Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh
Amid mounting economic woes, the Punjab government has sought a fiscal stimulus of Rs 51,102 crore from Centre to help the state tide over the financial crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged lockdown.
A draft memorandum to this effect was approved on Wednesday by the Council of Ministers at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, an official statement said.
Listing health infrastructure as a key priority in the post-COVID-19 scenario, the state proposes to ask for Rs 6,603 crore for improvement of public health infrastructure from a long-term perspective.
This also includes sanction for setting up Advanced Centre of Virology at a cost of Rs 650 crore in the state, for which the Punjab government has already offered required land free of charge.
To contain the COVID-19 contagion in rural areas, an assistance of Rs 5,068 crore has been sought in the draft memorandum for liquid and solid waste management in villages, the statement said.
The memorandum seeks Rs 12,560 crore for agriculture and farming sector, mainly for upgradation of farm gate infrastructure, providing income support, interest subvention, with an additional amount of Rs 1,161 crore identified as assistance needed for animal husbandry and dairy sector.
For urban development, the state government is proposing a National Urban Employment Guarantee Act (NUEGA) to guarantee employment in urban areas, along with an additional capital outlay of Rs 2,302 crore under schemes like AMRUT, Smart City, and PMAY.
For human resource development, the state government has sought an assistance of Rs 3,073 crore for online education, post-COVID preparedness of educational institutions, and to meet other requirements of school education and skill development.
Punjab's outstanding debt to GSDP ratio is 40 percent, which is significantly higher than states such as Maharashtra (17.9 percent), Karnataka (18.2 percent) and Gujarat (20.2 percent), the statement said.
The Cabinet also approved implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G) phase II across the state, in convergence with 15th Finance Commission Grants (FCG), MGNREGA and other Central/state sponsored schemes.
SBM-G phase II, would ensure involvement of community at every stage, starting from asset creation to its operation and maintenance, it said.
The Cabinet also approved utilisation of funds for coverage of rural households with functional household tap connections (FHTCs) under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
With the state staring at a 30 percent shortfall in revenue receipts in fiscal year 2020-21, the Council of Ministers gave in-principle approval to a slew of reforms to make Punjab eligible to avail additional borrowing of 1.5 percent of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) amid COVID-19, as mandated by the Government of India, the statement said.
Elaborating on the reform measures to be undertaken by various administrative departments, it said that the Food and Civil Supplies department would ensure implementation of 'One Nation, One Ration Card' system through Aadhar seeding of all ration cards and beneficiaries in the state.
The Industries and Commerce Department would implement district level and licensing reforms for 'Ease of Doing Business'.
The Local Government Department would undertake reforms to strengthen the local bodies by notifying floor rates of property tax in Urban Local Bodies, the statement said.
To ensure better medical education and infrastructure facilities for students, the Cabinet decided to increase the fees for MBBS course in government and private medical colleges of the state, the statement said.