Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday expressed concern over certain erosion of the State’s powers, leading to a weakening of the Centre-State relations in the federal structure.
Participating in a discussion at the HT Summit 2018, the Chief Minister made it clear that he had no problems working with the Centre, from whom it had been receiving full cooperation, but added that the state was facing some issues, particularly in matters of finance and key appointments.
Captain Amarinder Singh was joined by Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the discussion, steered by Anand Narasimhan.
Setting the tone for the discussion, Captain Amarinder Singh said control had been taken away from the states and he did not have the power even to appoint his own DGP but had to send a list of names to UPSC. “Do they know better than us,” he asked, adding that his government was challenging the issue of DGP appointment in the Supreme Court.
The Maharashtra CM said his government would back Punjab on the plea as he fully agreed with Captain Amarinder Singh that states should have the freedom to appoint their own DGPs. The states were not consulted in the matter of appointment of judges, Captain Amarinder Singh further said, adding that while earlier the state used to send its recommendations now it was being only given the names.
In response to a question on drugs, Captain Amarinder Singh stressed the need for a national policy, which he said he had been pursuing with the Centre.
Pakistan was pushing drugs through the borders to demolish the youth in the northern states, he said, pointing to the fact that drugs were being sent to Amritsar from Gujarat even though they could fetch better prices in Delhi and Mumbai.
The motive was to demolish the youth and starve the Indian Army of manpower in the long run, he felt, pointing out that the Army had two-thirds of its strength coming from the northern belt. “If you don’t have healthy youth, where will you get jawans from,” he asked.
Captain Amarinder Singh asserted that his government was going hammer and tongs to solve the drug problem, which was at a critical point.
On the allegations of his government going soft on the Badals, the Punjab Chief Minister said one could not just catch anyone and put them behind the bars. The Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Inquiry Commission had given its report and an SIT had been formed to get to the bottom of the sacrilege cases, he added.
To another question, he said his government did not want to control the SGPC but wanted the Badals out of it as they had made the religious body their fiefdom. The ruling Congress in Punjab would support anyone who could throw the Badals out of SGPC, he said, adding that the Akali leaders were not working for the Sikh community.
“Punjab is feeding the country but the country is not feeding us. We have no industry,” Captain Amarinder Singh earlier lamented, adding that the state was facing financial issues, with no money and no industry to strengthen its economy. The state, which had a hostile neighbor, was growing at 5.1% as against the Indian GDP growth rate of 7.2%, he pointed out, expressing concern over the situation.
Kumaraswamy also felt there were certain issues on which the state was not getting support from the Centre, such as the water dispute and GST. “We have to rely on Centre for finances. The Centre is taking all powers away from the states, which have no scope for tax collection and no sources of their own left to raise revenues,” he added.
Captain Amarinder Singh wanted fuel to be kept out of GST, to which Kumaraswamy agreed. Fadnavis was in favour of bringing fuel under GST but agreed with the Punjab Chief Minister that states have less liberty now in matters of finance.
While Fadnavis mooted alternatives to fuel, suggesting that the ethanol policy could be a game changer, Captain Amarinder Singh felt grain ethanol was a good alternative. The Punjab Chief Minister underlined the need for export of other grains too, apart from Basmati.
On the issue of stubble burning, the Punjab Chief Minister said in response to an audience question that even though he did not like doing it, his government was imposing fines on farmers found indulging in the same.
Every village in Punjab was plotted on satellite, he said, calling for an economic solution to the problem. He reiterated his demand for subsidy/compensation of Rs. 100 per quintal from the Centre to incentivize farmers against stubble burning.>