Peak in Covid cases probably as more return to Punjab; 88% loss of income in April: Amarinder Singh tells Sonia Gandhi

CHANDIGARH: Set April revenue deficit for state at 88%, Prime Minister Amarinder Singh On Wednesday, he said that with all tax revenues depleted and only 1.5% of the industry currently operating, he warned of the high risk of the infection spreading in the state for those returning to the state.

Participating in a video conference of the main ministers of the states governed by Congress with the party president Sonia gandhi , With Dr. Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi Amarinder said around 20,000 international travelers are expected to return to Punjab in the next 3-4 weeks, in addition to around 12,000 who had registered in other states to return.

Amarinder warned of high risk of spread of infection in the state from those returning to the state especially the workers coming back from the Gulf in crowded ships. Four ships of migrants, mostly labourers, were expected to arrive in the next few days, while the first plane with NRIs was expected to reach Punjab on Thursday, he disclosed. As for the migrant workers wanting to go back from Punjab to their native states, he said that 10 lakh had registered so far, of which 85% belonged to UP and Bihar.

Providing an update on the Covid status in the state, which has reported a total of 1451 positive cases with 25 deaths (mortality rate of 1.72%), Amarinder said there had been a spike in cases in Punjab after Punjabis residing outside Punjab started coming back from Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Of the 4200-odd persons who had returned from Nanded, 969 had tested positive, though only 23 of them were symptomatic. Some results were awaited, he said, adding that the spike was expected to end, with the situation stabilising in the next 3-4 days, once testing of all such people is completed. All returnees are now being checked and quarantined, he added.

Amarinder was of the opinion that the decision on classification of zones as red, orange or green should be left to the states, which, in turn, could authorise the DCs to demarcate as per the ground realities. He cited the example of Patiala being classified as a red zone, even though Nabha – a major milk-producing area – is located in the district. Punjab state currently has 4 containment zones and 4 red zone districts. Fifteen districts are in orange zone and the remaining three in green one.

Financial losses

Punjab was facing a difficult financial situation, which was compounded by the Center's lack of help. Compared to the estimated income of Rs 3.36 billion for April, only Rs 396 million had been received during the month, Amarinder said the state's energy consumption had decreased by 30% with a daily loss of Rs 30 million in collecting the electricity fee to the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. In addition, the state GST arrears of Rs 4,365.37 crore have not yet been paid by the Center, he noted. Amarinder also shared the details of the problems raised by his government with the Center. These include outstanding GST arrears, demand for income subsidy for the next 3 months, review of the current year's report by the 15th Finance Commission, among others.

Acquisition of wheat

During the meeting, Sonia asked Amarinder to convey her congratulations to the farmers of Punjab for a smooth procurement season, with the latter disclosing that more than 100 Lakh MT had arrived in the Mandis already, and the entire procurement process was expected to be completed by mid-May.