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Cash-strapped Punjab to borrow Rs 22,000 cr, Rs 6,500 cr more than decided in Budget

A spokesperson of the chief minister’s office said that the move was in line with directives of the Union ministry of finance, for eligibility to procure additional borrowing of 2 per cent of GSDP in 2020-21, subject to implementation of specific state level reforms by January 31, 2021.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh | August 6, 2020 1:15:49 am
punjab covid-19, Punjab current fiscal budget, one nation one ratio card, GSDP, punjab to borrow more from centre, punjab government schools students smartphones, indian express news Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. (File)

AMID THE Covid-19 pandemic, Punjab will be borrowing about Rs 22,000 crore in the current fiscal, Rs 6,500 crore more than was planned in the Budget.

The Cabinet on Wednesday paved the way for the state to become eligible to avail additional borrowing of 2 per cent of GSDP in 2020-21. By sticking to the Centre’s pre-conditions on ‘one nation one ration card’, ease of doing business, local body reforms, by providing direct benefit transfer of power subsidy in at least one district, the government has decided to enhance its borrowing limit by 2 per cent.

The DBT of power subsidy is a contentious issue in Punjab and the state government had earlier stated it would not agree with the Centre’s precondition. Later, it decided that its was already paying DBT to several farmers in a few districts.

The Cabinet also paved the way to further boost ease of doing business by allowing the facility of automatic renewal of licence and maintenance of register in electronic/digital format to the industries.

The state Cabinet, which met through video Conference on Wednesday, approved necessary amendments to the Factories Act, 1948 and Punjab Factory Rules, 1952.

As per the new rule, a licence will be renewed for a year digitally through automation mode if there is no change in particulars of licence from the previous granted/renewed licence and other conditions required by government.

A spokesperson of the chief minister’s office said that the move was in line with directives of the Union ministry of finance, for eligibility to procure additional borrowing of 2 per cent of GSDP in 2020-21, subject to implementation of specific state level reforms by January 31, 2021.

Automatic renewal of certificates/licences required by business entities is one of the reforms.

It was mandatory, therefore, to change the rules for providing automatic approvals to avail of the additional 2 per cent borrowing, said the spokesperson.

At present, there is no provision of automatic renewal of licence under Punjab Factory Rules, 1952, so a new rule is to be inserted in Punjab Factory Rules, 1952, to give such facility to industries in the state. Accordingly, the Cabinet has given the nod for insertion of new Rule 10-A, related to the ‘Automatic Renewal of Licence’ under the Factories Act, 1948/Punjab Factory Rules, 1952.

Likewise, acceding to the demand of industries in the wake of technological upgradation across various platforms, new Rule 114 in the Punjab Factory Rules, 1952, with regard to maintenance of different prescribed registers under Factories Act, 1948 and Punjab Factory Rules, 1952 in electronic/digital format, has also been inserted.

Both boys, girls of govt schools to get smartphones

The Cabinet on Wednesday paved the way for distribution, by November, of 1,73,823 smart phones to boys and girls studying in government schools, preparing to take their Class XII board exams this year through online education amid the pandemic.

Distribution of the first batch of 50,000 phones, which has already been received by the state government, will begin shortly. The phones will be equipped with various smart features such as touch screen, camera and pre-loaded government applications like ‘e-Sewa App’ with e-content related to Class XI-XII, as approved by the department of school education.

The second batch will be procured soon, and distribution will be completed by November, said an official spokesperson. The smart phone was a pre-poll promise of the government which has remained unfulfilled so far.

The Cabinet noted that four months of the academic year 2020-21 had already elapsed without regular on-campus classes, and while private schools were undertaking online classes, students of government schools faced a competitive disadvantage, especially those studying in Class XII.

Though he had initially announced that the first batch of the smart phones, received just a few days ago, would be given to girls, Amarinder on Wednesday said both boys and girls of Class XII government schools, who do not have smart phones to access online classes that have currently replaced physical education, will be provided the same.

With this, the state government implemented the ‘The Punjab smart connect’ scheme, which it had announced in its budget for the financial year 2018-19. The scheme was aimed at providing digital access to youth, as well as information regarding education, career opportunities, access to skill development and employment opportunities, in addition to basic citizen-centric services through government applications etc.

In a September 2019 meeting, the Cabinet had decided to distribute mobile phones to about 1.6 lakh girl students not owning a smart phone and studying in classes XI and XII in government schools during the fiscal 2019-20. The contract was signed with M/s Lava International Ltd. after an open competitive bidding process. However, during the process of procurement and delivery of smart phones, the country was hit by the pandemic and delivery and distribution of the smart phones could not take place in the academic year 2019-20.

Health insurance

While extending the Ayushman Bharat – Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana (AB-SSBY) for a year, the Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday decided to bring state government employees/pensioners and employees of non-government organized sectors, including private sector/boards and corporations, into the fold of the health insurance cover.

The Department of Health and Family Welfare has been asked to prepare a detailed proposal for inclusion of the new categories into the ambit of the scheme, which provides insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for 42.27 lakh poor and other families. The scheme will now be extended from August 20, 2020 to August 19, 2021.

A government statement said of 42.27 lakh families currently under the scheme’s cover, 14.86 lakh poor families had been identified as per the ‘Socio-Economic Caste Census’ (SECC) of 2011. Of the remaining, 16.30 lakh families are smart ration card holder families, and 11.10 lakh J-form holder farmers, sugarcane growers having weighment slips, construction workers, accredited journalists’ families and small traders’ families.

The Cabinet has given approval for extension of Ayushman Bharat – Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana for the next policy plan period i.e. August 20, 2020 to August 19, 2021 at the tendered premium rate of Rs 1,100 per family per year, by IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance Company Ltd., selected through tendering process. The total estimated cost of premium, i.e. Rs. 464.98 crore at Rs 1,100 per family per year — to be shared among the Centre, state Treasury, and the participating departments (Punjab Mandi Board, Building and Construction Workers’ Welfare Board, Excise and Taxation Department, PUNMEDIA), is Rs 98.07 crore, Rs 244.71 crore and Rs 122.18 crore respectively.

Punjab incurs Rs 501.07 crore on Covid fight

The Cabinet also gave its approval for Rs 501.07 crore expenditure incurred so far by the state government in fighting the pandemic.

A government statement said that out of Rs 501.07 crore, Rs 76.07 crore was spent by the health sector response and procurement committee for purchase of various equipment and relief, while Rs 425 crore was spent by various departments out of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and budgetary resources set aside for the management and control of the pandemic.

The spokesperson said Rs.131.99 crore spent by the department of health and family welfare, Rs 36.16 crore by medical education and research, Rs 3.77 crore by transport, Rs 10.12 crore by information and public relations, Rs 10.11 crore by rural development, Rs 14.04 crore by social security, women and child development, Rs 45.05 crore by PWD, Rs 0.11 crore by jails, Rs 78.2 crore by food and civil supplies, Rs 12.65 crore by deputy commissioners on the development, operation and maintenance of Covid care centres, Rs 4.86 crore by water supply and sanitation, Rs 3.62 crore by Home, Rs 8.79 crore by local government and Rs.65.22 crore by deputy commissioners.

The state had allotted funds totaling Rs 470 crore out of SDRF and budgetary sources for the fight against Covid, of which 90.42 per cent has already been spent. The allocation was for management and control of the pandemic; augmentation of the health infrastructure including procurement of state of the art medical equipment for enhanced testing; provision of protective gear for frontline workers, for better case management setting up and designating healthcare facilities, ensure relief to those impacted by the lockdown and lost their livelihoods and to ensure return of stranded migrants to their homes.

Apart from this, a sum of Rs 76.07 crore was spent by the Health Sector Response and Procurement Committee on the purchase of equipment for the health and family welfare department, medical education and police departments, including PPE kits, N95 masks, triple layer masks and VTM kits.

Rs 1,046 crore for local govt

To ramp up civic infrastructure and improve quality of public life in 167 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), the Cabinet has approved release of Rs 1,046 crore of funds to the local government department under the Punjab Urban Environment Improvement Programme (PUEIP) Phase-II.

The Punjab government had initiated PUEIP in the financial year 2019-20 to improve infrastructure related to roads, drains, street lights, solid waste management and construction and maintenance of parks etc., to ensure better quality of life of residents in 167 ULBs, and had sanctioned Rs 298.75 crore for this programme.

4-year strategic action plans

The Cabinet approved the Four Year Strategic Action Plan (4SAP) 2019-23 and Annual Action Plan 2019-20 of six departments, taking the total number of state departments which such plans in place to 24.

The departments for which the plans have been given the nod are social justice empowerment and minorities, governance reforms and public grievances, power, higher education and languages, revenue, rehabilitation and disaster management, Information Technology and Key Performance Parameters (KPPs).

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