Punjab's Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government has mortgaged several official real estate properties, including widow home and jails, for a total of Rs 2,100 crore loan to deal with the financial crisis the state has been facing for the last two years.
The Punjab government's total debt amounts to Rs 1.25 lakh crore. The condition is reportedly so bad that it is facing difficulties in paying salaries to its staff.
The financial crunch has forced the state government to take loan against some of the state properties, according to The Times of India -- which has access to files pertaining to loans taken by the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) from five nationalised banks.
The state government has mortgaged a widow home, a mental hospital, several jails and several government-owned residential buildings between 2013 and 2015 due to lack of funds to implement state schemes and support subsidies.
The government has mortgaged 11.28 acres of land, part of which houses an old mental hospital in Amritsar for Rs 400 crore. The hospital with a capacity of 350 beds has been shifted to a new location. However, the doctors feel that the government should have extended the hospital on the remaining unused land instead of taking a loan against it.
The other land that has been mortgaged has Gandhi Vanita Ashram built on it. At least 120 widows live in the Ashram that was built in Jalandhar in 1947. It also has a school for girls and currently, 250 girls are enrolled there. The Ashram also houses 67 families.
The Ashram, along with parking area, 80-feet wide road and pavement, was mortgaged for Rs 250 crore on 31 December, 2013, The Times of India reported. The Ashram staff and the women will be shifted to the new building that is under construction.
The government has taken loan against jails in Bathinda, Amritsar and Goindwal as well. Besides these, residential complexes in Amritsar, Bathinda and Muktsar as well as old district courts have also been mortgaged.
A loan of Rs 750 crore has been raised from Canara Bank against three residential sites each in Jagraon, Mansa and Patiala. Two state offices in Jalandhar have also been mortgaged.
Amritsar Improvement Trust's 3.73 acres of land has been mortgaged to Andhra Bank and the state government has to repay the loan of Rs 100 crore with annual interest of 10.25% by March 2018.
PUDA chief administrator Manvesh Sidhu termed the mortgaging "an economic model" and said that the government is paying the instalments and interest on time.
"It is an economic model by which we can get money and use it for the right purposes. We are trying to find ways to settle the fund crunch. We are paying back interest and not stopping the instalments to banks," said Sidhu.