Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 | Last Update : 07:29 PM IST
Chief minister Amarinder Singh's decision to cut down expenses is in view of the financial constraints of the state.
Chandigarh: The recent suggestion by the Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh that state MLAs and ministers should themselves pay their income-tax has brought the matter in public glare.
The cash-starved Punjab government’s claim that it is in no position to pay it anymore has got a lot of attention as many people were not aware of this practice, started by Amarinder Singh himself in 2004, where state government pays the income tax of public representatives.
The suggestion to withdraw the sop was first mooted by the finance department in October last year, the move was endorsed by the chief minister during a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on fiscal management.
Doing away with the sop will help the state save Rs 11.08 crore annually. Of this, Rs 10.72 crore are being speont on payment of income tax of MLAs and the remaining for ministers.
MLAs are yet to give their opinion on the suggestion, although the leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembl and Aam Aadmi Party leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira welcomed it. "But why does the chief minister need an army of advisers? He should remove them as well," he said.
Former finance minister and Akali Dal leader Parminder Dhindsa gave a mixed reaction and said, "I am fine with the move. However, MLAs have to spend lot money in a month. The MLAs are not really highly paid people, government should first raise their salaries before putting a stop on payment of I-T.”
Punbaj chief minister's salary is around Rs 2.3 lakh and an MLA's salary adds up to Rs 1 lakh.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh's decision to cut down expenses is in view of the financial constraints of the state. In 2017-18, Punjab's debt stood at Rs 1.82 lakh crore. It is expected to rise to Rs 1.95 lakh crore by the end of the current fiscal.
However, not many people know that this peculiar practice was started by the former chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon but at that time the chief minister was the only beneficiary. Ironically, it was Amarinder Singh, the present chief minister, who extended the benefit to all legislators in 2004.
Amrinder Singh at that time reasoned that the move is to check corruption. "We have to pay them a decent amount so that they can function with dignity," he said. "They had approached the government through the speaker and we agreed to it."
The 2004 tax exemption to MLAs was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana high court, but was dismissed as the state government at that time submitted that it was footing the income tax bill with no loss to the income-tax department.
As per the a report by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR0, of the 117 Punjab MLAs in the present Assembly , 95 (81%) are crorepatis. However, the crorepati MLAs are not paying income-tax on salary like everyone else it is paid from the state exchequer.