Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Vidya Stokes,backed by Congress frontliners Kaul Singh Thakur and G.S. Bali,today attacked the state budget for 2009,terming it totally disappointing,lacking vision for inclusive development and initiative for job-based economy.
Stokes gave Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal his due for efforts to keep the governments consistent focus on social sectors,but alleged that the agriculture sector had got a raw deal in the budget.
She particularly highlighted the need for a greater focus on the jobs for educated youth,who she claimed would become major victims to economic meltdown and shrinking job avenues. Stokes expressed her concern over growing non-developmental expanses and quoted the budget figures to assert that only 29 Rupees,out of Rs 100 are left for development. The rest goes on salaries,pensions and extraneous expenses.
She stressed the need for better tax collections and wondered that despite the governments claims,no effective system had been put in place for checking tax evasion or raise collections. She also pointed out serious discrepancies in the budget figures,decline in rate of economic growth,revenue surplus and debt management.
Kaul Singh Thakur hit out at the government on deteriorating conditions of roads and the budget losing focus on this key sector,beside education,health and drinking water schemes. He also raked up the issue of setting up a medical college at Mandi in the government sector and pleaded the cause of PTA teachers. Thakur backed Stokes on the issue of ignoring the interests of farmers and asked for an inquiry into implementation of the horticulture technology mission,which,he alleged,had not benefited the farmers who were given subsidy to set up polyhouses. He termed the budget hollow and lacking vision for development.
G.S. Bali,participating in the debate,asked the government to make execution of hydro projects a more time-bound exercise. The private producers not completing the projects within time should be penalised and be made more accountable. The Congress MLA suggested raising the limit of creamy layer for OBCs up to Rs 6 lakh,setting of private medical colleges in upper-Shimla areas and Chamba,besides improving institutional support for infrastructure projects.
BJP leaders Rikhi Ram Kaundal and Suresh Bhardwaj emerged as two powerful speakers to repulse the opposition attacks and criticised the Centres UPA government for its inability to meet the expectations of the people in the interim budget or providing sufficient support to Himachal.
Kaundal commended Dhumal for presenting a growth-oriented budget and paying special attention to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes. Bhardwaj recalled contributions of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and NDA in extending special help to the states,which,he said the UPA government had failed to do.
No injustice to PTA teachers: Dhumal
In a brief intervention in the debate,Dhumal denied having thrown out PTA teachers out of jobs. Only 6,806 teachers were appointed by the Congress government,which did not mention in their service terms a provision for absorption in government jobs,he said,adding that even the Supreme Court has ruled that PTA teachers can be replaced,terminated or removed on appointment of regular teachers. He also refuted Kaul Singh Thakurs charge of misuse of helicopter and asserted that his travels were more by road and he made minimal use of the helicopter,unlike his earlier predecessor.