Maharashtra’s plan size of Rs 56,997 crore for the year 2016-17 has raised concerns in the backdrop of the government promising to make greater investments across agriculture, industries and infrastructure sectors. Most of the other states have provided bigger plan size, with greater allocations for the irrigation sector, in their respective budgets.
Neighbouring Gujarat’s plan size is Rs 85,557 crore, while Karanataka’s is Rs 85,375 crore, Madhya Pradesh’s is Rs 74,401 crore, and Bihar’s Rs 71,501 crore. Even smaller states like Jharkhand has a plan size of Rs 37,065 crore and Andhra Pradesh of Rs 49,134 crore.
Those advocating a big plan size believe the government should have gone for greater borrowing to facilitate better allocations in the irrigation and infrastructure sectors.
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While Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said adequate allocation of funds to core sectors such as agriculture, irrigation and social sectors had been made in the Budget 2016-17, many feel the moderate plan size for India’s second largest state was a cause for concern.
In 2015-16, Maharashtra’s plan size was Rs 54,999 crore. The sector-wise outlay shows the maximum allocation of Rs 8,136 crore has been made for irrigation and floods control, followed by Rs 5,412 crore for agriculture and allies services. The criticism stems from the mismatch between the plan allocations and ambitious plans across the sectors.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “The plan size is a pointer to development of the state. What is surprising is even smaller states like Jharkhand and Telangana, apart from Gujarat, Karnataka, have better plan size with emphasis on greater allocations for the irrigation sector.”
In the Budget 2016-17, Rs 7,850 crore has been provided for water resources department, which would enable them to complete 28 projects with water storage of 770 million cubic metre, and 1.68 lakh hectares of land will come under irrigation.
Maharashtra, which is facing drought for the fourth consecutive year, restricted its irrigation budget to Rs 7,850 crore and additional Rs 2,078 crore for seven irrigation projects under the Pradhanmantri Krushi Sinchan Yojana citing financial constrains and a Rs 3.5-lakh-crore debt.
The plan allocation of funds for irrigation in Gujarat for the year 2016-17 is much higher at Rs 14,294 crore. Andhra Pradesh, which faced the bifurcation following creation of Telangana, also displays a big jump in the irrigation budget — from Rs 4,678 crore last year to Rs 7,325 crore this year.
While Mungantiwar said the government would consider floating tax-free bonds to mop up resources for incomplete irrigation projects, Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan hinted at raising funds through loans. The final decision would be taken by CM Devendra Fadnavis.
Chavan said, “When resources are a problem, the government should have raised the funds through more borrowing, which is universally acceptable.”
Today, Maharashtra’s loan index as against the total state GSDP is at 17 per cent against the upper limit of 24 per cent, which shows there is ample scope for the state to borrow more and enhance its plan expenditure in core sectors like irrigation and infrastructure.