Chandigarh, April 22
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday wrote to Union home minister Amit Shah seeking permission for sale of liquor in Punjab, and to grant the state interim compensation of Rs 3,000 crore for April on account of the Covid-19 crisis.
Pointing to the critical fiscal situation of the state, Amarinder said, “The home ministry should “allow the state to take a conscious decision to allow the sale of liquor in certain areas in a phased manner with strict social distancing and other measures to prevent Covid-19.”
The go-ahead, said Amarinder, would help the state immensely in its efforts to scale up relief and health care measures to combat the virus and meet some, if not all, of its committed liabilities and other expenses.
Pointing to the alarming resource gap between the state’s anticipated receipts and committed expenditure, Capt Amarinder Singh sought an interim compensation of Rs 3,000 crore for the month of April on account of the national disaster, along with immediate release of Rs 4,400 crore of pending GST arrears of from December, 2019, to March, 2020.
Citing the lockdown that had substantial fiscal consequences for all states, Amarinder said the receipts for April were expected to decline sharply as most economic activities in the state remain closed . The receipts on account of SGST, IGST, and VAT, excise, stamp duty and motor vehicle taxes are almost negligible and the reduced electricity consumption has resulted in a drop of 60% of the expected revenue from electricity duty during April 2020, he further said.
He pointed out that the committed expenditure – debt servicing, pensions, salaries, relief measures for Covid-19, healthcare and infrastructure, etc. is budgeted at Rs 7,301crore for April.
Struggling with the Covid crisis, Punjab on Tuesday announced a series of cost-cutting measures, including immediate 25% reduction in existing entitlements for fuel expenses of all government departments, except the frontline departments of health, medical education, police, food and agriculture. Amarinder expressed concern over the inadequate number of testing kits available with the state government, and asked the concerned departments to find ways and means of boosting the tests. He said all ministers will be asked to ensure strict implementation of the stubble burning order.