Sunday,  December 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Anti-terrorism loans ‘not waived’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today said despite a decision taken at the prime ministerial level five years ago, loans worth Rs 5,800 crore taken to combat terrorism were yet to be waived by the Centre.

“To combat insurgency in the state, special term loans of Rs 5799.92 crore were advanced by the Centre. It was decided at the level of the Prime Minister at a meeting held in September, 1997, that these loans would be waived, because the state had to incur this expenditure in defence of the integrity of the nation”, Capt Amarinder Singh said during the meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) here.

The 11th Finance Commission had recommended a moratorium on payment of instalments of debt and interest on this special term loan during 2000-05, he pointed out.

“The Punjab Government fought a proxy war, which is a matter of national defence, a Central responsibility and not a matter of law and order, which is the responsibility of the state government”, he said, pointing out that “as decided by the then Prime Minister, this entire loan must be waived”.

He also said 50 per cent weightage needed to be accorded to the sensitivity of the 553-km international border in Punjab while allocating funds under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP).

He urged the government to take out the Bathinda oil refinery project from the process of disinvestment of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). The HPCL is a major contributor to the Rs 16,000-crore project.

“Under these circumstances, the progress of the project is likely to be slowed down further, depriving the state of the early gains which may accrue on the completion of the project”, he said.

The Punjab Chief Minister also sought assistance of Rs 100 crore to complete the Khalsa Heritage Complex in Anandpur Sahib for its dedication to the nation in September, 2004, to commemorate 400 years of installation of Guru Granth Sahib.

“To complete the project by September, 2004, Rs 115 crore is required”, he said, while seeking a Rs 100-crore assistance from the Centre for the purpose.

He also “strongly pleaded” for debt relief to the states through re-schedulement, consolidation and realigning interest rate structure to the prevalent market rate.

“Ever-increasing salaries, pensions and wages are clearly unsustainable. There is little the states can do to compress the expenditure on this account in the short term. Thus, there is a need for evolving a national consensus on these issues to bail the states out of their current predicament”, he said.

He said the total Central assistance to the state had gone down to Rs 3,979 crore (1.75 per cent) in the 10th Plan from Rs 4,189 in the 10th Plan from Rs 4,189 crore (2.26 per cent) in the 9th Plan.

“The massive reduction in Central assistance is bound to badly impinge upon the economic growth and overall development of the state”, Capt Amarinder Singh said.

Even as he acknowledged that it was important to get out of the wheat-rice cycle, the Punjab Chief Minister sought Rs 1,280 crore per annum from the Centre under the proposed Crop Adjustment Programme, which it had submitted to the Centre for consideration.

“If implemented, this will save more than Rs 3,800 crore for the Central Government every year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Himachal Pradesh Government demanded compensation for imposing a complete ban on green commercial felling for the last 17 years for the protection of the Himalayan ecology and environment.

Speaking at the NDC meeting Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the standing stock of forest wealth in the state was over 1,00,000 crore and silvicultural harvesting alone could yield approximately Rs 300 crore as annual revenue.

He said cross-compensatory mechanism existed in the developed world for environmental protection and the Centre should consider its introduction at the earliest.

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