The congress government in Punjab led by Amarinder Singh decided to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in all government jobs. This was among many decisions that the state cabinet took in its first meeting. Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the reservation would also apply to contractual appointments of women in government jobs. He said the representation of women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies would go up from 33 per cent to 50 per cent.
In another significant decision, the government decided to do away with the “VIP culture” by removing red, amber and blue beacons from official vehicles of all state ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats and political appointees, and scrap the practice of laying of foundation stones while inaugurating public projects. The beacons would be allowed only on official vehicles of the chief minister, judges of The Punjab and Haryana High Court, and ambulances and fire tenders. However, soon after the Cabinet meeting, chaired by Amarinder and held for more than three hours, all bureaucrats and ministers, barring Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, left the venue, Punjab Bhawan, with beacons on their vehicles.
While Badal refused to accept the official vehicle, Channi removed the beacon from his vehicle before accepting it. A government spokesperson said the beacons would be removed after the government notifies the policy. The Congress had promised abandoning the VIP culture in its election manifesto.
“The protocol of laying foundation stones and inaugurations by legislators and ministers would be clearly defined and laid down, ensuring respect for all citizens,” the government spokesperson said. “Only the President and Vice-President of India, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Union Cabinet Ministers, Chief Minister, Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha and the state cabinet ministers were entitled to lay foundation stones in Punjab.”
Manpreet Badal told The Indian Express, “If anybody else wants to lay a foundation stone, he will have to mention ‘project inaugurated with taxpayer’s money’.” Enforcing austerity measures, the Cabinet also cleared the government’s decision to ban foreign travel of all ministers and MLAs for two years.
The government also decided to bring a Lokpal Bill. Addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting, Badal said, “The Bill will be more effective than was proposed by Anna Hazare. The chief minister will also come under the ambit of this Bill.”
The Cabinet decided to constitute a sub-committee to assess the quantum of agriculture debt on farmers and suggest ways and means to waive off the loan. The committee would be asked to submit its report in 60 days, Badal said. Amarinder will head the committee with state ministers for finance, agriculture, irrigation and power departments as its members.
* To fulfill the promise of addressing the drug menace in four weeks, the Cabinet decided to set up a Special Task Force in the CM’s Office
* The Cabinet decided to provide one house to every freedom fighter and allocate 300 units of free electricity every month
* Freedom fighters will also be provided one out-of-turn tubewell connection and would be exempted from toll tax
* On the contentious SYL issue, the Cabinet decided that the government will take up the matter of sharing of water in the courts and at the administrative level on priority basis.
* FM Manpreet Badal said a new transport policy will be introduced in the next meeting to put an end to monopoly on private buses cartel