The poor fiscal health of the state and the deteriorating administrative machinery inherited from the previous government were highlighted by the Governor VPS Badnore in his address to the new Vidhan Sabha Tuesday.
Badnore said that a white paper on development, governance reforms and the financial position of the state will be brought out so that the citizens of the state were aware of “the present situation inherited by the government”.
He said that the government has been voted to power on the promise of providing freedom from VVIP culture in the administration, corruption and financial bankruptcy and to restore the rule of law in the state.
In a scathing criticism of the SAD-BJP government, he also referred to the “past seen deterioration in the quality of governance with increased political interference through halqa in-charges, forcible occupation of government and private sector businesses, both in transport and mining sectors”.
The Governor said that the government has inherited an empty treasury with a revenue deficit of Rs 13,484 crore and a fiscal deficit of Rs 26,801 crore. “During the last 10 years, total debt of the state has increased from Rs 48,344 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 1,82,537 crore at the end of 2016-17,” he said. The Governor added that during 2015-16 and 2016-17, Rs 15,632 crore was borrowed on behalf of the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) alone. In order to settle the gap in Cash Credit Limit (CCL) for food, the government had agreed to a term loan of Rs 31,000 crore which further burdened the state, he said.
“Even the Atta Dal Scheme and the Urban and Rural Missions were undertaken by borrowing huge amount from commercial banks, mortgaging a large number of properties of the state,” he said. The Governor said that the mismanagement has saddled the government with huge liablities in terms of non-payment of arrears of dearness allowances, salaries and non-payment of old age and other pensions and non-payment of power subsidy to the PSPCL.
He said the government will take up the issue of term loan of Rs 31,000 crore with the Union government to help the state and that an Expenditure Reforms Commission will be set up to examine all government expenditures, to ensure prudence and efficiency in spending by various departments and other organisations funded by the government.
The government would endeavour to provide employment to at least one person per family and employment bureaus will be established in all districts of the state. The Governor listed a number of initiatives which the government would launch to give employment to the youth under the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Employment Guarantee Scheme and these include one lakh taxis and light vehicles to be provided without any collateral and the Green Tractor Scheme for providing 25,000 tractors of 35 to 50 Horse Power each year at subsidised rates.
Referring to the contentious issue of sharing of river water, the Badnore said that the previous government failed to protect the interest of Punjab by not properly defending the legal case and added that the government was fully committed to get justice for the state. “The government shall take all possible administrative and legal measures to defend the rights of the state,” he said.
He said the government will formulate and pursue a proposal for canalisation of major rivers of the state-Ravi, Beas and Sutlej—and construction of high-speed economic corridors on bunds.
A new legislation, “The Confiscation of Drug Dealers Property Act” shall be enacted by the state government and that the government has set up a Special Task Force in the office of the Chief Minister for day to day monitoring of the measures taken to check supply and consumption of drugs in the state.
Badnore said that Punjab State Agricultural Insurance Corporation shall be set up to promote agriculture insurance schemes with seed capital from the government. The supply of free power will continue. A group of experts will be set up to assess and analyse agriculture debt of farmers and propose means to waive the debt, the Governor said. An Agriculture Production Board (APB) will also be set up to supervise and guide production process from seeding to post harvesting operations in tandem with agriculture production plans, he said.
The government will establish referral ‘mohalla clinics’ for every 1,000 population, both in rural and urban areas and these clinics would be attached to multi-speciality hospitals for follow-up treatment.
A new industrial policy would be formulated to revive existing industrial units by resolving their problems.
It has been decided to reach out to distinguished ex-servicemen at local level and they would be trained and appointed as ‘guardians of governance’. “They would oversee proper implementation of government schemes and programmes at village level,” Badnore said, adding that an ex-servicemen cell will be set up in the Chief Minister’s office for immediate attention to the complaints and welfare of ex-servicemen in the state.
Probity in public life
To lend a degree of probity to the conduct of persons in public life, the government has decided that all MLAs and MPs would declare the details of their immovable properties on January 1 every year and for the the year 2017-18, they would do so by July 1, 2017, the Governor said. He said the existing Punjab Lokpal Act shall be repealed and in its place a more comprehensive legislation would be enacted which would be applicable to those occupying high public offices, including the chief minister, ministers, non-officials and officials/employees. “The Conflict of Interest Act will be enacted to ensure that MLAs/ministers are unseated if found to have business/ financial interests that conflict with their official capacity,” he said.
The Governor said that it has been decided to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in government jobs and the reservation of seats for women in the urban local bodies and the panchayati raj institutions would be enhanced from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. “The government would ensure 30 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes in allotment of houses, residential plots and commercial plots by the state government or any of its agencies or department,” he said.