Navjot Singh Sidhu promises freebies ahead of 2022 Punjab polls after questioning financial viabilities of sops

Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has promised 2,000 rupees per month to female homemakers after admitting that sops will empty state exchequers

In a bid to woo voters, Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has promised 2,000 rupees per month to female homemakers if voted to power. On Monday, PCC Sidhu also promised to give eight free gas cylinders to homemakers every year.

However, former Punjab Congress Chief Sunil Jakhar has said that parties are running their freebies poll campaign based on the hope to generate more Excise revenue before elections. Instead, they should let the youth earn a living by “hard work, toil and sweat”.

Earlier, Sidhu himself said that sops will empty state exchequer.

Navjot Singh Sidhu in a press conference announcing the poll sops to uplift women

The poll freebies by Sidhu

The state Congress chief promised two-wheelers to girls, taking admission in colleges, in a rally organized in Punjab’s Barnala district. He also promised 20,000 rupees to girls passing Class 12, 15,000 rupees to female students passing Class 10, and 5,000 rupees to those passing Class 5.

He stressed the need of empowering women in his address from the rally. Therefore, he promised sops to women beyond AAP’s pre-poll assurance of giving 1,000 rupees to women aged 18 years and above.

Navjot Singh Sidhu also said that he would set up 28 skill development centres for women across the state. Transferring properties in the name of women will be done free of charge.

The party also promised to develop home and kitchen-based business opportunities for women and provide interest-free loans up to two lakh rupees. The government will also give two lakh rupees as education loans to women up to their PhD. The Punjab Congress has also envisioned creating a women battalion and entry of females in police forces.

From where will they get the money?

Navjot Singh Sidhu has finally baited big to win the freebies race ahead of Punjab polls 2022. But how is the state going to finance it?

When AAP announced poll freebies, Sidhu himself questioned the state’s financial health and the sops economic viability. On November 24, while inaugurating the developmental projects in his Assembly constituency Amritsar, Sidhu said, “A simple calculation will expose whether it is practical or not. For instance, providing 26 lakh jobs will mean an expenditure of Rs 93,000 crore, giving Rs 1,000 per woman will cost Rs 12,000 crore, and a two-kilowatt free power supply will cost Rs 3,600 crore. When taken together, all these freebies will cost Rs 1.10 lakh crore. The total budget of Punjab stands at Rs 72,000 crore. From where will Kejriwal bring the rest of the money?”

It is questionable that how he had promised to give 2,000 rupees to women homemakers. When Chief Minister Chani capped the TV cable rate at 100 rupees, Navjot Singh Sidhu said that it is not possible as TRAI has a fixed rate of 130 rupees. “Sops will empty the state exchequer and kill livelihoods,” he added.

This time after Sidhu announced sops, former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said in a statement, “Increasing the collections from Excise seems to be the basis for the promises being doled out by all parties. Even if it were not as absurd as it sounds, any economic model which is to be primarily fuelled by the sale of liquor is not what Punjab deserves. If ‘chitta’ has been the bane, then liquor is no elixir to be propagated! Please don’t lead the youth astray. Hard work, blood, toil, tears and sweat has always been the Punjabi way to progress and prosperity.” He has directly questioned the increased dependence of the parties on the Excise revenue of the state’s liquor economy.

The budget estimate for 2021-22 reveals the outstanding debt of Punjab to rise to about 2.82 lakh crore rupees. The Congress in 2017 polls had promised to pay a stipend of 2,500 rupees to unemployed youth and provide jobs to every household. Apart from these, they have also promised to waive off loans to debt-ridden farmers.

The additional announcement of the Punjab Congress Chief, Navjot Singh Sidhu, seems to be an add-on to the existing poll sops. In 2015-16, the debt of the state touched 1.25 lakh crore rupees and 1.82 lakh crore rupees in 2017.

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