The government seemed to have no counter-argument as leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar launched an offensive in the House on Friday over abiana -- a form of tax charged for canal water for the rabi and kharif crops -- being levied on farmers. In the election manifesto, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had promised free canal water to the agrculture sector.
Jakhar, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, raised the issue during Zero Hour seeking a clarification from the government. "In my constituency Abohar, farmers have been paying abiana for the last six crops at the rate of Rs 75 per acre. I don't know if the Punjab government is targeting people of my constituency as I represent them in the House and also happen to be the leader of the opposition. I have no idea since when the government suddenly began collecting abiana. In the manifesto, the SAD had clearly mentioned that it will not charge abiana if it came to power," said Jakhar, adding that the abiana was an indication that all was not well with government's finances.
Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib, Kuljit Singh Nagra then pointed out that abiana was being collected from farmers in his constituency too.
Jakhar asked that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal clarify the policy on the floor of the House; but Badal did not respond.
Jakhar also raised that issue that traders in Punjab have been told that their bills with over 12.5% value added tax (VAT) charged would not refunded till an excise and taxation officer (ETO) countersigned those: "This means you have no faith in the trading class and are trying to impose 'inspector raj' through the backdoor." He also mocked SAD's partner BJP for keeping mum on the issue though it claimed to the champion of the trading class.
On waterworks in a large number of villages being non-functional due to non-payment of bills, Jakhar said that villages have to remain without drinking water for many weeks. "The payment of the bills is made by the village panchayats. CM Badal at times gives money to panchayats during his programmes. However, panchayats which do not get money from Badal are unable to pay the bills," said Jakhar, asking the government to authorise the department concerned to collect the bills instead of panchyats.