No discontinuation of free power to farmers: Punjab CM

Chandigarh: Categorically rejecting allegations about withdrawal of free power to Punjab’s farmers, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday said his government is ready to forego the portion of fiscal deficit enhancement offered by the Centre, but would not compromise with the farmers’ interest at any cost.

Dismissing the Centre’s suggestion on replacement of free power to farmers with DBT as totally unacceptable and a direct attack on the federal structure of the nation, the Chief Minister said he will take up the issue with the Centre for trying to impose such a anti-farmer condition on the cash-strapped state in the guise of extending fiscal support amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asserting that the free power facility for farmers would continue to exist till his government is in power, Amarinder Singh said his government will take loans to bridge the fiscal deficit, and the government of India cannot dictate the terms of a sovereign loan being taken by a state government.

Amarinder Singh also lashed out at Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Badal for trying to pin the blame for the Central government’s misdemeanours on the state government, which had unwaveringly been providing free power to farmers since taking over in March 2017, despite the massive fiscal crunch it had inherited from the erstwhile Akali-BJP regime.

The Chief Minister asked Sukhbir to immediately quit the ruling NDA at the Centre, and demanded Union Minister and Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation from the Central cabinet. He pointed out that it was the government of India that took the decision directing the states to withdraw the free power, and also failed to come to the rescue of the state and its people in the wake of the unprecedented Covid crisis and lockdown.

Terming their allegations as malicious and mischievous and totally unsubstantiated, Amarinder Singh hit out at the SAD leadership for not fighting for the rights of Punjab and its people, including farmers, at the Centre or in Parliament, and resorting, instead, to petty and shameless politicking even on such a grave issue of national concern.

“If you have even an iota of shame, you should leave the NDA coalition, of which you are a part, immediately, and join my government in working for the people of the state,” the Chief Minister said in a statement, criticising Sukhbir and Harsimrat over their pathetic attempts to mislead the people of Punjab with their patent double standards, blatant falsehoods and unfounded allegations.

Amarinder Singh clarified that the state Cabinet had, in its last meeting, given an in-principle approval to undertaking certain reforms to become eligible to avail additional borrowing of 1.5 per cent of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) amid COVID-19, as mandated by the government of India.

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