Free smartphones may not ring a bell for the youth in Punjab — at least for the time being with the manufacturing firm’s possible Chinese connection causing a disconnect.
Pointing out that the State Government has given the contract to a firm — LAVA — for delivering smartphones to the State for its distribution among the state’s youth as per Congress’ pre-poll promise, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday said that the government is checking if the firm has any Chinese connection.
“Though LAVA is an Indian company but still we will take a final decision after ascertaining the extent of Chinese involvement and the quantum of Indian and Chinese equity in it,” said the Chief Minister, indicating that if the company was having equities with China, the Government would withdraw the order of smartphones.
“The company has said that 50,000 smartphones are ready and they wanted to deliver another 50,000 more phones in July,” he added.
Notably, Congress party had promised to give free smartphones to youths in the State in the run up to 2017 state assembly polls. The Congress had announced in its election manifesto that in order to “encourage and incentivize” youths to use digital technology in day-to-day lives, it would distribute free smartphones.
Following the line of promise, the Government had invited applications from the students and prepared the list distribution list.
In the first phase, final year college students were supposed to receive the smartphones.
Admitting the financial pressure on the state treasury as fallout of coronavirus crisis, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday estimated Rs 30,000 crore shortfall in revenue in the current fiscal, while requesting the Centre’s fiscal and non-fiscal assistance to tide over the crisis. “I have just sent to the Prime Minister a memorandum of the Government of India seeking fiscal and non-fiscal assistance from the government. We have covered all our areas. We estimate, that by the end of this financial year, we will be short of about Rs 30,000 crore in revenue,” said the Chief Minister. Capt Amarinder pointed that the lockdown has disrupted trade and economic activities which have put pressure on Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections. “the Centre didn’t give a single penny out of Rs 20 lakh crore package except Rs 2200 crore as State’s share in GST, which was our legitimate right…Collections may remain subdued as restrictions on economic activities continue and businesses flutter,” he said adding that we are yet to get our dues for April, May, and June.
NO CABINET RESHUFFLE
Categorically brushing aside the reports of Cabinet expansion, Capt Amarinder asserted that the State had a bigger challenge to fight COVID-19 pandemic. “We are engaged in battle against COVID. This is not time for Cabinet reshuffle,” said the Chief Minister whole adding that all his Ministers were doing good job in their respective departments to fight the pandemic. “We are passing through a difficult phase and all the Ministers are doing well especially the Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, Medical Education and Research Minister OP Soni and Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa in these trying circumstances of COVID-19,” he said.
ON NAVJOT SIDHU
Responding to a query on Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu being given a bigger responsibility in the party in the run-up to 2022 Assembly election, Capt Amarinder maintained that he was a good orator and “it is for the party high command to assign any role to Sidhu”.
SNUB PARTAP BAJWA, DULLO
Capt Amarinder also snubbed his political detractors — Congress’ Rajya Sabha MPs Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo — for targeting the party’s government on its alleged failure to control cable, sand and liquor mafia by asking them to “concentrate on their work in Rajya Sabha and let us run the Government here (in Punjab)”.
As the neighbouring Pakistan had announced its readiness to reopen the Kartarpur corridor to Indian pilgrims, Capt Amarinder said that he was in favour of reopening of the corridor and only the Centre will take a decision on this. “If they ask me, I will tell them that I am in favour of opening the Kartarpur Corridor with strict social distancing guidelines,” he said, while pointing that the coronavirus cases are high there.
‘I AM SIKH, DON’T WANT KHALISTAN’
Asserting that nobody wants a separate state for Sikhs, Capt Amarinder dismissed a recent statement of Akal Takht jathedar that the Sikh community will accept Khalistan if the government offers it. “Sikhs living in the country are leading prosperous lives. Why would they want a Khalistan? Nobody wants it and I do not want it,” he said, adding every Sikh always stood for the unity and integrity of the country. “Do you know how many Sikh soldiers we have? They sacrifice their lives for the country. We fight for our country and this is our country,” said Capt Amarinder.
BACKS IAS-IPS COUPLE
Backing the IAS-IPS couple heading the state's civil and police machinery, Capt Amarinder made it clear that the Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan and DGP Dinkar Gupta are there for their competence and ability. “She has been appointed exclusively on her competence, ability and vast experience and expertise in administration both at the state and Centre besides maintaining continuity on this post for a longer period for effective implementation of the State Government’s policies and programmes,” said the Chief Minister while pointing that the officers senior to her were set to retire by the current year. Regarding DGP’s empanelment at Centre as DG and possibility of central deputation, the Chief Minister said that he would not let Gupta go anywhere. “He would stay in Punjab as he has done commendable work in neutralizing nearly 2500 gangsters besides busting several terrorist modules,” he added.
AHLUWALIA COMMITTEE TO SUBMIT REPORT BY MID JULY
Referring to the issue of revival of State’s economy on the recommendations of Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s committee amid slowdown in the wake of COVID-19, Capt Amarinder said that Ahluwalia had already submitted its preliminary report and the final report would be submitted by mid July after taking into consideration the recommendations of six expert groups in different field constituted by him.