Naveen S Garewal, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 21. Emboldened by its historic win in the Assembly elections, the SAD-BJP alliance has reiterated its demand for more authority in decision-making and a bigger share in revenue from the Centre.
Emphasising the need for adopting a more stringent federal set up, Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil described it as the only way ahead for making the states prosperous and self-reliant.
Conveying the sentiments of the state government while addressing the newly constituted Vidhan Sabha here today, the Governor demanded that the inter-state disputes should be resolved on a priority. The main issues, he said, were the transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab, 50 per cent share in revenue collected from the state, resolving water disputes on the well-established Riparian principle and exemplary punishment to those responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
He said the government was committed to a “genuinely” federal structure and firmly believed that strong states meant a strong nation. “Unfortunately, the progressive erosion of powers given to the state has reduced them to mere beggars at the doors of the Centre”.
Highlighting what the government perceives discrimination against Punjab, the Governor demanded compensation to the state for the flight of capital from here due to grant of tax incentives to neighbouring states. “Grant similar concessions to Punjab, which being a border state is most eligible for receiving such concessions from the Centre”.
However, besides highlighting various issues of perceived discrimination, the Governor conveyed that Punjab was not seeking doles from the Centre; it was demanding what was rightfully due to it.
At the same time, the Governor spelt out achievements of the SAD-BJP alliance during the last five years, specifically pointing landmark decision like introducing the Right to Services Act 2011 that promises time-bound delivery of services.
Going through a 54-page speech, the Governor drew attention to the blue print of development proposed by the SAD-BJP alliance. He said there was an urgent need to focus on issues like the existing farm debt of over Rs 35,000 crore. The state, he said, was the food bowl of the nation, but in return for feeding the millions, it demanded that recommendation of the MS Swaminathan Committee ensuring 50 per cent profits to the farmers over their input costs must be ensured.
The Governor disclosed that Punjab was headed towards a revolution in the power sector with three thermal plants coming up and reaching advanced stages of completion. These efforts have brought the state to the doorstep of not just self-sufficiency in meeting its power requirements but of actually making Punjab a power-surplus state, capable of selling power to other states.
It was an atmosphere with a difference on the Opposition benches. Normally, the Opposition either boycotts the Governor’s address or sometimes reads a parallel speech. Today, the Congress benches were silent. Its leaders listened patiently to the two-hour-long Governor’s address. Perhaps, it was an outcome of a promise by CLP leader Sunil Jhakhar to act as a constructive and cooperative Opposition.
The Governor also opposed the decision of the Government of India to set up a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), with over-riding powers given to Central agencies. “This decision is a violation of the federal principle and will further weaken the states. In addition, it will also create unnecessary complications, hampering smooth relations between the Centre and the states.” He demanded an immediate review of this decision.
He remarked that there had been a definite turnaround in the economy of the state during 2007-12, with state’s own revenues going up from Rs 8,989 crore annually in 2005-06 to Rs 16,828 crore in 2011-12 and was estimated to touch Rs 20,408 crore this fiscal”. Similarly, the health infrastructure in Punjab was rated as “excellent” by the Central Review Mission of the Union Health Ministry.