Stating that liquor was being sold clandestinely during Covid curfew, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday announced the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to thoroughly probe the illicit sale and smuggling of liquor during the lockdown period.
Addressing a video press conference, the CM said the three-member SIT will be headed by Water Resources Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, and will undertake thorough investigations into the whole racket.
Agreeing, in response to a question, that such large-scale illicit sale of liquor and smuggling from other states could not have been possible without involvement of some insiders, Amarinder said a full-fledged probe would be conducted by SIT to ascertain all facts, including complicity of excise department officials. All those involved, including the kingpins, will be identified and arrested, he added.
COVID COMMUNITY SPREAD
Responding to a question, the CM agreed that community spread of Covid had started in the state. He said that there were a number of cases that did not have any travel or contact history. “But the infection is not much yet. We have been having 30-odd new cases every day. We have strong quarantine rules for anyone coming from outside and the state is prepared to tackle any emergency situation if it arises.”
‘CENTRE DID NOT HELP’
Regretting that the Government of India had failed to provide any help to the small states in fighting the impact of the Covid outbreak and the prolonged lockdown, Amarinder said it was the duty of the Centre to come forward in fighting this national battle and help the states revive their battered economies.
Even though Punjab was on top of the Covid situation and had managed to control the medical aspect of the problem to a great extent, economic revival would require support from the Central government, the CM said at the video press conference.
At the moment, all steps to restart the economic activity in Punjab were purely the result of the state government’s own efforts, Amarinder said, describing the Government of India’s present attitude as a sad state of affairs. Pointing to the conditional increase in the borrowing limit of GSDP, he said by curtailing the state’s rights the Central government had negated the benefit of even the miniscule and delayed financial help it had extended.
On migrants willingly staying back in Punjab, the CM pointed out that out of 11.50 lakh of those who had applied to return to their homes, more than 5 lakh decided to stay back in Punjab with the opening of the industries. Many were also now wanting to come back to Punjab from states like Bihar and UP to resume work, he said, adding that the labourers who had gone back to their homes were talking of the care taken by the Punjab government, with the support of the police, NGOs, religious organisations etc. The state government, Amarinder said, had been doing its best despite the meagre resources at its disposal.
To a question regarding shortage of labour during the paddy-sowing season, the CM said that in this season, nearly 30% of paddy had been sown through direct seeding, which is less labour-intensive and more cost-effective. He said that the industry was also taking initiatives, such as pay hikes, to retain labour. However, it is the small industry, which hires the majority of the migrant workers, that needs immediate support for revival, he added.
On the issue of power rate cuts for the domestic consumers, the CM said 52,000 domestic consumers in the lowest category had benefitted, along with consumers of second category. The state government was duty-bound to support PSPCL through subsidy payment despite the fiscal crunch it was facing, he said, adding that the discom had been suffering a net loss of Rs 30 crore per day during the lockdown period.
While not advocating war, the CM urged the Centre to take a tough stand on the continuing border stand-off with China if the neighbouring country was not responding to diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue.
The problem needs to be resolved through negotiations and diplomacy, but “we cannot turn our back to the threat posed by the aggressive moves of the Chinese at the border,” he said in response to questions during his video press conference.
As sovereign nations, both countries should find a diplomatic solution to the problem, Amarinder said, adding that India “does not want war but we will not accept bullying by China”. “We want peace, but they cannot push us around,” he said, asserting that the Chinese had to be pushed back, out of the Indian territory.
Asserting that India cannot keep allowing its land to go away, the CM said if the threat is not countered, the Chinese will demand more and more land in the future, which cannot be permitted at any cost. Citing the Dokhlam incident, he pointed out that such provocations on the part of China were common, and they had encroached upon Indian territory even in Aksai Chin, and had resorted to similar actions in Arunachal Pradesh. Attempts have been made by China in the past to lay claim on Indian land in Himachal Pradesh and UP too, the CM pointed out.
China has to leave the Indian territory into which they have now moved and on which they have no right, Amarinder said, warning that the Indian armed forces were now much more modernised and equipped than they were back in 1962, and “China cannot afford to take us lightly”.
Asked about the threats of disturbance to mark the Operation Blue Star anniversary, the CM said nobody would be allowed to disrupt the peace of Punjab, which had lost 35,000 lives during the dark days of terror. No Punjabi wants this, he said, adding that it was only a handful of anti-India elements that continued to try and provoke people in the name of Khalistan every now and then.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines