Tuesday, March 13, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sparks fly at Punjab Cabinet meeting
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
There were sparks at the meeting of the Punjab Council of Ministers held here today over certain amendments and changes that the Department of Excise and Taxation sought in the excise policy for 2001-2002 that the Council had approved only on March 7.

The Minister, Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, who is also the son-in-law of the Chief Minister, kicked up a storm when he charged the Ludhiana police of not taking any action against those engaged in illicit sale and smuggling of liquor resulting in revenue losses, sources said. Even on specific, written complaints the police, at the behest of the Department of Home Affairs and Justice, took no action. Instead the complainants were jailed. There were occasions when excise staff was attacked, he added.

The Council did not approve of the changes in “grouping” and to raise the amount upto to Rs 40 crore for a single group in Ludhianna city. In the policy it is mentioned that grouping will be upto Rs 8 crore that the Collector can do. Between Rs 8 crore and Rs 15 crore could be done with the prior approval of the Excise and Taxation Commissioner and beyond that the power is vested with the Minister (Government).

The Minister of Technical Education and Industrial Training, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, with whom Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon has been having a running battle ever since the auctioning of liquor vends last year and who has the tacit support of Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP, charged that the changes were aimed at creating “monopolist groups’’ and distribute favours to a certain “protege” from Amritsar.

The ETM first did not react and only said personally, he was against any “monopoly” group. But later he warmed up to charge that the police was not co-operating.

The Council, however, approved that no liquor shop be opened within 200 metres of any seat of religious or educational institution while it allowed the old, existing ones to operate from a reasonable distance. To minimise smuggling of liquor the Council decided to revert back to the old restriction of individual possessing only two bottles instead of the earlier proposed six bottles.

Informed sources told TNS that in the wake of the heat generated at the Council meeting the ETM withdrew the memorandum.

The Council, according to an official press note, approved supplementary demands for grants for expenditure, 2000-01 in respect of over a dozen-odd departments to be placed before the Vidhan Sabha. These supplementary demands add up to nearly Rs 8 crore or so, sources said.

Owing to draught-like situation in at least nine Vidhan Sabha constituencies falling in the Kandi belt of the state, the Chief Minister responded to the issue raised by Mr Satyapal Saini and Master Mohan Lal, ordering that within 10 days a comprehensive report be submitted to declare such blocks as ‘’draught hit’’.

The Chief Minister asked the Principal Secretary, Finance, Mr K. R. Lakhanpal, to immediately release Rs 1 crore each to all the MLAs for development works in their respective constituencies. At the same time, the Council decided to remove the upper limit (ceiling) of Rs 50,000 for ministerial discretionary grants for construction of dharmshalas for Scheduled Castes and weaker sections of society, religious and charitable institutions of direct social relevance, says an official Press release.

The Council has also decided that all funds directed for development of all type could, henceforth, be given to the local education development committees.

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