Captain goes to battle
Amid reports of a possible change at the head the state Congress,Captain Amarinder Singh has been more visible than ever as the aggressive leader taking up public causes. Recently,he asked people to protest against the hike in electricity tariff by not paying the arrears on their bills. The Congress has lost three consecutive elections under his leadership Assembly,municipal and then an Assembly byelection. Among the names doing the rounds for the state party presidents post are those of Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa and CWC member Jagmeet Singh Brar.
Mayor chairs divide allies
It has been over a month since the municipal elections but the SAD and the BJP have not yet been able to agree on the mayors after winning all four corporations. Ever since they forged their alliance in 1997,the BJP has held the mayoral posts in Amritsar and Jalandhar,and the SAD in Patiala and Ludhiana. But now groups such as the Sant Samaj and the Damdami Taksal headed by Harnam Singh Dhumma have demanded an Akali mayor from Amritsar,which would change the existing coalition equations. The BJP is not willing to give up the post.
Seeking more cash…
The cash-strapped government is contemplating proposals aimed at raising Rs 4,500 crore. To begin with,it is looking at increasing the retirement age of government employees from 58 to 60. That would put off the payment of provident fund and gratuity,a move through which the state expects to save Rs 1,000 crore a year. The government also proposes to increase stamp duty from 8 per cent to 9 in urban areas,and from 5 per cent to 6 in rural areas,besides raising the registration fees upper limit from Rs 30,000 to Rs 2 lakh. Other suggestions include a raise in vehicles tax by 2 per cent,which would bring in Rs 200 crore.
…and more power
With Punjab starved for power,Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal met Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for the allocation of at least 1000MW from the unallocated quota of Central generation stations till September. The government is also hoping for an enhanced transmission capacity. Of the total unallocated 1750MW,Punjab was allocated 285MW last year. Raising it to the level sought would enable eight hours uninterrupted supply to the agriculture sector during the paddy season.