20062017-TTC-01.qxd 6/20/2017 1:19 AM Page 1 13 established in 1881 tuesday, june 20, 2017 chandigarh | gurgaon | jalandhar | bathinda | jammu | srinagar | www.tribuneindia.com | vol. 1 no. 64 | 18 pages | ~4.50 | regd. no. chd/0006/2015-2017 /thetribunechd /thetribunechd BJP picks Kovind for President Bihar Governor headed party’s Dalit Morcha from 1998-2002 Vibha Sharma Tribune News Service Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh at the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Monday. TRIBUNE PHOTO: MANOJ MAHAJAN ~2 lakh waiver on loans for small, marginal farmers Relief up for suicide victims’ kin All truck unions disbanded ~5/unit power for industry Rajmeet Singh Tribune News Service Chandigarh, June 19 Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today announced a waiver of crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres) and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all other marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount, paving the way for a total waiver of agricultural debts. Making the announcement in the Punjab Assembly, the CM said the move would benefit 10.25 lakh farmers of the state’s 18.5 lakh farming families, including 8.75 lakh farmers with land-holding up to 5 acres. “The initiative would provide double the relief announced by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra,” Capt Amarinder pointed out. The decision is based on the interim report of an expert group, headed by eminent economist Dr T Haque, which was tasked with suggesting ways and means to help the CM SETS EXAMPLE state’s distressed farming community. To proThe Punjab CM appealed to well-to-do farmers to give up vide relief to the families power subsidy voluntarily. To of farmers who had committed suicide, the Chief set an example, he announced to give up Minister said the govsubsidy on his own farm and ernment had decided to appealed to his colleagues take over their outstandto do likewise. ing crop loan from institutional sources and to raise ex gratia from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. In case of loans raised from non-institutional sources, the government has decided to review the Punjab Settlement of Agriculture Indebtedness Act to provide relief through debt reconciliation and settlement mutually acceptable to the lender and the borrower. The CM asked the Speaker to set up a five-member committee to visit families of suicide victims, ascertain the reasons for the suicides and suggest steps to prevent these. He told the Assembly that his government had already decided to repeal Section 67-A of the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, to end auction (kurki) of farmers’ land. Meanwhile, the government has disbanded truck unions across the state. In the recent past, several Congress leaders have had bloody feuds with their rivals over wresting control of these unions. The CM also announced a freeze on power tariff for all types of industry at Rs 5 per unit — one of the poll promises of the Congress government. OTHER KEY ANNOUNCEMENTS ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ Skills development university at Chamkaur Sahib, Ropar Wellness mohalla/ward clinics, health insurance for all Loan waiver up to Rs 50,000 for SCs/weaker sections New industrial hubs to come up in Sangrur and Khanna New Lokpal law to cover CM, ministers and bureaucrats Free textbooks for nursery & LKG students in govt schools New Delhi, June 19 Putting to rest all speculation, the BJP today announced Dalit leader and Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA nominee for the coming presidential poll. Briefing mediapersons after a parliamentary board meeting this afternoon, party chief Amit Shah said: “Ram Nath Kovind has always fought for the betterment of Dalits and other backward castes.” Seeking support for Kovind, “a Dalit who has struggled in life to reach the position he is in today”, Shah said his name had been discussed with all NDA allies and Opposition leaders. PM Narendra Modi tweeted: “I am sure Shri Ram Nath Kovind will make an exceptional President and continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised... A farmer’s son, he comes from a humble background. He devoted his life to public service and worked for the poor and marginalised.” Observers are calling it a BJP masterstroke. If the Opposition now fields another Dalit (such as former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar), it would be perceived as an afterthought. Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) has already announced that those opposing Kovind’s name would be Tribune News Service ❝ It’s a duty, let’s take it as such. RAM NATH KOVIND Ram Nath Kovind, NDA's presidential candidate, waves as he leaves for Delhi, in Patna on Monday. PTI seen as “Dalit-virodhi”. Kovind, 71, is likely to file his nomination papers on June 23 before the PM leaves for his foreign trip. Playing on his Dalit credentials, Shah hoped the NDA nominee would be unanimously chosen as President. He said the BJP had held talks with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders in this regard. The BJP has the requisite numbers and support to get Kovind elected. Among the Opposition parties, the TRS, the DMK, BJD, the YSR (Cong) and both factions of the AIADMK have expressed support for Kovind's candidature. Most NDA allies — the LJP RLSP TDP RPI and the , , , Akalis — too are fine with the BJP decision. But the Shiv Sena seems to be acting tough. However, it is expected to eventually fall in line. Hotels, pubs near Punjab’s highways can serve liquor Cabinet nod to amend Excise Act, lift 500-metre restriction Tribune News Service Chandigarh, June 19 The Punjab Council of Ministers, led by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, today formally exempted hotels, restaurants and clubs from the restrictions imposed (on the Supreme Court orders) on serving liquor within 500 metres of highways. The Cabinet approved a proposal to amend Section 26-A of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, for fixing the location of liquor vends on national and state highways, thus removing hotels, restaurants and clubs from the list. By amending the Act, all ambiguities in serving of liquor would be removed by adding provisions whereby it is cleared that no retail vend would be opened within 500 metres of national and state highways, but these restrictions shall not apply to hotels, restaurants and clubs situated on the highways. The Cabinet gave a goahead to the draft amend- NEW HORTICULTURE UNIVERSITY SOON ■ The Punjab Cabinet on Monday approved the setting up of a dedicated horticulture university to promote crop diversification and help in bringing changes in cropping pattern ■ At present, the total area under fruit plants and vegetables in the state is 7.41 lakh acres, constituting only 4% of the total and being a fraction of the country’s total area KRISHEN TO HELP STATE TURN ‘GREENER’ Chandigarh: Delhi-based environmentalist and naturalist Pradip Krishen has been roped in by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who also holds the Housing portfolio, to “improve Punjab’s green cover and provide a healthy environment in the urban estates”. Krishen gave a presentation in Mohali on Monday, where he told officials that India had 6,000 native species of trees, of which less than 100 are being generally planted. Before plantation in a particular area, the development agency must know the needs of an individual plant, he stressed, adding that plants requiring excessive water should be discouraged. ment Bill, 2017, in this regard, which will be tabled during the current Budget session for enactment. Meanwhile, to improve and synchronise the online grievances redress mechanism for effective citizen service delivery, the Cabinet approved restructuring of the departments of Governance Reforms and Removal of Grievances by merging them and renaming the merged entity as the Department of Governance Reforms and Public Grievances. It also approved the proposal for amending the Punjab Municipal Fund Act, 2006, and Punjab Municipal Infrastructure Development Fund Act, 2011, to pave the way for implementation of the Punjab State Goods and Service Tax Bill, 2017. Lockheed-Tata pact for making F-16s in India PARIS, June 19 Lockheed Martin signed an agreement with India’s Tata Advanced Systems today to produce F-16 fighter planes in India, pressing ahead with a plan to shift its Fort Worth, Texas, plant to win billions of dollars worth of order from the Indian military. The Indian Air Force needs hundreds of aircraft to replace its Soviet-era fleet, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said foreign suppliers would have to make the planes in India with a local partner to help build a domestic industrial India will also have the chance to export F-16s produced in country. base and cut outright imports. But Modi’s Make-in-India drive runs the risk of conflicting with US President Donald Trump’s America First campaign under which he has been pressing for compa- nies to invest in the United States and create jobs instead of setting up factories abroad. Lockheed and Tata said moving the production base to India would still retain jobs in the United States. Oppn not amused, may force contest “F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the US, creates new manufacturing jobs in India, and positions Indian industry at the centre of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world,” a joint statement by the firms said. Sweden’s Saab is the other contender to supply the IAF , offering to make its Gripen fighter in India. It has not yet announced a local partner for the plane, pitched as a modern alternative to the F-16s. The announcement comes days before Modi travels to Washington for a first meeting with Trump, scheduled for June 26. In recent years, Washington has emerged as among the top three arms suppliers to India, along with Russia and Israel. India will also have the chance to export the F-16, the joint statement said. Some 3,200 of these planes are being flown by 26 countries and the model that is being offered to India will be Block 70, the most modern of all the F-16s. Tata is already building airframe components for the C-130 military transport aircraft. — Reuters The announcement of Kovind’s name stumped the media as well as the Opposition. While several names were doing the rounds, Kovind was nowhere on the radar. The BJP maintained utmost secrecy. Several members of its parliamentary board were still inside the party headquarters when Shah made the announcement to the media. Profile: Page 12 Edit: to rashtrapati bhavan New Delhi, June 19 The Opposition intends to contest the presidential election despite the BJP-led NDA springing a surprise in deciding to field Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate, so it seems. Soon after the BJP made its move, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad called a meeting of the Opposition parties here on Thursday. The mood is to pick a person (for the July 17 election) who can pose an effective challenge to Kovind, a Dalit. Opposition leaders are not amused at the BJP’s “unilateral move” to announce its candidate, especially after a panel of Union Ministers reached out to them, projecting it as a consensus-building process. “When (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh and (Information and Broadcasting Minister) M Venkaiah Naidu met (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi, we had expected some names for discussion. But they gave no names. We had all hope that before making an announcement, they would discuss some names,” Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said. ❝ Names of Advani or Sushma Swaraj could have been proposed for the post. Among the Dalit leaders, too, there are better known and more competent people. Mamata Banerjee, CM, WB Kovindji was the chief of RSS’s Dalit branch. So, somewhere it is a political fight or contest. We are not commenting and giving any character certificate to anyone. Sitaram Yechury, CPM A Dalit presidential candidate has been chosen merely for vote-bank politics. Uddhav Thackeray, SHIV SENA CHIEF Sitaram Yechury, the CPM general secretary, maintained the BJP leaders had said they continued on page 12
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