30 May 2012

Punjab Plan for 2012-13 Finalized

The Annual Plan for the year 2012-13 for the state of Punjab was finalised here today at a meeting between Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr. Parkash Singh Badal. The plan size has been agreed at Rs. 14,000 crore. 

In his comments on the plan performance of the State, Mr Ahluwalia appreciated the efforts of the State Government to improve fiscal health and initiatives targeted at giving boost to health and education sector. He said focus should be on improving quality of education and health services. He said focussed attention was needed to address water problems including falling ground water levels, water logging in some districts / Quality of drinking water / water supply and cleaning of village ponds. Mr Ahluwalia said Planning Commission has decided to send a team of experts to Punjab for a comprehensive review of the situation in consultation with experts and officials of the State Government. Considering that in the long run Punjab will need to reduce the area under paddy cultivation to prevent over exploitation of water resources, the Expert Committee of the Planning Commission would also recommend the steps towards diversification of agriculture to alternate crops such as maize and procurement / marketing thereof. 

To address issues relating to water ecology including the deteriorating quality of sub-soil water, the inadequate treatment of sewage water in rural areas, etc., a committee has been decided to be set up in the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, which will comprise senior officials of the Ministry of Science & Technology, CSIR, Department of Earth Sciences, Central Ground Water Authority and concerned senior officers of the Government of Punjab. This Committee is in addition to the team to be deputed by the Planning Commission with suggestic strategies policy options based on proven scientific knowledge and technology applications. 

The Punjab Government was asked to rationalize the use of water resources and to take purposive steps in this direction, including the passage of legislation. The State Government was asked to ensure that Central Government funds meant for specified purposes under various schemes are not diverted for other purposes and to augment its internal resources for major development programmes. The State was advised to focus on health education, urban renewal, reduction of losses in the power sector and prevention of drug addiction. 

Commenting on the development needs of the State, Dr. Ashwani Kumar Minister for Planning drew attention to the development of Border Districts He said that the border districts of Punjab have had to bear the brunt of many wars and terrorism over the years resulting in an exodus of industry and private investment from these districts. Their geographical location and absence of adequate physical, social and industrial infrastructure is leading to large scale unemployment in these districts, which in turn has led to a massive drug addiction situation amongst the youth in these districts. The present structure of the Border Areas Development Fund and the resources available thereunder are not adequate to deal with an extraordinary situation emerging the border districts. The Planning Commission will explore the possibility of funding the development of these districts under other programmes such as the IAP by making necessary modifications therein. 

He said the Commission has decided to support the establishment of Integrated Skill Development Centres in the Border Districts to train and impart professional skills to the youth so as to create a pool of skilled work force to fuel industrial expansion and employment generation in the State. The opening of trade with Pakistan through the Wagah and Atari check posts is expected to give impetus to expansion of industrial activity in and around Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Jalandhar. He said the Planning Commission has also decided to extend the technical and financial support for integrated industrial complexes and for establishment of the requisite facilities and infrastructure in the border belt. The State Government will assist with land acquisition and supporting infrastructure. 

The Planning Commission also agreed to give in principle support to creating an industrial zone to support ancillary units around the Bhatinda Refinery, under the National Industrial Manufacturing Zones initiative. It was felt that a petro-chemical industrial complex around the Bhatinda Refinery could be developed to create a major source of employment in the State. He said the Malwa region has recorded the highest incidence of cancer related deaths in the country. It has been a long standing demand of the people of the State to establish an advanced Cancer Research and Treatment facility in this region. Planning Commission will fully support this initiative at a suitable location in Malwa Region of the State. 

On the convergence of schemes to help in restoration and Upgradation of Irrigation Infrastructure, it was also decided to explore the possibility of suitable modifications/exemptions in the MNREGA, RKVVY and the AIBP schemes to enable Punjab to utilize funds interalia, for (a) the restoration and revamping of its canal system and up gradation of irrigation facility. 

The Minister said that the Department of Bio-technology has been instructed to ensure the early establishment of the Bio-Tech Park being set up in the Knowledge City in Mohali. Secretary, DBT will visit Chandigarh in the third week of May for the said purpose. The Department of Bio Technology, Government of India has proposed to enter into a collaborative venture with the PAU for advanced research on plant – soil – water ecology, germ plasma, gene bank, bio-technology, bio-fuse and tissue culture, food processing and marketing etc. The modalities will be worked out in due course. 

On development strategy, Mr Badal said the Annual Plan 2012-13 will focus on development of infrastructure in power, roads, rural water supply and sanitation, water supply, sewerage and sewage treatment plants in municipal areas. Health and medical education also continue to be the thrust areas of the annual plan. The outlays of major welfare scheme for disadvantage groups have been increased and the scope of the most of the schemes has been widened to include more number of families. 

He said there is an urgent need to revitalize research in agriculture and related activities. The state government welcomes the Government of India’s decision to set up Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) for wheat and maize in Ludhiana. It would give fillip to research in new areas and help the state in achieving the new productivity levels. The falling real farm incomes and heavy indebtedness of farmers require immediate attention of the Government of India. The Minimum Support Price should account for the cost of production and should be linked to the consumer price index. It should be equal to atleast the cost of production plus 50% as profit as recommended by the noted farm economist, Dr. MS Swaminathan. 

The rural debts in Punjab, estimated to be Rs. 35000 crore, have assumed the proportions of a grave human tragedy. The state did not benefit much from the debt waiver scheme offered by the Government of India as there are less number of small and marginal farmers and few defaulters in the state. We urge Government of India to waiver off all agricultural loans as a onetime measure regardless of the size of land holding. The landless farmers and agricultural labour should be brought within the gamut of the relief scheme. The farmers should not be penalized for making regular repayments of the loan. 

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