AT A time when Punjab government is preening at the Rs 250-crore Amritsar heritage walkway to the Golden Temple, the Punjab Heritage Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) has had to “cancel” programmes planned by it for “want of funds”.
The Board had demanded Rs 3.93 crore for organising five functions for the ongoing celebrations of golden jubilee of Punjabi Suba but rues that only Rs 20 lakh were given as advance to the department due to which it could not organise three functions it planned on October 16, 17 and 22.
In a recent letter, the PHTPB told public relations department that functions scheduled on those three days could not be held because payment of artists, singers, publicity and tentage etc is demanded in advance.
“How can advance money be given as is being demanded? The governments do not function by giving advance money. The procedure is that a budget is sanctioned and payments made after the department concerned submits bills. I have taken up the matter with finance department and the department is also of the view that advance money cannot be given. If we started giving advance, every department would start approaching us to seek advance money. This is for the department concerned to arrange the function on their own and later submit the bills. More than Rs 3 crore is a big money for giving an advance,” Punjab Information and Public Relations Secretary Rahul Tewari, who is also principal secretary to the deputy chief minister, said, when contacted.
The letter by PHTPB referred to two other programmes at Jalandhar and Gurdaspur, respectively, on October 27 and 28, saying those functions could be organised only if the requisite funds were released immediately and instructions to the local administration for mobilisation of the audience are also issued immediately. Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Pardeep Sabharwal, when contacted on Monday, said he was not aware if any function was held by PHTPB on October 28. “I have no idea. There was no such programme for which district administration was in loop,” he added.
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“Moreover, this department has been asked to organise gifts, mementos etc for the VVIPs and Press during the main function of 1st November, 2016 for which expenditure on these items be incurred. As desired by Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, a daily Gatka performance is being done at the town hall since 19th October, 2016 onwards.” read the letter by PHTPB to public relations department.
Said Secretary Tourism Hussan Lal, “Artists and singers do demand money in advance to perform. Our department is just facilitating in the functions and our job is to arrange for artists, singers and dhadhi jathas.” Lal said he would need to check the status of functions in Jalandhar and Gurdaspur. “A function is being held in Bathinda district tomorrow after all arrangements are in place,” he added. Lal said as far as it is said that advance money could not be given, the department did receive Rs 20 lakh as advance money.
As many as eight departments have been involved in organising the functions that began on October 10 and will culminate on November 1.
The SAD-BJP government was keen to have Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the function on November 1, but he will not attend the function. He is scheduled to attend a function in Gurgaon to kickstart the yearlong golden jubilee celebrations of creation of neighbouring state Haryana. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP national president Amit Shah are scheduled to attend the function at Amritsar on Tuesday. “Both leaders (Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah) are eyes and ears of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji,” said Akali cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia.