With the opposition targeting the AAP government in Punjab over the state's debt, its finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Monday said that Rs 27,000 crore from around Rs 47,000 raised in the last 18 months has been paid as interest on the borrowings under previous governments.
He accused the Congress, BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal of spreading false propaganda against the AAP government after the opposition parties accused the Bhagwant Mann dispensation of pushing the state to the brink of financial calamity with an addition of Rs 50,000 crore more debt since it came to power last year.
The opposition parties had latched onto the issue to target the Mann government after Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit in his letter to the CM said that he had learnt that the debt of Punjab rose by about Rs 50,000 crore during your regime.
On Monday, state Finance Minister and senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Cheema also appealed to the Punjab governor to help the state government in getting pending dues of Rs 8,145 crore from the Centre.
Cheema told reporters that the state government raised a debt of Rs 47,109 crore during the last one-and-a-half year comprising a debt amount of Rs 32,448 crore during 2022-23 and Rs 14,661 crore from April 1, 2023 till August 31, 2023.
Out of this, Rs 27,106 crore was paid as interest on debt raised by the previous Akali-BJP and Congress-led state governments, he stated.
Apart from spending Rs 10,208 crore on capital expenditure, the state government bore the burden of Rs 1,148 crore of Punjab State Civil Supplies and Punjab State Cooperative Agriculture Development Bank to bail out these institutions.
The government also paid Rs 2,556 crore to power utility Punjab State Power Corporation Limited for the pending power subsidy of previous governments.
Apart from this, Rs 798 crore of Rural Development Fund, Rs 1,008 crore of sugarcane farmers, Rs 1,750 crore of centrally sponsored schemes were paid, stated the FM.
A sum of Rs 4,000 crore was also invested in the "sinking fund" established by the Union government to get loans at affordable rates, said Cheema.
The minister said a total of Rs 8,145 crore is pending with the Centre, which includes Rs 5,637 crore of RDF, Rs 1,857 crore of Special Capital Assistance and Rs 651 crore of National Health Mission (NHM).
Apart from writing letters to the Union government, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann visited the Union minister concerned to seek the state's dues including the Rural Development Fund (RDF).
He said the state has registered an increase of 17 per cent in GST revenue, 44 per cent in excise revenue, 13 per cent in taxes on vehicles, and three per cent in revenue from stamp and registration.
The Punjab government has also succeeded in reducing the interest rate on Rs 32,000 crore cash credit limit debt extended to Punjab by the previous Akali-BJP government, to 7.35 per cent after negotiating with the Union Government, which saved the state Rs 3,500 crore.
To a question on the Northern Zonal Council meeting in Amritsar on Tuesday, Cheema said the issues related to Punjab will be raised strongly.
During the last meeting of the Council, matters related to the Bhakra Beas Management Board and Panjab University were effectively raised, he said.
Asked about Haryana's efforts to get land from Chandigarh to construct an additional building of Vidhan Sabha, he said, "Chandigarh belongs to Punjab and will remain Punjab's."
Haryana can build its own separate Vidhan Sabha in Panchkula, he stated.
On the diplomatic row between India and Canada, the minister said that not just from Punjab, students from all over India study in Canada and a number of Indian professionals were also working there.
He said the prime minister should resolve this issue at the earliest through talks with his Canadian counterpart.
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