“150-Crore Scam”: Punjab AAP Government Finds Farm-Stubble Machines “Missing”

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Machines were to better handle crop stubble so that burning, which causes grave pollution, isn’t needed.

Chandigarh:

Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party government has ordered an inquiry as more than 11,000 machines for handling crop stubble in the state “exist only on paper”, which allegedly means “embezzlement of Rs 150 crore of public money, mainly during the previous Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh”.

Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal today said he’d ordered a field survey after receiving reports that the machines, for which the central government gave subsidy, “never reached the farmers”. 

In this cross-check drive that covered the period from 2018 to this month — of the 90,422 machines that the government claimed to have bought and distributed — at least 11,275 (about 13 per cent) are not with the supposed beneficiaries. The AAP government has been in place since March.

Minister Dhaliwal said the prime responsibility is of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who held the Agriculture portfolio, and his then party Congress.

A spokesperson for Capt Amarinder Singh’s party, Punjab Lok Congress, Pritpal Singh Baliawal said, “Preparing machine distribution lists wasn’t Captain saab’s job as chief minister. He wasn’t a field officer. In principle, we welcome any inquiry against corruption. But this is just AAP’s ploy to divert attention from its failures.”  

Minister Dhaliwal told the media, “I have sent the file to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann for an inquiry by the vigilance department.”

Burning of crop residue in Punjab and Haryana — paddy stubble in particular — has been blamed for environmental degradation, even for pollution in the Delhi region. These machines are supposed to help shave that residue off for other uses, making the burning practice redundant 

The total subsidy for the machines was Rs 1,200 crore, “so we estimate the scam to be around Rs 150 crore,” the minister said.

“Such scams make it difficult to get further central grants,” he added, “This is the people’s money. We will take strict action, no matter who was involved.”

There is no statement yet from the Congress, which had removed Capt Amarinder Singh near the end of 2021 — not on any specific allegations but in a political shuffle ahead of the assembly elections.

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