Punjab wants separate policy package

Written by Charanjit Ahuja | Chandigarh | Updated: Dec 31 2007, 05:18am hrs
The Green Revolution has paled and increased productivity is a mirage, given the extent to which soil and water resources have been exploited in the state. With a hostile border on one side and locational disadvantage on the other, and no port, Punjab has not been able to attract new industries. Little doubt that Punjab, which has been contributing to national food security in a big way, has serious reservations on the Centres inclusive growth strategy.

Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who attended the National Development Council (NDC) meeting on December 19, along with finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, chief secretary, RI Singh, secretary, planning, Satish Chandra, said states like Punjab, that have continued to contribute to national food security, deserve a suitable policy package. He told FE that the NDC should devise a separate policy for states with growth rate lower than the national average. For record, Punjab's growth rate has been about 4.5% during the last five years.

The state, which has resorted to heavy market borrowings to fund its development process, had a debt burden of Rs 48,344 crore by end-March 2007, and the interest payment outgo was over Rs 4,000 crore per annum. Badal said the Centre should provide to Punjab a bridging financial package for two years till such time that the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission take effect.

The CM said that Punjab is a land-locked state with a hostile international border with problems like drug addiction, female foeticide. The Centre must compensate Punjab by providing additional resources to fight these problems.

The state has a locational disadvantage as it neither has any port nor proximity to the the National Capital, which Haryana has. The only way it can match up to the other states is by having excellent infrastructure. However, on the power front, Punjabs present generation capacity is 6,200 mw against the peak demand of 9,000mw, a shortfall of 30%.

By the end of 11th Plan, the estimated peak demand would be about 11,000mw, a likely deficit of about 5,000mw. Badal said Punjab did not have any central sector power plant. He wanted the Centre to set up at least two plants of 1,000mw each. Till the new plants are set up, the Centre should allot 1,500mw from its other projects.

The state also sought 49% equity participation in Rajasthan atomic power projects as well as allocation from the Banswara nuclear project. It also wanted Gas Authority of India to expedite laying of Dadri-Nangal gas pipeline.

The state has planned new infrastructure projects under public-private partnership (PPP) in the Plan period, including ring roads in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, four high-speed expressways, by-passes for three towns and Metro rail system for Ludhiana and Amritsar. Badal took a dig at the Centre for tax sops offered to neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, which had made industry in Punjab totally uncompetitive.

He said that Centre should immediately announce tax sops, at least for border districts of Punjab, to attract industry. There are about 18,500 acre of land situated across the border fence where farmers are discouraged from growing crops. Badal wants the Centre to compensate the farmers on a regular basis at the rate of Rs 5,000 per acre per annum. There cannot be pan-India solutions to the myriad problems that Punjab faces, which has a hostile international border and history of decade-long militancy, Badal concluded.