From more jobs to loan waiver for farmers to pay hike, Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal opened the purse strings in an election year as he tabled the last budget of the Amarinder Singh-led government. The state assembly elections are due early next year.
The sops announced by the government came at a time when the state’s debt has risen to Rs 2,73,730 crore, with the debt to GSDP ratio of an unprecedented Rs 45.05 crore. Badal presented the state budget with an outlay of Rs 1,68,015 crore for the financial year 2021-22.
Considering the ongoing farmers’ agitation, the budget also caters to the farming community with the government announcing a loan waiver of Rs 1,186 crore of 1.13 lakh farmers and Rs 526 crore of landless farmers in the next phase, under the crop loan waiver scheme in 2021-22. The budget also earmarked Rs 7,180 crore for free power subsidy for farmers.
A new umbrella programme ‘Kamyaab Kisan Khushaal Punjab’ has been launched under which a centre of excellence for vegetables, a postgraduate institute of horticulture research will be set up in the state and also mobile vending carts will be provided to farmers.
Under this scheme, Rs 3,780 crore is to be spent in the next three years and Rs 1,104 crore allocated for 2021-22.
And even as the budget was being presented, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators stormed the well of the House, saying that the Congress government has increased the debt of the state by over Rs 70,000 crore.
The Leader of Opposition in the assembly Harpal Singh Cheema called the budget a “document of lies” prepared at the behest of the CM’s newly appointed political adviser Prashant Kishor. “They have failed to even fulfil the promises made in 2017 and now comes the new bunch of lies at the behest of Prashant Kishor yet again,” Cheema said.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader criticised the announcement of farm waivers, claiming that the government should have included a decision like release of Rs 90,000 crore to ensure a complete farm loan waiver as promised by the chief minister.
CM Captain Amarinder Singh had recently claimed that the state government had fulfilled over 85 per cent of its poll promises inviting sharp criticism from the Opposition that has accused the government of making false claims.
Reacting to the budget, the general secretary of Punjab BJP Subhash Sharma said the budget was an attempt by the ruling Congress to cover up its failures as the people of the state have felt cheated in the past four years.
“The crop loan waiver for farmers is an eyewash as it would not touch even a small fragment of farmers reeling under heavy debt which amounts to more than Rs 9,000 crore,” he said.