Chandigarh: In a fresh tussle between Aam Aadmi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government, Punjab government has decided to fight a legal battle in the Supreme Court against the Central government in the matter of withholding of rural development funds worth Rs 4,000 crore.

At a high-level meeting convened on the issue, the Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann directed the state’s Advocate General Vinod Ghai to file a petition in the Supreme Court. Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, Agriculture Secretary Sumer Singh Gurjar and Principal Secretary A Venu Prasad were also present in the meeting.

The Advocate General has been asked to list the matter for hearing in the Supreme Court before the summer vacation. When the Supreme Court reopens in July, the Punjab government is expecting a hearing on a priority basis.

On January 21, 2021, the then Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal had also said that legal recourse would be taken in the matter, but later the government withdrew from it.

The Government of India has not released rural development funds of about Rs 3200 crore for the previous years and rural development funds of about Rs 750 crore have not been released to the state for the procurement of the current wheat season.

The state has also suffered a loss of Rs 250 crore due to reduction in market fees. The provisional cost sheet sent by the Union Food Ministry on May 3 makes no mention of the rural development fund to be given to the state, which shows that the Government of India has withdrawn from providing rural development funds in the future.

In this letter, the market fee has also been reduced from 3 percent to 2 percent. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has already held a meeting with Union Minister Piyush Goyal on the matter and has written a letter on May 9 informing him about it. However, the AAP government had also passed the ‘Punjab Rural Development Act (Amendment) Bill’ on June 6, 2022 to meet the central condition at an early stage.

The work of repairing rural link roads in Punjab has come to a standstill due to the stoppage of central funds. The state needs to repair about 12,800 km of link roads by March 31, 2023, for which Rs 1,992 crore is required. Punjab’s 6,000 link roads are in a bad shape. If there is any further delay in central funds, the potholes on the link roads may create problems for the state government.

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