The Punjab unit of Aam Aadmi Party has sought special status for the state on Thursday while demanding its inclusion in the list of Special Category States (SCS). AAP has also demanded a revision in the terms of reference of the Fifteenth Finance Commission.
In an official release, AAP Leader and legislator, Kanwar Sandhu said that he has written two separate letters recently to the Union Finance minister, Arun Jaitley, in this regard.
Sandhu has also written to the Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, demanding that he called an all-party meeting on these issues so as to present a strong case on behalf of the people of Punjab to the Centre.
“Punjab has a much stronger case than even states like Andhra Pradesh, which are seeking special status and inclusion in the list of SCS.
While the special status will help meet the political aspirations of people through legislative means, its SCS status will help it come out of the economic and financial mess.
Unfortunately, its case was never pursued vigorously since its bifurcation in 1966. Similarly, if Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission are not revised, Punjab would be even harder hit in terms of devolution of funds from the Centre than states like Karnataka and Kerala, which are making a similar demand,” Sandhu said.
He further added that it is important to raise all these issues forcefully as Punjab is facing a severe financial and economic crisis. “Besides, there is a tremendous amount of disquiet among the people of the state due to Centre’s indifference to its aspirations and expectations,” he added.
In the first letter to Finance minister Arun Jaitley, the AAP leader argued that Punjab had not been included in the list of SCS despite it fulfilling three of the five parameters such as strategic location along the borders of the country, economic and infrastructure backwardness, and non-viable nature of state finances (other two being, hilly and difficult terrain and low population density).
Besides, he mentioned how on one hand the onus of producing the country’s foodgrains fell on Punjab, on the other, it was made to gift its river waters to non-riparian states in ‘national interest’, forcing it to draw huge quantities of underground water to fulfill the national obligation.
Sandhu claimed that at present, 11 of the 28 states are included in the SCS list, which included the nearby hill states of Jammu and Kashmir (J-K), Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which adversely affected Punjab’s industry.
“Not only is all this making Punjab vulnerable to hostile designs of the neighbours, it is resulting in flight of valuable human resources to foreign lands,” Sandhu stated.
In his second letter to the FM Arun Jaitley the Kharar legislator sought revision of the terms of reference of the Finance Commission on two counts.
He stated that for devolution of funds from the Centre, in addition to the clause of ‘equity, efficiency and transparency’.