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Planning Commission : Plans : Five Year Plans

Speech  of Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab
49th N.D.C. Meeting
, 1st September 2001, Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.


Respected Prime Minister, Hon'ble Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, esteemed Members of the National Development Council (NDC), ladies and gentlemen, it is my proud privilege to address this august gathering at the 49th meeting of the NDC, which is the supreme policy making body for giving direction to the process of economic development in the country. At the very outset, I would like to congratulate Vajpayee Ji, our beloved Prime Minister, for convening the meeting of the NDC at this appropriate time when we can look back on the achievements and shortcomings of the 9th Plan and hopefully be more realistic and pragmatic in our approach to the Tenth Five Year Plan which is on the anvil. I must also complement the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Experts of the Planning Commission for preparing a very exhaustive Approach Paper to the Tenth Five Year Plan, in which many relevant and critical, though controversial, issues have been raised for discussion and for deliberations and decision in today's meeting of the NDC. In the following paragraphs, I would endeavour to comment upon the various issues not from the restricted viewpoint of the State of Punjab, but also in the national perspective.

Mr. Chairman. Sir, the Approach Paper rightly underlines that the Tenth Five Year Plan is being prepared against a background of high expectations, arising from some aspects of our recent performance, in this context, one can note with satisfaction that during the 90s, the national economy grew at an average rate of 6.5% per annum as against 5.7% per annum during the 80s; the population below the poverty line has declined; growth of population has decelerated below 2% for the first time in four decades and the rate of literacy has increased from 52% to 65% in the last decade. However, these achievements are clouded by the fact that a large portion of our population still lives in abject poverty and a small minority of our population has access to quality health care, education and socio-economic opportunities for their future growth. While framing the Tenth Five Year Plan, we may be proud of the achievements in the past, but the focus of the Plan has to be on the vast majority of people of this country who still live in destitution and deprivation.

At this stage, I would also like to share with this august House my concern at the process of economic development that has so far taken place in this country. In my view, most of the gains of development have been cornered by 10% of the population in the organized sector, while 90% of the population in the unorganized sector has only marginally benefited. Now, when we are at the threshold of launching the second phase of economic reforms in the country, we cannot be oblivious of this fact and the reform process should be so designed and calibrated that not only it benefits the vast majority of people, but the poorest of the poor should also not be hit the hardest. This is even more relevant in a country like ours, where the poor has no social security cover to fail back upon in their moment of distress. Therefore, this is an opportunity to further build upon the gains that have been made so far, as also to effectively address the weaknesses. This calls for a radical redefinition of the role of the Government, both at the Central and State levels. While the Government need to be not only active, but pro-active in the field of education, primary health, infrastructure and environment, it must roll back from the areas which can more efficiently be taken care of by the private sector, which is now better developed to undertake these tasks. I endorse this approach outlined in the Approach Paper to the Plan.

It is also heartening to note that one of the main objectives of the Tenth Plan is to achieve an annual rate of growth of 8% as compared to about 6% that has been achieved during the Ninth Five Year Plan. On the face of it, the suggested rate of growth appears to be ambitious. However, it we wish to uplift the large population of poor above their present standard of life, we have to aim at even a higher rate of growth. Such a rate of growth, in my view, is not unachievable or unfeasible having regard to the experience of China or certain other South-East Asian countries. The suggested rate of growth appears to be modest given the large slack in the economy and the scope for improving efficiency, both in the public and the private sectors.

Certain apprehensions have been expressed in the Approach Paper regarding achievement of this rate of growth in view of poor state of finances of the Centre and the States and the inability of the Government and public sector to improve their rate of savings to achieve the desired level of investment. While on this, Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would like to point out that fortunately the rate of economic growth in this country is not dependent on the size of the Plan, but on the contribution that the humble farmer, lowly factory worker, entrepreneurs and average households make. With proper initiatives and policies, this vast segment of our population can be made to contribute even more positively to the growth of the country. Therefore, the endeavour should be to provide a framework for realising the productive capacities and capabilities of the people, rather than building upon the Plan size.

Apart from the overall rate of growth or 8% per annum, the Approach Paper also suggests certain disaggregated targets to be achieved with respect to reduction of poverty, gainful employment, quality education, reduction in gender disparity, reduction in the rate of population growth and reduction in infant and maternal mortality. No doubt, these objectives are laudable and ought to be achieved. However, while doing so quantity should not override quality. Even though we may be proud of significant improvement in the literacy rate, health cover and infrastructure development, yet the quality is nowhere near the International standards. With the present quality of education, health and infrastructure, it is well nigh impossible to make this country compete with the rest of the world, in an atmosphere of globalization. Therefore, we need to establish Internationally comparable benchmarks in this behalf and endeavour to achieve the same.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I am sure that there would be hardly any difference of opinion on aspects like quality and sustainability of growth, population policy, quality employment, unresolved issues in tribal development, issues relating to Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and minorities, empowering the disabled and disadvantaged, environment degradation and challenges of urbanization, which have been envisioned in the Approach Paper. I will also dare to say that the rhetoric is not different from the past. The failure, however, is in how to deliver this vision to the people of our country. To realize this vision, we have been suggesting decentralization of the planning process and devolution of a larger chunk of the Central revenues to the States, commensurate with the responsibilities that the Constitution of India casts upon them. However, I regret that this has not happened so far. Even in the Approach Paper to the Plan, the same strategy of Centralized planning and dictating the States is proposed to be pursued. A few examples of such an approach are suggestions like support to States to be made contingent on agreed programmes of reforms, adoption of core plan concepts, identification of projects to be completed to be done by Joint teams, plan funds for critical maintenance and repairs to be decided by joint teams etc. etc. Such an approach is, perhaps, premised on the misplaced belief that Central Government is able to manage its finances and implement its development programmes more efficiently than the States, which is not borne out by experience. I would, therefore, suggest that the process of planning should be totally decentralized and the States should be left to evolve and implement their own plans, germane to their needs and resource endowments, except in critical areas having inter-State linkages. I would also suggest that all Centrally Sponsored Schemes in the sectors falling in the domain of the States should be discontinued forthwith and funds thus released be distributed to the States under the Gadgil Formula. I would also emphasize that the need and scope for reform at the Central level including Central PSUs, is far more than at the State level and by doing so vast resources can be unlocked for funding development programmes in the States.

In the Chapter relating to resources for the Plan, sharp deterioration in the financial position of the Centre and the States has been rightly emphasized. For generating resources for funding the Plan, certain projections regarding macro-economic parameters, fiscal correction, revenue deficit and fiscal deficit have been made. Certain corrective measures for setting right the financial position of the States have also been suggested. These include down sizing the Government, elimination of non-merit subsidies, levy of appropriate user charges and disinvestments in the PSUs.

No doubt, these measures are desirable. However, these are contentious and even if fully implemented, are going to bear fruit only in the long run. Therefore, it is necessary to develop national consensus on these issues after detailed interaction with the States.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would like to be candid enough to state that given the position of finances of the States, there is little scope of any positive contribution by them towards funding the Plan. This is very clearly brought out in the Approach Paper indicating that States' own contribution has gone down from 28% during Sixth Five Year Plan to minus 52% in the Ninth Five Year Plan. State finances are in a tight straight jacket. Most of the revenue receipts of the State are eaten up by committed expenditure on salaries and wages, pensions and interest payments, leaving little for any productive deployment implementation of the recommendations of the Fifth Central Pay Commission by the Government of India have made things worse for the States. !t has meant an additional burden of Rs.2000 crore per annum for the State of Punjab alone. There is hardly any possibility of any significant reduction in the committed expenditure in the short or medium term. On the other hand, the only sources of revenue with the States is Sales Tax and with the enforcement of uniform floor rates of Sales Tax on over 200 items, there is little scope for generating additional revenue by increasing the rates, in this background, it is unlikely that the State Government will be in a position to fund the Plan to the proposed extent. To enable the States to mount a meaningful Plan effort, it is necessary that the devolution of Central taxes to the States is increased from 29% to 50%. and Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) in sectors which are in the States' domain may be discontinued and funds released from them may be allocated to the States without any conditionalities.

While on the subject of resources for funding the Plan, I would like to comment upon the proposal for creating a Fund for assisting the States on the basis of their performance. You would appreciate, Sir, that ground realities differ from State to State. Therefore, the performance of the States for this purpose should be measured only by one indicator i.e. reduction in the revenue deficit as a percentage of revenue receipts. The States should be left free to achieve this objective by whatever reforms they think fit to undertake. The mechanism of signing up an MOU and constituting a monitoring mechanism at the Central level are not only going to render the implementation of the proposal difficult, but is also not in the interest of healthy Centre-State financial relations in a federal polity.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, with your permission I would now like to briefly touch upon a few specific issues which are of particular importance and relevance to the development of Punjab and in the process may have some significance for other similarly placed States.

Punjab agriculture, having reached a plateau in production, continues to be an area of thrust as 41 % of gross domestic product contribution comes from this sector. With over 70% of the total population residing in rural areas and about 80% still dependent on agriculture and allied activities, it is only natural that the major thrust of development in the State would focus largely on agriculture and rural areas. So far Punjab's agriculture economy has been structured to produce food in response to the National mandate. To increase food production, particularly wheat and rice the natural and human resource were over used. The increased cropping intensity has resulted in environmental degradation, salinity and water logging. Dwindling ground water resources and widespread deficiency of micro nutrients in the soil have resulted in weed infestation, and outbreak of pest and disease. High humidity has caused health hazards in the State. Now with the signing of the WTO agreement on Agriculture, the existing structure has come under a grave threat and needs to be re-structured in order to respond to the global mandate.

The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) which came into force with establishment of WTO on 1st Jan., 1995 has a special relevance for Punjab. In fact when the GATT agreements were being negotiated on the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, there was no public debate on the merits and demerits of joining the WTO. It is clear that the main aim of WTO Agreement was to legalise the trade distorting mechanism relating to input subsidies, price and marketing interventions and other kind of support to agriculture by the developed countries. We feel that the Indian negotiators did not forcefully raise these issues in the various negotiation rounds. It is accordingly proposed that the Central Government must consult the State Governments before introducing domestic reforms and singing any International Agreement particularly relating to agriculture which is a state subject or for other items listed in the concurrent list.

We do not argue for continuation of the status quo nor do we support unfettered integration into the global economy without any strategic planning. Our main concern is that the terms of agreement on agriculture must be re-negotiated to protect and promote the interest of the agriculturists of the 3rd World countries in general and in India in particular. We also strongly feel that the advantage Punjab achieved in the period of pursuit of national food security has to be consolidated and sharpened in the new agriculture regime. For this we need a level playing field, constitutional and legal structure and also create protective mechanisms by way of higher import tariff duties before we embark upon facing unfettered global competition. It is therefore time that the Union Government evolves a comprehensive National Agriculture Policy focussing on improving the farm economy both in terms of production and productivity and ensuring higher returns to the farmers. For Punjab in particular, a concrete programme of diversification raising value addition in each agro climatic region of the State depending on its soil and water endowment has to be developed. The new programme for Agricultural Readjustment would require huge investments, marketing infrastructure and new technological break through. While subsidy requirements may be marginal, the agriculture sector has to depend in India on a State controlled financial support system, since private banks do not easily lend to agriculture. A preliminary estimate is that the programme of quality upgrdation, trading arrangements for cereals and diversification to high value agriculture will have a financial requirement of around Rs.550 crores, spread over three years. The Agriculture Readjustment Fund of Rs.550 crores would be compatible with the WTO strategy and would necessarily need to be supported with financial assistance from the Central Government

Thus large investments in the field of research and development especially in newer areas of technology like biotechnology shall lead to the much-needed Second Push to Punjab's agriculture. In addition to this, agro and food processing industries need to be propped up to face the challenges posed by WTO and stagnation in agricultural produce. It is in this context that Punjab Government has listed Bio-technology as priority area and proposes to set up a Bio-technology Park, a Centre of Excellence in Bio Technology and Technology Development Fund for undertaking various activities. I would request to Mr Prime Minister to kindly assist the State Government in funding these ventures.

In the above paras I have already mentioned in some detail about the contribution of Punjab to the National Food Pool. However other States having also achieved high production levels of wheat and paddy, there is a new problem of surpluses in the State resulting into storage problem which has further added to higher holding cost besides, of course, damage and deterioration of stocks due to longer storage which is an avoidable national loss. Punjab Food Procurement Agencies are holding 152.29 lac MTs of wheat. Similarly FCI is also having 32.56 lac MTs of wheat and 83.6 lac M.Ts of rice. Because of this large stock lying in the State, the State is facing serious problem of storage space. There is urgent need of liquidating stocks from Punjab in order to enable the State Government to accommodate the coming crop of paddy 2001 and next crop of wheat 2002.

At present, MSP for wheat and paddy only is being operated in Punjab by Government of India through FCI with the collaboration of State Food Procurement Agencies. Though the mandate for procurement of vegetables, oil seeds and pulses lies with NAFED. under the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, no worthwhile purchases are being effected by NAFED. It is proposed that NAFED should be directed and made to start procurement of vegetables, Oil seeds and pulses from Kharif 2001.

Ever since the inception of Cooperative Credit movement in India, the Punjab Credit Cooperatives have excelled in providing timely, adequate and hassle-free credit to its members. However, like Commercial Banks, Cooperative Financing institutions are also facing problems of NPAs and sticky loans. The problem is more acute for Primary Credit Cooperative in Punjab, it is estimated that nearly Rs. 60.00 crores are stuck as NPAs in 3800 Agricultural Credit Societies in the State. In addition, Rs. 140 crores are also stuck as NPAs in Cooperative Banks. Though, these are within the prescribed limits there is an imperative need to provide for these NPAs to clean the accounts of Cooperative Institutions as done by the Government of India in the case of Commercial banks. The Government of India is, therefore, urged to provide for Rs. 200.00 crores on Central Plan Assistance to obviate imbalances and losses of Cooperative Financing Institutions.

The revised Gadgil formula on the basis of which normal central assistance is provided to the States for financing their Plan effort requires modification. The existing revised Gadgil formula which gives more weightage to higher population and low per capita income is heavily loaded against the developed States like Punjab, Maharashtra, and Gujarat etc. It is time that we had a fresh look and other indicators of performance such as tax effort, fiscal management and progress in respect of national objectives and special problems are given equal weightage. Also, the distinction between Special Category States and other States regarding the ratio of loan and grant needs to be reviewed. Presently, for Special Category States, the normal Central Assistance is given as 90% grant and 10% loan whereas for others 70% is loan and 30% only, is the grant component. This high loan component is one of the reasons for higher percentage of debt servicing. It is suggested that whereas the ratio for Special Category States may remain unchanged, that for other States should be in the ratio of 30% loan and 70% grant.

Low Credit Deposit ratio of the commercial banks, especially public sector banks, continues to be an area of concern. The Credit Deposit Ratio in the State has been stagnant at around 37-38% during the last decade. Even the Statutory Liquidity Resources (SLR) funds which presently devolve to the State Government are very meagre and are slated to be at Rs.345 crores this year. I strongly suggest that the funds out of SLR should be provided to the States on the basis of deviation of the CD ratio for each State from the deposit base of 100%. This should compensate for the low capital investment on account of lower CD ratio in the State.

With Scheduled Caste population accounting for 28.31 % of total State population, the highest percentage in India, welfare of this under-privileged section of the Society continues to be an area of priority for Punjab Government. Social upliftment of this section by improving not only their economic condition but also standard of health, education and housing is a major priority for the State. We have recently embarked upon an ambitious project of providing land to each S.C. houseless family. During 10th Five Year Plan period, we intend to make a substantial investment for providing support to the houseless families for construction of their houses. Due to very high investment involved in the programme, it is not possible for the State Government to bear the entire cost of providing housing to the entire houseless Scheduled Caste population. Government of India is, therefore, requested to provide substantial amount of Central Assistance to the State Government for this purpose.

The Government of India has created a Central Road Fund of approximately Rs.5500.00 crores per annum by levying cess on petrol and diesel. A major part of this cess approx Rs-2500.00 crores is being spent on link roads through Union Ministry of Rural Development. The priority given by the Ministry of Rural Development to provide first road link to the villages having population more than 500 is unfavourable to progressive States like Punjab and Haryana which have a fairly established link roads network which also require funds for their regular upkeep and maintenance. On the other hand, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is allocating funds to various States for the improvement of State roads based on a formula, which gives 40% weightage to the geographical area of the State and 60% weightage to the consumption of petrol and diesel in the respective States. There is no reason why two Ministries of Government of India should follow different criteria for allocation of funds to the State from the same source. Moreover, to utilise the funds received under Central Road Fund, the States are burdened with requirement of providing a lot of information like complete details of roads, areas in which these are to be constructed, length of roads and number of other details. This results in unnecessary delay in implementation of these projects. These funds should be released to the States with some broad guidelines from the Government of India. Besides this, States should be allocated funds under these programmes on the basis of the amount of cess collected from the State not on any other criteria.

Punjab has a 553 kms long International border with Pakistan. At the time of partition, the three border districts of the undivided Punjab namely Gurdaspur, Ferozepur and Amritsar were the most prosperous as they enjoyed better soil quality and irrigation facilities. However, with the passage of time, these districts have lagged behind in development due to their vicinity to the border and particularly the long spelt of terrorism sponsored from across the border. The Government of India has been assisting in the development of border areas ail over the country under the Border Area Development Programme. However, the existing criteria for allocation of funds based on population and area of the border blocks and length along with International border needs to be reviewed and equal weightage should be given to security sensitivity of the International border touching the State, as also the capability to productively utilise these funds. I would also like to raise here the very important issue of the difficult condition of farmers cultivating land beyond the border fencing. Due to various restrictions both during day and night on movement of labour and also on the type of crops which can be cultivated, the farmers are not getting their due economic returns and need to be adequately compensated by the Central Government. I say this not only for Punjab but for the farmers of other States as well who would be facing similar problems.

State of Punjab suffers from inherent locational disadvantage. Apart from being a border state, it is located far away from the sources of supply of raw material like Iron and Steel, Pig Iron, Coal/ Coke etc. and also away from the ports. Industrial units in Punjab are, therefore, put to a relative disadvantage viz-a-viz their counterparts in the States nearer to the source of raw material and ports. Earlier such raw material in all the States used to be made available at uniform rates under the scheme of "Freight Equalisation". However, this scheme was withdrawn by Government of India in the year 1 992. The impact of this burden is being felt more by the industry now due to increased global competition on account of lifting of trade barrier with the implementation of WTO agreement. The industrial units, in order to meet the global challenges have to devote their resources mainly to the technology upgradation and the additional incidence of freight is rendering these units uncompetitive as compared to units located in other States which are nearer to the sources of raw material and ports.

In view of the above position, the scheme regarding freight equalization needs to be re-introduced. Meanwhile, keeping in view the current scenario of global competition, import duty on raw material and intermediaries may be reduced to zero or brought to minimum level so that raw material is available to the SS1 units at reasonable prices.

Government of India with a view to offset the locational disadvantage suffered by the Hilly and industrially backward States have granted them concession of income Tax Holiday. The State of Punjab shares its boundaries with Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh where such Income Tax Holiday concession is available and as a result of this disparity the industrial units located in border district of Gurdaspur which is adjoining J and K and Himachal Pradesh are finding it difficult to compete with their counterparts. This has also affected the employment generation potential particularly of the youth in the border district of Gurdaspur. Government of India is requested to grant similar Tax Holiday for industrial units located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab adjoining Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

The acrylic spinning industry is facing great threat from the cheaper acrylic yarn imported from Nepal. Nepal has no acrylic fibre production and countries like Thailand and South Korea are pushing the illicit entry of acrylic yarn into India via Nepal at cheaper rates because of lifting of the condition that the yarn to be imported from Nepal should be of Indian origin. As Nepal has practically no custom duty on import of acrylic fibre, these countries are using it as a base to push their products into India which has affected the acrylic yarn industry in India and particularly the State of Punjab which has large number of spinning mills. Steps, therefore, need to be taken to stop the illicit entry of Acrylic Yarn to India via Nepal to protect the domestic industry.

Irrigation is the lifeline of agriculture. The State has already harnessed the available water resources and, therefore, the focus has now shifted on to better water management for optimal utilisation of the available resources. Punjab Government has recently completed work on Ranjit Sagar Dam for which I express my gratitude to the Honourable Prime Minister and the Government of India for extending generous help to the Punjab Government. In the coming years, Punjab Government intends to take up Shahpur Kandi Hydro Power project with a total cost of approx. Rs 1900 crores. This project will lead to augmentation of irrigation resources to the tune of 3.80 lakh hectares in the States of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. Besides irrigation, the project is also expected to generate power to the tune of 1042 million units per annum. The total benefits are estimated to be of the order of Rs 700 crores per annum. Respected Chairman Sir, at the time of dedication ceremony of the Ranjit Sagar Dam in April this year, you had very generously agreed to provide central support for the upcoming Shahpur Kandi project. I take this opportunity to request you once again for early release of this assistance so that the project is commissioned on time.

Punjab has the oldest system of irrigation which could not be maintained due to the paucity of funds. The condition of all the canals, drainage system and irrigation structures have deteriorated to such an extent that the channels are not in a position to carry out their authorised discharge. The 10th Plan Approach Paper also lays stress on this aspect and has concluded that "Plan funds be permitted for critical repair and maintenance activities." I take this opportunity to request you to provide necessary assistance to the State for carrying out renovation, rehabilitation and modernisation of the existing irrigation structures on AIBP pattern.

Intensive cropping pattern of Punjab agriculture needs intensive irrigation arrangements which are provided by a system of canal based irrigation throughout the State. One uncovered area in this respect is the provision of pucca water channels for better water management. The State proposes to construct water courses for UBDC, Bhakra Main Line and Sirhind canals under CADA. Besides this, the State also proposes to undertake heavy investments for flood protection works on the rivers Satluj, Ravi, Beas and Ghaggar. Since these projects are very capital intensive projects, I seek support from Government of India for these ambitious projects.

Availability of quality and reliable power is very vital for development of economy. Considering the growth in demand at the rate of 8-10% per annum, planned capacity addition for Punjab during 10 Plan period is targetted at 2165 MWs for which an investment of around Rs. 15,000 crores is required- Punjab like any other State does not have the resources to undertake such capacity building on its own. It is, as such, suggested that power may be treated as an infrastructure at par with Health, Education and Roads for development of overall economy of the country and adequate plan support be provided by the Central Government for this purpose.

We fully appreciate and collaborate with the Government of India in undertaking reforms in the power sector and towards this end have also taken various steps for achieving the laid out milestones and objectives. The Dr. M.S. Ahluwalia Commttee report for clearance of outstanding dues of the Central Sector Undertakings by SEBs is a welcome step. However there is a need to distinguish between chronic and heavy defaulting SEBs and those who have been regular in their payments except for minor delays. I would recommend that preferential treatment and additional concessions should be given to those SEBs who have been regular in clearing their dues by waiving off 100 percent surcharge on the outstanding delayed amounts. In case the SEBs are to be re-structured to make them financially viable, more bold measures and initiatives would need to be taken up by the Government of India particularly in case of States which are located at far distance from coal mine and port. The Ministry of Railway has been increasing the railway freight over the years and telescopic effect on the coal freight has been with-drawn. Custom duty on coal has also been increased by about 15% ad-valorem. The freight charges of coal from coal mines for various Thermal Plants in Punjab are almost double the price of coat itself. Coal India is quoting 40-50% extra price to IPPs as compared to supplies to SEBs. This makes power generated by an IPP commercially unviable for the State, I would very strongly plead that the telescopic tariff for railway freight should be restored and the same should be rationalized and equalized as in case of Petroleum Products so that cost of generation from coal is financially viable. Also the distinction between coal price for SEBs and IPPs should be done away with. Moreover when the Government of India and the State Govts. are getting together to undertake comprehensive power sector reform and make the SEBs financially viable once again, the Power Finance Corporation and other financial institutions should not insist on security mechanism of Escrow Account for raising new capacity addition and the loans should be advanced on the basis of the State Government guarantee alone. In the alternative, -the security of Escrow cover need not be insisted at the very beginning but can be given by the SEBs 3-4 months prior to the date of commissioning of the project.

We are aware of need of having clean environment. For this purpose, we are trying to procure coal having Ash content less than 34%, but essentially the same can be made available only after the Coal Companies prepare the coal by washing the available poor quality raw coal. The Government of India should make it mandatory for the Coal Companies, to supply the coal having ash content less than 34% at financially viable rates. For disposal of ash, we have taken number of steps including setting up of cement plants based on utilization of fly ash. We learn that Government of India is proposing levy of Excise Duty on the ash being delivered to these Cement Plants. We are delivering ash free of cost to these Cement Plants for encouraging the use of fly ash for the clean environment requirement. No excise duty should be levied for fly ash to such users, rather Government of India should give some concession to promote the use of fly ash in the industries and various projects.

As part of our concern and endeavour to create a pollution free environment, I propose that the river Ghaggar which originates in Himachal Pradesh and runs through parts of Haryana and Punjab and ultimately flows into Rajasthan should be treated as a part of the National River Action Plan to be fully supported by the Government of India. At present, the quality of water passing through Punjab is causing serious health problems all along its route to both human and livestock population and seriously contaminating the ground water, affecting the land productivity as well.

I agree that our performance in the field of education has been extremely disappointing and we need radical transformation to ensure that primary education reaches ail children as it is their fundamental right and an integral part of their total personality development.

However, at present, a major portion of outlay provided for the education sector is being spent on the salary component. A larger sum is required for providing buildings and other infrastructure facilities to the educational institutions in the State. State Government is making efforts to provide sufficient funds for this purpose. Public participation is also being ensured. Village level Educational Development Committees have been formed for the active participation of village Panchayats. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, it is not possible for the State to provide sufficient facilities on its own. Therefore, Government of India should provide sufficient funds for improving building and other infrastructure facilities in the educational institutions in the State.

In the new global economic order characterised by WTC and liberalism, technology is key to economic development of the nation. However, the entire north Indian region lacks good institutional framework of technology development/transfer and technical education. I, therefore, seek indulgence of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to consider setting up of a modern IIT in Punjab. For this purpose, the Punjab Government undertakes to provide the required land.

The most important technological advance which has happened during the last one decade is in the field of Information Technology which has opened up new vistas not only in the field of communications but has, in fact, turned the whole world into a global village. India has particularly done well in this very vital and upcoming field. The gains need to be consolidated and the fruits need to reach at the grassroots level. I strongly feel that the Government of India should provide funds to the extent of at least Rs 50,000 crores in 10th Five Year Plan for the promotion and growth of Information Technology in India. This work out to be less than 5 % of the total proposed budget of Government of India for the 10 Five Year Plan period. It is felt that the Central Government may provide the necessary Central Assistance to the State Governments as one-time investment for the creation of IT infrastructure and other facilities, databases at the initial stages.

A number of poverty alleviation schemes are being run by the Government of India, and the funds are devolved to the States on criteria laid down by the Government of India. The Committee set up by N.D.C. has submitted its report, which has recommended continuation of the existing criteria for devolving funds for the poverty alleviation schemes. It is seen from the criteria adopted by the Government of India that progressive States like Punjab have very meager share in the funds under these schemes e.g. Punjab has a share of less than 0.7% where as the share of some States is more than 18-20%. There is no doubt that it is the responsibility of not only the Government of India, but the entire nation that the relatively poor and deprived of the country need to be helped in coming up above the poverty line and therefore greater share of funds under these schemes need to be devolved to the States having high concentration of below-poverty line population. However the progressive States need not be penalised for their progressiveness. It is, therefore, suggested that though lower percentage of funds be made available to the progressive States under poverty alleviation schemes, higher allocations for creation of infrastructure may be made available to these States to compensate for the loss under poverty alleviation schemes e.g. more funds can be provided to the progressive States for rural road network and the other infrastructure facilities.

In the present Socio-Economic Scenario, there is an urgent need to make suitable amendments in our Labour Laws. The tempo of industrial development and growth should not be hampered by our stringent Labour Laws. It is essential that a healthy climate of mutual confidence among the industrialists and the labour leaders should be developed. Our state has already given many suggestions to the Second National Commission on Labour to rationalise various labour laws and to bring about a Single Labour Code. This will help in increasing the labour productivity and also ensure an overall increase in industrial production.

In the end, I would like to once again thank the Hon'ble Prime Minister and his esteemed colleagues for giving us the time to express the views of the State of Punjab on the approach to the 10th Plan and the specific problems which the State is facing.