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Rs 800 cr for Punjab to save paddy
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 16
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee dished out sour news for the country, cautioning that inflation could rise to double digits in March. Separately, for Punjab, he made it sweet saying the state will get the promised Rs 800 crore which it spent on saving the standing paddy crop last year in July-August when the country faced a drought.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, while replying to a query during the debate on the General Budget in the Rajya Sabha today, said the money would be released once the budget was passed.

Participating in the debate, Naresh Gujral of the Shiromani Akali Dal said the money was spent in saving crops by providing power to run the tubewells. This power was purchased at very high rates and also by stopping all power supply to the industry. Mukherjee, in his reply to the debate here this evening, said the demand will be met and money will be released after the budget is passed by Parliament.

Last year state Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had come and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek a package of Rs 1,400 crore. The Union Agriculture Ministry had agreed that Rs 800 was due to Punjab and the same was also approved by the Planning Commission. Haryana is also to get about Rs 400 crore as per the accepted formula of the ministry. The two states had pulled all stops to sustain the crop and send sufficient stocks to the national pool last year.

Earlier, he had cautioned that inflation could hit double digits saying .I will not be surprised if it (inflation) reaches double digit in March, he said in the course of his reply. The general inflation has already touched 9.89 per cent in February.

Last year, during this time inflation in case of many commodities was in the negative range and, therefore, this impact may continue till May/June this year.

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