Sunday, September 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Talks on MSP tomorrow; CM stays away from Chhapar mela
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Chhapar, September 21
Even as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh could not take part in the historic Chhapar mela, his detractors seized this opportunity to raise questions about his “ ability to lead the state out of the present crisis.”

Rhetoric set the tone for the political conferences which marked the third day of the mela where lakhs of persons paid obeisance at the shrine of the Nag Devta and thronged the venues of the conferences spread all over the place. The failure of the CM to attend the rally was a disappointment not only to Congress activists but also the common man who was anxious to know about the steps being taken by the government on the MSP for paddy since the crop is waiting to be harvested.

The PPCC chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, who briefed newspersons dodged most of queries. He said the CM would call on the PM and the Union Agriculture Minister on Monday and take up the paddy MSP issue. “We are concerned about the delay in the announcement of the MSP and would do all that is possible to get a better deal from the Centre.”

He said: “The government and the party have decided to take steps to pressurise the Union Government for the immediate announcement of the MSP and date of purchase of paddy. The CM would lead a delegation of ministers, MPs and MLAs of the party to Delhi on Monday.”

Mr Hanspal alleged that the delay in the announcement of the MSP and purchase of paddy by the NDA government was being made under a deep rooted conspiracy in connivance with SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal to create problems for the Congress government in Punjab by harming the interests of the farmers.

He said Mr Badal could not capitalise on the current situation to deflect the ongoing drive against corrupt party members. He was now mobilising support in his favour by going from one village to another, making false propaganda against the government to mislead the public.

Clarifying on the recommendations of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) regarding the charging of power bills from the farmers, Mr Hanspal said the PSERC was formed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal in April 2001 as per an agreement with the Union Government. He himself had nominated Mr R S Mann, an IAS officer, who was earlier elevated to the post of Chief Secretary, Punjab, by superceding 16 officers, as Chairman of the PSERC. As per the terms of the agreement, the commission had to submit its recommendations within six months, but it had not done any work during the remaining 10 months of Mr Badal’s tenure.

He alleged that after Capt Amarinder Singh took over as Chief Minister, the commission had expedited the work and submitted anti -farmer recommendations, ignoring the pleas of the state government, to put the Congress government in an awkward situation on this issue. Mr Hanspal asserted that the CM was committed to safeguarding the interests of the farmers of the state, who had bailed out the country.

Mr Hanspal lambasted Mr Badal and his colleagues for amassing huge amounts though illegal means.

Addressing the conference, Mr Jagjit Singh accused Mr Badal of ignoring the interests of the poor. He said the SAD government after coming to power stopped the pension schemes for poor people started by the previous Congress government and had not sanctioned even a single penny for the development of colonies of Schedules Castes during its five-year rule. He said the present government had decided to release Rs 143 crore to start welfare schemes for the poor in the state. Referring to the programmes for the urban areas, he said the government would launch development projects costing Rs 300 crore in different cities of the state.

Mr Lal Singh, Finance and Civil Supplies Minister, Punjab, accused the previous Badal government of destroying the economy of the state and accumulating debts of Rs 53,000 crore against the government by its “foolish” policies.

He asserted that the state government would ensure the smooth purchase of paddy and nobody would be allowed to harass the farmers in the mandis.

Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Public Works Minister, asserted that to strengthen the infrastructure, the government had arranged funds amounting to Rs 1000 crore from Hudco for the strengthening and widening of national highways and rural roads. He claimed that more than 65 new rail overbridges would be constructed at a cost of more than Rs 800 crore, for which the sanction had already been acquired from the Railway Minister.

Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Transport Minister, said during Mr Badal’s regime all posts in the government were on sale and even poor outstanding candidates had not been spared.

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