The Punjab Cabinet today approved the setting up of Punjab State Affordable Housing Development Authority under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister for providing "affordable housing for all". A decision to this effect was taken by the Cabinet in a meeting held under the chairmanship of the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal here at CMO, this morning.Disclosing this here today a spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office said that the authority would construct one lakh dwelling units for the poor in the state in next two years with special emphasis to provide housing to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), Lower Income Group (LIG) and other vulnerable sections of society such as Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes, Minorities, senior citizens and physically challenged persons in the state to ensure that no inpidual was left shelter less. The authority would also comprise Deputy Chief Minister or Housing and Urban Development Minister, Local Government Minister, Finance Minister, Labour and Employment Minister, Rural Development Minister and Chief Secretary as its Members while Secretary Housing and Urban Development would be its Member Secretary.
The Cabinet also approved the establishment of three new Forensic Science Laboratories (FSLs) at Bathinda, Ludhiana and Jalandhar in the state along with the creation of 33 posts of A, B, C and D categories. This would reduce the time taken for testing of NDPS samples and also curtail the pendency of testing NDPS samples and help in intensifying the ongoing efforts to curb the drug menace in the state. With this decision there would be now four laboratories in the state as one of them was already functioning at SAS Nagar (Mohali).The Cabinet also okayed the proposal to entrust the work of selection of 118 posts of Civil Judge (Junior pision)-cum-Judicial Magistrate to the Punjab and Haryana High Court Committee after taking these posts out of the purview of the Punjab Public Service Commission.Keeping in view the importance and urgency of the work load in the Finance department a new post of Director Budget has been created. In a major relief to the trade of heavy machinery including cranes and earth moving equipments in the state, the Cabinet approved to slash the rate of VAT from existing 13% plus 10% surcharge to 5.5% plus 10% surcharge. Similarly the Cabinet also gave green signal for including these items in schedule B of the Punjab VAT Act 2005. With this move the VAT rates have been brought at par with the neighboring states and it was hoped that it would help sale of these items in the state.In a bid to provide subsidized Atta/ Dal to the economically weaker sections of the society, the Cabinet also gave ex-post facto approval for amending the Atta-Dal scheme of the state to implement National Food Security Act- 2013/ New Atta Dal scheme in the state. The move was likely to benefit 31 lakh identified beneficiary families under the scheme. The Cabinet also decided the verification of all existing cards would be carried out by January 15, 2015 by the Deputy Commissioners across the state and no new card would be issued till then. It would be ensured that only genuine beneficiaries get the benefit of this scheme. It was also decided that the verification of the genuine pensioners under all pension schemes should be completed by February 1, 2015.
In a move aimed at imparting high quality technical education to the students of the Malwa region, the Cabinet also gave approval to promulgate an ordinance for setting up Maharaja Ranjit Singh Technical University at Bathinda. The territorial jurisdiction of this university would be Bathinda, Barnala, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Mansa, Moga, Sri Muktsar Sahib, Patiala and Sangrur districts of the state.The Cabinet also approved to transfer 13 acre of agriculture land of Central Jail Bathinda to PUDA for developing an Urban estate at the place. This move was likely to generate additional revenue of Rs 127 crore for PUDA.
The Cabinet also gave nod for amending section 6 of the Punjab State Cancer and Drug Addiction Treatment Infrastructure Fund Bill- 2013 to check the further spread of Cancer and rising tendencies towards drugs and also for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients suffering from such disease besides ensuring the up-gradation of Hospitals. The amendment stipulates that the cess would also be leviable on such properties which were sold through 'allotment also'. The Cancer cess amount would be levied on the bidder/ purchaser of the land rather than on the collecting agency. The amendment would also stipulate the agencies which were notified by the government from time to time for the collection of cess.
In a step aimed at safeguarding rights of the Child efficaciously, the Cabinet also gave nod for amending the Commission of Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 for the creating a post of Vice Chairperson in the Punjab State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights.
In a bid to reduce avoidable burden on the state government, the Cabinet also gave approval for winding up the Council for Citrus and Agri Juicing, Council of Viticulture, Council for Value Added Horticulture and Organic Farming Council of Punjab. The work of these councils, which were totally dependent on the state government for the financial assistance, would be transferred to the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation.
Keeping in view the larger public interest, the Cabinet also gave green signal for extending the services of Pharmacists and Class IV service providers, working on contract, in 1186 Subsidiary Health centers under the control of Zila Parishad across the state till May 31, 2015 or till the regularization of their services, which ever was earlier.The Cabinet also okayed the amendment in the Punjab Affiliated Colleges (Security of Services) Act, 1974 thereby fixing the term of office of the Chairman and Members of the Punjab Educational Tribunal to three years or upto the attaining of sixty five years of age, whichever happens earlier.
In a bid to provide level playing field and offer competitive market to the local cotton spinners, the Cabinet considered rationalization of VAT on cotton and other types of yarn (excluding 100% polyester filament yarn) in the state. This decision would give boost to employment opportunities and would also expand spinning business in the state. The Cabinet authorized the Deputy Chief Minister to take a decision in this regard.The Cabinet also gave ex-post facto approval in respect of repealing of rules for the departmental examination of Assistant Commissioner, extra Assistant Commissioner and candidates for the post of extra Assistant Commissioner in Punjab by framing Civil Services (Departmental examination) Punjab Rules, 2014.The Cabinet also gave approval to recruit National Kabaddi player Ms. Jaspreet Kaur as Class IV employee by giving relaxation in the existing rules for direct recruitment of category Class IV under sports quota. It may be recalled that she was rendered 100% physically disabled due to a fatal injury during the National Games at Patiala on November 25, 2001.