Taking forward the agenda of the former Narendra Modi government in Gujarat and now at the Centre, Chief Minister Anandi Patel and Finance Minister Saurabh Patel dished out a populist and industry friendly Rs 133,465 crore budget introducing new sops for the middle class, agriculturalists, entrepreneurs, women, tribals and OBCs .
In an effort to check the price rise, the government also took the measure it was resisting so far, of reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) by 1% on all goods manufactured in the state (except petroleum products and natural gas where Gujarat has the highest VAT). Patel elaborated that this was a “long-pending demand”.
Patel said, “I assure this House that the march for development, successfully undertaken by Narendra Modi shall continue uninterrupted under our government led by Anandiben Patel in times to come,” said Patel while presenting his first budget in the state legislative Assembly on Tuesday. Earlier this year, the government had presented a vote on account budget due to Lok Sabha elections.
Attempting to woo the low-income and middle-income groups of the society, Patel also made provisions to prevent rise of LPG prices in the state, and effected a 10 per cent reduction in passenger tax on sale of tickets on buses belonging to the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation.
“We have presented this budget with a lot of clarity. No new taxes will be put on the people of Gujarat,” said Saurabh Patel after presenting the budget which shows an increase of 17 per cent compared to the budget size of 2013-14. The 2014-15 budget has the highest ever allocation made for the social sector that largely focusses on education, employment and healthcare and accounting for 48 per cent of the plan outlay of Rs 71,330 crore.
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The budget that tries to touch all sections of the society, promises to benefit the farmers of the state by completing all remaining works of Narmada canals and distribution network in a phased manned by 2015-16.
The Anandi Patel government provided for Rs 267 crore as assistance to one lakh BPL families and three lakh APL families for toilets and for carrying out works of additional toilets in 7,700 schools under the Mahatma Gandhi Swachchata Mission announced by the Modi government at the Centre, to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
The budget also makes an allocation of Rs 286 crore for various proposed welfare schemes for construction workers through the Labour Welfare Board.
Apart from promising to introduce a new scheme to provide six per cent interest subvention to farmers taking loans for agricultural infrastructure like wells, godowns, greenhouse and farm mechanisation, the state government has also made provisions to provide financial assistance to farmers purchasing new tractors, providing free-of-cost agricultural kits to the poorest farmers, assistance to Devipujak community (OBC) farmers for providing hybrid watermelon, sweet melon and vegetable seeds, and a Rs 464 crore provision for providing crop insurance, farmers’ accident insurance and stabilisation of prices.
The budget also provides a comprehensive package to provide financial help to milk producers co-operative societies operated by women. It also promises financial aid to women involved in breeding of milch animals in the milk co-operatives and an increase in “honorarium” paid to anganwadi workers in Gujarat.
With an eye on encouraging entrepreneurship among youth, the state government decided to provide a seven per cent interest subvention for three years on bank loans up to Rs 1 lakh for youths who have completed their ITIs.
The government also plans to set up 45 new ITIs in talukas and cities for training youth and also doubled the monthly stipend paid to students in ITIs, among other measures.
With an eye on the upcoming elections in urban local bodies, the state government has decided to increase the existing grant in lieu of the abolished octroi duty, by 10 per cent to municipalities, 15 per cent to Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat Municipal corporations, 20 per cent to Rajkot Municipal Corporation and 25 per cent to Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Gandhinagar Municipal Corporations.
Thus the total increase in grant paid to the municipalities and municipal corporations has been increased by Rs 324 crore in this budget.
Among ‘rewards’ for Vadodara, knowledge hub, musical garden
Supporting PM Narendra Modi to win with a huge margin in the L S polls seems to have rewarded Vadodara constituency, which will see a bypoll in October, with Modi having opted to keep Varanasi as his parliamentary constituency. The Gujarat government has made provisions of around Rs 157 crore for Vadodara in its budget declared on Tuesday. These provisions have promised a number of benefits for the city, like a knowledge hub consisting of five universities, a convention centre, musical garden at Aajwa and development of MSU’s Engineering faculty.
In the 2014 LS elections, Modi had contested from Vadodara and Varanasi simultaneously. Modi had won by a record margin of 5.70 lakh votes. from Vadodara This was the highest winning margin in the 2014 elections and second highest in any LS election. Finance Minister Saurabh Patel, who happens to be from Akota Assembly constituency of Vadodara Lok Sabha constituency, has announced a number of sops for Vadodara. Patel is also among the probable candidates to contest the bypoll.
The state government has announced that it envisages an innovative and world-class knowledge hub that would be developed as a special education-cum-sports zone spreading over a large area in Vadodara. This hub will accommodate Children’s University, Teachers’ University, Sports University and Central University all of which are currently in Gandhinagar. The sports university is yet to be set up.
The state government is also planning to establish GSFC University on an approximate area of 25 hectares at Jaspur village in Padra taluka of Vadodara district near the proposed knowledge hub. Besides, the engineering faculty of the MSU, better known as Kalabhavan, which was established in 1890, is completing 125 years. On this occasion, a provision of Rs 7 crore has been made to develop its infrastructure facilities. Apart from this, it has been planned to set up an international-level convention centre at an estimated cost of Rs 50 crore.
The government has also planned to develop a musical garden at the famous Aajwa Dam under the total project cost of Rs 35 crore which wil be completed on PPP basis. The state government has allocated Rs 15 crore for the same. To provide proper guidance and information to the youth on overseas employment avenues, the state government has planned to establish an Overseas Employment and Career Guidance Centre in Vadodara. In the budget, there is a provision of Rs 100 crore to construct ring road in Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar cities.
A provision of Rs 10 crore has also been made for the management of the newly-constructed Sport Complex in Vadodara with the help of Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the Sports Authority of Gujarat. A provision of Rs 7 crore has been made for measuring all properties and getting the property cards prepared after checking the record of rights in Vadodara and Bhavnagar.