They say the devil is in the details. The scion of the Patiala royal family and Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh learnt it the hard way on Wednesday when he put the proverbial foot in his mouth while castigating the ruling Badal regime for “imposing an extra tax” on people of Punjab in the form of “water and sewerage cess on power”.
In reality, the SAD-BJP government has linked water and sewer user charges to power consumption. The government has not imposed any ‘extra tax’ as described by Amarinder.
Amarinder’s statement issued by Jaspal Dhillon states, “The Punjab Congress chief condemns yet another extra tax imposed by the bankrupt Punjab government on the people in the shape of water and sewerage cess on the already exorbitant electricity charges in the state.”
The former chief minster further said the current government will be remembered for imposing cess on almost everything be it diesel, petrol, electricity or property transfer. “This government is already in a financially comatose state”, said Amarinder, adding that “by imposing cess here and there it is simply trying to clutch on the straws while putting unnecessary burden on the common man.”
What the PPCC chief is wrongly calling a cess is actually the linking of the water and sewer bill or user charges to the electricity bill. While a cess is a tax on something, user charges are levied for using a facility (water and sewerage line in this case). The consumers will now pay a water and sewer bill according to their power consumption. The water and sewer user charges will be added to the power bill and paid along with the power bill.
In his statement, Amarinder further states: “The state government has also not clarified whether the dues charged by the local bodies’ government for the supply of water and sewerage system stand withdrawn after the new order. If it is so, the functioning of municipal bodies will further get paralysed as they are already reeling under severe financial strain.”
The state government’s press release of the cabinet decisions issued on Tuesday clearly said once the new system is in place, consumers will not get water and sewer bills and the user charges collected by the power department on behalf of the municipal body concerned will be passed on to them.
While the Patiala royal is obviously not expected to know much about ‘bijli paani’ ke bills, at least his men could have been more careful and read his statement before it was issued to the media.
However, while Captain got many things wrong, he correctly pointed out that the government had failed to collect water and sewerage charges from all power consumers and the new move was intended to cover those consumers as well.