The coalition partners of the Punjab government, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP, are once again pitted against each other, after local bodies minister Anil Joshi of the BJP on Tuesday announced that his department had started the process to exempt industry, hospitals and hotels from the change of land use (CLU) charges.
In a sharp reaction, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday told HT that it was decided way back in 2009 that no CLU charges would be levied on industries in the state. “By subsequent notifications, hospitals and hotels were also declared as ‘industry’ and, therefore, became eligible for zero CLU charges,” Sukhbir said, adding that he was surprised at the way the issue was raised again.
Finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa told HT that in case Joshi wanted to benefit a section of industry, he should not ask for assistance from the finance department to fund the local bodies.
“What’s the hurry to make the announcement; he should have followed the procedure, taken clearance from the finance department, sent the matter for the chief minister’s approval and should have made the announcement after the cabinet’s nod,” Dhindsa said, adding that if Joshi wanted to dole out sops, why did he demand that the VAT be increased from 11% to 13%.
The BJP in the past has levelled allegations against the Punjab government that it soft-pedals the issues pertaining to their urban vote bank.
Reiterating that he had done no wrong, Joshi told HT that he was not doing anything against the rules. “I have checked that there is no need to take approval from the finance department. The issue of the CLU is dealt at the level of municipal corporations and councils, so there is no need for the intervention of the finance department,” said Joshi.
The deputy chief minister, who holds the charge of the housing department, said the department of housing and urban development had already implemented this policy decision of the government in a notification on June 19, 2009 in the area falling under its jurisdiction. He had held a meeting in June this year to discuss why the local bodies department had not implemented the decision to exempt hotels and hospitals from the CLU charges. “The deputy chief minister wanted that the policy should be implemented uniformly and ordered that this should be done immediately,” an official said.
“In pursuance of the same policy decision, the department of local government will also charge zero CLU fee for hospitals, hotels and industries in the municipal areas,” Sukhbir said, adding that it would ensure complete implementation of the state government policy already in existence and would remove anomaly with regard to the CLU fee being charged for hospitals, hotels and industries falling under the jurisdiction of the department of local bodies and the areas falling under the department of housing and urban development. Joshi suggested to Dhindsa not to speak on the issue when he and Sukhbir were in the know.