The cash-strapped Punjab government has gambled on horses to bring the state's economy back into stud form.
So what if it's a U-turn in the "panthic' ideology of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that had not allowed the erstwhile Congress regime to open casinos; on Friday, it approved the draft legislation for building racecourses and legitimising betting on horse races for the sake of making revenue.
Approved by the state council of ministers, the Punjab Horse Race (Regulation and Management) Bill of 2013 will be tabled in the Vidhan Sabha session starting October 28. When there were only rumours of a racecourse coming up in Ludhiana, the same SAD had taken a dig at the-then chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, for "going against the ethos of Punjabi culture and the values of our Sikh Gurus".
"The bill provides stipulations for maintaining and keeping of horses, betting activities, exhibition of horses and other processes of horse races and all matters connected," a spokesman said here after the cabinet meeting where chief minister Parkash Singh Badal led the proceedings.
Deputy CM as PIDB co-chairman
The cabinet also approved to amend the Punjab Infrastructure (Development and Regulation) Act of 2002 for inducting deputy chief minister as co-chairman of Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB).
The CM, under this law, is PIDB chairman. "The amendment was necessitated to enable the deputy CM; who also holds portfolios of housing and urban development, sport, home affairs and excise and taxation; to monitor the progress of important infrastructure projects related to these departments," the spokesman said.
No infrastructure cess on basmati
For encouraging the cultivation of basmati rice, the cabinet also approved amending Section 25 of the Punjab Infrastructure (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002, to exempt the paddy purchased by the private millers from the infrastructure development cess.
Cultural cess on irrigation projects
The cabinet also approved to introduce a bill about imposing 1% cultural cess on all works of the irrigation department. The bill will be for amendment in Section 5 (2) of the Punjab Ancient, Historical Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Cultural Heritage Maintenance Board Act of 2013.
Cops to get max 5 years in one posting
The cabinet also agreed to converting the Punjab Police (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, into an Act for extending the tenure of police officers in one posting from the maximum three years to five years. A tenure of one year, extendable to maximum three, was prescribed for police officers of different ranks under this section of the Punjab Police Act, 2007.
The ordinance was introduced earlier this year only to extend this period.
Changes in illegal colonies policy
The cabinet also gave cleared the amendments done in August in the policy for the regularisation of illegal colonies. These amendments were based on recommendations of a committee of ministers led by deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal with a view to providing the residents with basic civic amenities.
The colonies built before implementation of the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation (PAPR) Act, 1995, need not have due regularisation under this policy but it will to all plots there that were sold after August 9, 1995, when the law came into force.
Contract labour fee hiked
The cabinet also approved the enhancement of fee for registration and issue of license under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. The minimum fee registering 20 workers now is Rs 600 instead of Rs 200, while the maximum fee for registering more than 400 workers will be `15,000 instead of Rs 5,000.
The minimum fee for seeking license now is Rs 150 instead of Rs 50 for 20 workers and Rs 4,500 instead of Rs 1,500 for more than 400 workers. The fee was revised in 2004.
For enhancing financial resources for the welfare of the labour class, the cabinet approved amending Section 9-A (I) of the Punjab Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1965, for increasing the employee contribution from Rs 2 to Rs 5 and of employer from Rs 4 to Rs 20 per month per worker.
The cabinet also okayed amendment in the Punjab Agricultural Credit Operations and Miscellaneous Provisions (Banks) Act, 1978, to be passed in the ensuing assembly session, to allow farmers to mortgage land with the banks to secure loans.
User charges collection
The cabinet also approved a pilot project for the collection of water supply, sewerage, and municipal solid waste user charges along with electricity bills through Punjab State Power Corporation Limited in urban local bodies.
This system will run as pilot project in Nawanshahar, Faridkot and Amritsar and the objective to improve the financial health of the urban local bodies.