Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, September 21
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday asked Governor Banwarilal Purohit to take up the state’s case with President and Prime Minister for the release of Rural Development Fund due to the state and for restoring the cut imposed in the Market Development Fund (MDF) imposed for the ensuing kharif marketing season.
The letter, written to the governor, comes after the chief minister has often accused the governor of not taking up the state’s issues with the Centre, during his ongoing tussle with the governor.
The governor has always retorted to these taunts saying he has never been approached by the state government to take up state’s issues.
By shooting off a letter to the governor, after the state received the Provisional Cost Sheet on Wednesday, wherein the head of RDF has been deleted and MDF has been reduced from 3% to 2%, Mann has put the ball in the governor’s court. The same cuts were also announced in the previous crop marketing season.
In his letter, a copy of which is with The Tribune, the CM wrote, “You are already aware that Punjab is a major contributor of foodgrains to the central pool to ensure food security of the nation. The procurement of foodgrains is made by the state government for and on behalf of the Centre and all the foodgrains procured under the Central pool are handed over to the Centre as per their requirement. As such, the state government through its agencies is acting as an agent of the Centre. As a principle, all procurement cost incurred on procurement of foodgrains is to be reimbursed by the Centre’s Department of Food and Public Distribution.”
Mann said that in the provisional cost sheet of kharif marketing season of 2020-21, the Centre has not reimbursed the Rural Development Fund for want of some clarification. Subsequently, the state government submitted the clarification as sought by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, and also amended the Punjab Rural Development Act, 1987, as per the Centre/FCI’s directions.
“Accordingly, the withheld amount of Rural Development Fee up to RMS 2021-22 was released by the Centre. But, from KMS 2021-22 onwards, the Department of Food and Public Distribution has stopped allowance of Rural Development Fees in spite of making amendment in the Punjab Rural Development Act.
“In this regard, it is requested that Rural Development Fees at 3% of MSP is payable to the Punjab Rural Development Board as per Section 7 of the Punjab Rural Development Act (PRDA), 1987. All the expenditures are made as per the provisions of the PRDA, and all the heads of expenditures are basically for rural, agricultural and related issues, which ultimately affect the agricultural growth and facilitate the farmers in increasing their livelihood, which leads to an increase in the efficiency of procurement centres,” says the letter.
The doing away of RDF has caused a loss of Rs 3,326.4 crore. The state government has already moved the Supreme Court on the issue, and the case is listed for hearing next week. With the reduction in the MDF, the total loss to the state is Rs 440 crore.
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