On in­fra­struc­ture route, it’s ei­ther first gear or re­verse

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Spotlight - Gur­preet Singh Nib­ber gur­preet.nib­ber@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■

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.

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