Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday lambasted the SAD-BJP combine for the financial mismanagement and malfeasance unleashed in the state during their decade-long misrule, vowing not to spare anyone found guilty of the acts of commission and omission done by them.
In his Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s Address in the Vidhan Sabha, the Chief Minister minced no words in assailing the SAD-BJP leadership for trying to deflect public attention from the wrongs done by them, hoping to go scot-free. He came down heavily at the SAD-BJP combine for their so-called ‘Pol Khol Rallies’, demanding to know what was there to ‘kholo’ (expose), especially when they were fully aware that the rot they had created was too deep to be cleared in a year.
His government, said Captain Amarinder Singh, was in the process of verifying and examining every action of commission and omission done by them, and shall take appropriate legal action wherever necessary. “I assure the people that those who are found guilty will not be spared,” he declared, while making it clear that his government did not stand for ‘badla’ (revenge) but for ‘badlaav’ (change).
He informed the House that the Justice Mehtab Singh Commission of Enquiry had so far submitted five interim reports recommending cancellation of 225 cases, and compensation and disciplinary action in 31 cases. Further legal action in this regard was currently underway, he said.
The Chief Minister, while listing down the achievements of his government, said the first year was spent in restructuring the systems, redefining the policies and reformulation of the programmes needed to put the state back on the track of growth and development.
Besides ending the Jungle Raj and restoring the Rule of Law in the State, the first year of the Congress government had been a year of people experiencing ‘raaht’ (relief) and ‘khulli saans’ (breathing freely) from the oppression, exploitation and hooliganism that people had come to associate with the previous government in the last ten years. The ‘raahat’ will now be followed by ‘vikas’ (development) and ‘badlaav’ (change), he said, promising discernible activity and change in the coming year.
Pointing out that the people of Punjab had seen the previous government at work in the last decade, Captain Amarinder Singh said that if everything they did in their 10 years of misrule actually benefited the people of Punjab, then they would not be sitting in the Opposition. The fact was that, in the name of welfare of the people, what they had been perpetrating during their decade-long rule was just the welfare of one family.
Asserting that “our shoulders are wide and strong enough” to fulfill the responsibility that the people of this great State had placed on them, the Chief Minister assured the House that his government existed for each and every person who lived in the State irrespective of caste, creed or religion. “If Punjab has to develop, we must rise above petty considerations of parochialism and narrow-mindedness. These run contrary to the teachings, which our Great Gurus have given us,” he added.
The Chief Minister, who commended to the august House to unanimously adopt the motion of thanks to the Governor of Punjab for his address on 20.03.2018, as moved by Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa MLA, listed out his government’s achievement across every sector and segment of growth and development.
Citing the success of the STF’s war against drugs, the Chief Minister announced his government’s decision to strengthen the STF on Drugs by restructuring it as an independent and autonomous vertical of the Department of Police with dedicated personnel and resources.
Referring to the improvement in the law and order situation, beginning with the abolition of the Halqa system and a policy of no political interference in civil and police functioning, the Chief Minister pointed out that of 32 cases of sacrilege, 22 had been solved. He also referred to the busting of eight modules involved in the target killings and the elimination of gangs of criminals, along with the arrest of 707 gangsters, among the achievements on this front.
Captain Amarinder Singh made special mention of the war against corruption, reiterating his government’s decision to lay the report of Justice Narang Commission in the ongoing Budget Session.
The Chief Minister also expressed satisfaction at the decline in the resource gap from Rs.10000 crore in the previous fiscal to about Rs. 4000 crore this year. He appealed to the people of Punjab to bear with his government for some time while it works to put the state back on the path of high-trajectory growth. “Is it not ironical that Congress Governments are always required to correct the State’s finances whereas the SAD-BJP Governments bring it to complete ruin?,” he asked the House as well as the people of the state, pointing out that the previous regime had not only borrowed recklessly but also spent shamelessly.
Referring to the Development Tax imposed by the State @ Rs.200 per month on income tax payees, the Chief Minister made it clear that the amount would be fully deductible from an individual’s income under the existing Income Tax laws.
The Chief Minister gave a detailed account of his government’s policies, programmes and initiatives in the field of Agriculture and Water Resources. Reaffirming the Governor’s statement that Punjab’s water was only for Punjab, he announced his government’s decision to launch a water conservation campaign in the state.
On the proposed Agriculture Policy, which his government was preparing for the first time in Punjab, the Chief Minister appealed to all members to give their free and fair suggestions. He cited the smooth procurement of wheat and paddy during the year and also listed out the government’s efforts to boost crop diversification as among some of the successes.
Reiterating his government’s resolve to continue providing free power to farmers, the Chief Minister flayed the Opposition for misleading the farming community on this count. The meters being installed as a pilot project in a few areas were aimed at water conservation and had nothing to do with power bills, he said, while once again appealing to all the big and well-to-do farms to voluntarily surrender the subsidy so that the Government is able to give more benefits to the poor and needy farmers and farm labourers.
The SAD-BJP also came in for severe criticism from the Chief Minister for projecting themselves as Messiahs of the farmers after ruining the state’s agriculture. Dismissing as sheer deception their allegations on farm debt waiver, Captain Amarinder Singh declared that though Rs 4250 crore had been provided in the budget for 2018-19, his government would fully meet its commitment of Rs 9500 crore for the Debt Relief Scheme.
Highlighting the success achieved by his government under the ‘Ghar Ghar Rozgar’ scheme, the Chief Minister said that besides giving jobs to the unemployed youth, the government was also committed to providing unemployment allowance by way of incentive. He also reiterated his government’s commitment to providing Smart Phones to eligible youth in a phased manner.
The Chief Minister reaffirmed his government’s commitment to reviving the state’s industrial growth, pointing out that despite financial constraints, it had fulfilled its promise to give power subsidy to industry to revive industrial growth and employment in Punjab. The move to abolish the truck unions and remove inter-state check barriers was also in line with the government’s focus on industrial revival, he disclosed.
The Chief Minister made it clear that his government was working on the cancellation of all permits for trucks and buses auctioned by the previous SAD-BJP Government in a non-transparent manner.
He also reiterated his government’s firm commitment against censorship, monopoly, partiality and cartelization in various forms of media.
The various initiatives taken by the government for the welfare of the underprivileged sections of the society were also highlighted by the Chief Minister, who pointed out that his government was in the process of enacting a new Social Security legislation to provide for a dedicated Punjab Social Security Fund comprising of around Rs 2000 crore.
Captain Amarinder Singh further apprised the House of the steps initiated towards women empowerment, including 50% reservation in ULBs and PRIs, and promised continued support to free education of girl students in government schools and colleges. He further announced his government’s decision to install CCTV cameras in three major cities of the state, namely Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, to ensure women safety, besides providing a facility of Hostels and living accommodation on rental basis.
On the Education front, Captain Amarinder Singh informed the House that, on a pilot basis, English medium will be started in at least two Primary, Middle, High and Senior Secondary Schools in each educational block from July onwards. Introduction of pre-primary classes in government schools, launch of Padho Punjab – Padhao Punjab programme from 1st April 2018, commencement of a system of ranking schools, besides free textbooks to children, infrastructure development in schools, free internet facility in all Government schools from April 2018 and reforms for teachers were some of the other measures to improve the education system, he added.
The Chief Minister also reiterated his government’s commitment to provide affordable, quality healthcare to all citizens, announcing the establishment of 840 health clinics in the next fiscal, along with a series of other welfare initiatives.
Among the other major programmes launched by his government were improvement of power distribution and transmission facilities, including energy conservation initiatives and clean energy systems, besides 89% increase in budgetary allocation for rural development and panchayats for the year 2018-19, as well as steps to ensure that NREGA funds are utilized for small and marginal farmers for permissible farm improvement works.
The Chief Minister underlined his government’s commitment to the promotion of cleanliness and hygiene through a series of initiatives, not the least being finding an enduring solution to the problem of Budha Nalla. He also listed out the efforts made to re-energise the housing and urban development sector, and announced the decision to set up a new world-class Township of 5000 acres near Mohali Airport.
The Chief Minister informed the House of the activities undertaken in the areas of Public Works (B&R), including the development of National and State Highways and roads, in addition to the steps taken to streamline the Revenue system, improve the civil aviation sector, welfare of government employees, and resolution of the grievances of NRIs.
With a proposal to recast the existing policy for development and promotion of sports in the state, his government was looking at higher incentives for Punjab’s youth to enable them to compete in National and International sports’ events, the Chief Minister said. While the proposal to set up a Sports Facility at Patiala was at the final stage, the government had also decided to develop a sports hub at Burlton Park, Jalandhar, and set up quality sports stadium in all blocks of the State.
Welfare of the ex-servicemen and freedom fighters would continue to be high on his government’s agenda, said the Chief Minister, while also listing out the efforts being made for the development of the state’s border areas.
The Chief Minister rubbished the opposition’s criticism of the Guardians of Governance (GoGs) scheme, saying it was not a spy agency but aimed at assisting the government in the implementation of welfare schemes at the grassroots.
Captain Amarinder Singh also reiterated his commitment to further promote culture and tourism in the state as a means of preserving Punjab’s cultural ethos and boosting the economy.