Can a central law be a national law with so many states against it?

Outlook|March 30, 2020

Can a central law be a national law with so many states against it?
A septuagenarian, Captain Amarinder Singh helms one of the most stable Congress-led ­state ­governments today. Unlike other states where internecine power struggles perennially undermine or threaten ­incumbent chief ministers, Singh administers his state without much opposition. He has his share of detractors, but none have succeeded in ­measuring up to the CM who once served in the Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army. Having completed three years of his current term as CM, Singh is now firmly ­focused on the ­remaining two. He spoke to editor-in-chief Ruben Banerjee about the challenges that confront him and the Congress.

You have completed three years as Punjab CM. How would you rate your ­performance? Any disappointments?

I’ll the leave the ratings to you in the media. But I do think the people of Punjab are largely happy with our performance of the past three years. They see a Punjab that is progressing and peaceful. They see ­development all around. They see gangsters and ­criminals, and terrorists, ­either being eliminated or fleeing the state. They see ­industry coming back. They see farmers finally getting out of their vicious debt ­cycles. They see new schools, colleges and ­hospitals ­coming up, and old ones being upgraded. They see the youth finally getting the much-needed job ­opportunities, and ­getting weaned out of the drug menace.

All this makes me happy and satisfied at the way things have progressed in this period. Of course, there is more to be done, and I am confident we will be able to deliver on our remaining promises during the rest of my term. But I wouldn’t call them disappointments. It is part of a process, and a ­process of recovery takes time, especially when you look at the mess in which the previous SAD-BJP ­government left the state.

However, I have promised the people of Punjab that I will complete the recovery, howsoever long it takes.

“Recovery will take time, especially given the mess in which the SAD-BJP government left Punjab. But I have promised to complete it.”

What would be your priorities and challenges in the next two years of your term?

As I just pointed out, there are some unkept promises that we need to fulfill, and the next two years will see them being implemented. At the same time, we shall be ­stepping up the pace of ­improvement across areas where we have already made a beginning. Industry, ­environment protection, crop diversification, ­education and health are some of the areas where we will focus even more ­aggressively now that the foundation has been laid.

Though we are finally getting back on track with economic recovery, the ­challenges remain, ­particularly in view of the lack of support from the Centre on the issue of farm debt waiver and MSP for ­alternativee crops.

A lot of the centrally-­sponsored projects also need more investment, which I and my cabinet colleagues are persistently pursuing with the Union government. Delay in payment of our GST share is another issue of ­serious concern, which the central government needs to resolve at the earliest, given that GST is the only source of revenue left with the states in the new tax regime.

I am hopeful all these ­issues will be sorted over a period of time, and ­eventually things will be streamlined and the process of development and growth will be further expedited.

You inherited a treasury that was heavily in debt. How are the state’s finances now, ­particularly as the whole country is in the midst of an economic crisis?

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March 30, 2020