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Needed: Rs 1,500 crore
Taxed, Badal plans desperate measures
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 16
What should be taxed and what not to mobilise additional resources required to gear up the tempo of development and to provide basic services to people? The Badal government is facing a dilemma in this regard.

About Rs 1,500 crore is required as additional resource to fund the development plan and to meet the additional expenditure on education, health services and infrastructure. Obviously, either new taxes and fees will have to be levied or the rate of already existing taxes will have to be enhanced to collect Rs 1,500 crore for the state treasury.

Against the revenue receipts of Rs 10,000 crore from its existing tax resources, including VAT, excise and stamp duty, the state has a committed expenditure of Rs 9,000 crore. Besides, there is annual development of Rs 5,111 crore for the funding of which the state has a huge shortfall of money. Additional resources are required to be mobilised to fund the plan. Otherwise, money will have to be borrowed for this purpose from financial institutions and the state’s debt and interest burden will further increase. Already, the debt against the state is in the range of Rs 52,000 crore.

A meeting to decide all this was held here this morning under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Senior ministers and officers attended it. As no consensus could be arrived at in certain tax proposals, another meeting will be held tomorrow on return of Badal from Pathankot.

While certain ministers strongly vouched for mobilising additional resources to fulfil commitments made to people of the state to provide improved services in sectors such as education, health etc, two senior ministers did not agree with the proposals.

Sources said finance minister, Manpreet Badal, strongly argued at the meeting that people of the state wanted better services and they would not mind in case a little burden in the form of tax is put on them.

He told all present at the meeting that it was the duty of the SAD-BJP government to upgrade its education, health and infrastructure sectors to take the state forward. However, the ministers who opposed the proposals were of the view that people would react adversely on the levying or enhancing the tax rates. The Chief Minister did not give his mind and he listened to all patiently, it is learnt.

There is a proposal to enhance the fee for giving approval for the change of land use (CLUs) for mega housing and other projects. Emphasis was given to adopt the Haryana pattern in case of the CLUs. The government is expecting about Rs 150 crore from the increase. There is also proposal to increase electricity duty to collect Rs 100 crore as additional revenue from it. Besides, proposals such as imposition of a tax on items which are used in agriculture sector but were not taxed earlier, were also discussed at the meeting.

In Punjab, tax on diesel is minimal compared to other states. Likewise, tax on pesticides, fertilisers etc is also negligible. Then there was a proposal to further tax hardware such as nuts and bolts.

A proposal was also discussed to regularise the system of sand and gravel mining in the state. The government can increase income by Rs 500 crore from this sector by mapping all sand and gravel mines and auctioning them in a systematic manner on an annual basis. At present, a sand and gravel mafia, having politicians and contractors in its ranks, is making huge money from the mining of sand and gravel used as construction material in a huge quantity in this region.

Sources said a proposal was also mooted to impose 1 per cent additional tax on the foodgrains procured for the central pool. A Minister argued that no farmer would mind paying 1 per cent tax on the wheat or paddy grown by him provided the government ensured quality education for his wards at his village and also provides him best of health facilities at his village dispensary.

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