Ruchika M. Khanna:
Chandigarh: The Akali-BJP government on Thursday embarked on a “sop culture” to change the course of politics towards development. In spite of a low revenue growth, the Punjab Cabinet cleared the recruitment of 1.14 lakh people in various state government departments, besides enhancing social-security pensions and offering life and accidental insurance to a wide section of people.
Completely in a damage-control mode, after two months of rife and protests in Punjab, the Punjab Cabinet also approved increasing the punishment for desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, from three years to life imprisonment.
For the other section that had kept the state government on its toes, the farmers, the government has approved giving a direct cash subsidy of Rs 50 per quintal on the sugarcane that will be purchased by private sugar mills.
The meeting, held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, gave its go ahead to recruit 1.14 lakh people in various government departments.
The maximum recruitment will be done in the Education Department, including higher education where 40,000 posts are expected to be filled.
Youth will also be recruited in health, power and personnel departments.
The government has also decided to double the old-age pension from Rs 250 to Rs 500, besides increase in widow pension, pension to differently able and destitute children and those who participated in Punjabi Suba movement or protested against emergency.
The remuneration of lambardars has been increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500.
Other than increasing the social-security pensions, the Cabinet also approved giving medical insurance and health insurance to the atta dal scheme holders, traders and farmers.
A sum of Rs 100 crore has been earmarked for the Chief Ministers pilgrimage programme, wherein free train travel facility will be provided to pilgrims going from Punjab to all Hindu and Sikh pilgrim places.
VAT exemptions have also been announced for those constructing gaushalas and VAT on dry fruits and cattle feed have been substantially reduced.