Punjab today faces a grim fiscal scenario with a cash-strapped SAD-BJP coalition government delaying payment of salaries to its employees, VAT refunds to industries and clearing its fuel expense bills.
The situation appears to be bad with the opposition party Congress demanding
imposition of financial emergency in the state that had voted the coalition for the second term last year.
The state government on its part attributed the state's "weak" fiscal situation to low revenue growth due to slowdown in economy.
The state government staff claimed their salaries had been delayed beyond a month while government-aided school teachers have also claimed non-payment of their salaries for the last six months.
"We have not been paid salary for the past six months despite the state education department having given its approval for payment. The finance department has stopped the release of payment which is worked out at Rs. 60-70 crore," Government Aided School Teachers & Other Employees Union (Punjab), President, Gurcharan Singh Chahal claimed.
"It has been very tough for 4,200 teachers, principals and other non-teaching employees who have been without salary for such a long time," he said while announcing that a state-wide agitation against Punjab Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka would be launched on October 9.
Punjab Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa ascribed the current fiscal health to low revenue growth in the first quarter of this fiscal, saying the situation would improve in the following quarters.
"Our fiscal situation is not as bad as is being projected...yes, there is a slow growth in revenue but our revenue growth is at 10 per cent and better than Haryana's tax revenue growth of 5 per cent," Dhindsa said.
Asked about transferring government properties to PUDA under Optimum Utilisation of Vacant Government Land Scheme for raising resources, he said the money generated from it would be spent on capital expenditure only.
"We will spend the money raised from it on capital expenditure only..we have funds for payment of salaries and wages", he said.
Employees under the banner of Punjab Civil Secretariat Staff Association claimed they are not getting salaries on time. The salaries are being disbursed in the first week of the following month.
"There was a delay in release of salary for 4 to 5 days for the month of August," said Association's President Paramdeep Singh.
Punjab government has also not paid eight per cent Dearness Allowance from January one this year and pay arrears instalment for the period between January 2006 and July 2009 to its employees and pensioners.
"The bureaucrats, including IAS, IPS officers have been given DA, but we have not been paid..why is there discrimination in payment of DA"? said Singh.
Punjab's salary and wages bill sharply shot up from Rs. 6,438 crore in 2007-08 when the SAD-BJP government came to power to Rs. 15,184 crore (projected) for 2013-14.
It is not only salary and wages. Punjab government has also not been paying Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds to the state industry for the past several months, industry representatives claimed.
"Though Punjab Excise and Taxation department claims less, but as per our estimates, VAT refunds to the tune of Rs. 1,000 crore has been pending with the department," said Federation of Associations of Small Industries of India, National President, Badish Jindal.
Fuel pump owners are also resenting about non-payment of their bills by the state government to the tune of Rs. 4 crore.
"Our fuel bills to the tune of Rs. 4 crore have been pending for the past six months despite raising this issue at the appropriate levels numerous times," said Punjab Petroleum Dealers' Association President JP Khanna.
Several government departments, including police, district administration and even Punjab Excise and Taxation department, owe to fuel pump owners.
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