Coronavirus lockdown: Punjab ministers lock horns with Chief Secretary as Amarinder Singh readies post-lockdown plan

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Updated: May 12, 2020 4:48 PM

Punjab coronavirus: The Cabinet meeting was called to decide on an amendment to the excise policy in a bid to provide relief to liquor contractors.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. (File)

As Chief Minister Amarinder Singh prepares prepares a plan to deal with the post-lockdown situation in Punjab, he has another crucial task at hand. The chief minister of the northern state is busy resolving the fight between his ministers and the Chief Secretary. Days after a confrontation between Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and several ministers, the IAS officer was forced to stay away from a Cabinet meeting on Monday just because the ministers didn’t agree wit his views, according to a report in The Indian Express.

The Cabinet meeting was called to decide on an amendment to the excise policy in a bid to provide relief to liquor contractors. The IE report said Karan opted for a half-day leave, prompting the next senior most IAS officer to chair the meeting. The meet was attended by Home Secretary Satish Chandra.

As per rules, the Chief Secretary also serves as the Cabinet Secretary. Besides, Karan is also Financial Commissioner (Taxation) and the administrative secretary of the Punjab Excise Department.

After the altercation last week, the ministers unanimously refused to attend any Cabinet meeting in the future if it was conducted by the Chief Secretary, the IE report said. The matter was first raised by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. He told the CM that he will not attend any meeting of which Karan Avtar Singh was part. Technical Education Minister Charanjeet Singh Channi and Transport Minister Razia Sultana backed Manpreet Singh. The Chief Minister then sought the views of other ministers and received similar feedback. He then asked to record the development and also proceedings of the Cabinet meeting.

The ministers, according to a statement issued by the government, authorised Amarinder Singh to make a decision on the excise policy amendment to provide relief to liquor contractors in the state.

Post-meeting, Manpreet Singh Badal said Karan Avtar Singh’s behaviour with ministers the other day, the way he had spoken and the body language he exhibited does not behove of his office.

“I made it clear that if he continues to come for the meetings, I would not be a part of those. Channi supported my decision and then the CM asked the ministers to record it officially. We all have done it that we will not attend any meeting of which the CS is part,” he said.

The ministers had been upset with the Chief Secretary since Friday after they were sent the amendment in the excise policy just before the Cabinet meeting. The ministers protested that there was too little time to study the lengthy document. This forced Amarinder Singh to reschedule the meeting for Saturday.

The ministers decided to meet to discuss the policy. But before the meeting, as Karan Avtar Singh was briefing the ministers, Charanjeet Singh Channi objected to the relief being given to the contractors at the cost of the exchequer. This triggered an argument between the CS and Channi. Badal too joined the argument and walked out of the meeting. Channi and others too walked out although the CS requested them to stay.

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