Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said with all tax revenues dried up and only 1.5% of the industry currently operational, the State during the month of April has received only ₹396 crore as against the estimated revenue of ₹3,360 crore.
Pegging the April revenue shortfall for the State at 88%, the Chief Minister said that Punjab was facing a difficult financial situation that was compounded by the absence of aid from the Central government.
He was participating in a video conference of Chief Ministers from Congress-ruled States with party president Sonia Gandhi, along with Dr. Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi.
“As against the estimated revenue of ₹3,360 crore for April, only ₹396 crore had been received during the month. Besides, the State’s Power Consumption had also declined by 30%, with a daily loss of ₹30 crore in the collection of electricity tariff to the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. Also, the State’s GST arrears of ₹4,365.37 crore are yet to be paid by the 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. It would take another month after that to refine and finalise the same, said Mr. Amarinder.
However, he said that despite the financial crunch, his government was committed to preparing the society to manage and contain COVID-19. He was also taking every possible step to upgrade and readjust the State’s healthcare system to meet the challenges of the pandemic.
Classification of zones
The Chief Minister was of the opinion that the decision on the classification of zones as red, orange or green should be left to the States, which, in turn, could authorise deputy commissioners to demarcate the same according to ground realities.
Currently, Punjab has four containment zones and four red zone districts. Fifteen districts are in the orange zone and the remaining three are green zones.
The Chief Minister said there had been a spike in cases in Punjab after Punjabis residing outside the State had come back from Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Of the 4,200-odd persons who had returned from Nanded, 969 had tested positive, though only 23 of them were symptomatic. Some results were awaited, he said, adding that the spike was expected to end with the situation stabilising in the next three to four days and once the testing of the returnees were completed.
The Chief Minister also warned of the high risk of the spread of the infection in the State from those returning, especially 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.
Mr. Amarinder said around 20,000 international travellers were expected to return to Punjab in the next 3-4 weeks, in addition to around 12,000 who had registered to return from other States. As for the migrant workers wanting to go back from Punjab to their native States, he said around 10 lakh had registered so far. Of this, 85% belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The State Government has sanctioned ₹35 crore to be provided for the train travel cost of these workers, he said, adding that three trains left on May 5 for U.P. and Jharkhand. Six more were scheduled for May 6.