Amritsar: Noting that the situation across the border is “not good”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said the UPA government has initiated talks with Pakistan on the issue of imposition of religious tax on minorities in that country’s tribal areas.
“The minorities are facing problems in neighbouring Pakistan...Jazia (religious tax) is being imposed on minorities...we have started talks with Pakistan on the issue,” the Prime Minister said addressing a rally on the concluding day of campaigning for 13 May polling.
“We will take appropriate and necessary steps on the issue of imposition of jazia in neighbouring country on minorities,” he said.
The ministry of external affairs had last month summoned a diplomat of Pakistan High Commission to register its unhappiness over Sikhs being driven out of their homes by the Taliban for failing to pay jazia. Indian High Commission in Islamabad also conveyed similar views to Pakistan Foreign Office there.
Maintaining that the situation across the border is not good, Singh said “we will at no cost bear anything against us.”
India, he said, wanted friendly and cordial relations with its neighbouring countries.
Asserting that the UPA managed to check price rise during economic meltdown, he said “the Congress has got the experience to handle such situations.”
Singh said the Centre will find out new means for the benefit of farmers, labourers and industry and stressed that during the period of economic recession it is only the Congress which can show the right path to the country.
“Our government is capable of facing the problem of unemployment,” he said adding the Centre had started many new projects for the generation of employment.
“Our progress is better than several countries,” he said, adding the Centre had started a programme to provide employment at the rural level.
Highlighting the achievements of his government, Singh said the UPA government raised the budget allocation for education.
An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was approved for Punjab in Ropar which is linked with IIT Delhi, he said adding two new universities have also been sanctioned for Amritsar and Bathinda.
He said the Centre has disbursed a grant of Rs100 crore for the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).Besides a new institute of bio-technology has been approved at Mohali, he added.
Singh said the priority of his government has been development of villages and improving the lot of farmers.
“Our government doubled the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat from Rs630 per quintal to Rs1080 per quintal,” he said adding the MSP of cotton was hiked from Rs1725 per qunital to Rs3000 per quintal.
While the UPA always strived that the benefit of country’s progress goes to farmers, the BJP government at the Centre “never benefited the peasants,” he said.
“The NDA and its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) always failed to protect the interests of farmers,” he said, adding “the SAD-BJP are indulging in publication of false advertisements in newspapers.”
He said on Amritsar — the pride of Punjab - the Centre had spent Rs3150 crore on various schemes for better facilities.
The Centre has given Rs120 crore for the upgradation of Amritsar medical college and a sum of Rs150 crore is being spent on Rajasansi airport in Amritsar.A bus service has been launched for Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
Singh said the government is celebrating the 300 years of Guru Granth Sahib on which several programmes are lined up.
He said several railway projects, including Chandigarh-Morinda which will be extended till Ludhiana and doubling of the 143 km Jalandhar-Jammu rail link have been undertaken.
At Wagah border, an international check post at a cost of Rs87 crore has been set up, he said, adding the government has laid special stress on development of border districts.
He added that he was able to serve the people “due to love of all bestowed upon me and due to education.”