Punjab first Cabinet meeting today: Govt set to scrap pilgrimage scheme, curb VIP culturehttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/punjab-first-cabinet-meeting-today-govt-set-to-scrap-pilgrimage-scheme-curb-vip-culture-4574550/

Punjab first Cabinet meeting today: Govt set to scrap pilgrimage scheme, curb VIP culture

Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the new government would set the ball rolling in the “mother of all meetings” he has attended in 22 years of his political career.

New Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal says will be ‘mother of all meetings’

Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra Scheme started by former CM Parkash Singh Badal towards the fag end of his regime would be the first casualty in the new Congress government, which will also seek to do away with red beacons and security guards to curb the VIP culture when it holds its first Cabinet meeting on Saturday. Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who took charge Friday, said the new government would set the ball rolling in the “mother of all meetings” he has attended in 22 years of his political career. “We will do away with the VIP culture. This was the promise made by us after consultation with the high command, which has now given us a green signal. The Cabinet would approve over 100 items on the agenda as we are going to take decisive steps on administrative reforms, police reforms, promotion of investment, employment generation, agriculture rejuvenation. We will take care of the major part of the manifesto tomorrow itself,” said Badal.

Besides, the government, which has already prepared a blue print to tackle the drug menace in four weeks as promised by Capt Amarinder Singh, will announce its action plan after approval by the Cabinet. The Tirath Yatra scheme, at a cost of Rs 187 crore, was started by the Badal-led government after it suffered a loss of image during the desecration episode at Bargadi Kalan. Former Transport Minister Ajit Singh Kohar, who executed the scheme during the SAD-BJP government, said it was sad the new government had decided to scrap a “poor-friendly scheme.”

“This was started to help the poor go on a pilgrimage. Those who could not afford it availed of the scheme during our regime,” Kohar said. The previous government had already spent Rs 46.50 crore on the scheme in 2015-16 fiscal and another Rs 140 crore was set aside for 2016-17. Pilgrims were carried to shrines like Sri Hazoor Sahib, Ajmer Sharif and Varanasi. The new Finance Minister also said they would get the expenditure by the previous government audited by an independent third party and bring out a white paper on the state’s finances. “We will table it during the budget session we are planning in May.”

Vote-on-account
With just a few days left for the current financial year to end, the newly elected state government would bring out a vote-on-account on state finances in its first Assembly session likely to begin from March 24.

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