Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday demanded the setting up of a constituent assembly to frame a fresh Constitution for the country along ‘genuinely federal lines’ as the present Constitution was ‘not in tune with requirements of changing times’.

Winding up the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor's address in Punjab Assembly, Badal alleged states had been gradually reduced to the "status of beggars" as the meagre powers given to states were progressively eroded by the Centre.

He claimed that the constitution was not in tune with the requirements of the changing times and, as a result, the country was not able to fully utilise its potential for development and prosperity. Badal suggested the setting up of a new constituent assembly to frame a new constitution.

Badal said states were best qualified to understand and address the problems of the people in an effective manner. ‘Shiromani Akali Dal was the first to raise this demand because it is in the interest of the country to grant autonomy to the states’.

Pleading for recasting of formula for devolution of funds to states, Badal said ‘strong states mean strong nation.’

He demanded 50 percent of the revenue collected by the Centre should be given to states to carry out development works according to their felt needs.

He pointed out that the norms devised by the Centre for the distribution of resources and devolution of central funds were "too stringent" to deliberately exclude states like Punjab from these centrally-sponsored schemes.

The Chief Minister made a strong pitch for transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to the state and declared "Chandigarh is the soul and spirit of Punjab and must be transferred to us without further delay."

He also demanded a resolution of the river water dispute as per the national and internationally accepted riparian principle forthwith Highlighting the "sheer injustice" done to Punjab on industrial front, the Chief Minister alleged the Centre deliberately opted not to sanction big industries in the state probably for reasons best known to it.

He said "whatever industry we had in our state was left with no other option except to shift its base to neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Jammu and Kashmir due to several concessions and incentives given to the industry, thereby resulting in utter decay of local industry in Punjab."

He demanded a special industrial package for Punjab from the Centre as it richly deserved, being a border state.

The Chief Minister also decried Congress’s alleged move to capture SGPC by whipping up passions over the issue of setting up of a separate Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in Haryana.

He also accused the Centre of causing inordinate delay in calling the co-opt session of the newly-elected SGPC which was mandatory for the election of office bearers and subsequently the passage of its annual budget before March 31.

All this would lead to financial chaos, thereby hampering the functioning of the Sikh’s religious organization, alleged Badal. Badal also said politics of confrontation and vendetta had no place on his government’s agenda and sought whole hearted co-operation from the opposition to put Punjab in high growth trajectory.

(JPN/ Agencies)