As part of the austerity measures being initiated at various levels in Punjab, the SAD-BJP government has decided to withdraw escort vehicles provided to various high-ranking civil and police officers since the days of terrorism.
The decision has been taken by Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the home portfolio. He has directed the principal secretary, home affairs and justice, DS Bains to issue orders for the withdrawal of escort vehicles at the earliest.
The move would not only considerably reduce expenditure being incurred by the state exchequer but also help the state save fuel, as per the government's claim.
With this decision, all divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners, inspector generals (IG, zonal), commissioner of police, range DIGs and senior superintendents of police have to surrender their escort vehicles to the government.
Henceforth, only the chief secretary and police officers of the rank of director general of police (DGP) would be entitled to such vehicles.
The move would also help the government 'clip the wings' of a large number of self-styled VIPs who somehow managed to procure permission for the escort vehicles and are using these as 'ornamental' security cover in violation of the security rule book.
This would put more than 120 vehicles at the disposal of the state government from 24 revenue districts, three commissionerates and an equal number of police districts.
The government intends to use these vehicles to meet the shortage in other departments, besides monitoring and overseeing implementation of its policies and programmes.
Confirming the development, Bains said orders had already been issued to various officers concerned to surrender their escort vehicles.
"This will not only help the government reduce expenses but will also create a congenial atmosphere in the state, especially on the roads. Other than the officials we will also re-examine those who have taken the escort vehicles citing threat perception to their life. Such austerity measures would help the government save money and resources", said Bains, adding that security personnel attached with escort vehicles would be sent back to respective police stations.
Sources said ever since Punjab was infested with terrorism and the state came under the Disturbed Areas Act, 1983, security cover and escort vehicles were provided to various VIPs, including officers.
Though the Punjab home affairs and justice department had conveyed to the central government in 2009 that the state was no longer under the Act, officers and other VIPs did not return the additional vehicles procured from the government.
Last Wednesday, Sukhbir had decided to do away with 'ornamental' security cover provided to VIPs and ordered that 8,000 security personnel deployed with them should be sent back to respective police stations in an effort to ensure better policing.