Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has flayed the Akalis, led by Sukhbir Singh Badal, for their shameless attempts to take credit for various welfare and development initiatives of the Congress government by trying to usurp them as their own.
In a statement issued here on Thursday, the Chief Minister came down heavily on Sukhbir Singh Badal for his false and malicious claims on various announcements made by the government as part of the Governor’s address at the start of the current Budget Session in the Vidhan Sabha.
While governance was an ongoing exercise in continuity and his government had no qualms in acknowledging or continuing with any worthwhile projects of the previous regime, the Akalis’ effort to take credit for all the good work of his government was yet another lie being perpetrated by them on the people of Punjab, said the Chief Minister. The Akalis would not be sitting in the Opposition had they really worked for the welfare and benefit of the people during their 10-year-rule, he quipped.
The fact is that what had been done by them in the name of public welfare was actually just aimed at the welfare of one family, Captain Amarinder Singh said.
Countering Sukhbir Singh Badal’s claim on the Interstate River Water Issues, the Chief Minister said the return of the land acquired for SYL to the farmers was only the logical conclusion of the bold Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, passed by his government during his earlier stint.
On the Shahpur Kandi Project, Captain Amarinder Singh said while the Akalis had launched the project in 2013, the fact was that the work was soon stopped by the J&K government. It was only through his government’s continuous efforts with the J&K government and the Central Government that approval had finally been granted in August 2017 for resumption of the work, he added.
The Chief Minister also lashed out at Sukhbir Singh Badal for his claim with regard to Kurki of farmers’ land, pointing out that it was the Congress government which had abolished Section 67A of Cooperatives Act, in line with its election promise. Unlike the erstwhile SAD-BJP government, the Congress does not believe in making the farmer dependent on political patronage or official cooperation to safeguard his interests, said Captain Amarinder Singh, coming down heavily on the Akalis for ruining the farming community.
Acknowledging that free power for agriculture sector and SCs/BCs and BPL families was a continuation from the previous government’s policy in this regard, the Chief Minister said his government had not only managed to carry the scheme forward, despite the legacy of fiscal debt inherited from the SAD-BJP, but had actually gone way beyond. His government, said Captain Amarinder Singh, had expanded the ambit of the scheme to cover freedom fighters (300 free units) and industries (subsidized variable tariff of Rs 5/unit for next five years), which the Akalis never even thought of doing.
The Chief Minister was also critical of the Akali Dal’s misinformation campaign on the issue of free power from farmers. There was no question of taking away this benefit from the farmers, he added, rejecting the Akalis’s allegations to the contrary.
Regarding the Smart City projects at Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, the Chief Minister pointed out that only identification of these cities was done during the Akali tenure and no works were ever tendered. In fact, in the case of Ludhiana and Jalandhar, even the Project Management Consultants to execute the project were never appointed.
The hollowness of Sukhbir Singh Badal’s claim on this issue was further exposed by the fact that the Government of India never released any funds for Amritsar and Jalandhar after the SAD-BJP government failed to pass on the Rs 194 crore received from the Centre for Ludhiana to the SPV, said Captain Amarinder Singh.
The SAD president’s claims on old age pension also came in for criticism from the Chief Minister, who pointed out that not only had his government raised pension from Rs 500 to Rs 750 but, contrary to Sukhbir Singh Badal’s allegation on pending arrears, had been releasing pensions every month since December 2017. Captain Amarinder Singh reiterated his government’s commitment to regular payment of the pensions.
As for the Shagun scheme, which he conceded was started by SAD-BJP during their 1997-2002 tenure, Captain Amarinder Singh said it was, however, the Congress which had always increased its coverage, first in 2004, then in 2006 and again, in 2017, from Rs. 15000 to Rs. 21000. What is more, his government has already cleared all pending arrears under this scheme up to March 2107, he said, adding that the remaining arrears would also be paid out at the earliest.
Citing the Industrial Business Policy 2017 as another major initiative of his government, the Chief Minister pointed out that while Invest Punjab, set up by SAD-BJP, had done good work initially, the MoUs signed could never be implemented on the ground in the absence of a stable Industries Policy. The conversion rate was as poor as 14%, he noted, adding that the new policy launched by his government would boost the implementation and provide a strong platform to investors and industry.
Captain Amarinder Singh urged Sukhbir Singh Badal not to indulge in such blatant falsehoods to promote his political agenda with his attempts to mislead the people of the state. Punjab’s citizens had seen them at work in the last one decade and would not succumb to their political games now, he added.