CABINET OKAYS NEW EXCISE POLICY FOR PUNJAB
CUTS DOWN ON LIQUOR VENDS & QUOTA
ABOLISHES WHOLESALE LICENCE L-1A
The Punjab Cabinet on Saturday approved the historic Excise Policy for the year 2017-18, bringing down the number of liquor vends from 6384 to around 5900, and banning operation of all liquor vends within 500 metres from National and State Highways.
A decision to this effect, in line with the pre-poll promise of Captain Amarinder Singh, was taken by the Council of Ministers in its maiden meeting held under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister here at Punjab Bhawan.
Disclosing this here, a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said that in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court of India, no liquor vend would be allowed to operate within a distance of 500 metres from the outer edge of National Highways and State Highways.
As per the new Excise policy, the system of wholesale licence L-1A has been abolished. The L-1 licensees would lift their quota directly from the distilleries/ bottling/ plants/ manufacturing companies. The L-1 licence would be granted to a retail licensee (L-2 Licensee) in the concerned district who has secured atleast one group/ zone in a district.
The quota of country liquor has been reduced from 10.10 crore proof litres to 8.70 crore proof litres i.e. by 14%. Similarly, the quota of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) has been reduced from 4.73 crore proof litres to 3.80 crore proof litres i.e. by 20%.
FIRST SESSION OF 15th VIDHAN SABHA FROM MARCH 24
The first session of the 15th Vidhan Sabha of Punjab will be summoned at 2 p.m. on March 24, 2017.
This was decided here on Saturday at the first meeting of the state cabinet, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The Cabinet also authorised the Chief Minister to approve the Governor’s address for the first session.
The newly elected members of the Vidhan Sabha would be administered oath on March 24 and 27. The election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker would be held on March 27, followed by Obituary references to the prominent dignitaries, who passed away during the intervening period of the current session.
The Punjab Governor would address the Vidhan Sabha on March 28, followed by a debate on the Governor’s Address and Motion of thanks, besides presentation of Supplementary Grants for year 2016-17 and the Vote on Account for 2017-18 on March 29.
In another decision, the Cabinet okayed the terms and conditions for the appointment of Mr. Suresh Kumar, IAS (Retd.) as the Chief Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister in the rank of Government of India’s Cabinet Secretary.
Cabinet – 3
1ST CABINET MEETING CHAIRED BY CAPT AMARINDER ADOPTS PPCC MANIFESTO AS TIME-BOUND WORK PROGRAMME, TAKES MORE THAN 120 VITAL DECISIONS
DECIDES TO RECALL UNUTILIZED PRE-POLL FUNDS FROM ALL GOVT DEPARTMENTS TO GENERATE FINANCES
RESOLVES TO PURSUE ALL LEGAL & ADMINISTRATIVE MEASURES ON SYL, CRACK DOWN ON DRUGS MAFIA & CORRUPTION, ABOLISH INSPECTOR RAJ
CM DIRECTS ALL MINISTRIES, DEPARTMENTS TO START IMPLEMENTATION OF WORK PROGRAMME WITHOUT DELAY
Just two days after taking over Punjab’s reins, the Captain Amarinder Singh government on Saturday kicked off the state’s development agenda with its first cabinet meeting adopting the PPCC manifesto as its work programme for the next five years, and taking more than 100 important decisions aimed at fulfilling one-third of the electoral promises in the first phase.
To meet some of the expenses involved in taking the work programme forward, the cabinet decided to recall the unutilized funds, amounting to thousands of crores of rupees, which had been granted by the previous SAD-BJP regime to various government departments in the run-up to the polls.
Thanking the people of Punjab for their emphatic mandate to the Congress in the assembly polls, the cabinet resolved that the administrative secretaries would be entrusted with the task of time-bound implementation of every single commitment in the manifesto relating to their respective departments. It was also resolved that the government would pursue all legal and administrative measures on the SYL issue to protect the state’s water.
The key decisions taken by the cabinet, attended by all the nine ministers of the newly constituted government, include a major crackdown on the drugs mafia and corruption, abolition of Inspector Raj, abolition of VIP culture, time-bound waiver of farm loans, constitution of various high-level committees to bring agriculture and industry on track, reforms in education and health, extension of various benefits to Dalits and other backwards, employment generation, etc.
During the meeting, which lasted over three hours, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder directed his ministerial colleagues and the various departments of the government to get down to the task of implementing the manifesto promises in all earnestness, taking all necessary measures to ensure that there is no delay in taking the reforms and development process to the people.
Abolition of District Transport Officers (DTOs), as well as elimination of the controversial halqa in-charge system, are among the important decisions taken by the cabinet as part of the anti-corruption agenda of the government.
Immediate steps will be taken to abolish the VIP culture in the state in line with the promises made by the Congress in its manifesto.
It was also decided to establish Employment Bureaus, manned by specialist and professionals, in all districts to tackle the problem of unemployment by carrying out surveys of both, the educated and the uneducated unemployed in the state and preparing annual district employment plans with clear targets.
Repeal of the Punjab Lokpal Act, revisiting of the citizens’ services delivery process by the Department of Governance Reforms, and establishment of Unified Service Delivery Centres are
some of the major decisions taken by the cabinet with the aim of uplifting the quality of public service in the state.
The cabinet decided that all subsidies, pensions, and other pro-poor schemes such as Ashirwad
and Atta Dal would be better targeted towards genuine beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfers, wherever possible.
The Department of Personnel would be directed to submit a complete proposal to regularize all adhoc and contractual employees recruited through transparent systems and procedures, according to an official spokesperson, who added that the cabinet also decided to ban recruitment of contractual staff against the regular sanctioned posts in various departments of the Government.
To ensure rule of law and speedy justice, a series of new legislations, as proposed in the manifesto, will be enacted at the earliest. This includes the vital Confiscation of Drug Dealers’ Property Act. The concerned departments would prepare the necessary legislation for immediate enactment through an ordinance.
Another important decision relates to reforms and upgradation of educational institutions, with free connectivity to be provided in all government schools and colleges, for which the government will tie up with telecom companies to provide free Wi Fi service to such institutions. Students in government schools will be given free transportation facility and textbooks. One degree college, at least, will be established in each sub-division of the state.
Establishment of an Employment Commission, setting up of an Expenditure Reforms Commission, setting of military training academies and sainik schools, and sweeping health reforms will also be taken by the Congress government up on priority.
The cabinet further decided to extend the state’s reservation policy to contractual and outsourced appointments. Enhancement of the job reservation quota as promised in the manifesto, along with housing and other benefits for SCs/STs and OBCs, are other major decisions of the cabinet, which also decided on a special package for border areas, to be worked out by the Department of Planning for notification within 30 days.
The government will also initiate immediate steps to provide jobs to the unemployed as provisioned for in the manifesto, while the Department of Youth Affairs will take measures to
give smart phones to the youth who had registered themselves under the Captain Smart Connect scheme.
To set up special courts for cases related to NRIs, serving soldiers, drug peddling and narcotics, the Department of Home and Justice would put up a final proposal in consultation with the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the approval of the Chief Minister.
Other important manifesto promises on which the government will work on priority basis include simplification of the procedure for getting retirement benefits, establishment of a grievances redressal mechanism, establishment of a National Institute for Promotion and Development of Punjabi Language (the Department of Higher Education will pursue the proposal with the Government of India for its early finalization), constitution of an Ex-Servicemen (ESM) Cell under the chief minister’s control, appointment of Guardians of Governance and launch of `Sasti Roti’ community kitchens to be run by the district Red Cross societies.
Cabinet – 4
CABINET MEET DECIDES TO SET UP SPECIAL TASK FORCE TO ELIMINATE DRUGS FROM PUNJAB
Chandigarh, March 18
Launching a major crackdown on the drugs menace in the state, the Punjab cabinet on Saturday decided to set up a Special Task Force (STF) in the Chief Minister’s office to prepare and implement a comprehensive programme to eliminate drugs from the state, as promised by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) in its election manifesto.
It also decided to direct the State Home Department to prepare and submit a proposal, in the next cabinet meeting, for the enactment of the Confiscation of Drug Dealers Property Act by issuing an ordinance. The proposed legislation will pave the way for the authorities to confiscate the properties and assets of those found guilty of trading or dealing in drugs.
The cabinet, at its first meeting chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh at the Punjab Bhawan here, decided to take up the elimination of drugs from the state on top priority.
It was decided that the STF would monitor, on a day-to-day basis, the measures taken or to be taken to check the supply and consumption of drugs in the state. Expressing concern at the widespread trading and consumption of drugs, especially chitta, which had destroyed an entire generation of youth in Punjab, the cabinet decided that a vigorous campaign to educate young people, and to treat and rehabilitate drug users with compassion would be initiated immediately.
It was further decided that anyone who registers himself at the District De-addiction Centers
would be treated with compassion, free of cost, and no case would be registered against such
persons. Instead, the State Police would take stringent action against drug dealers/peddlers to
ensure that the drugs were obliterated from the state forthwith, the cabinet decided, according
to an official spokesperson.
Cabinet – 5
CABINET DECIDES TO ABOLISH DTOS, HALQA INCHARGE SYSTEM
STAYS ALL DECISIONS OF LAST 6 MONTHS OF BADAL GOVT. PENDING REVIEW
COMMISSION OF INQUIRY TO REVIEW ALL FALSE CASES, FIRS REGISTERED UNDER PREVIOUS REGIME
As part of the Captain Amarinder Singh led government’s sweeping administrative reforms to wipe out corruption and Inspector Raj from the state, and to undo the wrongs perpetrated on the people under the erstwhile Badal regime, the Punjab cabinet on Saturday decided to abolish the post of District Transport Officers, while initiating steps to do away with the controversial Halqa Incharge system that was introduced during the SAD-BJP rule.
It was also resolved that all decisions taken by the previous government in the last six months would be reviewed by the administrative departments, whose reports would be submitted by the Chief Secretary in the next meeting of the council of ministers. Till the completion of the review process, further action thereon would remain stayed except in cases where it was not feasible to do so owing to some legal or administrative implications. Such cases would be put to the Chief Minister through the Chief Secretary, an official spokesperson said after the cabinet meeting.
A proposal to abolish the Improvement Trusts and amalgamate their activities with the concerned Municipal Corporations/Councils was also considered at the meeting but a final decision on the same was postponed to the next cabinet meet after Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu sought more time to examine the matter. The cabinet took note of the fact that similar institutions had already done away with in neighbouring Haryana.
Cracking down on corruption and Inspector Raj in the transportation services and end the unnecessary harassment of transporters due to frequent checking, the cabinet decided to abolish the posts of District Transport Officers (DTOs) in the state, and reassign and distribute the work of their offices to the SDMs/SDOs for their respective territorial jurisdiction. It was noted that the DTO post had been abolished by Haryana about a decade ago.
The cabinet also decided to open up the transport sector, and ensure free and fair grant of licenses for buses, mini buses and other commercial vehicles in a transparent way, thus freeing the sector of the SAD stranglehold. The Department of Transport would review and reformulate its existing policy and submit the next policy for consideration in the next meeting. A Punjab Road Safety Authority will be set up to study the causes of road accidents and deaths in the state with a view to minimize the same through effective planning.
In a bid to improve functional and operational efficiency, the cabinet decided to withdraw the previous government’s notifications on territorial restructuring of police stations, and also to abolish the Halqa Incharge system introduced by the SAD-BJP regime, making sub-divisions and assembly constituencies conterminous. The council of ministers noted that the Halqa Incharges had become parallel power centres, controlling the administration and the police in their respective regions, and misusing their powers to indulge in political vendetta and corruption.
To fulfil another key PPCC manifesto promise, the cabinet decided to establish a Commission of Enquiry to review all false cases and FIRs registered during the last decade of the SAD-BJP Government with a view to ensuring justice to innocent people and fix accountability of the guilty so that such things were not repeated in the future. The Department of Home would put up a draft notification in this regard for the approval of the Chief Minister, it was decided.
The cabinet further decided that the Departments of Governance Reforms and Finance would prepare a White Paper exposing the false claims of the previous SAD-BJP regime on development, governance reforms and the financial position of the state to apprise the common man of the legacy inherited by the Congress government.
Another important cabinet decision relates to carrying out, within three months, a third party professional audit of rural and urban infrastructure in the state to identify the existing inadequacies and deficiencies for remedial measures. The cabinet noted that the previous regime had allowed the infrastructural foundations of the state to fall to ruin and decided that Infrastructural Renewal Plans would be prepared for all the blocks and municipalities for time-bound action.
It was also decided to reconstitute Governance Reforms Commission as Governance Reforms and Ethics Commission (GREC), to be manned by professionals who are experienced in governance processes and procedures. The Department of Governance Reforms would issue the requisite notification after approval of the Chief Minister.
CAPT AMARINDER GOVT. RESOLVES TO PURSUE LEGAL, ADMINISTRATIVE OPTIONS ON SYL
The Punjab government has resolved to pursue the SYL matter both legally and administratively to protect the state’s precious water.
In its first meeting of the council of ministers, led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the government decided to take recourse to all possible legal and administrative measures to protect the water rights of the people of Punjab.
In line with the PPCC manifesto, which clearly underlined the use of Punjab’s water for Punjab only, as it is a water-stressed state and has no surplus water, the cabinet resolved that the government would take up the matter in the courts and at the administrative level on priority basis.
The cabinet has also decided that the Department of Irrigation would formulate a proposal for canalization of major rivers of the state, namely Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, and construction of high speed economic corridors on bunds (dhusis), not only to secure the livelihood of a large number of farmers but also to generate new possibilities of jobs and businesses for the local populations in and around these areas.
Cabinet – 7
PUNJAB GOVT TO SET UP GROUP OF EXPERTS TO ASSESS FARM DEBTS, PROPOSE WAYS FOR TIME-BOUND WAIVER IN 60 DAYS
CABINET DECIDES TO CONTINUE FREE POWER TO FARMERS, TO NOTIFY NEW INDUSTRIAL POLICY IN 90 DAYS
The Captain Amarinder Singh government on Saturday decided to set up a Group of Experts to assess and analyze the quantum of the agriculture debt of farmers in the state, and propose ways and means to waive the debt in a time-bound manner.
The decision seeks to implement the Congress party’s pre-poll promise to waive off all farm loans in the state after coming to power, and was taken at the first meeting of the newly constituted Council of Ministers, chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, at the Punjab Bhawan here.
An official spokesperson disclosed that the members of the Group would be nominated by the chief minister himself and the Department of Agriculture would follow up to ensure that the Group submits its report within 60 days.
The meeting also decided to constitute a Cabinet Sub-Committee headed by the Chief Minister to consider and finalize the proposal to waive off farmers’ agricultural loans. The state ministers for finance, agriculture, irrigation and power departments will be members of the committee, which will be assisted by Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister (CPSCM), Chief Secretary (CS), Principal Secretary Finance (PSF) and Financial Commissioner Development (FCD), with the Department of Agriculture facilitating its work.
A new legislation will be brought in to prohibit sale and kurki of farmers’ land by the lending agencies. The Department of Agriculture would put up the draft bill for consideration in the next meeting.
The cabinet decided to continue free power to the farmers and also to omit the existing section
67 (a) of the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act 1961, for which the Department of Cooperation
would get an ordinance issued at the earliest.
Other important decisions taken for the promotion of agriculture in the state include establishment of the Punjab State Agricultural Insurance Corporation, vigorous pursuance of the Agricultural Sustainability Programme, defraying of the farmers’ subsidy through direct bank transfers, strengthening and reorganizing the Punjab Farmers Commission, and setting up of an Agricultural Production Board.
In an effort to revive the state’s industries, the cabinet decided that a new Industrial Policy would be formulated by the Department of Industries and would be notified within 90 days. It was further decided that no NOC and CLU would be required for new electric connection and for enhancement of electrical power load.
The cabinet also decided to waive the condition of procuring CLUs (Change of Land Use) for duly notified Industrial Zones. It was decided that ICC at inter-state borders would be fully mechanized with no manual interjections at all. This task would be completed in 180 days.
Cabinet – 8
CABINET EXEMPTS JOURNALISTS FROM TOLL TAX PAYMENT
Chandigarh, March 18: The Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, has decided to exempt media persons from payment of toll tax on the state highways.
A decision to this effect was taken on Saturday at the maiden cabinet meeting of the new government.
The cabinet also decided to set up a Press Accreditation Committee, comprising representatives of the registered journalist unions/associations with over 10- years standing, as promised by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) in its manifesto for the assembly elections.
It was also decided to review the existing rules for allotment of government accommodation to journalists to ensure provision of a fair quota for them.
Cabinet – 9
PUNJAB GOVT. DECIDES TO SHED VIP FRILLS AS CABINET GIVES NOD TO MANIFESTO PROPOSALS
Shedding a decades-old legacy, the Punjab government, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, has decided to do away with the VIP culture in the state, as promised in the Congress poll manifesto.
The council of ministers, led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, took the historic decision at their first cabinet meeting here.
Following the decision, red and other coloured beacon light on all vehicles, except emergency hospital /ambulance/ fire brigade vehicles, the Chief Justice and the Judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court, would be abolished after a formal notification to this effect is issued. An official spokesperson said a new policy on use of such beacon lights on vehicles will soon be formulated and notified.
The cabinet decision would also lead to a ban on foreign travel of all Ministers, MLAs and official state government expense for two years, except where it is so mandated or provided under and bilateral agreement or arrangement.
Salary/allowances/reimbursements received by all MLAs would be updated every month on the official website and would be made available to the public. All MLAs and MPs would declare their immoveable properties on 1st January every year, and for the year 2017-18 the same would be done by 1st July this year.
CAPT AMARINDER’S GOODWILL GESTURE: BADAL TO GET FREE GOVT ACCOMMODATION OF CHOICE
As a gesture of goodwill, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has decided to provide his predecessor Parkash Singh Badal with free government accommodation of his choice.
Captain Amarinder’s decision follows reports that Badal was hunting for a suitable accommodation after demitting the chief minister’s office following his party’s defeat in the recent assembly elections, according to an official spokesperson.
The SAD leader will get an official residence of his liking to stay till the time he desires, said the spokesperson, adding that the necessary policy changes were being made to accommodate Badal.
The existing policy does not provide for official residence to former chief ministers in the state. Incidentally, the previous Congress government policy in this regard allowed for government accommodation to former chief ministers but was revoked by the SAD government.