Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal on Wednesday told the assembly that the previous SAD-BJP government had spent a whopping Rs 139,38,32,900 (one thirty nine crore, thirty eight lakh, thirty two thousand and nine hundred) on the Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra Scheme in the financial year 2016-17. Answering a question by Congress MLA Parminder Singh Pinky, Manpreet informed that the previous government had failed to pay an outstanding amount of Rs six crore to the Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) and Rs seven crore to the Punjab Roadways for the use of the buses for these tours. This payment had been catered for in the budget presented in the House on Tuesday, he added.
According to details given by the minister, the maximum number of buses, 6481, were used for visits to Golden Temple in Amritsar followed by Salasar Dhaam in Rajasthan (1191), Mata Chintpurni in Himachal Pradesh (484), Anandpur Sahib (337), Patna Sahib (223), Nanded Sahib (87), Vaishno Devi (19), Khuralgarh (39), Jawala ji (5), Varanasi (18), Ajmer Sharif (3) and Chennai (1).
Manpreet said that it was shocking that while the SAD-BJP government splurged so much on the Tirath Yatra scheme it defaulted on making payments to the education and health sectors. “The Vice Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences met me and said that Rs 40 crore for the salaries had not been paid. Sainik School, Kapurthala was not paid Rs one crore per year for ten years and Panjab University, Chandigarh was not paid Rs seven crore grant. But they spent Rs 149 crore on this tirath yatra scheme in comparison,” he said.
‘Scam’ in Atta-Dal scheme: 18 suspended
The Punjab government, meanwhile, has suspended 18 officials of the Food and Supplies Department after they were indicted in a scam involving diversion of 45,000 quintals of wheat costing Rs 10 crore meant for distribution under the Atta-Dal scheme.
This assembly was informed on Wednesday about this by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra on behalf of CM Amarinder Singh on a call attention notice of Gurdaspur MLA, Brindermeet Singh Pahra. In addition to the suspension of officials, disciplinary action is being taken against 22 officials.
Mohindra said government will not tolerate misappropriation of food articles meant for distribution among the poor under the scheme. He said that a complaint had been received that there were irregularities, including diversion in the distribution of wheat under the Atta Dal scheme, in various centres of Amritsar district during the period October 2015 to March 2017. An inquiry was conducted by the Department of Food and Civil Supplies and on the basis of it four assistant food supply officers and 14 inspectors were placed under suspension. In addition, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against 22 other officials including Deputy Director, Food and Civil Supplies, who has been demoted in rank, District Food and Supplies Controller, Food Supply Officer who have been held responsible in the inquiry report.
Government departments default on power bills
Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh informed that at Rs 755.26 crore, government departments were the biggest defaulters of paying electricity bills in the state. He added that while a payment of Rs 312.25 crore was stuck in court cases, non-government pending bills amounted to Rs 530.65 crore. He also informed that the outstanding amount was from government departments such as PWD, hospitals/dispensaries, education department, civil administration and police department.