On infrastructure route, it’s either first gear or reverse
CHANDIGARH: One of the many standouts in the poll manifesto of the Congress last year was a push to the infrastructure sector. After coming to power though, it’s been harping on projects kicked off by the previous SAD-BJP government, with its own plans either not taking off or being dumped altogether.
Showing off projects such as the Zirakpur-Bathinda and Jalandhar-Nakodar roads’ widening, which is nearing completion, the government now says it has conceptualised turning the RupnagarPhagwara and Kharar-Ludhiana roads into express highways. But there is no deadline set even as work on improving these roads has been on since the previous regime. In the budget for the current financial year (2017-18), there was no allocation of funds for it either.
Secretary, public works department, Hussan Lal said that, for the forthcoming financial year, there is a proposal for spend ₹ 2,270 crore on state and district roads. “Of this, ₹ 900 crore will come from Punjab Mandi Board, ₹1,100 crore from state funds, and ₹ 270 crore will be taken from Nabard,” he explained.
The big-ticket promise of renegotiating power purchase agreements with private thermal plants in Rajpura, Mansa and Goindwal Sahib has been dropped, as the
government realised that would lead to litigation. Actually, now it is depending more on these plants for its claim of providing cheap power than on the stateowned plants located in Lehragaga, Rupnagar and Bathinda. The government has anyway taken a decision to shut the Bathinda thermal plant, even going against a promise made by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal during his poll campaign for the Bathinda Urban assembly seat.
The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) is in a critical situation financially, as ₹ 5,000 crore of subsidy for free power to farm tubewells remains pending, forcing it to take loans. Last month’s decision of the government to carry out an energy audit of agriculture tubewells was taken with a pinch of salt by the peasantry, which saw it as a step towards imposing bills eventually. But the government has denied any such eventuality.
“Power subsidy is 10% of the total cost of foodgrains (wheat and paddy) produced by Punjab’s farmers. That is a huge amount for peasantry which is under stress, so we don’t want to burden them by taking away the free power supply,” clarified the finance minister.
Another big-ticket promise of regularising all illegal colonies is heading nowhere so far. A committee has met thrice but local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has objected to its treating illegal colonies on a par with legal colonies that have paid all charges to the government. There are 9,000 illegal colonies in the jurisdiction of the housing (4,500) and local bodies departments (3,500).
■ Congress government says it has conceptualised turning KhararLudhiana road into an express highway. But there is no deadline set even as work on improving these roads has been on since the time when SADBJP was in power.