Say cheers to Bacchus lovers in Punjab. For, the state government is going to open ‘exclusive beer shops’ in the urban areas during the coming financial year.
“The State Government has decided to give permission to open exclusive beer shops within the municipal areas of the state as per the new excise policy…Many people in modern society prefer beer but do not go to liquor vends. Therefore, the decision has been taken to allow exclusive beer shops in municipal areas,” said the state Finance and Taxation Minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Friday.
Cheema, addressing a press conference on the completion of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led Punjab Government, said that the State Cabinet had approved the new excise policy for financial year 2023-24 on March 10, which aims to collect Rs 9,754 crore.
At present, beer is sold at liquor vends where other types of liquor are also sold. Responding to a question whether there was any proposal to allow home delivery of liquor, Cheema replied in negative.
OPS to be Implemented Soon
Cheema, assuring to implement the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) soon, said that two different committees — one headed by him and second by the Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Janjua — were set up to draft the standard operating procedure (SOPs) for the implementation of this scheme for government employees.
“We are working on the scheme. Both Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh Governments have brought old pension schemes. I can say with surety that their scheme will fail. Our scheme will be much better and ensure that there is no loss to the State and employees get pension on the same old pattern,” said Cheema.
Listing the AAP government’s achievements in its first year, Cheema said that excise revenue was up by 45 per cent in the current year, rising to Rs 8,897 crore as per the 2022-23 Revised Estimates (RE) from actual collection of Rs 6,157 crore in the previous financial year.
He ascribed the jump in revenue to putting an end to the liquor mafia in the state. On the “crackdown” on liquor mafia, he said that 6,317 FIRs were registered in which 6,114 persons involved in illicit liquor trade were arrested.
Over 1.48 lakh litres of illicit liquor and 1.74 lakh litres 'lahan' (raw material for illicit liquor) were seized, he said.
Cheema further said the state has witnessed a 23 per cent rise in the collection of goods and services tax.
“Collection of enforcement wings increased from Rs 147.89 crore up to February 2022 to Rs 173.27 crore up to February 2023, registering 17.2 per cent growth over the previous financial year. The Taxation Department also took initiatives such as a 24X7 ‘Chatbot’ for answering the queries related to goods and services tax via a WhatsApp number to help taxpayers,” he added.
‘Whosoever is Found Involved in Corrupt Practices will not be Spared’
Cheema, addressing a query on the opposition's allegations of ‘political vendetta’, said that if an action was being taken against corrupt leaders, they would call it political vendetta; and whosoever is found involved in such practices will not be spared.
Further slamming the opposition party, Cheema said that during the Congress regime, debt amounting to Rs 99,505 crore was added. Despite adding so much debt, the previous regime failed to improve the health and education sectors in the state, he said.
Over Rs 40K cr Investment Received
Investment Promotion, Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Labour and Hospitality Anmol Gagan Mann on Friday claimed that Punjab has received investments of more than Rs 40,000 crores in the first year by renowned companies of the world. Mentioning some of those big industries, she said that Tata Steel will be investing Rs 2600 crores, Sonathon Policott Pvt Ltd Rs 1600 crores, Nabha Power Ltd Rs 641 crores, Max Specialty Films Ltd Rs 548 crores, and other famous industrialists. “With this investment, more than 2.50 lakh employment opportunities will be created for the state’s youth,” she added.
‘Work on War Footing for Additional Power Generation’
Listing out power sector achievements on the completion of one year, Power Minister Harbhajan Singh ETO said that with the Government’s decision to provide free electricity of 600 units bimonthly to all domestic consumers from July 1, 2022, onwards, for the first time around 90 percent domestic consumers in the state have been receiving “zero electricity bills”.
“Efforts are being made to increase power generation in future,” he said.
‘Major Reforms in School Education’
The first year of the AAP-led Punjab Government has witnessed major reforms in school education, said the School Education Minister Harjot Singh Bains, adding that the State Government has taken revolutionary step to improve government school education and 117 schools of eminence have been established to provide world-class education to the students of Punjab. Admission to these schools will be on an entrance test basis, he added.
He added that so far, recruitment process of 6635 ETT teachers for primary schools, 90 Head Teachers or Centre Head Teachers has been almost completed. Similarly, orders have been given to 90 lecturers of meritorious schools, while 4161 candidates of master cadre and 598 posts of backlog have been given appointment letters who are being allotted stations soon. Similarly, the recruitment of 5994 ETTs Teacher is underway.