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Punjab turned to infra nodal agency for funds, told ‘would violate rules’

The Tirath Yatra scheme, started last year. Transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar said it was important for the secular fabric of Punjab.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana | Updated: March 7, 2016 12:29:21 pm
Ajit-Singh-Kohar-1 Punjab Transport Minister Ajit Singh Kohar

A reply to an RTI plea revealed that the Punjab government proposed in November to fund the CM Tirath Yatra Darshan Scheme through the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB), which is Development Board (PIDB), which is violation of Punjab Infrastructure (Development &Regulation) Act, 2002. 

The PIDB is the nodal body in the state to implement infrastructure development projects. The Act states that PIDB cannot fund any project other than infrastructure development.

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The Tirath Yatra scheme, started after the widespread protests against the Guru Granth Sahib desecration episodes last year, provides free train service, boarding, lodging and food facilities for pilgrims to various pilgrimage sites. Sukhbir announced Rs 187 crore for the scheme.

Replying to an RTI query from Ludhiana resident Kuldeep Singh Khaira’s RTI application, on ‘arrangement of funds for the implementation of scheme’, it said, “During the meeting Dy Controller (F&A) of State Transport Commissioner (STC) office informed that as per the request of Department of Transport, the Finance Department Punjab has written to AG (Auditor General, Punjab) that for opening of Head of Accounts for the purpose of allocation of funds to implement ‘Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra Darshan Scheme’. He further informed that department of planning, Punjab vide letter dated 8-12-2015 has advised that the expenditure to be incurred on this scheme is to be met from the external resources, other than the state treasury and amount under this scheme can be drawn only if equivalent amount is deposited into administrative department’s receipt head from non-budgetary resources.”

“STC informed that in Minister’s committee meeting dated 26-11-2015, the decision was taken that the funds for the implementation of this scheme shall be provided by PIDB to transport department,” reads the RTI reply.

“There were initial hiccups,” said Venkat Raman, principal secretary, transport, Punjab. “But the PIDB was certainly unsuitable and it violates the Act. Later, state treasury released funds for us and Rs 46 crore was sanctioned for first quarter. The remaining Rs 139 crore are for next quarters.”

The scheme is already under the High Court’s scanner. In one case, the court wondered how the government was funding the scheme when it was failing to make even regular payments.

To this, chief secretary chief secretary Punjab Sarvesh Kausal replied, “The expenditure on the scheme shall be met out of the consolidated fund of the state.”

Scheme crucial for Punjab: Punjab transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar

Transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar said the tirath yatra scheme was important for the secular fabric of Punjab.

“Our intention is never to violate any law,” he said. “This scheme is important for secular fabric of Punjab. Be it left or right, PIDB or anywhere else, it was a necessity to arrange the funds. Initially, when no other source of funds was visible, we did propose to fund from PIBD I cannot express in words the positive response we have got.” ENS

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