M A I N   N E W S

No package, only assurance
PM says group looking into loan, debt problems in Punjab
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
Belying expectations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today did not announce any package for the state, not even for debt-ridden farmers. However, he said the problem of loans and debt was being considered and solutions would be brought out soon.

He maintained that Punjab could still lead the second Green Revolution.

The Prime Minister was here to lay the foundation stone of the Eastern Freight Corridor Project, inaugurate the Morinda-Chandigarh railway line and flag off the Amritsar-Hardwar Janshatabdi Express.

Addressing a rally at Guru Nanak Stadium, the Prime Minister said, “I am aware that many farmers are facing financial problems…we have an expert group which is looking into the problem of loans and debt and in a few months we will come up with concrete solutions.”

He claimed that his government had done a lot for farmers by subsidising crop loans which could enable them to get credit at 7 per cent. He said, “We have raised the prices of wheat and paddy and are working for a second Green Revolution in Punjab.”

He observed that the farmers of Punjab could easily lead the transformation of Indian agriculture. “It is with this in mind that we have given Rs 100 crore to Punjab Agricultural University.”

Despite appeals by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo to announce a financial package for the farmers and the industry and relief for families of terrorist victims, the Prime Minister stuck to his printed text.

The Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of the Chief Minister and his colleagues for “working tirelessly for the development of the state.”

He said for the past two years, the UPA government had been providing maximum assistance to Punjab. “The results are gradually becoming visible and I am confident that a promising future awaits the region,” he added.

He emphasised on the need for developing more industries and knowledge centres. He said the Ambala-Jalandhar road and the Ludhiana-Chandigarh road were being six-laned. He said the Amritsar-Jalandhar, Kiratpur-Chandigarh and Ambala Chandigarh roads had been taken up under the National Highway Authority of India project.

He said the Centre had allocated 3,000 MW of power from other plants to improve the power supply in Punjab.

About the freight corridor, the Prime Minister said it would change the face of the regions through which it passed. The products of Punjab like textiles, hosiery, sports goods, machine tools and bicycles would find easy access to export markets.

He concluded his speech by saying that the people of Punjab had been given a new start by Capt Amarinder Singh and his team. “I am confident that the people of Punjab can look forward to a bright era of agrarian prosperity and industrial development,” he remarked, adding that “we are bringing the fields, factories and markets of Punjab closer to consumers across India and the world.”


Decks cleared for Halwara airport
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 27
Decks have been cleared for an international airport at Halwara, near Ludhiana.

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is expected to make a formal announcement on this mega project during his ensuing visit to the state in late October or early November this year.

Only yesterday, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr T.K.A. Nair, had convened a meeting of all departments, including the Civil Aviation and Airport Authority of India, where objections raised over technical feasibility and other aspects were cleared for a final go ahead on the project, which would bring to Punjab its second international airport.

Though the expectation were high from the ongoing visit of the Prime Minister to the state, but insiders point out that Dr Manmohan Singh was keeping certain announcements in reserve for his next two visits, one in early October and the second late in October or early November.

Besides Halwara airport, other important issues which may dominate his next visit to the state may be about diversification of agriculture and development of border belt.

The Union Minister of State for Industries, Mr Ashwani Kumar, maintains that the Prime Minister had sought suggestions from all concerned about the development of border districts. “During his next visit in late October or early November, he will visit both Amritsar and Ferozepore before declaring a special border area development package. I discussed with him the problems of border districts on board the PM’s aircraft today,” says Mr Ashwani Kumar.

Sources reveal that the Prime Minister has been discussing problems of farmers with various experts. Even today, he met the Chairman of the Punjab Farmers Commission, Dr G.S. Kalkat, and talked to him at length about the future of agriculture in the state.

Dr Kalkat, sources said, suggested that the cultivation of maize for production of ethanol should be encouraged in Punjab. Since the country might face the shortage of wheat in the coming years, cultivation of maize, vegetables and fruit might be a suitable alternative to paddy in the state, where underground water level was depleting at an alarming rate.

The sources revealed that the Prime Minister might visit Jalandhar early next month and return again either on October 28 or early November.

Also on his agenda would be a visit to some citrus centres in the Doab belt as a part of crop diversification programme.

Though many of the Punjab Ministers were expecting a major announcement or a package from Dr Manmohan Singh today at Ludhiana, they have been told that there was no reason for despair as the Prime Minister would return to the state in a few weeks time and announce a major programme for the development of industry and farm sector of the state, besides making an announcement about the Halwara international airport.



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