Chandigarh: Accusing the central government of usurping the power of the states, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Sunday sought a recasting of the constitution to ensure a genuine federal spirit.
In his address after hoisting the national flag on the Republic Day in the industrial city of Ludhiana, Badal said the authority of the state governments had been eroded by the central government over the years.
He pointed out that state governments could not take enough decisions even in fields like education, agriculture, health and others.
“State governments are unable to take decisions for the welfare of the people as the centre has usurped the powers of states. There is an immediate need to give these powers back to the states,” Badal said.
Seeking a truly federal structure as envisioned in the constitution by its founding fathers led by B.R. Ambedkar, Badal said: “With the passage of time, the centre was gradually encroaching upon the rights of states as enshrined in the state list.
“It is a pitiable condition of the states which are merely relegated to the position of subordinates to discharge trivial functions.”
He cited, for instance, the transfer of a district agriculture officer from Ludhiana to Jalandhar and vice versa.
States also have no control over the significant issues related to the welfare of farmers such as fixation of the rates of agriculture inputs and the corresponding minimum support price of the crops, he said.
“The very soul and spirit of the Indian constitution … has been taken out deliberately by the centre to weaken the states on the one hand and dilute its federal character on the other.”
Badal added that the central government adopted a discriminatory attitude while doling out grants to states.
He pointed out that despite huge sacrifices during the freedom struggle and in various wars, Punjab was always discriminated by successive Congress governments in New Delhi.
“The centre’s discriminatory attitude has again deprived Punjab of its due share of industrial concessions being extended for another five years to the neighbouring states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“We are not against concessions to our neighbours. At the same time, we are equally concerned about sanctioning these incentives to Punjab where industry is now a lifeline, especially when our mainstay agriculture has reached a plateau,” Badal said.
Green Revolution state Punjab contributes nearly 60 percent of all foodgrain to the national kitty despite having just 1.54 percent area of the country.
Punjab was recently assured of a Rs.65,000 crore investment by industrial and business houses.
But the central government’s recent announcement of extending tax holiday in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand has derailed the state’s plans.
Earlier, Badal took the salute from marching contingents and watched colourful cultural performances.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal hoisted the national flag at Bathinda.