Chandigarh, Mar 28 (PTI) The Punjab Assembly today passed a Bill to provide social services to beneficiaries under various security schemes even as opposition AAP claimed that the state government was preparing ground to tax people. Also Read - 'You're Obliged to Pay us,' Opposition Hits Out at Nirmala Sitharaman Over Delay in GST Compensation

The Social Security Bill, 2018, was passed on the concluding day of the assembly’s Budget Session here and was moved by Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Also Read - Manpreet Singh Badal Says Not Against AFSPA But Won't Allow Misuse

He tried to assure the House that the government had only made an “enabling provision” by bringing the Bill and sought to allay fears that there was any move to impose taxes. Also Read - No new tax in Punjab budget, focus on agriculture, health, education

The Bill has been brought to provide for the establishment of the Punjab Social Security Fund to provide for social services to eligible beneficiaries under various schemes, the minister said.

The schemes include pension to senior citizens, widows, destitute women, physically challenged persons; health and accident insurance; scholarships to students from deprived sections and financial assistance to the poor and the needy, as may be considered necessary, Manpreet said.

Besides, the fund would also be applied to provide financial assistance to acid attack victims and giving unemployment allowances, he said.

The fund would be managed by a Trust, established by the government, the minister said.

The Punjab chief minister would be the Trust’s chairman while the Finance, Social Security and Welfare of SCs and BCs ministers, would be its ex-officio members.

Authorities empowered to assess, re-assess or collect tax under the Punjab VAT Act, 2005, the Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1924, the Punjab Electricity (Duty) Act, 2005 and the Punjab Tax on Lotteries Act, 2005, shall collect the Social Security Surcharge, according to the Bill.

The proceeds of the Social Security Surcharge would be deposited in the fund’s account on a weekly basis, but not later than 15 days from the date of collection of such surcharge.

The accounts of the fund would be audited by the Local Fund Examiner, Punjab, as per the Bill.

“Through this legislation, the government is only making an enabling provision..We have not imposed any tax,” Manpreet said.

Seeking to assure members of the House that no tax was being imposed, he, at the same time, said, “There is nothing to prevent the government from imposing tax. It is any government’s inherent right”.

While SAD MLAs had already walked out from the House in protest over another issue when the Bill was moved, AAP MLAs raised strong concerns.

Senior AAP leader Kanwar Sandhu said the opposition had not got enough time to go through the contents of the Bill as it had been “brought at the last moment today. It was not on the business agenda of the day”.

Citing the provisions of the Bill, Sandhu said it is proposed to levy a social security surcharge not exceeding Rs 2 per litre on the sale of petrol and /or diesel which are subject to state VAT levied under the Punjab VAT Act, 2005.

He said that a surcharge not exceeding one per cent of value of vehicles registered in Punjab, which are subject to payment of tax under the Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1924, was also proposed.

A social security surcharge not exceeding 10 per cent of tax on transportation vehicles in the state, which are subject to tax under the Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1924, has also been proposed in the legislation, Sandhu said.

He said that a surcharge at the rate of five per cent of monthly electricity bill, provided the minimum liability of the consumer shall not be less than Rs 25 per month and the maximum liability of the consumer shall not exceed Rs 10,000 per month.

The House was informed that the Punjab Social Security Fund which will be constituted, would vest with the government, and it would comprise of social security surcharge levied and collected under the Punjab Social Security Act.

The fund would also comprise of net revenues collected by the government under the Punjab Tax on Lotteries Act, 2005.

The fund may receive Corporate Social Responsibility contributions as well as contributions from individuals, partnership firms or companies.

The Assembly, among other Bills, also passed the Punjab State Development Tax Bill, 2018, under which it is proposed to impose or levy tax on professions, trades, callings and employment in the state.

The Finance minister had already made a mention of the Punjab State Development Tax during his Budget speech and this move too had invited criticism from the opposition.

Manpreet informed the House today that this tax would be applicable to those categories which have been mentioned in the Bill earning Rs 30,000 per month and above.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.