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Chnadigarh/ New Delhi, Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal brought the crucial Sikh issues and farmer’s crisis to the national centre stage, asking the Government of India to end political, economic and religious discrimination against the state, Sikh community and the farmers as “matter of extreme national urgency”.
Deviating from the prepared script, the Chief Minister minced no words in highlighting a prolonged series of policies and decisions of the successive Congress governments at the Centre, which had spelt despair and acute and legitimate sense of grievance in the Sikh community. He referred “sustained, vulgar and utterly non acceptable interference in the internal religious affairs of the Sikh community” in making attempts to either disband or dilute the historic Mini-religious Parliament of the Sikhs- the SGPC, or to captive it through unethical back-door entry and said that the community had high hopes from the present government especially the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, who restored the dignity and pride of the Khalsa Panth by vacating injustice or discrimination.
The Chief Minister was at his characteristic candid best and termed his observations as “Kadwi Baat” but “Sacchi Baat” (bitter but honest and truthful talk) and said not he had come here to share the “Mann Ki Baat” of the masses as he was sure that the present government at the centre and especially the Prime Minister were feeling sensitive to the some of his sentiments of the people.
Terming that the country was severely affected by the crisis facing agriculture today, the Chief Minister today impressed upon the Northern Zonal council to unanimously recommend to Government of India (GoI) to come to the rescue of the farmers in a big way.
In his address on the meeting of 27th Northern Zonal Council held here at the Vigyan Bhawan, the Chief Minister, while dwelling on the issue of prevalent agrarian crisis, said that more than 60% population depends upon agriculture but the farming sector was passing through a tough time these days. He said that the high cost of agriculture inputs coupled with the non-remunerative MSP had already rendered agriculture as a non-profitable venture and from last few years the vagaries of weather have accentuated the woes of the farming community. Mr. Badal said that in this dismal scenario the Union government must play a crucial role in bailing out the farmers’.
Mr. Badal pointed out that there was a dip in the quality of grain of wheat as a consequence of loss in its luster because of adverse weather conditions. The Chief Minister said that no cut should be applied to the price of the farmer’s yield on this account because he was not responsible for this adverse effect caused by natural calamity which was beyond his control.
Batting for fixation of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of the crops as per the recommendations of renowned agri-scientist Dr. MS Swaminathan, the Chief Minister said that it could only save the farmers of the country. Likewise he also sought assured marketing for all MSP crops. Mr. Badal also underscored the need for full compensation to the farmers in case of all natural calamities besides introducing crop insurance scheme for them due to loss of crops.
The Chief Minister also said that it was the need of the hour to provide Farm credit at 4% for all agriculture and allied sectors adding that animal husbandry and allied sector should also be treated at par with agriculture for income tax and bank loans. Mr. Badal also said that any move to shift to Direct Transfer of Urea Subsidy to farmers would harm farmers/ agriculture in the long run.
Recalling the stellar role of Punjabis in the national Freedom struggle, the Chief Minister said that more than 80% people who were martyred or exiled belonged to the state of Punjab. He said that Punjabis bore the brunt of partition as fertile land left in Pakistan and lakhs were killed in migration. But, Mr. Badal said that Punjabis played a pivotal role in ensuring National Food Security besides safeguarding the borders of the country.
However, the Chief Minister bemoaned that Punjabis had suffered the most before and after the independence especially during the partition as millions of them were displaced. He said that even after independence the Congress-ruled Centre has discriminated against Punjab by denying the state of Punjabi speaking areas, its capital and legitimate share in river waters. Mr. Badal demanded that the Punjabi speaking areas kept out of the state be merged with it and Chandigarh should be restored to the state as its capital. Likewise, he said that Punjab’s exclusive right on its river waters must be protected under the nationally and internationally accepted Riparian Principle.
The Chief Minister also impressed upon the GoI to implement the agreed 60:40 ratio of employees in the Chandigarh Administration from Punjab and Haryana. Likewise, Mr. Badal demanded a similar package of Industrial concessions for Punjab as already granted to the neighbouring states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu-Kashmir, which have given a death blow for Punjab industry and trade, without any further delay.
Seeking the kind intervention of the Union government for solving the contentious issue of separate Gurdwara Mangement Committee in Haryana, the Chief Minister said that the then Haryana Congress Government had done this mischief much to the dismay of the Sikhs. He said that Sikh Gurudwara Act 1925 was enacted to bring all the historical Gurudwaras in the then Punjab under one democratically elected body adding that this body had members from the entire country. Thus, the said Act was intended to address the need of religious community rather than territorial boundaries.
Referring to the issue of voting Rights to Sehajdharis, the Chief Minister sought the intervention of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GoI) to amend the relevant provisions of the Sikh Gurudwara Act 1925 through an Act of Parliament as the notification issued on October 10, 2003 by the NDA government to delete the exception given to Sehajdaris to vote in SGPC elections was quashed by the High Court on December 20, 2011 and it was held that the right of the legislature to lay down the eligibility conditions for the voters to include or exclude a class or category.
Raising the issue of non-constitution of Full Board at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, the Chief Minister said that two extra persons have been nominated and one of them has been further nominated as President. He said that this should be revoked as it has hurt the Sikh sentiments. The President should be elected not nominated in any case, asserted Mr. Badal.
The Chief Minister also flagged up the issue of need for rationalizing VAT rates by all states in this region for better fiscal management. He also impressed upon his Jammu and Kashmir counterpart to withdraw increase in entry tax on poultry products as it has affected Punjab seriously.
On the issue of river cleaning, the Chief Minister also sought a mission mode project for cleaning of Satluj and Ghaggar rivers as water from almost all the states of the councils drain into these rivers. He also said that the first Phase of channelization of river Ghaggar has been successfully completed. Mr. Badal impressed upon the GoI to grant approval for second Phase of this ambitious project. Raising another significant matter, the Chief Minister demanded that powers to transfer Environment Clearance should be delegated to state level agency irrespective of the size of the mine.
The Chief Minister also urged the Centre to direct the BBMB to restore the ownership of land and property which was acquired for Bhakra Nangal Project and Beas Project at Nangal and Talwara Townships, respectively, vested in the erstwhile state of Punjab before reorganization in 1966, which still vested in the state of Punjab under the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966. He demanded that these properties which have been declared surplus should be immediately restored to Punjab, being the rightful owner.
The Chief Minister said that many central schemes having 100% central funding have been changed to sharing pattern. Citing the example of Rashtiya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY), he said that instead of earlier 100% assistance this scheme has been now changed to 50:50 ratio. He said that thus the increased devolution of state’s share in central taxes was deceptive.
Terming the crop diversification as need of the hour, the Chief Minister said that since it was an issue of paramount importance he was keen for diversification which had been started for Punjab long back by us. The previous government had allocated money for Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. However, he said that no allocation has been made now. Mr. Badal said that in the larger interest of the nation it must be continued with increased allocation.
Seeking immediate intervention of the Centre to curb the Trans-Border Smuggling in Punjab, Mr Badal apprised that state was facing a drug menace because of its close proximity to the international narcotics route covering Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. He pointed out that as the border was manned by the Central security forces therefore it was obligatory on the part of GoI to keep a strict vigil on the border to check this menace.
On the issue of smuggling of Poppy Husk from Rajasthan and its adverse impact on Punjab, the Chief Minister also sought direct intervention of GoI to direct the Rajasthan government to immediately take suitable steps to stop such illegal practice of drug trafficking into Punjab from its state where Poppy husk was sold freely and legally. Mr Badal also asked the GoI to compensate Rajasthan for the notional loss of revenue. Referring to inter-state smuggling of other drugs like Opium and Charas, he also stressed on the need to combat this menace in a systematic and organized manner for which inter-state coordination was mandatory and therefore neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir should make coordinated and focused efforts.