Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal Wednesday said that the Centre was holding back Rural Development Fund (RDF) to get back at the state for its farmers agitating against the Centre’s farm laws.
Addressing the media here on Wednesday, Manpreet said when he met Union Minister Piyush Goyal to take up the issue of RDF, he sensed that the RDF was stopped “out of spite” as the state’s farmers were protesting and the state government was supporting them.
“But in long struggles, such losses were secondary,” he said. The state has been fighting for getting its Rs 1250 crore RDF from the Centre. The Centre had not kept a provision for the RDF in CCL for paddy. The CCL lapsed on December 31 and there are fears that the Centre would not provide them Rs 1,250 crore saying that the CCL has lapsed.
The state is still waiting to hear from Goyal, who had told Manpreet and his Cabinet colleague Bharat Bhushan Ashu a few days ago that they were seeking legal advice on the issue.
He said this was not the only issue. The Centre had not yet released pending GST compensation of Rs 8,500 crore despite the state finances having suffered a hit due to the pandemic.
Accusing the Centre of discrimination, he said that UAE was setting up three mega food parks worth 7 billion dollars and Punjab was interested in getting one of those. Even the UAE government wanted to set it up in Punjab. “But the Centre is setting up the parks in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.”
Manpreet listed the achievements of the finance department stating that even though COVID pandemic hit very hard globally and despite the financial constraints, the government did not make any deduction in salaries of its employees, besides ensuring distribution of salaries and pensions on time.
He said that the pandemic has pushed the global economy in recession and every section of society was hit very badly but Punjab has not availed the overdraft facility in current financial year and funds have been provided to the development works.
Highlighting the various reforms undertaken by the finance department over a period of four years, Manpreet said that the present government has undertaken various additional resource mobilisation (ARM) measures such as levying of nominal development tax of Rs 200 per month which has generated revenue to the tune of Rs 94.24 crore and Rs 138.07 crore in 2018-19 and 2019-20; and implemented Social Security Surcharge on vehicles that has brought revenue of Rs 56 crore in 2018-19 and Rs 153.39 crore in 2019-20 to be used specifically for providing social service benefits. Electricity duty in rural areas has also been revised from 13% to 15%. Stamp Duty on urban property registration has been rationalised from 9% to 6% that has led to an increase in revenue by 4.48% (2017-18) and further by 7.61% (2018-19).
He said that the government opted for expenditure rationalisation and shifted 470 government offices from private buildings to government/ semi-government buildings; rationalisation of domestic power subsidy for certain categories of SC, non-SC-BPL& BC consumers; withdrawal of optional extension in service beyond the date of retirement on superannuation.
Manpreet highlighted the financial reforms undertaken that includes prudent debt management through dedicated Debt Management Unit; proactive cash management and investment of Rs 972 crore in the Consolidated Sinking Fund has helped the state in savings to the tune of Rs 10.75 crore in 2017-18, Rs 21.70 crore in 2018-19 and Rs 5 crore in 2019-20 respectively. Resultantly, the state during the current fiscal year 2020-21 has not gone into overdraft for even a single day.
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