CHANDIGARH: The cash-strapped Punjab Government is buying 432 SUVs for the chief minister, ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats at a cost of Rs 81 crore.
Sources said the state transport department has issued orders to purchase sixteen Land Cruisers, including two bulletproof ones for Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, 14 Maruti Dzires or Honda Amazes or Ertigas for Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) posted with the Chief Minister, 13 Mahindra Scorpios for other staff posted in the Chief Minister's Office.
Not just this, all Cabinet ministers will be given Toyota Fortuners or Toyota Crystas. At present, they all use Toyota Camry Sedans. While 97 MLAs will now be given Toyota Innova Crysta instead of Toyota Innova, the Advocate-General and Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission would also get Toyota Innova Crysta. The Chief Secretary will also have Toyota Fortuner.
Sources said apart from some officers, many legislators had been demanding new vehicles for long as the existing vehicles were old.
Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal during the Punjab budget session had said the state was reeling under a debt of around Rs 1,95,978 crore.
The chief minister will get a Land Cruiser instead of eight Ambassadors and six Mitsubishi Montero's. The bulletproof SUVs had been sought especially for Singh keeping in mind the threat perception.
Earlier, in order to cut down on expenditure on new SUVs, the transport and finance departments had jointly approved a policy, allowing all ministers and MLAs to use their own vehicles and claim reimbursement for fuel.
Interestingly, the Punjab government has also decided to reconsider the demand for bulletproof Land Cruisers for the Badals after a terror module was busted in UP which revealed plans to kill former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Earlier, the finance minister had struck down the proposal of the Punjab Police to purchase armoured luxury Toyota Land Cruisers for both the Badals as their present vehicles had fulfilled their years in service.
In 2016 when the SAD-BJP Government was in power it had ordered bullet proof Toyota Land Cruisers for the Badals.