Punjab suffers 88 per cent revenue loss in April: CM

Chandigarh, May 6 (PTI) Pegging the April revenue shortfall for Punjab at 88 per cent, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said with all tax revenues dried up and only 1.5 per cent of the industry currently operational, the state was facing a difficult financial situation.

He said that the situation has been compounded by absence of aid from the central government.

Participating in a video conference of chief ministers of Congress-ruled states with party president Sonia Gandhi, along with Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, Singh shared his state's COVID-19 containment strategy and the roadmap for economic revival.

During the meeting, Sonia Gandhi asked the chief minister to convey her congratulations to the farmers of Punjab for a smooth procurement season, with Singh disclosing that more than 100 lakh MT had arrived in the mandis already, and the entire procurement process was expected to be completed by mid-May.

As against the estimated revenue of Rs 3,360 crore for April, only Rs 396 crore had been received during the month, the chief minister said, adding that the state's power consumption had declined by 30 per cent with a daily loss of Rs 30 crore to the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd.

In addition, the state's GST arrears of Rs 4365.37 crore are yet to be paid by Government of India, he said.

The initial report of the 'Group of Experts' headed by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, on the economic and industrial revival of the state, was likely to be received in three months, and it would take another month after that to refine and finalise the same, Singh said.

However, he said that despite the financial crunch, his government was committed to preparing the society and the common man to manage and contain the coronavirus, and it was also taking every possible step to upgrade and readjust the state's healthcare system to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

The chief minister was of the opinion that the decision on classification of zones as red, orange or green should be left to the states, which, in turn, could authorise the deputy commissioners to demarcate as per the ground realities.

He cited the example of Patiala being classified as a red zone, even though Nabha, a major milk-producing area, is located in the district, an official release said.

Punjab currently has four containment zones and four red zone districts. Fifteen districts are in orange zone and the remaining three in green zone.

Providing an update on the COVID-19 situation in the state, which has reported a total of 1,451 positive cases with 25 deaths (mortality rate of 1.72 per cent), the chief minister said there had been a spike in cases in Punjab after Punjabis started coming back from Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Of the 4,200-odd people who had returned from Nanded, 969 had tested positive, though only 23 of them were symptomatic, he said.

Some results were awaited, he said, adding that the spike was expected to end, with the situation stabilising in the next 3-4 days, once testing of all such people is completed.

All returnees are now being checked and quarantined, he added.

The chief minister warned of high-risk of spread of infection in the state from those returning to the state, especially the workers coming back from the Gulf in crowded ships.

Four ships of migrants, mostly labourers, were expected to arrive in the next few days, while the first plane with NRIs was expected to reach Punjab on Thursday, he said.

Giving details, the chief minister said around 20,000 international travellers are expected to return to Punjab in the next 3-4 weeks, in addition to around 12,000 who had registered in other states for coming back.

As for the migrant workers wanting to go back from Punjab to their native states, he said that 10 lakh had registered so far, of which 85 per cent belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The state government has sanctioned Rs 35 crore to provide for train travel cost of these workers, he said, adding that three trains left on May 5 for UP and Jharkhand and six more were scheduled for May 6.

With around 2,500 regular tests being done daily, the total tests in the state had gone up to 30,199, Singh said. PTI VSD AAR AAR