Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Monday claimed the Centre was "willing to apportion" the fiscal burden of about Rs 30,000 crore of food account between itself and banks but the previous government put this onerous burden on the state. Also lashing out at the previous SAD-BJP government, Badal accused it of "inflicting several wounds" on the state's fiscal by converting cash credit limit gap into long term loan of Rs 30,584.11 crore.
Badal made these claims while presenting his budget for 2019-20 in the ongoing Punjab Assembly session here. Notably, the food account arose because of the mismatch between cash credit availed for procuring wheat and paddy and foodgrain stocks in the account books of the state procurement agencies since 2004.
The account included Rs 12,000 crore principal and around Rs 19,000 crore interest and Punjab has been paying Rs 3,240 crore interest per annum on it which it has to pay for 20 years. "While the previous government inflicted several wounds on the state's fiscal, the unkindest cut of them all was the conversion of Rs 30,584.11 crore of CCL gap into long-term loan on the last day of the previous government," Badal said in his speech in the House.
"We now have documentary evidence that proves that the Government of India was willing to apportion the burden between itself and the banks, but the then government for reasons best known to them, put this onerous burden on the people of Punjab. Nothing can be more unkind to the Punjabi taxpayer than this," Badal claimed. "Nonetheless, faced with a burden of servicing the long term debt at the rate of Rs 3,240 crore per annum on account of the legacy gap in CCL, the state government is actively engaged in making all possible efforts to reduce the recurring gap arising on account of food procurement every year," said Badal.
However, the state FM informed the House that the 15th Finance Commission had notified a committee the chairmanship of Ramesh Chand, who is member of the commission with representatives from the Ministry of Food and Public distribution and Ministry of Finance, Government of India and Chief Secretary, state government to recommend a time-bound resolution to the "festering CCL issue that is plaguing the state's finances."
(With inputs from agencies.)