Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 14
The group of experts led by eminent economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia has suggested radical policy changes in agriculture, industry, skill development and digitisation to propel growth in Punjab.
Edit: Montek’s prescription
The first report, submitted to the Punjab Government last week, was discussed by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh with the experts through video-conferencing. He reiterated that free power to farmers would stay. He agreed with the recommendation that diversification in agriculture was the way forward. The final report is to be submitted by December 31.
Montek panel’s key recommendations
- Diversification in agriculture
- Rationalising power subsidy
- Capping wages of employees
- Agri land for non-agriculture use
- Thrust on skill development
- Vertical growth, digitisation
A perusal of the report reveals that it mirrors the policies of the NDA government at the Centre. It favours corporatisation and encouraging private parties to buy grain. It talks of rationalisation of power subsidy to the farm sector through the “Pani bachao, paisa kamao” campaign and segregation of agriculture feeders. It wants the salary of employees capped which could affect 7.50 lakh employees and their families. It also calls for “better realisation” of revenue from the sale of sand and liquor through higher royalties and taxes. The report says that farmers should shift to high-value crops and that Punjab should become a farm machinery-manufacturing hub.
Hinting at corporatisation in agriculture, the report recommends creating a framework that allows land to be leased for 15-20 years for plantation and orchards, 5-10 years for other agriculture purposes on renewable terms. It favours change in land laws for allowing agriculture land for non-agriculture use and cash subsidy for farmers.
Interestingly, the ruling Congress government in Punjab has opposed the three farm ordinances of the NDA government, calling these as “attempts to corporatise agriculture.” For reviving industry, the expert group has recommended using the Rs 20 lakh crore package announced by the Centre, doing away with the two-tier power tariff for a year and allowing vertical development.
It calls for embarking on the road to digitisation in developing agriculture value chains and building the-state-of-the-art startup ecosystem with the setting up of “Punjab Innovation Fund”. The biggest challenge, the report says, is to go in for skill development and bringing social sector reforms, especially for the migrant labour.
Acknowledging that some of these recommendations may be tough to implement, the report says: “If we really want to restore Punjab to its earlier, position, that objective calls for a radical break from past trends and this cannot be achieved by proceeding on a business-as-usual basis.
“It calls for radical new policy initiatives and if we cannot take these difficult decisions, we must be content with the more limited objective of getting out of the current severely depressed economic situation as quickly as possible.”
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