With its coffers running low, the Parkash Singh Badal government has launched a multi-pronged administrative exercise to mobilise resources.
To begin with, what tops the government's agenda is to review/increase user charges of various services. The finance department, reportedly with the consent of finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, has mooted a proposal to review the charges.
The file has been sent to chief secretary Rakesh Singh. On Monday, the department gave a Powerpoint presentation of the state of finances to the chief secretary, government sources said.
Meanwhile, Dhindsa has written to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to immediately set up a cabinet-sub-committee for recommending steps urgently needed to mobilise resources, including the contentious issue of increasing user charges.
The finance department's rationale for its move to tinker with the charges is that the government is charging too little or nothing, while the charges of various services have not been increased in four decades.
For example, the department has proposed that the charges for the prescription slip be hiked from Rs 2 to Rs 5. "Similarly, the government charges very little for birth/death certificates and many other services," said a source privy to the proposals.
The department has also decided to place this matter shortly before the Group of Ministers. In yet another bid to evolve political consensus before taking any major step of resource mobilisation, the mandarins of the government are also toying with the idea of formally seeking the Congress' views.
The department will also create a portal on its website, inviting suggestions from all stakeholders as to what steps, harsh or otherwise (including cutting administrative expenditure), should be taken to help Punjab overcome the fiscal crisis.