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Punjab seeks loan waiver
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 26
Punjab today made another fervent plea to the Planning Commission to waive the militancy-period loan on the state to free it from debt trap. The demand came at a meeting here today where the commission hiked the 2009-10 annual plan for the state by 39 per cent and pegged it at Rs 8,625 crore - an increase of Rs 2,415 crore over last year.

This is one of the biggest hike in the plan in the recent past. In the past two years, Punjab has achieved 100 per cent utilisation and implementation of its annual plan.

State Finance Minister Manpreet Badal pleaded before the commission that the only way the state could be helped was to “do something about the loans that were taken during the period of militancy”.

Punjab has suggested three options - partial waiver of the loan; re-scheduling the loan to make it payable over a longer period; and swapping the high interest loan with low interest ones.

About Rs 5,700 crore is the debt on the state. A large part of it is on account of the militancy period - 1980 to 1995. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal told the commission: “It makes no fiscal sense for the Centre to keep pressing us under that burden”.

Punjab officials further elaborated that the commission was told that war against militancy in the 80’s and 90’s was an anti-India proxy war that was faced by Punjab. From 1980 onwards, the Government of India, to maintain a façade of normalcy, borrowed money to keep the Punjab plan in shape. On the other hand, the source of revenue had dried up under the shadow of the gun. The state was largely under Central rule during this period.

Later, media adviser to Badal Harcharan Bains said the plan expenditure during the last fiscal was Rs 6,868 crore against an outlay of Rs 6,210 crore.

In this year’s plan, 31 per cent of the funds have been earmarked for the energy sector. The social services sector, which includes urban development schemes, will get 26 per cent of the outlay while transport sector will get 23 per cent.

Punjab has also sought a grant of Rs 1,500 crore for pay revision during 2009-10.

On the agriculture front, the Chief Minister has urged the Centre to waive off all agricultural loans as a one-time measure regardless of the size of land holding.

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