09/12/2015 11:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Punjab Is Going Hungry, Mortgages Widow Home And Jails For Funds

An Indian widow rests inside a religious retreat in Vrindavan, India, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. Widows in India are often shunned and do not remarry so they go to cities like Vrindavan, considered holy, where they are able to scrape together a meager living and develop a sort of sisterhood with other widows. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

After finding itself in a state of dire financial crisis for the last two years, Punjab has been forced to mortgage a widow home, in addition to all the other properties already loaned to keep its head afloat.

So far, the Parkash Singh Badal government has managed to raise a Rs 2,100 crore loan to fill its depleted coffers, but is still scraping the barrel.

According to a Times of India report, the Gandhi Vanita Ashram for widows in Jalandhar, along with its parking area was mortgaged for Rs 250 crore on December 31, 2013. All mortgage deeds have been signed between Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), chaired by Parkash Singh Badal and five nationalised banks.

The Ashram – built in 1947 following Independence to support the widows of Partition refugees – houses 120 women, and a small school that educates 250 girls. Its entire staff and residents are yet to be rehabilitated to the new complex that is still being built.

In addition to this ashram, state jails at Bathinda, Amritsar and Goindwal have also been mortgaged. Other properties include lands initially alloted for multiplexes, jails, residential complexes and old district courts. Indeed, the state of financial affairs is so bad that the Akali Dal-BJP government – currently facing a debt of Rs 1.25 lakh crore – has found it tough to even pay salaries to its staff.

Meanwhile, the Punjab chief minister wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, urging him to bail out the farming community of the state from an agrarian crisis and saying that the nation’s breadwinner has been “reduced to the plight of a beggar.”

In the strongly worded letter, Badal said that Punjab is going hungry because of the policies of successive governments at the Centre.

“This was largely because of the huge mismatch between the prices of agricultural produce like food grains on the one hand and costs of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides, machinery, labour and so on. This is not even counting the cost of the farmer’s land as capital investment,” the CM said in the letter.

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