With Punjab government awarding cabinet ranks to Mahesh Inder Grewal and Kamal Sharma recently,there now are more cabinet-rank ministers than there are ministers in the state.
The state cabinet is functioning with 16 ministers,two short of the full strength owing to resignations Bibi Jagir Kaur and Tota Singh,while there are 18 cabinet-rank officers. Right from Grewal,Kamal Sharma and Kamal Oswal who have been appointed adviser,political adviser and industrial adviser respectively to Chief Minister PS Badal,to Advocate General Ashok Aggrawal and chairman of Punjab Mandi Board Ajmer Singh Lakhowal,they all enjoy the status of cabinet-rank ministers. Parmod Kumar,chairman of Second Punjab Governance Reforms Commission,is also a cabinet-rank minister even though he does not take any honorarium or perks including official vehicle from the government.
Also the chairmen of four industry and trader advisory boards constituted by the state government enjoy cabinet minister rank. These are Mohinder Bhagat (Medium Industry Development Board),Inderjit Singh Pardhan (Small Scale Industry Board),Narutam Dev Ratti (Large Traders Board) and ML Kapoor (Small Traders Board). Similarly,former Punjab BJP president and vice-chairman of Punjab Planning Board,Rajinder Bhandari,enjoys a cabinet minister status.
Apart from these,seven dignitaries enjoy the minister of state (MoS) rank. They include CMs National Affairs and Media Advisor Harcharan Bains and the vice-chairmen – Satish Kumar Dhanda,Vinod Jain,Mohan Lal Bagga and DP Chandan – of the four industry and traders boards.
Besides Gurpreet Singh Raju Khanna,the chairman of Punjab Youth Development Board,also has been awarded the MoS rank. Another person with MoS rank is Major Bhupinder Singh Dhillon,the political secretary to the chief minister.
The chairmen of the boards enjoy a minimum term of three years while the boards have to meet once in three months. Last year the state government extended the chairmens term by another four years. These chairmen get vehicle with red beacon light and Ashoka emblem on its number plates – a privilege enjoyed by cabinet ministers. The vehicles have been issued by the industry and excise and taxation departments.
They are also sanctioned escort vehicles by the state police – each vehicle,with a fuel limit of 275 litres,runs an expenditure of Rs 25,000 per month. Each escort vehicle carries four police personnel,besides a driver. Sources said the cabinet-rank ministers are also given personnel staff,an office and telephone connections. The staff includes,stenographer,private secretary and a peon.