Pending RDF: Matter sub-judice, wait for SC decision, Punjab governor tells CM Bhagwant Mann
Governor Banwarilal Purohit has had frequent run-ins with Mann over the past year. Debt being a politically sensitive subject, Purohit’s query on details of the utilisation of debt raised by the state government is set to further rankle the ruling Aam Aadmi Party
A day after chief minister Bhagwant Mann urged him to take up the issue of the pending Rural Development Fund (RDF) amounting to ₹5,637 crore with the President and the Prime Minister, Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit on Friday wrote back asking the CM to wait for the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter.
In a terse reply to Mann, Purohit said he has learnt from media reports that the state government had already approached the Supreme Court before approaching him. “It would be appropriate to wait for the decision of the highest court before anything is done on this issue,” he wrote while reaffirming his commitment to serve the people of Punjab. On Thursday, Mann had, in a three-page letter, requested the governor to take up the RDF issue with the Centre.
Purohit seeks details of ₹50,000 crore debt utilisation
Purohit, while acknowledging in his reply the chief minister’s request for his intervention, sought the details of the utilisation of debt of ₹50,000 crore raised by the present government during its tenure. “…the debt of the Punjab rose by about ₹50,000 crore during your regime. Details of the utilisation of this huge amount may be furnished to me so that I will be able to convince the Prime Minister that money has been properly utilised,” he said.
The governor has had frequent run-ins with Mann over the past year. Debt being a politically sensitive subject, Purohit’s query on details of the utilisation of debt raised by the state government is set to further rankle the ruling Aam Aadmi Party. With an outstanding debt of over ₹3 lakh crore at the end of the financial year 2022-23, Punjab is already among the most indebted states in the country. The state’s debt-GSDP ratio stands at 47.6%. The debt is projected to touch ₹3.47 lakh crore on March 31, 2024. Before coming to power, the AAP used to repeatedly attack Congress and SAD for their borrowings and pushing the state into a debt trap during their governments. The AAP government is now under fire from the opposition parties for its borrowings.
Mann, in his letter to the governor a day earlier, said his government has taken up the issue of RDF matter with the Centre and even at the level of the Prime Minister, but the amount has not yet been released. He said that because of the non-release of pending RDF, the Mandi Board was unable to repay its existing loans and cannot carry out development activities for the farmers. The CM also said from Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2021-22 onwards, the Centre has stopped the allowance of RDF.
Rationalise statutory charges: Goyal tells state govt
Mann had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union consumer affairs and food and public distribution minister Piyush Goyal and requested them to release the pending RDF. He also sent two letters to Goyal on April 8 and May 9 this year regarding the release of RDF and allowance of market fees. However, Goyal, in a reply to Mann on June 2, said the food grains procured under the open-ended procurement policy are intended for distribution to the weaker and vulnerable section of the society in the state under various Central Sector Schemes such as Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), Priority Household (PHH), PM-Poshan, ICDS, etc. “The imposition of high statutory charges/taxes, on one hand, is affecting adversely the farmers of the state and, on the other, putting additional burden on the exchequer in the form of food subsidy,” he wrote. Goyal also urged the state government to initiate action for rationalising/restricting the statutory charges up to 2% of MSP. “This rationalisation will not only reduce the subsidy burden on the exchequer, but it will also encourage the food processing industry and other entrepreneurs to procure food grains from the state, which will ultimately benefit the farmers of the state,” the union minister said. Food grains are procured by the state government for the Centre. Punjab was earlier levying 6% statutory charges – RDF and Market Fee, on minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and paddy procured for the central pool.