As the Punjab government tabled the white paper on state finances and governance in the Assembly today, it highlighted the "fiscal mess" left behind by the previous Akali regime. In a full-blown attack at the Opposition, the state government talked about the nearly empty coffers, diversion of funds, drop in state's economic growth, non-payment of arrears to employees etc during the 10 year rule of the Akalis. Meanwhile, the opposition SAD-BJP described the state government's white paper as "white lies". They also went on to present their own 20-page "genuine white paper". On the fourth day of the session, state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal tabled the white paper. In the white paper on state finances, the government said, "After the conclusion of elections to the Punajb Vidhan Sabha, this government was shocked to learn that the financial position of the state was far worse than its wildest imagination.
The treasury was virtually lying closed under the weight of bills amounting to about Rs 7,791 crore pending clearance..." The white paper further pointed out that to meet the expenditure in implementing Atta Dal Scheme, funds were arranged by state procuring agencies at their own level by diverting funds from cash credit limit provided for procurement of wheat and paddy. The unpaid liabilities of Rs 1,747 crore were still outstanding as on March 31, 2017, it said. It further said the arrears of Rs 2,773 crore of dearness allowance for almost 2 years have not been paid to employees and payments have simply kept in abeyance. On economic growth during the previous regime, the white paper said the growth rate of the state remained lower than the all-India average except for the year 2013-14. The present Congress government also tabled another white paper on governance, highlighting major failures of the state by identifying gaps in governance in select departments, including rural development, housing and urban development, local government, industries and commerce, transport and food and civil supplies. "The white paper, which clearly brings out the financial mis-management, imprudence and bankruptcy of thoughts and skills of the previous regime shows the Congress government has inherited an empty treasury," Amarinder said. Former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa presented SAD's "genuine white paper" which portrayed the "actual situation" of the state finances from 2002-2017. "This is the genuine white paper," he declared. Later talking to media, SAD president Sukhbir Badal hit out at the Congress government for producing "white lies" in the white paper. Rubbishing the white paper of the Congress government, Sukhbir said it was during their 10-year regime that the total tax revenue of the state grew to Rs 30,000 crore as against Rs 9,000 crore left by in 2006-07. Akali legislators also remained adamant that their "white paper" be tabled in the House. As the SAD legislators agitated, state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu launched a stinging attack on them, saying they were claiming their paper to be a super white paper, "but this is a chitta (chitta means white and is also used to refer to drugs in Punjab) paper, which destroyed youth". Heated exchange of words ensued between Sidhu and SAD lawmakers. There was also a verbal duel between Sidhu and Majithia. SAD members then decided to stage a walkout from the House, but Speaker adjourned the House for 30 minutes. Earlier, Congress MLA Kulbir Singh Zira brought a privilege motion against Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simarjeet Bains, alleging that the latter tore off some papers which were lying on his table during the Assembly session last week.
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