with the Railways bearing 50 per cent of the cost. Mr Badal, he said, got four more overbridges sanctioned for which money was provided in the supplementary Union Budget.

These were at Khanna, Phagwara, Tanda and Patiala. Another issue Mr Badal will take up with Mr Sinha is regarding parity in the coal price. Back


Paddy procurement from Sept 15
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, September 9
All arrangements, including transportation, packing and storage, for the procurement of paddy have been made and procurement, especially in Ferozepore, Faridkot, Muktsar and Amritsar, will be started from September 15. This was stated by Mr Sohan Singh Thandal, Minister for Civil Supply in Punjab, while addressing a press conference at the local PWD Rest House here yesterday. He said as many as 1,598 purchase centres had been set up in Punjab.

Despite reduction of 2 lakh hectares of area under paddy, 125 lakh tonnes of paddy would be procured during this year as against 115 lakh tonnes during last year. He said the Reserve Bank of India had granted limit in the case of Punjab for the procurement of paddy.

Mr Thandal welcomed the increase of Rs 20 per quintal in the procurement price by the Central Government. To a question, he said only 5 per cent cultivation of IR-8 variety of paddy had been done during this year in the state.

The state had asked the Centre to allow procurement of maize and oilseed and fix their procurement price. This would encourage diversification of crops. The matter had already been discussed with Mr Shanta Kumar, Union Minister for Civil Supplies, who had assured early decision in this regard.

He said Punjab had a stock of 182 lakh tonnes of wheat and 71 lakh tonnes of rice out of which 30 lakh tonnes of wheat and 62 lakh tonnes of rice belonged to the FCI. It had yet to start lifting of this stock.

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