Punjab's Budget Session amid cacophony of general elections

| | Chandigarh
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Punjab's Budget Session amid cacophony of general elections

Tuesday, 12 February 2019 | Monika Malik | Chandigarh

Virtually the last sitting before the parliamentary polls, Punjab Vidhan Sabha is all set to turn into a session of blowing one’s own trumpet and running the rivals down by the political bigwigs.

With the State already switching into an active poll-mode, the legislators, cutting across the party lines, are all set to use the floor of the House as a “stage” for electioneering during the 10-day budget session starting from Tuesday.

The session, which would conclude on February 21, would begin with the governor’s address on Tuesday morning, through which the Congress-led State Government would congratulate itself while listing its achievements regarding farm loan waiver, controlling drugs, providing employment and job fairs, its recent decision to release dearness allowance to employees despite financial crunch, enhanced investment in the state, among other things.

At the same time, the Congress would pinpoint the “apathetic attitude” of the BJP-led Central Government towards Punjab.

On the other hand, the opposition parties — Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janta Party, and Lok Insaaf Party — would leave no stone unturned to take on the ruling regime, especially for not fulfilling its promises despite being two years in power in Punjab.

Among the issues that are expected to find mention during the session would include teachers’ regularisation, unabated farmers’ suicide, unsuccessful loan waiver scheme, mounting unemployment, employees’ issues, besides others.

The Finance Minister Manpreet Badal would present the Congress government’s third budget on February 18, which is likely to make some significant announcements, largely focussing on party’s pre-poll promises.

It may be mentioned here that the state’s financial situation continues to remain precarious in view of low revenue mobilisations and rising committed liabilities, coupled with the total debt estimated to be Rs 2.10 lakh crore.

In fact, the 15th Finance Commission during its recent visit to the state, had expressed concern over Punjab’s rising outstanding debt to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) ratio, declining tax revenues. It had also took note of the situation where state’s gross borrowings were “not even enough” to meet its expenditure on repayment of principal and interest payment, leaving little scope for spending on developmental works.

“Punjab is suffering on all parameters. Health and education facilities are in a mess. Social welfare scheme are not being implemented and the government is even proposing to privatise rural healthcare services. Even the crop damage compensation is not being paid to the farmers. Investment into the State has become zero with investor confidence coming down to an all time low. Even the ordinary youth has no faith in the government and is shunning the so-called job fairs which have also turned out to be a big scam,” said the former Finance Minister and SAD MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa.

Apart from that, it would be interesting to see whether Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who was elected on AAP ticket, would attend the session.

Notably, Khaira has been avoiding the Speaker Rana KP Singh’s show-cause notice asking why he shouldn’t be disqualified from the Assembly. Khaira has, in fact, instructed his staff to “not accept” any notice or letter from the Vidhan Sabha to evade initiation of any proceedings against his disqualification from the House.

Suspended by AAP, Khaira had resigned from the party on January 6 and went on to float his own party — Punjabi Ekta Party. However, he had not resigned as MLA and had dared the AAP to get him disqualified.

AAP, on the other hand, had requested the Speaker to disqualify Khaira as he was “no more AAP member”.

Speaker had issued first notice, issued under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, on January 21 to Khaira asking him to reply within 15 days of receiving it. The notice had been issued after one Harsimran Singh, a resident of Bholath constituency and AAP MLA Harpal Singh Cheema asking the Speaker, through their representations, for Khaira’s disqualification.

Cheema had argued that Khaira had voluntarily given up AAP’s membership and floated his own political outfit.

SAD DEMANDS TO EXTEND SESSION TO 21 WORKING DAYS

SAD on Monday asked the Vidhan Sabha Speaker Rana KP Singh to hold a three-week operative budget session so that burning issues of the State including unprecedented increase in farmers’ suicides, failure to implement Ghar Ghar Naukri yojna, discrimination against Dalits, manhandling of women teachers, not releasing DA to state employees and increased tax burden on people could be discussed threadbare in the interest of public welfare.

The demand was made by party delegation including former ministers Bikram Singh Majithia, Daljit Singh Cheema and MLA NK Sharma submitting a letter demanding the present seven-day budget session be extended to 21 operative days.

The party requested the Speaker to ensure that the Congress party did not ride roughshod over the aspirations of the common man and ensure all public issues were allowed to the raised in the forthcoming budget session.

The delegation also demanded an urgent discussion on the violence unleashed on women teachers who were holding a peaceful protest on Sunday at Patiala. Majithia demanded immediate registration of criminal cases against the police officials responsible for this, adding that no elected government could behave in such a manner with teachers who had been entrusted with the responsibility of moulding future generations.

“A detailed discussion is also required on the oppression unleashed on the common man during elections to local bodies and panchayats. Corruption unleashed by Congress legislators including creation of sand and liquor mafias and complete breakdown of the law and order machinery witnessed by large scale robberies, dacoities and targeted killings also need to be discussed on the floor of the house,” he said.

AAP TO TAKE ON CAPT GOVT ON PEOPLE-CENTRIC ISSUES

The principal opposition party, AAP, has declared to bring the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Government on its knees over the public-centric issues in the budget session.

“AAP leaders would remind Capt Amarinder for lying to the people of the state making false promises to them ahead of the Assembly elections,” said AAP MLA and the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Vidhan Sabha.

He said that all sections of the people were suffering under the mis-governance of the government, leaving them with no option but to taking to the streets to stage protest for their genuine issues.

“Capt Amarinder had made tall promises to the people, including farmers, daily wage earners, the youth, prior to the elections to do a precious little to ameliorating their lot once the party was voted to power. It is a matter of surprise that even after two years of power, the government has failed to live up to the peoples’ aspirations,” he said.

Cheema said that AAP would raise the issues related to farmers and farm labourers, Punjabi language, transport mafia, trade, education, women empowerment, Dalit, MNREGA, health, travel agents, drugs, law and order, youth and employment.

“Apart from this, the issues related to SSSB test pass candidates, 2500 pension announced by Capt Amarinder, Rs 51,000 Shagun to girls and higher rates of electricity will also be raised,” said Cheema.

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