M A I N   N E W S

Capt seeks Central package of Rs 2059 crore
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today said his government would bring a legislation to ease the problem of rural indebtness in the state.

The Chief Minister, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, said rural indebtness had led to suicides by farmers in the state. He sought a package of Rs 2059.95 crore, saying it would provide relief to small and marginal farmers, particularly those with less than 1.5 acre of agricultural land.

The package sought by the Chief Minister includes a one-time settlement of Rs 209.36 crore for cooperative banks, one-time assistance of Rs 198.79 crore for Punjab agriculture cooperative societies and Punjab Agriculture Development Banks to liquidate their losses, relief of Rs 390 crore under OTS for commercial banks and one-year moratorium on payment of interest on all agricultural loans advanced by the cooperative Banks and commercial banks, which is expected to cost Rs 1261.80 crore.

Capt Amarinder Singh also urged the Prime Minister to ask the Finance Ministry to sanction Rs 1390 crore for infrastructure development, Rs 340 crore for roads, Rs 100 crore for power and Rs 110 crore for education under the special package of Rs 2040 crore being sought by the state government.

The Chief Minister sought hike in the MSP of paddy and rice in view of the recent escalation in the prices of agricultural inputs. He urged Dr Manmohan Singh to ask the Ministry of Civil Aviation for expeditious implementation of the international airport project at Halwara. He sought directions from the Prime Minister to the Health Ministry to establish All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Jalandhar in the building constructed for the Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), which is spread over 56 acres.

Capt Amarinder Singh took up the issues of opening a visa centre at Amritsar and easing visa restrictions for the convenience of persons visiting Pakistan.

He sought simplification of the procedure for environmental clearances of mega industrial and housing projects by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. He said powers to accord environmental clearance for projects up to Rs 250 crore should be given to states as the existing ceiling of Rs 50 crore was less.

Later, talking to reporters the Chief Minister said total rural indebtness in the state was about Rs 24,000 crore of which Rs 5 crore was “bad debt.”

Capt Amarinder Singh, who met Finance Minister P Chidambaram earlier in the day, said a formula was being worked out to tackle the problem of indebtness by farmers. “A committee of ministers is looking into it,” he said.

Asked about the number of suicides by farmer in the state, the Chief Minister said the figures about the problem were “sketchy.” He said the annual farm turnover was Rs 7,200 crore and rural indebteness was nearly thrice the amount.

“The bill on rural indebtness is ready. We are brushing it up,” he said.

Asked about the response of the Prime Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh said, “we have his full blessings.”

On recent remarks of some supporters of party leader Jagmeet Singh Brar attacking his leadership, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Congress was united. “Everybody is working together. There may be occasional voices here and there,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle, the Chief Minister said he would discuss organisational matters during his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The Chief Minister, who also met Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, discussed issues relating to the proposed defence university in the state. The Chief Minister met Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to convey his concern over rising prices of pulses under the public distribution system. He sought more quota of pulses under PDS.





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