M A I N   N E W S

FM offers hope but no deal
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
The Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, on a flying visit to the Union Territory on Friday, was at his diplomatic best. Declaring that the Union government had the interests of both Punjab and Haryana in mind, the minister called upon the states to come up with ‘a concrete plan’ for debt restructuring. But if people expected the FM to announce sops for the two states, they were disappointed.

While Haryana’s debt burden is a staggering Rs 33,000 crore, Punjab’s total debt is almost twice that figure at Rs 64,000 crore. The state’s finance minister, Manpreet Badal, however said that Punjab’s case was different as its debt mounted, indeed doubled every year, during the period of militancy in the state and that is what the state has been pleading to the Centre to either write off, waive interest or restructure debt repayment.

Mukherjee , who was chatting with media persons after inaugurating the Chandigarh branch of Export Import Bank of India (Exim Bank), said that the two states should conceptualize and formulate a plan on debt restructuring and submit it to the Centre for consideration. “Our aim is to assist the states in every way possible, and if a reasonable plan is submitted, we will definitely consider it,” he said.

Mukherjee also lost no time to indicate that the Centre was favourably disposed towards Punjab and Haryana. When asked if tax concessions granted to the hill states would be withdrawn, as demanded by Punjab and Haryana, the Finance minister said that no decision on the issue had yet been taken. “But rest assured, we have the concerns of the two states in mind, before taking a final call on extending tax sops in the two states,” he said.

The tax concessions to the hill states are due to lapse at the end of this month. And on Friday the Union Steel minister Virbhadra Singh indicated at Shimla that the concessions are likely to be extended by one more year.

Mukherjee, however, touched a raw nerve when he said, “We have also compensated the two states for giving us record paddy last year, inspite of drought like situation. We have already announced a relief of Rs 800 crore for Punjab and Rs 400 crore for Haryana as drought relief.” Could it be a case of giving too little and too late, questioned observers present at the spot.



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |