No agricultural loan waiver via RDF as Punjab changes law to get its share of Rs 1150 cr from Center


The Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance ensuring that the Rural Development Fund (RDF), collected from food grains purchased for the central pool, was only spent on infrastructure related to mandis in rural areas and not for agriculture. loan exemption or any other such populist program.

At the meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, the Cabinet approved the Punjab Rural Development (Amendment) Ordinance 2022.

With this, the Punjab Rural Development Act 1987 will be amended in accordance with the revised principles laid down by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India on February 24, 2020.

The move comes after the Center withheld the RDF to the tune of Rs 1,150 crore, relating to the 2021 Kharif supply season, raising objection to a section of the Punjab Rural Development Act which provided for spending 1% of the RDF to waive agricultural loans. The Center had stated that RDF could not be used for a populist scheme.

Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema accused the previous Congress and Akali governments in the state of misusing the RDF. “Whether it was the Akali or Congress governments, they abused the RDF. After that, the Center stopped broadcasting RDF to the state,” Cheema said.

Calling the order a “big decision” by the AAP-led government in the state, Cheema said the money raised under the RDF would only be spent on infrastructure related to mandis in rural areas.

Punjab charges three percent RDF on food grains purchased for the central pool. Notably, the state had used the RDF for work other than rural development. The fund was used for then-Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s ‘Sangat Darshan’ schemes under the SAD-BJP regime, while Congress used it to finance its agricultural loan forgiveness scheme .

The RDF will be spent on various works in rural areas, including building or repairing access roads to mandis and supply centers, setting up new mandis or supply centers, arranging for drinking water supply and improved sanitation in the mandis. The fund will also be used to provide well-equipped rest homes or overnight shelters, sheds for farmers and labor engaged in supply operations.

Similarly, the RDF would also be used to increase storage facilities in the mandis to store inventory, provide relief to indebted farmers to eliminate any possibility of distress selling, development of supply-related hardware or software or to linking land records, crop survey, bio-authentication of farmers to mandis and facilitating procurement activities, etc.

It will be used for automation and mechanization of mandis with ease of cleaning, sorting, drying, grain quality analysis, small shipping silo, bagging and sewing and for the achievement of such ends which can lead to the strengthening of mandis.

Wink to fill vacancies in water supply and sanitation department

In a separate decision, the Cabinet gave approval to fill 145 positions for Sub-Divisional Engineers (25), Junior Engineers (70), Junior Draftsmen (3) and Court Reporters (20) in the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation by Direct Recruitment through the Punjab Civil Service. Commission and selection committee of subordinate departments within one year.

Nod to upgrade Bharatnet infra

The Cabinet also approved an addendum to help upgrade the existing Bharatnet infrastructure to connect all gram panchayats to the national broadband network under the Centre’s Bharatnet programme.

This was under the earlier Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Telecommunications, the Government of India and the State Government signed in April 2013.

The state government is committed to facilitating the provision of e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-banking, internet and other services in rural areas by establishing a highly scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis, an official spokesperson said.


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