March 9, 2021 4:15:43 am
The Opposition parties Monday dubbed the Punjab budget for financial year 2021-2022 presented by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal as a “bag of lies”, a creation of poll strategist Prashant Kishore and an attempt to “hoodwink” people in an election year with announcements “the Congress government they had no intention” to implement.
However, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described it as “growth-oriented” and designed to ensure the welfare of all sections of society. “It was a people’s Budget and yet another step in the fulfillment of his government’s promises to the people of Punjab,” said Amarinder Singh in a statement.
Manpreet tabled the state budget with a total size of Rs 1,68,015 crore, with bulk of its provisions for agriculture, urban development, water resources, health and education sectors.
As Manpreet read out his budget speech in House, two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs and two SAD MLAs staged a walkout. Akali members Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal and DS Bhunder walked out saying that the budget had no allocation for the families of the farmers who committed suicide due to farm loans distress.
AAP MLA and Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema said the budget was nothing but a “bag of lies” just like the Congress manifesto of 2017. “All schemes that were announced will be implemented from July, effectively making the Budget a three-month budget,” he said.
Talking to mediapersons outside the Assembly, Cheem alleged that the budget was not prepared by Manpreet Badal, but by Captain’s newly appointed principal adviser and poll strategist Prashant Kishor.
“Has the Captain government become so inefficient that it is getting person from outside to prepare the budget? Can Prashant Kishor, who has spent three days in Punjab, understand the pain of our people,” he asked.
BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh said the budget presented a picture of “ronda Punjab” (crying Punjab) as it has only repeated promises that the Congress government had “failed” to fulfil in the past four years. Chugh said the budget is a “pre-election shallow” exercise which would prove to be the “last nail in the coffin of the Amarinder Singh-led government”.
In a statement, Chugh said the state government had promised in its election manifesto that it would give minimum income per acre to farmers, provide jobs to families of farmers owning less than five acres, and set up a Punjab state agriculture insurance commission.
“But none of the promises has been fulfilled and farmers in the state are feeling cheated”, Chugh said, adding, “ The budget is not only anti- farmers and anti-youth but has proved to be a big disappointment for the industrial and business class in Punjab which has been suffering huge losses due to the Congress government policies,” he said.
He said the crop loan waiver for farmers was an eyewash as it would not touch even a small fragment of farmers reeling under heavy debt, which amounts to more than Rs 90,000 crore.
Sharma said the government’s proposal to offer jobs in the last year of its term is nothing short of “treachery with the youth” as a time when more than one lakh vacancies existed.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said after “betraying” Punjabis and “reneging” on each and every promise made to them, the Congress-led government is trying to “hoodwink” the people in the election year with announcements they had no intention to implement in letter and spirit.
He said the time for implementing the promises made to the people had passed and that “jumlas” could never replace hard work and intent.
Sukhbir said the Congress party had tried to indulge in “skullduggery” in its budget by “renewing old promises and schemes for which even outlays had been allocated but never released”.
“The government apparently realises it can only rely on ‘jumlas’ to see it through in the absence of substance. This is an insult to hardworking Punjabis who voted the Congress to power believing the promises made by the chief minister by taking a vow on the holy Gutka Sahib,” he said in a statement.
Sukhbir said “the finance minister knew that he had nothing to give because of bad fiscal management which is resulting in the state’s debt doubling and galloping towards the Rs 3 lakh crore mark.”
“This is why some measures like the promised enhancement of Ashirwad scheme amount to Rs 51,000 and old-age pension to Rs 1,500 have been announced with a rider saying they will be implemented from July this year,” he said.
He also castigated his estranged Manpreet Badal for making another promise to women which he had no aim of fulfilling. Sukhbir He said even in last year’s budget the FM had promised 50 per cent concession to women for travel on state transport buses but did not implement the promise.
Earlier in the day, SAD legislators held a protest against the state government. Police used water cannons on Akali MLAs when they were trying to force their way through barricades to go to the Vidhan Sabha.
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