Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal sought the setting up of a new constituent assembly that will frame a brand new constitution along actual federal lines. Badal said that state governments have been reduced to mere dignified municipalities.
“Shiromani Akali Dal was the first to raise this demand because it is in the interest of the country to grant autonomy to the states,” asserted Badal. “The powers are with the Centre but the state governments are accountable on all the issues. Till we have a federal structure we cannot progress. So the constitution has to be recast by a constituent assembly,” he said, speaking at the Vidhana Sabha.
“The Constitution is not in tune with the requirements of the changing times and as a result the country is not able to fully utilise its potential for development and prosperity. The states are the best qualified to understand and address the problems of the people in an effective manner,’’ Badal added.
Accusing the Central government of reducing states to the status of beggars, Badal alleged that the Centre has been increasingly eroding the powers of state government. The Punjab CM also pointed out norms devised by Central Government being “too stringent and deliberately excluding states like Punjab from centrally sponsored schemes.” The schemes were in actual, for the allotment of resources and delegation of central funds. In connection with this, he demanded that the Central Ministry makes a distribution of 50% of the revenue collected , for the developmental works of states.
“Debt on the state is of the days of militancy in Punjab when Congress ruled the states directly or indirectly during governor rule. When we took over after a gap of 17 years in 1997, Punjab’s debt was Rs. 5,800 crore and before that Punjab never had debt or loans,” said Badal, holding the Central Ministry responsible for the poor fiscal health of Punjab.
Badal also censured the central Ministry for a deliberate attempt in not sanctioning mammoth enterprises to Punjab. “Whatever industry we had in our state was left with no other option except to shift base to the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Jammu and Kashmir due to several concessions and incentives given to the industry thereby resulting in utter decay of local industry in Punjab,” he said as he reiterated his demand for a special industrial package for the state.
“But Punjab is staging a comeback, employment is given to youth, health facilities are improving, business and industry is picking up, state government is spending more money on agriculture research and facilities in hospitals are improving as infrastructure is being built and doctors and nurses are recruited,” he asserted.
The Chief Minister also made a fervent appeal for the transfer of Chandigarh and other areas where Punjabi is spoken, to the main state. “Chandigarh is the soul and spirit of Punjab and must be transferred to us without any further delay”.
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