Punjab Finance Minister hits back at Governor: Raised Rs 47k cr in loans, paid Rs 27k cr as interest on previous govt’s debts | Chandigarh News


The Punjab government, in the last 18 months, raised just over Rs 47,000 crore in loans out of which it used more than Rs 27,000 crore to pay the interest on the borrowings under the previous government, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema said Monday, days after Governor Banwarilal Purohit sought from Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann details of utilisation of “additional debt of Rs 50,000” that the AAP dispensation has accumulated.

Cheema also appealed to the Governor to help the state government in getting pending dues of Rs 8,145 crore from the Centre even as he accused the Opposition parties, including the Congress, BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal, of spreading false propaganda against the AAP government after the opposition parties accused Mann-led dispensation of pushing the state to the brink of financial calamity.

Cheema told reporters in Chandigarh that the AAP government raised a debt of Rs 47,109 crore during the last one-and-a-half years, including Rs 32,448 crore during 2022-23 and Rs 14,661 crore from April 1 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 said.

He said the government spent Rs 10,206 crore on capital expenditure last fiscal and Rs 8435 crore this year.

“We inherited a lot of uncleared dues. We had to give a bailout package of Rs 1148 crore for PUNSUP and Punjab State Cooperative Agriculture Development Bank, Rs 2556 crore to to power utility Punjab State Power Corporation Limited for pending power subsidy of previous governments. Apart from this, we also paid Rs 798 crore against Rural Development Fund, Rs 1,008 crore to sugarcane farmers, and Rs 1,750 crore for centrally sponsored schemes,” he added.

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). He said help was sought from the Governor for getting this money, but “instead of helping, he has raised a question on us”.

Hitting out at the Centre, Cheema said that the BJP wants to rule the states through the Governors. “Not only Punjab, but other states too have taken loans. While Uttar Pradesh has a debt of Rs 7 lakh crore, Haryana has a debt of Rs 3 lakh crore, Tamil Nadu has a debt of Rs 8 lakh crore, Karnataka’s debt is Rs 5.50 lakh crore, Rajasthan has Rs 5.37 lakh crore and Maharashtra has Rs 5.96 crore,” he added.

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 Zone 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.

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On the statements by BJP state chief Sunil Jakhar and former Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on the precarious financial condition of Punjab, Cheema said that the state had raised the highest debt during Congress and SAD-BJP governments.

First published on: 26-09-2023 at 09:29 IST

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