The Parkash Singh Badal-led Punjab government feels constrained by fiscal tightness in paying post-retirement benefits to its employees. But the fund-starved government does not think twice before ordering Toyota Innovas for the state legislators to make travel comfortable for them.
The chief minister, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and the council of ministers aren’t being left out.
After initial hiccups, the government has placed orders to buy 14 Toyota Land Cruisers for the CM and deputy CM and other high-profile protectees from the ruling SAD-BJP. These high-end luxury vehicles are likely to be delivered before month-end.
The government has spent over Rs 12 crore in procuring 100 odd Innovas for all MLAs and 20 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, besides about 30 Maruti Gypsys to be used as escort vehicles for ministers, government sources said.
The tentative cost of 14 Land Cruisers will be about Rs 20 crore. Initially, the finance department, it is learnt, was reluctant to give the nod. These vehicles will be used by the CM, deputy CM and other protectees. The cost of a Land Cruiser is about Rs 1.3 crore. The cost will soar further after bulletproofing of each vehicle. The Special Protection Unit (SPU), which gives security cover to the CM, deputy CM, cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal will be the custodian of the Land Cruisers. In Punjab, a vehicle for security staff or personal use is attached with each MLA with 500-litre per month fuel consumption limit. Annual expenditure on TA alone of the legislators is around Rs 4 crore. Meanwhile, the government has bought five Innovas for the state guests—protocol purposes.
“The vehicles of the MLAs and Maruti Gypsys of the ministers were worn out and needed immediate replacement. In fact, the Gypsys were procured in 2009. It was a long-pending demand of the elected representatives. Finally, the finance department agreed,” a senior government official said.
The Badal government’ s of opening vaults to make travel comfortable is in sharp contrast to over four-month delay in payments of retirement dues, including general provident fund withdrawals of employees.
It is learnt that the cost of bulletproofing each Land Cruiser will be over Rs 25 lakh and shortly bids will be invited, preferring experts in the field from the region. While the new vehicles have been handed over to the MLAs, the ministers are being allotted Maruti Gypsys.