The Punjab government has approved the purchase of over 400 luxury vehicles for the chief minister, state cabinet members, legislators and bureaucrats, a Transport Department order stated on Friday. The move, expected to cost the exchequer around Rs 80 crore, comes at a time when the state is reeling under heavy debt.
However, officials said no purchase order has been forwarded by the state government for the new luxury vehicles so far.
As per the order, the department has approved as many as 16 Land Cruisers (including two bullet-proof ones) for Chief Minister Amarinder Singh; 13 Mahindra Scorpios for his staffers; and 14 Maruti Dzires, Ertigas and Honda Amazes for officers on special duty. Besides this, 17 ministers in Mr Singh's cabinet will either get Toyota Fortuners or alternative vehicles of the same kind while legislators get 97 Toyota Innova Crystas.
Until now, the Chief Minister had eight Ambassadors and six Mitsubishi Monteros at his disposal while his ministers travelled in Toyota Camrys. Even the Toyota Innovas used by legislators have been upgraded.
The purchase of vehicles was opposed by several farmers' groups, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union, who claimed that such a move would further burden the state at a time when it's reeling under a severe financial crisis.
Incidentally, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal had claimed during the presentation of the annual budget that the state faced debts of up to Rs 1,95,978 crore as of March 2018. He cited this issue to propose a new development tax at a rate of Rs 200 per month on all income tax payers in the state.
(With inputs from PTI)