Putting an end to the issue of Post-Matric Scholarships for Dalit students, Punjab Cabinet on Thursday cleared the government’s decision of releasing funds to private institutions by retaining the “objectionable” amount with 9 per cent penal interest. The objectionable amount is the money on which the audit, still being conducted, has raised objections in the alleged Dalit scholarship scam in the state. The state government has not released the scholarship amount for last three years even since the scam came to light.
The Cabinet decided that in cases where the objectionable amount is more than Rs 50 lakhs, legal action would be initiated by the Welfare Department immediately after issuing a showcause notice in each case. The CM had ordered an audit of the Post Matric Scholarship schemes by the Finance Department on June 16, 2017. The audit, being conducted by the Department’s Internal Audit Organization, is still in progress.
The Department of Welfare had, till April 27, 2018, received audit reports based on audit carried out in 1,535 government and private institutions out of a total of 3606, and an amount of Rs 372.80 crore had been found “objectionable”.
Ex-gratia hiked for MLAs
In another significant decision, the Cabinet has enhanced ex-gratia of MLAs from existing Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh by amending section 10-A (1) of “The Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Rules, 1984. In case of death of a serving MLA, an ex-gratia grant of Rs 5 lakh would be provided to the members of his family, as per the decision of the Cabinet.
10-year jail for financial frauds
Making the fraudulent practices by financial establishments a non-bailable offence, inviting up to 10 years of imprisonment, with provisions for attachment of properties, the Cabinet has approved a new legislation The Punjab Protection of Interests of Depositors’ (in Financial Establishments) Bill, 2018.
The Bill has been brought in following several complaints of fraud received by the state government, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), said a government release.
Under the legislation, if a finance company fails to return the deposits on due date or defrauds the public, the promoters, managers and employees would be liable for imprisonment up to 10 years and fine of Rs 1 lakh. The financial establishment shall also be liable for a fine of Rs 2 lakh which may extend to Rs 1 crore.
Govt to pay Rs 11 cr for cancelled mining bids
Punjab’s Mining Department is set to get away with compensating contractors of 39 quarries, allotted for five years in 2016 under the previous government’s policy of reverse bidding, by paying them Rs 11 crore for cancelling their contracts mid-term, as per a Cabinet decision.
The mines would be auctioned afresh under the progressive bidding policy.
After taking over in March 2017, Congress government had in its subsequent cabinet meeting given an option to the contractors to either switch their contracts to progressive bidding or to surrender their mines as the government had changed its policy.
The contractors had sought an amount of Rs 28 crore from the government. But Punjab, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, had accepted the offer put forth by the High Court of buying back the mine leases from the contractors.
Homeless freedom fighters to get homes
Freedom fighters, with annual income less than Rs 3 lakh and living in villages, will get a house under Punjab Pendu Awaas Yojna (PPAY), as per another cabinet decision.
A beneficiary would be given Rs 1.20 lakh by the state government, besides 90 mandays or labour, which would be provided to him in convergence with MGNREGA. In addition, a toilet would be constructed in the house at a cost of Rs 12,000 under the MGNREGA and Swachh Bharat Mission. The house to be constructed under the scheme by the beneficiary would be of about 25 square metres with one room, kitchen and a toilet.