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Photo By T S Bedi
Photo By T S Bedi

Dismissing it as non-visionary and anti-farmer, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has described the Union Budget as ‘disappointing’ for the state, with the Union Finance Minister having failed to address most of the issues raised by Punjab at the pre-budget meeting and also failing to announce any measures to address the farmers’ distress.

Not only did the budget not contain any announcement on farm loan waiver, it also failed to implement the Swaminathan Committee report in toto, making it clear that the central government did not recognize the agrarian distress of the state’s farmers, the Chief Minister said in his initial budget reaction.

Punjab, which has implemented loan waiver for the beleaguered farmers despite severe financial constraints, had been expected something on it in the budget, he said, adding that the central government should have taken some initiative in this regard. The Government of India has miserably failed to share its responsibility in the budget towards the farmers, who have provided food security to the nation, said the Chief Minister.

Reacting cautiously to the proposed hike in MSP to fix it at 1.5 times the expenditure, Captain Amarinder said while the details would need to be examined, on the face of it, the Centre should have implemented the Swaminathan Committee report in full. He further said that if the central government was serious about the issue, it should implement the report of Niti Ayog member Ramesh Chand on the issue.

Further, said the Chief Minister, the Centre had also failed to help the State of Punjab in its crop diversification efforts through setting up of National Horticulture University. No major outlay for research and development in the agriculture sector had been announced, even though the Economic Survey had recognized the climate  change and its impact on  agriculture as a major issue.

He also criticized the Government of India’s failure to accede to the request of the states to change the funding pattern of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes to 90:10 from the present 60:40 in any of the sectors.

In fact, said Captain Amarinder, the budget had been silent on the modalities to meet its declared obligations in most of the sectors, especially in the context of the fact that it had failed to provide its share of money in various schemes during the last financial year.   

Besides failing to announce any new railway line for the State of Punjab, the central government had also failed to recognize and appreciate the fact that Punjab, which shares its borders with hostile neighbours, played a vital role in the country’s security, said Captain Amarinder, lamenting the absence of any budgetary outlay for the same.

The Chief Minister said that the Finance Minister had given no relief to the middle and the salaried classes, which constitute a major part of the country’s population. He said it’s ironical that the finance minister had put an additional burden of 1% on the salaried class by increasing the education cess from 3% to 4%.

The Chief Minister further pointed to the central government’s failure to allocate any budget to celebrate the centenary of the Jaillianwala Bagh this year, or the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, despite specific requests from the state.

Captain Amarinder also condemned the fact that, under the guise of supporting MSME, the Centre had allowed the exemption in Corporate Tax to companies with turnover of Rs. 250 crores.

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