While the Punjab government has routed the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) Fund through the consolidated fund of the state thereby silencing the auditors levelling objections, it has quietly kept Rural Development Fund (RDF) out of the purview of the audit. Considered cash cows of former CM Parkash Singh Badal, whose sangat darshans were funded by these two funds, the PIDF and RDF, having income of about Rs 2,500 crore each, were not routed by the previous government through the consolidated fund in the budget. While the new government included PIDF in the budget, it kept RDF out.
Not only Comptroller and Accountant General but the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had written a stinker to the former government soon after NDA government took over at the Centre that the government should bring the funds in the budget. But the then government failed to do so.
The state Assembly had recently passed Punjab Infrastructure (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2017 to route PIDF through the budget. While laying the Bill on the table, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal criticised the previous government by saying a fund of Rs 2,350 crore was used for buying utensils and tents by the previous government and was not audited despite the Auditor General levelling objections.
The government, however, made no mention of RDF.
Sources in the government told the Indian Express that a part of PIDF was subsumed by Goods and Service Tax (GST). And with the state assured of a 14 per cent year-on-year hike in total central devolution of taxes for the next five years, it was decided to route PIDF through the consolidated fund. But the RDF was not to be subsumed. Hence, the state decided to keep is free of the budget.
RDF (2 per cent) is levied on the purchase or sale of agricultural produce under the Rural Development Fund Act,1987 which is executed by Punjab Rural Development Board (PRDB). Chief Minister is the Chairman of the Board.
PIDF is collected after levelling mandi fee and cess on wheat, paddy, petrol, diesel and immovable property. A part of PIDF amounting to over Rs 1,000 crore will be subsumed but the an amount of Rs 1,500 crore earned by way of infrastructure cess levied on petrol (at the rate of Rs 2 per litre) diesel (Re 1 per litre) electricity and on purchase of immovable property will be retained by the state.
A functionary of the government, however, said that they would bring RDF also in the budget. It was just a matter of time.