The Punjab cabinet has in principle agreed to reduce the value added tax (VAT) on spices after the firebrand local bodies minister Anil Joshi threatened to storm out of the meeting if his demand was not accepted.
The two-and-half-hour-long cabinet meeting that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal chaired here on Friday began on a stormy note over the issue, said sources. As chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal began the proceedings, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Anil Joshi stood up, questioning the delay in including the agenda on reducing VAT on spices, such as turmeric, black pepper, coriander and cumin.
“Taking part in this meeting will make no sense to me... First, I want to know where is the agenda about reducing VAT on spices. Why is this not being tabled in the meeting?” Joshi questioned, said sources in the cabinet.
As the minister threatened to storm out of the meeting, the chief minister intervened and assured the minister that the agenda in question will be part of the August 10 cabinet meeting.
Badal, sources say, took the plea that he was busy in his sangat darshan programme and could not look into the “spice agenda”.
Badal directed the chief secretary to include it in the next cabinet meeting. The minister finally relented and sat through the meeting.
The issue has been lingering since the budget session, in which Joshi had sought reduction in VAT on spices.
Finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa had accepted the proposal while concluding the debate on the budgetary proposals.
The cabinet approval was needed to implement the proposal, according to which there will be no VAT on turmeric, while the tax on other spices will be reduced from 6.5% to 4%.
No interview marks in constable recruitment
The cabinet has decided to do away with the “four marks” criterion in the interview round of constable recruitment that is underway across the state.
Sources say the ministers were of the view that the marks at the interview level could lead to nepotism, bringing the entire recruitment process under a cloud. The cabinet decided that chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal in consultation with advocate general Ashok Aggarwal will devise a strategy to do away with the criterion of interview marks to prevent any legal tangle.
The recruitment has started as per the rules advertised. Now, the government will have to issue a corrigendum that there will be no interview and selection will be on physical tests and the written exam.