Wed, 01 Dec 2021

Chandigarh (Punjab) [India], October 17 (ANI): Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday wrote a letter to the party's interim president Sonia Gandhi highlighting 'priority areas that Punjab government must deliver upon.'Sidhu's letter read, "After multiple deliberations and consultations with party workers from across Punjab and with a deep understanding of the public sentiment over 17 years of public life, I express with a lot of pain in my heart that this is Punjab's last chance for resurrection and redemption.""The issues at Punjab's heart as understood very well by you, and signified by the 18-Point agenda given to the last Chief Minister are equally relevant today. I stood for each point in that agenda through the responsibility vested in me of the organization, keeping the executive under check, to be the guardian of Punjab's rights," said Sidhu in his letter.

Sidhu stated that Punjab for decades was the richest state of the country and today it is the most indebted state of India. He further said that Punjab is submerged under Lakhs of crores of debt due to gross financial mismanagement over the last 25 years and diversion of public resources making a few powerful people rich and having left the state 'debt-distressed'.

Sidhu in his letter further alleged, "It has been supplemented by 7 years of BJP rule discriminating against Punjab while paying its financial dues such as GST payments, Rural Development Fund payments, Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes payments etc. Subsequently, the increasing debt overhead Punjab has led to our financial resources being used for merely paying off the old debt and interest upon it."While, every year, the state has to take new debt to support basic development works, to invest in 60:40 shared Central development schemes, providing healthcare, education and infrastructure needs of the state, said Sidhu in his letter.

He pointed that Punjab has nearly one lakh of government posts vacant, due to "lack of resources" government hirings are at "lowest wages" and contractual, school teachers have to work on probation for 4 years on minimum wages, "delays in implementation" of 6th pay commission by 5 years are all due to "state not having enough resources".

He also sought time from her 'to present to her a Punjab Model with 13-point agenda to be part of Congress Manifesto for 2022 Assembly polls.'The agenda includes 'Justice for Sacrilege' where Sidhu said that people of Punjab demand Justice for Punjab's soul by punishing the main culprits behind sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan.

Secondly, Sidhu mentioned that the drug menace has "plagued almost an entire generation" of Punjab and suggesting the solution to such problem he said, " This requires a stern action, as I always reiterate all corruption flows from the top, thus heads must roll from the top. The Big-Fish behind drug trafficking in Punjab as mentioned in the STF report must be immediately arrested and given exemplary punishment."Thirdly, the Punjab Congress chief while stressing that agriculture is the backbone of Punjab, he said, "As we all protest against the Centre's three black laws, the government of Punjab must reject them completely by announcing that they will not be implemented in Punjab at any cost. As we did in the case of Satluj Yamuna Link Canal (SYL), such stern resolve is needed today. This resolve must be supported on the ground by bringing in structural changes."Sidhu further suggested that infrastructures such as cold storage and agro-processing industry should be created through state funds under the control of farmers, changes should be brought into cooperative law to give farmers control and autonomy over agriculture-based cooperatives, the network of cooperatives should be expanded from farm to fork giving marginalised and small farmers access to storage, agro-processing and trading; state-owned corporations should procure crops at minimum support price (MSP) beyond wheat and rice, such as oil-seeds and dals and a policy for MSP and the procurement for fruits and vegetables should be brought.

Mentioning electricity, Sidhu in his letter suggested giving cheap and 24 hour supply of power to all domestic consumers, especially urban domestic consumers who suffer the most due to cross-subsidy burden upon them, as power tariff for industrial and commercial use, and give free power for agriculture is decreased. He further said that fixed power subsidy must be given to all domestic consumers, be it the decreasing price of power to 3 Rs per unit or 300 Units of free power to all.

Sidhu on his 13-point agenda also mentioned, "Release White-Paper on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and cancellation of all faulty PPAs as promised along with considering the present coal-shortage in the country, Punjab must move towards smart, cheap and efficient PPAs to meet state's power demands, with a special focus on cheap solar power and aggressively pursuing grid-connected roof-top and institutional solar."Highlighting Scheduled Caste and Backward Caste welfare, Sidhu's letter read, "Even after High Command's progressive decision of appointing a Dalit Chief Minister to give the under-privileged more voice in the Government, it has not been supported in the State in equal measure, we should have at least one Mazbhi Sikh in Cabinet, representation to Dalits from Doaba, at least two representatives from Backward Caste Community in the Cabinet. Special package of 25 Crore for development of reserved constituencies.""We must fulfil our promise of 5 Marla plots to SCs, money for pakka ceiling for every Dalit household, agricultural lands to landless poor, fixing responsibility and initiating an inquiry into Post-Matric scholarship scam, while clearing dues to the Dalits students for pursuing their education further," he added.

Further stressing the issue of employment in Punjab Sidhu suggested filling up of thousands of vacant government posts on regular basis along with addressing grievances of Employees Unions.

Sidhu in his letter said, "More than 20 Unions are protesting across the state. We must take their demands under compassionate consideration. The government must open doors for discussion, consultation and deliver what it can, considering its fiscal means."Referring to the single window system and comparative advantage, Sidhu said that industry and businesses are biggest growth and development accelerators.

"But sadly, in past Punjab has seen rapid de-industrialisation, with companies fleeing to other states due to unfriendly and corrupt government policies and mafia raj created by Badals. Akali's during their regime destroyed competitive markets and created controlled monopolies (such as liquor, transport, cable etc.)"He suggested that more emphasis should be to increase the ease of doing metric and bringing those industries to Punjab, wherein Punjab's youth have skills, knowledge and interconnected ecosystem for acceleration such as agro-processing industry, knittinghosiery etc.

He also said that immediate focus should be on implementing more reforms to promote Ease of Doing Business (EoDB), enabling time-bound single-window clearances, supporting MSME's with a specific focus on employment-generating industries.

Mentioning the issue of women and youth empowerment in the state, Sidhu in his letter said that empowering youth and women is key to social change, economic growth and technological innovation, concrete steps should be taken to increase participation and to empower young people and women of Punjab.

He further recommended that Punjab must bring in a Youth Policy to increase participation of youth in governance to empower them, adding that emphasis should be on enhancing and enabling infrastructure on sports, skill development and startup culture. Concrete measures should be taken to increase the participation of women in politics, governance and opportunities for employment, he added.

Listing the issue of liquor on the 13-point agenda, Sidhu said, "I have been fighting for this cause since the first Cabinet meeting of our government in 2017, Punjab must monopolise liquor trade in the State, by bringing it under a state-run Corporation, as in case of Tamil Nadu, Punjab should own distilleries and liquor vends, giving at least 20,000 crores more revenue to the state along with thousands of jobs."Addressing the issue of sand mining, Sidhu in his letter said that sand is a natural common property resource belonging to the people and its mining must be done for the welfare of the people, to earn revenue for the State in a sustainable manner, while protecting the environment.

He further stated that Punjab has the potential of earning a minimum of Rs 2000 crores from sand mining while providing cheap sand at fixed rates to the consumers.

"We must not fall into trap of free sand, and make it free for the mafia, as the common people will still be charged for transport and labour. The state must fix a reasonable price of sand for the end consumer and set up an online portal for its sale. In the long run building Sand Mining Corporation with stockyards and state-owned transport network for supply of sand," he added.

Mentioning transport, Sidhu said that Punjab has potential to earn thousands of crores from a well-managed public transport along with boosting employment by creating the most number of Jobs from any Public investment.

"Our present minister for transport is already working efficiently and we must strengthen his hands by removing 13,000 illegal or without permit buses plying on the roads of Punjab, issue permits to the youth of Punjab, bring profitable routes under PRTC, luxury buses of PRTC should replace Badal-owned transporters. Road taxes on non-luxury buses is higher than luxury buses, though Private luxury buses should be taxed more than ordinary buses," said Sidhu in his letter.

Listing cable mafia as the 13th and the last agenda in his letter, Sidhu stated, "The implementation of "the Punjab entertainments and amusement taxes (levy and collection by local bodies) Bill 2017", to break the backbone of the cable mafia run by Badals in the State, while increasing revenue of the State and creating an avenue for thousands of jobs.

He said that this might be the last damage control exercise or else, Mafia-Raj ruling the state "patronised by the Badals" will take the state to the extent of financial emergency, joblessness, corruption and agrarian crisis, from which, there will be no return.

"I further request you to kindly give me a personal audience to present to you the Punjab Model with a 13-Point Agenda to be part of the Congress Manifesto for the 2022 Assembly Elections, which is separate from this by means of its long-term vision to be implemented over a longer period of time, have crafted it through years of consultations with academics, civil society, party workers and feedback from the People of Punjab," he added. (ANI)

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