Chandigarh: Rejecting the move of Punjab government to convert an alleged misappropriation of Rs 31,000 crore into a loan for grain procurement, Congress on Thursday said to have decided to approach the court to scuttle the move. Leader of Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi, projecting the case as a confession of food grains scam of more than Rs 31,000 crore, also asked Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to name the beneficiaries, even if they are of his family. Opposition also asked Food Supplies Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon to resign, owning the moral responsibility for the alleged scam.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too termed the offer of soft loan to Punjab government and latter’s accepting to take the loan of Rs 31,000 crore in lieu of alleged embezzlement of foodgrains as a ‘cover up’ exercise by both Centre and State governments to hide the ‘loot.’ AAP’s state convener Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi said that the Union Government should come clean on the issue and clarify what action the Centre has taken in the alleged multi-crore scam.
The opposition parties have launched a scathing attack on the government following a report suggesting that the SAD-BJP government has decided to borrow Rs 31,000 crore from the banks and repay in 20 years to settle the muddle over the mismatch in stock, with also mentioning that after the state Cabinet approved the measure, the Food Department under Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon had sought mandatory consent from the Union Government to float Rs 31,000-cr bonds for market borrowing.
It is learnt that the development took place after the Centre refused to sanction the Cash Credit Limit (CCL) for paddy procurement until Punjab settles the outstanding ‘legacy food credit amount’ by converting it into a clean term loan that the state agreed to repay Rs 31,000 crore. The state will now repay the banks Rs 3,250 crore every year in two parts, as learnt.
It is pertinent to mention that a few weeks back, Kairon-Dhindsa panel of the state government had met the State Bank of India officials and the bank had agreed to reduce the rate of interest from 9.26 to 8.25 per cent on the loan that Punjab was ‘forced’ to take. Reacting to the admission made by the state government about missing food grains to the tune of Rs 31,000 crores, 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 has been vigorously raising the issue for quite some time. Earlier the RBI and the consortium of 33 banks had refused to provide CCL guarantee to Punjab over what was earlier being projected as Rs 21,000 crore scam. “Given the nature of irrefutable evidence against it corroborated by the CAG also, which pointed out to the 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,” Jakhar alleged.
The alleged misuse of money had come to light in April this year after the RBI asked banks to classify Rs 12,000 crore given to the state for buying foodgrains as bad loan. In July, Punjab government deposited Rs 926 crore in the CCL account to come clean on the funds. Claiming ‘no wrongdoing’ in using the procurement money, it suggested a huge gap between the cost of buying foodgrains and reimbursement by the central agencies. Badal had also maintained that all accounts regarding CCL were ‘crystal clear’ and there were ‘no irregularities in this operation.’
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