M A I N   N E W S

Mobilise resources or face decay, panel warns Punjab
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service


Enhance sales tax on diesel from 8 to 16 per cent

Phase out Punjab Roadways and PRTC

Levy entry tax on all vehicles

Freeze commission of arhtiyas at 1 per cent

Withdraw NPA to doctors

No subsidised power to any consumer

Downsize civil, police cadres

Chandigarh, April 21
The Punjab Plan Resource Committee suggests an additional annual revenue mobilisation of Rs 2,555 crore and warns failure to do so will adversely affect the state's economy, ''sucking it into a whirlpool of decay''.

The committee, headed by the vice-chairman of the State Planning Board, Dr S.S. Johl, concludes that there is no scope for soft options or any other alternatives but to take hard decisions, tone up the tax administration and plug revenue leakages.

If approved by the Council of Ministers, the proposals will be incorporated in the Budget for 2004-05, which is yet to be presented.

The report suggests that the government change its working ethos and shake away reluctance to adopt innovative and unorthodox administrative and economic practices. It makes specific proposals and quantifiable ones to add up to Rs 2,555 crore additional revenue.

The report reviews the state's finances and refers to the ''poor performance'' of the Annual Plan, 2003-04, which was only 30 per cent. The report mentions the growing revenue and fiscal deficits, mounting percentage of total expenditure to revenue receipts, increasing interest payments and declining development expenditure. It was just 38 per cent in 2002-03 against 52 per cent in 1998-99.

The report says the practice of rollbacks must stop forthwith. Such a step had caused a revenue loss of Rs 400 crore last year. It proposes scrapping of non-practising allowance to doctors and rationalisation of fees charged from patients visiting hospitals under the Punjab Health Systems Corporation or attached to the medical colleges and setting up of mobile dispensaries and polyclinics.

It recommends abolition of the present system of disbursement of pensions and gratuity and linking it up with financial institutions like the LIC or the Unit Trust of India, withdrawal of all subsidies on power to all sections of consumers, including agriculture. The periodic hike in the fee of commission agents and arhtiyas must stop. It should be frozen at 1 per cent.

If it proposes down-sizing of the civil and police administration effective from April 1, 2004, it also recommends decentralisation of decision-making process.

The fee charged under the Arms Act, etc. be increased, VIP and ornamental security cover reviewed and reduced and special police districts disbanded. Also, the marriage palaces be brought under the control of the district magistrates and obtaining licence to serve liquor made mandatory.

The reports recommends a review and audit of grants to educational institutions and only such schools and colleges be considered eligible that credit 70 per cent of their total receipts to the treasury. Only thereafter these be given 100 per cent grants for salary to the teaching and non-teaching staff. The main focus of the report is on the Excise and Taxation Department. It recommends introduction of a uniform floor rate of taxes to ''legally'' fetch an additional revenue of Rs 720 crore per annum.

The report recommends introduction of a ''flawless'' VAT scheme from April 1 last, enhancing sales tax on diesel from 8 to 16 per cent, introducing entry tax at a uniform floor rate of 4 per cent on yarn, paper and rice from other states on non-registered dealers and system of accountability of the department staff.

In the transport sector, it favours phasing out of Punjab Roadways and the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation, withdrawing of free-travel facility to all categories, enhancing rate of special road tax to seven paise per seat per day and imposing entry fee on all vehicles.

The report proposes tax and telephone rentals on cell and landline telephones, subject to outcome of the pending litigation.

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