Chandigarh, Sep 6 (IANS) On the ground, it is the most securely guarded place here. Several levels of heavily armed troopers ring it at all the time. But a sense of "insecurity" now prevails in the Punjab and Haryana Secretariat complex after a central security agency threatened to withdraw if its outstanding of a whopping Rs.45 crore is not cleared by the state governments.
The Secretariat complex in Chandigarh's Sector 1 is guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Chandigarh, a 114 square-km union territory, has been the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana since 1966.
The seat of power of the Punjab and Haryana governments, the Secretariat complex was designed by Chandigarh's founder-architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s.
The then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who was credited for wiping out terrorism from the state with supercop K.P.S. Gill in the early 1990s, was assassinated in the Secretariat complex by a human bomb Aug 31, 1995.
"The Rs.45 crore bill raised by the CISF includes service tax and advance security deposit for three months. The state governments should bear the cost of having such a high level of security," a CISF officer told IANS here.
The CISF communication said Haryana owed it Rs.23 crore while Punjab's outstanding was Rs.22 crore.
The Punjab government has claimed that the central government owes it nearly Rs.15 crore for Punjab Police security provided to central government establishments and buildings in Chandigarh.
It said the CISF's outstanding bill can be adjusted against this amount.
The Haryana government has however objected to the hefty bill.
Haryana's Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Samir Mathur, in a communication to the CISF director general, asked the force to reconcile its accounts and the outstanding amount demanded from Haryana.
"The CISF is a central armed police force and clearly differentiated from private security agencies. In this case, it is providing safety and protection to the functioning of democratically elected governments under the Constitution," Mathur said in his communication.
"The Punjab and Haryana Secretariat is the seat of governance of the states of Punjab and Haryana from where the constitutional functions are discharged. It is difficult to conceive that service tax has been sought to be levied for security... when the states are paying deployment charges," he said.
"We have cleared outstanding bills till May 2013. There is no more outstanding and we have communicated this to the CISF. There will be no compromise with the Secretariat security," Mathur said.
The Haryana government has stated that under the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, assets and liabilities were divided in the 60:40 ratio between Punjab and Haryana and the payment for CISF security should also be done accordingly.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)