M A I N   N E W S

Punjab’s car-o-bar proving too expensive
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 1
This is a story told often, but one which never ceases to shock us. Whopping expenditure on official vehicles by politicians, bureaucrats and their staff continues unabated in this cash-starved state, despite global recession.

Consider this: The rental fixed for one Lancer car, used by an agro official, is Rs 42,000 a month

Information gathered under the Right to Information Act (RTI) has revealed that besides the lakhs spent each year on the use (and misuse) of vehicles owned by the government, boards and corporations “hire” fancy cars for their chairmen and managing directors to travel in, frittering away with impunity the tax payers’ money.

The monthly rental fixed for one such Mitsubishi Lancer was, hold your breath, Rs 42,000 a month. This car was used by former chairman of the Punjab Agro Finance Corporation (PAFC) Joginder Singh Mann for almost two years. In how many months the corporation would have spent enough to buy a new Lancer is anyone’s calculation.

Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) managing director Himmat Singh also hired a Honda City for Rs 33,600 per month and used the vehicle for 18 months. Its hiring charges were almost double compared to the hired Ambassador he was using earlier.

From September, 2003, till August last year, the PAIC spent Rs 6.18 lakh on an Ambassador (CH01Y 1525), which was used by its MDs A.R. Talwar and Himmat Singh and later by joint MD Amarpal Singh. During the same period, however, the PAFC spent double the amount (almost Rs 12.73 lakh) on the car being used by its MD Kirpa Shankar Saroj.

Unlike your or my car, the government seems to also “need” lakhs each year for the repair and maintenance of its cars. The Punjab government, in its typical Punjabi openheartedness, allows Rs 5,000 worth of repairs for each car per month. And to match the graciousness is the expenditure that is shown as having been done.

The Punjab Mandi Board has been spending on an average Rs 25,000 on each car every year, just for repairs. One of its vehicles (PB 27 A 1429) needed repairs first in August, 2006. In September, it was again repaired and Rs 2,200 was spent on it. Something went wrong with the car again in October when another Rs 6,000 was spent. This was not all. Rs 1,500 were yet again released in November for its maintenance. In December, the same car needed Rs 8,600 worth of repairs. Come 2007, and the car is still eating into the government’s treasury each month: Rs 6,600 in January, Rs 5,500 in February, Rs 3,300 in March, Rs 9,500 in April, Rs 4,500 in May, Rs 3,700 in June Rs 6,100 in July, Rs 7,000 in August, Rs 4,600 in September and another Rs 4,500 in October.

Had the government been paying these amounts on a monthly EMI for a car loan, it could have bought a new car.

The Punjab Warehousing Corporation is also among the big squanderers. On an average, it spends Rs 30 lakh a year on its vehicles. In 2003-2004 it spent Rs 35.85 lakh, touching an average of Rs 3 lakh a month.



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