Congress to approach court against Punjab government’s move to convert misappropriation into loan

Chandigarh, October 6: Rejecting the Punjab government’s move to convert an alleged misappropriation of Rs 31,000 crore into a loan, the opposition Congress said on Thursday that it has decided to approach the court to scuttle the move.

Reacting to the “admission made by the state government about missing food grains to the tune of Rs 31,000 crore”, Punjab Congress Vice President and Chief Spokesperson Sunil Jakhar said: “You cannot convert a theft into a loan and put the liability on the people of the state for another 20 years.”

Jakhar, who has been vigorously raising the issue of the missing food grains for quite some time, pointed out that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the consortium of 33 banks had earlier refused to provide the Cash Credit Limit (CCL) guarantee to Punjab over earlier this year.

“Instead of putting the liability on the people of the state, the responsibility must be fixed and the theft amount recovered from the personal properties of those responsible. Why should people of the state, who are already burdened with over Rs 1.25 lakh crore debt, bear the liability of the theft committed by few people in power?

“Come what may, the Congress party will not allow it. You cannot condone a massive scandal of such humongous proportion by an executive order. The Congress party will use all the legal and constitutional means to ensure that not only are the real culprits punished, but also made to repay the money they have defrauded people of, from their personal accounts,” he asserted.

Jhakhar said that the truth had finally come out and the state government had to eventually admit to the fraud despite the BJP-led NDA government at the centre “desperately trying” to shield the state government “under the patronage of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley”.

Jakhar said, given the nature of irrefutable evidence, corroborated by the Comptroller and Auditor General also, which pointed out to use of “ghost trucks” bearing registration numbers which later turned out to be of the two wheelers, the state government had no way but to admit to the fraud.

The Parkash Singh Badal government is facing the heat from the opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over the multi-crore alleged misappropriation.

The issue had got highlighted in April this year when the RBI stopped release of the Rs 20,000 crore CCL to the state for wheat procurement.

Badal, who had in June this year, refuted allegations regarding any misappropriation in the CCL, had earlier also maintained that all accounts regarding it CCL “were crystal clear as state government merely purchased the food grains for the union government. There were no irregularities in this entire operation”.

Following the RBI action, Badal had sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “personal intervention” for early resolution of the CCL issue. Following this, the RBI had released the CCL.

Badal’s son-in-law Adaish Pratap Singh is the Punjab Food and Civil supplies minister.

The gap in the procurement payment and actual stocks happened mainly during the rule of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government, which is in power in Punjab since 2007.

The CCL is used to pay farmers for the crops the government agencies procure twice annually — wheat in April-May and paddy in October-November. Wheat procurement in Punjab started on April 1.

The Green Revolution state provides nearly 50 per cent of food grains to the national kitty despite having just 1.54 per cent of the geographical area of the country.