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The Congress-led Punjab government on Tuesday demanded that the Centre set up a review panel to settle Rs 31,000 crore debt incurred for foodgrain procurement during the previous Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party regime. The debt burden and other grain procurement related issues were raised by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh at a meeting with Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in New Delhi. "Earlier, the Jha committee had given suggestions to address the debt matter. All issues were sorted out then. The chief minister wants a separate committee to review it again.
We will discuss with finance ministry officials," Paswan told reporters after the meeting.The state pointed to difficulties to service the debt as the annual interest burden is about Rs 3,240 crore. It wants a waiver of interest rate and even the Centre's help in clearing the debt. Singh is also keen that the Centre should clear pending bills and make timely payments for food grains procured for the central pool with retrospective effect according to the Jha committee recommendation. He requested the central government to revise charges of gunny bags for procured paddy packing at Rs 24 per quintal for the current year or exempt the use of such old bags. The chief minister said the state will harvest a record 182 lakh tonnes of rice in the current 2017-18 crop year (July-June) and is getting ready for procurement. "These were the three-four issues. All have been sorted out. We are getting full support from the Centre," Singh added.