What is your wishlist for Punjab from the Union Budget?
With the initiation of GST and introduction of debt waiver scheme, the state’s cash flows had been affected. I sought from the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that Centre should increase the states’ net borrowing ceiling from 3 per cent to 4 per cent of GSDP to enable the government to meet its committed liability during the current and next fiscal year.
We made a case that the Government of India should release (to states) the share of central taxes on account of tax devolution of corporate tax and income tax on a monthly basis instead of four quarterly instalments in 2018-19, to avert severe impact on development works in states.
How many times the state was in overdraft in the current fiscal.
Quite a few times. I do not remember off hand.
Any special state-specific demands?
To celebrate the 550th Prakash Utsav of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we have requested the Union government to provide a special grant of Rs 500 crore. In addition, another Rs 100 crore should be provided for academic, research and museum projects for observing the 550th year celebrations in a most befitting manner. Noting that the nation will observe the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh sacrifice, that took place on April 13, 1919 (on Baisakhi Day), in 2019, we requested that a special grant of Rs 100 crore may be sanctioned to the state government for improvement of the monument.
What about Centre’s assistance for your government’s farm debt waiver scheme?
I have sought an all India farm debt waiver scheme on the pattern of Punjab, while calling for restoration of the 90:10 funding pattern under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) to provide more avenues to the states to determine priorities in agriculture sector. A special cess of 0.5 per cent can be levied on payees having more than Rs 5 lakh annual income with a view towards creating a corpus for bailing out beleaguered farmers, besides soil rejuvenation and tackling the issue of ground water depletion.
Since Agriculture in Punjab has been affected on account of climate change, can the Centre help the state?
To undertake research on emerging challenges for climate variability, we have sought a sum of Rs 125 crore to establish a state-of-the-art Climate Control Chamber at PAU Ludhiana
What about seeking attention of Union government on renewed threat of terrorism on the border state?
We have natural boundaries with Pakistan. I sought a special grant to guard the spurs in the rivers forming natural barriers. To combat terror activities, we demanded a special package for purchase of equipment to modernise the police to counter anti-terrorism operations.
Your wishlist for border areas in view of escalated tension with Pakistan?
We have sought that Border Area Development Programme (BADP) for Punjab should be included in the special category states. Since 2016-17, this programme had been converted to 60:40 between the Centre and the non-special category states. For the special category states, the ratio was 90:10. With the changed funding pattern, Punjab, which is a non-special category state, had to bear an additional amount of Rs 25 crore approximately annually, on account of meeting 40 per cent of the state share. The state has also requested the central government to consider institutionalising a grant/ economic package for development of border areas of Punjab, which it deserves on account of national security.