FM Manpreet disapprove down plan for new armoured luxury sedans for Badals

The Punjab Police security wing had sent a proposal to the finance department to replace ageing Toyota Land Cruisers in Badal and Sukhbir’s fleets.

Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal has struck down a proposal to purchase armoured luxury sedans for his estranged uncle, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and cousin, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

The Punjab Police security wing had sent a proposal to the finance department to replace ageing Toyota Land Cruisers in Badal and Sukhbir’s fleets. It had also sought new bullet-proof vehicles for some other VVIP protectees, including Sukhbir’s brother-in-law and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia, saying these vehicles had fulfilled their years in service. The proposal for new bullet-proof vehicles, Toyota Innovas and Maruti Gypsies as escort and pilot vehicles entailed an expenditure of Rs 9 crore.

But Manpreet, who is on an austerity pitch, refused to give his consent. “They (Badals and Majithia) are among the richest people in north India. They are not dependent on government resources and can afford to buy bullet-proof vehicles for themselves,” Manpreet told HT.

A finance minister in the Akali Dal-BJP government, Manpreet had parted ways with the then ruling Badal family and government in 2010. In his first budget as Congress finance minister in June last year, he had presented a white paper on how the previous regime had left the state coffers empty after its decade-long rule.

However, the cash-strapped state which has been hit by poor revenue growth after the goods and service tax (GST) regime has been implemented since July last year, has sanctioned funds to upgrade the fleet of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh comprising a Range Rover, Innovas and Gypsies.

“We have only cleared funds for new vehicles for CM’s convoy,” Manpreet said.

When in power, the Badals had upgraded their fleet from Mitsubishi Monteros to Toyota Land Cruisers and ahead of last year’s state polls, a Range Rover worth Rs 1.7 crore —with bullet-proofing cost of Rs 35 lakh — was ordered for the CM. The luxury sedan is now being used by Amarinder. Since armoured vehicles have a short shelf life, they have to be condemned as per the government policy. Most VIP protectees in Punjab have bullet-proof Mitshubishi Monteros and the police proposal is to replace old ones with the same make.

To cut down on expenditure on new SUVs, the transport and finance departments have jointly approved a policy, allowing all ministers and MLAs to use their own vehicles and claim reimbursement for fuel as per set limits along with driver salary as per the DC rate. A Toyota Fortuner (for ministers) costs Rs 30 lakh and Innova (for MLAs) Rs 15 lakh. It will also end the confusion on fuel reimbursement claims as multiple departments provide cars and drivers.

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