Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 24
Amid the ongoing stand-off between the BJP-led Centre and farmers over the new agriculture laws, the Centre is adopting “dilly dallying tactics” over the release of funds to Punjab.
A two member ministerial delegation comprising of state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Food and Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu on Thursday met the Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal in Delhi. They, however, were disappointed at the Union Minister giving them just assurances that the matter was being examined by the Finance Department.
The Centre has held back Punjab’s Rural Development Fund worth Rs 1,200 crore, which Punjab’s Congress government alleges is an arbitrary decision. The state will lose these funds, if not released by December 31, when the current Cash Credit Limit allowed to purchase paddy expires.
Talking to The Tribune from Delhi, after the meeting ended late in the night, the two ministers said that they were just told that after the Legal Department had examined Punjab’s case, the Finance Department was examining it.
“I don’t understand why they are delaying it. There is no legal sanction for this arbitrary act. In the past almost six decades, this fund has never been stopped. There was no explanation for stopping the fund. Punjab had given its reply to the Centre after an objection was raised in October on how the money was used for the intended purpose of rural development,” Badal told The Tribune.
Food Minister Ashu said that this was a statutory tax, and the Centre should release it. “But no concrete assurance has been given to us,” he rued.
A letter to hold back the RDF was sent to Punjab on October 23, where the Centre sought information on how the state was using the funds.
The Centre had decided to hold back the funds till the issue was sorted out. This was right in the midst of the farmers’ agitation against the agriculture laws and the state Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had taken a strong objection to it.