THE ALLEGED foodgrain ‘scam’ is set to haunt the SAD-BJP led previous government, with the Congress government set to order a probe into the scam, which runs into thousands of crores. Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal told The Indian Express, “We will get it investigated. We will see where the foodgrains vanished.” The previous government had not investigated the alleged scam.
It came to light in 2016, when the banks found huge gaps between foodgrains procured on behalf of the state government and the actual stock available in the FCI godowns. The RBI had refused to advance the cash credit limit (CCL) for procurement of paddy during the previous kharif season as the state food department had failed to reconcile the gaps between the amount pending and the actual foodgrains. The state government had then requested to get the pending amount of Rs 31,000 crore considered as a term loan.
The CAG had objected not only to the missing grains but also the discrepancies in the transportation of grains. Of 3,319 registration numbers of vehicles scrutinised by CAG, 3321 (97.35 per cent) registration numbers of vehicles did not match with data of the transportation authority of the state. Only 87 vehicles were traced out of which 15 vehicles were found to be of buses, cars, bikes and tankers. Former CLP leader Sunil Kumar Jakhar had procured a bike, shown as a truck in records.
The bike was displayed in party rallies ahead of elections with a placard reading “Badalan da truck” (Badals truck).
“We will get to the bottom of the alleged scam,” said Manpreet adding the first thing the Congress government did after taking over was to have cleared the installment of Rs 270 crore against the term loan, “Having promised smooth procurement, we wanted to ensure the farmers get their money on day one. We will get the CCL on time and farmers will not face any problems,” he said.
The government had demanded CCL of Rs 22,000 crore for procurement of wheat starting April 1. The Punjab farmers have produced a bumper crop of 125 lakh metric tonnes compared to 106 lakh metric tonnes last year.
Manpreet said the government would take up the issue of term loan with the Centre. “We are paying an interest of 11 per cent, which is high considering it is a loan by the Centre to the state government. We will seek its reduction to at least seven per cent if not more. Why should we pay commercial interest? We hope to save Rs 7,000 to 8,000 crore out of the term loan.”
The state government Monday cancelled all the labour and transportation tenders issued during the Badals’ regime for the upcoming wheat procurement season and invited fresh tenders. The directions came from Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh while he was holding a meeting of deputy commissioners across the state.
No tea for visitors
Leading by example to practice austerity, the FM has decided not to burden the exchequer to offer tea to visitors.