Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced waiver of all the loans up to Rs 50,000, in a phased manner, given to SCs and the economically weaker sections by the State Schedule Caste Corporation and the State Backward Classes Corporation.
Making this announcement in the state Assembly, Amarinder said his government, which had already announced a series of benefits for Dalits, SCs and backward classes in matters of jobs and reservation in allotment of houses etc, was further committed to filling all vacant posts of SCs in government in a time-bound manner to clear the backlog.
The government was also in the process of refining financial benefits to SCs, OBCs and minorities under the schemes such as Ashirwad, Post-Matric Scholarship, provision of loans under Venture Capital Fund and the Atta-Dal scheme, he said, adding that some of the decisions on these will be announced in the budget.
Enhancements in Shagun and Ashirward scheme amounts, which were last increased during his previous tenure, will also be announced in the budget, he said, adding that the benefits provided by the state government to SCs and OBCs, including free electricity, pension, loan waiver, scholarship, will be extended to poor Christian and Muslim families.
The government will also allocate suitable land for burial grounds for Muslims and Christians.
A new scheme to provide free houses to homeless and low- cost houses to economically weaker sections will be initiated both in rural and urban areas during 2017-18 and details were likely to be announced in the budget, the Chief Minister said.
The government will also put in place a policy of 30 per cent reservation to SCs in all allotments by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Likewise, reservation for freedom fighters and their families has been increased to 3 per cent.
The government will also give priority to women and senior citizens in allotments in the state, Amarinder said.
He said his government had already announced an increase in threshold limit of annual income for pensions, besides undertaking verification to delete fake people enrolled by the previous government.
The government, which had already increased women reservation to 50 per cent in PRIs an ULBs, will reserve 33 per cent for women/girls in government jobs, and also provide free education to girls in all government schools and colleges from nursery to Ph.D.
To ensure that women get their rights without any obstruction, the existing State Women Commission will be strengthened, he said.
The chief minister reiterated his poll promise to add 'Chai-Chinni' to the Atta-Dal scheme, which is being revamped as per a decision already taken by the government.
He said the Punjab government said it has initiated several measures to boost urban and rural development, as well connectivity in the state, along with culture, tourism and sports.
Amarinder said he had taken up the issue of connecting the four district towns of Mansa, Muktsar Sahib, Fazilka and Ferozepur with 4/6 lane national highways with the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways.
The government will endeavour to ensure completion of upgradation of national highways being undertaken by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and to connect all district headquarters with 4 or 6 lane connectivity, he said.
"Under the World Bank assisted project, we will complete the upgradation of selected roads to the tune of Rs 315 crore," he said, adding that another over Rs 100 crore would be spent on road safety measures in the state.
The chief minister said he had also written to the Union railways minister for providing rail connectivity between Patti and Makhu which will connect Majha region directly with Malwa and then with Rajasthan.
Further, rail connectivity between Rajpura and Chandigarh, which has been a long pending demand of locals, was being explored and the government would provide full assistance to the railways in finalisation of alignment and acquisition of land for the project.
He said his government had recently signed an MoU with Ministry of Civil Aviation for implementing the regional connectivity scheme UDAN.
This will provide air connectivity to four airports of Bathinda, Ludhiana, Pathankot and Adampur with Delhi. He said construction of the Aeronautical Engineering College at Patiala will be completed this year which will further enhance the scope of civil aviation activities in the state.
The government is already in the process of acquiring additional land for expansion of the international airport at Mohali. A project for the upgradation of its runway is being initiated by the Indian Air Force to foster greater international connectivity using long haul flights.
The government will ensure that construction of buildings of five judicial court complexes, three district administrative complexes, government colleges and other departmental works are completed on time, by March 31, 2018.
Referring to rural development and PRIs, the chief minister said the government was working on a new scheme focused on targeted delivery of benefits under various government schemes to the distressed populations.
The government will also re-double its efforts for effective implementation of MNREGA in the state to the deserving population, he added.
He announced his government's decision to introduce e- tendering for the annual auction of Panchayat lands thereby ensuring that the revenues of Panchayats are not compromised through fraudulent auctions, as was allegedly being done during the previous regime.
The government will give priority to the housing needs of the rural poor by providing housing to more than 30,000 beneficiaries this year. The scheme will be implemented in a more systematic way by formulating a schedule so that all deserving people benefitted from this scheme, he said.
The chief minister further announced his government's decision to prepare Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP) in all 13,000 panchayats, based on ground level planning which will ensure that the infrastructure works are sanctioned as per the needs at village level.
Besides development of Amritsar and Jalandhar as Smart Cities, apart from Ludhiana, he promised greater thrust to providing piped drinking water and clean toilets in all households, as well as 100 per cent sewerage connections in all municipal towns to ensure effective management and disposal of solid and liquid waste.
Citing other measures for housing and urban development, he said apart from RERA implementation, the government had decided to simplify and streamline the state legislations including PUDA Act, PAPRA Act and the rules and regulations made there under to remove bottlenecks in development of real estate, both concerning housing and others sectors.
On the pattern of Invest Punjab, a single window clearance system would be initiated as a one-stop shop called 'Build Punjab'.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is working on a new integrated system of project approvals whereby all the developers, promoters, etc. Would be required to pay a single charge called Planning Approval Fee which shall cover the existing charges of EDC, CLU, Processing Fee, etc.
A Cabinet sub-committee has been constituted to suggest simplification of process and procedures under PAPRA as also a single planning approval fee to be charged, he said.
Besides a greater emphasis on promotion of traditional sports like hockey and kabaddi, the chief minister said his government would increase awards and incentives for players to encourage and prepare them for international events.
A sports university would also be set up at Patiala and a special initiative would be taken to set up sports parks in rural areas.
On the promotion of tourism and culture, Amarinder said the government proposed to come out with a dynamic cultural policy. It will also work towards preserving forts and architectural heritage, as well as medieval structures and sarais.
He also announced resumption of heritage festivals, beginning with the Chandigarh Literary Festival, and commemoration event for the Battle of Saragarhi. The tourism promotion will lead to employment generation, he said, adding the government's motto would be Punjab da Sabhayachar, Ghar Ghar Rozgar.