CHANDIGARH: Captain Amarinder Singh, 75, was sworn in as the 26th Chief Minister of Punjab in a ceremony which was attended by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, and other prominent Congress leaders at Punjab Raj Bhavan. This is Amarinder's second stint as the Chief Minister.
Along with him, his nine-member council of ministers were also sworn in by Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore. The ministers are - six-time MLA Brahm Mohindra, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Singh Badal, former finance minister and estranged nephew of outgoing CM Parkash Singh Badal - Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, four-time MLA from Majha Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Rana Gurjit Singh, and former CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi. Two women MLAs, Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana were sworn in as Ministers of State with independent charge. While Amarinder and Rana Gurjit took the oath of office in English, Aruna took oath in Hindi. The others took it in Punjabi.
Meanwhile, the state cabinet has decided to slash the number of liquor vends from 6,384 to 5,900 to reduce the alcohol consumption in the state. As part of the new excise policy for the year 2017-18, the IMFL quota has been reduced by 20 per cent and country liquor by 14 per cent. In its election manifesto, Congress had promised “to discourage liquor consumption in Punjab and substantially reduce its sale in five years by closing 5% of liquor vends each year.” The government has also banned liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways in keeping with the recent Supreme Court order.
The Amarinder Singh government also scrapped the controversial wholesale licence category which had earned the wrath of both the Punjab and Haryana high court and the Supreme Court for favouring eight firms. The policy mandated liquor manufacturing companies or distilleries to sell alcohol to one person, company, firm or organisation, triggering widespread protests by liquor retailers.
According to the new policy, wholesalers would lift their quota directly from distilleries, bottling plants and manufacturing companies. The change is also aimed at stemming the flow of illicit liquor that has often been used as a means to lure voters, and has caused loss of revenue to Punjab due to bootlegging, state excise and taxation department officials said. The CM has also approved 33% reservation for women in all state jobs.