Chandigarh, June 23

Terming the Galwan Valley violence as part of a larger design on the part of China, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said India should not make the mistake of dismissing the incident as a patrol clash but should take a firm stand against any Chinese incursions into the Indian territory.

The amount of build-up in Galwan Valley showed that the Chinese were working on a plan, said Captain Amarinder, adding that India could not afford to lose even an inch of its land in the area, which is of huge strategic importance for both sides. “We have all seen clashes in our time, with Pakistan and even with Chinese, and this is definitely not a patrol clash,” he stressed.

Referring to the map of the area, the Chief Minister said the Chinese had reached right half way through to the Siachen Glacier after Pakistan ceded the northern part of Shaksgam Valley in PoK in 1963. Beyond that there is an area that is any case belongs to China, he explained, adding that “there is a little gap between the glacier and the Aksai Chin area, which is the Daulat Beg gap, which they are trying to close.”

“We have to take a strong position, and we should be clear that if we lose even an inch of land we must hold them responsible,” he said at the the Congress Working Committee (CWC) video conference convened by the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi, with former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi among the participants.

The Chief Minister also cornered the Centre over its failure to support the state in its fight against Covid, pointing out that all that Punjab had received so far from the Centre was its own Rs 2800 crore for January to March period, and just a few other grants. He said that GST dues for April to June were still pending.

Despite repeated pleas and memorandums, no help was forthcoming from the Centre to the state government for tackling the Covid crisis, he said, adding that the Government of India was not giving even the state’s own share. The state had not received a single paisa of the Rs 20000 lakh crore package announced by the Prime Minister, he said, noting that with the estimated shortfall of Rs 25,000 to 30,000 Crores this year, and the rest going into the Covid war, the situation for Punjab was bad.

His government was forced to manage on its own to create resources for fighting Covid, said Captain Amarinder, adding that he was sure other states were in the same unfortunate position. Nobody is listening to us, he lamented, adding that he had to put aside Rs 35 crore to arrange for 500 trains to send 5.63 lakh migrants back to their homes.

The Chief Minister said that with 2.33 lakh of the total 2.52 lakh industries in Punjab now reopen, migrants were now also coming back to the state. His government, he said, was trying its best to get the industry back on track with all possible facilities and easing of norms, but the units were currently working at 40% capacity and would take some months to return to their full strength.

Even on this count, the central government was not extending any help, said the Chief Minister, citing the example of the large number of units that had started manufacturing PPE kits on request from the Government of India. Now the state was in a position to produce 15 lakh PPE kits every day but there were no buyers, he said, adding that he had written to the Prime Minister for permission to export these kits.

A total of 17 lakh local and migrant workers were engaged in industries currently, with more joining the farmers in the paddy operations, he said, adding that many farmers from Punjab had personally gone to UP, Bihar and Jharkhand to get the migrant labourers back. Free food grain distribution among migrant workers was continuing in the state, he said, adding that he had also asked the Centre to extend the food grain scheme by another 6 months, especially in view of the bumper crop produced again this year by Punjab farmers despite the challenging Covid restrictions.

The migrant labourers who had stayed back and did not have ration cards etc needed food, said the Chief Minister, adding that he had written to the Prime Minister thrice on this issue, with no response forthcoming.  Of the state’s 13.50 Lakh migrant labourers, only 5.63 lakh had gone back while the rest had stayed back, he said, adding that while jobs were now available for them, food was still a problem.

Speaking of the state’s economic revival plan, the Chief Minister said the Montek Ahulwalia committee set up to formulate the strategy was sharing its feedback with the government, which was accordingly charting the way forward. The committee has six working, of which the Finance team had already submitted its report and the others are expected to come in soon.

Briefing the CWC about the Covid situation in the state, Captain Amarinder said sampling and testing was being continuously enhanced and a micro-containment strategy had been adopted to check the spread of the pandemic. The number of cases was, however, still rising, mainly on account of the increased testing and the large number of people coming from outside, including other states and countries.

Apart from Ludhiana and Jalandhar, one of the worst affected districts was Amritsar, where all the international flights were landing, including from the highly contaminated Gulf region, he revealed. The other big problem area was the thousands of people reaching Punjab every day from Delhi, where the situation was extremely bad, he said, adding that many of these people were not reporting themselves and had to be traced and tracked, including in villages.

Captain Amarinder said his government was fully geared to tackle the spread of the pandemic and was continuously scaling up its preparedness in terms of beds, isolation centres, testing labs, PPE kits, masks, ventilators and oxygen kits etc.

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