Terming the Narendra Modi-led central government’s decision to put Punjab’s Rural Development Fund (RDF) on hold as “unfortunate”, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today urged the Centre to review the decision as the move would “badly impact” the rural development works in the state.
Questioning the timing of the Centre’s move, the Punjab CM said there was no precedent to not releasing the RDF that was due to the state during scrutiny of the utilisation of previous funds.
Capt Amarinder said he has asked his finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal to go to New Delhi to meet the Union minister for consumer affairs to resolve the issue, which has hit Punjab hard amid its current fiscal crisis.
The Punjab government, said Captain Amarinder, will submit all utilisation details sought by the Centre and that the state has done so in the past too.
While this was not the first time the Union government had gone for a scrutiny of the utilisation funds, this was, however, a first as far as nonrelease of the RDF was concerned, the CM said, expressing serious concern over the development.
He said doubts were being raised in various quarters about the timing of the Modi government’s decision not to release to Punjab its due RDF funds to the tune of more than `1000 crore at the present juncture amid the controversy and crisis over the Centre’s farm laws.
The “timing is suspect” and pointed to “dubious motivation” behind the move, Capt said, urging the Centre to immediately reconsider and give the state’s RDF dues while the scrutiny continues, as has been the case in the past.
“The funds, as the Centre is well aware, are used for developing critical agriculture marketing infrastructure like construction of roads in the rural areas of the state, marketing yards,” said the CM.
The Centre’s failure to release the funds would obstruct the development of villages and could further aggravate the angst of the farmers, who have been in a prolonged agitation against the central farm sector legislations, Captain added.
The Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)’s president Sukhbir Singh Badal has also said that the Modi government should not “victimise” farmers for agitating against the Centre’s farm laws. Sukhbir said yesterday that by refusing to pay the RDF component of `1100 crore on government paddy purchase and adding such mechanisms to “hurt” farmers and Punjab have confirmed fears that the process to finish the “mandikaran” (grain market) system has begun.
In a statement, the SAD president, while condemning the Union ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution for not making any provision for the RDF in the cash credit limit extended for the current paddy procurement season, said this would adversely affect the food grain procurement system in Punjab.
He said the money received by Punjab from the RDF, which was around `1850 crore per annum, was used to maintain 1800 mandis and 70,000 kilometres of rural link roads.