M A I N   N E W S

CM stays firm on free power
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
Defending his decision on providing free power to farmers, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said he had no other option but to provide relief to the farming community reeling under a severe financial crisis and the rising cost of farm-inputs.

The CM promised to dole out more and said: "I will not stop at this and may give farmers more such liberal concessions."

Free power supply to farmers in the state would continue, the Chief Minister affirmed today.

He brushed aside questions if the scheme was to be reviewed in light of the Prime Minister’s remarks that he was not in favour of freebies.

''Free power to farmers was a part of the Congress manifesto and nobody argued against this at the recent Congress Chief Ministers' Conclave here,'' Capt Amarinder Singh told mediapersons.

The Prime Minister had said at the two-day party conclave that ''promises like free electricity, which cannot be sustained, will not fetch results''.

When asked about his reaction on the Prime Minister's views against free power, the Chief Minister said : ''My (Punjab) farmers are facing a squeeze and it is my responsibility to save them or should I tell them that Prime Minister ‘Ne mana keta hai’.”

He pointed out there was a Rs 10 hike in the minimum support price (MSP) of the foodgrains which was not sufficient.

About 74 per cent of farmers had less than 4 acres of land and the steep hike in the prices of the agriculture inputs like diesel, tractors, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers could not covered by this hike of Rs 10, he observed.

The Chief Minister said: "I am open to suggestions. Let any economist come forward and give a suggestion as to what other options were there to help the farmers and I would follow that advice."

He said other poll promises like abolition of octroi, grant of time- scale promotions to all categories of employees on 4-9-14-year pattern and the grant of pension and gratuity to the private aided-college teachers would be implemented by March 31, 2006.

On reports that Punjab would have a nuclear power plant, Capt Amarinder Singh said he was opposed to this idea due to the geographical location of the state.

An unfortunate leak could prove hazardous for Punjab and adjoining areas of Haryana and Delhi, he added.

The Chief Minister further said he had already taken up the issue of setting up hydel projects in joint partnership with his counterparts in Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal.

The Chief Minister earlier formally inaugurated the solar passive complex of the Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA), here.

The Chief Minister said the state government would soon make the solar passive design and concept mandatory for the government and public-sector buildings in future with an objective to save power.

The Chairman of PEDA, Mr Vijay Inder Singla, said the building had been built at a cost of Rs 6.30 crore and had an area of 68,000 square feet.

On paddy procurement, the Chief Minister said he personally thanked the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, for his initiative to lower the specifications.

He said he had sought similar relaxations in norms of cotton procurement also.

To another question with regard to the installation of the "Palki Sahib" at Gurdwara Nankana Sahib at Pakistan, the Chief Minister said he had faxed a letter to Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak President, Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, to postpone the programme by a couple of weeks in wake of the devastating quake in Pakistan.

Earlier, this programme was scheduled from October 23 to 25.


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