To protest discrimination, non-payment of RDF, Bhagwant Mann to boycott NITI Aayog meeting

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann will not attend the Niti Aayog meeting in the national capital on Saturday to protest against Centre not paying Rs 3,600 crore to the state towards rural development fee (RDF). Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair the Niti Aayog Governing Council meeting and will deliberate on key issues such as health, women empowerment, and infrastructure development.

Aam Aadmi Party’s state unit chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang said the chief minister had taken up with the Centre the demand to release Rs 3,600 crore outstanding RDF, but the Centre has been sitting over it. He said Mann has in the past met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal in this regard.

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“They have reduced our Mandi Development Fee (MDF) from 3 per cent to one percent. Where will the money come for the development of rural areas and the mandi infrastructure? The Centre is discriminating against Punjab…so in protest, the chief minister will not be going for the NITI Aayog meeting,” Kang said.

“Sometimes it is the RDF issue, sometimes it is value reduction imposed by the Centre on wheat crops damaged due to untimely rains, GST compensation delay, sometimes it is the coal issue..they ‘discriminate’ against Punjab. But we want to tell them that the country runs according to the Constitution,” Kang said.

A senior official said that the Centre had not released Rs 1,200 crore under National Health Mission to Punjab citing the state’s government’s design of facade of the Aam Aadmi clinics that have CM Mann photographs.

Earlier this year, the Union Health Ministry had said the Punjab government was converting the Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) into Aam Aadmi Clinics, a pet project of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, and had warned of stopping the funds for the scheme. The AB-HWC is formulated with a 60:40 contribution ratio by the Centre and the state.

Among other issues, the Punjab government had last year said the Centre has turned down the state government’s proposal of contributing to the cash incentive to farmers for not burning stubble.

The state government had proposed to give Rs 2,500 per acre to paddy growers. It suggested that the Centre pay Rs 1,500 per acre while Rs 1,000 per acre will be borne by Punjab and Delhi governments.

The Niti Aayog meeting will deliberate on several issues, including, health, skill development, women empowerment and infrastructure development, with an aim to make India a developed nation by 2047.

The council, the apex body of Niti Aayog, includes all chief ministers, lieutenant governors of Union Territories, and several Union ministers.