The cash-strapped Akali-BJP government --- which is struggling to pay pension and retirement dues to its employees --- has decided to mount an additional Rs 2.20 crore annual burden on its exchequer in the poll year by giving the go-ahead to creation of 92 posts of senior vice-chairpersons in all boards and corporations of the state.
This is over and above Rs 6 crore a year what the Badal government is currently splurging on rehabilitating its non-elected second-rung leaders.
The nod to appointment of senior vice-chairpersons in boards and corporations of the state came in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. An approval was also given to amend legislations of all such boards and corporations that had no provision of this post.
“This is an acknowledgement of sheer hard work done by tparty workers (of Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP), as they also deserve to occupy important positions,” industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal told HT.
“Party di sewa daa fal taa milna chaheeda hai, (one should get sweet returns for serving the party).” Mittal quipped, when asked what was the need of make these appointments for which the statutes of several boards and corporations have to be amended.
The Badal government is on a spree to please rank and file of the party. Already, the strength of chairpersons, vice- chairpersons and members working in 32 boards, 26 corporations and 17 commissions is more than 620.
On being asked what role these vice-chairpersons have, one such appointee, Punjab health systems corporation (PHSC) vice-chairman Darshan Singh Mand of the SAD, says, “I visit hospitals to see whether senior officers up to the rank of managing director were doing their job efficiently”.
Many functional boards, corporations and commissions such as the PHSC, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Ltd and Punjab Energy Development Authority that are administered by IAS officers give boost to the government functioning. There chairpersons or vice-chairpersons just have a monitoring role.
The state’s boards and corporations, as per their respective constitutions, have no provision of senior vice-chairperson’s post. When asked, chief minister’s principal secretary SK Sandhu said the cabinet agenda concerning such appointments had a clause that “all relevant constitutions are considered as amended accordingly”.
With the government yet to notify this cabinet decision, making amendments in the respective statutes of boards and corporations would be lengthy procedures involving the state’s legal remembrance. The statutes would have to be amended within next few months before the code of conduct is put in place in wake of the upcoming assembly elections.
The chairpersons and vice chairpersons, all political appointees, have been getting hefty allowances and other benefits, including official vehicles and phone bill reimbursements, besides the monthly salary of Rs 25,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively.
Besides the chairpersons or vice chairpersons in boards and corporations, there were other political appointees such as the advisers to the chief minister and the deputy chief minister who enjoy the cabinet rank status, putting an additional burden on the state exchequer.