Right to Services Act, a great step towards Citizen Empowerment

SAD – BJP (Shiromani Akali Dal- Bhartiya Janta Party), the state government of Punjab has been making its sincere efforts to fulfill the motive of Right to Service Act, which was implemented in the year 2011. The state government has always been focused on the agenda to put service beyond duty.

On 19th October, 2011, the state government of Punjab gave its agreement on the RTS Act (Right to Service Act). The primary motive of RTS Act is to make the delivery of government services to the people of Punjab in the easiest and smooth manner. Also, it was enacted to make sure that the services are delivered within specified set of time span to Punjab’s people. The Punjab RTS Act also ensures the proper and better execution of the services.

Following are the steps/procedure that is followed in the Punjab RTS Act, (as stated in the Information Handbook, under the RTS Act)–

  • Commission will arrange meetings after specified intervals of time to take important decisions.
  • The functioning of Commission will be monitored/supervised by the directions of the Chief Commissioner.
  • Any revision or complaint can be considered or decided by the commission from time to time.
  • Though, the final decision making authority lies in the hands of the Chief Commissioner.

Efficiently providing the effective services within the specified time frame, this Punjab Right to Service Act has been proved to be highly beneficial for the promotion of transparency and accountability in the operation of the government departments, which provide the services to the people of Punjab.

To make sure the timely delivery of services and making suggestions to Punjab government, a Punjab Right to Service Commission has been set up. It also ensures the accurate execution of the Punjab Right to Service Act. Apart from being the leading state to implement this Act, 7.21 Crore people have been benefited from the same. As per the official spokesperson’s claim, around 28, 37,866 applicants have taken the advantage of the notified services during the month of February under the mentioned Act. Also, only 14,160 are the pending applications which are to be cleared as soon as possible.

In addition to this, we can say that the implementation of The Punjab Right to Service Act has been successful in gaining the trust of citizens and it has also empowered the people of Punjab in the most efficient manner possible.

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More tubewell connections bring cheer to farmers in Punjab

Realising the growing need of irrigation amongst the small and marginal farmers in the state, Punjab government has decided to give over 1.5 lakh tubewell connections to farmers after notifying a new agriculture policy. The process to release the new connections has already begun.

More tubewell connections bring cheer to farmers in Punjab.png

The decision comes in the backdrop of National Green Tribunal allowing Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) to process applications of farmers who had applied for power connections to set up new tubewell power connections.  While allowing the release of new connections, the National Green Tribunal had directed the state government to first formulate a policy for release of connections in an organised and systematic way.

In fact the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal had earlier too had maintained that the small and marginal farmers would be given new tubewell power connections all over the state on priority.

“With the passionate efforts of Punjab government, the National Green Tribunal has lifted the ban on release of tubewell connections in Punjab. I appeal to all tubewell applicant farmers of Punjab whose demand notices have already been issued, to deposit the requisite amount in the concerned Sub Division Office of PSPCL and avail this golden opportunity to get their tubewell connections and be part of the progress in Punjab and contribute to the development of the state,” deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said, while making this announcement.

Keeping in view the concerns regarding depleting ground water in many parts of the state, the government has ensured that the new connections were released while keeping in consideration over-exploited and the safe areas with regard to groundwater levels.

The availability is being backed with the adequate power supply for irrigation so that the farmers can avail benefits.

Who are eligible

The applicants having land between 1 to 2.5 acre who have registered their applications from January 1,2014 to March 15, 2016 would be eligible for new tubewell power connections.

The eligible applicants have to submit their option for priority tubewell power connection to the concerned Sub Division Office of PSPCL on a plain paper by April 30,2016.

Earlier Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had asked power utility Punjab State Power Corporation (PSPCL) to formulate a new policy to grant fresh tubewell power connections to the marginal and small farmers for the current fiscal, realising that they would require facility in a major way.

Badal has been reiterating that the Punjab government was committed for the welfare of farmers, who were already facing a lot of hardships due to squeezed margins on account of non-remunerative MSP and have been finding it hard to pay their debts.
Giving much needed relief to the farmers, the state government earlier has also reimbursed PSPCL the pending arrears of Rs 357 crore on account of tubewell bills, concerning the period when tariff was imposed on farm sector. PSPCL had taken off these arrears from the accounts of the farmers concerned.

ROBs / RUBs – An initiative to accelerate public convenience in Punjab

Over 405 Road over bridges (ROBs) / full height Road under Bridges (RUBs) were completed in the fiscal year of 2014 – 2015. As 1492 Road over bridges (ROBs) / full height Road under Bridges (RUBs) were sanctioned for construction work on 1st April, 2015 a proactive approach was evident with completion of 184 ROBs / RUBs.

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With the motive of improving road – connectivity in the state, the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government allocated an investment of Rs. 318 crore in January, 2013 through building Road over bridges (ROBs) / full height Road under Bridges (RUBs). A total number of 13 ROBs and RUBs were to be constructed with the prescribed amount. Under the proficient guidance of the chief secretary, Sarvesh Kaushal a meeting was held with the prominent officers of the Northern railways, regarding the agenda of constructing Road over bridges (ROBs) / full height Road under Bridges (RUBs) in the state.

The proposal of initiating the construction of ROBs / RUBs in the regions of Malwa, Doaba, Majha and Ferozepur region, in order to decongest traffic as per the requirements of the region were discussed. A marathon meeting was held by the Punjab cabinet in early February this year, with a view of giving an image make – over to the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government.

The budget session for the financial year 2016 – 2017 included deliberations to raise loans for building Road over bridges (ROBs) / full height Road under Bridges (RUBs) according to its concurrence to the dedicated freight corridor corporation of India, in order to raise funds of Rs 92.25 crore as state share for constructing about 17 railway over bridges (ROBs), railway under bridges (RUBs) in the Punjab state. It has been decided that the loans shall be repaid back in 10 years with a three-year moratorium.

As the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government completed 9 years of successful governance, the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal informed that there has been a complete transformation in the national highway network in the State with the coming up of 17 different 4/6 laning motorways spanning a length of 1,369 kms at a cost of Rs. 18,761 crore besides maintenance and up-gradation of highways costing Rs. 1,474 crore and ROBs/RUBs at a cost of Rs, 1,600 crore. “This would definitely provide an impetus to the State economy and make a significant difference in trucking logistics with increase in average road speed,” he emphasized.

It would not be wrong to claim that with the stringent, responsive and dedicated efforts of the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government the roadways and railways of the state has been paving its way towards development. The construction of Road over bridges (ROBs) / full height Road under Bridges (RUBs), has played a pivotal role in checking road congestion in the state.

Amphibious buses, soon a reality in Punjab

The government has taken fresh initiatives to promote tourism in the state, particularly in the areas around the water bodies which so far have not been on the favourite list of visitors who visit Punjab. One of the main projects which may be first of its kind in the region is the introduction of amphibious buses which would soon be seen in the state water bodies. The buses would be part of a new ambitious project of Punjab government which is aimed at promoting water tourism in the state.

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The announcement to start amphibious buses was made by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal during a massive rally in Bathinda in the presence of Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari last year. While making an announcement the deputy chief minister had claimed “the buses will ride on water and on the road and passengers can catch fish while riding on the bus.”

Though the opposition and critics are apprehensive and have expressed reservations over feasibility of such projects, the government’s detailed modalities coupled with the conviction of deputy chief minister is likely to make the innovative project a big success.

Junior Badal has even on his official Facebook page, has declared that the amphibious buses will be on track soon.

Details of the project   

To start with the amphibious buses would be introduced in Harike wetlands at the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej rivers.  The Harike wetland spreads into the three districts of Amritsar, Ferozepur and Kapurthala and covers an area of 4100 hectares.
As per the plans, after offering sightseeing tour on land at Harike headworks, the dual-mode bus would take the visitors to lake so as to provide them glimpses of the rich biodiversity of Harike wildlife sanctuary. With an area of over 8,600 hectares, the wetland around Harike is an important abode for the birds migrating from across the international frontiers and is a centre of attraction for the bird lovers. Notably, Indus Dolphin too was recently sighted in the Beas river in the water body. And Now Punjab Government is also planning to release 10 gharials in the Harike wetlands as the first step to increase their numbers and to attract more tourists.

Status of the project
Already the tenders asking manufacturers to provide one such dual-mode bus have been floated by the Punjab Heritage Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB). The department has also invited representatives of manufacturing firms to give a presentation about various features of their bus units and how they can be useful for the purpose for the state.

About the duel mode bus
The amphibian bus which would be well equipped with indispensable accessories like life-jackets, and other techniques would have capacity to carry 60 persons including 10 children. The estimated cost of each bus is between Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 crore. According to government officials, the decision to purchase more buses would be taken after evaluating the performance of the first unit.

The Government is hopeful of the success of the scheme and is expecting hat the project would put Punjab on the world map from tourism point of view.

A few indirect projects
In fact travel by rivers, which is being taken by the union government in a big way is expected to help improving the road infrastructure in the state. “I have asked the Punjab Government to work out removal of canals on Satluj and Beas for waterways involving hovercrafts. There are 101 waterway projects under consideration to ease road and rail travel in the country,” said Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, during his visit to Punjab last year.

Punjab government meanwhile is hopeful that with the initiative would go a long way in promoting the water tourism in the state.

Free Power makes Poor Power-ful in Punjab

Punjab has always tried to provide subsidies to those who have been in the need of it. Be it farmers or the poor BPL residents of the state. The Cabinet in December of 2011 decided to give away 200 units of free electricity for domestic consumption every month to SC and BPL households. The Sukhbir Kalia committee did recommend the state government to do otherwise but the government gave importance to the needs of the poor people of the state.

Free Power makes Poor Power-ful in Punjab.png

In providing free 200 units of power to the poor of the state the government in 2013 took a burden of Rs. 829.29 crore. Meanwhile by providing subsidy to farmers for using pumps and other machines the load on the government came to be Rs. 4,778.13 crores in 2013-14.

The State electricity board that provides these power units to the farmers and the SC and BPL families every month is paid out in full by the state government.

Punjab state electricity board has grown in large numbers since the SAD-BJP led government came to power. The connection of electricity in the state before the government led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal came up there were less than 6800000 connections and in the year 2014-15 the total connections in the state have been recorded at 8329976. Of these 6974504 are connections in general households. Considerable increase in the connections in poor households has been seen in the past few years. This has been due to the allocation of the free 2000 units of power per month.

The energy growth of the state has also seen a rise in the past few years. In the year 2014-15 according to state electricity board stats 46034.90 net energy units of power were generated.

Providing free 200 units of power to the poor is one of the many pro-poor schemes started by the Punjab government. A few of them include Atta-dal scheme for BPL card holders, regulation of unauthorised societies and 5 marla plots for housing scheme.

The announcement of providing 200 units of electricity was even made by the INC government in the past but the delivery was made sure by SAD and BJP led government. The INC government approved the scheme for just one year.

This benefit is being availed by nearly 18 Lakh families as of now in the state. The subsidy by the government in the state has played a key role in helping the SC and BPL families. Now that Punjab has been producing more units of energy to distribute providing 200 free units of powers works in everyone’s interest the major thing to take note being that the government has maintained its Pro poor stand and acted in their favour.

Traders a Happy lot in Punjab

Traders in the state of Punjab have been the beneficiaries of several schemes taken out by the state government which helps them enhance their business by providing them with various benefits. In 2013 when Deputy Chief minister Sukhbir singh Badal announced the ‘New Traders policy’. It was well received by the trader of the state. It came out with the purpose of attracting more investors and making the trader government reason more transparent.

Traders a Happy lot in Punjab.pngThe Small traders in the state of Punjab were on the receiving end of the scheme too. By giving them some leverage to pay Value Added Tax, government has decided to provide small traders with social security net.

The Raahat scheme as it is known is a great one for the traders having a turnover of Rs 1 crore or less. They can opt to pay tax in lump sum. The Raahat scheme is for Small town traders falling under Class 2 and class 3. People who have opted for this scheme can pay tax due in four Equal Quarterly instalments.

There are many benefits that the traders can avail under the Raahat scheme. Any business premises owned by a person registered under the scheme cannot be inspected without prior permission from the Excise and Taxation Commissioner.

If the premises is examined by any officer without prior permission from the Excise and taxation commissioner, the trader can lodge a complaint which will then be looked on by the commissioner himself.

The single taxation system in the state also gives the traders the benefit of being free from the accounting and taxation procedures. Under this the traders have to give tax only in the production stage. This tax consists of all the tax, even the tax which would been given after the production. This does away with the paper work in every stage.

The VAT in latter months of 2015 was also brought down to 4.95 per cent by the state government. The VAT in Punjab stood at a staggering 6.5 per cent but after the IFCC took the matter to the Deputy Chief Minister and Revenue minister, this has been lowered. The new low rate of VAT gives the traders another benefit in their hands.

The trader’s policy gives the traders of Punjab a lot of benefits. It helps in getting investment into the state by attracting more and more traders into the state. The growth of traders benefits the government so this makes it a ‘quid pro quo’.

Traders in Punjab even get insurance schemes especially for them. These schemes are the first of its kind in India. These insurance schemes are for traders with a turnover up to Rs. 1 crore.

Under the Accidental death &disability Insurance cover, the traders will be given cover of Rs. 2 Lakhs. Fire insurance gives a cover of Rs. 5 lakhs if the stock is damaged by fire kept in a registered location. Whereas the Health Care cover gives Rs. 50,000.

There are about 1.86 lakh traders that benefit from the scheme. The various benefits of insurance, social security net, the raahat scheme and other small benefits help the traders to grow at a rapid pace in the state.

New bill for returning land acquired for SYL, raises hopes for Punjab farmers

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The Punjab Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016, which the government passed in Assembly in March early this year, has revived the hopes of farming community in Punjab.

The legislation seeks to transfer 3,928 acres of land to the original landowners free of cost. The legislation is the second most significant move by the Punjab Assembly on the issue, after “Punjab Termination of Agreement Act 2004”, which nullified the agreement for sharing of water between Punjab and other states primarily Haryana.

Though following a plea by the neighbouring Haryana government, the Supreme Court has ordered a status quo on its implementation, the new legislation passed on March 14 has won affection of farmer community for ruling SAD-BJP government. Farmers have been in deep distress and the pro- farmers initiatives of Badal government have now raised hopes amongst them.
IMAGE SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

The relevance of development can be gauged by the figures of debt on farmers which portray a dismal picture. A recent survey, ‘Indebtedness among Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab‘, done for the Indian Council for Social Science Research shown the debt on the state’s farmers to the tune of Rs 69,355 crore. Of this, Rs 56,481 crore was borrowed from institutions.

Conducted under Gian Singh of Punjabi University in Patiala, the study blamed the financial distress of farmers on ever-decreasing minimum support prices (MSP) for crops, coupled with escalating costs of inputs such as fertiliser, diesel, seeds, pesticides and insecticides.

Other figures related to farmers’ debt in Punjab too are startling. The average debt per farming household in Punjab is Rs 5,52,064. While marginal farmers with up to 2.5 acre land have a debt of Rs 2,76,83, small farmers with up to 5 acre of land owe average debt of Rs 5,57,338. For semi-medium farmers who have land up to 10 acres, the debt is Rs 6,84,649, while for medium farmers (up to 15 acres) the amount is to the tune of Rs 9,35,608. Similarly for large farmers the average amount of debt is Rs 16,37,473.

Therefore it’s in the light of these mind boggling figures of debt of farmers that the new bill is likely to bring a major relief to many farmers in Punjab while underlining the pro farmer approach of SAD-BJP government.

The move directly affects the interest of Haryana which expectedly has moved the Supreme Court challenging it on the ground that it was against the spirit of riparian law and not constitutional. However Punjab government has reiterated that it does not have a single drop of water to spare and farmers’ interest in state were of supreme importance to the government.

Though the Supreme Court has ordered a status quo the Punjab government is hell bent on providing relief to the farmers by giving back this land which was acquired for constructing 212 km long canal in Punjab and Haryana more than three decades ago.

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal while making an appeal to the farmers to be prepared to fight for their cause has reiterated that the government has done the right thing by introducing the bill, which was a step in the right direction to save farmers in Punjab.