It was the turn of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to step up the Congress' no-holds-barred tirade against the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, accusing it of spending funds on programmes that were of no use to the aam aadmi (common man).

Addressing an election rally here on Saturday, Dr Singh criticised the State government for failing to spend the funds given by the Centre for public benefit. As a result, Punjab, once the number one State in development, lagged behind. Denying that the UPA government at the Centre was partial, the Prime Minister sought to strike a chord with the voters, saying he wanted Punjab to progress as he studied and later taught in the State. He lamented that the State government did not provide land for the Central University at Amritsar, which he was keen on being set up.

Liberal allocations

While the Union government was liberal in its allocations, the Akali Dal-BJP government did not take interest in fully implementing the projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Dr. Singh said. Under the NRHM, the Union government had facilitated the appointment of 2,700 doctors, staff nurses and paramedics, construction of 126 new health centres and 216 sub-centres as well as purchase of 90 ambulances.

School infrastructure

The Prime Minister pointed out that an allocation of Rs. 3,400 crore was also made to the State government for augmenting the education system. At least 824 new middle schools were constructed and 25,000 rooms added to the existing schools of Punjab. Similarly, the Union government provided liberal funds to construct kitchen sheds for the mid-day meal scheme, under which 49,000 cooks and helpers were employed in all 18,900 schools. He said he was informed that the Akali Dal-BJP alliance had claimed credit for the appointment of 15,000 new teachers, which was an initiative of the Centre.

Listing other initiatives by the Centre, Dr. Singh reminded the people of the setting up of the Indian Institute of Technology at Ropar, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Mohali and the Central University at Bathinda. Another Rs. 150 crore was allocated for upgrading the Government Medical College in Amritsar. The Integrated Terminal Building at the Chandigarh Airport, linking Punjab through 22 new trains, laying of two new rail lines and increasing the capacity of seven rail lines figured on the list of the new projects worth Rs. 6,500 crore. These also included constructing or augmenting 772 km of roads.

However, owing to the faulty policies of the present government, Dr. Singh said, Punjab was reeling under the impact of a debt of Rs. 1.20 lakh crore. He expressed concern that growing unemployment had driven many a youth to drug addiction.