Punjab tweaks bill, govt to bear Rs 17 lakh tax liability on CM’s perks
It was Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal who had mooted the idea that Punjab’s MLAs — 81% of whom are millionaires — pay income tax on their salaries. After chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh endorsed it, the Punjab assembly had in the last budget session passed the amendment to make ministers and leader of Opposition, who holds a cabinet rank, bear their own income tax liability. It saved the cash-starved state a few crores but was high on symbolism. The MLAs were not included in its ambit.
A year on, the CM’s tax bill on perks has been found exceeding his salary! Moving yet another amendment to ‘The East Punjab Ministers’ Salaries Act’, Manpreet said the CM’s annual salary is Rs 13 lakh but his income tax liability on perks has been pegged at Rs 17 lakh.
“We had overlooked this anomaly inadvertently while omitting section 2-C of the Act to make ministers pay their income tax. While ministers will still bear the tax burden on their salary and allowances, the tax liability on their perks — which includes bungalows, cars, even fans and lights — will be paid from the state treasury,” Manpreet said after placing ‘The East Punjab Ministers’ Salaries (Amendment) Bill, 2019’, in the House on Tuesday.
Manpreet had to put up the defence after the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) opposed the move saying at a time the state government was unable to help farmers, it should avoid bestowing this largesse on ministers. To this, Congress MLA Kuljit Nagra said the Akalis should first forgo free power to run tubewells. “Badals are among the richest people in Punjab. They should first give up power subsidy before giving any austerity advice to the government,” he said.
Nagra’s arch-rival, former minister Bikram Singh Majithia, got up to ask Congress ministers to give up the subsidy, questioning if ministers Charanjit Singh Channi and Rana Gurmeet Sodhi were not rich too. Speaker Rana KP Singh asked Manpreet to move the motion for passing the bill and it was passed by the House amid exchange of barbs between Nagra and Majithia.