Punjab CM seeks liberal fiscal package from PM Modi


CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday sought from Prime Minister a liberal financial package to fill the revenue collection gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chief minister raised the demand during a video conference meeting of the prime minister with chief ministers to review the coronavirus situation.

Punjab has seen 50 per cent decline in revenue for the first quarter of the current financial year.

          The chief minister also said the cap of 35 per cent in the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) for COVID-19 related expenditure, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, is not sufficient to meet the current requirements and sought flexibility in coronavirus-related terms of expenditure.

          Singh also thanked the Union government for accepting Punjab’s proposal to set up a National Institute of Virology for the north zone and said the state government will soon give 25 acres of land for the institute, a government statement said.

The chief minister also urged Modi to review the University Grants Commission’s decision on mandatory exams for final year classes to be held by September 30.

Punjab may not be in a position to conduct exams in September as it may witness a peak in COVID-19 cases at that time, Singh pointed out.

He suggested promoting these students on the basis of past performance and internal assessment, with the option to take exams later for those wanting to improve their performance.

Singh said the state has been witnessing a rising number of coronavirus cases and it has reached 24,891 with 604 deaths.

He also sought central government assistance for online school education, especially for poor children of Classes X and XII.

More money is needed for creating the infrastructure needed to support online education, he said during the meeting.

          Though Punjab is conducting 23,000 tests per million for COVID-19, and planned to increase RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests from 12,000 to 20,000 in the next 15 days, it needed to scale up the testing capacity further, Singh stressed.

          He requested Modi to direct the Union government institutions in Chandigarh and Punjab to increase testing capacity, as already written to him earlier.

           Expressing concern over the state’s mortality rate of 2.

4 per cent, Singh said though it is lower than the all India deaths per million and 91 per cent of the fatality cases were people with comorbidities, it is still higher than neighbouring Haryana.

Patients are coming to hospitals late and 86 per cent deaths have occurred in tertiary hospitals, he added.

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