Cow cess not collected in Punjab, reports CAG; gau panel chief says SAD-BJP ‘did drama’
Levied by the SAD-BJP govt that was in power for 10 years before March last year, the cess was Rs 10 on each bottle of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and Rs 5 on each bottle of beer and country liquor.punjab Updated: Mar 24, 2018 12:33 IST
Excise officials of Punjab failed to collect cow cess, levied by the local bodies department on liquor sales for welfare of the animal, in Hoshiarpur, Mohali and Jalandhar municipal areas in the two financial years up to March 31, 2017, said a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled in the state Assembly on Thursday.
Levied by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) alliance regime that was in power for 10 years before March last year, the cess was Rs 10 on each bottle of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and Rs 5 on each bottle of beer and country liquor. For the two-year period audited, the collection should have been Rs 9.72 crore from Hoshiarpur, Mohali and Jalandhar civic body areas alone. As per plans of the local bodies department, which was then under a BJP minister, it was to be used for upkeep of gaushalas (cow shelters).
The report said that when the excise officials of the civic bodies were asked why they did not collect the cess, they said it was “fraught with risk of distorting the liquor business in the state”. The reply was not tenable as the levy should be in accordance with the notification issued by the state government, the report pointed out.
‘It is worse than it appears’
Notably, the SAD-led government took many steps, including this cess, in line with what is seen as the Hindutva agenda of the BJP, which is in power at the Centre too since 2014. Among those was forming the Punjab Gau Sewa (cow welfare) Commission of which Keemti Lal Bhagat, an ideologue of BJP’s parent body Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), remains the chairman.
When contacted, Bhagat said the SAD-BJP government was “as non-sensitive towards the issues of cow as is the present Congress government”. “The CAG report is only talking about non-collection. Even the Rs 13 crore in cess that was collected from other areas was not utilised for cow welfare.” He said his commission repeatedly wrote to leaders, including the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and even BJP ministers, “but the cess was never sent to gaushalas”.
“The SAD-BJP government only did the drama to project itself as pro-cow, but did nothing to spend the funds on upkeep of any of the 512 gaushalas in the state... What can we expect from the Congress government that stopped free electricity supply to gaushalas immediately after coming to power!” he added.
As per data available with the commission, there are 3.8 lakh cows being looked after in the 512 gaushalas, and more than 1 lakh roam the streets. “With the cow cess, we would have been able to resolve the problem of stray cows,” he claimed, and further said, “More than 1,000 people are killed ever year on the roads of Punjab due to accidents because of stray cows.”