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Thursday, February 25, 2021

At Niti Aayog meeting, Amarinder raises farm laws, Covid vaccination, GST compensation

Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh skips meeting as he was indisposed, but reiterates his stand on powers to state vis a vis agriculture in recorded speech.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
February 21, 2021 3:48:29 am
At Niti Aayog meeting, Amarinder raises farm laws, Covid vaccination, GST compensationIn his pre-recorded address for the sixth Governing Council virtual meeting of Niti Aayog, he also proposed that states are consulted before deciding the priority list for COVID-19 vaccination. (File Photo)

PUNJAB CHIEF Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure urgent resolution of the ongoing farmers’ unrest by the Centre “to the satisfaction of the protesting farmers by addressing their grievances”.

In his pre-recorded address for the sixth Governing Council virtual meeting of Niti Aayog, he also proposed that states are consulted before deciding the priority list for COVID-19 vaccination.

A government statement said Amarinder could not attend the meeting as he was indisposed. However, through his speech, he called for the fullest respect for the “annadaata”. He reiterated his government’s stand that agriculture is a state subject and law-making on it should be left to the states in the true spirit of “cooperative federalism” enshrined in the Constitution.

The statement added that the CM in his speech said any reform that is sought to be introduced in a sector subsuming almost 60 per cent of the country’s workforce must be done only through a process of extensive consultation with all the stakeholders, of which Punjab is a key stakeholder, being at the forefront of ensuring food security for the country.

Citing strong apprehension among farmers of the state that the Minimum Support Price (MSP)-based procurement regime through Food Corporation of India (or agencies on its behalf), introduced as part of food security measures in the 1960s, may be discontinued in view of the Shanta Kumar Committee Report of 2015, Amarinder also stressed on the need for Centre to decisively dispel any such impression “to instill proper confidence in the farmers of the State”.

Paddy straw management compensation

The chief minister also used the forum to once again reiterate the state government’s demand for bonus of Rs 100/quintal of paddy procured as “Paddy Straw Management Compensation”, which can be used for purchase or rental of new equipment, attaining the skills for efficient use, and to reduce cost of operation and maintenance.

He requested the GoI to provide Rs 5 crore per MW financial support for biomass power projects and Rs 3.5 crore per MW for biomass solar hybrid projects to the state as Viability Gap Fund (VGF) to help alleviate the effects of paddy straw burning through ex-situ utilisation of available paddy straw with good returns to the farmers.

Underlining the importance of aligning the cropping system to agro-climatic conditions at the district level for optimum use of resources, Amarinder called upon the Government of India to designate agencies to procure and provide MSP matching the returns of wheat and paddy in order to incentivize the farmers to take up cultivation of alternate crops and thereby achieve diversification and save precious water.

He also sought central government’s support and liberal financial assistance to facilitate the state’s programmes and schemes for diversification towards nutri-cereals, pulses, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry.

Water conservation

The importance of water conservation was also highlighted by the chief minister, who requested the Government of India to consider Punjab’s pilot project – ‘Pani Bachao Paisa Kamao (PBPK)’ – as a national project, for which a feasibility report amounting to Rs 433.00 crore has already been submitted by the state to the Central Water Commission.

He further sought from the central government a ‘Deficiency Price Support’ for alternative crops like maize, in order to encourage farmers to diversify out of the water-intensive paddy crop.

Consult state in fixing Covid vaccine priorities

Amarinder, in his speech, also urged the Centre to consult with the state before fixing priorities for Covid vaccination, as it is a matter involving the entire population.

With the portal created by Government of India for registration of healthcare and frontline workers frozen, several such workers of the state willing for vaccination registration have been left behind, he pointed out, calling upon the Centre to allow entry of such workers to improve the status of vaccination drive.

Financial assistance for health infrastructure

Amarinder also urged the Centre to provide immediate financial assistance of at least Rs 300 crore to upgrade health infrastructure, equipment and other healthcare needs (medicines and consumables etc.) in view of the pandemic.

Seeks pending GST arrears

He requested the Centre to release the pending amount of GST compensation to the state, amounting to Rs 8,253 crore for the period April 2020 to January 2021.

The CM further reiterated the state’s demand for releasing the GST compensation on monthly basis in the coming fiscal year, and sought extension in the period of GST compensation beyond the current five years for states like Punjab, which have permanently lost a significant portion of their revenue especially on account of subsuming of purchase tax on food grains and are staring at a huge revenue shortfall after the end of compensation period.

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