Gurdaspur: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday assured farmers that his government will soon implement the promised farm-debt waiver scheme in about a months time and appealed to them to not consider suicide or any other extreme step to escape their loan burden.

Speaking at the Independence Day celebrations after unfurling the national flag, the chief minister also announced the launch of a recruitment campaign for the government sector to fill all critical vacant posts.

‘Rozgar Melas’ (Job Fairs) would be held across the state to implement the poll promise of providing employment, he said.

Singh, who earlier took the guard of honour and enjoyed an enthralling display of Gatka by school children, vowed to make Punjab a peaceful, healthy and prosperous state - “free from drugs and debt". He also announced a Rs2,500 crore annual repair programme for all link roads. The programme will be launched shortly with the laying and repair of 22,870 kilometers of such roads in the state, he said.

Each household in the state will have a toilet before 31 December, Singh announced adding that Rs2,100 crore had been set aside to ensure complete facelift of schools besides providing the requisite infrastructure, while another Rs806 crore had been allocated for upgradation of health infrastructure.

Pointing out that his government has announced the waiving of crop loans up to Rs2 lakh for small farmers, besides extending debt relief up to Rs2 lakh provided to marginal farmers having total debt of over Rs2 lakh each, the chief minister appealed to them not to commit suicide or take any other extreme step to escape their debt burdens.

The debt waiver scheme will be implemented in about a month’s time and the government will ensure that the loans of the farmers are paid, without necessitating any payment from them, he said.

Singh’s statement assumes significance as there are reports that distressed farmers in several parts of state have ended their lives because of debt burden. The chief minister reiterated his resolve to maintain law and order in the state at all costs, saying his government was committed to zero tolerance to unlawful activities, drugs and armed gangs. There has been a perceptible decline in crime in the state in the past five months, he added.

Referring to the war on drugs, Singh said that a Special Task Force (STF) formed for this purpose has been given a free hand, leading to the registration of as many as 6,018 cases under the NDPS Act so far. A total of 6,933 people, including some police officials who were abetting such activities, had been arrested, and more than 97 kg heroin had been recovered, besides other banned substances, he added.

Besides, supplies of Schedule-H drugs/ prescription drugs, which were misused in the state to produce synthetic drugs, had gone down by 50% in the last three months, he said.

Singh said his government was committed to providing justice to the innocent people booked in false cases under the previous regime and the judicial commission set up to probe all such cases would soon submit its report.

A similar commission set up to investigate cases of sacrilege was also working to identify the culprits, whom his government would soon bring to book, he added.

To boosting industrialisation in Punjab, the chief minister said, his government had frozen electricity tariff at Rs5 per unit for new and existing industries and anew industrial policy on the anvil would further promote ease of doing business in the state.

He listed out steps taken to promote real estate, including reduction of stamp duty on registration of urban properties from nine per cent to 6%.

Referring to his government’s ‘Guardians of Governance’ scheme, Singh said that this voluntarily force of ex- servicemen would ensure the honest and sincere implementation of all government schemes and programmes to ensure that benefits of these schemes reach the deserving people.

He said that 1,000 ‘Guardians of Governance’ would be recruited in about a month’s time.

Describing the steps being taken for women empowerment in the state, the chief minister said reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats had been enhanced to 50%, besides other initiatives for the welfare of girls and women.

The Chief Minister said pension under the social security scheme in the state would be increased to Rs1,000 next year from the existing Rs750.

Several MLAs, chief secretary Karn Avtar Singh, DGP Suresh Arora, ADGP Border-cum-STF Chief Harpreet Singh Sidhu and other officials were among those present.