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Amarinder announces sops

By Our Staff Correspondent

CHANDIGARH, JAN. 12. The Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, today announced a plethora of concessions to different sections of society in the State. Major relief was provided to the urban areas through schemes for settlement of disputes on account of non-payment of water supply bills and compounding of charges for building by-laws' violation.

Visibly confident, Mr. Singh sounded the bugle for the ruling Congress party's preparedness to meet the challenge of the Akali-BJP combine in the imminent general elections. It was for the second day that many dissidents, including ministers who had been seeking his removal, were seen extending co-operation. Today, the self-styled spokesman of the erstwhile dissident group, Harnam Das Johar, showed signs of mellowing as he urged scribes to forget the past.

Addressing reporters, the Chief Minister defended the decisions of his government and refused to accept that they were linked to the forthcoming elections.

However, he added that while the recent concessions announced by the Centre were aimed at the "creamy layer'' of the society, the decisions by the Punjab Government would provide relief to the "less fortunate'' sections. Mr. Singh announced what was referred to as the "Amnesty Scheme'', under which accumulated arrears of interest and penalty would be waived off provided the consumer deposited the original billed amount for water supply and sewerage charges by February 28.

Further, the present interest of 18 per cent per annum on delayed deposit of water supply and sewerage bills has been slashed to nine from January 1, this year.

The Chief Minister said the State Government has decided for a one-time compounding of violations, which do not conform to the building bye-laws, provided any Government or public land is not encroached. The State Government has proposed to issue an Ordinance to this effect. All the funds collected from compounding of these violations would be used exclusively for strengthening the urban infrastructure in towns particularly the water supply, sewerage and roads in the slum areas.

Mr. Singh directed the Department of Local Government to expedite action for early sanction of the World Bank Projects of water Supply and Sewerage in 22 towns at an estimated cost of Rs.1640 crores. This project would provide complete coverage on water supply, sewerage, sewage treatment and solid waste treatment in the identified towns.

The State Government increased the monthly honorarium to Chowkidars from Rs.400 to Rs.600 per month. The decision would benefit as many 33,397 chowkidars.

The Chief Minister said it was decided to extend the benefit of Kanya Jagriti Jyoti Scheme to all the Scheduled Caste families with two girl children. The State Government invests Rs.5000 for each beneficiary under the scheme with Life Insurance Corporation. The benefit was so far extended to one girl child of these families.

After meeting various representatives of trade and industry, who highlighted their difficulties and bottlenecks in the taxation system, the Chief Minister announced withdrawal of the EXIM forms. He also announced to increase the limit of gross turnover, from the existing Rs. 40 lakhs to Rs. 75 lakhs per annum, for summary assessment under the State Sales Tax Law.

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